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‘Counter Zionism’: Shaul Magid’s new worldview

This US Jewish studies professor once gravitated towards settlements. Now he wants Diaspora Jews to 'embrace exile'.
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Shaul Magid, Jewish scholar and counter-Zionist (Annette Y. Reed)

Published: 3 January 2024

Last updated: 5 March 2024

This US Jewish studies professor once gravitated towards settlements. Now he wants Diaspora Jews to 'embrace exile'.

Exactly two months after the October 7 massacre, scholar and rabbi Shaul Magid launched his new book "The Necessity of Exile – Essays from a Distance."

The book dissects and critiques terms like Zionism, anti-Zionism, identity, indigeneity and antisemitism – subjects that have dominated the public discourse over the past two and a half months.

Magid bases his critique on what he calls a "counter-Zionism" position. While post-Zionism critiques Zionism from within, focusing on debunking its myths and anti-Zionism invariably opposes Israel's existence, Magid's is an anti-Zionist stance that is not anti-Israel but advocates for a reimagined coexistence in Israel that respects all peoples' histories and rights by abandoning the two-state solution and Zionism as a "Jews only" ideology.

The book was written and printed before October 7, but in a coda on his publisher’s website Magid acknowledges one cannot think about Israel now without “confronting the horrific day… and its increasingly horrifying aftermath.”

But he also believes "while in some ways October 7 changed everything – and it did – I fear it will also change nothing. That is, when the war ends, when the dead are buried, I think the same tensions, challenges and problems with Zionism that I argued in the book will remain operative, maybe even more so."

“The same dilemma will exist: competing claims for rights, claims of ownership, and the land, the land, the land. … We can think – we must think – a way out of the cognitive trap of exceptionalism and exclusivity, rights and victimhood, on both sides, and the illusion of seeing violence as a solution, whether terrorism or state violence, even if we must do so through tears of grief, of sorrow, and of pain."


This Jewish scholar believes Diaspora Jews must embrace exile to save Judaism (Haaretz)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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