Editor’s note: In these two articles, historian Laurent Guyénot explores questions that you are not even supposed to ask…much less actually think about. Those of us who still read, and think, are grateful. –Kevin Barrett, VT Editor
How Zionist is the New World Order?
by Laurent Guyénot, first published at Vinyard of the Saker
Laurent Guyénot is the author of From Yahweh to Zion: Jealous God, Chosen People, Promised Land … Clash of Civilizations, 2018. ($30 shipping included from Sifting and Winnowing, POB 221, Lone Rock, WI 53556).
The Zionist paradox
Jewishness is full of paradoxes. For example, remarked Nahum Goldmann, founder and longtime president of the World Jewish Congress: “Even today it is hardly possible to say whether to be a Jew consists first of belonging to a people or practicing a religion, or the two together” (The Jewish Paradox, 1976). The answer has always depended on the circumstances. Another paradox is the relationship of Jewishness to both tribalism and universalism: Israelis, “the most separatist people in the world,” in Goldmann’s words again, “have the great weakness of thinking that the whole world revolves around them.”
This great weakness is, of course, a great strength, and so is the ambiguity of Jewishness. It has served Israel—a secular “Jewish state”— very well. Theodor Herzl thought of Zionism on the model of European nationalistic movements, lobbying for the right of the Jews to become a nation among nations. But everyone can see now that Israel is no ordinary nation. It never was and never will be. It is the paradoxical nation.
Part of the ambiguity comes from the very name Israel, which already had a twofold meaning before 1948: it referred to an ancient kingdom supposedly founded in the first millennium BCE, and destroyed by the Romans in the first century CE. But for the following two thousand years, Israel was also a common designation for the Jewish community worldwide, “international Jewry” as some call it. That was the meaning of “Israel”, for example, when the British Daily Express of March 24, 1933 printed on its front page: “The whole of Israel throughout the world is united in declaring an economic and financial war on Germany.” The members of Israel were then called Israelites interchangeably with Jews. Although quite contradictory in terms, the two notions (national Israel and international Israel) have been conflated by the 1948 Law of Return, which made every Israelite of the globe a virtual Israeli.
Today, Zionism has shifted into a kind of meta-Zionism where the greatest number of the Israeli elite—including individuals with no stamped Israeli citizenship but a profound loyalty to the Jewish state—reside outside Israel. Some of them hold key positions in state administrations, particularly in the United States. As Gilad Atzmon remarks, “there is no geographical center to the Zionist endeavor. It is hard to determine where Zionist decisions are made”; “the Israelis colonize Palestine and the Jewish Diaspora is there to mobilize lobbies by recruiting international support.” The neoconservatives—“an intellectual movement in America to whose invention Jews can lay sole claim,” as correctly assessed the Jewish Daily Forward — are the most influential group of Diaspora Jews dedicated to Israel. They are no conservatives in the traditional sense, but rather crypto-Likudniks posturing as American patriots in order to align US foreign and military policies with the Greater Israel agenda—high-level sayanim, so to speak (read John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, 2008).
Their mentor Leo Strauss, in his 1962 lecture “Why We Remain Jews,” declared himself an ardent supporter of the State of Israel but rejected the idea that Israel as a nation should be contained within borders; Israel, he argued, must retain her specificity, which is to be everywhere. Indeed, this paradoxical nature of Israel is vital to its existence: although its stated purpose is to welcome all the Jews of the world, the state of Israel would collapse if it achieved this goal. It is unsustainable without the support of international Jewry. Therefore, Israel needs every Jew of the world to define his/her Jewishness as loyalty to Israel. Ever since 1967, the hearts of an increasing number of American Jews began to beat secretly, and then more and more openly, for Israel. Reform Judaism, which had originally declared itself to be exclusively religious and opposed to Zionism, soon rationalized this new situation by a 1976 resolution affirming: “The State of Israel and the Diaspora, in fruitful dialogue, can show how a People transcends nationalism while affirming it, thus establishing an example for humanity.”
How do they both affirm and transcend nationalism? The biblical way. The Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, is the unalterable prototype of Jewish history: everything that follows the fall of the Hasmonean kingdom has to be biblical—the Holocaust, for example. Inevitably, Jewish nationalism, or patriotic love for Israel, resonates with the destiny of Israel as outlined in the Bible: “Yahweh your God will raise you higher than every other nation in the world” (Deuteronomy 28:1). Every nation is a narration, and Israel’s narrative pattern is cast into the Hebrew Bible. To love Israel is to love Israel’s biblical story, no matter of how mythical it is. And through biblical prophecy, the vision of the past becomes the vision the future: Solomon’s empire will come to pass.
