Zionism’s “Cold Logic and Deep Passion” Blocks Obama

by James M. Wall

The politics of Hope smashed into the Iron Wall that Israel continues to build to enclose Zionism in its own security blanket.

What happened when the Politics of Hope hit the Iron Wall of security?

Settler settlement growth increased; an Hamas leader died under suspicious circumstances in Dubai; more targeted Israeli Defense Force attacks struck West Bank citizens; Gaza still lies in ruins, its people unable to rebuild.

Meanwhile, the Gaza blockade is made even stronger with Egypt’s cooperation, reducing the flow of food, medicines, and building supplies into Gaza from the south.

Israel’s security blanket remains a prison wall surrounding all of Palestine.

The Goldstone Report is slowly disappearing. Once considered a serious theat to Israel, given the careful manner in which the Report was assembled under the leadership of the respected Jewish Judge Richard Goldstone, the Report languishes in UN file cabinets.

How do we know the Report is no longer a threat? We have that reassurance from a reliable source, David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post. (See spelling correction below.)

Horovitz spoke with “insider friends” in Washington, you know, those folks who are oozing with love, admiration and support for Israel (the Israel Lobby for short) and Horovitz was assured, as he wrote in a recent Post editorial, that the Goldstone threat is fading, thanks to Israel’s staunch ally, Barack Obama:

They stress that the administration has been rock solid on the Goldstone Report – voting in vain against its adoption in the United Nations Human Rights Council in October, and again in the General Assembly in November.

While countries from which we might have expected better failed to stand up for what amounted to Israel’s right to self-defense, and while certain European nations have now become no-go zones for Israeli leaders facing a genuine fear of arrest for purported war crimes, they point out, the US is firmly in Israel’s corner.

Why should readers of the Jerusalem Post worry about a little thing like the United Nations?  Ethnic cleansing continues to run rampart over every UN resolution adopted since 1948. The politics of Hope cannot touch ethnic cleansing.  It cannot even dent the Iron Wall behind which Israel lives in his secure military enclave.

True enough, the minority Republican party in Washington remains, in Time magazine’s Joe Klein’s terms,”paralyzed by cynicism and hypocrisy”, but that is just fine with Horovitz, so long as the Republican paralysis remains, again, in Klein’s words, “undergirded by inchoate ideological fervor.”

It is because of this Washington political paralysis, and the Republicans’ “inchoate ideological fervor” that Israel is able to fend off the Goldstone Report, and ignore angry world opinion outside the US.

Should Jerusalem Post readers worry about American voters who are facing “financial strains more acute than they have been for decades”?

No problem, Horovitz’ DC insiders assure him: Foreign aid to Israel will remain “untouched, secure and considerable – in the familiar region of $3 billion this year.”

Of course, Horovitz adds, there is still that pesky matter of those idealistic young protestors on American campuses.

A ferocious assault on Israel’s legitimacy is under way at innumerable American university campuses – the disease of British academia spreading across the pond. But the administration is robust. We’ve really only got one significant partner in this particular aspect of the battle against our delegitimation, they add, but if you’ve only got one ally, thank goodness it’s America.

In her review of M. Shadid Alam’s new book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism, political analyst and author Kathleen Christison traces the changing understanding of Zionism.

Until recent years, the notion that Zionism was a benign, indeed a humanitarian, political movement designed for the noble purpose of creating a homeland and refuge for the world’s stateless, persecuted Jews was a virtually universal assumption.

In the last few years, particularly since the start of the al-Aqsa intifada in 2000, as Israel’s harsh oppression of the Palestinians has become more widely known, a great many Israelis and friends of Israel have begun to distance themselves from and criticize Israel’s occupation policies, but they remain strong Zionists and have been at pains to propound the view that Zionism began well and has only lately been corrupted by the occupation.

Christison writes that the essential point of Alam’s book is made clear in the inscription in the frontispiece.

From the Persian poet and philosopher Rumi, the quote reads, “You have the light, but you have no humanity. Seek humanity, for that is the goal.”

Alam, professor of economics at Northeastern University in Boston . . . follows this with an explicit statement of his aims in the first paragraph of the preface.

Asking and answering the obvious question, “Why is an economist writing a book on the geopolitics of Zionism, he says that he “could have written a book about the economics of Zionism, the Israeli economy, or the economy of the West Bank and Gaza, but how would any of that have helped me to understand the cold logic and the deep passions that have driven Zionism?”

Alam demonstrates clearly, through voluminous evidence and a carefully argued analysis, that Zionism was never benign, never good—that from the very beginning, it operated according to a “cold logic” and, per Rumi, had “no humanity.”  Except perhaps for Jews, which is where Israel’s and Zionism’s exceptionalism comes in.

Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz, did not use the term exceptionalism, when he wrote that his colleagues in Washington had reassured him that one year into the Obama administration, nothing had changed  on Israel’s other “home front”.

But there is certainly something exceptional about the undying loyalty US elites and leaders feel for Israel.

Israel’s loyal teammates in the US include the Congress, the media, and the ever faithful military-industrial complex.

Essential for the US-Israel axis, carefully cultivated in each new generation, are the cautious, excessively civil and reliably timid, American churches. Lets face it, Israelis are smart. They know it never hurts to have God on your side.

Over time, this could begin to change. Increasingly of late, courageous and aggressive Protestant activists have stepped up their travel to, and personal interaction with, Palestinians. They have returned home shocked at what they have seen and experienced.

A scene at the end of the highly effective DVD produced by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a vivid testimony from one traveler, spoken to his fellow travelers on the last day of a trip to Palestine/Israel.

The study book, which includes the DVD, is Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace, produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, part of the denomination’s education program.

The speaker is the Rev. Andrew Rosencranz, a Presbyterian pastor. With barely restrained anger and frustration, Rosencranz, says: “I did not know that I did not know”.

This, of course, is Israel’s greatest nightmare, American pastors and laity discovering the Palestinian narrative.

Among all the American denominations, and I am not revealing secrets here, it is the Presbyterians, bless their orderly Reformed hearts, who have taken the lead in the effort to push a Palestinian justice and peace agenda.

This is still a minority movement. Church leaders are especially slow to even acknowledge the issue. The harsh reality remains, as the old saying goes, “the higher the steeple, the more timid the church below will be.”

Every church member or pastor who has taken an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel knows, perhaps hidden deep inside, that Zionism has successfully targeted Protestant circles of power for a very long time.

They are still at it, of course. Look for Zionism’s representatives at judicatory meetings. They will be pushing for “fair and balanced” resolutions.

Could that be where Fox News got its operative slogan?

Then there is the silence of the American media. Forget about the overt Zionists like Friedman, Goldberg, Will, and the Fox crowd.

As in the church and the Congress, you will find an abundance of PEPs in the media. (A PEP, in case you did not get the memo, is a Progressive Except on Palestine.) You know who they are, especially if you watch MSNBC.

There will always be well meaning folks in both the media and in the churches, who will respond to earthquakes in Haiti, and hunger in America. But these same folks quickly shy away from the “complications” involved in discussing the “Palestinian issue”. These are the people who can’t afford to “offend” others or harm “fragile” relationships.

Uri Avnery, the veteran Israeli peace agitator, activist, and author,  recently called out Israelis who support worthy causes, but who have allowed themselves to become Israeli PEPs, Progressive except for Peace.

He is speaking to Israeli Jews, of couse, but if American progressives will just lift their sights a bit, they will find that the shoe fits here as well.

Avnery starts by listing the good causes that Israelis embrace, especially the younger activists.

The struggle for preserving the environment and the future of the planet.

The struggle for democracy against fascist trends.

The struggle for human rights and civil rights.

The feminist struggle.

The struggle for the rights of gays and lesbians.

The struggle for social justice and social solidarity.

The struggle for equal rights for Israel’s Arab citizens. The struggle against the discrimination of Oriental Jews.

The struggle for the separation of religion and state.

The struggle for animal rights. Etc. etc. etc.

What do all these causes have in common?

All of them belong to the liberal, “progressive” world view. Each and every one of them deserves full-hearted devotion, especially of young people. But after all, all of them serve today as substitutes for the main battle – the struggle for peace with the Palestinian people.

There is a danger that all these struggles will become something like “cities of refuge” for young idealists, who desire to devote themselves to a noble cause, but have no desire to take part in the main struggle.

Since every one of these struggles is indeed important and is for a good cause, no one can argue with these activists. Scores of organizations are now active in these fields, and thousands of wonderful people – male and female, old and young – are devoting themselves to these causes.

I, too, would willingly join every one of them, were it not – – – Were it not for the fact that all of them – all together and each of them separately – are now draining the life out of the struggle for peace.

Avnery has lived in Israel since before the modern state was created.  He was, as a young man, a soldier in the Israeli Defense Force. Later, he was active in forming a political peace party and was elected to the Knesset.

His love for Israel is that of a Jew who wants only the best for his land and his people.  So it is understandable that he sets the mark higher than an American might. But we who live on this side of the Atlantic, far from the daily struggles in Israel-Palestine, have to acknowledge the prophetic wisdom in his conclusion:

As I see it, peace stands above all other aims, not least because the success of all other struggles depends on the outcome of this fight.

