“After Zionism” reviewed in Arab News

The following review by Neil Berry appears in the Arab News:

The mainstream Western media is losing its luster as rising numbers turn to alternative sources of news and opinion. Especially this applies to those concerned with the Palestine-Israel conflict. Students of the conflict increasingly straddle parallel universes, the world of conventional media and an online world that often puts the latter to shame when it comes to in-depth coverage and challenging debate.

Frustrated by myopic mainstream reporting of the issue, Antony Loewenstein, an Australian Jew and Ahmed Moor, a US Palestinian, were heartened by the way the Internet is making available new and younger voices: anti-Zionist Israelis, Palestinian bloggers in Gaza, Western peace activists in the occupied territories — people among whom a consensus has formed that proliferating Israeli settlements have nullified the possibility of turning the West Bank into a Palestinian state, the so-called “two state solution” which still figures large in mainstream discussion.

The new collection of essays which Loewenstein and Moor have edited, and to which both contribute, “After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine,” captures between hard covers the adventurous thinking about the future of Palestine now flourishing in cyberspace.

One of the book’s contributors, Philip Weiss, happens to be among the most creative exponents of the Internet as a means of combating standard perceptions of what is happening in Palestine and exposing the grievous consequences of the US-Israel relationship. In the shape of the website, Mondoweiss, he and his colleague, Adam Horowitz, have developed an interactive forum that brims with up-to-the-minute news and comment and makes brilliant attention-grabbing use of text and video material. That Weiss and Horowitz are anti-Zionist American Jews bent on highlighting Israeli oppression of the Palestinians no visitor to their website could fail to notice. Yet perhaps only a hard-line Zionist would dispute that they bring to their work a moral and intellectual verve woefully missing from coverage of Palestine-Israel issues in even the more respected sections of the mainstream media.

In “After Zionism,” Weiss discusses what induced him to launch Mondoweiss, his need to address the question: How did American Jews come to accord Israel blind loyalty? He recalls that at the time of Israel’s creation, Hannah Arendt, the German Jewish political philosopher who migrated to the US in 1941, warned that right-wing Zionism was building a “Jewish Sparta,” a warrior society that could only sustain itself by virtue of the “protecting wings of a great power.” Because of this, Arendt predicted, Israel would remain forever dependent on “court Jews, well-placed supplicants to American power.” American Jews, Weiss observes, proved only too willing to give Israel unconditional support — even condoning Israel’s egregious comradeship with Apartheid South Africa. What has especially dismayed him is the tendency among them to vaunt Jewish learning and liberalism, while turning a blind eye to Israeli crimes. He maintains that — out of ethno-religious guilt — left-wing US Jews were drawn into a “contract” with US Jewish hawks. He himself accepted this contract, signing up to a conspiracy of silence regarding Zionist moral turpitude.

Weiss relates how American Jewish ideologues with a Zionist agenda, though a minority of a minority, became a decisive force in US politics, persuading US Jewry en masse to back an aggressive US foreign policy premised on the security of Israel. When, 10 years ago, a group of leading US Jewish neoconservatives declared that the United States and Israel were common targets of an Islamic “axis of evil,” they were echoing US Zionist thinking that stretched back to the 1970s. With the second Palestinian Intifada of 2000 having been followed by 9/11, their assertion that Israel was an “island of liberal, democratic principles — American principles — in a sea of tyranny, intolerance and hatred” became received wisdom among not just American Jews but the great majority of American people.

For Weiss, the crisis-point came in 2003 when his “liberal” older brother told him that he was backing US intervention in Iraq because “his Jewish newspaper” opined that it could be “good for Israel.” The revelation that the war — of which he himself was an opponent — had a footing in his identity as a Jew appalled him. Weiss began a journey to reclaim a sense of what it means to be Jewish in which he could feel pride. Ever since, he has poured his energies into raising American public awareness about Israel’s conduct and the implications of endless US indulgence of the Jewish state.

He points out that mainstream journalists are starting to acknowledge the influence of right-wing Jewish financial contributions on American policy and that there is at last a chance that American people may one day grasp the reality of the Palestinians’ predicament and disavow the incestuous US/Israeli relationship that has spawned so much conflict.

Yet even if this process unfolds, it will come, he believes, too late for the two-state solution. For by acquiescing in Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians, American Jews have made a one-state solution inescapable. Through their own blinkered partisanship, Weiss argues, they have hastened the day when the Zionist dream of a quintessentially Jewish land of Israel will have, perforce, to be abandoned.

Particularly pertinent in the run-up to November’s US Presidential election, Weiss’s essay reflects the underlying theme of After Zionism (other contributors include the anti-Zionist Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, the pro-Palestinian British journalist, Jonathan Cook, and the British Palestinian activist and writer, Ghada Karmi) that there is no longer a viable alternative to a unitary Palestinian/Israeli state, however protracted the struggle for its attainment may prove. The upshot of a moment when much public debate about the Palestine-Israel conflict has become practically meaningless, the book demonstrates that beyond the mainstream, discussion of the conflict has never been keener, more purposeful, or, in a curious way, more hopeful.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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