Why Israel Is Unraveling

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 31 2012 @ 3:37pm

Noah Millman reviews Gershom Gorenberg's The Unmaking of Israel. Money quote:

Zionism’s goal was a sovereign, independent Jewish state in the historic land of Israel, as a means to the moral and spiritual rebirth of the Jewish nation. If the occupation is destroying Israel’s fundamental character, dismantling the state, and corrupting the people, as Gorenberg contends, then Zionists above all should want to end it, as swiftly and comprehensively as possible, and not try to hold out for the most favorable terms—to say nothing of holding out for the approval and acceptance of those for whom the Jewish state can at best be seen as an unfortunate fact of life. After all, it was always absurd to think that anyone but the Jewish people would ever truly endorse the aims of Zionism, because Zionism was a specifically Jewish national project. That project is properly judged a success or failure by what kind of nation it built, and how. Which is how Gorenberg judges it. And, to his dismay but not despair, he finds it wanting.

Just as interesting is the fury of the response to these facts in America:

Based on what [Gorenberg] has said about the reception when he has gone to synagogues and other venues to talk about his book, much of the opposition from within the Jewish community refuses to be confronted with painful facts, determined to shout down and shut out the messenger with the unwelcome message.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? One of the commenters – an anti-Zionist – adds to the tortured question raised by the "Israel-Firster" debate:

Gorenberg is on to something very important in acknowledging that Israel forfeited the chance to achieve the stated Zionist goal of becoming a normal country when it held on to the territories after 1967. But even this would only be possible with the further step that Gorenberg clearly opposes, to reframe its national identity as “Israeli” rather than “Jewish”. In other words, to restrict its nationalism to its own people and cease to regard itself as the possession of a transnational “Jewish people” and the leader of a revolution of national consciousness among Jews wherever they may live. As the brilliant and heroic Shlomo Sand writes in The Invention Of The Jewish People, the refusal of the State of Israel to acknowledge the existence of an Israeli nation and renounce its claims to represent a larger “Jewish nation” risks bringing on the destruction of the actually existing Israeli nation, culture, and society.

Noah responds here with several fascinating counter-points.