With the visit of Jeremy Corbyn to Passover “seder” hosted by the Jewish anti-Zionist group Jewdas, I became aware – I am way behind in cultural trends – of the ideology of Diasporism.
It’s been around for some time. The word may have been coined by Philip Roth in his 1993 novel Operation Shylock, and as far as I can tell it means something like “hating Israel while being a Jew and feeling good about it.”
Jewdas itself is somewhat over the top, apparently concerned as much with making an impression of extreme cleverness as hating Israel, but the feelings it so pithily expressed in a tweet that called Israel “a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of” are shared by numerous other organizations who are not as interested in being archly humorous, like Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now in America.
A slightly milder form of diasporism is espoused by J Street and the Union for Reform Judaism. Here, they profess undying love (reminiscent of Obama’s “unbreakable bond”) for Israel, while despairing of what they believe is its undemocratic and theocratic nature and its boundless abuse of the saintly Palestinians. Rather than “properly disposing” of Israel, they want to “make it better,” by such things as replacing the democratically elected right-wing coalition with a left-wing one, inviting African migrants to stay in the country, and not defending its southwestern border against Hamas.
I think I find the “love” of the mild diasporists more irritating that the hatred of the champions of proper disposal, because of its hypocrisy and because it is better at sucking in useful idiots (e.g., Natalie Portman) to advocate for dangerous policies.
The “feeling good though Jewish” part is very important and what distinguishes Diasporism from garden-variety anti-Zionism.
Left-wing Diasporists argue that it is not only possible, but more fulfilling to live a Jewish life outside of Israel. They object to Israel’s actions in self defense, saying they violate “Jewish principles,” by which they mean the mishmash of progressive politics and Christian or humanistic morality that they conflate with Judaism. Apparently it gives them a warm feeling of solidarity with the oppressed of the world, and especially with the “people of color” at their universities who have managed to invert the traditional hierarchies and now oppress the colorless ones in compensation for their previous ill-treatment.
In addition to the left-wing Diasporists like Jewdas there are also Haredi Diasporists, who believe that a Jewish state can only be established when Hashem brings the maschiach. They have been around for as long as there has been a Diaspora. The ones that live in Israel are possibly even more hypocritical than the lefties, because they benefit (even those that refuse to take National Insurance payments) from the state’s protection and services while opposing its existence – and contributing as little as possible to it.
The problem with both of these forms of Diasporism that their smug virtue-signaling proponents are not aware of is this: history has clearly demonstrated the truth of the main principle of traditional Zionism. Jews who do not live in a Jewish state – or worse, who live in a world without a Jewish state – are in mortal danger from the Jew-hatred that seems to be impossible to expurgate from Western and Muslim cultures. At the same time, where hatred wanes, assimilation takes hold.
It’s not just the Dreyfus Case, the Kishinev Pogrom or the Holocaust any more. It is an observable fact that violent anti-Jewish behavior is becoming more and more common in Europe and America. The only reason that one doesn’t hear so much about it in the Muslim world is that almost all the Jews have already fled or been expelled from Muslim nations. Indeed, the irrational demonization of Israel, of which the progressive Diasporists have become an integral part, is itself a manifestation of the contemporary explosion of Jew-hatred into human consciousness.
Both the “traditional” Jew-hatred that goes back to the early Church, the newer Islamic version, and the latest Israel-related variety, are rapidly becoming more widespread. Some places, like North America, are still relatively hospitable to Jews. Others, like France and Sweden, are less so. Unfortunately, it seems that the safer Diaspora communities are also the ones in which Jews assimilate the most rapidly to the surrounding non-Jewish cultures.
Books could be (and have been) written explaining how this is happening, why it is happening now, and why it is worse in some places than others. But the answers don’t matter: it has been demonstrated that the only solution to the Jewish problem that has worked is the Zionist solution, a sovereign Jewish state (with an army) that serves as a refuge for persecuted Jews, that provides support for beleaguered Diaspora Jews, and that can be a reservoir and incubator for Jewish culture.
The Diaspora is a dead end for Jews, both physically and culturally. You can make a case for the continuance of Jewish communities in the Diaspora, and you can find many areas in which Israel needs to improve. But the necessity and centrality of the Jewish state to the continued existence of the Jewish people is indisputable.
At the end of the day, the argument between Zionism and Diasporism won’t be settled on Twitter or in blog posts. Reality will be the decider, and judging by the condition of Jewish communities in Israel and abroad, Zionism is winning by a mile.