ZIONISM AND NATIONALISM – A SUCCINT ANALYSIS

 

It is expedient to define the term “nationalism” before delving into a discussion of the aforementioned caption.

Nationalism is a multifaceted social, political or religious configuration that characterizes the inimitability or uniqueness of a particular nation. It is a concept that has as its primary objective, the securing and maintaining of jurisdiction through authority, self-governance or other methods that would ensure sovereignty over a territory of historical importance, such as an original homeland, to a race or group. Nationalism contends that a nation, for instance, should govern itself, exclusive of outside interference or meddling. The doctrine is inescapably intertwined with the principle of self-governance or self-determination.

Nationalism also revolves around developing and sustaining a national identity predicated on communal characteristics such as culture, language, race, religion, political goals or a belief in a common ancestry.1   Nationalism is fiercely linked with the preservation of a nature’s culture, and a sense of pride in a nation’s accomplishments. Consequently, the ideology is closely associated with the notion of patriotism.

Scholars used the term “nationalism”, from the late 18th century onwards, to exemplify the intention of a nation to pursue political autonomy and self-determination. History records nationalist movements in 19th century Germany, Italy, Greece, Serbia, Poland, Latin America, and 20th century China and Africa. There are many varieties of the mindset, among which are the following: (a) Integral nationalism (b) Civic or Liberal nationalism ( c) Ethnic nationalism (d) Religious nationalism (e) Left-Wing nationalism (f) Right-wing nationalism (g) Territorial nationalism, and (h) Racial nationalism.

Contrary to generally accepted protocol, which leans towards a ready dismissal of nationalism as maleficent or oppressive, the doctrine may be positive or negative, good or bad, or inclusive or exclusionary.

Given the above explanation of the nature and characteristics of nationalism, it seems appropriate to classify Zionism as a nationalist endeavor, but is the Zionist movement an unlawful or illegal form of the postulation? Negative or exclusionary nationalism relates to a majority ethnic group’s attempt to exclude and persecute minorities, often for the accrual of various benefits to the overassertive group. The presumption is negative nationalism accords little or no significance to global or international paradigms of justice and fair play. Those who practice negative or exclusionary nationalism are inclined to target the socially and economically fragile, and encourage their constituents to vent their frustrations on minorities that supposedly threaten their livelihood in one way or another. Promoters of negative nationalism sometimes direct their animosity towards minorities who are adhere to a religious persuasion that differs from the predominant faith of the land.

Zionism upholds or indorses none of the forgoing political, social or religious idiosyncrasies.

Israel is a democracy that boasts an enviable record of furthering the noble principles relative to (a) Civil Liberties (b) Multiculturalism and (c) Equality before the Law and the Right to Vote. It is unfathomable that leaders of other nations level charges of exclusionary or negative nationalism against the Jewish state. Furthermore, the allegations of wrongdoing take on an outrageously ironic guise when many of the accusers themselves exercise jurisdiction over governmental regimes that are blatantly nationalistic in deleterious ways, and that have a shameful history of discrimination and maltreatment of their minority populations. The author volunteers a few examples of such duplicity and treachery later in this discussion.

Israel – A Unique Democratic Nation

Israel and Civil Liberties

Religious Freedom – Israel is the only Middle Eastern country in which non-Jewish populations are allowed to co-exist and thrive with adherents of the primary faith (Judaism), instead of being persecuted and/or proscribed from living among those who subscribe to the central or ascendant worldview. As a matter of fact, although Israel was established as a Jewish state, it formally recognizes 15 religions, including Islam, the Baha’is and Druze faiths, as well as Chaldaic and many other Christian denominations, among other faiths. Israeli law mandates the protection of the holy sites of all religions. Each religious community enjoys unrestrained liberty to exercise its faith, observe its holy days and administer its internal functioning.

Freedom of Assembly & Freedom of Expression – The freedom to assemble, and to express oneself freely is the right of all Israeli citizens – Jewish or non-Jewish.

While hate speech and incitement to violence are outlawed, and indeed they should be in any civilized, constitutionalist society, expressing differences of opinion in any sphere of social, political and religious life in Israel is legal. Israeli-Arab members of the Knesset (the unicameral national legislature of Israel) have been known to criticize the Jewish State, and from the floor of the Knesset no less.

