Thursday, 28 April 2011

Gilad Atzmon: Time Is Ripe For A Paradigm Shift

It is slightly embarrassing for me to admit that sometime Zionists are actually well ahead of our favourite intellectuals in understanding the depth of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is not that they are more clever, they are just free to explore the conflict without being subject to the tyranny of ‘political correctness’, also being proud nationalist Jews- they do not need the approval of the Jewish left thought police.

I have recently come across a short Haaretz article by Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua*.

Yehoshua is a proud Zionist, He believes in the right of his people to dwell on Palestinian land. He is also convinced that the Jewish state is the true meaning of contemporary Jewish life.

I guess that Yehoshua loves himself almost as much as I despise everything he stands for and yet, I have to confess, he seems to grasp the depth of the Israeli Palestinian conflict’s parameters slightly better than most solidarity activists I can think of.

In his Haaretz article Yehoshua stressed that Zionism was “something original and one of its kind in human history- A folk arrived at the homeland of another folk attempting to replace the old identity with a new/old identity”. Yehoshua also counters the faulty colonial paradigm and practically repeats my own theses almost word by word. “There was also no (Zionist) attempt to impose a colonial regime, since the Jews had no (mother) state that could have sent them to perform a colonial conquests like in the case of England or France.”

Yehoshua, is certainly correct here, as much as some amongst us are contend to argue that Zionism is a ‘colonial project’ and Israel is a ‘settler State’, such a position has no ground and cannot be supported factually or historically. The Colonial paradigm is simply a fantasy that is clumsily imposed on our discourse in a desperate attempt to make the Israeli/Palestinian conflict meaningful within a decaying Marxist discourse.

Yehoshua continues, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will not be resolved because it's a totally unique conflict in human history. “There is no historical precedence for a nation that decides to return to its ancient homeland and establish its sovereignty there.” Whether the conflict will be resolved or not is indeed a crucial question. I am not so sure that Yehoshua knows the answer or even can contemplate a reality in which the Jewish State belongs to the past. However, Yehoshua is obviously correct in his reading of the uniqueness of the Zionist history. We are dealing here with an exceptional and unprecedented national aspiration driving by racist impetus. But Yehoshua takes it further. “Thus,” he says, If we all accept that the modern return of Jews to Zion is a unique event in human history – then the Palestinian people, unlike any other people, had to face a totally unique phenomenon.” If we accept that Zionism is an abnormal political ideology and practice, then, Palestinian nationalism (that is defined by negation to abnormality) must be also a unique to say the least.

I must admit that Yehoshua’s stand is well argued and totally valid. However, it means that all comparative models such as the colonial paradigm are doomed to crash. Jewish nationalism doesn’t fit into any available template, it formulates a model of its own.

According to Yehoshua, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not really about territorial issues. “Territorial issues can be resolved” he says. “In our conflict, both sides, struggle over national identity of the whole country.” Yehoshua offers here a very interesting insight that cannot be uttered within the boundaries of the Left discourse. For both parties, especially the Palestinians, he says, “it is unclear what is the size of the people it is up against, is it only the Israelis or is it also the Jewish Diaspora as a whole.” Yehoshua raises here an issue I myself have been stressing for years. It is far from being clear to anyone (including Israelis and Jews) where Israel ends and the Diaspora starts. It is also far from being clear where the Israeli ends and the Jew starts. I guess that for most contemporary Jews it is even far from being clear anymore where Zionism ends and Judaism starts. In the contemporary Jewish world there are no clear dichotomies. We are dealing with a spineless elastic metamorphic identity that shapes itself to fit every possible circumstances. This may explain how come the Jewish state can dually operate as an oppressor and a victim simultaneously.

The Israelis, according to Yehoshua are also subject to a similar confusion. They also cannot figure out whether it is just the Palestinian people they are up against or is it the whole Arab nation or even the entire Muslim world. For Yehoshua, the conflict “lacks a clear demographic boundaries. This fact alone creates an initial deep distrust between the two peoples that prevents a possible solution.”

Yeshoua is far from being a brilliant mind, yet, he manages to analyse the conflict correctly just because he is free to think out of the Leftist box. Being a proud Israeli Jew he is free to say what he thinks without the need to appease half a dozen so-called ‘progressive’ Jews. Yehoshua’s analysis makes a lot of sense to me though we draw the complete opposite conclusions. I believe that the Palestinian solidarity discourse better liberate itself of any form of dogmatic political thinking. It is about time and look at the conflict for what it is. We must engage in a true plural debate and emancipate ourselves of any traces of rigid and anachronistic thinking.

* The article has now disappeared from Haaretz site. You can upload an Hebrew version here.
The English version just appeared here.

In case you missed it: Truth in Stuttgart

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