That is why Zionism was never an ordinary form of nationalism, nor can Israel ever be a “nation like others.” The paradoxical nature of Israel is best embodied by its founding father Ben-Gurion: a secular Jew who saw himself as a new Joshua, hoped for “the restoration of the kingdom of David and Solomon,” and prophesized that Jerusalem will be “the seat of the Supreme Court of Mankind, to settle all controversies among the federated continents, as prophesied by Isaiah.”Let us be fair and assume that Ben-Gurion was simply referring to Isaiah’s prophecy that “the Law will issue from Zion” and that Yahweh will “judge between the nations and arbitrate between many peoples” (2:3-4), not to the Second Isaiah’s prophecy that Israel “will feed on the wealth of nations” (61:6), and that nations who do not serve Israel “will be utterly destroyed” (60:12). Ben-Gurion’s vision lives on: a 2003 “Jerusalem Summit” attended by three acting Israeli ministers including Benjamin Netanyahu and many American neoconservatives including Richard Perle, affirmed that “one of the objectives of Israel’s divinely-inspired rebirth is to make it the center of the new unity of the nations, which will lead to an era of peace and prosperity, foretold by the Prophets.” Zionists have always been in love with the Bible.
Such are the geopolitical implications of the Jewish paradox: Zionism cannot be a mere nationalistic aspiration, as long as it claims to be Jewish, for “Jewish” means “biblical”. And more than two thousand years ago, the ancient prophets had bent over the cradle of Israel to predestine it as “a nation above other nations.” Israel carries in its biblical genes the plan for a world order headquartered in Jerusalem. I’m not talking about a secret conspiracy here: the Jewish plan to rule the world has been plainly outlined in the global bestseller for more than two thousand years. If most people in the Christian world don’t see it, it is because it is right under their nose. Christians claim that the Jews don’t read their Bible correctly, or that they got their Zionism from the Talmud or the Kabbalah. Both claims are pitiful attempts to exonerate the Old Testament from the Zionist catastrophe: the Hebrew Bible was written by Jews for the Jews, and I have never heard a Zionist quote the Talmud or the Kabbalah, whereas they quote the Bible every day.
The prophetic spirit that inspired Isaiah long ago has been very active since the beginning of the 20th century. It spoke through religious leaders like Kaufmann Kohler, a leading figure of American Reformed Judaism, who wrote in his major work on Jewish Theology (New York, 1918) that “Israel, the suffering Messiah of the centuries, shall at the end of days become the triumphant Messiah of the nations.” And it spoke through secular thinkers like Alfred Nossig, a Zionist who collaborated with the Gestapo in the Warsaw ghetto for the emigration of selected Jews to Palestine, who wrote in his Integrales Judentum (Berlin, 1922):
“The Jewish community is more than a people in the modern political sense of the word. It is the repository of a historically global mission, I would say even a cosmic one, entrusted to it by its founders Noah and Abraham, Jacob and Moses. [. . .] The primordial conception of our ancestors was to found not a tribe but a world order destined to guide humanity in its development.”
The Feuerbachan approach
The paradoxical nature of Jewishness (combining separatism and universalism), which is reflected in the ambiguous nature of Zionism (combining nationalism and internationalism), is ultimately linked to the Jewish conception of God. Is the biblical Yahweh the national god of Israel or the universal God of humankind? Let’s search for an answer into the Book of Ezra, the paradigmatic episode for the Jewish colonization of Palestine. It begins with an edict of the Persian king Cyrus, which says:
“Yahweh, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. […] Let [every Jew] go up to Jerusalem, in Judah, and build the Temple of Yahweh, the God of Israel, who is the God in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2–3).
Here Cyrus speaks in the name of “the God of Heaven” while authorizing the Judean exiles to build a temple to “the God of Israel […] the God in Jerusalem.” We understand that both phrases refer to the same God, called Yahweh in both instances, but the duality is significant. It is repeated in the Persian edict authorizing the second wave of return. It is now Artaxerxes, “king of kings,” who switches from the “God of Heaven” to “your God” or “the God of Israel who resides in Jerusalem” when addressing Ezra (7:12–15). The phrase “God of Heaven” appears one more time in the book of Ezra, and that is again in the edict of another Persian king: Darius confirms Cyrus’s edict and recommends that the Israelites “may offer sacrifices acceptable to the God of Heaven and pray for the life of the [Persian] king and his sons” (6:10). Elsewhere the book of Ezra only refers to the “God of Israel” (four times), “Yahweh, the God of your fathers” (once), and “our God” (ten times). In other words, according to the author of the book of Ezra, only the kings of Persia see Yahweh as “the God of Heaven” (a fiction, of course: for Persians, the God of Heaven meant Ahura Mazda) while for the Jews he is primarily the “God of Israel”. That is the deepest secret of Judaism, and the key to Jews’ relationship to universalism and to the nations: success rests on their ability to make Gentiles believe that the national god of Israel residing in the Jerusalem Temple is the God of Heaven who happens to have a preference for Israel.
The misunderstanding led to a public scandal in 167 CE, when the Hellenistic emperor Antiochos IV dedicated the temple in Jerusalem to Zeus Olympios, the supreme God. He was simply expressing the idea that Yahweh and Zeus were two names for the supreme cosmic God, the Heavenly father of all mankind. But the Jewish Maccabees who led the rebellion against him knew better: Yahweh may be the Supreme God, but He is Jewish. Only Jews are intimate with Him, and any way the Pagans worship Him is an abomination.