Free speech and communication in Israel are evidenced by the abundance of daily newspapers in Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, French and English. There are multiple hundreds of periodicals, numerous radio and TV stations, and ready access to the foreign press.

Civil Rights – Israel’s broadminded, liberal legislation guarantees protection of the rights of all minorities.

Israel & Multiculturalism

Contrary to what those opposed to the Israel’s existence as a self-governing state would propagandize, and what others who are obsessed with misrepresenting the truth about the country’s social, political and religious infrastructure would intimate, the Jewish nation is a pluralistic society. The following cultural characteristics of Israel might be a source of surprise to some, and a conduit of dismay to others who labor under a swath of denial.

 

  1. Eighty percent of Israelis are people of Jewish ancestry derived from various ethnicities and races.
  2. Many of the aforementioned Jews emigrated from the Middle East, Ethiopia, India, Russia, the U.S.A. and Europe.
  3. Refugees from Arab and Muslim Middle Eastern and North African countries and their descendants comprise over half of Israel’s Jewish population.2
  4. Israel’s non-Jewish population account for twenty percent of the nation’s population and includes Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, non-Arab Christians, Druze, Bedouins, Circassians, Asians and others.3

Israel & Legal Equality

Palestinians in the Territories, although they are not Israeli citizens, are enabled to petition the nation’s highest courts in legal matters. The Court administers its duties based on the merits of each case and as a matter of fact, often rules in favor of the Palestinians. A May 5, 2003 New York Times article lends credence to the aforementioned statement.

One of the most unusual aspects of Israeli law is the rapid access that petitioners, including Palestinians, can gain to Israel’s highest court. In April 2002, during the fiercest fighting of the current conflict (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)…the high court was receiving and ruling on petitions almost daily.4

Israel & the Right to Vote

The entitlement of every Israeli citizen to vote or not to vote is an inalienable right granted to all Israeli citizens. The nation’s non-Jewish citizens, or its minority constituents, trace such a privilege to Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Election Day in Israel is a national holiday and voter turnout generally scales eighty percent, which is higher than even the voter turnout in the U.S.A. The Israeli electoral system accommodates various political parties that endorse a wide range of opinions i.e. Communist, religious, Arab, and secular standpoints. The multiparty system represents a departure from the traditional two or three-party arrangement that typifies most other democratic structures.

 

Israel Singled Out For Disparagement

 

Why does there exist an international perception of Israel as a nation that is negatively or selfishly nationalistic?

The concept of nationalism is generally at odds with the perspective of globalism or a common global community. The forgoing assessment notwithstanding, there is a demarcation between positive nationalism and negative nationalism as alluded to earlier. The presumption is that negative nationalism evades global responsibility, while positive nationalism pursues domestic accountability. The reverse psychological play upon the italicized words in the preceding sentence leaves room for the assumption that negative nationalism may also evade domestic responsibilities, and positive nationalism may also pursue global obligations.

Furthermore, the theory of the development of a unified global community is nonsensically idealistic when one considers the overwhelmingly diverse social, political and religious agendas that hold sway in the multitudinous societies around the world. The very unpredictable situation as it relates to politics and religion in Europe and the Middle East, among other areas, makes it especially difficult to contemplate the emergence of any kind of global world order whereby there would be a common, undergirding framework for lasting international camaraderie and cooperation. In other words, globalism today is woefully absent while nationalism exists almost everywhere.

A society that demonstrates an unambiguous penchant for positive nationalism is more predisposed to be tolerant and accommodating towards foreign nations because its people are acquainted with the mores of good citizenship and social justice. A society that exhibit traits associated with negative nationalism, where for instance, dictators, autocrats and despots assume power, lacks the wherewithal to conform to standards and etiquette that appeal to international inclusiveness.

