One down, two to go — Zionism, militarism, and American exceptionalism
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has inadvertently opened a forbidden book — the history of Zionism. The fury of attacks on this freshman legislator after a tweet, suggesting (gasp!) that lobbyists use money to influence politics, is a reflection of how much is at stake for the Democratic Party’s neoliberal establishment.
Representative Omar is now being accused of anti-Semitism, of course . . . because the lobby in question is AIPAC, the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee. One of the underlying strategies of AIPAC has long been to conflate Zionism — a modern ethnonationalist movement begun by European ethnically Jewish non-believers for the conquest and settlement of what is now the State of Israel — and Judaism, a four thousand year old faith tradition.
Everyone against AIPAC or Israeli crimes is an anti-Semite.
It is unsurprising, then, that AIPAC and its payees in the Democratic and Republican Parties would use this conflation as their first line of defense as the juggernaut that used to be American Zionism (Jewish and ‘Christian’) is crumbling among up and coming youth.
This is the first of three key and potentially tectonic struggles ahead for the rising social democratic movement in the US: Zionism, militarism, and American exceptionalism.
These are three fronts in the same conflict which must be won if the social democratic movement is to achieve political power, hold that power, and then sustain momentum for a transition from social democracy to something far deeper and more fundamental — a triage transition into a post-capitalist order.
Failure to do these things, i.e., failure to win, will result in widespread misery, systemic chaos, generalized thuggery, authoritarianism, tribalism, and repression. This, in a world now bristling with nuclear weapons, even as the biosphere is dissolved around us.
The furious bipartisan attacks on Representative Omar (MN), for which she has been bullied into a ‘tone-apology’, are an indication of how well-entrenched the Zionist mythology is in the American psyche, and of what a minefield the whole topic is.
The water has been repeatedly and intentionally muddied about Zionism and the State of Israel in the service of many agendas, and this identitarian gambit of making Jewish synonymous with Zionist is but one example.
Actual anti-Semites do oppose Zionism, because they hate Jews, and the conflation in this case stands.
Actual Zionists do want us to see Judaism and Zionism as the same thing, because it makes it easier to use this conflation to call any critic an anti-Semite — not unlike any opponent of Hillary Clinton being called a sexist, or any opponent of Barack Obama being called a racist.
Merely being a ‘member’ of a group is sufficient to insulate one from any critique. Nothing maps more easily onto clueless white liberal guilt.
I won’t catalogue the crimes of Israel here — there is sufficient material readily available for anyone who is willing to look beyond the corporate media, which is joined at the hip with the political establishment on this (and everything else, basically . . . they are the ruling class’s well-paid stenographers).
This is a tactical missive, not a history debate.
There are three ways in which the establishment is still most ideologically influential among the mass of American voters from both parties and among independents.
Zionism is one of them, thanks to the spread of a ‘Christian’ cult based on bad readings of John’s Apocalypse — now called right-wing “evangelicalism.” These Christian Zionists are allied with the State of Israel (and now nest en masse in the Republican Party), an alliance that Israeli Zionists embrace, even though the narrative of these evangelical Zionists is explicitly anti-Semitic. Older Jews are more sympathetic to Zionism, because earlier accounts of Zionism mobilized outrage and sorrow over the Shoa, which the new State of Israel was supposed to prevent from ever happening again (and Israel, in turn, created the Palestinian Nakba).
Younger Jews (a few not-so-young) and younger people generally, have torn the veil off Israel, and now see it for what it is— an Apartheid state, an ethnonationalist (fascist) state, presiding over a profoundly racist culture.
This is particularly troublesome for a Democratic establishment that has been for over two years been fanning the flames of outrage over foreign (Russian) interference in US politics; because AIPAC has been interfering in US elections for decades. Goose. Gander.
So the left has a job ahead of it — persuading people that the dominant narrative about the Israeli state is a lie. The evidence has always been there, but with this latest kerfuffle — even with Rep. Omar’s (unfortunate, in my view) apology — the subject is open (think about #MeToo cracking open the conversation on predatory male sexuality), and it won’t get closed again. The momentum is moving in our direction, but we still have a minority view that can be sued against us based on the dominant (false) narrative. In terms of the left’s intermediate strategic directions, accelerating this shift is critical.
Likewise, we are still ‘behind’ on militarism and American exceptionalism — the other two persuasive-strategic imperatives. If you want to see it in Technicolor, watch MSNBC — a fully-owned subsidiary of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party — for fifteen minutes. They sound like Bush II neocons . . . because they are actually using former Bush officials as anchors and daily talking heads. MSNBC is the principle AV propaganda sheepdog for the Democratic Party establishment.
A majority of Americans are still pro-Zionist. A majority of Americans are still militarists. A majority of Americans are still American exceptionalists. This makes it difficult for the left in its current push to shoulder aside the moribund neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party, because these appeals can be used against us . . . as they are right now with the attacks on Ilhan Omar.
Apart from her apology — which was related to “tone,” i.e., the “Jews and money” trope that has been part of anti-Semitism since the First Crusades (but then, AIPAC is a lobby that dispenses cash!) — Ilhan Omar has squeezed the egg out of the chicken, and the egg won’t go back in.
Now is the time to research, become fluent in the issue (Schoenmann’s history is an excellent starting place), and begin dismantling the Zionist ideological edifice. Young Jews have already taken the lead on this, which is important for the same reason people front war veterans to argue for peace . . . they are inoculated from the identitarian gambit.
Likewise, veterans and war survivors have a special (if not exclusive) responsibility to testify against militarism; and historians have a special (if not exclusive) responsibility to challenge American exceptionalism.
First, we have to squeeze the chickens until the eggs come out.
One, down, two to go.