Differing Views on Zionism

This week’s blog post will mainly focus on differing views of Zionism from within Israel and critics abroad. By contemporary standards, discussing the roots of Zionist ideology is rarely mentioned in the press. Furthermore, many politicians fear discourse that would anger Israeli leaders because US involvement in the region has grown in the past decade. Republicans and Democrats alike have long endorsed Israel, our ally, as a bastion of democracy and freedom in the Middle East.  The first piece examined for this week’s post was The Zionist State and Jewish Identity: a critique produced by the Israeli Revolutionary Action Committee Abroad (1973). This provides a critique of the ideological, cultural, and psychological aspects of Political Zionism. All articles have been written by Israelis who have been struggling against Zionism. image 4

The first article in this periodical, focuses on the Generations and Cultures in Israel by Akiva Orr.  Specifically, three generations in Israel and the role of the dominant social group in Israel – the European Jewish minority.  The article begins by describing the origins of political Zionism and its gradually increasing role. Furthermore, it discussed the arguments which arose from different factions within the Jewish Community prior to the foundation of Israel about differing Zionism, whether strictly Political, Cultural, or even Sentimental Zionism should dictate what type of state Israel should become once it is created. Orr traces Zionism through the various generations of Jewish settlers in Israel. Each generation had a differently established view of Zionist ideology because of the context in which they were raised. For example, the Settlers’ Generation favored political Zionism, although they were at odds with the Religious Jews who would go to Palestine only to be buried but NOT to establish a Jewish State.


Generations and Cultures in Israel by Akiva Orr

Religious Jews still strongly felt the remediation of Israel was God’s task and human inference with divine roles was bound to end in disaster. Moreover, this generation struggled with defining what it means to be Jewish and if Israel was to be a secular Jewish state, and if that was even be possible.  Orr discusses the famous case of Daniel Rufeisen, he was a Jew born in Poland but converted to Catholicism, and asked for automatic rights of immigration to Israel, he defined himself as ‘jew by nationality and catholic by religion’ his case went all the way to the Supreme Court and his request was rejected. Other articles in this piece focus on the struggle of defining Jewish Identity by Non-European Jews and the discrimination they faced from European Jews.

A second periodical on this subject worth researching was Israel’s War Against the Palestinian People by David Frankel & Will Reissner (1982). The first half, Why is Israel always at war? By Will Reissner focused on Israel’s occupation, the fight against the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and Israeli military incursions into Lebanon. Reissner articulates that, the brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967 and the sight of Israeli troops regularly gunning down Palestinian demonstrators has helped to expose the real character of the ‘Zionist’ state to the international community. Furthermore, Reissner explicitly blames Israel for being an aggressor in the region, citing the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.

The latter half titled; Palestine’s Struggle for Freedom: Marxist view by David Frankel explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a Marxist viewpoint. He cites the 1982 massacre in West Beirut of an estimated one-thousand women and children in Palestinian refugee camps as an instance when the world finally changed its view on Israel.  The large scale impunity for these crimes committed by Israeli soldiers is still a source of anger for Palestinians. Frankel goes on to explain that working people around the world had come to the realization they should be against Israel and for the Palestinians. Israel in his view, is acting in an imperial manner while the Palestinians are living as second-class citizens under Israeli rule. Marxists should support the PLO because, in the view of Frankel, Palestinians are fighting a nationalist movement.

The Final periodical I will mention for this post was Jewish Women’s Call for Peace: A handbook for Jewish Women on the Israel-Palestinian conflict published in 1990 by the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This pamphlet focuses on the lack of involvement by women in Israel and the formation of the peace advocacy group the Women in Black whose object was to protest Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Furthermore, this article advocates greater media transparency by the Israeli government regarding conditions of Palestinian refugee camps. The Women in Black tried to visit a Palestinian refugee camp to show solidarity for the Palestinian people following the outbreak of the first intifada but were blocked from entering the camp by Israeli military personnel.

Each of these periodicals comes from a different decade, but the message and historical progression show a narrative of Zionism throughout the years.  Since the 9/11 Attacks the United States has increasingly relied upon Israel for logistical and military support in the region. However, many Americans are not familiar with Israeli intervention in the region nor are they familiar with the key role Zionism played in founding the state of Israel.  Most politicians avoid discussing anything to do with the American-Israeli alliance because of the strength of the Israeli lobby in the United States. However, as Israeli settlements continue to be built within the occupied-territories future conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is unavoidable. The building of Israeli settlements has always been a constant source of anger for Muslim extremist terrorist organizations within the region which is important as the anniversary to “The War on Terror” approaches its 14th year of operations.

–Joseph Paquette

Related Articles:

Israel and South Africa : Zionism and apartheid: a seminar / organized by the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding. London: Council for the Advancement of Arab British Understanding, the Arab-British Centre, [1986].

Zionism and apartheid: the negation of human right. Moleah, Alfred T. International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [1980].

Room for the Jew! A demand for a free and sovereign Jewish state, a permanent way out of Jewish dispersion & distress. Hefter, Joseph Otmar. New York: Otmar press, [1938]

This entry was posted in human rights, Thoughts from the Interns and tagged , , , by Graham Stinnett. Bookmark the permalink.

About Graham Stinnett

Curator of Human Rights Collections and Alternative Press Collections, Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut. Stinnett holds a Master’s degree in Archival Studies from the History Department at the University of Manitoba, where he also earned a Bachelor’s degree in Latin American History. Stinnett's graduate work focused on human rights non-governmental organizations and their importance to archives and the role of archivist as activist. He has published in the Progressive Librarian on the subject. Stinnett has worked in University Archives with human rights collections at UC Boulder, Manitoba and UConn. His involvement with the Manitoba Gay and Lesbian Archives collection project and the LGBTTQ Oral History Initiative, the El Salvador Human Rights Archive at Boulder and the extensive AltPress & Human Rights Archives at UConn have resulted in a multitude of engagement and outreach activities. He also briefly served as the Archivist for the Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club in British Columbia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *