When Neozionism Meets European Racism

, par Hilla Dayan

Hilla Dayan touche une question essentielle : le sionisme, dans sa forme classique, promeut la création d’un Etat juif comme réponse à l’antisémitisme et refuge pour les juifs. Le néo-sionisme (comme on parle de néo-nazis...), lui, a comme cible la critique de cet Etat, considérée comme purement et simplement équivalente à l’antisémitisme de jadis et naguère. Il ne défend pas les Juifs, il se soucie de la sécurité d’Israël. C’est ce glissement qu’elle analyse, et c’est une question de première importance...
Alain Brossat

Introduction : standing in line with Israel

The youtube clip showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu performing a Larry David style “chat and cut” maneuver to the front row at the solidarity march following the Paris massacres instantly became a sensation. (1) Netanyahu’s overbearing physicality and clumsiness, his fake smile and hand shake with the president of Mali he so visibly tried to displace, and the evident discomfort of Holland and Merkel at the ensuing commotion was a hilarious antidote to the general grimness of the event. The commedia dell’arte all’improvviso quality of Netanyahu’s performance seemed to escape no one. This genre typically follows the tribulations and trickery of a gallery of lowly figures who help two lovers to eventually consummate their amorous relationship by overcoming a forbidding prohibition (a father figure). Europe and Israel too manage to consummate a turbulent union founded upon improbabilities and conceits. There are several good accounts that depict the real politick driving it. Europe’s corporate profiteering from the Israeli occupation, the shadowy trade and weapons deals, the intensity of backdoor security cooperation, as Shir Hever and others have shown, systematically break the prohibitions of both European and international law. (2)

This contribution builds on this critical analysis of power politics but seeks to look at what goes on at the level of society. Taking into account my first-hand experience as an Israeli in Europe, field notes from a recent conference of a new “Global Israeli Leadership” network, and a variety of institutional and media discourses, I try to make sense of divergent phenomenology through a terminological exercise, playing with the term Neozionism. I argue that Neozionism is a relatively new zeitgeist that can be distinguished from Zionism ; that it is invested in Europe sociologically and symbolically ; and finally that it is cross-fertilizing with continental new racism. With the latter I refer to Etienne Balibar’s and others’ definition, which crudely speaking, pertains to contemporary spectacles of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. These find expression in extreme forms on the fringes of society, and in more mainstream ways, having institutional and widely acceptable character. (3) In the days following the solidarity march in Paris, to name an “extreme” example, a facebook feed popped up showing an Israeli, later identified as Rotem Avitov, addressing a sizable PEGIDA rally in Frankfurt. To supporters of this new extreme-right movement of “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West,” Avitov, the anonymous youtube persona (58,700 views, category : entertainment), is seen shouting in English “I come from Israel. I’m Jewish, my family lived here for 700 years, I see here no Nazis, only patriots who want to save their country from Islam that wants to take over, to take all of you down. We are Germans and proud of ourselves and our heritage.” (4) This kind Israeli pride in Neo Nazis in the aftermath of “Charlie” could not have been better conceived by any satirical mind. What made this public appearance possible ? Can we make sense of it ? This hilarity set aside, it is reasonable to estimate that this appearance of “the Israeli” will not be the last seen in Europe, and that Israel/Palestine will continue to have a difficult to ignore presence. By fleshing out the “Neo” in Neozionism I hope to show how in its real and metaphorical travels this new rationality lands in environments already saturated with racial discourses and racial formations. Considering what effects it has in Israel and in Europe, I hope to provide an outlook from the level of society on their “special historical bond.”

Zionism : an anatomy of failure

In broad stroke generalizations some of the major differences between Zionism and Neozionism, which I already somewhat hastily scrambled to describe as “zeitgeist” or “political rationality” will hopefully come to light. In reference to Wendy Brown’s helpful formulation, a political rationality is what governs “the sayable, the intelligible, and the truth criteria” of certain domains. (5) Since the distinction offered here is a preliminary investigation, a first stab, a certain hesitation to declare Neozionism as “something” is in place. Instead of laboring on a definition, I adopt a softer approach that simply enumerates some of its appearances as a sociological and an ideational phenomenon. From the outset, it seems senseless to seek a clear cut answer to the question of whether Neozionism is a departure from Zionism, a historical break, or a mere metamorphosis of Zionism that perhaps always contained in it the seeds of its later development. The answer can be all the above. The more interesting question seems to be whether Neozionism succeeds where Zionism fails, and what exactly it wants to achieve that Zionism was or is not able to. This calls for taking a closer look at the context out of which Neozionism emerged in Israel in the 1990s.

If Zionism, a 19th century European movement, was historically conceived in response to the perils of anti-Semitic persecution, and the assimilation of European Jews, the instinct of survival driving Neozionism is the need to save Zionism itself. To be more specific, Neozionism is a reactive offensive aimed to ensure the survival of Zionism at its current historical juncture, namely, as the organizing web of social significations, to use Cornelius Castoriadis’ formulation, of a regime of separation in Israel/Palestine. (6) As I earlier defined it, this regime fully internalized the mass disenfranchisement of its out-group population. (7) Rather than an unfortunate historical accident, or a temporary condition, military dictatorship and mass disenfranchisement of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have become inseparable from Zionism’s permanent revolution in pursuit of Jewish self-determination. Operating under the logic of inclusive exclusion, decades-long co-dependence between the dual pillars of democracy and dictatorship developed into what can be depicted as a democratically enabled dictatorship in Israel/Palestine.

Interestingly, however, the emergence of a regime of separation, which I roughly traced back to the first “total closure” imposed on the Occupied Territories in 1991, did not plunge Zionism into a crisis. In fact, it has never lost its hegemonic grip, and still defines the common sense of the Jewish-Israeli society through and through. Neozionism may provide an explanation to that durability. It could be interpreted as simply the capacity of Zionism to successfully adapt to ever changing conditions. My hunch is however that more than mere adaptation, Neozionism is a reaction to a number of serious threats posed in the 1990s to Zionist hegemony. I can only mention some in passing : the arrival of more than a million new immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were not Zionist and to a significant extent doubtfully Jewish ; the Oslo accords which many then believed will bring about a historical territorial compromise, and perhaps most crucially a reaction to the cracks opened up by post- and anti-Zionist epistemology and discourse. Pioneers of critical theory in the Israeli academia broke a Zionist levy. Heretical ideas and counter narratives slowly filtered into the Israeli public sphere, first in trickles and gradually as a flooding, finding expression in the local press, television satires and popular culture.

