Groucho Marx once quipped, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” For hardcore Jewish leftists that statement is more fact than funny, especially when it comes to the Jewishness of Israel.
Leftists are at their most amusing when they are accusing other leftists of not being left-wing enough, especially when it comes to Israel. According to Jewish-Australian-Citizen of the World Mira Adler-Gilles (soon to be certified to teach at a university near you) the “failure of Israeli democracy” (a paradox in and of itself) is the fault of the “academics and intellectuals of the Left” who just aren’t willing to “condemn the ideological structure of the state.”
For Adler-Gilles, the inherent fault of Israel is the state’s Jewish nature. According to her, left-wing Zionists like Peter Beinart, who feel free to criticize the IDF and the Israeli government while still proudly waving the Magen-David and stripes, are doing a disservice to the international community by sending a mixed message. According to the ultra-Left, “Zionist democracy” is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, the problem isn’t with Israel’s politics; it is with Israel’s Jewish identity.
The author argues that the existence of Israel is based in two claims: “A tenuous historical claim dependent on a biblical connection to the land” and the claim of victimization made after the Holocaust. In other words, the Bible is too old to fit into this Ph.D. scholar’s cannon, and as far as the “claim” of being the collective victim of roughly 2,000 years of on-and-off world persecution ending in gas chambers goes, well, Israel’s just using that as an excuse to pick on the Palestinians.
It is as if, to Adler-Gilles, the world is a classroom and the Jews are the bullies. The “defensive” mentality of the Diaspora toward Israel and her critics is evidence of the Zionist inability “to acknowledge itself as an active participant in the world against which it protests.” Naughty, naughty Jews, defending their right to exist in the face of endless threats. The International Community gave you a state; what more do you want? If you want to live in peace, you have to play by our rules. After all, we’re the ones in charge.
The ultra-Left is not against Jews living in peace—as long as they do it like everyone else. Zionism, the ideology of a Jewish State—is the evil plaguing the dialogue. Relying on the usual leftist verbiage, Adler-Gilles has no problem rattling off Zionism’s faults, including, but not limited to: undemocratic, inherently violent, and racist. Keep in mind this is the viewpoint of the wing of political thought that sees no contradiction in LGBTQ rallies for Palestine and has yet to openly criticize the gross maltreatment and abuse, including honor killings, of women in the Muslim world.
“Israel should be, like all other nations, a place in which Jews, like all others are able to live in safety and security, and in which no people are unwelcome.” Now, re-read that sentence without the carefully placed commas and the underlying point becomes overwhelmingly clear: “Israel should be like all other nations.” This is how leftist organizations like J Street can claim to be pro-Israel while doing everything in their power to stab the Jewish State in the back. They have no problem with Israel’s existence, as long as Israel follows the rules. When Israel becomes the exception, they’re out of lock-step with the rest of the world, and that simply cannot be.
For all of her accusations of Zionism’s fear-laden victimhood, Adler-Gilles’s view is through the very lens of fear worn by leftist Jews: If we are too different from the rest of the world, if we are too Jewish, we won’t fit in. That is why Zionism is such a threat to the ultra-Left: Not because it is undemocratic (which it is not), not because it is violent (which it is not), and not because it is racist (which it is not), but because it is Jewish Exceptionalism in the form of a national identity.
And for a politic that views Jewish as the exception, the last thing you want to do as a Jew is be a stand out in the crowd.