This morning, A.B. Yehoshua published an article in Haaretz stating that Zionism is not an ideology.Truth to tell, his arguments are not very convincing. The article follows an interesting structure though. At first, the author rebrands Zionism, then he defines its core issue, and he ends by copyrighting it. His central point lies in the middle, sandwiched between two extremely controversial arguments.
Rebranding Zionism. From ideology to concept
Abraham “Bouli” Yehoshua chooses a very convenient definition of ideology and then claims that “zionism” doesn’t fall under this definition because of its multiple forms. In his own words, zionism “is a common platform for various and even contradictory social and political ideologies”. The same can be said about most nationalisms (a nationalist can be left wing or right wing) and and to certain degrees political ideologies (russian, french, italian and lebanese versions of communism are not exactly the same). At first sight, one can brush this whole issue as being a terminological issue by saying that A.B. Yehoshua can call Zionism whatever he wants, the point he is trying to make is elsewhere. However, let’s keep in mind that this argument is actually quite a controversial one because zionism as an ideology is a central issue in “palestinian studies” and pro-palestinian groups. By rebranding zionism the way he does, he is actually claiming that most of the research and arguments done under the heading of zionism are worthless. So most pro-palestinian militants or scholars will probably not read any further and attack him on this point. Let’s go beyond his controversial argument and see it for what it is, a simple question of terminology that actually is not really relevant to the central point: the definition of thecore issue of Zionism.
Defining the common platform
In his search for a core issue, A.B. Yehoshua distinguishes between two periods:
– Before 1948, the core issue of Zionism was to “establish a state for the Jews”.
– “After the Jewish state, namely the State of Israel, was actually established […] Zionism was expressed […] through the principle of the Law of Return”.
Stated this way, the core issues of zionism seem innocuous. And if Zionists had chosen to establish this state on an uninhabited island, these points would have remained unobjectionable. The problem with these issues is that they do not take into account the fact that the Jewish state was established in an populated region, and that it was imposed on the majority of this land’s population through foreign pressure (British then international) and force. So the problem is not the “theoretical underpinning of zionism, it is with its practical application. The same can be said about the second expression of zionism, “the law of return”. Theoretically, it doesn’t seem to be problematic. It becomes objectionable when it is used as a tool for demographical engineering (safeguarding a strong jewish majority), and when it benefits over 200,000 immigrants who cannot be considered as Jewish by any definition.
Repositioning the concept of Zionism
A.B. Yehoshua ends his article with a strong property claim. He stresses that zionism as a concept belongs to Jews, and “finds its expression only in its rightful place”, in the relationship between Israeli Jews and Diaspora Jews. He resorts here to an argument he came up with a couple of years ago, and that he has repeated on many occasions: Jews in the diaspora are only “playing with Judaism”, and “full Jewish life could only be had in the Jewish state”. He restates it in this article by making a distinction between “responsible” Jews and “partial” Jews (who “practice their Jewish identity partially”). He states that the former live “their lives within a defined territory and under self government”, while the latter “live enmeshed in other nations”. Again, this is a very controversial argument that shocks many Jews across the world. Moreover, it fails to take into account the possibility of an autonomous and complete jewish life in the diaspora (that is clearly and massively visible in New York and Antwerp). And it ignores the fact that Israeli jews are equally enmeshed in a plural nation in which at least 30% of the population is non-Jewish. Another problem in his definition lies in the fact that Israel has no “defined territory”, and that “Self-government” doesn’t take into account that it is actually the direct (non-jewish Israelis and non Jewish immigrants to Israel and their descendants) and indirect government (West Bank and Gaza) of populations that if enfranchised would make up the majority of the country’s territory.
One could explain A.B. Yehoshua’s arguments by putting them under the banner of idealism… But pushed to such an extent, it actually falls under cynism.
For as long as I remember, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the celebration of November 22 as “Independence day”. I just couldn’t understand why a country that was recognised as autonomous in 1861, that was officially recognised as a State in 1920, that proclaimed its first and only constitution in 1926… would choose to commemorate its founding myth a day in which a bunch of politicians outpaced another group of politicians by declaring the country’s independence.
The most absurd element in this celebration is that its title is actually a misnomer. If you listen to the official speeches, if you look into what is actually celebrated, you realise quite quickly that on that day, the Lebanese are not celebrating “independence”, but the “national pact”: an unwritten agreement that allegedly laid the foundations of Lebanon as a multi-confessional state. It’s quite easy to understand why the focus drifts from “independence” to “national pact”. After all, all sides had agreed in 1943 to the principle of Lebanese independence… and this independence wasn’t directly effective (with the British troops occupying the country at that time and the French troops staying on for another 3 years).
But why bring forth our “founding myth” to 1943, when our existence as a state is much older? Why try to celebrate as new what had already existed (the multi-confessional character of the state)? Why consider Bechara el-Khoury, our country’s 6th President as our country’s first? Why transform a group of petty (and mostly corrupt) politicians into founding fathers?