The common sense of Zionism also began to come under increasing pressure since, as it was called during the first Intifada, “washing the dirty laundry in public” became routine. Crimes of the occupation are since the 1990s intensively monitored, the daily bread of an increasingly more prolific human rights sector, whose genealogy can be clearly traced back to two distinct moments of exponential growth – first Intifada NGOs, and second Intifada NGOs. (8) In a parallel and unprecedented way, cracks also began to appear in the near absolute spell Zionism had on Jewish communities in the diaspora. Particularly following the second Intifada organized Jewish dissent in the diaspora grew from relatively small groups such as Not in My Name in South Africa and a Different Jewish Voice in the Netherlands, to professional lobby organizations with swelling membership, who are critical of the Israeli government and committed to the goal of ending the occupation such Jewish Voice for Peace and Jstreet. Neozionism must be understood to arise in part against the onset of organized Israeli and Jewish dissent and the looming threat of a legitimation crisis it prompts. The way late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling put it, “in the political culture of the postcolonial world order, it is a society [the Israeli society] plagued by the problem of existential legitimacy. It repeatedly has to explain to itself and to the international community why it chose Palestine...” (9) The potential for the collapse of legitimation in other words is a built in tension in Zionism as a hegemonic system, for which nothing seems to be more lethal and threatening than internal dissent.

Zionism famously saw the Jewish diaspora as having no reson d’atre other than to ultimately “gather” in Israel. One of the major paradigm shifts that I wish to highlight is that while for Zionism the mere existence of the diaspora guaranteed the eternal necessity of Israel as a place of refuge, for Neozionism the existence of Zionism in its current historical juncture increasingly depends on eliminating its potential opposition to the current regime. The diaspora is thus no longer the world of the past but the world of the present and even the future, a critical and sensitive domain that must continue to be subservient to Zionism as an ideational behemoth. Risking over simplification, Neozionism is an offensive reaction to what is perceived as a “stab in the back.” It is a reaction both in the sense of reacting to, and in the sense of reactionary. Calling it offensive reaction is meant to distinguish it from conservative Zionist apologia. Zionist apologia is the purview of academic heavy weights, who rushed to the defense of Zionism in response to what was perceived in Israel in the 1990s as a post-Zionist Tzunami. Neozionism is by contrast unapologetic and hostile to any serious intellectual debate. The McCarthyism of the prototypical Neozionist movement Im Tirtzu is a case in point. (10) In a manner typical of creative departments of advertisement agencies, the Im Tirtzu style Neozionist spirit is focused on short-term goals : to eliminate any expression of dissent, to spin and sell as “normal” all apparent deformities of the Jewish state, military dictatorship included, and to frame any evident failures of Zionism as a “success.” Domestically, at stake is the question of how to sustain in the eyes of the Jewish citizen constituency of Israel the belief that Israel is not failing to guarantee the two fundamental tenets of Zionism : Jewish physical security, and Jewish solidarity and in gathering. Externally, the question is how to sustain the legitimacy of the democratically enabled dictatorship.

To be sure, the short-term goal of marketing Zionism in its current constellation as a success on these two fronts is a hard sell. Bluntly put, Israel is hardly a “safe haven for the Jews.” Its citizens are plagued by real and imagined “security concerns,” which shapes their habitus and nurtures a collective sense of paranoia and permanent insecurity. (11) One of the most extreme examples for a neoliberal society, Israeli society can be said in addition to be an antithesis to the Zionist prophets’ visions of Jewish solidarity and social justice. Many share a sentiment of nostalgia for the utopian promises of Zionism (which never materialized and are a myth). The explosive mass protest in 2011 that broke out in an outcry for “social justice” was, in the first two weeks when surveys showed 90% public support, a virtual nightmare to the current regime. For various reasons which I will not go into, the protest did not develop into an overwhelming disillusion from the current regime and its architecture of social significations. But the possibility that whatever keeps the Israeli society stitched together will collapse is always clear and present.

At the recent Global Israeli Leadership conference, which I participated in as a delegate of the Amsterdam based Kehila Ivrit community, the story of a “normal” Israeli society, as well as the “success” story of Zionism was ad nauseam repeated. This was a unique event, in which representatives of Israeli communities from various Western countries convened at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. The number of those living outside Israel was said there to be estimated at one million. The significant growth of the Israeli diaspora in recent years was interestingly attributed to the fact that the Israeli society has finally matured ; it is strong and confident and no longer needs to keep everyone in. It is a sign of Zionism’s ultimate “success,” argued speaker Dr. Gadi Taub, because Zionism wanted to normalize the Jewish condition, and it is only normal that people emigrate from their country.
Interestingly, however, as one of the participants later on revealed at a workshop, many Israelis who arrived in Vancouver in recent years came in waves, first when the second Intifada was raging, and at around the time of the “social justice” protest. Taking this account into consideration is not to suggest that the swelling of communities of Israelis in the diaspora represents a de facto failure of Zionism – arguing that would strictly fall within Zionism’s own logic. What should be emphasized instead is the perception of the delegate that immigration waves are linked to security and socio-economic concerns. For the purpose of the discussion and for the time being, we should just take note of the sociological fact that Jewish-Israelis, whether critical of or disillusioned by the state or not, have probably reached a critical mass that had led them to slowly but gradually form communities distinct from the Jewish communities of their host countries. One of the major paradigm shifts as I further explore below pertains to this emerging diaspora and to the Jewish diaspora at large. (12)

