For the American Council for Judaism (VT will be accused of anti-Semitism by Wikipedia for republishing this, which was submitted by one of our Jewish Israeli readers. We couldn’t be happier.)
In the name of Zionism, the major organizations which claim to represent the American Jewish community have often found themselves in the position of defending the indefensible. We have seen this in their response to convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, in their efforts to thwart naming the mass murder of Armenians a genocide, and in their rush to label criticism of Israel, even from the Nobel Peace Prize winning Human Rights Watch, as “anti-Semitic.” It is instructive to review the positions such groups have taken, allegedly in the name of Jewish Americans, only a small number of whom belong to their organizations or share their views.
Defense of the State of Israel has led these groups to promote actions and policies
they oppose in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. In the U.S., for example, Jewish groups are strong proponents of separation of church and state and religious freedom. In Israel, quite to the contrary, there is a state religion and taxpayer-supported chief rabbis. Non-Orthox Jews, the overwhelming majority of Jewish Americans, cannot have their rabbis perform weddings, conduct funerals, or engage in other religious functions.
Beyond this, the leaders of Israel’s state religion are often the most vocal advocates of the most extreme positions. In 1994, when Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO, was expected to visit the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a former Israeli chief rabbi issued a religious ruling calling upon Jews to kill him. The New York Times (July 1, 1994) reported: “Rabbi Shlomo Goren said he had made a formal rabbinic ruling that declared, ‘There is no doubt that Yasser Arafat deserves death according to Israeli and international law…It is therefore a commandment to kill Arafat, and there is no need to wait to bring him to trial.’ Goren continued interpreting Jewish religious law: ‘Every (Jew) is commanded to kill Arafat.’…Goren, who served as chief rabbi of Israel for a decade and before that as chief military rabbi, said Arafat ‘deserves killing under Jewish law.’”
Case Of Jonathan Pollard
Consider the case of Jonathan Pollard and the manner in which many Jewish leaders embraced him and accused those who prosecuted him for espionage of the usual charge aimed at critics of Israel, “anti-Semitism.” Indeed, Pollard is an example of where Zionism can lead.
Pollard, who as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy admitted to and was found guilty of spying for Israel and served 30 years in prison, not only has no regrets for his actions but urges other American Jews to follow in his footsteps.
Now a resident of Israel, which he considers his real “home,” Pollard was interviewed by the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom (March 25, 2021). He said, “The bottom line on this charge of dual loyalty is, I’m sorry , we’re Jews, and if we’re Jews we will always have dual loyalty.” Pollard said Jews were deluding themselves if they thought of America as their home. He suggested that he would counsel a young Jewish American working in an American security agency to spy for Israel, as he did.
“I would tell them,” Pollard said, “that not doing anything is unacceptable. So simply going home (to Israel) is not acceptable…You have to make a decision whether your concern for Israel and loyalty to your fellow Jews is more important than your life.”
Hero’s Welcome in Israel
Pollard was paroled from his life sentence in 2015 and arrived in Israel last year. He was met at the airport by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. He arrived on a private plane provided by the late casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Adelson once said that he regretted having served in the U.S. Army rather than the Israeli military.
Jonathan Pollard grew up in a family committed to Zionism. He recalls that at his synagogue “there were two flags: a U.S. and an Israeli one. That’s how I was raised.” He was told that Israel was the “homeland” of all Jews and that he was “in exile” in America. In his extensive espionage for Israel, his actions seemed consistent with the Zionist philosophy he had learned.
While many Jewish Americans were harshly critical of Pollard, the Jewish establishment was not. In the 1990s, a wide range of Jewish leaders urged the President “to demonstrate your commitment to justice by commuting Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to the time…he has already served.” Among those signing this statement were Rabbi Norman Lamm, president of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Arthur Green, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Rabbi Gerald Zeller , president of the Rabbinical Assembly. Also joining this effort in behalf of Pollard were the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York and Chicago Boards of Rabbis. Rabbi Avraham Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, N.Y. wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Pollard “remains incarcerated because of the improprieties, prejudice, downright anti-Israelism and elements of anti-Semitism…now he has become a political prisoner.”
In another instance of promoting Israeli interests in violation of traditional Jewish values, the organized Jewish community opposed efforts to recognize the Armenian genocide for fear that it would endanger Israel’s ties with Turkey. Now that President Biden has officially recognized the slaughter of up to 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire as a genocide, the first in the 20th century, it is interesting to review Jewish efforts to prevent this recognition over the years.