The March XIV® coalition unwittingly answered some of these questions when it replicated the “independence narrative” on the events of the winter of 2005 and dubbed them “the second independence”. Were it not for the Quadripartite alliance, the March XIV® coalition would have officially replaced November 22 with March 14, as our “independence day”. For the past 4 years, it has somewhat replaced it symbolically, as least in the head of our intelligentia. This shift reflects the ambivalence and unease we have toward our system. We want it to be multi-confessional but we don’t want it to be confessional, we want politicians to be representative of their confessional communities even if the institutions deny them this quality (this was certainly true to the so-called founding fathers Bechara el-Khoury and Riyad el-Solh, but still holds today), we want a pact to be “multi-confessional” but we don’t want people to be confessional… This shift between november 22 and march 14 translates the general ambivalence and unease with our system and its shaky principles.
What should we replace November 22 with?
For some time, I’ve been thinking that September 1st could be a good date for a commemoration, because it is the legal starting point of the Lebanese Republic. It’s after all with the proclamation of the State of Greater Lebanon that our legal and political order was established. And truth to tell, I’m particularly attracted to the flag that was chosen soon after to represent Lebanon (imaginé par Naoum Moukarzel). I particularly appreciate the blend between the oldest symbol associated with Lebanon (one that goes back to the Bible) and the symbol of the French revolution with its universalist and progressive ambitions. But the problem with September 1st 1920 is that it was made by a Frenchman. So why not go a bit further, and opt for May 20 1919, the date in which the members of Mount Lebanon’s representative council approved of the enlargement of Lebanon. And we could actually go farther than that and commemorate the establishment of Mount Lebanon as an autonomous entity guaranteed by International law! that will take us back to 1860.
I jumped head-on into two discussions with friends about a month ago that confirmed a strong feeling I’ve felt for some time now but never acted upon. I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with the way I argue my points. I don’t have any problems with my analysis per se. I believe that many of the points I make are valid, and that what I criticise is indeed criticisable. But I know I’m not doing it the right way. My approach is too cold, too analytical, and by criticising the other’s reasoning, I’m putting him/her in a defensive position in which things become personal. And I know that were I in their shoes, I’d be extremely agressive and quite bitter. What amazed me in these two conversations is the generosity and goodness that they showed towards me, withstanding what I had said and how I had said it…
Que peuvent ils faire? Tuer? Ils tueront 1, 10 ou 100 hommes libres, et après? Le sort du Tribunal Spécial n’est pas entre nos mains. 02 October at 14:27
Quels hommes libres? Franchement, je n’en vois pas beaucoup au Liban. Je ne vois que des hommes et des femmes apathiques ou embrigadés derrière leurs certitudes. Le premier signe de la liberté est l’autocritique et non pas l’autocélébration. Il est plus facile de chercher une aiguille dans une botte de foin que de trouver une conversation rationnelle et raisonnée avec un quatorze marsiste sur le TSL ou avec un hezbollahiste sur la résistance.
Il n’y a rien d’héroïque dans la mort, ni même d’exceptionnel dans un pays qui célèbre annuellement des bouchers et dont les habitants se laissent conduire périodiquement vers l’abattoir.
Wissam Saade Meme si le TSL revet de la valeur d’un mythe fondateur pour le 14 mars comparable dans cette dimension au mythe fondateur de la Resistance, je crois pas que cette analogie pourrait transgresser facilement les limites separant ce qui est le symbolique et ce qui est factuel. Car justement, dans le cas ou la Resistance est impliquee dans l’affaire du TSL, le parallelisme possibilisant cette analogie est rompue. Et la c’est le Fait qui se substitue meme symboliquement au symbole.
Nous ne parlons plus de la même chose. Et à mon avis, dans toute discussion, il faut s’efforcer à rester clair avec son interlocuteur, et non pas à se perdre dans les subtilités (même délicieuses) de son propre raisonnement. Ma comparaison n’est pas entre le Quatorze Mars@ et la Résistance@, elle ne porte pas non plus sur le rapport qu’ont ces deux “mouvements” à leurs mythes (je pense d’ailleurs que la référence au mythe fondateur n’est dans ce cas ni pertinente ni utile) mais sur le rapport qu’ont les partisans/militants/embrigadés des deux bords à un objet présent et actuel qu’ils ont sacralisés… et de là sur l’effet de ce rapport sur leur discours. Toute discussion sur ce sujet ne fait que confirmer mon propos. 03 October at 10:56 ·
Wissam Saade dans ce cas tout ce que vous disez libneni kalik n est que du blablablablablabla assez stupide 03 October at 12:08
Michel Hajji Georgiou Ya Jihad, ta pseudo “neutralite”, qui n’en est pas une, voire ton politiquement correct, sont ecoeurants. La plupart de tes anciens professeurs, notamment ceux qui ne sont plus la, t’auraient flanque pour le coup un “hors sujet” depuis bien longtemps… 03 October at 12:39
Wissam Saade aha.. Libneni kalik c’est le fameux Jihad? Wawww. 03 October at 13:35 ·
Lıbnéné Qaliq@ Michel. Je n’ai jamais prétendu être neutre. Et je ne m’attends pas à ce que d’autres le soient. En revanche, je m’attends à ce que des gens que j’ai longtemps admiré et continue à admirer gardent une distance critique. Si le “sujet” est l’embrigadement, la bipolarisation, le travestissement des victimes en héros et des bourreaux en victimes, le rejet de toute responsabilité sur l’autre, le remplacement d’une lecture politique par une lecture géopolitique, alors oui, je fais du “hors sujet”, mais je préfère l’appeler recadrage. 03 October at 22:59 .
