How does the ideology of Progressive Zionism deal with the current crisis in Lebanon? Let’s first define our terms. Progressive Zionism has its roots in Labor Zionism and purports to provide an egalitarian, leftist, vision for a Jewish state in Israel/Palestine. Progressive Zionism suggests a two-state solution with “Palestine” comprising the West Bank and Gaza. Thus, Progressive Zionism sets itself apart from other types of Zionism by opposing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
However, the ideology remains supportive of the existence of an ethnically homogenous Jewish state (that’s what Israel is in any form of Zionism–feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Progressive Zionism ignores parts of the picture that are, in my opinion, crucial to actually creating a just peace in the region–for example, how to address the right of return of the 1948 Palestinian refugees. Further, Progressive Zionist organizations and individuals, in my own personal experience, tend to freak when confronted with any organized opposition to Israeli policies that does not come from within a mainstream Jewish framework (for example, the Call for Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment Against Israel put forth by Palestinian civil society groups).
In short, my opinion is that Progressive Zionism–an ideology held by many of my friends and family members (and, to be honest, by myself until relatively recently)–is essentially limited at best, and inherently flawed at worst, in terms of providing a useful and effective framework for creating a just peace in the region.
So what happens to Progressive Zionism in the face of Israel’s brutal attack on Lebanese infrastructure and sovereignty? Doesn’t this situation reveal the fundamental moral bankruptcy of the Israeli leadership (and state)? Doesn’t the utter callousness with which Israel decided to (re)invade Lebanon reveal, like the invasion of Iraq revealed for many Americans, the underlying greed, racism, and irrationality that informed that decision?
The sad, short answer is probably not.
Israel is indiscriminately bombing towns in Lebanon, and 90-95% of Israelis support this. What’s going on here? Shouldn’t American Jews finally notice that Israel has gone too far? Doesn’t the current situation present a rift for Progressive Zionism? After all, Progressive Zionism still holds that Israel is, deep down, a good idea. A misguided, misunderstood, poorly executed idea, yes, but a good idea nonetheless. But it should now be clearer than ever that the destruction of Lebanon (and the continued assault on the residents of Gaza) directly contradicts this view.
But of course, we have not been seeing a far-reaching re-evaluation of Israel by American Jews. Far from it, because, Progressive Zionism is still Zionism. It still is an ideology that basically supports Israel no matter what. Progressive Zionism, just like any other form, is still more concerned with well-being for Jewish people than for any other people. Look at the (lack of) response to the re-occupation of Gaza even before people had Lebanon to distract them.
And in the end, this lack of reaction (be it from apathy, shame, confusion, or any other reason) has the same effect as the US’s lack of reaction to Israel’s actions (It took Condoleeza Rice how long to get to Lebanon?): doing and saying nothing to protest Israel’s actions is the same exact thing as supporting them.