In a blog post, Paul Krugman wrote about a unifying theory of what leads to broad spectrum of ideologies on both the right and the left. The theory he adopts is that the position one takes on any issue is generally determined by one's position on relating to traditional social hierarchies. If one believes in challenging traditional social hierarchies, that would lead to one set of policy positions, and a set of opposite positions would result from a belief in supporting traditional social hierarchies.
The examples Krugman offers are social insurance and social policy (gay marriage and the like). However, in principle, this could also apply to the Middle East. However, applying this principle to the Middle East would require first identifying what is meant by "traditional social hierarchy."
For much of the Left, there is only one "traditional social hierarchy" that matters in international relations, and that is of Europe dominating everyone else. Thus, if one views international relations through the lens of whether or not to support European world domination, a supporter would side with Israel while a challenger would side with the Palestinians. Hence, we see that much of the Right, which tends to support traditional hierarchies, sides with Israel while much of the Left, which challenges traditional hierarchies, sides with the Palestinians.
However, there are other traditional social hierarchies in play in international affairs. Within the Middle East, there is the region's internal traditional social hierarchy which placed believers at the top, Jews on the bottom, and Christians occupying a station any place in between. Viewing international relations through this lens, supporters of the Middle East's traditional hierarchy would side with the Palestinians while challengers of that hierarchy would side with Israel. Thus we see that right-wing racists like David Duke support the Palestinians while left-wingers with a perspective on Middle Eastern history like Paul Berman support Israel.
A further observation is that it is very difficult to oppose both traditional social hierarchies. Nearly any action taken to challenge Eurocentric hierarchy would have the effect of buttressing, in actuality if not by intent, the Middle East-centric hierarchy. This provides an explanations for an observation Elder of Ziyon made some time ago that leftist Israel-haters take great pains to emphasize that they have nothing against Jews while rightist Israel-haters are open about their Jew hatred. Support of the Middle East-centric hierarchy is inherently judeophobic. From the Left, hatred of Israel is not motivated supporting that hierarchy, even if their actions inevitably lend it a boost. In fact, anti-racism gets to the heart of their identity. Thus, they circle the wagons to defend their anti-racist self-image by asserting that their motives have nothing to do with the support to the Middle East-centric hierarchy that they invariably provide. In contrast, the right-wing supporters of the Middle East-centric hierarchy have no problem with the judeophobia that that hierarchy entails and thus have no need for the mental gymnastics to deny it.
Another example of which traditional hierarchy to select as one's lens comes from Peter Beinart. When he was promoting Crisis of Zionism, he said at interviews that the Zionist establishment was lecturing the younger generation that they should sacrifice liberalism on the altar of Zionism and discovered that their children had instead sacrificed Zionism on the altar of liberalism. This statement only makes sense through the lens of the Eurocentric hierarchy. The typical response to Beinart has been to emphasize everything that has happened in European Jewish history or the contributions that Israel has made to the world. For the likes of Beinart, this can all be summarized as saying that there should be an exception where the Eurocentric hierarchy should be tolerated.
However, we do not need to imprison ourselves in this lens. Viewed through the lens of the Middle East-centric hierarchy, there is nothing incompatible between Zionism and liberalism. However, view world affairs through this lens requires a greater scope of history than is required for the Eurocentric hierarchy. Thus, we need to teach history sufficiently to identify the pillars of the Middle East-centric hierarchy.
The Middle East is not the only region where the Eurocentric hierarchy is opposite the local-centric hierarchy. Indeed, in any non-western locale with an illiberal social hierarchy, challenging that hierarchy would be imposing Western values and thus establishing the Eurocentric hierarchy. Hence Ayaan Hirsi Ali who was a clear victim of the social hierarchy of her native Somalia is vilified by the Left because her escape from that culture exemplifies the triumph of European values of those of her native Somalia. Similarly, today's young Britons today question the authority of their country to outlaw sati in India on the grounds that they should not impose their values on other cultures.
This is a very interesting piece. Thanks for writing it. I think there is much here that can be expanded on from a readers perspective.ReplyDelete
Personally, I agree with you that Zionism is certainly NOT incompatible with Liberalism. I think there are aspects of Modern Zionism that are, but within Zionism there are different ideas and like any philosophical movement it has different branches.
I do believe that one important thing about advocacy for Zionism (or any other "ism") in politics is that adherents do not need to try to co-opt their "bonafides" to prove a point. For instance, IF one supports a One State Solution from an Israeli perspective, unless one supports full Palestinian enfranchisment (I making up that word), it is hard to call oneself a "liberal" on this issue. Why? Because unless you allow full or representative Democracy.. you are going against the very tenets of Liberalism... And you know what... That is ok. Not everyone has to be "liberal" or called "Liberal" on every issue.
Does this mean Zionism itself is not liberal.. of course not. Zionism is Zionism. It is neither Liberal nor Conservative. It just is.
Personally, I prefer what I call a "Liberal Zionist" vision. Similar to what the founders in the Yishuv and the Haganah supported. In current terms, I support a Jewish State with a fully Parliamentary approach and a State which equally supports the CIVIL rights of all the people that live under it's rule.
But that is just my personal preference.