So is Yahweh God, or just the god of Israel? Why should we care? Well, let’s call it the Feuerbachan approach to the Jewish question. In his famous work The Essence of Christianity(1841), which was to influence greatly Karl Marx, Ludwig Feuerbach sees the universal God as “the deified and objectified spiritual essence of man”: theology is anthropology in disguise, and “The consciousness of God is the self-consciousness of man.” But if we regard the biblical Yahweh as a creation of Jews alone, rather than humanity at large, then we can consider him as a personification of the national character of the Jewish people—or, more correctly, a reflexion of the mentality of the Jewish elite who invented Yahweh.
It is known to biblical scholars that, in the oldest strata of the Bible, Yahweh appears as a national, ethnic god, not the supreme God of the Universe. “For all peoples go forward, each in the name of its god, while we go forward in the name of Yahweh our god for ever and ever” (Micah 4:5). “I am the god of your ancestors,” Yahweh says to Moses (Exodus 3:6), who is then mandated to declare to his people, “Yahweh, the god of your ancestors, has appeared to me,” urging them to talk to Pharaoh in the name of “Yahweh, the god of the Hebrews” (3:16–18). The Hebrews chant after the miracle of the Red Sea engulfing Pharaoh and his army, “Yahweh, who is like you, majestic in sanctity, among the gods?” (15:11). And in Canaan, a Hebrew chief declares to an enemy king: “Will you not keep as your possession whatever Chemosh, your god, has given you? And, just the same, we shall keep as ours whatever Yahweh our god has given us, to inherit from those who were before us!” (Judges 11:24). In all these verses, Yahweh is an ethnic or national god among others.
What sets him apart from other tribal gods of his kind is possessive exclusivism: “You shall have no other gods to rival me” (Exodus 20:3); “I shall set you apart from all these peoples, for you to be mine” (Leviticus 20:26). This is the justification for strict endogamy: it is forbidden to marry one’s children to a non-Jew, “for your son would be seduced from following me into serving other gods” (Deuteronomy 7:4).
Yahweh is known as “the Jealous One” (Exodus 20:5 and 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, and 6:15). But jealousy is an euphemism for outright sociopathy, because what Yahweh demands from his people is not just exclusivity of worship, but the destruction of their neighbors’ shrines: “Tear down their altars, smash their standing-stones, cut down their sacred poles and burn their idols” (Deuteronomy 7:5). Judean kings are judged on the unique criterion of their obedience to that precept. Hezekiah, whose disastrous policy of confrontation with Assyria led to a shrinking of the country, is praised for having done “what Yahweh regards as right,” namely abolishing the “high places” (2 Kings 18:3–4). His son Manasseh, whose 50-year reign is known to historians as a time of peace and prosperity, is blamed for having done “what is displeasing to Yahweh, copying the disgusting practices of the nations whom Yahweh had dispossessed for the Israelites” (2 Kings 21:2). Manasseh’s son Amon is no better. Josiah, on the other hand, proved worthy of his great-great-grandfather Hezekiah, by removing from the temple “all the cult objects which had been made for Baal, Asherah and the whole array of heaven. […] He exterminated the spurious priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed and who offered sacrifice on the high places, in the towns of Judah and the neighborhood of Jerusalem; also those who offered sacrifice to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations and the whole array of heaven” (2 Kings 23:4–5).
It is ironic that Yahweh, originally a minor tribal god, should compete with the great Baal for the status of supreme God, as when Elijah challenges 450 prophets of Baal in a holocaust contest, which ends up with the slaughter of them all (1Kings 18). In ancient Syria, Baal Shamem, the “Heavenly Lord,” was identified as the God of Heaven and honored by all peoples except the Jews. The goddess Asherah, whom Yahweh loathed even more, was the Great Divine Mother worshipped throughout the Middle East. In Mesopotamia, she went under the name of Ishtar, while in the Hellenistic era, she was assimilated to the Egyptian goddess Isis. The Hebrews themselves called her “Queen of Heaven” and turned to her in times of trouble, to the dismay of their priest and prophet Jeremiah, who threatened them with Yahweh’s exterminating wrath (Jeremiah 44).
Historians of religion tell us that Yahweh was still a national god at a time when the notion of a supreme God was widespread. When and how the Levites declared the god of Israel to be the true and only God is not entirely settled, but it is generally admitted that it happened shortly before the time of Ezra, when the Book of Genesis was composed (with much borrowing from Mesopotamian and Persian myths). The process is easy to imagine, for it follows the cognitive logic of a narcissistic sociopath among the community of gods: from the commandment of exclusive worship and the destruction of other gods’ shrines, it is a small step to the denial of the very existence of other gods; and if Yahweh is the only existing god, he must be “The God.”
A curious story about King Hezekiah can serve as an illustration of this process. The Assyrian king threatens Hezekiah in the following manner, explicitly identifying Yahweh as the national god of Israel:
“Do not let your god on whom you are relying deceive you with the promise: ‘Jerusalem will not fall into the king of Assyria’s clutches’ […] Did the gods of the nations whom my ancestors devastated save them?”
Hezekiah then goes up to the Temple and offers the following prayer:
“It is true, Yahweh, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations, they have thrown their gods on the fire, for these were not gods but human artifacts—wood and stone—and hence they have destroyed them. But now, Yahweh our god, save us from his clutches, I beg you, and let all the kingdoms of the world know that you alone are God, Yahweh” (2 Kings 19:10–19).
