QUESTION: Leftist Zionist movements/alternatives to current Zionism in Israel

question / pregunta: 

I am interested in learning more about earlier forms of Zionism that were radical, leftist, and pursuing just solutions to the protection of the Jewish people that don't trample the rights of others, as is currently happening in Israel. What leftist/socialist/marxist Zionist groups used to be active in the US (or anywhere) that proposed something other than the state of Israel as a homeland for the Jews, and what happened to them? What is the history of alternative Zionist movements? Are there forms of Zionism that aren't inherently based on the displacement/discrimination against other groups, as is happening in Palestine now? Are there Zionist groups operating now that have rejected Israel's policies of human rights abuses? How have current alternative Zionist groups articulated solutions to the current crisis in Israel/Palestine?


Answer posted by:

There are definitely forms of Zionism that claim relationships with Marxism, anarchism, and other Left traditions. These movements have always had challenges from other Left movements among Jews (not to mention Palestinians, Arab communities, and the anti-imperialist Left in general).

An academic example looking at Zionism and its relationship to racism: The company Gale (that makes a variety of online and print reference sources) recently included an entry on Zionism in their Encyclopedia on Race and Racism. Pressure/input from Zionist groups have led them to make alterations to the entry.
The entry can be viewed here.
[This is a PDF file and may take some time to load on your computer]

Within U.S. Jewish communities, there is a history of rejecting Zionism as a liberation movement. One book to read on this topic is:
Prophets outcast : a century of dissident Jewish writing about Zionism and Israel / edited by Adam Shatz. New York : Nation Books, c2004.

A current Jewish group (that I work with, to be transparent) called the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) has the view that any form of Zionism must be rejected as an ideology and practice if one believes in social justice (from an anti-imperialist and anti-racist framework) for all people. The group’s charter is here.

Currently within Israel there is the Anarchists Against the Wall formation, and the Shministim, both which are critical of Israeli policy but don't make a clear stance against Zionism.

From a Zionist perspective: The Zionism and Israel Information Center has a list of their own definitions.
And from Mideast Web comes their history of labor Zionism.

There is a recent article on Labor Zionism that is available online and is described in this way by its authors:

“We have written an article that examines the contradictions at labor Zionism's core, with a combination of historical analysis and first-person reportage. "'Bring on the bulldozers and let's plant trees': The Story of Labour Zionism" shows how the movement has used the longing for social justice to bolster Israel's oppressive system. This critique is especially timely given the Israeli Labor Party's central role in the most recent campaign of atrocities against the Palestinian people of Gaza and elsewhere. The article appears in the current issue of the Canadian-based radical journal Upping the Anti (# 7, October 2008).”

Inside Israel in the 1960's and 1970’s there was a group called Matzpen, which considered itself socialist and anti-Zionist. A collection of their articles can be found here.

Further back: Inside Russia’s Pale of Settlement, starting in the 1890’s, the Jewish and socialist Bund movement rejected Zionism as a movement that would guarantee justice for Jews. They were part of the general movement for socialism for all in Russia, but organized as Jews to guarantee Jewish cultural autonomy and civil rights.

Some works on the Bund are:

[Book] The Jewish Bund in Russia from its origins to 1905 [by] Henry J. Tobias. Tobias, Henry Jack. Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 1972.

[Book] The politics of futility; the General Jewish Workers Bund of Poland, 1917-1943, by Bernard K. Johnpo Johnpoll, Bernard K. Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, [1967]

[Article] Arkady Kremer, Vladimir Medem, and the Ideology of the Jewish "Bund" ; Koppel S. Pinson; Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Jul., 1945), pp. 233-264 ; Published by: Indiana University Press

Answer posted by:
jim miller

Rad Ref Librarian Dena M suggests:

Here is a list of books from a bibliography that can be found on the website of Jews Against the Occupation: I would draw your attention to the following title on the list: While Messiah Tarried: Jewish Socialist Movements, 1871-1917. There are other good ones here too.

Jews and Judaism on the Left
Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

Mark H. Ellis, Israel and Palestine−Out of the Ashes: The Search for Jewish Identity in the Twenty-First Century (London and Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 2002).

Seth Farber, ed., Rabbis, Prophets, and Peacemakers: Conversations with Jewish Critics of Israel (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2005).

Nancy L. Green, ed., Jewish Workers in the Modern Diaspora (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, ed. Susannah Heschel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996).

Joel Kovel, Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratice State in Israel/Palestine (London: Pluto, 2007).

Michael Lerner, Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons/HarperPerennial, 1994).

Nora Levin, While Messiah Tarried: Jewish Socialist Movements, 1871-1917 (New York Schocken Books, 1977).

Steven Lubet et. al., eds., Chutzpah: A Jewish Liberation Anthology (San Francisco: New Glide Publications, 1977).

Albert Memmi, The Liberation of the Jew, trans. Judy Hyun (New York: Orion Press, 1966).

Ezra Mendelsohn, ed., Class Struggle in the Pale: The Formative Years of the Jewish Workers' Movement in Tsarist Russia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970).

---, Essential Papers on Jews and the Left (New York : New York University Press, 1997).

Jack Nusen Porter and Peter Dreier, eds., Jewish Radicalism: A Selected Anthology (NY: Grove Press, 1973).

Yakov M. Rabkin, A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism (London: Zed Books, 2006).

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Paradigm Shift: From the Jewish Renewal Teachings of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, ed. Ellen Singer (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1991).

Adam Shatz, ed., Prophets Outcast: A Century of Dissident Jewish Writing about Zionism and Israel (New York: Nation Books, 2004).

Shuldiner, David P., Of Moses and Marx: Folk Ideology and Folk History in the Jewish Labor Movement (Westport, CT and London: Bergin & Garvey, 1999).

Enzo Traverso, The Marxists and the Jewish Question: The History of a Debate, 1843-1943 (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press International, 1994).

Arthur O. Waskow, GodWrestling (New York: Schocken Books, 1978).

---, Seasons of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays (Boston: Beacon Press, 1990).


I also recommend looking at the Birthright Unplugged trips aimed at North American Jews and is critical of the "Birthright" trips that aim to get young Jews to immigrate to Israel or at least support the country with great enthusiasm.

You can also take a look at the program they are critical of: Birthright Israel.

The Israeli-Born Detroit-based MC Invincible has a song "People Not Places" about "Birthright" trips which is being made into a music video and will feature interviews with anti-Zionist Jews from North America, as well as Palestinians from North America and Palestine.

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