From Zionism to Neozionism I : the Jewish diaspora

Readers may now wonder : if Zionism as I argued above is always at risk of being perceived as failing, why are Israelis still in the grip of it, and why do Jews still see Israel as their place of refuge ? Isn’t the current immigration wave of Jews from France a clear indication of Zionism’s “success” ? There are a number of reasons why the immigration of this small group from France is not exactly following textbook Zionism. It is useful to begin the analysis of the paradigm shift with respect to the Jewish diaspora by pointing out that the concerns that this particular wave raises tend to focus rather intensely and misguidedly on a negligible minority that leaves, a number estimated at few thousands out of an estimated 380,000. (13) Nevertheless, I argue that France is paradigmatic to the shift of paradigm from Zionism to Neozionism not because of those who leave, but because of what is happening to the majority who stay. Although not much is known, the changing perception with respect to this diaspora comes to light in a survey published by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), a research institute established by the Jewish agency. As an object of analysis this survey may be institutionally insignificant ; its conclusions may have been totally overlooked in policy-making processes. But what is interesting to look at is its methodology and framing of the Jewish diaspora, or in short the discursive apparatuses that shed light on the new paradigm.
The first thing one notices is the ambition of the researchers of JPPI to survey as many Jews in France as possible. For that, they relay on lists compiled from various sources including the Jewish agency (11,000), the Masa program, which organizes trips to Israel (8000), anonymous “private lists” (170,000) about which nothing is said, and facebook groups (no number of members mentioned). The surveyors sent 100,000 an online survey, but only 2400 responded to it, and merely 80 responded actively, joining “focus groups.” This rather low 2.40% response rate to a survey that gives this narrowly targeted group an opportunity to vent frustrations vis-à-vis a potential host country is striking in itself. We should keep in mind that this is not exactly a “normal” survey : since when do prospective immigrants are asked to give feedback to their potential host country prior to their immigration ? What underlies this basic framing and the type of questions asked in the spirit of a customer satisfaction survey, is the idea that a certain service that is now given needs to improve. The first step in improving it is to listen to customers’ grievances and complaints.

And indeed the “focus groups” do not fail to deliver that. They express their fear that Israel will not be able to guarantee basic security, not physical security and not socio-economic security. The Hebrew language, the fear for their children’s life in military service fighting Israel’s wars, and the loss of socio-economic status are their top “obstacles” for immigration. Perhaps the most curious feedback is the difficulty participants have in dealing with what they call “the Israeli mentality.” It is very unfortunate that in the analysis part of the survey researchers refrain from explaining what participants may mean by that (one can only guess). In any case, JPPI’s main recommendation to the Jewish agency is not to be too arrogant and pushy (Israeli ?) and to fully accommodate hesitations to immigrate. True to the expressed wish of 80 odd folks to take it “step by step” JPPI recommends that they first be allowed to “sample” Israel. In fact there is no attempt to gauge the seriousness of participants’ intentions and commitment to making a final move. Rather the opposite, JPPI researchers cannot stress enough the importance of the Jewish Agency (and the state by extension) servicing them in France. The survey recommends, for instance, changing the method used for teaching Hebrew in France because the method of the Israeli Ulpan (schools in Israel teaching Hebrew for new immigrants) does not suit the way that the French are used to learning a foreign language.
The encouragement of Aliya (immigration to Israel, “ascendance”), Jewish-Zionist education in the diaspora and nurturing the identity of Jewish communities all over the world in relation to Israel was always the purview of Zionist organizations such as the Jewish agency. So what has changed ? The survey’s importance and seriousness as said should not be exaggerated, but what is interesting about it is that it refrains from framing this diaspora as a community in urgent need of Israel as a place of refuge in contradiction to official state rhetoric. The recommendation to service it better in France should moreover be understood as the only logical response to those top “obstacles” that participants brought up. After all, what can JPPI do with respect to war in Israel and socio-economic insecurity ? Such “obstacles,” namely, are permanent and un-removable.

It is useful here to take a short detour through history to recall that Zionist agencies always preached in gathering while in practice not only carefully monitored but often tried to prevent, select, and direct Jewish immigration from the diaspora. In a recent academic conference during a session titled “Israel as an immigrant society” the by-now-well-known post-Zionist account of the harsh selection mechanisms Zionist agencies applied to prevent immigration in the critical period of the 1930s and 1940s when many were desperate to leave Europe again resurfaced. More telling, however, was that such historical rejection in times of catastrophic danger, the rejection of “unwanted elements that are not of good quality,” applied even to the immigration waves of the second and third Aliyot. These Aliyot are fixated in the Jewish-Israeli collective memory as the waves that brought ideological Zionist pioneers, who “returned” to the homeland fired up by Zionism’s historical mission. As findings of Prof. Gur Alroei from Haifa University indicate however, the majority of immigrants in that period were in fact survivors of a “small holocaust” that took place in the Ukraine at the time of the Russian civil war 1914-1918, an event that decimated estimated 100,000 Jews and wiped out entire Jewish villages. This event, Alroei passionately argued, was ignored then and forgotten later by Zionism and its survivors, broken families of widows and orphans were generally not welcomed and were deemed a burden and an obstacle to Zionist goals. (14)

It should be rather evident why such critical historical narratives are relevant to the current day empty rhetorical framing of the immigration of Jews from France as a case of “refuge immigration.” As Baruch Kimmerling summed it up “Zionism emphasized the uniqueness of the ‘Jewish Problem,’ anti-Semitism, persecution, and later, the Holocaust, and presented itself as the sole realistic and moral solution. Thus, the Jewish immigration movement was successfully represented as a “return to Zion….” Yet, this old paradigm of “refuge” and “return” is entirely absent in the JPPI survey and there is no lofty “return,” no search for “safe haven,” no pathos of Jewish unity to be found in it. And what’s more, there is no indication or hint of any screening or selection or evaluation of the surveyed in terms of their “quality.”

Another conspicuous absence there and in the entire discourse on the Jews from France is of the question “who is Jewish.” The question of who officially qualifies to immigrate under the stipulation of Israel’s Law of Return, a question which with regard to other immigration waves the state of Israel infamously obsesses about is entirely absent. Of course the Zionist agency might have a different take on that question than the state of Israel, whose policy is generally discriminating Jewish streams that are not approved by the ultra-orthodox establishment. As a senior executive at the Jewish Agency told me the agency is adopts a more inclusive approach, captured by the catchphrase that it is less important “how Jewish are you” but “how are you Jewish.” (15) Another relatively new concept, Amiyut (peoplehood), emerged in Zionist discourse and also reflects an attitude of accommodation and the tolerance of loose affiliation. There has been in short an acknowledgement that belongingness to the Jewish people cannot be simply dictated top down by the state of Israel and on its terms.

