”Sanity is not statistical – Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad.” 1984 (George Orwell)
Living as many of us do in a democracy, we’ve been indoctrinated with the importance of “majority rules”. So entrenched is this idea that it can take on mythic proportions, a kind of pillar of the universe status. The righteousness of democracy and the efficacy of majority rules politics are seemingly beyond reproach. And, by and large, they work. Problems arise, however, when these principles migrate to other regions of thought. A minority opinion can suddenly become subversion or even treason. George Orwell’s “thoughtcrime” in motion.
Zionism has, following the collective trauma of the Holocaust, become the conventional opinion. Its popularity raises a valuable question.
”If so many Jews are committed to Zionism, isn’t that itself proof of its legitimacy? Can that many people by wrong?”
Zionism, riding on the coattails of previous secularizing movements, found fertile ground amongst many European Jews who had been battered by years of often government sponsored secularization efforts. European Enlightenment and its accompanying Jewish counterpart, pushing a process of modernization which varied from place to place, stripped many Jews and non-Jews of their traditional, often religiously based, outlooks and identities. The new marketplace of ideas led to an explosion of movements, some bordering on genius and others on madness. As “secularism” became a byword, the masses groped for something, anything to fill the vacuum left by the demotion of religion. Many Jews, tragically, felt the moment ripe for throwing off the yoke of Torah. Over a hundred years of this upheaval preceded Zionism. When it finally made its debut, it was treading on European soil bristling with something new and possibly more insidious than its predecessors. Nationalism.
Nationalism, far from being of primordial nature, as espoused by Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Johann Gottfried Herder, didn’t come into its own till around the 1880s (Hobsbawm). In fact, the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy didn’t use the term “nation” or “state” in the modern manner till 1884. It was a movement that obliged newly formed nationalities to form, as historian Benedict Anderson called it, “imagined communities”.
However, many Jews, swept up in the spirit of times, were susceptible to Zionism’s call to return and fight for the “fatherland”, its message of Jewish nationalism. This message was doubly potent to many assimilated Russian Jews who, witnessing the implosion of their dreams of seamlessly melting away into mainstream Russian society in the wake of the Kishinev pogrom and others, were seeking a new cause célèbre. Zionism was perfect (in that regard). A substitute Jewish identity, one void of a Creator, with none of the accompanying pangs of guilt for abandoning the tradition of their forefathers so often felt by other secular Jewish movements. They were offered the opportunity to be “better” Jews, “national” Jews, a volk in the Romantic German sense. As social historian Ernest Renan said:
”Getting its history wrong is part of being a (modern) nation.”
Zionism specialized in this.
Zionism’s early years were far from spectacular, their movement being viewed as deranged fantasies at best and astoundingly wicked at worst. However, after years of battling for state sovereignty, Ben-Gurion and others experienced a propaganda windfall in the wake of the Holocaust. Here was incontrovertible proof that only a homeland could prevent Jewish annihilation. Ever since, genocide has been utilized by the Israeli government to justify any and all actions. The Israeli public is gorged on a diet of fear and militarism, reminded daily of the massacre that supposedly waits at the gates of “Fortress Israel”. If Israel was to cease as a ‘Jewish democracy, so the logic goes, that we’ll be the end of the Jewish people. Israeli apologist Frederick Krantz, writing in The Guardian, echoed that sentiment, stating,
“Behind the one-state solution lurks something truly monstrous. If Israel as a Jewish state is the centre of the Jewish people, the legatee of the Holocaust, then what we are facing here is not only the liquidation of a state but, functionally, the destruction of a people.”
Gloomy vaticination aside, Mr. Krantz is a classic example of the “iron wall” mentality that Vladimir Zhabotinsky epitomized. Only through a consistent propping up of the Zionist dream can we save ourselves, G-d forbid. All else equals extinction.
All this and more came together to create a civil replacement theology pulsating with fear of unseen massacres. Israelis have been conditioned to believe that any minute could be their last, compelling them to act accordingly. A man who imagines himself backed into a corner will often resort to violence. Israeli citizens envision themselves as citizens of an embattled nation wreathed in a consuming fire.
The saddest part is, their government robbed them of existential meaning and set the match.
Though a minority, Anti-Zionist Jews number in the hundreds of thousands. Zionism could possibly be the majority opinion amongst Jews worldwide, which is debatable, but what sort of majority is it? One which must ceaselessly pursue war, physical and ideological, to hide how empty and unsatisfying it is. Utterly empty.