As Hitler planned his invasion of Poland in 1939, he was aware of the slaughter of the Armenians and noted that the world looked away. He believed that the world would look away from the Holocaust he planned as well. As Armenians sought the world’s recognition for what happened in 1915, Israel stood in the way, together with American Jewish groups which followed Israel’s lead. In April 2001, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said, “We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It was a tragedy what the Armenians went through, but not a genocide.”
When there was an effort to recognize the Armenian genocide in 2007, it was vigorously opposed in the Congress by Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. In a House committee meeting on October 10, 2007, seven of eight Jewish representatives on the committee said they could not in good conscience deny a genocide when they were often forced to repudiate Holocaust denial. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said his lifetime of Jewish advocacy left him no choice: “Genocide denial is not just the last step of a genocide, it is the first step of the next genocide.”
Jewish Groups Host Turkish Officials
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (April 28, 2021), “In the months prior to the vote, there had been a full-court press against advancing the resolution. Turkish officials flew to Washington, D.C. to make their case, often at private events hosted by Jewish groups. That same year, the Anti-Defamation jLeague (ADL) made national headlines when it fired one of its Boston officials who openly criticized the organization for not naming the Armenian genocide as such. ADL had hosted Turkish Prime minister Recep Erdogan two years earlier in New York.”
In the view of historians Rifat Bali and Marc David Baer, “The single most important factor in successfully concluding the process of normalization between Israel and Turkey was Armenian genocide denial.” American Jewish groups followed Israel’s lead. Abe Foxman, former leader of the ADL, said that the key reason for Jewish groups opposing the recognition of the Armenian genocide was “their not wanting to damage the Israeli-Turkish relationship.”
In his 1939 speech prior to the invasion of Poland, Hitler declared, “…our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy…with orders …to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women and children of Polish derivation and language…Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” This reference is now inscribed on one of the walls of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Defending Israel’s Occupation.
Defending Israel’s occupation, its history of ethnic cleansing, and its continued violation of international law——all of which contradict Judaism’s humane moral and ethical values—-is something establishment Jewish organizations continue to do, although it is becoming more difficult as more and more Jewish voices are heard in opposition.
In April, Human Rights Watch, the widely respected research and advocacy group that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, released a report declaring that the Israeli government is committing the crime of apartheid. It is the first official use of the term by the group, which documents abuses across 100 countries. The 213-page report cites Israel’s “intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians.” Titled “A Threshold Crossed,” it alleges decades of persecution that cannot be justified by Israel’s security needs or the stalled peace process.
Human Rights Watch found that the Israeli government systematically discriminated against non-Jews in all areas under its control—-including the nearly 2 million Arab citizens within the state’s 1948 borders—-but that an additional layer of severe human rights abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza amounts to the crime of apartheid. The report contends that Israeli officials are using military rule to ensure a Jewish majority across the combined land of Israel and the West Bank. Eric Goldstein, acting director for Human Rights Watch Middle East division, said the group’s report is intended to show that Israel’s abuses against Palestinians were not isolated incidents. “For years, the international community—-and many Israelis—-have the tendency to think of the cases we document as the unfortunate symptoms of a lack of peace. But the peace process has unfortunately gone nowhere and the abuses have become more entrenched.”
The Term “Apartheid” is Being Used More and More
The term “apartheid” is being used more and more to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem characterized Israel with that term. South Africans themselves recognize the similarities between their own apartheid system and the one which exists in Israel. As far back as 1961, Hendrik Verwoerd, the South African prime minister, saw parallels. He said: “The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” After South African apartheid came to an end, Ronnie Kasrils, a Jewish South African cabinet minister, on a visit to Jerusalem, said: “Apartheid was an extension of the colonial project to dispossess people of their land. That is exactly what has happened in Israel and the occupied territories, the use of force and the law to take the land. That is what apartheid and Israel have in common.”
The report comes at a time of renewed tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. In April, a Jewish mob attacked Arab residents of Jerusalem shouting “Death to Arabs.” Israeli human rights groups called it a “Jewish pogrom.” The recent Israeli election saw the election of openly Jewish racists, followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, to the Knesset. In an earlier Israeli society, Kahane’s Kach party was made illegal. Now its successor is welcomed and embraced by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Kahane and his current followers embrace a Jewish version of the Nazi Nuremberg laws, making marriage and sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews illegal.
Discussing these developments in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Gideon Levy writes, “Make no mistake: these attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem are the harbingers of Israeli neo-Nazism. Intimidating marches, beatings, arson, looting and calls for death are exactly what neo-Nazism looks like.”