The more or less recent emergence of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq & Syria), the international terrorist organization, the members of which mercilessly and unhesitatingly slaughter anyone who does not subscribe to their unfathomably dark and heinous agenda, has prompted the rulers of some nations to rethink their social and political strategies and adopt a nationalistic approach towards ensuring national security. ISIS’ ability to spread its tentacles of hate and destruction across the globe makes people wary and apprehensive. Also, conflicts within certain Muslim fundamentalist countries in the Middle East whereby many thousands of people become displaced and seek refuge in freer, democratic nations around the world, create a worrisome problem for the recipient nations that face the daunting prospect of allowing probable terrorists entry into their countries as refugees swarm their borders. Nationalism, particularly positive nationalism, may be the answer to the dilemma of many fearful people in countries that would accommodate refugees from warn torn countries,

The forgoing having been said, negative nationalists tend to prey on people who experience the throes of social and economic instability. People who feel unobligated toward one another in a nation that displays negative nationalistic tendencies are wont to discriminate against minorities in their midst, and even rail against foreigners outside their borders in a misguided quest for a status of social or political, or even religious dominance. People whose livelihoods might be threatened welcome the opportunity to target others who they may somehow blame for their misfortune and on whom they can vent their frustrations.

In all of this, Israel is made out to be the villain…even though its nationalistic policies are rooted in justice and fair play. Zionism, which is a form of positive nationalism, is actually a commendable undertaking and is a proven success, given the breadth and latitude of Israel’s unique democratic processes.

If Zionism is racist merely because it is nationalist, then all nationalism is representative of racism. It follows that all nations that claim to be structured on nationalist principles also should be marginalized and ostracized from the global community, as is Israel. Anti-Zionism essentially advocates one or more of the following suppositions are true.

  1. Jews are not a nation.
  2. Evidence linking Jews to Old Testament (Torah) history is questionable.
  3. Jews originated from Eastern Europe, not the Middle East.
  4. Jews do not constitute a homogeneous group.
  5. Jews have partnered with imperialists, Nazis and other oppressors throughout history.
  6. Zionism essentially amounts to tyrannizing the Palestinians.

The forgoing allegations are false and unsubstantiated and do not coincide with the truth about the Jewish State of Israel, which, in its Zionist undertaking, embodies the moralities of positive of inclusive nationalism.

The Jews’ history is littered with episodes of discrimination, persecution and subjugation in their homeland and in countries around the world. They were expelled from the lands of their ancestors multiple times by hateful occupiers over the centuries and banished to diverse nations in which they were never welcome. During World War II, Jew hatred or anti-Semitism bourgeoned into the Holocaust – history’s deadliest incidence of genocide – and the unmitigated slaughter of over six million people of Jewish ancestry in Europe. The Jews, more than any other group of people, have the right to be allowed to return to their homeland i.e. Israel, and re-establish or develop an infrastructure that is unique to their social, political and religious needs and character. Zionism, or the reestablishment, development and protection of the nation of Israel is nationalism, but it is positive nationalism. It is nationalism that is eminently justifiable!

Just who are the decriers of Zionist nationalism?

 

Negative Nationalism in Many Countries Goes Unnoticed While Israel’s Positive Nationalism is Decried

 

It is lamentable that the majority of Middle Eastern countries, most of them Muslim theocracies, have pro-actively and systematically evicted Jews, Christians and other religious minorities over past decades without allowing them to return to lands that were their homes for thousands of years. Effectively, these nations have practiced nationalism – negative or exclusionary nationalism – for centuries, yet the world at large neglects to level discriminatory nationalist charges against these Muslim nations and instead demonizes Israel as illegally nationalist. To add insult to injury, many of the aforementioned nations themselves direct claims of unlawful nationalist charges against the Jewish nation. The following extract from a Jerusalem Post Christian Edition article, published in partnership with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) in February 2011 reveals some alarming statistics about the disappearance of Christians in Middle Eastern countries. The title of the article is The Tragic Decline of Middle East Christianity – Communities Dwindle under Pressure.

Egypt – Of an estimated population of just over 80,000,000 residents, Christians make up about 8%, with the vast majority being Coptic Christians. 5

Iran – Of an estimated population of around 70,000,000, Christians account for no more than 0.5 percent or around 350,000. 5

Iraq – Of of an estimated population of around 29,000,000 residents, the Christian community has rapidly dwindled to under 2% or less than 500,000. 5

Jordan – Of an overall population of around 6 million, some 2% or 120,000 people are Christians. 5

Lebanon – Of a general population of 4 million, the Christian population has dropped from a near majority several decades ago to as low as 35% or approximately 1.5 million, most of whom are Maronite (22%) , Greek Orthodox (8%) and Greek Melkite (4%). 5

Palestinian Territories – Demographics vary widely on the general population: West Bank (1.4 to 2.4 million), Gaza (1.2 million to 1.5 million). Christians are now less than 2%, down from 10% some 40 years ago. No more than 3,000 Christians are left in Gaza. 5

Syria – Of a general population of just over 20 million, Christians comprise around 6% or 1.2 million. 5

Turkey – The general population numbers around 78 million, while the Christian community is down to under 0.30% or less than 200,000. There have been huge drops in the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox communities over the past century.5

Recent upsurges of negative nationalism in Europe seem to solicit only token responses from global observers – unlike the more or less frenetic rejoinders to so-called unlawful Israeli or Jewish nationalism.

