E06–50 Years Since 1967 With 50voices50years.com
Hi everyone and welcome to The Israel Podcast. I’m your host Avishay Ben Sasson Gordis and this week’s episode comes to you as part of the Anti Defamation League’s project “50 voices, 50 years” marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day war that’s happening these days. The project is a collection of 50 diverse voices featuring contributions that reflect on the implications of this anniversary, its legacy for Israel and the Middle East, its meaning for Zionism and the Jewish state’s prospects for peace. You can find the entire project at www.50voices50years.com and besides yours truly you can see what people like President Reuven Rivlin, Zipi Livni, Ambassador Michael Oren, Professor Michael Walzer, Amos Oz, Ambassador Dan Shapiro and many others had to say on this occasion.
The question I was answering was: In light of the fiftieth anniversary, reflect on the state of the Zionist endeavor in 2017 and its future?
Here is what I had to say:
The Zionist endeavor was never one thing. From its outset, Zionism was defined no less by its disagreements than by its singularity of purpose — disagreements about what it was and where it was headed. When the state was founded, it seemed that Zionism was largely successful. The debate then was between the Labor movement and the Revisionists over how to steer this ship. But the victory of 1967, and the Occupation it heralded, changed this.
For the past 50 years the critical debate of Zionism has hinged on a core question. Not “How do we steer the ship?” but instead “Where are we headed?” It is as if the year is again 1905, but instead of debating the Uganda Question — whether a land other than Zion can sufficiently emblazon the souls of the Jews to get them to uproot their lives and move there — the debate now is over the dream of controlling Zion in its entirety. In this sense, 1967 entails a great irony: this dream threatens to end the crowning achievement of the Zionism, a Jewish state.
Given that we have been thrust back into an old discussion, perhaps the positions taken then can help us find a path forward. Theodore Herzl is considered the visionary of the State of Israel, yet we hardly devote any attention to the specific content of his vision. Herzl’s Zionism was a vision of normalcy for the Jewish people in which every feature of Jewish experience is put to work in service of a thriving, open, and tolerant society. It was a fundamentally liberal vision — because Herzl himself was fin de siècle liberal. Importantly, it was not a vision born of a naïve view of the world.
Anti-Semitism played an important role in Herzl’s own nationalistic awakening — and even in his political plans. But his Zionism was intended to create a society that does not replicate what the Jews have long suffered. Instead, Herzlian Zionism was meant to allow a Jewish society become the best of what human society can be, with religious and ethnic tolerance at its heart.
After 1967, and in the last decade especially, the Zionist endeavor has come to be defined by the liberation of the Land and not by the liberation of people. The future of the Zionist endeavor — and of the Jewish state that it has created — depends on reinvigorating a Herzlian idealism. The future depends on whether we build a state in which its successes and powers allow Jews the space to breathe — and to become at once the most normal and the most outstanding, society possible.
If we will it, it is no dream.
This is what I had to say, but you can find many 49 other voices on the project’s website at www.50voices50years.com. I’ll be back in two weeks with a regular episode of the podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, consider rating the podcast on iTunes, and listening to previous episodes.
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