Today, in the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart has handed me a perfect illustration of this concept.
In his post Wilf's Colonialism Denial, Beinart attacks MK Einat Wilf for redefining Zionism to erase it of its colonial origins. Beinart makes a brilliantly reasoned argument, supported by ample evidence, including writings of the great Theodore Herzl. Reading his article, I found it impossible to disagree with his premise, his evidence, or his reasoning. I decided to research it a little further, and what I found was that MK Wilf never tried to deny Israel's colonial past.
His entire blog post was written to deny an argument that Wilf never made.
I must admit that I suspected this was the case, because he was so rude as to not provide a link to the original article. This required me to spend 15 seconds of my time to Google it and I found it right on the Daily Beast website.
Zionism Denial, the original article by Wilf makes a good case for Israel on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Her single reference to Colonialism is this:
Israel exists not because the Europeans dumped the surviving Jews in the colonially controlled Middle East. Israel exists because the Jews willed it into existence. The modern state of Israel exists because the Jews who created it believed themselves to be descendants of the Israelites and Judeans who were sovereign there in ancient times and paid a high price for preserving their separate existence as a people. The modern state of Israel exists because for centuries and millennia Jews kept yearning for Israel, ending the Passover Seder with the words, "next year in Jerusalem."There is no denial here of the connection of Israel to Europe's colonial past. In fact, this is an acknowledgment of it. The point that Wilf is making is subtle but important. The impetus for the Jewish State in colonial Palestine was not the extension of European power in Asia. It was a homeland for the Jewish populations in their ancestral home. So, while the early Zionists certainly made use of the mechanisms of colonialism to establish the Israeli State you can not correctly identify Israel with the Colonial movement. Its origin is unique in world history.
Nowhere else in history can you find a people that:
- Preserved 3000+ year old holy books that foretell of the Jews return to their homeland (Written prior to their exile).
- Steadfastly refuse all attempts to integrate into the larger European (and Arab) cultures where they were exiled. (Wilf points out that this came at a significant price)
- Resurrected a dead language to become a daily language of commerce and culture.
- Build a great nation from a swampy waste land.
The Jews and the State of Israel are as unique in history as they are in the world. Beinart's attempt to associate it with the other European efforts at colonization (a materialistic enterprise) entirely misses the point. So much that he has to pretend his critics are arguing something that they clearly are not. He appears intent on using the European Colonial history to undermine Israel and he will use the thinnest pretense to bring up the subject.
Doing it in this way is clearly obnoxious political speech. There are reasonable approaches he could take, but Beinart's writing clearly has an agenda and can not be trusted. Everything he says must be verified and analyzed.I am going to hear him speak tonight as he is out hawking his new book, The Crisis of Zionism. I won't buy it, but I will read it as soon as I can borrow a copy from the library. I will blog on his presentation tomorrow.
Don't buy this book (but if you do, buy it here and support this blog)!