The Protests – Zionism Reborn
With the planned March of the Million approaching tomorrow, here are my thoughts – mainly aimed at friends outside of Israel.
This is Zionism
Apologies for using the Z word, but let’s get back to basics. Zionism encompassed the idea that the Jewish People are a nation, and should have a state. But what is a State these days? More and more it seems like the money makes the decisions, and the State retreats from its traditional arena. Charities are wonderful, but they effectively make the welfare state a voluntary pastime. The demonstrators have stood up and said that they do not accept this. In order for the State of Israel to be something worth fighting for, the State must exist and step up to its responsibilities. It must look after the poor, educate everyone, and not sell off this beautiful land to the highest bidder (have you managed to hang out by the Kinneret without paying some sloucher? Noticed how much of the coast is blocked by high-rises? There’s more where that came from)
This is Universalism
This isn’t only a Jewish fight, or an Israeli fight. Throughout the world there’s a growing awareness that something is wrong with the way we’ve all balanced our national priorities. Inequality is rampant and growing everywhere except Scandinavia and Japan. All the research is showing that a major source of individual and collective ill-health is due not to poverty but to inequality. Israelis are taking to the streets tomorrow to fight for more equality. They are demonstrating peacefully and thoughtfully so as not to reach UK-style riots a few years down the road. We all withdrew from national and collective action, cynical and tired at manipulations and inefficiencies. But in so doing we just left a vacuum that was swiftly filled by corporations that are even less democratic and less geared to our needs than governments.
This is not Messianism
The people walk down the streets and demand “Social Justice”. They’ve been condemned for being too vague – the phrase can mean so many different things to different people. But at the same time they’re being pretty focussed. They/we are not shouting for “Absolute Justice”. The demonstrations are not necessarily about Justice for Palestinians, or for gay rights, or for women’s rights to pray at the Western Wall. These latter are all crucial burning issues. They are not more or less important. But the day when we will be able to galvanise hundreds of thousands of people (maybe a million?) to march united on all the burning issues of this land will be the day the Messiah toots his horn. I’m not willing to wait. (I also have a sneaking feeling that if we win on this issue, many things will open up. So much of our inability to mobilise on issues is dictated by despair. What might happen if we discover our ability to affect change?)
This is hopeful
Something is changing! Who would have thought it? For the past 20 years it’s felt like the only recycling we do here is the headlines! Now something is breaking out in an unexpected direction, and in a spontaneous way. We all know that however much Anglos find Israelis infuriating, we would never accuse them of being boring. But for so many years as a collective this country has behaved like a dim-witted paranoid dinosaur. Now the energetic innovation for which Israelis as individuals are known is coming to the fore in a collective expression. Yee ha.
Message for Diaspora Jews
Put your plutzing about the Israeli Philharmonic and the UN aside for a minute. Get with what’s really happening in Israel. This wave of protests is a wonderful thing. Enjoy it. (And call all your friends in Israel and tell them to get out onto the streets tomorrow night)