In May, violence continued in East Jerusalem as the Israeli government prepared to remove more than 70 Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and replace them with Jewish settlers. In 53 years of occupation, Israel has changed the face of the city, always at the expense of its Palestinian residents. Nearly one third of the land of East Jerusalem has been expropriated from Palestinians and 11 Jewish-only neighborhoods have replaced them. The permanent residence status of 14,701 Palestinians has been removed. The plan to expel long-time Palestinian residents from Sheik Jarrah has met much opposition. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that any Israeli evictions would be considered “war crimes.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-VT) said: “The U.S. must speak out strongly against the violence by government-allied Israeli extremists in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and make clear that evictions of Palestinian families must not go forward.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) declared that, “The forced removal of long-time Palestinian residents in Sheik Jarrah is abhorrent and unacceptable. The administration should make clear to the Israeli Government that these evictions are illegal and must stop immediately.”
Assault at Al Aqsa Mosque
The controversy over Sheikh Jarrah and the assault by Israeli police upon Ramadan worshipers at the Al Aqsa mosque, which led to large numbers of injuries, in turn resulted In missiles being fired into Israel from Gaza and an overwhelming response from Israel. The Middle East editor for the BBC, Jeremy Brown, provided this assessment: “The fundamental reason for renewed violence does not change. It is the open wound of the unresolved conflict between Jews and Arabs that has blighted and ended Palestinian and Israeli lives for generations. The latest episode has happened because of tensions in Jerusalem, the sharpest part of the conflict. The holy sites in the Old City are national as well as religious symbols. Crises effecting them have often ignited violence. The trigger for what happened this time include the heavy-handed Israeli policing of Palestinians during Ramadan and the controversial efforts in the Israeli courts to evict Palestinians from their homes….This was a crisis waiting to happen in a conflict that, once again, has been left to fester…The biggest challenge, of making peace, has not been addressed seriously for years.”
The American Jewish establishment has remained largely silent about these trends. The reaction to the Human Rights Watch report was almost the same from the Israeli government and Jewish leaders in the U.S. Mark Regev, an adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, said that Human Rights Watch “has been plagued for years by systemic anti-Israel bias.” Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations said “this report bordered on anti-Semitism.” The American Jewish Committee called the report “a hatchet job,” and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations says “the report is anti-Semitic.” There was no effort to refute any of the examples of human rights violations detailed in the more than 200-page report.
Israel and its American friends did what they always do in response to criticism of Israel, dismiss it as “anti-Semitism.” Former Israeli Education Minister Shulamit Aloni, speaking about critics as anti-Semites, said, “Well, it’s true, we always use it. When from Europe someone is criticizing Israel, then we bring up the Holocaust.” When people criticize Israel in the U.S., she said, “they’re anti-Semites…It’s very easy to blame people who criticize certain acts of the Israeli government as anti-Semitic and to bring up the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people and that is to justify everything we do to the Palestinians.”
“A Devastating Report”
Professor Lawrence Tribe of the Harvard Law School has this advice for those who refer to the Human Rights Watch Report as “anti-Semitic.” He declares: “As a proud Jewish American with cousins who were born and live in Israel, I sadly associate myself with this Human Rights Watch conclusion. If you’re tempted to call Human Rights Watch anti-Semitic, first read it’s devastating report—-and then reconsider.”
Hadar Susskind, president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, who at one time served in the Israeli military, provided this analysis of the American Jewish response to the Human Rights Watch report: “Almost no one in the Jewish community is addressing the question of whether current Israeli policy meets the criteria for the crime of apartheid under international law. Instead, they cry ‘anti-Semitism’…and they seek to delegitimize the world’s leading human rights organization. All this, instead of taking an honest look at the root cause: 53 years of occupation.”
Writing in Washington Jewish Week (May 13, 2021), Susskind notes that, “The unwillingness of so many in our community to move past the zero sum game of trying to prove your righteousness, the inability to acknowledge that Israeli policy is not always in the right would be comical if it wasn’t so tragic. These same Jewish organizations that speak with pride about the Jewish value of Tikkun olum (fixing the world) and of being ‘a light unto the nations’ fall silent at the mention of the occupation and cry ‘double standard’ when Israel is asked to comply with international law…The issue is occupation. The issue is the unequal treatment of Palestinians, generations of whom have now lived only under Israeli military rule. The issue is the erosion of Israeli democracy , and what most of us considered Jewish values. If we could harness even a fraction of the energy and money that our community spends on shielding the occupation and deflecting the discourse about it to instead acting to end it, we would go a long way toward the strongest unifying wish of American Jews, true peace for Israel.”
