Monday, June 09, 2008

Jewish Self-Determination

Harry’s Place » Jewish Self-Determination
David Rosenberg of Jewish Socialist turns up in an unlikely place - Harry's Place - with a very well-argued critique of Zionism. You can also read him on the Anti-Nazi League in 1978 here.


ModernityBlog said...

It's a good thread, shame more JSG members didn't join in to back him up?

I hope he's well? David seems to have stopped posting?

TNC said...

I think there is a basic problem with definitions in this article. Self-Determination, in its most widely used sense, is *national* self-determination. As such, it presupposes a state.


Britannica Concise Encyclopedia: self-determination

Process by which a group of people, usually possessing a degree of political consciousness, form their own state and government. The idea evolved as a byproduct of nationalism. According to the UN charter, a people has the right to form itself into a state or to otherwise determine the form of its association with another state, and every state has the right to choose its own political, economic, social, and cultural systems.

Bob said...

Yes, I agreed with some of what David R said, and it provoked some interesting responses. Good for David T for opening HP to him! Why he (David R) did a guest post and then didn't bother to join the debate about it is beyond me - unless there is a good and (as modernity suggests) worrying reason!

His concept of self-determination is, as TNC says, utterly wrong-headed. The difference between national self-determination and cultural rights is big.

My own view is that national self-determination is, as at least one posted (including Red Deathy) said, a reactionary 19th century idea which we are much better off without - and that goes equally for Jewish national self-determination and Palestinian national self-determination.

I was rather irritated with the scorn that many of the HP posters treated the Bundist movement. The idea that it is wrong because most of its members died in the Holocaust is deeply, deeply offensive, especially because of the role Bundists played in what resistance there was, in the Warsaw ghetto and in the forests.

If they were wrong, it because the time they lived in did not yet have a conception of cultural identity and ethnicity that was not linked to either race or nation. They groped towards an idea of the right of Jews to be Jews, and the right to express this fully, but they could only do so in terms of the Jews as a nation. This led them (with Chaim Zhitlovsky and others) to accepting the Austro-Marxist idea of national cultural autonomy - which was probably the best approach in its day.

I also found offensive the position of some of the posters that there is no way of being Jewish without being a Zionist or being religious. David R and the Jewish Socialist Group have worked hard to transmit Jewish secular culture: Yiddish language, Jewish musics, Jewish literatures and so on. It is true, as one poster suggests, that this is harder to transmit down the generations, is correct, as a post by Jogo on this blog once suggested. But that does not mean that the effort should be laughed at. (Incidentally, the difficulty of such transmission is testified to by the ridiculous attack in the latest Jewish Socialist magazine on klezmer music, by someone I presume to be David R's son.)