is there a jewish newspaper in the u.s. that would even consider printing a piece like the one i’ve copied in below, which ran in ha-aretz on february 13, 2009? if one did, would it ever run another one? how many institutional advertisers would it lose? how many major u.s. jewish organizations would condemn it?

i’m posting levy’s piece here because it’s a mark of how interesting the conversation is becoming about zionism inside jewish israeli contexts. i’ll be thrilled when it reaches a similar point in u.s. jewish communities.

it’s important, though, to note that one of levy’s most basic presuppositions is historically just plain untrue. he wants there to be a distinction between ‘the zionism of the right’ and the zionism of what he calls ‘the left’ (labor, meretz, kadima), at least in terms of their attitude towards palestinians.

unfortunately for him, as benny morris has documented extensively, no such difference has ever existed in practice, whether in the time of the yishuv, during the nakba, or during the days of the 1987 intifada and ehud barak’s “bone-breaking” policy. similarly, ze’ev sternhell’s exhaustive the founding myths of israel has demonstrated that on the ideological level as well, ‘labor zionism’ is only distinguishable in its rhetoric from the more overtly ultra-nationalistic strains of zionism. his research, in part, is why he was targeted for assassination last year. nava etshalom & matthew n. lyons’ recent piece in Upping the Anti on ‘labor zionism’ describes how that difference of rhetoric masking identical policies operates today.

levy is absolutely right to say that the zionist left has “reached the end of its road”. he’s just as absolutely wrong to believe that there is any way forward for the left through zionism, however redefined. if he would only take courage from his first conclusion and ask what can be done to strengthen the growing israeli left that rejects zionism, he might come to a conclusion that’s both more hopeful and more grounded in reality.

Does Zionism legitimize every act of violence?
Gideon Levy

The Israeli left died in 2000. Since then its corpse has been lying around unburied until finally its death certificate was issued, signed, sealed and delivered on Tuesday. The hangman of 2000 was also the gravedigger of 2009: Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The man who succeeded in spreading the lie about there being no partner has reaped the fruit of his deeds in this election. The funeral was held two days ago.

The Israeli left is dead. For the past nine years it took the name of the peace camp in vain. The Labor Party, Meretz and Kadima had pretensions of speaking in its name, but that was trickery and deceit. Labor and Kadima made two wars and continued to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank; Meretz supported both wars. Peace has been left an orphan. The Israeli voters, who have been misled into thinking that there is no one to talk to and that the only answer to this is force – wars, targeted killings and settlements – have had their say clearly in the election: a closing sale for Labor and Meretz. It was only the force of inertia that gave these parties the few votes they won.

There was no reason for it to be otherwise. After many long years when hardly any protest came from the left, and the city square, the same square that raged after Sabra and Chatila, was silent, this lack of protest has been reflected at the ballot box as well. Lebanon, Gaza, the killed children, cluster bombs, white phosphorus and all the atrocities of occupation – none of this drove the indifferent, cowardly left onto the street. Though ideas of the left have found a toehold in the center and sometimes even on the right, everyone from former prime minister Ariel Sharon to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has spoken in a language that once was considered radical. But the voice was the voice of the left while the hands were the hands of the right.

On the fringes of this masked ball existed another left, the marginal left – determined and courageous, but minuscule and not legitimate. The gap between it and the left was supposedly Zionism. Hadash, Gush Shalom and others like them are outside the camp. Why? Because they are “not Zionist.”

And what is Zionism nowadays? An archaic and outdated concept born in a different reality, a vague and delusive concept marking the difference between the permitted and the proscribed. Does Zionism mean settlement in the territories? Occupation? The legitimization of every act of violence and injustice? The left stammered. Any statement critical of Zionism, even the Zionism of the occupation, was considered a taboo that the left did not dare break. The right grabbed a monopoly on Zionism, leaving the left with its self-righteousness.

A Jewish and democratic state? The Zionist left said yes automatically, fudging the difference between the two and not daring to give either priority. Legitimization for every war? The Zionist left stammered again – yes to the beginning and no to the continuation, or something like that. Solving the refugee problem and the right of return? Acknowledgment of the wrongdoing of 1948? Unmentionable. This left has now, rightly, reached the end of its road.

Anyone who wants a meaningful left must first air out Zionism in the attic. Until a movement that courageously redefines Zionism arises from the mainstream, there will be no broad left here. It is not possible to be both leftist and Zionist only in accordance with the right’s definition. Who has decided that the settlements are Zionist and legitimate, and the struggle against them is neither?

This taboo must be broken. It is permissible not to be a Zionist, as commonly defined today. It is permissible to believe in the Jews’ right to a state and yet come out against the Zionism that engages in occupation. It is permissible to believe that what happened in 1948 should be put on the agenda, to apologize for the injustice and act to rehabilitate the victims. It is permissible to oppose an unnecessary war from its very first day. It is permissible to think that the Arabs of Israel deserve the same rights – culturally, socially and nationally – as Jews. It is permissible to raise disturbing questions about the image of the Israel Defense Forces as an army of occupation, and it is even permissible to want to talk to Hamas.

If you prefer, this is Zionism, and if you prefer, this is anti-Zionism. In any case, it is legitimate and essential for those who do not want to see Israel fall victim to the insanities of the right for many more years. Anyone who wants an Israeli left must say “enough” to Zionism, the Zionism of which the right has taken complete control.