[News] “We Fight, Therefore We Are:” Zionism’s Epistemology

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 13 11:15:51 EST 2015

  “We Fight, Therefore We Are:” Zionism’s Epistemology

by Dr. HATEM BAZIAN <http://www.turkeyagenda.com/author/dr-hatem-bazian/>

Director, Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ramon’s Grosfoguel, in a seminal article, The Structure of Knowledge in 
Westernized Universities 
<http://scholarworks.umb.edu/humanarchitecture/vol11/iss1/8/>, provided 
a conceptualization of multiple genocides/epistemicides, which can and 
should be extended to deconstruct the Zionist settler colonial project. 
 From its epistemic inception, Zionism’s settler colonialism was 
directed at the Palestinians and culminating in ethnic cleansing, 
destruction of villages and towns as well as the constant structured 
violence directed at the population.

Rene Descartes statement, “I think therefore I am” for Grosfoguel and 
Enrique Dussel was preceded by 150 years of “I conquer, therefore I am”, 
which for the Zionist settler colonial project may be translated into “I 
ethnically cleanse therefore I am.” 
<http://scholarworks.umb.edu/humanarchitecture/vol11/iss1/8/> In almost 
identical ontological and epistemic conceptualization, Menahem Begin 
maintained that “we fight, therefore we are,”as an ideological formation 
for the Zionism, which since the establishment of the state has become 
the bedrock in the process of building and expanding a militaristic 
state. (Menahem Begin, /The Revolt/, p. 26)

“Out of blood and fire and tears and ashes, a new specimen of human 
being was born, a specimen completely unknown to the world for over 
1,800 years, the "FIGHTING JEW." It is axiomatic that those who fight 
have to hate… We had to hate first and foremost, the horrifying, 
age-old, inexcusable utter defenselessness of our Jewish people, 
wandering through millennia, through a cruel world, to the majority of 
whose inhabitants the defenselessness of the Jews was a standing 
invitation to massacre them.” (Menahem Begin, /The Revolt/, pp. xi-xii)

Begin’s statement above has to be understood in the broader Zionist 
movement attempt at constructing the new national and modern Jewish 
identity in Palestine; epistemologically vested in might and power. For 
Begin and his movement, the approach was not confined to securing a 
piece of land, important as it maybe, rather it was an attempt to do 
away with the ‘weak’ and ‘meek’ Jewish person living and being a 
constant subject of anti-Semitism and relentless oppression in Europe 
and other parts of the world.

In Zionism, Begin and others sought to constitute the new independent, 
assertive, powerful, secular and national Zionist Jewish figure forging 
ahead by fighting to claim a place in the world. “We fight” for Begin 
and the Zionists is at the heart of identity formation, which if done 
consistently would help castaway the old and weak Jewish person that was 
subject to the diktat and power of others living in ghettos awaiting 
divine salvation. Begin’s maintained the new revolting Zionist Jew 
“began to fight instead of to plead.” Zionists took matters into their 
hands since salvation is not coming anytime soon considering all the 
suffering experienced by Jews in the real world and only might and power 
in the world can alter the course for the Jews.

“We fight” is about the Zionist Jews becoming masters of their own 
destiny and epistemologically located in the modern world as equals to 
‘Western man’ crafting nationhood through blood, might, conquest and 
colonization as well. For the Zionist, the fighting was on behalf of a 
national liberation movement intended on ending Jewish persistent 
subjection and oppression at the hands of Europe first and foremost and 
then after the birth of the state included everyone that opposes the 
settler Zionist project; Palestinians included. Indeed, “Zionism 
secularized and nationalized Judaism” for it is not the book that guides 
but the power of the gun that defines the constituted national 
community. (IlanPappe, /The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine/, p. 11)

In the same way that the “I” for Descartes “replaces God as the new 
foundation for knowledge” and its production, the Zionist in Palestine 
by embracing a Eurocentric, racist, genocidal and exclusivist world view 
embarked on a nationalist project founded upon settler colonialism with 
the powerful Zionist person replacing God in forging a state. Fighting 
and power gives meaning to the Zionists as they moved to a form a new 
modern Jewish person that exists in the here and now while being ready 
to take hold of its future and not waiting for a non-acting God in the 

For Begin militancy and violence was a way to reshape identity since 
“for nearly two thousands years, the Jews, as Jews, had not borne arms, 
and it was on this complete disarmament, as much psychological as 
physical, that our oppressors calculated.” The link between arms and 
exile was explicit as Begin asserted that we Jews: “gave up our arms 
when we were exiled form our country.” Thus, the notion of return to the 
land is also epistemologically a restoration of strength and use of 
arms. Exile would be brought to an end by means of the emergence of the 
powerful Zionist Jewish figure restored in the land by resorting to 
arms. Consequently, the ineffective God of Judaism is replaced by the 
Zionists figure that is acting within history and restoring the Jews to 
the land through human agency, a national project and use of arms.