The unending war creates a reality of occupation and oppression, of death and destruction, brutality and cruelty, moral degeneration and general bestiality.

Can any ideal be realized in this situation? Can feminism, for example, achieve its aims in a country that is in the throes of an unbridled chauvinist militarism?

Avnery knows all about what M. Shadid Alam describes as the “cold logic and deep passion” of Zionism. He also knows that an unchecked Zionism will be the ultimate downfall of Israel as a democratic state.

A Correction: An earlier version of this posting misspelled Post Editor’s David Horovitz‘ name as David Horowitz, leading readers to mistake him for the David Horowitz who is a well-known American conservative writer and activist who recently wrote critically of Howard Zinn.  My apologies to both Davids.

The picture at the top is by Jim Watson, an AFP/Getty image. The picture of Uri Avnery is from Wikipedia

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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15 Responses to Zionism’s “Cold Logic and Deep Passion” Blocks Obama

  1. Cotton Fite says:

    Horowitz is right. Nary a crack presently exists in the Administration’s or Congress’s uncritical support of Israeli policies. As evidence I recently received a message from the Illinois 10th District Democratic organization attacking Mark Kirk. [Kirk is the current Republican member of Congress from the 10th District and the new Republican nominee for Barack Obama’s US Senate seat.]

    Commenting on Kirk’s radical support for any and all Israeli policies, the (Jewish) writer commented that we don’t need Kirk’s manipulation of the emotions of Jewish voters. “Both (Senatorial) candidates support Israel. Both parties support Israel. Why? Because the American people support Israel and recognize the shared values that tie our countries together.”

    Jan Schakowsky [Democratic congresswoman from the Illinois 9th District] recorded a welcome to the recent gathering of Chicago’s organizing meeting for J Street. But as far as I could determine, Jan said nothing of substance and declined to add her signature to the 54 who signed McDermott’s letter encouraging Obama to take initiative to end the blockade of Gaza, a position J Street endorsed. As one of the House’s most progressive legislators, Jan consistently disappoints me.

    There are those 54 though. And there are those young people on campuses who seem to be gathering strength, and there are those citizens, both secular and faith-oriented, who are slowly getting the message that, though Jewish principles do, Israeli policies do not reflect our values.

  2. In 2004, Uri Avnery wrote the following about Mordechai Vanunu-who i see as an icon: meaning a representation of what is so very wrong with “The Right” and Zionism!

    “Everybody understands that he [Vanunu] has no more secrets. What can a technician know after 18 years in jail, during which technology has advanced with giant steps?

    “But gradually it becomes clear what the security establishment is really afraid of. Vanunu is in a position to expose the close partnership with the United States in the development of Israel’s nuclear armaments.

    “This worries Washington so much, that the man responsible in the State Department for ‘arms control’, Under-Secretary John Bolton, has come to Israel in person for the occasion. Vanunu, it appears, can cause severe damage to the mighty super-power.

    “The Americans, it seems, are very worried. The Israeli security services have to dance to their tune. The world must be prevented by all available means from hearing, from the lips of a credible witness, that the Americans are full partners in Israel’s nuclear arms program, while pretending to be the world’s sheriff for the prevention of nuclear proliferation.”

    Excerpted from The 64th Anniversary of USA Terrorism Enlightened by the Wisdom of Nonviolence:


  3. Kathleen Matsushima says:

    This is all a reminder that those who HAVE seen cannot give up. The story is well hidden, but not invisible. It can be found and shared in such places as the excellent Presbyterian “Steadfast Hope” study materials that you mention. The DVD accompanying that material is clear and unforgetable.

    Sadly, excellent resources may be becoming less available in the USA. Two weeks ago, a vivid exposure of what is happening in a divided Jerusalem was produced by the BBC and shown throughout Europe and Asia. It was labeled “not available in your area” in this country. “A Walk in the Park” remains unavailable here through BBC sources, except through youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC1xG4j5kdA
    See it while you can!

    Thank you, Jim. Keep writing!!

  4. I think it’s important for those of us trying to tell the story of Israel/Palestine to distinguish between Zionism and Judaism. When we talk about Jews rather than Zionists, we reinforce the implication that all Jews are Zionists which is exactly what the Zionists want. From my perspective, Zionism lost its soul with in the influence of Vladimir Jabotinsky way back in the 1920s. From there, it has been all down hill.

    It’s nice to hear the Presbyterian’s lauded, but I see no action whatsoever at the Presbyterian grassroots level in Iowa. NONE. The only positive thing that has happened in a long time is the letter asking Obama to help the Gazans sent by 54 of our national representatives. We must appeal to power with a passion I’ve never noticed in the Presbyterian Church.