So here we witness how Yahweh was promoted from the status of a national god to that of universal God by the prayer of a devout king. In response to that prayer, according to the biblical story, “the angel of Yahweh went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp,” then struck their king by the hand of his sons (19:35–37). Pure fiction: the Assyrian annals tell us that in reality, Hezekiah paid tribute to the Assyrian king. Which proves that Hezekiah’s claim was deceptive.
The exclusive monotheism demanded by Yahweh is a degraded imitation of that inclusive monotheism toward which all the wisdoms of the ancient world converged by affirming the fundamental unity of all gods. As Egyptologist Jan Assmann emphasizes, the polytheisms of the great civilizations were cosmotheisms, insofar as the gods, among other functions, form the organic body of the world. Such a conception naturally led to a form of inclusive or convergent monotheism, compatible with polytheism: all gods are one, as the cosmos is one. The notion of the unity of the divine realm naturally connects with the notion of a supreme God, creator of heaven and earth, enthroned atop a hierarchy of deities emanating from him—a concept familiar to Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, and most ancient philosophers. The exclusive and revolutionary monotheism that the Yahwist priests crafted for their own benefit is of a totally different kind: it is, in fact, the exact opposite of the inclusive and evolutionary monotheism of neighboring peoples.
From the historical perspective, it is not the Creator of the Universe who decided, at some point, to become the god of Israel; rather, it is the god of Israel who, at some point, was declared the Creator of the Universe by the Levites and their scribes. The Jewish conception of Yahweh parallels that historical process: for the Jews, Yahweh is primarily the god of Jews, and secondarily the Creator of the Universe. This is what Maurice Samuel kindly tried to tell us in You Gentiles(1924): “In the heart of any pious Jew, God is a Jew.” “We [Jews] and God grew up together,” that is why “we need a world of our own, a God-world, which it is not in your nature to build.”
And so the paradoxical nature of Yahweh is, in reality, a deception. The idea that the Heavenly Father of humankind, somewhere in the second millennium BCE, chose a particular people and ordered them to dispossess and slaughter other peoples is, any way we look at it, an outrageous absurdity. The fact that billions of people have believed it for thousands of years makes no difference. Or rather, that is the problem: many peoples throughout history have believed themselves to have been chosen by God, but only the Jews have managed to convince others that they have. That has turned this outrageous absurdity into the most devastating idea in world history.
The deceptive nature of biblical monotheism is the key to understanding traditional Jewish attitude to universalism. For the Jewish conception of God is reflected in the Jewish conception of Humanity. Just like their tribal god speaks of himself—through his prophets—as the God of humankind, Jewish communitarian thinkers speak of Jewishness as the essence of humanity: Judaism constitutes a “particularism that conditions universality” so that “there is an obvious equation between Israel and the Universal”; in other words, “Israel equals humanity” (Emmanuel Levinas, Difficult Freedom: Essays on Judaism, 1990). It is almost always in reference to their Jewishness that such opinion makers, who are often ardent Zionists, proclaim themselves universalists: see for example how Rabbi Joachim Prinz, a German Zionist who in 1934 had applauded the Nazi state for being “built upon the principle of the purity of nation and race,” declared in 1963, as chairman of the American Jewish Congress, that he supported the African-American civil rights movement “as a Jew.” “Jewish universalism” is a contradiction in terms and therefore necessarily deceptive. It is self-deception in the case of most Jews, who believe what they have been taught by their representative elites ever since the Haskalah: that there is no contradiction in being a tribalist at home and a universalist in the street—provided that, in each of their universalist stand, they do not lose sight of the important question: “Yes, but is it good for the Jews?” Of course, there are many remarkable exceptions: Jews who have broken through the mental “Jewish prison” (as Jewish journalist Jean Daniel calls it) to reach for some universal truths. I call it the genius of the escapee.
Ultimately, the deceptive nature of both biblical monotheism and Jewish universalism is a key to unraveling the Zionist paradox: nationalism and internationalism go hand in hand in Israel’s destiny, because Israel is, fundamentally, a biblical and therefore universal project. For the Jewish cognitive elites who determine Jewish public opinion to a large extent, the New World Order is an ancient et eternal idea. It is Israel’s destiny carved in the Bible. It is inherent to Jewishness.
