The Politics of Anti-Semitism: Zionism, the Bund and Jewish Identity Politics by Gilad Atzmon

Dandelion Salad

by Gilad Atzmon
Dissident Voice
December 4th, 2007

Those amongst us who support the Palestinian people, those amongst us who are devastated by the growing scale of Israeli atrocities, those who want to bring justice to Palestine and this includes bringing Palestinians back to their land, will have to make up their minds sooner or later. From now on, everything we do or say about the Jewish state is seen by one Jew or another as anti-Semitism. We have to make up our minds and decide once and for all, is it world Jewry which we are trying to appease, or is it the Palestinians we are fighting for?

I myself made up my mind. For me it is Palestine and the Palestinian people. If this makes me into an anti-Semite in the eyes of some confused Diaspora Jews (left, right and center), I will have to learn to live with it. At the end of the day, I cannot make everyone happy.

Already in 1973, Abba Eban, then Israeli foreign minister, identified anti-Zionism as ‘the new anti-Semitism’:

“Throughout the 19th century, the revolutionary left literature is full of invidious remarks about the Jewish insistence on self-affirmation and survival. The assumption was that in a free national society there would be no room for the maintenance of Jewish particularism. It was assumed that the destiny and duty of Jews was to disappear in the universal utopia. When Zionism came on the scene as the product not only of specific currents in Judaism but also of European nationalism, the phrase nationalism no longer had about it the fine glow that it possessed in the days of Garibaldi… recently we have witnessed the rise of the new left which identifies Israel with the establishment, with acquisition, with smug satisfaction, with, in fact, all the basic enemies… Let there be no mistake: the new left is the author and the progenitor of the new anti-Semitism. One of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all. Anti-Zionism is merely the new anti-Semitism. The old classic anti-Semitism declared that equal rights belong to all individuals within the society, except the Jews. The new anti-Semitism says that the right to establish and maintain an independent national sovereign state is the prerogative of all nations, so long as they happen not to be Jewish. And when this right is exercised not by the Maldive Islands, not by the state of Gabon, not by Barbados… but by the oldest and most authentic of all nationhoods, then this is said to be exclusivism, particularism, and a flight of the Jewish people from its universal mission.” (Abba Eban, Congress Bi-Weekly, American Jewish Congress publication, 1973)

Sameness and Singularity

Any tendency to establish a coherent Jewish national identity can be realized as a dialectic struggle between two opposing poles. On the one hand, we can notice the clear inclination towards ‘sameness’ in the form of ‘nation amongst nations’. On the other hand, we can detect a definite tendency to celebrate one’s symptoms, a keen leaning towards uniqueness and singularity. The argument would be as follows: as much as we (the Jews) are people like all other people, we are still slightly different and we want to celebrate our uniqueness.

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