What I wish to draw attention to however is that Neozionism is not preoccupied with the Jewishness of any given community. As the language of the JPPI survey reveals, it is preoccupied not with “how are you Jewish” but with “how are you Israeli.” This finds expression in the surveyors’ cryptic wishful thinking that when the Jewish diaspora will come to see “their attachment to Israel as part of their personal identity (my italics), then it [will] exist and one could say it exists almost independently, without any attachments.” In other words, the soft and sentimental old paradigm of “attachment to Israel” is discarded. From a Zionist identification with the state of Israel, an attachment that naturally flows from being Jewish in the diaspora, we can trace a shift of paradigm to adopting the Israeli identity in the diaspora. Being educated as an Israeli gives meaning to a personal sense of self. This identity moreover should remarkably exist independently of everything, even from the state of Israel itself (“without any attachments”) ! The Israelification of the Jewish diaspora will be complete by taking the big leap from feeling a slight loathing to “the Israeli mentality” to embracing it tot court. In the Neozionist logic, and this is a crucial point, Israeliness is an achieved state, which requires labor and investment, a state which must be achieved and accomplished in the diaspora.

From Zionism to Neozionism II : the Israeli diaspora

For lack of a better term, speaking of an “Israeli diaspora” is an innovation. There always have been Israelis who left Israel, but only in the last few years, organized communities of Israelis began forming and the Israeli diaspora became an undeniable sociological phenomenon. At the end of summer 2014, as soon as the perceived collective trauma of operation Protective Edge started receding into a faded memory in Israel, a mini scandal was stirred by the so-called “Milki protest.” The facebook page Olim Le Berlin presented Israelis “ascent” to Berlin (yordim or “descending” was the term previously used in contempt of those who left Israel). In their local Aldi the iconic milk product is affordable. The Berlin based Israeli sociologist Irit Dekel, analyzed how the Milki functions as a metonym for “the good life” in Israel. The scandal revolved only around whether or not it is legitimate that this is what motivated 20,000 young Israelis to settle in Berlin, deliberately ignoring what she called “the elephant in the room,” namely, a more profoundly pressing push factor – the occupation. (16)

With the notable exception of an active community of Israeli anti-occupation activists, however, it seems too hopeful to attribute the exponential growth of the number of Israelis in Berlin to a massive gray resistance to the occupation. What is clear, and what the Milki protest did expose, however, is the shift in perception. Those who leave Israel, formerly despised individual “noshrim” (drop outs), are slowly starting to be seen as a collective that left for very good reasons. It is rather symptomatic to the Israeli condition that what could have easily remained a marginal facebook curiosa caught hyped attention just as security concerns began to ebb. But what really explains the moral panic that ensued over the Milki protest is in my analysis a reflection of a deeper threat to Zionism than the mere departure of Israelis. The moral panic revolved around the loss of a particular demographic that is perceived as forming the backbone of Israeli society. The self-beating over why “our children” have to leave, can be understood as expression of anxiety over a potential Zionist design failure. And that potential failure of the Israeli par-excellence is the return of the second and third generation of European descendants (and holders of European passports) to Europe.

It hardly needs explanation why in the old Zionist paradigm the return of descendants of Europeans to Europe is an anathema. For Neozionism however, the Zionist design failure is far from fait accompli. Yet again, an empirical phenomenon that can no longer be ignored, the emergence of the Israeli diaspora, must be framed as something other than a failure of Zionism. The real danger is that this phenomenon may in the eyes of Jewish constituencies (if it is not already) be perceived as a collective failure to keep “our children.” There is a great need therefore to turn it into an affirmative success story. As former General Gal Hirsch told the Global Israeli Leadership delegates in Herzliya, the state can afford Israelis leaving, but cannot afford Israelis leaving and turning their backs on the state. For Hirsch, we, the Israelis who left, can fulfill critical leadership roles and serve our country in whichever way we choose, most preferably as “net soldiers.” What the state needs, according to him, is commandos of public relations in active reserve duty. Needless to say, this Neozionist “spin” on the Israeli diaspora won standing ovation in Herzliya. The commitment, in the words of one of the conference delegates representing the Israeli community in Finland, is first and foremost to Zionism itself : “I left Israel and choose to settle in Finland. I choose Finland over Israel without ever giving up being a Zionist.” (17)

Perhaps this is a good moment to tie some loose ends and sum up the shift from Zionism to Neozionism in more general terms. Zeev Sternhall once straightforwardly said that Zionism was singularly a movement whose mission was to conquer land to build a home for the Jews (and so in his view it completed its historical mission in 1948). (18) We can paraphrase and say that Neozionism’s mission is the conquest of “hearts and minds.” It is devoid of any ambition to settle or re-settle anyone. The iconoclasm of Zionism was the warrior-farmer. The iconoclasm of Neozionism is that of the spin-doctor, lobbyist, campaigner, social media expert, or in short, the “net soldier,” embodying the decisive shift to the battlegrounds of Hasbara. It is in that sense an ex-territorial political sensibility with a vested interest in the global proliferation of Israelis in as many domestic contexts as possible.

To be sure, the very natural, tentative and gradual process of establishing organized community institutions such our Kehila Ivrit Sunday School in Amsterdam is certainly not unique to us, members of Israeli immigrant communities. Neozionism however is explicit in its unique vision for our future and the future of our children. This vision is steeped in security experts’ global imaginary of terrorism and the perpetual war on terror. In the words of one such expert, Prof. Boaz Ganot, who opened the Herzliya conference, the Israeli diaspora is a “domain of defense” (merhav hagana), a “critical infrastructure to fight and win the propaganda war of terrorism.” I believe that the Global Israeli Leadership conference was a unique event, which crystalized and articulated this sensibility for the very first time to the self-elected “leaders” of the Israeli diaspora.
To sum up, I have so far depicted three major developments in an attempt to explain the “Neo” in Neozionism. These are the reorientation of a core mission to ensure the survival of Zionism rather than that of “the Jewish people,” the Israelification of the Jewish diaspora, and the instrumentalization of a global network of the Israeli diaspora for building a critical infrastructure for the PR wars of the state of Israel. It is important to underlie, that the Israelification of Jewish communities and the Israeli diaspora, although sociologically distinct, are intimately connected. First, they are spatially connected through an apparatus of security. This apparatus visibly demarcates Jewish neighborhoods where Israelis tend to cluster. Surrounded by police and military barricades and posts, communities are beginning to be trapped in distinct areas that reproduce the landscapes of the occupation – walls, checkpoints, settlements – as well as the historical ghetto against which Zionism originally rebelled. Second, they are discursively implicated through the operation of the machinery of Hasbara, increasingly backed by rank and file Neozionists. Certain figures, now dubbed “Israeli leaders,” appear in the public eye at high moments whenever Israel catches headline news. The exclusive propaganda images and unique language of the IDF spokesperson unit, and the aggressive defamation strategies Im Tirtzu perfected serve as an inspiration to this rank and file. (19)

