In the summer 2023 issue of Sapir, Roya Hakakian, an Iranian Jewish refugee to America, published an essay titled “Letter to an Anti-Zionist Idealist.” Its form echoes some of the most important arguments in modern times: Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution was written as a letter, as was perhaps the foremost Zionist polemic in English, Hillel Halkin’s Letters to an American Jewish Friend.
In it, Hakakian acknowledges the misgivings that her correspondent—a benighted, well-intentioned, kind-hearted, idealist—has about Israel, and confronts that point of view with her own gratitude for Israel. And by examining the different judgments at which she and her correspondent have arrived, she is also able to shed light on the effects that America has had on Zionism in general.
This week, she joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss her letter, the fervor that now surrounds the subject, and the resurgent presence of the anti-Zionist idealists to whom Hakakian addresses herself.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.