Toward a Diasporized (Multicultural) Israel
For those of us who are equally committed to social justice and collective Jewish existence some other formation must be constituted. I suggest that an Israel which reimports diasporic consciousness, a consciousness of a Jewish collective as one sharing space with others, devoid of exclusivist and dominating power, is the only Israel which could answer Paul's and Lyotard's and Nancy's call for a species-wide care, without eradicating cultural difference. I would propose an Israel in which individual and collective cultural rights would become an essential part of its structure, no longer coded as a Jewish State but as a bi-national, secular, and multicultural one. For historical models, one might look to the millet system of the Ottoman Empire, on the one hand, and to that multiculturalism now struggling to be born in the United States on the other. The point would be precisely to avoid both the coercive universalism of a France, the Pauline option, on the one hand, and the violence of a joining of ethnic particularism and state-power, contemporary Israel, on the other.
Reversing A. B. Yehoshua's famous pronouncement that only in a condition of political hegemony is moral responsibility mobilized, I would argue that the only moral path would be the renunciation of near-exclusive Jewish hegemony. This would involve, first of all, complete separation of religion from state, but even more than that the revocation of the Law of Return and such cultural, discursive practices that code the state as a Jewish State and not a multinational and multicultural one. The dream of a place that is ours founders on the rock of realization that there are Others there, just as there are Others in Poland, Morocco, and Ethiopia. Any notion, then, of Redemption through Land must either be infinitely deferred (as Natorei Karta understand so well) or become a moral monster. Either Israel must entirely divest itself of the language of race and become truly a state which is equally for all of its citizens and collectives, or the Jews must divest themselves of their claim to space. Race and space, or genealogy and territorialism, have been the problematic and necessary (if not essential) terms around which Jewish identity has revolved. In Jewish history, however, these terms are more obviously in dissonance with each other than in synergy. This allows a formulation of Jewish identity not as a proud resting place, indeed not as a “boast,” but as a perpetual, creative, diasporic tension.