The history of the Jewish Diaspora is a history of survival, and an example of how nations don’t need states or land to thrive. States come and go, and are overall far less stable than the particular type of national culture that has held the Jews together for so long.
Jews have existed as a nation for thousands of years, and most of that time we have been without a state of our own. This is no accident. We have survived by maintaining our identity as a people wherever we were, whoever was in charge of us, and in doing so, we have outlasted countless political entities. The Diaspora existed before the Hasmoneans, and continued to exist after the fall of the Herodians. It existed before the State of Israel, and will continue to exist after the State of Israel.
Negation of the Diaspora is negation of the Jews.
Jewish history shows that nations don’t need states to survive, but it also shows that the combination of nation and state is inherently oppressive, disenfranchising people, dispossessing them, and displacing them. And it does this whether it’s a historically powerful nation, or a historically powerless nation that suddenly becomes a nation-state.
Nationalism really is at the root of Zionism, and it goes beyond the simple statement that Zionism is a form of nationalism. Zionism was, in fact, a reaction to nationalist movements throughout the rest of the world that made Jews into refugees. Most Jewish immigration to Palestine can be traced to the rise of an “us vs. them” mentality in their countries of birth, which turned Jews into “them” and forced us to go elsewhere.
In light of all of this, understand that when Jews attack the idea of “nationalism,” it’s not some sort of theoretical wankery divorced from all reality. It’s our lived experience and that of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, etc..