For those of you old enough to remember making popcorn in a pot over the fire or stove, you know you have to wait a long time as the heat builds up slowly. Finally, just one lonely kernel pops. Then, an eternity later, another one pops on the other side of the pot. Wait awhile, and another one pops. When you’re really hungry, it can feel like forever. But then something happens- the frequency starts to change and you get 2 or 3 kernels popping at a time, first here and then there. And then, the unthinkable happens- it’s as though all the kernels start popping simultaneously in a big cacophony until there’s no room left in the pot.
Well, it’s hard not to feel like we’re finally getting the popcorn we’ve been waiting for, a sudden acceleration of open speaking and thinking, after years of more solitary popping of voices here and there. The war on Gaza has gone a long way in making that happen. The most recent example? After Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers on Gaza, or the NYT’s Roger Cohen’s amazing columns, we have The Los Angeles Times, which on the same day, in a spirit of real openness to debate, printed Ben (son of Barbara) Ehrenreich’s Zionism is the problem. who wrote:
Yet it is no longer possible to believe with an honest conscience that the deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank come as the result of specific policies, leaders or parties on either side of the impasse. The problem is fundamental: Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.
and Judea (father of Daniel) Pearl’s Is anti-Zionism hate? who lays out why he thinks “anti-Zionism is in many ways more dangerous than anti-Semitism.”
… modern society has developed antibodies against anti-Semitism but not against anti-Zionism. Today, anti-Semitic stereotypes evoke revulsion in most people of conscience, while anti-Zionist rhetoric has become a mark of academic sophistication and social acceptance in certain extreme yet vocal circles of U.S. academia and media elite. Anti-Zionism disguises itself in the cloak of political debate, exempt from sensitivities and rules of civility that govern inter-religious discourse, to attack the most cherished symbol of Jewish identity.
Three cheers for the Los Angeles Times who will certainly be targeted by right-wing groups for daring to actually allow a real debate. A colleague of mine who suggested to me that while the rest of the pundit (and academic class) is shifting, quite dramatically, the dominant institutional Jewish world (of which my colleague is a part), not knowing what to do, is becoming even more closed and rigid. IMHO, Judea Pearl’s essay, which focuses endlessly on we Jews as victims but fails to even once acknowledge the undeniable price paid by Palestinians for the founding of Israel, is an example of this deeply emotional but thoroughly corrosive phenomenon.