In his recent book The No-State Solution: A Jewish Manifesto, Daniel Boyarin—a distinguished professor of ancient Judaism at the University of California, Berkeley—takes old arguments against Zionism and dresses them up in the trendiest of academic clothing. The Jews, he contends, should celebrate their religious and national heritage, but realize that they are a thoroughly diasporic people who should embrace “not the promise of security, but rather the highly contingent possibility of an ethical collective existence.” Cole Aronson writes in his review:
One might propose that Jewish Zionists didn’t like life in Europe because Gentile mobs—often with the acquiescence or support of Gentile overlords—had abused, expelled, and killed Jews over and over again for centuries. Occasionally, Boyarin concedes that Jewish life before Israel was not all peaches and cream. But according to The No-State Solution, the thing most urgently to be remedied is not the misery or precariousness of Jewish life in the Diaspora, but that Jews came to associate misery and precariousness with life in the Diaspora. Western Gentiles not only made the Jews suffer; they also—the devils—confused the Jews into thinking that their suffering was due to their lack of a state with which to defend themselves against their enemies. If only Herzl, Weizmann, and Jabotinsky had realized the European imperialist source of their opposition to Jewish statelessness!
Early on, Boyarin asks: “What kind of social identity do we want for the Jews?” Good question. But without an analysis of the current Israeli answer and some thoughts on the likely consequences of other answers, Boyarin should not expect a serious hearing for his own. What Boyarin calls a “question of values” is not analyzed with respect to his progressive values or any other values. He doesn’t assess the costs and benefits of his proposed binational state in Palestine for the “Jews who live and breathe” there. He doesn’t do it for Palestinians, either.
In Boyarin’s view, for Jews to keep others safe is the ethical thing, whereas for Jews to do the one thing proven to keep themselves safe is at best the “secure” thing, at worst the “racist” or “fascist” thing.