Zionism is at its basis a right-wing position within Jewish politics, even though some streams within it have tried to emulate the Left or were deeply inspired by Leftist ideas.
There are two basic positions Jewish people have put forward regarding our liberation in a world dominated by those who have marginalized, exploited, and harmed us:
- Position A says we must band together with other oppressed people everywhere to dismantle the systems oppressing us.
- Position B says instead we have to gather together, away from gentile oppressors, and set up our own system to protect and promote our interests.
A is obviously a Leftist project, B is at the very least a rejection of basic Leftist aspirations — equality, fraternity, and liberty — as it rejects the notion that Jewish people can or should make common cause with their non-Jewish compatriots to attain equality.
Furthermore, Position A (Jewish Leftism) rejects the nation state, identifying it as a site of our own oppression and the oppression of others.
Position B (Zionism) meanwhile embraces the nation state (be it as a Good or as a Lesser Evil), operating on the assumption that someone has to be on top, so we should at least create a space where it’s us.
A tiny bit of history
Before the Holocaust, Zionism was the minority political movement within Jewish communities, while Jewish Leftism was vibrant and widespread. (Of course, there were also non-political Jewish people who pursued neither, in some places seeking to quietly assimilate among the majority without organizing politically with other Jews as Jews.)
But Jewish Leftists in Europe tended to stay and fight while Zionists generally fled to Palestine and elsewhere. After the mass murder of our people, much of the Jewish Left was physically gone, the survivors scattered and disorganized, while Zionism came out stronger than ever, both because its centers of power (mainly the Yishuv in Palestine) were thankfully spared from the annihilation, and because in the carnage of the War and Holocaust, many people (of all backgrounds, everywhere) gravitated towards nationalistic thinking.
Answering the Right’s question
The Jewish world has since been overwhelmingly dominated by Zionist thought and organization, to the point that for many in Israel and abroad, going further Left than progressive liberal Zionism has not been seen as an option at all. But the left flank of a right-wing movement is still right, not left.
Whatever values and ideas may be added on in a specific ideology, stream, or movement, the core of Zionism remains right-wing. The basic question it answers is the antisemitic/nationalist “Jewish Question” – should Jewish people live among non-Jewish people?
Zionism answers as antisemites do: NO.
We can have compassion for those whose world view was formed through the 20th century, and understand why they adopted such a reactionary, self-hating point of view as Zionism, but we still have to reject it.
We still have to say, our answer is YES. Wherever we live, there we belong!