The prominent Israeli Zionist, Rafael Castro, presents an interesting argument in Ynet. (Over at Mondoweiss there’s a discussion on whether this piece should have appeared in Ynet or The Onion — tough call.) And as for who this Castro really is? Who knows, but dafter ideas do with some frequency come from the mouths of Zionists.
Castro notes that anti-Zionists are not anti-Semites. “[They] gladly rally against neo-Nazis and have no qualms about socializing with or marrying Jews.” He neglects to mention (a mere oversight it would seem) that many anti-Zionists are themselves Jews, but this just confirms his point.
Moreover, as Castro correctly observes, anti-Zionism is merely a strand in the broader leftist current: anti-colonialism. This therefore can only point to one logical conclusion for those who want to defend Zionism: they need to restore the unfairly tarnished name of colonialism.
The belief that colonialism was an absolute evil is so deeply engrained in the contemporary Western psyche that all enterprises bearing any parallels to it are automatically censored. This explains why people whose heroes are Bolivar and Gandhi instinctively side with the Palestinians.
To these people, claims that God promised the Land of Israel to the Jews reek of religious fanaticism. To make the argument that Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East invites allegations that it pursues apartheid policies. To counter all these claims is time-consuming and requires a taste for nuances. But why should anyone trade nuances for the facile certainty that colonialism is inherently evil?
Zionism will only cease being demonized in the politically correct corners of the West once our schools and film industry cease to demonize colonialism. The politically correct depiction of the colonialist as a racist and covetous brute must give space to the majority of well-meaning administrators that helped build roads, schools, and hospitals for the natives.
It must be shown that colonialists administered law and justice far more fairly than most pre-colonial chieftains or post-colonial despots. It must be taught that human development indicators plummeted in the majority of African and Asian countries following independence.
Once an honest discussion about colonialism is tabled, hostility to Zionism will wane in leftist circles. Not because they will shed the belief that Zionism is a form of colonialism, but because it will be possible for them to appreciate the merits of Zionism.
This is an ambitious enterprise and time is running out, but if organizations like the Emergency Committee for Israel are serious about their mission they should start working on a new video series. Go out and start interviewing citizens in former colonies who can still remember the good old days when they were natives and they could rely on upstanding white men, such as officers of the British empire, to help them build railways and make the trains run on time. Imperial nostalgia! I’m sure it’s still out there. It just needs to be captured on film and then spliced together with images of IDF soldiers politely guiding elderly Palestinians through checkpoint turnstiles.
But there is one catch with Castro’s argument. Zionism is not just any old form of colonialism; it’s colonialism of the most brutal pedigree. It’s worse than apartheid South Africa, as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have both noted. Restoring the good name of brutality? That’s going to be even tougher, but hey, anything’s worth a try.