More Than $3 Billion Annually In U.S. Aid
More and more commentators are pointing to the fact that Israel receives more than $3 billion in U.S. aid each year, which has made its military the most powerful in the region. As violence continued in Gaza, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, known for his commentary on human rights violations around the world, wrote: “As taxpayers we provide several billion dollars a year in military assistance to a rich country and thus subsidize bombings of Palestinians. Is that really a better use of our taxes than, say, paying for Covid-19 vaccinations abroad or pre-K at home? Shouldn’t our vast sums of aid to Israel be conditioned on reducing conflict rather than aggravating it?”
To those who say that criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians constitutes “anti-Semitism,” Kristof responds: “The suggestion that it’s anti-Semitic to criticize Israel for stealing land or bombing civilians seems to me ridiculous and a cheapening of a genuine threat. It’s like suggesting that it’s Islamophobic to criticize Iran or that it’s anti-Christian to denounce (Donald) Trump.”
The contradiction between the values many Jewish organizations promote in the U.S. and those they endorse in Israel became clear in the controversy which unfolded in April 2021 between the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Fox News talk show host Tucker Carlson. In one broadcast, Carlson said that there was a coordinated plan by Democrats to replace the existing U.S. population with immigrants from “the third world.” White supremacists refer to the idea as a “Great replacement” orchestrated by Jews. After this program appeared, the ADL called on Carlson to be fired. Fox declined to act, citing Carlson’s claim that he wasn’t talking about race.
Tucker Carlson Challenges ADL
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (April 17, 2021) reported that, “Carlson delivered a 20-minute defense of his ‘replacement’ idea. He took at the ADL, saying its defense of Israel’s majority and opposition to the return of Palestinian refugees contradicts its advocacy for immigrants in the U.S.”
Carlson declared, “In the words of the ADL, why would a government subvert its own sovereign existence?” He referred to an essay on the ADL website and said, “Maybe ADL president Jonathan Greenblatt will join tucker Carlson Tonight some time and explain and tell us whether that same principle applies to the United States.” Carlson presented screen shots of the ADL’s website which discussed Israel’s status: “With historically high birth rates among Palestinians, and a possible influx of Palestinian refugees and their descendants now living around the world, Jews would quickly be a minority in a bi-national state, thus ending any semblance of equal representation and protections. In this situation, the Jewish population would be politically—-and potentially physically —-vulnerable. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect the Jewish population, to expect the State of Israel to voluntarily subvert its own sovereign existence and national identity and become a vulnerable minority in what was once its own territory.” Carlson invited Greenblatt to come on his show to explain why the same principles that he promotes for Israel should not exist for the U.S.
The idea that Jews adopt a white supremacist policy when it comes to Israel was popularized in 2016 and 2017 by Richard Spencer, a white supremacist ideologue. He claimed that all he wanted was for the U.S. to adopt laws similar to those of Israel—-only to benefit white people rather than Jews. In a 2017 interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Spencer referred to himself as a “white Zionist in the sense that I care about my people. I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves just like you want a secure homeland in Israel.”
Andrew Anglin, in the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, wrote: “Jews come to America and force us to have unlimited immigration, while in their own country they have a wall and DNA-based citizenship.
Straying From Judaism’s Moral Principles
That Israel has become a role model for individuals and groups such as this is further evidence of how far some Jewish groups have strayed from Judaism’s moral principles. Peter Beinart, an editor of Jewish Currents, said of ADL: “This is the problem with being an anti-bigotry organization in the U.S. but opposing equality for Palestinians. You have a glass jaw. White nationalists like Carlson see Israel’s system of ethnic privilege as a model for the U.S.”
The mistreatment of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants goes back to the very beginning of Zionist settlement. And from the very beginning, there were Jewish critics who pointed out that Zionist actions contradicted the Jewish moral and ethical teachings to which they gave what was nothing more than lip service, if that.
At the very start of Zionist colonization, many Jews who supported one form or another of a Jewish “homeland” were concerned about the rights of the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine. Ahad Ha’am, the Russian Jewish writer and philosopher, in 1913 protested against a Jewish boycott of Arab labor. He wrote: “I can’t put up with the idea that our brethren are morally capable of behaving in such a way to humans of another people, and unwittingly the thought comes to my mind: If this is so now, what will our relations to the other be like if, at the end of time, we really achieve power in Eretz Yisrael? And if this be the Messiah, I do not wish to see this coming.”