- Nahum Goldmann, Le Paradoxe juif. Conversations en français avec Léon Abramowicz, Stock, 1976 (archive.org), p. 9. ↑
- Nahum Goldmann, Le Paradoxe juif, op. cit., p. 6, 31. ↑
- Alison Weir, Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel, 2014, k. 3280–94. ↑
- Gilad Atzmon, The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics, Zero Books, 2011, pp. 21, 70. ↑
- Gal Beckerman, Jewish Daily Forward, January 6, 2006, quoted in Stephen Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, Enigma Edition, 2008, p. 26. ↑
- Leo Strauss, “Why We Remain Jews,” in Shadia Drury, Leo Strauss and the American Right, St. Martin’s Press, 1999, pp. 31–43. ↑
- Quoted in Kevin MacDonald, Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism, Praeger, 1998, kindle edition 2013, k. 5463–68. ↑
- Dan Kurzman, Ben-Gurion, Prophet of Fire, Touchstone, 1983, pp. 17–22. ↑
- As he declared before the Knesset in 1956, quoted in Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Pluto Press, 1994, p. 10. ↑
- David Ben-Gurion and Amram Duchovny, David Ben-Gurion, In His Own Words, Fleet Press Corp., 1969, p. 116 ↑
- All Bible quotes are taken from the Catholic New Jerusalem Bible, which has not altered the divine name YHWH into “the Lord,” as most other English translations have done for unscholarly reasons. ↑
- Official website: www.jerusalemsummit.org/eng/declaration.php. ↑
- Kaufmnann Kohler, Jewish Theology, Systematically and Historically Considered, Macmillan, 1918 (www.gutenberg.org), p. 290. ↑
- Alfred Nossig, Integrales Judentum, Interterritorialer Verlag, 1922, pp. 1–5 (on www.deutsche-digitale-bibliothek.de/item/DXCTNNZZ3INPTI2S3MYPGLQOFR3XSW22). ↑
- Most translations use a uppercase for the “God of Israel”, and a lowercase for other national gods, but ancient Hebrew does not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase letters, so here, and in further quotes, I have used a lowercase g for all national gods, including Israel’s, and reserved the uppercase G for the One supreme God. ↑
- See also Psalms 89:7. ↑
- Jean Soler, Qui est Dieu?, Éditions de Fallois, 2012, pp. 12–17, 33–37. ↑
- Norman Habel, Yahweh Versus Baal: A Conflict of Religious Cultures, Bookman Associates, 1964, p. 41. ↑
- Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism, Harvard University Press, 1998, p. 3. ↑
- Maurice Samuel, You Gentiles, New York, 1924 (archive.org), pp. 74–75, 155. ↑
- Online on monoskop.org/images/6/68/Levinas_Emmanuel_Difficult_Freedom_Essays_on_Judaism_1997.pdf. ↑
- Prinz’s pro-Nazi statements from his 1934 bookWir Juden are quoted in Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Pluto Press, 1994, p. 86. Prinz’ introduction to King’s “I have a dream” speech on August 28, 1963, beginning with “I speak to you as an American Jew,” is at www.joachimprinz.com/images/mow.mp3. ↑
- Jonny Geller made this paradigmatic question the title of his humorous book Yes, But Is It Good for the Jews? Bloomsbury, 2006. ↑
- Jean Daniel, La Prison juive. Humeurs et méditations d’un témoin, Odile Jacob, 2003
How Biblical Is Zionism?
by Laurent Guyénot for the Saker Blog
Laurent Guyénot is the author of From Yahweh to Zion: Jealous God, Chosen People, Promised Land … Clash of Civilizations, 2018. ($30 shipping included from Sifting and Winnowing, POB 221, Lone Rock, WI 53556).
The biblical mind of Israel’s founding fathers
The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) is for the committed Jew as much a record of his ancient origins, the prism through which all Jewish history is interpreted (is not the “Holocaust” a biblical term?), and the unalterable pattern of Israel’s promising future. That is why the Bible, once the “portable fatherland” of the Diaspora Jews as Heinrich Heine put it, remains at the core of the national narrative of the Jewish State, whose founding fathers did not give it any other Constitution.
It is true that the earliest prophets of political Zionism — Moses Hess (Rome and Jerusalem, 1862), Leon Pinsker (Auto-Emancipation, 1882) and Theodor Herzl (The Jewish State, 1896) — did not draw their inspiration from the Bible, but rather from the great nationalist spirit that swept through Europe at the end of the 19th century. Pinsker and Herzl actually cared little whether the Jews colonized Palestine or any other region of the globe; the first thought about some land in North America, while the second contemplated Argentina and later Uganda. More important still than nationalism, what drove these intellectual pioneers was the persistence of Judeophobia or anti-Semitism: Pinsker, who was from Odessa, converted during the pogroms that followed the assassination of Alexander II; Herzl, at the height of the Dreyfus affair.
Nevertheless, by naming his movement “Zionism,” Herzl himself was plugging it into biblical mythology: Zion is a name used for Jerusalem by biblical prophets. And after Herzl, the founders of the Yishuv (Jewish communities settled in Palestine before 1947) and later of the Jewish State were steeped in the Bible. From their point of view, Zionism was the logical and necessary end of biblical Yahwism. “The Bible is our mandate,” Chaim Weizmann declared at the Peace Conference in Versailles in 1920, and David Ben-Gurion has made clear that he only accepted the 1947 UN Partition Plan as a temporary step toward the goal of biblical borders. In Ben-Gurion, Prophet of fire (1983), the biography of the man described as “the personification of the Zionist dream,” Dan Kurzman entitles each chapter with a Bible quote. The preface begins like this:
“The life of David Ben-Gurion is more than the story of an extraordinary man. It is the story of a Biblical prophecy, an eternal dream. […] Ben-Gurion was, in a modern sense, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, a messiah who felt he was destined to create an exemplary Jewish state, a ‘light unto the nations’ that would help to redeem all mankind.”
