Thursday, January 27, 2005

More on Binationalism

An expansion on yesterday's comments.

Tony Judt has called his idea Binationalism, but by labeling Zionism an "anachronism", he took himself out of an historical line in Zionist thinking which called for a binational state. The binational view was propounded by Judah Magnes, the first President of Hebrew University, and Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher. Before my Zionist friends issue immediate condemnations of both of them, I remind them that in the 1940s, when it was not at all clear that Israel would become a state, the binational solution made much more sense than it does today. (Nevertheless, this history disproves any Judt attempt to cast his idea as somehow original.)

Nevertheless, Judt insists that he has not called for the destruction of Israel. I have no idea how he reconciles his two views. He doesn't believe in a Jewish state, that much is clear. His solution is guaranteed to lead to a Palestinian majority, that much is clear. The Palestinians are not going to be keen to let Israel be a Jewish state, that much is clear. He's therefore for Israel's destruction.

I made reference to the charge that Judt has internalized the anti-Zionist invective that has been hurled at him. This is the view of Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic, and can be found here. His article, a response to Judt's New York Review of Book piece, is one of the better defenses against anti-Zionism available today.


At 4:05 PM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Sorry, no case for anti-Zionism is good enough for me.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Michael Brenner said...

Sorry, I wasn't quite clear. The binationalism of Buber and Magnes is and was considered a form of Zionism. Granted, it's a very left wing form, and it is contradictory, but at that time, the Jewish population did not yet have anything approaching the majority that it wanted, and the binationalists thought that there was no way to set up a Jewish state democratically without Arabs outvoting Jews.

There is a stream of this thought in Zionism, and it should be distinguished from anti-Zionism insofar as it makes clear that there must be some Jewish aspect to the state's sovereignty that is at least equal to the non-Jewish one. Judt takes himself out of that category by claiming that a Jewish state is anachronistic, and thus crosses the line into anti-Zionism.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Buber and his like have long since been proven wrong by the influx of immigrants into Israel. Binationalism, for all its good intentions, is dead, as far as I am concerned. I've read Judt before... he sounds very similar to other anti-Zionists.

At 7:34 PM, Blogger Michael Brenner said...

Binationalism is dead. Many of the assumptions underlying it were incorrect, especially the comparisons the authors made to Switzerland and the Soviet Union as examples of multinational states. But some of the thinking behind it should be in the back of peacemakers' minds, because, essentially, the criteria for a lasting peace will require many of same things Binationalism would - close relations between the two peoples, democracy, and so on.

At 9:16 PM, Blogger Michael Brenner said...

Apparently, Buber and Magnes wrote that the UN should recognize both the Jews and Arabs in a binational state for purposes of representation. The UN back then was not yet a total mess, but part of me wonders exactly how that would have worked.


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