Michel Hajji Georgiou Je trouve cela parfaitement pretentieux, cher Jihad. Je pense que tu devrais recouvrer un peu d’humilite et cesser d’etiqueter les gens. Surtout ceux que tu “recadres” sur ton blog en fonction de categories d’analyse parfaitement martiennes (et tout a fait partiales, l’air de rien). Tu accuses les autres d’avoir sombre, cher ami, mais en fait, tu derives aussi, plus que les autres meme. Dommage. 03 October at 23:02
Lıbnéné QaliqPeut-on étiqueter des gens qui avancent sous un étendard? Tu fais sans doute référence à un billet dont je suis peu fier, mais je pense y avoir en son temps explicité la démarche. je pense qu’elle est quelque peu liée à l’acte d’écriture. Mais bon, certains d’entre nous s’en sortent grâce à l’élégance de leur plume. Ce n’est malheureusement pas mon cas. Et t’es également en droit de me reprocher mon agressivité, ma tendance à la circularité dans le raisonnement et mes écrits plutôt brouillon. Mais tt ça reste loin de Mars, et surtout du parti pris. 04 October at 00:33
Michel Hajji GeorgiouMais tu as autant de parti pris que n’importe qui ya Jihad. Khalas ba’a. Si tu ne t’en rends pas compte, c’est que tu es atteint d’une cecite grave !! Arrete de donner des lecons et de juger les gens ! Tu peux exprimer l’opinion que tu veux, mais finis-en avec cette attitude scolieuse et condescendante a la fin !! Quand a tes billets, je t’en remercie, mais c’etait facile et mal informe.Une attaque gratuite en fait, qui se cachait derriere une pseudo demarche intellectualiste. Mais t’en fais, c’est quand meme un plaisir de te lire. Moi, au moins, je ne te juge pas. De grace, ecris ce que tu veux, mais, s’il te plait, descends de ton super piedestal analytique !!!
Lıbnéné Qaliq Entendu (un mot qui résume 15 minutes de relectures) Merci Michel
Hicham Bou Nassif Had the Good Samaritan arrived a bit earlier on the scene, should he have let the wrongdoers beat the innocent traveler, possibly to death? Had he intervened, how would that conform to the obligation of non-violence? Had he not intervened, how would that conform to the obligation of defending the innocent? 03 October at 05:24
Lıbnéné Qaliq I’m genuinely surprised by the way you revisit the parable of the Good Samaritain. You seem to be reinventing it in a way to justify violence. And to think that the parable is given as an explanation to the commandement “love your neighbour as yourself” in which Jesus radically redefines the “neighbour” as possibly an opponent (belonging to another faith). Ironic, don’t you think? 03 October at 22:33
Hicham Bou Nassif How can I be justifying violence when i actually refer to non-violence as an”obligation”? In fact, how can I be making any kind of statement when I use three question marks in one status? Isn’t it clear I am troubled by what I perceive to be contradictions in Christian teaching? Granted, this contradiction my only be apparent. There may be a way out of the moral/intellectual quagmire. But your answer doesn’t offer even a hint in that direction. That’s because once again, you fail to read carefully. It seems that the Libnene Qaliq just cannot make himself read carefully anything HE did not write. He just takes a quick look at a text, jumps into conclusions, then jumps into Rosinante, and Hola ! Here goes the Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote Libnene Qaliq of La Mancha, ready for the windmills.
Yours are the ways of the permanent monologue. Sad, don’t you think. 03 October at 23:51
Hicham Bou NassifAbsolutely, you said it. But i am not done yet: I think it’s sad because it’s a waste of talent. I have always believed in yours and will always continue to do so. Not because i am easily… impressed, but because it is indeed impressive. Disagreements about politics are no problem. In fact, they are a sign of good intellectual health. But things are beyond “politics” now. What is at risk is the very meaning of our country, its intimate liberal raison d’etre. I am sorry we dont see eye to eye on this 04 October at 00:09
Lıbnéné Qaliq now that was an unexpected blow; humbling and embarrassing all at once. gotta sleep over it. 04 October at 00:40