Reading a note in Susan Sontag’s journal, “I am proud of being Jewish. Of what?”
This is a question I have been trying to answer for a while. I would like to define my Jewishness, at the same time considering Zionism and its implications. I have been told that Zion should have a place in the Jewish heart. I’m wondering why this should be and how it ever could be. And I’m not the only one that feels this way, you know.
In high school, a friend of mine gave me a photography book imaging the Israeli Occupation. We were at a barbecue, it was a nice gift. But earlier in the evening the group of us had been having a conversation about Palestine, and while talking and eating our hot dogs someone interjected “Palestinians do not exist because Palestine does not exist.” I don’t remember what my outward response was, but I do remember feeling disgusted.
Later in the evening, looking through my new book, this same person asked, “What is it you’re looking at?” A friend responded for me, “It’s an invisible book. You can’t see it.”
In my research for division iii (senior thesis), which has largely been on defining Zionism in terms of contemporary Jewish American identity, I have found that Palestine is hardly ever mentioned. Historically, this is true of early Zionist attitudes and it continues to be true now. Palestinians were once just “natives” and now they are hardly anything other than “hostile neighbors.” Except when they’re enemies. I’ve been reading early writings on Zionism and watching interviews on the subject: and there are, it seems, no signs of Palestine. This invisibility is striking, and I wonder what it says about the greater Jewish community.
So, this blog is going to be a space for me to think about my division iii out loud. The project is a non-fiction video on Jewish American anti-Zionism and Jewish nationalism. I am wondering: what does Zionism mean to American Jews and can Jewish identity be defined apart from Zionism? How has the rise of political Zionism changed the ways American Jews see themselves? How has it erased Palestine? And ultimately, what is the significance of being a Jewish American anti-Zionist?
Hannah Arendt wrote of the early socialist Zionists, who in forging a new home had “escaped to Palestine as one might wish to escape to the moon, to a region beyond the wickedness of the world.” Zionism is a response to antisemitism and trauma. But, what else?