For Ben-Gurion, Kurzman writes, the rebirth of Israel in 1948 “paralleled the Exodus from Egypt, the conquest of the land by Joshua, the Maccabean revolt.” Yet Ben-Gurion had never been to the synagogue, and ate pork for breakfast. According to the rabbi leading the Bible study group that he attended, Ben-Gurion “unconsciously believed he was blessed with a spark from Joshua’s soul.” “There can be no worthwhile political or military education about Israel without profound knowledge of the Bible,” he used to say. He wrote in his diary in 1948, ten days after declaring independence, “We will break Transjordan [Jordan], bomb Amman and destroy its army, and then Syria falls, and if Egypt will still continue to fight — we will bombard Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo,” then he adds: “This will be in revenge for what they did to our forefathers during biblical times.” Three days after the Israeli invasion of the Sinai in 1956, he declared before the Knesset that what was at stake was “the restoration of the kingdom of David and Solomon.”
Ben-Gurion’s attachment to the Bible was shared by almost every Zionist leader of his generation and the next. Moshe Dayan, the military hero of the 1967 Six Day War, wrote a book entitled Living with the Bible (1978) in which he justified the annexation of new territory by the Bible. More recently, Israeli Education minister Naftali Bennett, a proponent of full-scale annexation of the West Bank, did the same.
Zionism is biblical by ideology, but also in practice. As Avigail Abarbanel wrote, the Zionist conquerors of Palestine “have been following quite closely the biblical dictate to Joshua to just walk in and take everything. […] For a supposedly non-religious movement it’s extraordinary how closely Zionism […] has followed the Bible.” The paradox is only apparent, because for Zionists, the Bible is not a religious text, but a textbook of history. And so it should be obvious to anybody paying attention that Israel’s behavior on the international scene cannot be understood without a deep inquiry into the Bible’s underlying ideology.
Prophecies and geopolitics
Only by taking account of the biblical roots of Zionism can one understand why Zionism has never been a nationalist movement like others. It could not be, as Gilad Atzmon remarked, from the moment it defined itself as a Jewish movement, aimed at creating a “Jewish state”. Jewish exceptionalism is a biblical concept that has no equivalent in any other ethnic or religious culture.
Neither can Zionism be correctly assessed as a form of colonialism, despite Jabotinsky’s effort to do so. For colonialism seeks not to expel the natives, but to exploit them. If Zionism is colonialism, it can only be in the sense of the colonization of the world by Israel, according to the program laid out by Isaiah:
“The riches of the sea will flow to you, the wealth of the nations come to you” (60:5);
“You will suck the milk of nations, you will suck the wealth of kings” (60:16);
“You will feed on the wealth of nations, you will supplant them in their glory” (61:5-6);
“For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you will perish, and the nations will be utterly destroyed” (60:12)
Christians find hope in Isaiah that, some day, all peoples “will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into sickles. Nations will not lift sword against nation, no longer will they learn how to make war” (Isaiah 2:4). But more important to Zionists are the previous verses, which describe these messianic times as a Pax Judaica, when “all the nations” will pay tribute “to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the god of Jacob,” when “the Law will issue from Zion and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem,” so that Yahweh will “judge between the nations and arbitrate between many peoples.”
No wonder Isaiah is the biblical prophet most often quoted by Zionists. In a statement published in the magazine Look on January 16, 1962, Ben-Gurion predicted for the next 25 years:
“All armies will be abolished, and there will be no more wars. In Jerusalem, the United Nations (a truly United Nations) will build a Shrine of the Prophets to serve the federated union of all continents; this will be the seat of the Supreme Court of Mankind, to settle all controversies among the federated continents, as prophesied by Isaiah.”
The launching of the Iraq War was a decisive step toward that goal of a new world order headquartered in Jerusalem. It was the context for a “Jerusalem Summit” held in October 2003 in the highly symbolic King David Hotel, to seal an alliance between Jewish and Christian Zionists. The “Jerusalem Declaration” signed by its participants declared Jerusalem “the key to the harmony of civilizations,” replacing the United Nations that had become “a tribalized confederation hijacked by Third World dictatorships”:
“Jerusalem’s spiritual and historical importance endows it with a special authority to become a center of world’s unity. [. . .] We believe that one of the objectives of Israel’s divinely-inspired rebirth is to make it the center of the new unity of the nations, which will lead to an era of peace and prosperity, foretold by the Prophets.”
Three acting Israeli ministers spoke at the summit, including Benjamin Netanyahu. Richard Perle, the guest of honor, received on this occasion the Henry Scoop Jackson Award.
When Israeli leaders claim that their vision of the global future is based on the (Hebrew) Bible, we should take them seriously and study the Bible. It might help, for example, to know that according to Deuteronomy Yahweh plans to deliver to Israel “seven nations greater and mightier than [it],” adding: “you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them. You shall not make marriages with them…” (7:1-2). As for the kings of these seven nations, “you shall make their name perish from under heaven” (7:24). The destruction of the “Seven Nations,” also mentioned in Joshua 24:11, is considered a mitzvah in rabbinic Judaism, included by the great Maimonides in his Book of Commandments, and it has remained a popular motif in Jewish culture, known to every Israeli school child.