Neozionism and European Racisms in active formation

For the proponents of the notion that a civilizational battle is raging in Europe, “Jews,” a term that rarely fails to invoke the slight embarrassment of a taboo, play an instrumental role. In contemporary European racial discourses Jews are once again “the Jews,” only today they are the erstwhile victims of anti-Semitic Muslims. In the Netherlands as Esther Romeyn shows the charge of anti-Semitism is regularly in the service of “the dual paradigm of securitization and disciplinary integration” of Muslims. (20) Entire communities are racially marked as uncivilized. The Dutch twist on the continental “new racism” is to deploy what Romeyn calls “ethnicized tolerance.” This means that in the Netherlands anti-Semitism is seen as a form of intolerance that contradicts not simply abstract universal values, but the cherished national character itself. The result is that in Dutch racial discourse only the autochthon seem capable of not being anti-Semitic and so they are framed as tolerant by ethnic definition.

The irony of course, is that this cherished myth of Dutch tolerance is yearly in tatters thanks to the controversy surrounding the figure of Zwarte Piet. In the past few years, around the period of the national holiday of Sinter Klaas each December, Dutch white society is forced to enter an openly hostile discourse and debate about racial representation and racial insult. Like a deer caught in the headlights it experiences great discomfort at being thus marked “white” or “racist.” The result is a spectacle of massively popular and institutional intolerance towards protests and protestors. Dutch anti-racism campaigners are arrested in scores and often blamed for inciting racism themselves by breeding a culture of victimization. (21) This is not the place to go into gory details of Dutch racial politics. We can simply note that this controversy in had absorbed the racism debate almost entirely to the point that the racist depiction, the figure of Zwarte Piet, has become a caricature of “Dutch racism” itself and a sort of common knowledge for outsiders about it. (22) As a result of this process of compartmentalization, “racism” is de-linked from Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Racism is so vehemently denied, that no other forms of intolerance are debated as questions of racism. (23)

Dutch anti-Semitism in any case, hardly ever concerns “the Jews” at all. The Israel lobby in the Netherlands that goes by the euphemism Center for Information and Dissemination Israel (CIDI) consistently attempts to frame critique of Israel or anti-Zionist bias as anti-Semitic. The Jewish diaspora in the Netherlands, although far from expressing opposing views to CIDI on the question of Israel, remains a passive onlooker. In the Dutch case, it is hard to speak of a Jewish diaspora at all. Many descendants of holocaust survivors are descendants of thoroughly assimilated families with no affiliation to Jewish establishments. And to a significant degree, the “Jewish community” is a small orthodox community of various religious streams, which is deeply a-political, and careful to stay out of the Israel/Palestine fray. The groups that maintain an active presence in the Dutch public discourse as Israeli and Jews are critical Israelis and Jews opposing Israel’s policies. (24) And so the discursive battles in the Netherlands enfold between a powerful, well-funded, veteran stakeholder in Dutch politics – the Israel lobby – and relatively new critical voices. My hypothesis, which begs for further research, is that Neozionism is poised to change the rules of the game. Just like in France, and especially if violence on the scale of “Charlie” or worse will unleash in the Netherlands, it may be the way by which the Dutch Jewish diaspora will politicize and made more susceptible for Israelification. I shall return to the Netherlands with some concluding remarks later on. For now, I wish to go back to Neozionisms’ liaison with “new racism” in France.

In France, the charge of anti-Semitism, especially post-Charlie, is particularly acidic. Not denying the actual phenomenon of anti-Semitism, Alain Badiou and Eric Hazan go to the thick and thin of it, describing it as an “operation of stigmatization” of the Muslim minority. They brilliantly debunk the intellectual Junta that has made anti-Semitism an anti-Muslim campaign, intentionally ignoring both the threat of extreme-right anti-Semitism in the present, as well as the organized, state sponsored anti-Jewish persecution of the past. Crucially, the state of Israel for this intellectual Junta is no less than the ‘inverted image’ of Auschwitz. Any criticism or attack on it is seen as a continuation of the Holocaust. Most importantly, Badiou and Hazan sharply observe that “the campaign against the ‘upsurge’ of anti-Semitism is one of the means of making the transition from ‘Jew’ to ‘citizen of Israel’ increasingly necessary, in a world where this is not the case for a majority of Jews.” (25) Raising the flames of anti-Semitism is subservient to Israel’s interests, they claim, to have as many Jews leaving France to solve its demographic problem. The possibility of a second disappearance of Jews from France is as alarming to these critical thinkers as it is for many across Europe. I am referring to the widely shared sense that what is happening is in violation of “never again.” This sentiment was most spectacularly expressed by the rather extraordinary “call on our Jews not to leave” of European leaders in response to Netanyahu’s empty gesture. (26)

This “never again” prohibition, or as Etienne Balibar calls it the post-Nazi prohibition is worth some laboring on. (27) It is a failed prohibition, explains Balibar, because it has the paradoxical consequence of binding the present to “the singular imprint of the past,” and so specters of the violation of the prohibition are necessary and constitutive of a European general common sense today. No meaningful framing and making sense of the present is possible without them. In short, Nazism and anti-Nazism are heuristic devices for the construction of the hegemonic sense of what is European. Anti-Nazism in particular informs many “national characters” of European countries, some more than others, each, as we have seen in the Dutch case, giving it its own unique twist. The point here is that because in Europe the singular present imprint of the past is anti-Nazism, it is possible to ignore in particular the scandals of racisms in the past and their lingering afterlife in the form of postcolonial discontents in the present. (28) This, I believe, is the kern of what I am referring to more broadly speaking as “European racism,” which as Balibar rightfully insists has no fixed frontiers, is no single but a variety of racisms, and is in active formation, always forming in relation to past and present.