In 1922, young Jewish zealots killed an Arab boy. This brought a cry of rage from Ahad Ha’am: “Jews and blood—-are there two greater opposites than these? Is this the goal for which our ancestors longed and for which they suffered all those tribulations? Is this the dream of the return to Zion…that we should come to Zion to pollute its soil with the spilling of innocent blood?”
In the years to come, Zionist efforts to engage, as much as possible, in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine became increasingly clear. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe writes that, “By 1945, Zionism had attracted more than half a million settlers to a country whose population was almost two million. …The local native population was not consulted , nor was its objection to the project of turning Palestine into a Jewish state taken into account…As with all earlier settler colonial movements, the answer to these problems was the twin logic of annihilation and dehumanization. The settlers’ only way of expanding their hold on the land beyond the 7 percent, and ensuring an exclusive demographic majority, was to remove the natives from their homeland. Zionism is thus a settler colonial project, and one that has not yet been completed. Palestine is not entirely Jewish demographically, and although Israel controls all of it politically by various means, the state of Israel is still colonizing…dispossessing Palestinians , and denying the right of the natives to their homeland.”
In 1937, David Ben-Gurion told the Zionist Assembly that, “In many parts of the country it will not be possible to settle without transferring the Arab Fellahin.” He articulated the place of expulsion in the future of the Zionist project in Palestine when he wrote, “With compulsory transfer we would have a vast area for settlement…I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral in it.”
Ilan Pappe makes clear that, “The crime committed by the leadership of the Zionist movement, which became the government of Israel, was that of ethnic cleansing. This is not mere rhetoric but an indictment with far-reaching political, legal and moral implications. The definition of the crime was clarified in the aftermath of the 1990s civil war in the Balkans: ethnic cleansing is any action by one ethnic group meant to drive out another ethnic group with the purpose of transforming a mixed ethnic region into a pure one. Such an action amounts to ethnic cleansing regardless of the means employed to obtain it—-from persuasion and threats to expulsions and mass killings.”
An important example of how this worked can be seen in what occurred at Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948. On that day the Irgun and LEHI Jewish militias launched an attack on the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, situated in the hills on the outskirts of Jerusalem, it constituted no threat to the Zionist forces. Its residents were considered passive , and its leaders had agreed with those of an adjacent Jewish neighborhood, Givat Shaul, that each side would prevent its own people from attacking the other. It was the Muslim Sabbath when the Irgun and LEHI attacked, with the acquiescence of the mainstream Jewish defense organization, the Haganah.
All of the inhabitants of the village were ordered out into the square, where they were lined up against the wall and shot. More than 100 civilians were killed. News of the massacre spread widely and helped prompt a panic flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes.
Most of the victims of the Deir Yassin massacre were women, children, and older people. The men of the village were absent because they worked in Jerusalem. Irgun leader and future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin issued this euphoric message to his troops after the attack: “Accept my congratulations on this splendid act of conquest…As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou hast chosen us for conquest.”
David Shipler, Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times from 1979 to 1984, provides this assessment: “The Jewish fighters who planned the attack on Deir Yassin also had a larger purpose, apparently. A Jerusalem woman and her son , who gave some of the men coffee in the pre-dawn hours before their mission, recall the guerrillas talking excitedly of the prospect of terrifying Arabs far beyond the village of Deir Yassin so that they would run away. Perhaps this explains why the Jewish guerrillas did not bury the Arabs they had killed, but left their bodies to be seen, and why they paraded surviving prisoners, blindfolded and with hands bound, in the backs of trucks through the streets of Jerusalem, a scene remembered with a shudder by Jews who saw it.”
Although now forgotten, many Jewish voices spoke out against Israel’s treatment of Palestine’s indigenous Arab population. In an important book, published in 2009, “Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz” (Brandeis University Press), attention is drawn to Rawidowicz (1897-1957), the wide-ranging Jewish thinker and scholar who taught at Brandeis University in the 1950s. At the heart of this book, written by David N. Myers, then professor of history at UCLA and director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, is a chapter also entitled “Between Jew and Arab”—-that Rawidowicz wrote as a coda to his 1957 Hebrew tome, Babylon and Jerusalem, but never published.
