11/20 Beyond Zionism w/ Jonathan Graubart

November 20, 2023

Happy Monday! Sam and Emma speak with Jonathan Graubart, professor of political science at San Diego State University, to discuss his recent book Jewish Self-Determination beyond Zionism: Lessons from Hannah Arendt and other Pariahs. First, Sam and Emma run through updates on the growing death toll in Gaza, Israel’s turn towards Indonesian Hospital in Gaza, potential conditions on US aid to Israel, Biden’s cratering poll numbers, North Dakota’s violation of the Voting Rights Act, and flight attendant labor action, before parsing through the election of Javier Milei to the presidency of Argentina. Next, they’re joined by Jonathan Graubart as dives right into his work exploring the competing visions for Jewish self-determination outside of the extremist revisionist Zionism that dominates the conversation today. After touching on the pushback to his work, as well as the inspiration behind it, Graubart dives into the contrasting strains of Martin Buber’s vision of “cultural Zionism” – one that emphasized a non-statist revival of the Jewish community in the holy lands of Palestine – the mainstream, statist Zionism of Theodor Herzl, and the vitriolic revisionist Zionism of Ze’ev Jabotinsky (a legacy carried by Netanyahu), all of which were prevalent at the start of the 20th Century. Professor Graubart explores the central influence of European imperialism on Buber’s explicit rejection of Jewish nationalism in favor of a broader independent, spiritual, and socialist egalitarianism, before stepping into the practical application of Buber’s Zionism with the creation of various multi-faith and multi-cultural federations in the 1920s and ‘30s, alongside increasing pleas to his opponents in the Zionist community to embrace the presence of Palestinians as neighbors and community members. After briefly walking through the political leverage behind the various Zionist movements – and the particular role the British played in bolstering the plan for an exclusionary Jewish state – Graubart dives into the critiques of Zionism leveled by Hannah Arendt, contrasting Buber’s affirmative vision of Hebrew Humanism he hoped to create with her pathologizing of a Zionist movement that had once inspired her, as she explore the influence of “Eternal Anti-semitism Syndrome” (the belief that everyone, everywhere is against the Jews, at all times) and Tribal Nationalism in completely undermining the cultivation of Jewish culture, Jewish community, Jewish safety, and Jewish self-determination. Expanding on this, Professor Graubart explores the concept of “self-determination” itself, and the contradictory relationship between self-determination for a community that is moving into a region, and the continued autonomy of the pre-existing community. After parsing through the eventual breakdown of Buber’s Humanist Zionism amid increasing power and violence exercised by the Zionist right, as well as Palestinian resistance to a bi-national solution (while supporting the presence of Jews as community members with equal rights), and the role of the 1948 Nakba in officially destroying the unique possibilities of a productive Zionism, Sam, Emma, and Jonathan wrap up with a tentative discussion on the future of any solution to this conflict.

And in the Fun Half: Sam and Emma watch Anderson Cooper let active rhetoric of genocide go unchecked, Biden’s torpedoing approval ratings, and the expansion of the cleansing of Gaza to regional conflict. They also discuss the inequality of marriage for disabled Americans, Francisco from Buenos Aires reflects on his country’s election of Javier Milei and the historical context, Chris Christie has an embarrassing appearance on Meet the Press, Rep. Clay Higgins perfectly shows the insanity of the GOP, and Russell Brand perfectly shows the insanity of both himself and Alex Jones, plus, your calls and IMs!

Check out Jonathan’s book here: https://tupress.temple.edu/books/jewish-self-determination-beyond-zionism

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