A Brief Exchange About What Israel Represents

I recently had this exchange with a Jewish friend about Zionism and Israel. In italics is his question/statement and below is my response. This brief exchange in no way solves the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but it is the type of dialog that people need to have. The reluctance to have open, honest conversations is what keeps conflicts inflamed.

I struggle with the Israel Zionist struggle. I try to read about the conflict.

But what does Israel represent? Especially when so many people who claim to be Jewish, in my experience, are Jewish because of culture and not religion. Or race. But honestly, almost all the Jews I have met look as white as me. (Disclaimer, I have “Jewish blood”).

The Palestinian question is a relevant question. Zionism, emigrating to Israel,
Began I believe in the late 19th century. It took off after WWII and the Holocaust. The promotion of Jewish Immigration, in things I’ve read, sometimes feels like an extension of anti-semitism. Let’s get all the Jews to one spot and solve “the Jewish Question??!”

But the model of re-establishing the Jewish State has so many parallels to American colonialism and displacement of and annihilation of Native Americans. We (I) was taught North America was this vast empty virgin land with just a few pesky “Indians” That is so not true. It was a genocide.

So why does the world tolerate Palestinian displacement and conquest of Palestinian homes, for generations, like almost two millennia? It’s the modern day equivalent of South African apartheid.

I cannot support Israel, until it offers equal citizenship and rights to Palestinians. That means one State, IMO, or it will remain two Waring micro countries side-by-side. Sort of like India and Pakistan.

Tolerance people. All “religions” have a few universal truths. “Love thy neighbor”.

It’s not REALLY that complicated.


Thank you for having the courage to ask the question. At the risk of over simplification, my scholarly opinion is that Israel has represented two ideas but that the second has come to completely crowd out the first.

The first is the idea of Israel as a place where Jewish people can live free of European persecution. Especially, after WWII, that idea was very attractive. The second is the idea of a Jewish Homeland where Jewish people own the land rather than coexist with others. Though Israelis of the first idea still exist, they are shouted down and shoved out of the conversation by the ideologues of the ideology that Israel is for Jews alone, with or without the notion of a divine mandate.

I think you are correct that there are parallels with colonialism. Not surprising given that the tangible state of Israel was carved out of nothing by the British colonial power—the same colonial power that at the same time carved up India and the Pakistans. What was born of colonial imperialism had colonialism genetically instilled in it.

Which leads me to your main question: why does the world tolerate the Apartheid and genocide of Palestinians? And I doubt I am saying anything you haven’t already thought. Europeans and their U.S. descendents remain institutionally bigoted against Muslims. The tolerance, nay love of, genocide of the Muslim “hordes” is ingrained in European society because of the millennia-long fear of the Turk. Look at the current state of European politics, which is heavily driven by fear and hatred of Muslims. Too many European governments are still inherently colonialist in their attitudes toward the rest of the world.

For many Americans (I am American, though now living in Europe) this colonial ideology fits perfectly with how Americans see themselves. Like you astutely point out, there are parallels between American colonialism and the right-wing Israeli colonial mindset. Getting rid of “pesky Indians” was part of the U.S. manifest destiny. Getting rid of “pesky Palestinians” is part of the right-wing Israeli manifest destiny. Right-wing Americans, despite being mildly to blatantly anti-Jew, relate to the right-wing Israelis. “The enemy of my enemy…” For right-wing Israelis and Americans, Israel represents victory over the enemy. It all boils down to power and insecure people feeling the need the demonize others to feel okay in themselves. When that insecurity rises to the level of national politics, bad dren happens.

Personally, I support the idea of the state of Israel (just as I support a Palestinian state), but a state and society not controlled by right-wing bigots that understands the need to coexist with others. I remain hopeful. Like you say, it is not really that complicated.

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