Beyond Liberal Zionism
Posted by rabbibrian on February 7, 2011
In 1987, I delivered a Yom Kippur sermon, “A Generation of Occupation,” about the corrosive moral effects of twenty years of Occupation on Jews and Judaism. This sermon cost me my first position as a congregational rabbi. Back then, as a liberal Zionist, I saw the injustice to Palestinians within Israel and under Occupation as moral perversions of the progressive Zionist vision — “warts” that needed correction.
Over the twenty-three years since then, I have seen many disturbing instances of blatant discrimination against Palestinians and my view has fundamentally changed. I have seen a Palestinian home being demolished and have stood on the demolished ruins of Palestinian homes. I have walked down streets restricted to Jews in what was once a bustling Palestinian neighborhood. I have replanted trees uprooted by settlers knowing they would be uprooted again. These and many more disturbing personal encounters with discrimination led me to the painful understanding that political Zionism, at its core, is a discriminatory ethnic nationalism that privileges the rights of Jews over non-Jews.
This is an excerpt from an article of mine, Reflections of a Liberal Zionist, just published by Tikkun magazine. To mark their 25th anniversary, Tikkun asked many of their authors to share a short article about their thinking and social activism that was most relevant to the next generation and to Tikkun‘s goal of helping heal, repair, and transform the world. In Reflections of a Liberal Zionist I articulated very briefly how my own faith as liberal Zionist/Jew has been transformed over the past 23 years since I gave that Yom Kippur sermon.
The critique of liberal Zionism is painful as from the time I was very young I have seen myself as a progressive Zionist/Jew. It was the world I lived in and defined the work that I did. In many ways it still is. Many dear colleagues, friends and family are dedicated liberal /progressive Zionists. I also have such a deep spiritual and emotional connection to Israel and my many friends there. Most of my colleagues and friends don’t see the contradiction that I believe lies at the heart of liberal Zionism and the impossible goal of building a democratic Jewish state. They also don’t agree that some of the actions of liberal Zionist/Jewish organizations prolong the injustice in Israel/Palestine at the same time as claiming to be clearly opposed to this injustice. It is my hope that the article opens a dialogue and conversation and I invite your response or questions. You can read the complete article here. I also recommend the many important articles published as part of the 25th anniversary of Tikkun. Tikkun has been an important part of my own journey and understanding and I encourage you to subscribe and support the magazine.