Academic journal article New Formations

Israel in US Empire

Academic journal article New Formations

Israel in US Empire

Article excerpt

POST-ZIONISM AND COLONIALISM

Any reader of Israel Studies recent issue on the 'Americanization of Israel' would be likely to conclude that the most important aspect of US-Israel relations was cultural and religious exchange. (1) American commodification of Israeli consumption is a key focus here, as is the impact of American religious trends on Israeli religious practices. Though politics does feature in the issue, its place is largely restricted to the influence of the US on the Israeli party political system and to the ideological convergence between Christian fundamentalism and the Likud Party. The informing conception of the issue, then, seems to be the endeavour to pinpoint those aspects of Israel that have been Americanised in recent years. Contributors are thus preoccupied with determining how specific American forms and norms have migrated to and been translated into Israeli culture and society.

However valuable such an approach might be in tracing interesting connections between the US and Israel, it is very poorly equipped to tackle a major dimension of American-Israeli relations: US state support for Israeli colonialism. The questions never raised include the following: What has American support for Israel actually meant for the Israeli state? Which state capacities have been enhanced and which curtailed as a result of this support (importantly, force or peace)? And what impact has this had on Israeli society and economy at large? To answer such questions would involve specifying the nature of US involvement in Israel-Palestine, spelling out the kinds of policies and objectives the US state has allowed the Israeli state to pursue. It would, in fact, involve raising the spectre of Israel as a colonial and occupying power; and this the various contributors to Israel Studies seem unwilling to do. Colonialism and occupation are far from mainstream concerns in the Israeli academy. This may sound strange since these practices have defined the history of Israel since 1967 if not before. Yet it is not so strange if one considers that in this respect the Israeli academy merely reflects the attitudes of wider Israeli society: academic evasion mirrors popular denial and indifference.

One group of academics that has managed to break away from this stifling national consensus has been dubbed 'post-Zionist'. Though by no means a unified or politically homogenous trend, post-Zionism has come to characterise a certain critical engagement with Israeli history and society that has led to a re-examination of Israel's 'founding myths' and ideology. Broadly speaking, it has been defined as follows: 'In a general sense, postzionism is a term applied to a current set of critical positions that problematize Zionist discourse, and the historical narratives and social and cultural representations that it produced'. (2) Inherited Zionist versions of Israeli history and society have thus been debunked.

In the field of history, their main contribution has been about the 'causes, character, and course of the Arab-Israeli conflict', where Zionist historiography has been challenged and proven fallacious. (3) Based on research conducted in newly-opened Israeli archives, this revisionist history has, for example, clearly documented: that Palestinians were expelled in 1948--as Palestinians themselves have always maintained--rather than being asked to leave by Arab invading armies, as Israeli propaganda has it; (4) that Arab armies never intended to 'liberate' Palestine, with Jordan colluding with the Zionists to divide it; that Israel consistently shunned peace and settlement of the 'refugee problem' at every opportunity in the early years; and, finally, that Israel has always been the powerful side in the conflict and the party responsible for denying Palestinian rights and national restitution. (5) The picture that emerges here entirely reverses the conventional orthodoxy about victims and victimisers: Israel is seen as an ongoing perpetrator of a massive injustice against the Palestinians. …

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