First, three reasons why I oppose Zionism.
One hundred years ago the founder of cultural Zionism, Asher Ginzberg bemoaned the anti-diaspora stance within the Zionist camp. Ginzberg, better known by his nom de plume, Ahad Ha'am, penned "Negation of the Diaspora" in 1909. The article criticizes the so-called "true Zionists" for declaring the Land of Israel as the only option for Jews. Ahad Ha'am deemed that plan as unrealistic. The Jews will not migrate to the Land of Israel in an realistic time frame; the "Diaspora" will not disappear. Instead, he advocated a gradual migration of Jews to the Land of Israel focussing on rebuilding Jewish culture. He presciently recognized that most Jews would prefer to stay in the Diaspora. The Talmud (Tractate Kiddushin) tells us that very few - those at the bottom of the social order - migrated from Babylon to Ezra at the foundation of the Second commonwealth. The Third Commonwealth would not be substantially different.
Ahad Ha'am lost this ideological battle to the political Zionists led by Theodor Herzl's camp. Nearly forty years later, David Ben Gurion laid out his detailed manifesto for the State of Israel in which he unapologetically "negated the Diaspora." If you listen to any official representatives of the State of Israel speak on the topic, nothing, essentially has changed. A few years ago I heard the senior Israeli diplomat in the Midwest end his address to a group of American Jews with this:
As Jews, Israel is the stage and you are in the audience. We invite you to step on to the stage and become part of the action.So, for the 130 years of political Zionism, negating the Diaspora has been a constant component. In other words Zionism is constituted as anti-Diaspora. As a Jew who chose to live as a Jew outside Israel I have to reject Zionism on those grounds.
The second aspect of Zionism which I reject is the settler movement. Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar in Lords of the Land documented the moment in the 1970s when the establishment Zionist camp, led by the late Yigal Allon and Yizhak Rabin along with President Shimon Peres, conferred legitimacy on the nascent settler movement. The repeated attempts of the settlers to establish a base at Sebastaya succeeded. The stand-off with the IDF ended in an embrace. That moment established the protocol of collaboration between the military and the settlers. This protocol is in force to this day. The Israeli military builds roads, provides arms, training, employment and security on behalf of the West Bank settlers. According to Zertal and Eldar, the Labor Zionist leadership came to the conclusion that the mantle of Zionist vanguard had passed from the kibbutzim to the settlements. Two years later, the Likud rose to power and, under Ariel Sharon, the West Bank settlements became the largest and most expensive national project of the State of Israel.
I reject Labor and Likud's Zionism. I reject the State of Israel's Zionism.
The third aspect of Zionism which I reject is the system of laws, Basic Laws (the building blocks of a future Israeli constitution) and national institutions that are governed by these laws that discriminate against non-Jews because of their religion and ethnicity.
Why am I pro-Israel?
I am an Israeli. I relate to the Land of Israel not only as a Jew, but as an Israeli. I love the creations of modern Hebrew culture. I am deeply connected to events, music. I could not reject Israel without rejecting part of myself - and I have no need or desire to do so.
I care deeply about the future of Israelis: my family, friends and the people I am a part of. I am an activist on their behalf, largely, because I care about them. I am working for future coexistence between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Zionism created a new people, of which I am a part.
As an Israeli and a Jew, I call on Israel to dismantle the settlement project and to undo its discriminatory laws and institutions. As a Diaspora Jew I call on Israel to abandon its anti-Diaspora position.
(In Part 2, I will look at other formulations of the Israel-Diaspora relationship that are mutually supportive)