It is also part of the Neocon agenda for World War IV (as Norman Podhoretz names the current global conflict in World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, 2007). General Wesley Clark, former commandant of NATO in Europe, wrote in his book Winning Modern Wars (2003), and repeated in numerous occasions, that one month after September 11, 2001, as he was paying a visit to Paul Wolfowitz, a Pentagon general showed him a memo “that describes how we’re gonna take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Sudan and finishing off with Iran.” In his September 20, 2001 speech, President Bush also targeted seven “rogue states”, but included Cuba and North Korea instead of Lebanon and Somalia. The likely explanation to that discrepancy is that Bush or his entourage refused to include Lebanon and Somalia, but that the number seven was retained for its symbolic value, as an encrypted signature. Without question, the neocons who were writing Bush’s war agenda were Zionists of the most fanatical and Machiavellian kind. But the neocon viper’s nest is not the only place to look for crypto-Zionists infiltrated in the highest spheres of US foreign and military affairs. Consider, for example, that Wesley Clark is the son of Benjamin Jacob Kanne and the proud descendant of a lineage of rabbis. It is hard to believe that he never heard about the Bible’s “seven nations”? Is Clark himself, together with the Amy Goodmans who interviewed him, trying to write history in biblical terms, while blaming these wars on the Pentagon’s warmongers? What’s going on, here?
A lesson from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah
To understand how the crypto-Zionists have hijacked the Empire’s military power into proxy wars, a lesson can be learned from Book of Ezra and its sequel, the Book of Nehemiah. At the time of Ezra, the imperial power was Persia. After the Persians had conquered Babylon in 539 BCE, some of the exiles and their descendants (42,360 people with their 7,337 servants and 200 male and female singers, according to Ezra 2:64-67) returned to Jerusalem under the protection of King Cyrus, with the project of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus begins the Book of Ezra:
“Yahweh roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Cyrus king of Persia says this, Yahweh, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a temple in Jerusalem, in Judah.’” (Ezra 1:1-2).
For acting on behalf of Yahweh, Cyrus is bestowed the title of God’s “Anointed” (Mashiah) in Isaiah 45:1.
“Thus says Yahweh to his anointed one, to Cyrus whom, he says, I have grasped by his right hand, to make the nations bow before him and to disarm kings: […] It is for the sake of my servant Jacob and of Israel my chosen one, that I have called you by your name, have given you a title though you do not know me. […] Though you do not know me, I have armed you.” (Isaiah 45:1-5)
A succeeding Persian emperor, Darius, confirmed Cyrus’ edict, authorizing the rebuilding of the Temple, and ordering gigantic burnt offerings financed by “the royal revenue.” Anyone resisting the new theocratic power backed by Persia, “a beam is to be torn from his house, he is to be impaled on it and his house is to be reduced to a rubbish-heap for his offense” (Ezra 6:11). Then another Persian king, Artaxerxes, is supposed to have granted Ezra authority to lead “all members of the people of Israel in my kingdom, including their priests and Levites, who freely choose to go to Jerusalem,” and to rule over “the whole people of Trans-Euphrates [district encompassing all territories West to the Euphrates]” (7:11-26). In 458 BCE, the priest Ezra went from Babylon to Jerusalem, accompanied by some 1,500 followers. Carrying with him the newly redacted Torah, Ezra called himself the “Secretary of the Law of the God of heaven” (7:21). He was soon joined by Nehemiah, a Persian court official of Judean origin.
The edicts of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes are fake. No historian believe them authentic. But the fact that Persian kings granted to a clan of wealthy Levites legal authority for establishing a theocratic semi-autonomous state in Palestine seems historical. What did these proto-Zionists give the Persian kings in return? The Bible does not say, but historians believe that the Judeans exiles in Babylon had won the favor of the Persians by conspiring to help them conquer the city.
What is of interest in this biblical narrative is the blueprint for the Zionist strategy of influencing the Empire’s foreign policy for its own advantage. In the late 19th century, the empire was British. Its foreign policy in the Middle East was largely shaped by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Born in a family of Marranos converted back to Judaism in Venice, Disraeli can be considered a forerunner of Zionism, since, well before Theodor Herzl, he tried to include the “restoration of Israel” in the Berlin Congress’ agenda, and hoped to convince the Ottoman Sultan to concede to Palestine as an autonomous Jewish province. He failed, but succeeded in putting the Suez Canal under British control, through funding from his friend Lionel Rothschild (an operation which also consolidated the Rothschilds’ control over the Bank of England). That was the first step in binding British interest and fate to the Middle-East. In short, Disraeli was a modern-day Ezra or Nehemiah, capable of steering the Empire’s policy according to the Jewish agenda of the conquest of Palestine, a dream he had cherished ever since his first trip to Palestine in 1830, at the age of 26, and which he had expressed through the hero of his first novel, The Wondrous Tale of Alroy:
“My wish is a national existence which we have not. My wish is the Land of Promise and Jerusalem and the Temple, all we forfeited, all we have yearned after, all for which we have fought, our beauteous country, our holy creed, our simple manners, and our ancient customs.”
A quarter of a century after Disraeli, Theodor Herzl also failed to convince the Sultan. It therefore became necessary that the Ottoman Empire disappear and the cards be redistributed. Zionists then played the British against the Ottomans and, by means now well-documented, obtained from the former the Balfour Declaration (in fact a mere letter addressed by Secretary of State Arthur Balfour to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild). But when the British started to limit Jewish immigration in Palestine in the 1930s, the Zionists turned to the rising new Imperial power: the United States. Today, the stranglehold of Zionists on US imperial policy is such that a few Jewish neocons can pull the US into a series of wars against Israel’s enemies with a single false flag attack.
