Omri Boehm, assistant professor of philosophy at the New School
Trump’s election is having fascinating consequences. Today the New York Times ran a long piece titled, “Liberal Zionism in the Age of Trump,” by Omri Boehm of the New School saying that liberal Zionism is a contradiction: liberal American Jews have “identified themselves with Zionism, a political agenda rooted in the denial of liberal politics.”
Boehm’s most startling point is that Zionism has anti-Semitic strains, witness its collaboration with Nazis. Hannah Arendt is happy today.
The piece will greatly increase the pressure on liberal Zionists to choose one idea or the other, and to stop denying the existence of apartheid.
Boehm says white nationalist Richard Spencer helped to blow up the liberal Zionist hypocrisy in his famous encounter with a Texas rabbi when he said he admires Israel for its ethnic purity and the rabbi had nothing to say. Some of Boehm’s hammer blows:
by denying liberal principles, Zionism immediately becomes continuous with — rather than contradictory to — the anti-Semitic politics of the sort promoted by the alt-right…
insofar as Israel is concerned, every liberal Zionist has not just tolerated the denial of this minimum liberal standard, but avowed this denial as core to their innermost convictions. Whereas liberalism depends on the idea that states must remain neutral on matters of religion and race, Zionism consists in the idea that the State of Israel is not Israeli, but Jewish. As such, the country belongs first and foremost not to its citizens, but to the Jewish people — a group that’s defined by ethnic affiliation or religious conversion…
Boehm never comes out and uses the term “racist,” but he might as well.
Trump has changed the map.
As long as liberalism was secure back in America and the rejection of liberalism confined to the Israeli scene, this tension could be mitigated. But as it spills out into the open in the rapidly changing landscape of American politics, the double standard is becoming difficult to defend…
[T]he following years promise to present American Jewry with a decision that they have much preferred to avoid. Hold fast to their liberal tradition, as the only way to secure human, citizen and Jewish rights; or embrace the principles driving Zionism.
By the way, the denial of the right of return is racist:
Opposition to the Palestinians’ “right of return” is a matter of consensus among left and right Zionists because also liberal Zionists insist that Israel has the right to ensure that Jews constitute the ethnic majority in their country. That’s the reason for which Rabbi Rosenberg could not answer Spencer.
And then this verboten history: Zionists collaborated with “anti-Semitic politics.” With Nazis:
The “original sin” of such alliances may be traced back to 1941, in a letter to high Nazi officials, drafted in 1941 by Avraham Stern, known as Yair, a leading early Zionist fighter and member in the 1930s of the paramilitary group Irgun, and later, the founder of another such group, Lehi. In the letter, Stern proposes to collaborate with “Herr Hitler” on “solving the Jewish question” by achieving a “Jewish free Europe.” The solution can be achieved, Stern continues, only through the “settlement of these masses in the home of the Jewish people, Palestine.” To that end, he suggests collaborate with the German’s “war efforts,” and establish a Jewish state on a “national and totalitarian basis,” which will be “bound by treaty with the German Reich.”
It has been convenient to ignore the existence of this letter, just as it has been convenient to mitigate the conceptual conditions making it possible.
This is an opinion piece by an outsider, not a New York Times article. Hell and everything else would freeze if the NYT started writing news pieces which presupposed Zionism as actually practiced is racist. They won’t do that yet. They might conceivably start writing articles where people with that view are treated respectfully as they express it, rather than hiding the view from readers or treating people who express it as moral lepers.
Many of Boehm’s arguments have been made on the left for years, of course. The liberal Zionists chose to ignore them and talk about the two-state solution. They are losing that luxury. Though, expect some pushback from the Zionist forces inside the New York Times.
The Times would never have run this piece if Boehm were not Israeli. Just as the newspaper insisted, according to the late Tony Judt, that he identify himself as Jewish when he defended Walt and Mearsheimer in 2006. There are double standards in the press too.