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The apartheid state of


Tinder
DANIELSCHWARTZ MARCH6,2017,1:49PM

T
he following is a real Tinder conversation I had at midnight.

Me: Hey, Lisa! Reading anything good these days?

Lisa: Hey, Daniel! I am! Mostly poetry and theory, though I havent had much time to read fiction.
What about you?

Are you Israeli/Zionist?

Me: Oh, cool. What kind of theory? Im not Israeli, though I am Jewish. I am a Zionist, albeit a very
liberal one.

Lisa: Ooh man. I just got out of a relationship so Im looking for a casual sex partner. But Zionism is an
absolute deal breaker for me for friends and romantic [sic] and sex partners. Sorry about that! Good
luck with everything!

***

If Lisa (not her real name) had not been boycotting Zionists, then perhaps I would soon be telling our
child the story of HIMYM (for the uninitatied, How I Met Your Mother). For you see, son, I would say
to Salaam, what was initially a point of contention between your mother and meturned out to be the
thing we most had in common. We both believed in the right to self-determination and were both
opposed to The Occupation for this reason. But I dream.

For Lisa and I do disagree about something, something more basic than the Arab-Israeli conict, and
that is how to navigate disagreement itself. There is nothing wrong with being opposed to Zionism. I
am often deeply troubled by the idea of a state Muslim or Jewish drawn along ethnic or religious
lines. But, I am also deeply troubled by a persons refusal to engage with people or ideas that they nd
distasteful. Obviously, there are reasonable limits to ideological pluralism, but there are precious few
times when the answer to hateful speech is less speech and not more. Im following President Obama
in this, specically remarks he made to the United Nations in 2012:

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[I]n a diverse society, eorts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics
and oppress minorities.[T]he strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression;
it is more speechthe voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift
up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

It is true that certain attitudes in the hands of certain people can be physically dangerous to others
and precautions must, especially on dating apps, be taken. But a culture of silence and segregation is
also dangerous. If we cant associate with people we disagree with, then we cant coexist in the kind
of diverse society President Obama alluded to. I wish Lisa had been willing to hear me out even if she
didnt want to start a family. If she had stayed for my spiel, this is what I would have said:

Liberal Zionism and Palestinian nationalism are not mutually exclusive. By liberal Zionism I mean a
Zionism that takes as its animating principle the following lines from Israels founding document:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the
Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benet of all its inhabitantsit will
ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of
religion, race or sex.

The raison dtre of a liberal Zionist state is the protection of people who identify as Jewish and who
may be persecuted on this basis. However, a liberal Zionist state is also devoted to safeguarding the
rights of its non-Jewish citizens. Tragically, Israel has not made good on the promise of its founding
document and is not yet the kind of liberal democracy I would wish it to be. Nonetheless, liberal
Zionism as an idea is still very much alive. President Obama, for instance, was famously leery of Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his reactionary administration. But, Obama also said this to
the Atlantics Jerey Goldberg: It would be a moral failing for me as president of the United States
not to defend Israel.

So why, on something like Tinder, wouldnt the liberal in liberal Zionism signal the potential for
synergy between singles like Lisa and me? The politics of two people who believe in full social and
political equality for all Israelis should be substantially similar. One reason liberal Zionism might not
pass political muster and perhaps this is what Lisa had in mind is that Zionism of any kind is
sometimes thought to be racist. Zionism is racist, the argument goes, because Israel identies itself as
a Jewish state, a state belonging rst and foremost to its Jewish citizens. That means there are non-
Jewish citizens of Israel to whom Israel does not belong, at least not in the same way. It is these non-
Jewish citizens who are discriminated against because of their ethnicity. No matter how egalitarian
Israel declares itself to be, the very idea of Israel as a Jewish state is ineluctably racist, and so are the
policies Israel is bound to pursue.

There is no denying that racism represents a powerful challenge, both to Zionism in general and to
Israel in particular. But the racism objection to liberal Zionism as a vision for Israels future does not
stand up to scrutiny. Because, as noted above, the policies a liberal Zionist government pursues do
not, ideally, infringe on the social and political equality of any of Israels citizens. The racism objection,
then, becomes whether it is realistic or even coherent to make such a claim to claim that the
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policies of a Jewish state can be particularist without being discriminatory. Israel can only have one
raison dtre, one most important reason for being. If Israels most important reason for being is the
protection of Jewish lives, then the protection of non-Jewish lives can only be second most important.
This is not just a philosophical objection.

Israels immigration policy is particularist. It grants automatic asylum to Jews, but not to anyone else, at
least not automatically. Is this racist? The answer is not obvious. But the relevant question is not Is
this racist? but Racist compared to what? Should compensatory protections granted to persecuted
minorities be considered racist racist because they protect only the minority so persecuted? Surely
this is not what we usually mean by racism. If anything, this is closer to reverse discrimination. The
idea of a Jewish state, then, is racist in the way reverse discrimination is. And yes, the policies of a
Jewish state, even a liberal one, risk reifying this form of reverse discrimination. No form of
discrimination is ever ideal but we live, unfortunately, in a less than ideal world.

If you think liberal Zionisms concession to a less than ideal world is unforgivable then think about
things historically. If after centuries of Jewish persecution when Napoleon Bonaparte rst
emancipated Frances Jews and granted them equal citizenship, if the Napoleonic emancipation had
stuck, if the Enlightenment continued to bear fruit in the way much of Europe (and especially the Jews)
hoped it would then perhaps the racism charge would have merit. Perhaps, in this case, Jews
would have no need for an ethnic haven. (Indeed, the idea of an ethnic haven is antithetical to the
purpose it is intended to serve; a haven for one people is ipso facto not a haven for others.)

But the Napoleonic emancipation did not stick, not by a long shot. Most of my extended family was
murdered in the Nazi Holocaust. By logical induction, both personal and historical, I and many other
Jews have concluded, at least provisionally, that the world is not safe for us, that the lesson of Jewish
history is that Jews are not safe no matter where they live and no matter how enlightened society
happens to be. Personally, then, Im comfortable, at least for now, with the unsavory compromise
liberal Zionism makes with an even more unsavory world.

None of this is to say Im comfortable with the illiberal Zionism currently in the ascendancy. I believe in:
the moral urgency of a two-state solution; an end to the occupation of the West Bank; an end to the
siege on Gaza; a return to the pre-1967 borders; a binational Jerusalem; an end to settler violence; an
end to the economic disenfranchisement of Palestinians; and yes, reparations and a right of return for
a symbolic number of refugees (both things Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to in
talks).

The irony here is that I have also been told, by Zionist women on Tinder, that I was unsuitable because
of these beliefs, because I am pro-Palestinian. But again, it is not the level of disagreement that
concerns me, it is the unwillingness to entertain dissent. Lisa might well have rejected my defense of
liberal Zionism and oered her own argument as to why the existence of Israel is unpardonable.
Perhaps I would have found Lisas argument compelling and been forced to revise my own, or
perhaps it would have been Lisa who had to do the revising. Whoever it might have been, and it may
well have been both of us, is not as important as the process itself. The process is called dialogue
and Dialogue, as Pope Francis once remarked, is what brings peace.

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