Zionism and Nationalism

I am a Zionist, that means that I believe the Jews are a nation and I affirm that as any nation the Jews deserve to have their own nation-state, Israel.  More than most other peoples the Jews need such a State to protect us from our many enemies who don’t hesitate to kill us, this includes Arabs, Muslims, right-wing and left-wing political extremists.

Being a Zionist also means that I am a nationalist.  The term “nationalism” has come under criticism, since pres. Trump’s “Make America Great” movement is considered by many to be nationalistic. Pres. Macron of France in his speech at the WWI Centenary commemoration in Paris stated that “nationalism is the opposite of patriotism.”

Being a nationalist means I support self-determination for most peoples.  This includes the Kurds, the Armenians, the Chechens, the Irish, the Scots, etc.  But, this cannot be at the expense of other people’s self-determination, such as the Palestinians, hardly a distinct people, whose main aim is to destroy Israel.

In Europe there is a problem, namely the rise of nationalism in the face of increased waves of foreign immigrants, mostly Muslims and Africans, fleeing war, social upheaval and economic hardship.  Even though Jews were once refugees from persecution, especially before and during WWII, that does not mean we should support the continued economic migration of millions of people into the more affluent countries of Western Europe and the US, as some American Jews believe. This would be a suicidal policy.

But, note that the original Zionists were mostly socialists.  They believed in the brotherhood of man and naively believed that even though they were not tolerated by  the peoples of Europe, somehow the Arabs would be different.  Boy, were they wrong!  This was a blithely ignorant view of Arab and Muslim culture and history.  There were some socialist Zionists, however, who had a more pragmatic view and knew that to establish a Jewish State would require conflict and sacrifice. Principal among them was David Ben Gurion, who prepared for what he saw as the oncoming attempt by the British and the Arabs to wipe out the Jewish presence in the Holy Land.

Nevertheless, Zionist socialism failed to adequately develop the country, and its sole control over the State from 1948 ended in 1977 with the election of right-wing Menachem Begin’s Herut (Freedom) Party, which later became Likud.   The electorate in Israel, just as in the rest of the democratic world, has moved rightwards.  Such leaders as Trump, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Macron in France, and right-wing leaders in several other European countries (Hungary, Greece) are examples of this.

The failure of Communism in the Soviet Union and in Cuba, as well as in China, where they introduced capitalism with great success (as long as the people accept Communist Party control), are symptomatic of this trend.  Also, Venezuela is a prime example of what happens when a prosperous country is taken over by a socialist party and it become a failed state and a dictatorship.  Over time, in Israel, Likud under PM Netanyahu, has introduced capitalist economics and the State of Israel has prospered.