In Austria, for instance, the rise in popularity of the nation’s far-right Freedom Party and its performance in the 2016 general elections is seen as a resurgence of exclusionary nationalism. The Freedom Party’s unabashed agenda, which calls for stronger border defenses and tougher controls on immigration and asylum seekers, is a departure from the traditional political and social missions of one of Europe’s more stable democracies.

France’s National Front party, which lost in the country’s the 2017 general elections, nevertheless embodies a growing number of voters who lean towards unbridled nationalism. Marie Le Pen, the National Front’s leader unapologetically embraces anti-globalization and anti-immigration policies. Le Pen has proven to be formidable advocate of authoritarian politics and has sworn to oppose immigration and secure the country’s borders. Negative nationalism has been on a rise in France since the 1980’s, when the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marie Le Pen’s father, won a seat in European Parliament in 1984.

Additionally, terror attacks in Paris, Nice and elsewhere in Europe, combined with seemingly endless streams of refugees and immigrants, particularly from Syria and other Muslim nations, have left many French citizens apprehensive. They feel endangered physically and economically. Michele Lamont, the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies; Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University offered the following statement in connection with the aforementioned outlook.

“What the French have witnessed, especially since the attacks over the last two years, (has left many feeling) ‘we’re not a home anymore, and these people who are here in our country as guests are totally destroying our quality of life.…(they) are coming in and stealing our resources.’ “

Switzerland also, finds itself a prominent player on the burgeoning European nationalist stage. The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) is the largest political assembly in the nation. The October 18, 2015 federal elections showed a shift due to voter concerns about refugee immigration. The SVP won a record number of seats, taking a third of the 200 lower-seat house. The party received the highest proportion of votes of any Swiss political party since 1919, when proportional representation was first introduced. 6 As the veteran Swiss nationalist, Christoph Blocher, advocates without reservation, the SVP’s mission is to make Switzerland fiercely independent and equipped to defend traditional values and combat “asylum chaos” across Europe.

The Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world (population of around 200 million), and the largest economy in the region, is embroiled in economic, cultural and territorial issues from a nationalistic perspective. Indonesians express their dissatisfaction at what they deem foreign interference in the nation’s affairs, and demand greater international recognition of the country’s status in the global arena. Politicians, intellectuals, and leaders of religious and social organizations, and ordinary citizens as well, regularly declare that foreign countries regularly demonize, exploit, and mistreat Indonesia, and do not accord the nation the respect it deserves as a major nation of the region, which includes Malaysia and Australia.

Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia found themselves at the receiving end as negative nationalism reared its ugly head during a recent currency crisis, and Indonesians, fearful of an economic collapse, responded to the volatile situation by resorting to violence. A CNBC September 2015 article, confirming the actuality of the crisis, reported that the Indonesian rupiah had plunged to 14,280 units against the U.S. dollar, the lowest since July 1998.7

Recent actions of the incumbent Prime Minister of India, Mahendra Modi, indicate a leaning toward the adoption of national policy that reeks of religious exclusionism. The strategy, epitomizing Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) staunch stand for Hinduism, India’s main religion that numbers 80 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion people, is worrying, to say the least. Modi himself is a Hindu, and is a vocal supporter of the worldview, notwithstanding the expectation that the Prime Minister’s office in such a large democracy should project an image of religious neutrality or pluralism.

A wave of disturbances by Hindu nationalists over recent months has placed Modi in an unenviable, embarrassing position. Sikh, Christian and Muslim minorities are understandably discomfited by the belligerence of Hindu nationals and feel threatened physically, emotionally and economically. They fear the institution of Hinduism as a national religion, with numerous frightful repercussions for non-Hindus across the country.