Having gone through a rather lengthy exposition on the Netherlands and France it is time to return to Neozionism and examine how it settles in these fertile lands. If, in the words of Balibar, in Europe the “antithesis between colonial racism and anti-Semitism” could not be more pronounced what Neozionism does is to eliminate this antagonism, defending Israel’s colonial enterprises as anti-Nazi (inversion of Auschwitz) and as a historical necessity fitting Europe’s own sense of self. Earlier I argued that Neozionism has no real interest in the immigration of Jews to Israel but in their Israelification in Europe. It is crucial to grasp that, contra to Badiou and Hazan, Israel in its current regime constellation has no demographic problem to solve. Its Jewish majority is safe and secured by the logic of inclusive exclusion that Neozionism seeks to legitimize. For this type of regime, it hardly matters what the ratio of enfranchised vs. disenfranchised is, just as it was irrelevant under apartheid South Africa. This serves as a mild correction to Badiou and Hazan, who otherwise are rightfully alarmed by a process of Israelification they correctly identify. The analysis of the JPPI survey showed earlier that this entails going beyond “attachment” to Israel, but the question remains, what are then the sociological and ideational effects of this discursive shift ? In other words, what we should now try to establish is whether Neozionism succeeds where Zionism fails and how.

In an attempt to understand better the shift from “attachment” to Israel to Israeli “identity” I encountered a term that seems to be still in common use, the term Français Israelite. Originally, Français Israelite was a post-Holocaust term. In the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe it gradually emerged as an expression of pride in the dual heritage of survivors as French and Jewish. (29) That this sense of pride is still alive was evident in my conversation with a woman in her 50s from France who was on a visit to Israel. Staying over with friends, who just several months ago immigrated to Israel she decided to join a Machsom Watch tour to the Occupied Territories where we met. Curious about why she joined this tour, she told me that she was appalled by her friend’s politics – “they want to see the Palestinians disappear !” – and wanted to know more about what goes on in the OPT. Later when I inquired about her political differences with her friends, and her critical stance she wrote to me : “I love my country and my country is France. I am proud of my country, it’s "le pays des droits de l’homme." I love Israel…I am Jewish…and I am French !” Needless to say, she has no intentions of moving to Israel. Common sense patriotism informs her sense of self which is first and foremost French. Out of “love of Israel,” she explained, she opposes the reactionary, even openly racist politics of her hosts, which according to her is typical of the new immigrants. (30)

What this anecdotal encounter can tell us is that not “the Jews” but this sense of pride in the dual heritage may be coming under increasing pressure in post-Charlie France. I propose to think about the Neozionist process of Israelification therefore as a process that is undoing this common sense. In other words, the effect of a Neozionist sensibility in Europe is to disrupt the native belongingness of the Français Israelite, constructing instead a new identity of the native Israeli in France – Israelite Français if you wish. This is not in order to turn them eventually into new immigrants in Israel although this may ultimately be the consequence. The point is the undoing itself. This process of destruction is depicted as naturally desirable in the words of the JPPI survey : “it appears that their cultural link to France is stronger [than it is to Israel], which is why one has to overcome the cultural link to France by gradually building a passage to the culture of and to the Israeli society….” This process may prove particularly difficult to stimulate “In cities where there are minorities, [where] they feel closer to the other minorities and there is a stronger sense of solidarity between minorities.” (31) The most immediate and tragic effect of Neozionism in Europe is hence the tearing of the delicate fabric of co-existence that existed for generations between Maghrebi communities in France.

If my tentative hypothesis with regard to this process of undoing is correct, imagine what a significant boost to the racist “clash of civilization” agenda it constitutes ! It is admittedly near impossible to ascertain facts concerning this population as a whole. But any careful estimate puts certainly more than half and perhaps the majority as first and second-generation descendants of Jews who arrived to France from the Maghreb in the 1950s and 60s. In the “Israel as immigrant society” academic conference session I mentioned earlier, it was also said with respect to new immigrants who arrived to Israel during these same formative decades of the 50s and 60s that even with no prior encounter with Zionism, they became “instinctively Zionist.” In a paraphrase on this intriguing formulation, we should not lose sight of the fact that by and large French Jews arrived in France as Maghrebi and instinctively non-Zionist. Non-Zionist in the sense that even under the overwhelming pressures of Zionism especially after the establishment of Israel in 1948, they have chosen France over Israel and were rooted there.

Considering that, the notion that “the Jews” are “persecuted” in France by anti-Israel Muslims is built upon three discursive operations : a false identification, a mis-identification and a Mizrahization in the Hebrew sense of Mizrahim (Oriental Jews). All three discursive operations are tied to the process of Neozionist Israelification as I shall proceed to explain. First, as said, those who arrived to France in the 50s and 60s did not arrive as Jewish necessarily but rather as former postcolonial subjects. Speaking of “the Jews” associates them automatically with “the Jews” that perished in the holocaust – an anachronistic and false identification. Second, the construction of “Jews persecuted by anti-Israel Muslims” lumps together all the distinct Jewish genealogies in France, each with its own cultural background (descendants of Maghrebi, central-eastern Jewish refugees, and generations of native French-Jews) and associates everyone willy-nilly with Israel and Zionism, whether they like it or not. I call this an operation of misidentification because there is no clear indication that this is a particularly Zionist community. If anything, we are speaking of descendants of Jews that in all likelihood were instinctively non-Zionist upon arrival to France as I argued above. Last but not least, those postcolonial immigrants from the Maghreb if anything, arrived as Arab-Jews. The false identification and misidentification with “the Jews” of the Holocaust cleanses them from this Arabness. This de-Orientalization is subservient to both the racist discourses of extreme-right anti-Muslim movements in Europe, as well as to mainstream, institutional and stately expressions of care and concern for “our Jews,” that is, the apparition of the disappeared Jews of the Holocaust. I call this operation Mizrahization because it is almost a replica of the de-Orientalization process that was the lot of non-Zionist refugees that have arrived to Israel in the decades after the establishment of the state of Israel from the Arab and Islamic world. It is an astounding historical irony that the very Mizrahization of the Jewish diaspora in France today is in that particular sense a token of their process of Israelification.

