This is something new in the world, this almost complete segregation of Israel in the community of nations. And if Helen Thomas's remarks were pathetic and ugly, didn't they also point to the end game of this isolation effort: the nullification of Israel's legitimacy as a nation? There is a chilling familiarity in all this. One of the world's oldest stories is playing out before our eyes: The Jews are being scapegoated again. (via Goldblog).So which is it? New, or ancient? Both, actually. It's new, because back in 2005 as Israel was unilaterally leaving Gaza, people didn't talk this way for a moment; newish, because in the 1990s, as Israel seemed to be handing over control of the Palestinians to their own government, it wasn't the fad to talk this way; vaguely new, because in the 1950s and 1960s, when folks were occasionally mighty embarrassed about the poor Jews of Europe, it was really bad taste to talk this way.
Ancient, because the idea that the Jews are uniquely evil is at least 2,000 years old, and never went away throughout, though it did rise and subside from time to time. It was also a motivating force in Zionism, the understanding that sooner or later it was inevitable that things would get worse for the Jews, and the time had come for them to take care of themselves.
It is this sense of community, forged both by the negative parts of being derided by others, and the positive parts of pride in the community itself, that underlie much of Jewish identity and of course Zionism. Not jingoistic "we're right no matter what", rather the more basic "we are we, we've got the right to be we, and we're important enough to ourselves to commit further efforts to being we".
The enemies of Israel repudiate that: "you don't deserve to exist as a community unless you don't bother anyone, and we'll define what might be a bother according to whatever whim hits us at whatever moment" - that's basically what they've been saying these past 2,000 years, give or take a century. There were long periods when Jews had no choice but to bend with the whims and accommodate themselves as well as they could; Zionism is the decision to build a whim-resistant place.
In this context, Assaf Sagiv's fascinating article in Azure is a worthy contribution, even if it has the length of an academic article rather than an op-ed. Titled The Sad State of Israeli Radicalism, he convincingly shows that Israel's far left is quantitatively different than its Zionist left. The Zionist left is in favor of the Jews having a state, and they hope to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians by partition (code word: 1967). The radical left is against the Jews having a state of their own at all, and have nothing good to say about it in any way (their code word is 1948). The Zionist left is sometimes uncomfortable with some actions of the Zionists; the radicals are simply anti-Zionist. They are against Jewish nationalism, insist it's an invention of European colonialism, and hope for its demise as an anachronism.
The irony of the radical position is that by joining in the general negation of Zionism, they're reinforcing the justification for its existence: it is irrational to single out the Jews, but since it's happening nonetheless, it's proof that the Jews cannot do anything rational that will make themselves acceptable, except for disappearing.
Equally ironic is the fact that Israel's anti-Zionists pretend to own some universally moral high ground, when in reality all they do is embrace the genocidal rejection of the Jews (either directly genocidal as with Iran Hezbullah and Hamas, or implied genocidal as in "the Jews don't deserve to be a nation"). According to them, Jews seeking national expression is criminal, while Palestinians seeking national expression is universal morality.