The capacity of Israel to hijack the Empire’s foreign and military policy requires that a substantial Jewish elite remain in the US. Even Israel’s survival is entirely dependent on the influence of the Zionist power complex in the United States (euphemistically called the “pro-Israel lobby”). That is also a lesson learnt from Ezra and Nehemiah’s time: Nehemiah himself retained his principal residence in Babylone and, for centuries after, the kingdom of Israel was virtually ruled by the Babylonian exiles. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, Babylon remained the center of universal Judaism. The comparison was made by Jacob Neusner in A History of the Jews in Babylonia (1965), and by Max Dimont in Jews, God and History (1962). The American Jews who prefer to remain in the United States rather than emigrating to Israel are, Dimont argued, as essential to the community as the Babylonian Jews who declined the invitation to return to Palestine in the Persian era:
“Today, as once before, we have both an independent State of Israel and the Diaspora. But, as in the past, the State of Israel today is a citadel of Judaism, a haven of refuge, the center of Jewish nationalism where dwell only two million of the world’s twelve million Jews. The Diaspora, although it has shifted its center through the ages with the rise and fall of civilizations, still remains the universal soul of Judaism.”
In the words of the Zionists themselves, including Herzl himself, Zionism was supposed to be the “final solution” to the Jewish question. In 1947, the whole world hoped that it would be, except for Arab leaders who warned against it. But Israel’s existence has only resulted in changing the “Jewish question” into the “Zionist question”: the question about the true ambitions of Israel. Part of the answer is to be found in the Hebrew Bible. The Zionist question is the Biblical question. Zionists themselves tell us so. Their mouths are full of the Bible.
On March 3, 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dramatized in front of the American Congress his deep phobia of Iran by referring to the biblical Book of Esther (the only Bible story that makes no mention of God, incidently). It is worth quoting the heart of his rhetorical appeal to a US strike against Iran:
“We’re an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies. The plot was foiled. Our people were saved. Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us.”
Netanyahu managed to schedule his address to the Congress on the eve of Purim, which celebrates the happy end of the Book of Esther — the slaughter of 75,000 Persians, women and children included. This typical speech by the head of the State of Israel is clear indication that the behavior of that nation on the international scene cannot be understood without a deep inquiry into the Bible’s underlying ideology. Such is the main objective of my new book, From Yahweh to Zion: Jealous God, Chosen People, Promised Land … Clash of Civilizations, translated by Kevin Barrett.
May those who still want to believe that Zionism has nothing to do with the Bible think twice. Even the nuclear policy of Israel has a biblical name: the Samson Option. And let them read the Prophets:
“And this is the plague with which Yahweh will strike all the nations who have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet; their eyes will rot in their sockets; their tongues will rot in their mouths.” (Zechariah 14:12)
- Dan Kurzman, Ben-Gurion, Prophet of Fire, Touchstone, 1983, p. 17-18, 22, 26-28. ↑
- Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld Publications, 2007, p. 144. ↑
- Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Pluto Press, 1994, p. 10. ↑
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Png17wB_omA ↑
- Avigail Abarbanel, “Why I left the Cult,” October 8, 2016, on mondoweiss.net ↑
- Gilad Atzmon, Being in Time: A Post-Political Manifesto, Skyscraper, 2017, pp. 66-67. ↑
- David Ben-Gurion and Amram Duchovny, David Ben-Gurion, In His Own Words, Fleet Press Corp., 1969, p. 116 ↑
- Official website: www.jerusalemsummit.org/eng/declaration.php. ↑
- http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/961561/jewish/Positive-Commandment-187.htm ↑
- Wesley Clark, Winning Modern Wars, Public Affairs, 2003, p. 130. ↑
- For example, Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1891 (archive.org), vol. 1, p. 343. ↑
- On Disraeli’s proto-Zionist policy, read my article : https://www.veteransnewsnow.com/2015/02/13/515416tracking-the-roots-of-zionism-and-imperial-russophobia/ ↑
- Quoted in Michael Collins Piper, The New Babylon: Those Who Reign Supreme, American Free Press, 2009, p. 27 ↑
- The first Zionist association inspired by Herzl’s program, the National-jüdische Vereinigung Köln, declared as its goal in 1897: “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question lies therefore in the establishment of the Jewish State” (quoted in Isaiah Friedman, Germany, Turkey, and Zionism 1897–1918, Transaction Publishers, 1998, p. 17). Herzl wrote: “I believe I have found the solution of the Jewish Question. Not a solution, but the solution, the only one,” repeating further that Zionism was “the only possible, final, and successful solution of the Jewish Question” (The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, edited by Raphael Patai, Herzl Press & Thomas Yoseloff, 1960, vol. 1, p. 118). ↑
- “The Complete Transcript of Netanyahu’s Address to Congress,” on www.washingtonpost.com ↑
- Seymour Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, Random House, 1991. ↑
Laurent Guyénot is the author of From Yahweh to Zion: Jealous God, Chosen People, Promised Land … Clash of Civilizations, 2018