Friday, November 9, 2012

Aryeh Younger Strawmans Zionism

The Huffington Post seems to have a never ending stable of bloggers that gives it exactly what it wants: Jews who don't understand/don't agree with Zionism and are willing to write blog posts that reveal their ignorance and apathy to the entire world while ostensibly speaking in the name of Jews. Examples of these bloggers include Darya Shaikh pretending to be the only one who doesn't like settler violence and Joshua Bloom complaining about pro-Israel youth organizations "glorifying violence". Yesterday another such article was published, this time by Aryeh Younger, which according to the HP bio is "Editor-in-Chief, The Beacon" but is also an English major at Yeshiva University.

Younger's article is entitled "Gilad Shalit and a Distorted Zionism", which turns about to be exactly what his article does: distort Zionism. He leads off with a description of Shalit's visit to Yeshiva University and then with what makes him a stronger Zionist: death and destruction:
"Near-death experiences are powerful, and they shake us. Each time I hear about a terrorist attack that took place in Israel, I immediately become a stronger Zionist, further solidifying my relationship with the Jewish people. But sometimes I find this trait to be a flaw in my Zionism, a weakness in my Jewish upbringing....

Yet for many American Jews, the Holocaust and other tragedies are sometimes the greatest determinants of their Jewish identities. The impacts of recent (and non-recent) traumatic historical events often affect us more significantly than anything else. As history has shown, tragedies and times of crisis define our beliefs and actions. "
Younger expects his experience involving Zionism to be somehow representative of all American Jews. In other words, because that is his relationship to Zionism, therefore that's how everyone must be feeling. Zionism means different things to different people. But I find myself agreeing with those HPers who frequently whine "Zionism is different from Judaism" and disagreeing with Younger's conflation of the two when he wrote, "I immediately become a stronger Zionist, further solidifying my relationship with the Jewish people." A better phrase would say I become a stronger Zionist, solidifying my relationship with my fellow Jews in Israel. Or perhaps that I became a strong Zionist, solidifying my relationship with the Jewish people as a people. I found that sentence to be very confusing, which is a problem because the whole article hinges on this conversation.

But let's move on, because Younger needs to strawman why Zionism exists.
"When I consider my own Zionism in light of Shalit, I can't help but realize that it is often marked by events that conjure up images of tragedy and fear. From one Yom Ha'Zikkaron event to the next, I feel inextricably linked to my heritage in ways that sometimes I wish I could ignore. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a Jewish Modern Orthodox philosopher, argued that modern Zionism is primarily important for pragmatic reasons: it acts as a formidable combatant against violent anti-Semitism. However, this mentality doesn't sit quite as well with many of my peers and me in America, where we feel safe and secure. The fear of annihilation can't possibly relate to my younger community in the same way it might relate to a son or daughter of survivors."
Rabbi Soloveitchik, while I'm sure he is a great rabbi and philosopher, etc., isn't the be all and end all of who decides what Zionism is and isn't. He argues that Zionism is designed to battle anti-Semitism. Letting Jews defend themselves against anti-Semitism without relying on others to protect them is certainly a perk of Zionist institutions, but that's not all there is to it. It's also designed to give the Jewish people a home and a place for all of them to live, a chance to control their own destiny in the world, a place to be Jewish and live among other Jews. It lets the Jewish people be a people again. Younger mentions none of these other very legitimate reasons for Zionism, because they hurt his argument, which is that Zionism makes him uncomfortable. Let's keep going for a paragraph (emphasis mine).
"To this day, I consider myself an ardent Zionist. I appreciate Israel for its democratic values and, more poignantly, for my family's heritage that it embodies. However, the Zionism with which I wish to identify can't be based on fear or tragedy, because those themes shouldn't be the central ways that Israel relates to many of my peers and me. While tragedies have the ability to shake our emotions and increase our commitment to Israel, the overall impact they have can't be healthy or meaningful if not first understood in a greater context involving our heritage and modern morality.

When I reflect on my own experiences with Israel advocacy, I feel that the Zionism we advocate must be aimed at my generation of Jews, the new post-Holocaust flag bearers of democracy and Jewish values. My community doesn't want to see itself as victims of an oppressive world, but as the creators and innovators of a new and moral Zionism."
Zionism is not based on "fear and tragedy" unless you are so ignorant of Zionism that you think that's all it is. Younger has not educated himself on exactly what Zionism is and the relationship between Israel and American Jews. That's a problem with him, not a problem with Zionism. This guy is an Orthodox Jew and goes to Yeshiva University in New York City, so maybe he subconsciously believes that everywhere in the world is as heavily Jewish and Jew-friendly as his neighborhood. But for Jews who are actually minorities in their community, a great many longed for and took the opportunity to no longer be minorities, to be part of a majority in their own state. No "fear and tragedy" there! Just the desire to have what everyone else has: a state of their own.

As for "Jewish values," guess what? Zionism is a Jewish value, as much as the Neteurei Karta like to shout otherwise. An intrinsic part of being Jewish is being part of the Jewish people. I don't know how Younger missed all this in Yeshiva University, maybe it's from reading the Huffington Post too much.

I'm overjoyed that Younger doesn't feel like he's a "victim" or "oppressed". That's really great. But just because he himself has not experienced it doesn't mean that other people haven't or that those reasons for supporting Israel just disappear with the new generation. Just ask that family in Toulouse. If you don't learn from history, you are condemned to repeat it, and Jews know more about that than most. At least, Jews educated in history.

This is typical for most HP bloggers, but I'm so glad Younger feels like he can speak for "his generation of Jews." I'm a few years out of college, but I have trouble believing he speaks for me. I see the terror attacks in Israel and the 1,000 incitements of anti-Semitism in America as a sign that Jews are still suffering fear and tragedy, but Younger just brushes all that aside in favor of a "new and moral Zionism," the specifics of which he won't go into.

Let's take a look at Younger's conclusion:
"If the Jewish people intend to be the biblical Or La'Goyim, or brilliant light upon the world, it's about time we help Shalit return to normal life and begin readdressing our current approaches to Israel advocacy seriously and candidly, with an eye toward the future."
I'm not sure why we need to "readdressing our approaches to Israel advocacy," and Younger doesn't go into it. Probably a teaser for his next article. In case he hasn't noticed, most pro-Israel advocacy is not based around scaring people (with notable exceptions like the ECI) but instead it is about telling the truth about Israel that its enemies would rather you not see. But one thing is for certain, before he tells his fellow advocates of Israel how to advocate for it, he needs to pull his head out of the sand, talk to other people about why they are pro-Israel or pro-Zionist, and maybe imagine life from someone else's point of view. Like a Jew living in Toulouse or Sderot, or even one living in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. That would be a change from what we usually see on the Huffington Post.

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