Phi Beta Cons

Avineri Lets History Lead the Way

Emeritus professor Shlomo Avineri eschews ideology in favor of historical conditions as root cause. His leading studies of communism, for example, focus on Russia’s authoritarian history, resurgent under Putin.
As Bruce Kesler writes, Avineri follows the flow of history, recognizing enemies and evils that need be are confronted. One faces these enemies, while understanding new dangers will arise and have in turn to be confronted. Avineri argues, for example, that it was correct to confront Hitler, even knowing that it would create the conditions for Russian oppression of Eastern Europe for the following half-century.
He also says it was right to overthrow Saddam, despite the difficulties of rapid democratization in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world.
Now, in “Post-Zionism Doesn’t Exist,” he writes:
The arguments called “post-Zionist” have various aspects – not only political but also cultural. They view Zionism as a colonial phenomenon, not as a national movement that is contending with another, Palestinian, national movement over its claim to the same territory. Some of those who are called “post-Zionists” go even further in their argument that the very existence of a Jewish people is a “narrative” that was invented in the 19th century, and that the Jews are at base a religious community. The attitude of Zionism, which has most of its roots in Europe, toward Jews from the Muslim countries is also perceived in the context of colonial exploitation….
They do not see Zionism and the State of Israel as a reality that has come to pass, but rather as something that is not legitimate from the outset and that must be eliminated down to its very foundations.

Avineri shows how such thinking is nihilist and anti-historical. In Kesler’s phrase, it demonstrates “their sour grapes over their ideological gods that failed has fermented into a bitter wine being poured into new bottles of deluded, violence inducing, drunkenness.”

Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues.

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