When Zionism and human rights go along

Since the state of Israel has been shifting to the right for more than two decades now, and a number of laws, such as the

Nation-State Law

Most recently, have been passed, the notion that Zionism and human rights could co-exist or even supplement each other may sound like a misnomer. However, there is no need to jump the gun here. As professor

James Loeffler

Argues in his new book

Rooted Cosmopolitans. Jews And Human Rights In the Twentieth Century

a considerable number of early Zionist activists advocated not just for Zionism and Jewish self-determination, but they also supported and advanced the universal appplication and development of human rights. As far as they were concerned, there was no contradiction in doing both, and he calls on all of us to remember that when critiquing Zionism as I often do. He talks about his book

on this show

To two great Israeli journalists

Dahlia Scheindlin and Gilad Halpern

Who both host this deeply analytical podcast. Their show has become a constant and much valued companion of mine and has helped me to navigate the minefield of Israeli politics and educate myself on the Middle East generally and Jewish life in particular. Their show demonstrates that, at least on the fringes of Israeli society, civil society is still alive and kicking, and, as long as this is the case, there is no need to despair.

I have visited Israel three times up until now. For the first time in June 2012, then returned in October of the same year to stay there for three months and again travelled back in October 2015. Since my first visit, I have taken a strong interest in Israeli society and politics. The question preoccupying me is whether or not the ideological underpinnings of the state, and this means almost exclusively Zionism, can ever be truly reconciled with universal human rights and democracy; thus, will the state of Israel, as long as it is built solely on Zionism as its founding ideology, ever find the means to accommodate the Palestinian native population? Has Zionism really facilitated a “Jewish normal existence”, and is it possible to imagine a political settlement where Zionism is given up as the main building block of the state? What would it turn into, and can it exist subservient to universally excepted human rights, and can Palestinians with their narrative of Nakbah and suffering be incorporated into a new body politics which I believe offers the only road to peace in the region? Well, if I had the answers to all these questions, I would not be sitting in Berlin anymore, and I am afraid like so many others of my contemporaries, I do not. But I do believe we are pondering the right questions without taboos and qualifications, since these questions have never let go of me.

Needless to say that I have put

Rooted Cosmopolitans. Jews And Human Rights In the Twentieth Century

On my reading list. When time allows, I look forward to settling down with a bottle of French red wine and dedicate myself to this volume. May that time come soon.

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