Final remarks : Neozionism and the question of racism

Before proceeding towards conclusion it is necessary to counter any criticism of this preliminary exploration of the new spirit of Zionism as simply an argument about its inherent racism : Zionism = racism and by extension Neozionism = the new racism. This would be a wrong reading of the analysis offered here. To say that Neozionism, like Zionism before it, is racist would be as foolish as it is to argue that racism is everywhere and is always, and is everywhere and always the same. Inspired by Balibar, David Theo Goldberg and other race theorists, I have hopefully stressed enough the dynamism, inherent contradiction and specificity of the social phenomena under scrutiny. There is no point talking about any complex phenomena, especially not Zionism with such a rich baggage of unresolved inherent tensions simplistically as “racist” without taking it as constitutive of a more general economy of concrete racial formations that is ever dynamic, ever in circulation and conversation with others.

European race thinking that continues to see “the Jew” as a figure of a-historical immutability, as a single people with a unified, continuous history, who must never again disappear, is nevertheless racist. And this racist construction is necessary for without it one cannot speak of a Europe cum “civilization.” Add to that the need, as Ann Stoller argues most forcefully with respect to France, to exorcise the postcolonial. (32) Stoller uses the term colonial aphasia to stand for active forgetting. Much like the active condition of ignoring, forgetting as she puts it is “an achieved state.” Here too we can also see in the false identification of the Jewish diaspora in France by their association with Jews of the Holocaust the synergy between the Neozionist agenda and a form of active forgetting of their colonial past.

Nina Glick Schiller neatly captured the way Zionism and European race thinking coalesce on the question of Israel, arguing that

“the understanding of Jewishness that is widespread in Europe equates atonement for the brutal murder of the Jewish citizens of many European states with support of a Jewish state. By this logic the murdered Jews were just Jews ; they were also German, French or Polish. It is this logic that links together the European basis of support for Israel and the foundational ideas of Israel as a state based on an understanding of the Jews as a single people linked by descent.” (33)

What Glick Schiller puts the finger on is that the construction of “the Jews” as a single, distinct (European) race is something that both Zionism and Europe share. Indeed Zionism never ceased its efforts to indoctrinate Mizrahi Jews to believe that the only history relevant to them is the history of European Jewry.

The good news, however, is that the project of indoctrinating Mizrahim into the prototypical Israeli par excellence of European descent is far from complete. In fact, it may still prove to be one of Zionism’s most glaring and devastating failures. The persistent Mizrahi resistance to the Israeli par excellence, and its revival in the last few years with the cultural wars waged by a third generation of Mizarhi activists, is a clear indication that Neozionism’s ambition to hegemonize everyone is simply futile from the outset (although there is much to say about the new wave of Mizrahi protest to qualify this statement). Neozionism in any case casts its racial imagination to effect the Mizrahization of the Jews of France, whose Arabness is an open secret that is totally ignored in public discourse in Israel. “The French,” in the Israeli imagination can only stand for white and non-Arab Europeans.

To return to the Netherlands very briefly in conclusion, the point of engaging it was in the first place to show the many ways in which it displays continuities with France : the same obsession with Israel and “the Jews,” similar mechanisms of stigmatization of Muslim communities, and a particularly astounding case of colonial aphasia or as it was more appropriately dubbed “colonial hangover.” (34) A final illustration may bring home how Neozionism meets European racism in the specific Dutch context. In 2013 the prominent Dutch intellectual Leon De Winter immigrated to Israel in a dramatic public move. The significance of this drama completely escaped the Israeli public and to the best of my knowledge was neither recorded by the Israeli media nor did it made any splashes in intellectual circles in Israel. From Tel Aviv, de Winter simply continues to spout his racist anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian tirades to his massive readership in the Dutch daily de Telegraph. Using his signature hateful rhetoric, he writes from Israel posing as a “real” Israeli. Whether or not de Winter will remain the only known Dutch Jew who made Aliya because of “Muslim anti-Semitism” in the Netherlands is yet to be seen. What’s more important is that his agenda of defending the Israeli regime in its current constellation, a regime from which he is personally benefitting from under the discriminatory stipulations of the Israeli Law of Return, continues to be meaningful only in the Netherlands and in the European context. De Winter personifies thus both a specifically Dutch Islamophobia, and the Neozionist zeitgeist for which it matters not where you are as long as you are a “real Israeli” faithfully fulfilling your Hasbara duties.

Neozionism was born in Israel but clearly has a European lineage that overturned Zionism’s historical rejection of Europe. Joseph Massad argued that Zionism sought out to teach the Jews how to be real Europeans, which are as his argument goes, real anti-Semites, by planting them in the backward Orient. Neozionism projects the racial superiority of the Israeli par excellence back onto the social terrain of a Europe “in the grip of Islam.” In its racial imaginary, all Jews are thus expected to fulfill the Herzlian fantasy of a European outpost, but not just in the Orient – wherever the Orient “takes over,” that is, in Europe.

Remember Rotem Avitov, the anonymous Israeli expressing solidarity with Neo Nazi brothers I opened this article with ? In another clip posted by the “Shomron settlers committee,” a character depicts an anti-occupation professional, the quintessential back stabber. This character is presented as a greedy, long-nosed, servant of the Europeans with the accompanying text : “dozens of radical leftist organizations receive millions of Euros from Europe… To you [the Israeli], Europe may have changed, but to them [Europeans] you are exactly the same (my italics). The money that slanders settlements and soldiers will be revealed to you as a unique form of self-destruction. Wake up." (35) The Israeli dissenter is the Nazi figure of the eternal “enemy from within” Jew. The sick pathology of both clips can be summarized thus : in one the Israeli is the brother of the Neo Nazi proud of their common heritage, whereas in the other the Israeli (dissenter) is the old Jew of the anti-Semites ; in one, Europe is in danger, and in the other Europe is the danger ; one is addressing Europeans in Europe, the other is addressing Israelis in Israel. Yet taken together, these are commentaries on the mortal danger from changing conditions in the present ; doom scenarios depicting here the threat of Islam destroying Europe, and there the threat of internal dissent destroying Israel. They can be thus seen as an allegory for the life and death struggle for the survival of Zionism. Whether or not Neozionism succeeds will have to remain an open question. What can be definitely said is that a changing demography in Europe and the growth of dissent in Israel and beyond are not coincidently invoked in these perverse projections of cultural anxiety. Indeed, both can prompt the collapse the truth regime of Zionism and destroy it as a hegemonic system.

