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Herbert Block, the new executive director of the American Zionist Movement (AZM), says he wants to “rebrand” Zionism. What direction this re-branding will take is anybody’s guess, as he is still talking in the language of the existing brand of Zionism, which equates Zionism with being a Jew.

The days are long gone when, as in the movement’s infancy, Zionism was largely opposed by world Jewry, although we might be now witnessing a resurgence of that opposition. [See Attachment to Israel is ‘central part of Jewish identity,’ Forward editor says]

Whereas he himself has not faced anti-Semitism (i.e., he has not been “the target of discrimination”), living as he does in New York and sending his four children to a Jewish day school – free to worship, free to educate, free to influence power – Block states in an interview:

“I have dealt with many people [meaning Jews] throughout my career who have experienced racism and anti-Semitism. I have also worked closely with many Holocaust survivors and heard their stories of suffering and living under the ultimate discrimination perpetrated by the Nazis.”

The rationale for the existence of the American Zionist Movement and its support of Israel, according to Block, is the unique history and uniqueness of the Jewish people. His “heritage”, he explains in that same interview mentioned above, is not in New York (where I believe he was born and raised) but in Israel, where “his cousins” have emigrated.

The cornerstone of Block’s rationale is, “the ultimate discrimination perpetrated by the Nazis“ against Jews.

Zionism has traditionally used the Holocaust to justify its violent takeover of part of historic Palestine (and its current control of the rest) without the slightest nod of awareness to Palestinian Arabs, who certainly ought not to be the ones paying for the consequence of the Holocaust; the US and EU are. [See, for example, U.S. begins paying out reparations from France to Holocaust survivors and their heirs.]

Zionist logic also fails to see the commonalities of different experiences of racism and oppression, such as those ongoing forms of it which the Jewish state exercises daily against Palestinians.

Denying the Nakba, or ignoring it and its consequence, as though Palestinians were a dispensable people, goes hand in hand with Zionist myth-making and renders it hard for Palestinians and their supporters to address the nature of Israel as a settler-colonial Jewish state, because being against the Jewish state in Palestine is often translated as denying the Holocaust.

In Quora, according to one interlocutor, for example, certain language that expresses the goals and sensibilities of Palestinians is impermissible:

“A ‘solution to the problem of the Jewish state’ sounds eerily familiar to ‘the final solution to the Jewish problem.’ Coupled with language about ‘ending the Zionist project,’ and the claim that Israel is illegitimate.”

But Palestinians must be able to declare their political goals. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement addresses Palestinian fundamental human rights. But once these rights are addressed, a political solution in the form of one democratic state presents itself, and that means the end of the Jewish state.

Censoring people from broadcasting the Palestinian condition, because the “Zionist narrative”- i.e., the claim to Palestine Zionism makes for the Jews (more and more of whom are denying such an identity as Jews today) over and above the fundamental rights and sensibility of the Palestinian Arab indigenous population of all religions – is wrong. [See More Than 100 Protest Birthright HQ, Call For Jewish Boycott]

Coopting the Holocaust, as Block does for Zionism, is a disgrace. Haneen Zoabi, Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) for the Balad party, has recently exposed Israeli hypocrisies in the way it does this. Managing to side-step the pitfalls of discussing the Holocaust “inclusively”.

Zoabi writes:

“Poland’s attempt to scrub clean its role in the murder of European Jewry is, at its core, no different from Israel’s attempt to erase the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians in 1948… The Nakba Law [“which would withhold state funds from cultural and educational institutions that commemorate the horrors that befell the Palestinians in 1948”] is the natural result of a process that began long ago. Moreover, the state’s use of the Holocaust is no worse than Holocaust denial. The Holocaust has turned into a political tool to be used against anyone who dares criticize the state. Accusations of anti-Semitism have become a way to defend Israel, which claims to represent world Jewry.”

I doubt that Block has any idea how to re-invent Zionism to make it palatable; Zionism is an ideology, in my view, that is inherently destructive of the aspirations and dignity of a whole people, and perhaps we can even go as far as saying, on a moral plane, of two.


Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

 

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