Jewish Critical Theory Will Win Back Progressive Jews to Zionism

Critical theory is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to studying and exposing how subconscious societal, cultural and discursive structures determine human behavior. Jewish critical theory, i.e. a) exposing and discrediting Anti-Jewish structures in discourse, b) deploying rabbinic discursive modes in all kinds of discourses and c) advocating for indigenous nations everywhere, including in the Arab world; if realized on a sufficiently large discursive scale will 1) bring back Zionism to the radical left, 2) integrate Jewish experiences of Anti-Zionist Anti-Semitism with Intersectionality, 3) restore Zionism in academia, 4) deconstruct and discredit discrimination against Israel in discourses of the media, 5) repopularize Talmudic discursive modes among non-Orthodox Jews and 6) bring back young progressive Jews to Zionism.  

It would be a mistake to consider Intersectionality specifically or critical theory generally as a threat, rather Zionism must engage with the contemporary discursive basis of leftwing politics which is founded in critical theory. Zionism has for long failed to engage with the very discourses where the most virulent and dynamic form of contemporary Anti-Semitism in the West thrives and proliferates. This was a severe mistake but it is certainly not too late to correct as Intersectionality specifically and critical theory generally are very open to experiences of the oppressed and the tragic experiences of the Jews (including the Holocaust, the Diaspora experience e.g. in Muslim lands, historical Anti-Jewish oppression in Palestinian society and suffering from discrimination within contemporary discourses) have hitherto not been articulated in critical theory in effectively excluding Jews from the moral considerations of Intersectionality. 

While it is always unfair to blame Jews for Anti-Semitism, in this case have Jews effectively allowed Anti-Zionism to fester and proliferate by not intervening in the very discourses of critical theory from which the most dynamic form of contemporary Western Anti-Semitism emanates. The bizarre notion that counterterrorism equals oppression has allowed Palestinians to falsely claim being oppressed in deploying the despicable Nazi trope of Jews as “oppressors”. The Palestinist claim to being oppressed by Jews is in fact as false the Nazi claim to be oppressed by Jews. 

As critical theory was originally a Jewish academic field (the Frankfurt school) that was certainly not unfriendly towards Israel, is the Zionist reappropriation of critical theory essential and urgent indeed.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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