As I said previously I think this is an interesting philosophical discussion. BUT I think one that would be really helpful is that people be honest about what they support. IF one supports "Revisionist" or "Right Wing" Zionism.. Cool. Go with that. If one supports "Labor Zionism" or "Liberal Zionism" cool.. go with that one. Neither is better or worse in the end - they are just individual beliefs. Zionism is Zionism and that's all. Anything else is simply posturing (and honestly that is not a bad thing).
"For instance, IF one supports a One State Solution from an Israeli perspective, unless one supports full Palestinian enfranchisment"Delete
For the record, Caroline Glick does support Palestinian "enfranchisement" in her one state plan.
Aside from that, you might want to check out my post from March on what should be the underlying objective. From that perspective, there would be no loss in Palestinian self-governance if Mordechai Kedar's Palestinian Emirates plan were to be realized. Neither does Palestinian self-governance requiring recognizing 100% of Jordan's 1949-conquest as the Palestinians' due.
Anyway, that's a bit of a diversion from my point. What has happened in much of "liberalism" today is that the tenet of "anti-colonialism" trumps all has taken root. According to that doctrine, if a "colonized" people wants to impose the Pact of Umar, that people should be allowed to impose the Pact of Umar because colonialism must be defanged of the means to stop that.
This is not to say that "enfranchisement" of the Palestinians, whether within Israel or by means of a new polity or polities to support it, should not be sought. However, you should be careful, that many of the most vocal advocates for that cause are as much interested in allowing the restore the old social order as they are in anything that would be recognized as rights for anyone else.
Sar Shalom... Thanks for the response. I know that Caroline Glick favors that. I still would not call her "Liberal" BUT I am very familiar with Glick and what you point out certainly is true.Delete
I do not Kedar's plan mainly because I don't think it is realistic nor is it workable. But again, I think that gets us into an "Off Topic" discussion.
However, you should be careful, that many of the most vocal advocates for that cause are as much interested in allowing the restore the old social order as they are in anything that would be recognized as rights for anyone else.
This goes without saying. I am also very familiar with Palestinian "One Stater's" and what they really want (which is not the lie they tell Westerners to make them feel better). I am well aware that despite their proclamations they care very little for the rights of Jewish people.
My point is not an indictment on an "Israeli One State Solution" (though I do not support it). I merely used that as an example. My point was that there are both Right and Left Wing versions of Zionism and that not everyone has to try to be called a "Liberal". There is no sin to being a Right Wing Zionist if that is what one believes. The only sin is not being "upfront" about it.
Sar Shalom, this is an excellent article and thank you for writing it.ReplyDelete
I have been arguing for a number of years, now, that we need to expand the context of our discussions around the conflict both historically and geographically. We cannot discuss the rise of Zionism in the Middle East, during the twentieth century, without reference to thirteen hundreds of subjugation within the system of imperial Islam that we call dhimmitude any more than one can discuss the Civil Rights Movement in the United States without reference to slavery and Jim Crow.
Furthermore, the conflict is not between Palestinian-Jews and Palestinian-Arabs, but between the Jewish people of the Middle East and their former masters in that part of the world.
So, yes, this "traditional social hierarchy" model is helpful and we should keep it in mind for discussion and debate.
I would say that the centuries of dhimmitude are not automatically relevant by virtue of them having happened. What is relevant is anything that animates the ideology of any of the major players in the region. In that sense, we don't need to bang the Arabs over their heads with the crimes that their ancestors committed against us. However, the decades immediately before the Yishuv are relevant because the founders of the Palestinian national movement (PNM) turned to the social order of those decades in fashioning their ideology, much as the resistance to Reconstruction looked back on the antebellum social order, and today's PNM is carrying on the ideology of their antecedents.Delete
Mike (not to disagree with you all the time ;-) but I will disagree with one thing you when you say:Delete
" We cannot discuss the rise of Zionism in the Middle East, during the twentieth century, without reference to thirteen hundreds of subjugation within the system of imperial Islam that we call dhimmitude any more than one can discuss the Civil Rights Movement in the United States without reference to slavery and Jim Crow.
While I believe you are correct in saying that expanding the context of our discussion is important I don't believe it is absolutely necessary, remember, the original course of Zionism is a European phenomenon. Until the late '30's - '40's the Jews in the Arab nations were not "bolting" en masse for Palestine / Israel. Zionism was created as a response to a yearning of the Jewish people in Europe to live free in their (and our) ancestral homeland as well as European anti-Semitism.
Does that make Zionism a colonialist movement or a European movement? "NO" Why? Because Zionism is a National movement of people who can trace their roots to the land for thousands of years. It is not either colonialism or European because the Jewish people and Israel are intrinsically tied together.
I think that Sar Shalom is 100% correct in saying:
we don't need to bang the Arabs over their heads with the crimes that their ancestors committed against us. However, the decades immediately before the Yishuv are relevant because the founders of the Palestinian national movement (PNM) turned to the social order of those decades in fashioning their ideology, much as the resistance to Reconstruction looked back on the antebellum social order, and today's PNM is carrying on the ideology of their antecedents.
That is what is important.
I think K made a good point the other day about positive and negative causes. Just being against something or constantly making something about being against something makes it a negative. Rather being "for" something and coming up with ways to create that, make things worth fighting for.
No matter what anyone did to us (the Jewish people), the fact of the matter is that Zionism is our movement of National Liberation and that is all it needs to be. It only needs to be seen in the light of the creation of a National State and Homeland of the Jewish people.
At least that is my take on it.