Sunday, December 03, 2006

Antagonism of Zionism

With so much talk and discussion about the state of the world, many words and phrases become tainted with antagonism and disgust. Much has changed through the last few centuries, but a lot has also remained the same. Human nature, which can be slowly molded and shaped cannot change to extremes, especially when masses are involved. Individuals can vary, and some will produce brilliant insights, but when a group of individuals are introduced, the variability of so many human beings becomes a very strong factor for a quasi-static equilibrium. In other words, the extremes in the spectrum, although strong when considered individually are diluted with the buffered middle ground. As with most stable systems, the outliers are far less numerous then the middle ground. Nothing explains this systemic formula better then language. Words especially, can be so powerful, as to significantly shape history. A few key words which I will address in this essay will be Zionism and Judaism (I would address anti-Semitism, but have already done so in a prior essay); explaining the differences and similarities of the terms, and helping to clarify a reasoned and thoughtful position.

Due to the situation in the world today, it's absolutely vital to first, elucidate the facts behind a philosophy called Zionism. This one word is heavily loaded with connotative meaning and can be used through instances ranging from vilification, to anger, pride, cultural kinship, etc. Through many of my previous essays, I have used the word negatively, but in a context outside cultural or religious exclusivity. As with any philosophical entity, Zionism can have positive and negative context, but due to the nature of the current political, religious, and social system, few positives can be gleamed from the modern incarnation and ultimate meaning behind the term. As with any philosophical entity, Zionism competes to influence as many people as possible. Just as Capitalism competes with Socialism and Communism, Zionism competes with other forms of philosophical thought. It just so happens that those other forms are extremely diverse, sharing only the lack of such specifics found in Zionism amongst themselves.

Ultimately, a good place to start is to attempt to define what Zionism is in itself. I will avoid quoting the dictionary meaning because ultimately, if one wishes, they can readily reference any sources to find the appropriate definition. Therefore, in the broader socio-historical context, Zionism is a type of nationalism. It arose in the late 19th century; a time of worldwide nationalistic awakening. In a time when various small states where organizing into countries based on ethnic, social and linguistic ties, the map of the world was constantly being drawn and redrawn. Countries such as Germany arose out of the combined common states of the region, and vied for dominance with those of others, such as the Prussians, Poles, Russians, Austrians, Hungarians, Yugoslavians (in the nationalism context of the time). These trends did not go unnoticed in the population of Jews that lived in those regions. They had looked at the world changing around them, strengthening through nationalism, and realized that a similar trend within would have to start. With these benign origins, many unfortunate circumstances occurred to where the term now generally garners suspicion and negativity. The greatest disservice to Zionism was the establishment of the State of Israel with little thought to the displaced people of Palestine. The land that was once largely occupied by Semitic Palestinian Arabs, was established as a haven for mainly European Jews. Few of them had any genetic and biological ties to the region, with only a vague sense of religion tying them to those lands. Being such an unstable place, surrounded by those angered at the displacement of Palestinians (which also effected the economies of the Arab neighbor states), Israel needed the support of Europe and ultimately the United States. With the world opening its eyes and realizing that the United States has unilaterally supported Israel, regardless of human rights abuses, aggression upon its neighbors, and other antagonistic moves, many have developed a resentment and hatred. It's not often hatred based on the religion itself, but on the political entity, which ultimately becomes entangled and undistinguished from the religion. Judaism itself, being an organized religion has many faults, just as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and a host of others. Faulting people for being religious is especially easy, when one feels partial to reason, and does not believe organized religion benefits the human condition. When Judaism is taken in religious context, then when one applies detrimental effects towards organized religion, Judaism cannot be excluded. Semantically speaking however, a Jew does not by necessity have to practice organized religion. It can be applied in a cultural and ethnic context. Even this context is difficult to define, because a Jew can be Italian, thus ethnically Italian, yet still identify as Jewish (through Religion). Even if that individual was not a practicing Jew, the context would remain. As an example, a Japanese person cannot be considered under any other ethnic grouping even when associating with various religions. The difficulty in thus describing Judaism is the confusion aroused between the religious, ethnic, cultural, and social ties. Therefore, it's difficult to remove the criticism of Israel, or Judaism, from racism. One can find fault with Christianity and France, without necessitating racism towards French people. However, finding fault with Judaism and Israel, does equate to racism in today's society. It's rather unfortunate, because nobody should be above accountability and reproach. Moreover, It has become such a powerful force in American Politics because the criticism of Israel's faults has become sacrilegious . In fact, there's more open and free debate and dialogue in Israel on the treatment of the Palestinians, then there is in the United States Congress.

In short summary then, my criticism of Israel, and even Judaism, does not equate to racism, because I am not directing it towards a specific people, but a specific system. Criticism can apply to a religious system, a political system, even a social system, without necessarily equating it to an individual. There are millions of Jews that are outside of the religious and Zionistic spectrum who do not keep Israel or Judaism above reproach. There is a natural tendency to feel defensive about one's own people and culture. Often times, I find that the criticism that I'm willing to place on other cultures, doesn't seem to apply as strongly to mine, and must force myself to think objectively and clearly. State corruption for example, provides a window into the inefficiency of some countries to function for their people's benefit. Armenia, is one of these countries that has a significant amount of corruption, and the same standards that I'm willing to apply to African countries should also as strongly apply to Armenia. There are times I find myself laxing in applying these standards, but must objectively look at the situation and leave defensive tendencies behind. Certain defensive tendencies are beneficial when used as an organizing force for good, however, any culture that feels morally, physical, and socially superior to another is not in itself superior. There is not one entity (whether a person, a state, a religion, a rule of law, etc.) that cannot benefit from some form of improvement and constructive criticism. When one looks at global politics today, the influence that Superiority has over others, destabilizes the world. Under the guidance of the Bush Administration, the egotistic belief over moral, religious, and cultural superiority cannot be underestimated. Just as Arab Nationalism believes in its own moral superiority, Zionism shares this common thread. In fact, having defined Zionism under the pretext of Nationalism, the belief in intrinsic superiority with other's extrinsic inferiority is perpetuated. Thus, the issue is not with Zionism, or Judaism, but with Nationalism, and Religion. These are the underlying themes and those in power are those that control the sense of religion and nationalism. It is up to the common people, those outside of the elite to thirst for knowledge and the freedom from mental enslavement.

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