The “Jewish question” in Europe was thought to be addressed by means of 
birthing into the modern world a strong and militant Zionist Jew that 
can bring to an end the political quietism of Orthodox or traditional 
Judaism that up to this point have not been able to defend the Jewish 
person from European violence and endemic anti-Semitism.

For Herzl and the Zionists, militancy was about saving Jews from the 
ever-present pogroms in Europe, “of ‘fighting’ the scourge of 
anti-Semitism, of ‘conquering’ the land, ‘capturing’ the Diaspora of 
Jewish communities, ‘combating’ assimilation; the alliances he sought 
with the rich and powerful were both political and military; he 
advocated a ‘campaign’ of deception to get stubborn Jewish masses to 
emigrate. ” The Zionist project was an internal epistemic one focused on 
challenging, rejecting and changing existing Jewish attitudes toward 
their own text, history and conditions to urge them all to take matters 
into their own hands by embracing nationalism. Externally, the Zionist 
effort was directed at securing Palestine from the British to begin 
building a settler colonial nation-state.

The new Zionist attitude is evident in the writings of both Micah 
Berdichevski and Saul Tchernickovski who required setting aside ‘the 
Book’ while taking up the sword to build the state. “The world” for 
Begin “does not pity the slaughtered. It only respects those who fight,” 
and Zionist set out to forge the modern fighting identity. Force and 
violence as a framework was unleashed on the Palestinians starting with 
the first Zionist secret defense organization in Palestine lead by both 
David Ben Gurion and Yitzak Ben Zvi commenting in the first meeting that 
“not by word of mouth shall a nation be saved, nor shall a country be 
rebuilt by speeches. ‘In blood and fire Judea fell, in blood and fire it 
shall rise again.’

It is modernity and secular materiality that was at the heart of the 
Zionist project, which was certainly an internalizing of Eurocentric 
conceptualization of the human and his/her agency in the world. In this 
view, the human emerges into the modern devoid of metaphysics and 
meaning, rather becoming a pure byproduct of the material and an 
instrument to shape and be shaped by it. Such a material human responds 
to and is molded by power having internalized the Eurocentric racist 
structure that was imposed upon it. Zionism internalized the modern 
national European project and reproduced it in creating the new Zionist 
figure that only acts and responds to power for it is the measure of 
meaning in the modern material world.

The modern, nationalist and material Zionist epistemic is diametrically 
opposite the classical and Orthodox Judaism on the question of return to 
Palestine. Up to the point of the emergence of Zionism it was 
universally accepted that only when the awaited Messiah arrives into the 
world that the return is authorized otherwise it is a violation of 
universally recognized Jewish teachings. Indeed, the early Reform Jewish 
response to Zionism was articulated in the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, 
with the official statement reading: "We consider ourselves no longer a 
nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return 
to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the 
restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state."

Just as Important was the views of Jews in Palestine and their response 
to Herzl’s invite to join in the Zionist effort. Rabbi Joseph Hayyim 
Sonnenfeldt wrote from Jerusalem in 1898, expressing the “dismay in the 
Holy Land” and describing Zionists as “evil men who deny the Unique one 
of the world and His holy Torah have proclaimed with so much publicity 
that it is in their hands to hasten Redemption of the People of Israel 
and gather the dispersed from the ends of the Earth.” Furthermore, Rabbi 
Sonnenfeldt concluded his letter by stating that “Doctor Herzl comes not 
from the Lord but from the side of pollution, for we say: anyone who 
pleads in defense of Israel is exalted in the world by the Holy One – 
blessed be He -, while this evil man pleads in condemnation and 
multiplies accusations.”

A similar view was articulated aroundthe same time in 1897,by the 
leading American Reform Rabbi, Issac Mayer Wise who stated:“We totally 
disapprove of any attempt for the establishment of a Jewish State … We 
affirm that the object of Judaism is not political nor national, but 
spiritual, and addresses itself to the continuous growth of peace, 
justice, and love in the human race, to a Messianic time when all men 
will recognize that they form one great brotherhood for the 
establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.”

Albert Einstein expressed an identical perspective opposing Zionism in 
1930, and stating:“Apart from practical considerations, my awareness of 
the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state, with 
borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. 
I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain – especially from 
the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against 
which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish 
State. We are no longer the Jews of the Maccabee period. A return to a 
nation in the political sense of the word would be equivalent to turning 
away from the spiritualization of our community which we owe to the 
genius of our prophets.”

“In blood and fire” was sacrilegious for the Orthodox and reform Judaism 
and up to the late 1930s the Zionist were in the minority on the 
question of the return to Palestine if it was on the basis of 
nationalism. It is this worldview that gives birth to the militant 
strand in Zionism and eventually becomes the pillar around which the new 
state is formed. The use of violence was not only an instrument of 
defending oneself or fighting to claim Palestine but an epistemic 
foundational building block and a shift that makes the modern 
nationalist Zionist a reality. Constituting the state becomes a function 
of affirming the veracity of the epistemic shift and the reorientation 
of Judaism itself into the Zionist point of view. ‘Blood and might’ for 
the Zionist is what saves the Jews rather than the book and God who is 
seen to have failed in doing so many times over.

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