Prof. Hasia Diner is a highly respected scholar at New York University who specializes in Jewish history. She is also one of the scholars and activists connected with The Third Narrative (TTN), our project that advocates a peaceful two-state resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian-Arab people, respecting the national aspirations and democratic rights of both populations.
Her decision to co-author an anti-Zionist op-ed article in Haaretz (“We’re American Jewish historians. This is why we’ve left Zionism behind“) with another distinguished scholar in Jewish studies, Prof. Marjorie N. Feld of Babson College, has understandably drawn great attention in the Jewish world. Although we share these writers’ basic concerns and frustrations with today’s Israel as led by pro-settler rightwing parties, the general reaction of TTN members who expressed themselves was that Professors Diner and Feld are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The President and the CEO of Ameinu, TTN’s organizational sponsor, teamed up with two leaders of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) to register their dissent in “Why progressive Jews mustn’t give up on Zionism.”
A number of our TTN colleagues were taken with the powerful yet respectful reaction of Noah Efron (chair of the Graduate Program for Science, Technology & Society at Bar Ilan University), “American Jewish Historians Shouldn’t Succumb to Crude Clichés About Zionism,” also published in Haaretz. His theme is encapsulated in the descriptive sentences immediately under the article’s title:
We don’t need Diner and Feld to be Zionists, nor to ‘Stand with Israel.’ We need them to bring the same humanity and discernment they show writing the history of Jews in other times and places to their analysis of the situation in Israel.
Two other TTN participants, Mira Sucharov (an associate professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and a columnist for Haaretz) and Peter Eisenstadt (an independent historian and author who was a member of Hashomer Hatzair in his youth), co-wrote a response in +972 Magazine to Noah Efron’s piece, entitled “No, Palestinians don’t need to empathize with the Zionist narrative.” While not giving up on Israel, Sucharov and Eisenstadt do place Zionism under scrutiny:
While we do not share their emotional detachment from Israel, we think that Diner and Feld’s anguished essay is important in urging us to consider how fealty to Zionism may hinder creative thinking about Israel’s future. If one ideal of Zionism was to create a Jewish state, another was to “normalize” the condition of the Jewish people. Zionism has succeeded in the first task, and not the second. Israelis are challenged both by the ongoing state of enmity from many corners as well as by having become almost permanent occupiers of another people. Neither of these conditions approach normalcy. . . .
But not all of us may agree with their conclusion:
. . . That Zionism helped to create the current impasse with the Palestinians is undeniable. Whether it can be of any assistance in resolving it is far less clear.