The No-State Solu­tion: A Jew­ish Manifesto

  • Review
By – January 30, 2023

The No-State Solu­tion is, as its back cov­er sug­gests, a provoca­tive man­i­festo, argu­ing for a new under­stand­ing of the Jews’ peo­ple­hood.” It is a high­ly aca­d­e­m­ic, thought-pro­vok­ing con­ver­sa­tion between Boyarin and a vari­ety of Jew­ish and non-Jew­ish schol­ars, thinkers, and writ­ers cross­ing back to the days of the Tal­mud. Ulti­mate­ly, it shows Boyarin in con­ver­sa­tion with him­self — an inter­nal dia­logue in exter­nal form.

Boyarin self-describes as an active anti-Zion­ist” with a grow­ing com­mit­ment to Jew­ish iden­ti­ty and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, Torah study, schol­ar­ship, prac­tice, lit­er­a­ture, litur­gy … ” He believes in the impor­tance of vibrant, cre­ative Jew­ish nation­al cul­ture,” as well as full jus­tice for Pales­tini­ans.” He sees the cur­rent state of Israel as well on the way to being a racist, fas­cist state.” Strug­gling to rec­on­cile his val­ues and com­mit­ments, he envi­sions the future of Jew­ish peo­ple­hood not as a reli­gion or nation-state, but as a dias­po­ra nation con­nect­ed through time rather than space or land.

Boyarin, in oth­er words, sees the Jew­ish peo­ple as always in move­ment. He com­pares this in part to the Black dias­po­ra expe­ri­ence, which accounts for a peo­ple sim­i­lar­ly con­nect­ed through time, dis­persed across land. He fur­ther argues that the Jew­ish peo­ple are like­ly safer as a dias­po­ra com­mu­ni­ty, spread through­out lands ruled by many, than in the days of Purim when, large­ly under the con­trol of one ruler, the com­mu­ni­ty could be wiped out by one anti­se­mit­ic act or person. 

Boyarin bol­sters his views by cit­ing famed Zion­ist vision­ar­ies Theodor Her­zl and Ahad Ha’am. While it is pos­si­ble — as Boyarin demon­strates — to use Herzl’s and Ha’am’s writ­ings to voice sup­port for a sub­state autonomous region, and/​or a renew­al of Jew­ish cul­tur­al life depen­dent on a nation­al cen­ter (but not tech­ni­cal­ly a nation-state as we would define it today), that inter­pre­ta­tion is over­ly nar­row, ignor­ing the broad­er vision their texts put forth.

Boyarin also acknowl­edges but then large­ly dis­miss­es the long his­to­ry of Jew­ish yearn­ing (or more apt­ly, yearn­ing by Jews) to return to the land of bib­li­cal Israel. He makes no men­tion of the debates with­in the late-nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry and ear­ly-twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry Zion­ist move­ment about whether or not this new Jew­ish state need­ed to be with­in that holy land — debates that ulti­mate­ly deter­mined that, yes, it did.

Some of Boyarin’s argu­ments, or omis­sion of argu­ments, may alarm read­ers. In par­tic­u­lar, he makes sev­er­al com­par­isons to vary­ing aspects of the Holo­caust, at one point argu­ing that while the Nazis, of course, offered a ter­ri­ble Final Solu­tion to the Jew­ish prob­lem, Ben Guri­on [offered] an only less ter­ri­ble vision: a final solu­tion to the Dias­po­ra.” When mak­ing ref­er­ences to the Holo­caust, Boyarin typ­i­cal­ly pro­vides a dis­claimer; the read­er must then decide if it mit­i­gates any harm poten­tial­ly asso­ci­at­ed with such an argument. 

Boyarin is far from the only Jew to strug­gle with the State of Israel as it exists today. Many books have been writ­ten about Israel’s chal­leng­ing rela­tion­ship with its Pales­tin­ian neigh­bors and non-Jew­ish citizens/​residents, the role of the ultra-Ortho­dox author­i­ty, bor­ders, and more. Most texts are based on the premise that the State of Israel, how­ev­er flawed, is still fun­da­men­tal­ly a dream being real­ized, or a dream that could be real­ized. These authors are crit­i­cal of Israel in the hopes of shap­ing it for the bet­ter. Boyarin’s man­i­festo takes a dis­tinct­ly dif­fer­ent approach. For him, a rejec­tion of the State, and all it is and has become, is the only way toward a just future. If a man­i­festo is designed to inspire con­ver­sa­tion, it will be inter­est­ing to see if this does, and if so, to what end(s).

Joy Get­nick, PhD, is the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Hil­lel at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester. She is the author of the Melton School of Adult Jew­ish Learn­ing Beyond Bor­ders: The His­to­ry of the Arab-Israeli Con­flict, has taught his­to­ry at area col­leges, and pre­vi­ous­ly worked in the JCC world and as the direc­tor of a teen Israel trav­el sum­mer program.

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