The end of Zionism

On Tuesday, I joined Mondoweiss editor Philip Weiss and writer and activist Nada Elia for a discussion titled “The End of Zionism: Thoughts and Next Steps,” co-organized with Haymarket Books.

The starting point was a talk I gave in 2009, at the Hampshire College conference on boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

My talk predicted – with some accuracy – how Israel’s battle for legitimacy around the world would play out.

Then, as now, Israel retains immense power. But I argued that despite overwhelming military power, an ideological project that loses legitimacy in the eyes of the world would eventually crumble.

I described how Israel would try to win back declining support among young people in the United States and elsewhere by marketing itself as LGBTQ friendly and environmentally conscious – propaganda strategies known as pinkwashing and greenwashing.

All of this is designed to obscure and distract from the fundamental facts about Zionism, Israel’s racist state ideology which holds that Jews from anywhere in the world have a right to settle in historic Palestine and maintain a Jewish-majority state there that trumps any rights of the indigenous Palestinian people.

This month also marks the 15th anniversary of the Palestinian call for BDS – another opportunity for reflection, assessment and looking to what is ahead.

In our Tuesday webinar we also spoke about what Peter Beinart’s recent abandonment of the two-state solution and Jewish statehood portends for liberal Zionism in general.

Beinart, the author of the 2012 book The Crisis of Zionism, had over the last decade been the great hope of the liberal Zionist establishment that it could lay new roots for long-term, broad support of Israel.

But with Beinart’s defection and embrace of some form of one-state solution, it looks like liberal Zionism as it has existed for decades is in total collapse.

As the world goes through the pandemic, and the attendant political, economic and social crises, we are also seeing a resurgence of activism and radicalism – especially the Black-led uprising against systemic white supremacy.

Can this moment also deliver justice in Palestine? Will we see an end to Israeli apartheid and oppression in the next five, 10 or 20 years?

Our panel could not predict that with certainty, of course, but we had a lively and passionate discussion about what it might take to get us there.

Watch the video above.

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An informative, inspiring and militant discussion. Ali Abunimah gives an incisive, pithy and historical analysis of Zionism's roots in imperialism at about 55:13. The two words though that none of the speakers mention are capitalism and communism. Lenin famously said imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism and he described the function of financial capital in generating profits from imperialist colonialism as the final stage of capitalist development to ensure greater profits. I understand, I think, why the speakers chose not to include these ideas in their forum. They fear that open acknowledgement of the need for a socialist world economy will hurt the movement for Palestinian rights. The Stalinist betrayal of the Russian Revolution has cast a long, dark shadow, but the world's movements must acknowledge the basic truths of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky to get where we need to be--a world built on a socialist feminist race liberationist economy and society.

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The point that Ali made just before 1:02:00—that the merely liberal position, like that espoused by Democratic Party leaders, does not challenge the larger reality: that Zionism exists to serve Empire (and all its inequity, racial supremism, and global dominance)—is, imo, the crux of the whole discussion. The radical and transformational breakthrough that all three participants are seeing glimmers of today can only come about when the old habitual patterns of dominance and superiority that are rooted in what is considered a fundamental and intrinsic characteristic of human nature (i.e. egoism) are outgrown. I think we have to start naming egoism for what it is, as it is the root cause. It's a human problem and not a feature of one nationality, race, religious identity or any other little enclave of humanity. So just like COVID 19 is teaching us that we're all in this together, the economic, governmental and societal structures that are in place everywhere on earth, whether in the USA, Europe, China, Russia, Israel, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. etc., are all created out of this innate feeling that the ego (Me or We) reigns supreme. Along with political and economic awakenings we are witnessing today, what is percolating under the surface is a growing realization that all our so-called identities (such as National identity, Religious identity, Racial identity, Ideological identity) are just various forms of Egoism, ways to assert the ascendency and superiority of "Me" on a collective level. Learning to see it on this level is how we can truly move forward and not get stuck as just another, as Nada called it, 'failed post-colonial state." We can begin by seeing how ego plays out in our own individual life and then watching in play out on the collective stage in the world. This, along with all the activism, is an important part of what will bring the breakthroughs we are all working towards.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.