[Buddha-l] One Buddhist's perspective on Zionism

Gad Horowitz horowitz at chass.utoronto.ca
Sun May 22 11:47:54 MDT 2005

In fact Jewish Palestine, later Israel, was the only country in history
which actually established a genuine socialist way of life governed mostly
by working class organizations which lasted for decades.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Dan Lusthaus" <dlusthau at mailer.fsu.edu>
To: "Buddhist discussion forum" <buddha-l at mailman.swcp.com>
Sent: Saturday, May 21, 2005 4:07 PM
Subject: Re: [Buddha-l] One Buddhist's perspective on Zionism

> Artur,
> I am no expert on Buddhist Socialism, and am not even sure it refers to a
> single phenomenon. Perhaps others can flesh this out a bit. My impression
> that, due to local trends and international trends, especially in the
> half of the twentieth century, some forms of socialist and even marxist
> social theory were taken up by various South and South East Asian
> (intellectuals and intellectual monastics mostly), including some
> figures, who then attempted to harmonize Buddhist social theory (as they
> understood or actively constructed it) with various socialist ideals. I am
> not sure to what extent, if any, these exercises in theory and disputation
> ever took on institutional or real-life form(s). Again, perhaps others can
> provide more details and specifics.
> Zionist Socialism, on the other hand, has its roots in the latter part of
> the first half of the nineteenth century. Its formative influences include
> the Young or Left Hegelians (which Moses Hess participated in, and
> introduced, separately Marx and Engels to) and a number of other trends,
> radical and otherwise, at play in Germany at that time. By the end of the
> nineteenth century, the secular Zionist movement, infused by the thinking
> and spirit of Theodor Herzl and others, was primarily composed of Jewish
> Socialists, active throughout Europe (Austria, Germany, Russia, Poland,
> etc.). It was these socialists who encouraged and organized many of the
> newer waves of immigration (immigration to Palestine had been going on for

> centuries, joining up with, and sometimes competing with Jewish groups who
> were already established there, or had been there in perpetuity) and
> established Jewish communal farming communities (which evolved into the
> Kibbutz movement) and the proto-groups that were to become the Israeli
> govt., labor unions (the Histadruth), socialized medicine (Kupat Cholim),
> etc. For most of the twentieth century Jewish leadership in Palestine and
> then Israeli politics were dominated by socialists. The Labor party (which
> in Israel really meant socialist party, unlike the misuse of such "labels"
> by political parties in many other countries) ruled for the first several
> decades of Israel's existence. Most of the parties competing against were
> even further to the left. So unlike the Buddhist Socialists, the Zionist
> Socialists actually built a country and a culture based on Socialist
> principles going back to pre-Marx days. Exigencies -- political,
> existential, and economic -- have moved Israel more toward capitalistic
> systemics and gradually away from the Socialist principles of its founders
> and pioneering generations -- much as Europe and other places in the world
> are doing these days as well.
> In short, while Buddhist Socialism is a late byproduct of a certain
> socialist Zeitgeist of the mid- to late 20th century, Zionist Socialism
> a potent and influential force in the inception, theory and practice of
> socialism itself.
> Dan Lusthaus
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