Jerusalem defied many in the media's expectations that it would explode into violence after President Trump's decision to recognize the city as Israel's capital. But that hasn't stopped some liberal Zionists from predicting doom — and the demise of their own ideology.
Michelle Goldberg wrote in The New York Times this week that the announcement, along with the fruition of plans to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, would be the prime cause for the death of "liberal Zionism" — a concept that isn't explicitly defined but is generally understood to center on a two-state solution. Goldberg claimed Trump showed "Palestinians and Israelis alike" that he was "giving the Israeli government carte blanche to continue claiming Palestinian territory," even though she admitted the administration was "not prejudging the status of Jerusalem in a final peace deal."
There is likely a one-state future, and it "can be Jewish or it can be democratic, but it cannot be both," Goldberg argued. "Trump's embassy decision was thus another nail in the coffin of liberal Zionism."
She wasn't alone. On Dec. 6, the day of Trump's embassy announcement, Haroon Moghul wrote for NBC News that it "signal[ed] that the two-state solution is pretty much dead." The next day, UCLA Professor Saree Makdisi wrote an op-ed titled "Trump Just Dealt a Death Blow to the Two-State Solution" in the Los Angeles Times. Both were riddled with half-truths and selective omissions of history — namely any mention of Arab nations rejecting repeated land-for-peace offers by Israel or the fact that Arab countries initiated many of the wars where, as Makdisi put it, Israel "illegally" took land.
It's a particularly egregious bit of hypocrisy. From the Arab League's famous "Three No's" (no peace, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel) after the Six-Day War to Linda Sarsour telling Haaretz last year that she desired not a two-state solution but a single state (without Jewish self-determination), when those opposed to Israel's existence have actually denounced a two-state plan, they're not accused of hindering the peace process.
Moreover, liberal Zionism and its preferred two-state solution have persisted in the face of a growing chorus of critics insisting a one-state solution is now inevitable. A wide swath of American Zionists, from J Street to AIPAC, from Bernie Sanders to Alan Dershowitz, support a two-state solution. Despite Goldberg's and others' accounts, reports of the death of liberal Zionism are greatly exaggerated.
But even though it lacks substantive support, the "liberal Zionism is dead" refrain is dangerous because it makes it easier to convince liberals that they should dispense with Zionism altogether — liberal version or otherwise.
Zionism is the basic support for Jewish sovereignty; it entails no specifications about two-state solutions, settlements or, for that matter, opinions of Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet when critics argue that Trump's embassy move is the death knell for liberal Zionism, they are implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) making support for Israel a partisan issue. It brands Zionism as Trumpian and boosts the myth that liberalism and Zionism are mutually exclusive.
Prematurely announcing the death of liberal Zionism increases polarization around an issue that should be apolitical — recognizing that Jews have the same right to self-determination that has been granted to other religious, ethnic and national minority groups.
Moreover, it all but ensures that antipathy toward any form of Zionism will grow because it makes it easier to discount — or plainly demonize — the concept of Jewish sovereignty. The "liberal Zionism is dead" narrative insidiously lays the groundwork for people across the political spectrum to accept a world where Israel is dispensable.
That may sound hyperbolic, but a cursory examination of the way many left-leaning — though hardly fringe — outlets and activists discuss Israel shows how fast it becomes acceptable to vilify Jewish self-determination.
In June, the Chicago Dyke March ejected women for carrying rainbow flags with Stars of David on them, declaring that "Zionism is an inherently white-supremacist ideology." The founders never apologized and only doubled-down. Similarly, in October, Feministing ran an article on the Harvey Weinstein sexual-assault allegations that blamed the revolting acts on Zionism — and shamelessly defended their choice by claiming Zionism was "racism" and hostile to the #MeToo movement.
If the myth that liberal Zionism is a lost cause spreads, such fatally vile treatment of Israel will become the norm.