Long past time to retire Zionism

Gideon Levy in Haaretz writes a provocative essay that proves how Zionism has become a word and ideology that largely represents occupation and exclusion:

Zionism is already 115 years old; it should have retired long ago. If on Independence Day we’re concerned about the future of a state approaching retirement age (presuming it’s a man, not a woman, who would have retired two years ago ), then we should call for the replacement of Zionism with something younger, more energetic and more relevant. Zionism should have become a rank-and-file pensioner shortly after the state was established or, at most, when the movement turned 62 or 67.

A state does not retire, but a national liberation movement must, like every elderly citizen – knowing when its time has passed. It must be consigned to history. These things are even more true if the movement has already fulfilled its mission, achieved its goals and now everyone is beating up on it, misusing it, decking themselves in its feathers and taking its name in vain.

Who is a Zionist? All the answers are wrong, even if they are more plentiful (and more ridiculous ) than the answers to the other existential question of who is a Jew.

The truth is that there is no answer. Not because Zionism was not a just cause – it was, even if it was tainted by unnecessary injustices, and not because it didn’t succeed. It was the greatest national success story of the 20th century. But that century is over and its greatest success story has been established. The national home arose, and now it is a regional power. Anyone who wanted to – about one-third of the Jewish people – has joined it, and the door remains open to the rest.

All the remaining, disturbing questions and all the challenges are matters for the state and the society that have arisen, as with every state and society. Their connection to the founding movement is no longer relevant. Yes, Zionism is no longer relevant, and its place is in the history books alone.

But the Jewish people lives, as they say, and therefore Israel has tried to invent a new Zionism for itself, far more totalitarian than its predecessor. Alongside the religion of security, Zionism has become the state’s second recognized religion, forcing itself recklessly on all its subjects. We have room only for “Zionists.”

Anyone who serves in the Israel Defense Forces is a “Zionist”; anyone who settles far from Tel Aviv is also a “Zionist”; anyone who volunteers to help the other, the poor, the weak, the blind, the sick and the lame – a “Zionist”; anyone who donates something to someone – a “Zionist”; anyone who sings the national anthem and hangs the national flag, and anyone who stands to attention when necessary (and when it’s not necessary ), anyone who settles and unsettles, anyone who justifies every state injustice, anyone who immigrates and even emigrates is a Zionist. Anyone who tyrannizes another people and anyone who looks away is a Zionist and a son of a Zionist. All of us are Zionists; well, nearly all of us.

All the positives also lead to negatives, and that negative is illegitimate, traitorous, hated and a hater of Israel. Anyone who doesn’t do any of the things mentioned above is post- or anti-Zionist. In Israel 2012, a pursuer of justice and human rights is by definition not Zionist. Even to talk about morality, law or international law is blatantly “not Zionist.”

We have given world Jewry grades in Zionism. Anyone who donates to settlements – Zionist; anyone who donates to human rights organizations – anti. Anyone who belongs to the nationalist, rapacious, right-wing Jewish establishment – Zionist. Anyone who seeks a fairer, more enlightened alternative – post. Anyone who blindly supports all of Israel’s misdeeds – Zionist; anyone who dares to criticize it – anti-Semites, even if they are Jewish. A former Israeli who lives in Vegas and gambles on his former country’s future, urging it to blow up, bomb, crush and destroy – Zionist. Anyone worried about its justice – post-Zionist.

The world, too, has invented some new Zionisms for itself. In the eyes of the Arab world, every Israeli is a Zionist; in the eyes of most of the Western world, any supporter of the Israeli occupation is a Zionist. Both of these see Zionism as negative epithet and a mark of shame. The new Zionism has only acquired a bad international reputation.