Zionism's destabilizing force: "Israeli Exceptionalism" reviewed
(The Electronic Intifada) --
In his new book Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism, M. Shahid Alam successfully argues that the moral force behind the Zionist movement is a sense of Jewish, and consequently Israeli, exceptionalism. This claim of exceptionalism underpins what he calls the "destabilizing logic of Zionism." According to Alam, Zionism "could advance only by creating and promoting conflicts between the West and the Islamicate" (p. 3). He defines the "Islamicate" as consisting of the broader Muslim world, with the Middle East at its heart.
Alam, a professor of economics at Boston's Northeastern University, begins his book by detailing the core problem that confronted the nascent Zionist movement: the creation of a Jewish nation from disparate and scattered Jewish communities. Zionists set out to solve this problem by creating a myth of exceptionalism that could be embraced by Jews around the globe. These myths were steeped in a combination of religious mythology and ethnic nationalist exclusivism that presented the Jews as the "chosen people" (p. 9) and Palestine as their sole and God-given birthright.
These claims were expanded upon during the British mandate of Palestine and after the founding of the State of Israel. Zionists asserted that the Jewish "liberation" movement was different from other liberation movements because "the long history of Jewish suffering, the Jewish ability to outlive their enemies, their signal contributions to human civilization, and their spectacular victories against Arab armies" demonstrated the purity of their cause and their exceptionalism (p. 5). Finally, they argued that Israel was a singular case because it was surrounded and threatened by hostile and murderous Arab states and masses. Through these arguments, Alam asserts, Zionists cultivated an environment that overlooks and in some cases endorses their movement's human rights abuses and racist policies.
In the second segment of the book, Alam examines the history of the region, reviewing the violent history of the early Zionist colonists and describing it as a core, rather than incidental, program of Zionism. Violent, racist attitudes towards the Arabs generally and the Palestinians specifically had to be nurtured by those who would make Palestine the Jewish homeland. They acted as intermediaries between the "West" and the "Islamicate" insofar as they were of the former and claimed to understand the latter. To galvanize Western support for Israel, it was vital for Zionists to create a myth of Muslim-Christian antipathy. Alam paraphrases the perceptions caused by the myth: "[I]f the Islamists vent their anger at the United States, it is not because of its policies, but because it is Christian" (p. 42). Naturally then, a Jewish state in Palestine could act both as a buffer against Muslim masses, and a projection of Western power and interests. This is the argument presented by some Zionists...MORE...LINK
Post a Comment