1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v64..., accessed 12.3.2015. See also account in Le Monde : http://www.lemonde.fr/m-actu/articl..., accessed 12.3.2015.

2 For excellent analysis see Hever, Shir. The Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation, Repression beyond Exploitation, Pluto Press, 2010. Cronin, Daviv. Europe’s Alliance with Israel, Aiding the Occupation, Pluto Press, 2011. Gordon, Neve, the Political Economy of Israel’s Homeland Security, The New Transparency project, The Surveillance Project, 2009.

3 Balibar, Etienne, Is there a ”New Racism” ? In Balibar, Etienne and Wallerstein, Immanuel (Eds.), Race, Nation, Class, Ambiguous Identities. London : Verso, 1991. p. 17-28.

4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90j..., published on January 27, 2015, last accessed 12.3.2015.

5 Brown, Wendy. American Nightmare, Neoliberalism, Neoconservatism, and De-Democratization, Political Theory, Volume 34, Number 6, December 2006, p. 693.

6 Castoriadis, Cornelius, World in Fragments, Writings on Politics, Society, Psychoanalysis, and the Imagination. Stanford University press, 1997.

7 Dayan, Hilla. “Principles of Separation Regimes : Apartheid and Contemporary Israel/Palestine,” In The Power of Inclusive exclusion, The Israeli Regime in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Michal Givoni, Adi Ofir, Sari Hanafi (eds.), Zone Books, USA, 2009.

8 Notable first Intifada orgs are Physicians for Human Rights (1988), B’tselem (1989), and the Public Committee against Torture (1990). Typical Second Intifada orgs are Machsom Watch (2001), Breaking the Silence (2004) and Gisha (2005).

9 Kimmerling, Baruch. Religion, Nationalism, and Democracy in Israel, Constellations Volume 6, No 3, 1999, p. 339-363.

10 Im Tirtzu (est. 2006) can also be described as a second Intifada org. Its slogan is “the Second Zionist Revolution” and it defines itself as a non-Parliamentary movement whose aim is to strengthen and promote the values of Zionism in Israel. Since its founding it has carried out public campaigns to purge critiques of Zionism in academia, civil society and beyond it. To give an example to its McCarthyism, a recent report on Tel Aviv University Minerva Center for Human Rights “black lists” affiliated researchers detailing their anti-Zionist activities in academia and in civil society.

11 For an account of this collective sense of paranoia and insecurity, see Dayan and Zuidhof Letter from Tel Aviv, Jewish Voice for Peace Blog, July 31, 2014. https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/blo....

12 Global Israeli Leadership conference, February 24-26, IDC Herzelia. All quotes from this event are based on field notes taken at the conference.

13 JPPI Survey on the Jews of France, December 2013. The estimated number of Jews in France is quoted there. This research was carried out on behalf of the Institute for Jewish People Policy, and conducted by Natalie Garson, Alan Zaitoun, under the supervision of Barry Bar-Zion, Rafi Barzilay and Dr. Dov Maimon (In Hebrew).

14 The Israeli Society : from a Historical and Biographical Outlook, a symposium in honor of the retirement of Prof. Aviva Chalamish. March 8, 2015.

15 Personal correspondence from February 2015.

16 http://www.publicseminar.org/2014/1...

17 Field notes from Global Israeli Leadership conference.

18 Quoted in Badiou Alain, Hazan Eric, Segre Ivan, Reflections on Anti-Semitsm, Verso Books, 2009, p. 78.

19 The Israeli Anat Koren, for example, is one of the founders of the new Israeli Alliance in Great Britain. During summer 2014 (operation “Protective Edge”), she founded with other volunteers the “situation room” (Heder Matzav in Hebrew) that launched “campaigns against Qatar, Iran and others.” Koren held numerous appearances in the British media during that time without holding any official state role.

20 Romeyn, Esther. “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia : Spectropolitics and Immigration,” Theory, Culture & Society, 31:77, April 2014.

21 “De antiracisten houden racism in stand,” Trouw, Nov. 10, 2014 (in Dutch).

22 The controversy has been the subject for an investigation by an expert group of the United Nations human rights commissison. See : http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/.... The recent documentary Zwart Als Roet by film maker Sunny Bergman (2014), shows the visible shock of random park dwellers in London to the sight of the character of Zwarte Piet, with celebrity Russel Brand calling it a racist “colonial hangover.” See fragment : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBL....

23 It is worth reflecting why it is possible to have a character such as Zwarte Piet wish washed from any “racism” while it is impossible to imagine a similar folkloric celebration depicting an offensive caricature of a long nosed Semite. It would be inconceivable, maybe because “the Jew” is a cultural taboo and such a character would be seen as anything other than racist, or maybe because both “the Jews” and “the Muslims” would find it equally offensive.

24 I am one of the founding members of Gate48, platform for critical Israelis in the Netherlands, which was established in 2007. www.gate48.org.

25 Badiou Alain, Hazan Eric, Segre Ivan, Reflections on Anti-Semitsm, Verso Books, 2009, p. 47.

26 See : http://www.theguardian.com/world/20...

27 Balibar, Etienne and Wallerstein, Immanuel, Race, Nation, Class, Ambiguous Identities, Verso, 1991.

28 Balibar and Wallerstein, p. 41.

29 Weiberg, David. The Renewal of Jewish Life in France after the Holocaust. Source : Gutman, Yisrael and Saf, Avital (eds.), She’arit Hapleta 1944-1948, Rehabilitation and Political Struggle, Proceedings of the Sixth Yad Vashem International Historical Confernece, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1990. pp. 169-174. Accessed 15.3.2015, www.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Microsof....

30 Mail Interview, February 23, 2015.

31 The two quotes are respectively from the JPPI report, p. 31 and p. 9.

32 Stoller, Ann Laura, “Colonial Aphasia : Race and Disabled Histories in France,” Public Culture 23:1, 2011.

33 Glick Schiller, Nina. “Racialized Nations, Evangelizing Christianity, Police States, and Imperial Power, Missing in action in Bunzl’s new Europe,” American Ethnologist, Vol. 32, No. 4, pp. 526-632, 2005.

34 See footnote 22.

35 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhb..., accessed 15 March 2015.