I try to avoid Sunday morning talk shows like the plague, but somehow I happened to catch five minutes of Fareed Zakaria’s “GPS” show on CNN International. Elliott Abrams and Peter Beinart were arguing about the Gaza flotilla and Beinart’s New York Review of Books article about liberal Zionism.
What I found interesting about the segment was the exchange between the two men about the argument Beinart made in the article: that many young Jews saw the choice before them not as being between liberal Zionism and conservative Zionism, but rather between conservative Zionism and no Zionism. Beinart spelled out the argument, and this is what followed:
ZAKARIA: Elliott, you can briefly respond to this, and then we’ve got to go.
ABRAMS: OK. I think it’s quite historical.
What Peter is forgetting, that Jewish liberals have never supported Israel. They didn’t support the founding of the state of Israel. The reform movement was anti-Zionist for decades and decades.
Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn’t due to anything that is going on in Israel, it’s due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself. (emphasis mine)
I’ve included his whole response for context, but I’m only really interested in the italicized part of the argument. Aren’t all Americans supposed to have problems with nationalism? Not our own nationalism, of course, which we have re-labeled “exceptionalism.” But foreign nationalism? Isn’t that supposed to be pernicious?
The way in which Abrams presented the argument struck me as being a normative claim, not positive. That is, “particularism, nationalism, and Zionism” were not just things that Jewish liberals have problems with, but rather they were things that Jewish liberals have problems with but should not.
Abrams’ inclusion of Zionism alongside nationalism ought perhaps to caution him about Zionism’s susceptibility to the perils that have plagued other nationalisms through history.