On June 2, 2016, police clashed with armed protesters from the Hindu Netaji sect occupying a park in the city of Mathura. Some 24 people were killed and over 300 protesters were arrested. The Hindu protesters had held the park for the past two years, demanding that India’s parliament disband and that the posts of president and prime minister be abolished. 8

The escalating instances of disagreement between Hindu nationals and Indian secularists can only serve to undermine Mahendra Modi’s already deteriorating reform agenda, deepen the country’s political polarization, and temper economic growth.

 

The author volunteers the following couple of paragraphs as a personal aside in connection with Narendra Modi’s departure from religious freedom and inclusionism.

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My wife Pamela and I were sponsors of a young Indian girl via the auspices of Compassion International, a Christian humanitarian aid child sponsorship organization dedicated to the long-term development of children living in poverty around the world. Early in 2017 we received notification from Compassion International that we could no longer support our sponsored child in India, and our financial assistance would be redirected to help better the life of a young Haitian child. Upon enquiry, we were told that Compassion International and other Christian humanitarian organizations were debarred from continuing operations in the Asian country. Organizations were free to offer assistance to impoverished children in India, we learned, but could not preach the Christian Gospel. The ban pertained not only to Christian organizations, but to Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, and other non-Hindu groups. The disclosure lanced my innermost feelings.

 

Shortly afterwards, I read about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concerted drive to promote Hinduism in India, at the expense of other belief systems. Modi’s approach represents not only a nationalist undertaking, but a negative and exclusionary strategy of excommunicating and oppressing people who do not subscribe to the tenets of Hinduism. The aforementioned outrage is today a fact of life in one of the world’s largest democracies.

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And people ridicule miniscule Israel for being nationalist…positively nationalist!

The forgoing are examples of nations around the world that are not only nationalist, but negatively or prejudicially separatist. Yet the world at large pays scant attention to such a troubling state of affairs, and instead single out the nation of Israel, which is decidedly a positively nationalist one, as an exclusionary nation that abhors globalism and mistreats its ethnic minorities. The Jewish nation’s Zionist program, they say, ignores international connectedness and discriminates against resident non- Jews.

In would seem in most instances, criticism or denouncement of Zionism as an illegitimate nationalist movement is nothing more than a façade for expressing anti-Semitic sentiments. As Abraham (Abe) Foxman (born 1940), former National Director of the Anti-Defamation League and currently the League’s National Director Emeritus said, “…anti-Zionism constitutes anti-Semitism if Zionism is the only nationalism being opposed.”  Put alternatively, when criticism of Israel retrogresses into demonization and delegitimization of the nation’s right to exist as a Jewish state, such condemnation becomes anti-Semitism. When Zionism is adjudged a conspirational scheme to subjugate and take over the world, it is arrant evidence of anti-Semitism at work.

 

Christopher Hugh Kawal Persaud

August 31st 2017

 

References:

  1. Triandafyllidou, Anna (1998). “National identity and the other”. Ethnic and Racial Studies. 21 (4): 593–612. doi:10.1080/014198798329784.
  2. Loolwa Khazoom, Jews of the Middle East, MyJewishLearning.com; Howard Sachar, A History of Israel, 2000, pgs. 515-517.
  3. MFA, “Minority Communities,” MFA website
  4. Greg Myre, Trial of Palestinian Leader Focuses Attention on Israeli Courts, New York Times, May 5, 2003.
  5. Sources: US State Department, CIA World Factbook.
  6. Gerber, Marlène; Mueller, Sean (October 23, 2015). “4 Cool Graphs that Explain Sunday’s Swiss Elections”. The Washington Post.
  7. http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/07/indonesian-rupiah-plunges-to-lowest-since-asian-financial-crisis.html
  8. https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/what-hindu-nationalism-means-indias-html

1 comment to ZIONISM AND NATIONALISM – A SUCCINT ANALYSIS

  • James Jones

    Christopher,
    I read with great interest your brief article on Zionism and Nationalism. Like so much of your writing, it was most informative and carefully constructed. I learn so much from your writings. Thank you for sharing this with me. Like you, I believe in the miracle of the State of Israel. It is God’s chosen nation. I imagine that our Lord gets very irritated with the myopic and negative responses of so many nations of the world and their vitriol toward this democratic nation. To quote Jesus, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!” I welcome with eager anticipation your published material in the near future. May God Bless your mission!

    Jim Jones