  5. Art Preisinger says:

    The leadership of the Lutheran Church (ELCA) has been active in supporting a just end to the conflict. (“Peace Not Walls” project.) Forty-four bishops went to the Holy Land a year ago in January just as the Gaza invasion had started. Their eyes were opened. But the grassroots? Like the Presbyterians, Lutheran grassroots support for a peace which includes the elimination of the settlements and the cessation of the occupation is sadly lacking.

  6. noushin says:

    Thanks for mentioning Steadfast Hope in this article. The entire video that accompanies the booklet can be viewed here, chapter by chapter:
    The clip in which the pastor says “I did not know that I did not know”, appears in the 4 min conclusion, which can be watched here:

    …and you can watch a short interview about the resource here:


  7. Bill Gepford says:

    If, as commented above, the soul of Israel has been lost, what hope is there? Truly, if the soul of Israel has been lost, then so has the soul of America, since Israel could not exist without America’s mammoth support.

    Thanks, Jim, for your continuing courageous stand! If only there were more willing to stand with you.

  8. I said the soul of Zionism, not the soul of Israel, although since I believe Israel is and has always been under the control of the most determined and violent Revisionist Zionists, it may very well be the same thing. Your comment leads me to think of one of the big problems in the Palestine/Israel discussions: we (including me) do not define our terms and we’re often talking around, over or under each other. There’s Zionism, Judaism, Israeli nationalism, secular Judaism, Christian Zionist, the Israeli government, the American government, the people who just want to get on with their lives. Where is soul in all these ideologies or are they political realities, greedy colonialist muckrakers, misled and misinformed people ? Where is the hope without a definition of what that is?

    I’m not sure the soul of Israel or America is lost, because I’m not sure either ever had this mystical and, still, undefined sensibility, being, whatever a soul is? Can a soul be good or bad? Having a soul has stopped precious few oppressors through the ages. For me, the message of the history of colonialism since the days of Alexander and further back than that doesn’t provide much hope. Hope, for me, lies in two things: action and educational development of humankind. Without a form of action and understanding of the other players, hope wilts us.

    I lament our silence, our complicity, our excuses, our inability to stay the course. For me, we gyrate in the wind of not knowing what to do or of how to be effective. That “gyrate” idea is from TS Eliot who also wrote “. . . . what rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem (or is it Jerusalem] to be born?” Frightening question isn’t it?

  9. Bill Gepford says:

    Betsy, I could not agree with you more. We do need to clarify what we mean by the words we use. Maybe that is what we have lost, a lack of clarification, deliberately so, so that we don’t have to expose ourselves too much. and not really our soul, whatever that might mean!


  10. The clarification has already been written by Mark Braverman in “FATAL EMBRACE”

  11. Harris Fawell says:

    Jim: We appreciate your writing. Hopefully,the President will eventually hear your words. Harris

  12. Thanks, Bill, I would go to almost any lengths to find the words and the definitions that would reach the American people so they would realize that injustice done to the Palestinians affects us all. Onward! This is a never ending story, unfortunately. I prefer to work on immigration, but Palestine is number one on my issues list.

    Thanks to Jim for providing this forum which I find actually usable and encouraging.

  13. Patricia Silva says:

    Keep on teaching us, Jim. I learned a lot from this article. I also learned a lot from the book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” by John J. Mearsheimer and Stehen M. Walt. I wish more people would read that book. It explains in detail how we and they got to the co-dependent place that we all occupy, and the consequences.

  14. George E says:

    On 8 Feb, Art P mentioned the Peace-Not-Walls website of the ELCA. Here’s its URL–http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls.aspx I invite you to have a look. Also, the ELCA and other churches are quite active in the Churches for Middle-East Peace advocacy organization–www.cmep.org One can sign on to their advocacy list and get the opportunity the make a statement via e-mail, which I did today, Feb 12, when I co-signed a letter to President Obama. Each year CMEP organizes a Congressional advocacy conference in Washington, DC. I encourage all to join the opportunity to make a statement to your members of Congress.

  15. Bill Gepford says:

    Have any of you read the latest issue of Newsweek magazine? It carries the latest debate on the Israeli/Palestine conflict. Note that before the debate those polled said Israel and the American government must keep their “special relationship.” After the debate it was just the opposite. the relationship should be altered. I have been saying this for forty years. I want to believe that the reason for the reverse is that they herd the truth of what is going on and realize that our government has not been conpletely honest on this score.
    As it was said some time ago, “truth is its own defense.” Has the time come for the American government to be honest with those they govern? I hope so.

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