In this coda, Rawidowicz shifted his decades-long preoccupation with the “Jewish Question” to what he called the “Arab Question.” Asserting that the “Arab Question” had become a most urgent political and moral matter for Jews after 1948, he called for an end to discrimination against Arab residents of Israel—-and more provocatively, for the repatriation of Arab refugees from 1948. Professor Myers notes that, “There is clear evidence that Jewish and Israeli forces engaged in the expulsion of thousands, and likely hundreds of thousands, of Palestinian Arabs from the country. We also know that some Israeli government officials were more than happy to be rid of these hostile (or theoretically hostile) residents.”
Erasing Traces of an Arab Presence
Moreover, argues Myers, “…the new Israeli government often undertook to erase traces of the physical presence of Arabs in parts of Palestine that fell under jurisdiction of the State of Israel, a process chronicled by Merton Benvenisti in ‘Sacred Landscape.’ This effort was intended not only to ‘Judaize’ the new state, but to set firmly in place the image of the mythic Hebrew reclaiming his land. One consequence was that reminders of Palestinian Arab dispossession were largely repressed from the early 1950s.”
Rawidowicz beseeched Israelis to retain a measure of humility in their behavior and to acknowledge their errant ways. He particularly lamented the manner in which Jewish groups in the U.S. stood in lockstep with the Israeli government and refused to confront the challenge to Jewish morals and ethics inherent in the actions of that government. After 1948, in Rawidowicz’s view, “the nature of the battle between Jew and Arab in the Land of Israel has been transformed.” Resorting to a familiar rabbinic image, he elaborated: “This is no longer about ‘two people holding on to a garment,’ both of whom claim to the master watching over them that the garment is all theirs. Rather, one has grabbed hold of it, dominates and leads, while the other is led. The first rules as a decisive majority, as a nation-state. The other is dominated as a minority. And domination is in the hands of Israel.”
It was Rawidowicz’s belief that, “It is forbidden for the Jewish people…to expropriate the property of an enemy or combatant who was vanquished on the battlefield…Nothing stands before me —-before Israel and the entire world—-except this simple fact: hundreds of thousands of Arabs, man, woman and child, left this country and the State of Israel will not permit them to return to their homes and settle on their land, the land of their fathers, and of their father’s father. From 1948 on, I have spent much time thinking about this fact…But it is impossible for me to come to terms with it in any way, shape or form.”
Blind Support for Israel’s Occupation
Blind support for Israel’s occupation, argued Professor Tony Judt of New York university in 2010, has eroded Judaism’s moral position. An active Zionist in his youth, Judt declared that, “If there is one cast-iron law of history, it is probably that occupations and other forms of colonial rule are sooner or later resisted, and when that point comes, the occupier has a straight-forward choice between leaving and allowing the native population to exercise its independence and self-determination —-or staying. When the time came, Israel made the disastrous decision to stay. The rest was predictable.”
Referring to those American Jewish groups which have supported whatever Israeli governments have chosen to do, Judt asked: “How …does a reputedly intelligent people, with traditionally strong humanistic values, manage constantly to delude itself about what is going on, what lies in store and what needs to be done? And how has it allowed the Jewish Star of David, and by implication the Jewish religion and Jewish people, to become associated in the eyes of growing numbers of people with repression?”
The pro-Israel lobby, ranging from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a host of others—-was described by Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun, as “Bad for the United States, bad for Israel, and bad for the Jews.”
Israel Lobby is Bad for U.S. and Israel
It is bad for the U.S., he argued, because “The Israel lobby identifies the best interests of the U.S. with those of the Israeli right-wing, and that right wing engages in activities against the Palestinian people in particular and against neighboring states, which have inflamed global public opinion not only against Israel but against the U.S.”
It is bad for Israel, he continued, because “The Israel lobby strengthens the hands of the most right-wing forces in Israel while reinforcing the view that the U.S. is going to back their intransigence and militarism and that, hence, they have a blank check to do whatever crazy and self-defeating scheme they come up with, including the war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the dropping of cluster bombs on southern Lebanon, the refusal to give up land of Syria’s conquered in 1967, the holding of thousands of Palestinian civilians in Israeli prisoner camps, the use of torture, the violation of the rights of Israeli citizens who happen to be Arabs, and the refusal to acknowledge any responsibility for the Palestinian refugees. Israel will some day face a reckoning from Arab states and from the people’s of the world for the gross arrogance and insensitivity of their government’s policies, and people will someday look back at the Israel lobby in the U.S. and realize that it was destructive to Israel’s long-term survival interests.”
Beyond all of this, Lerner argued, the lobby is bad for Jews: “The most decisive reason the Israel lobby is bad for the Jews is that it strengthens idolatry in the Jewish world by reinforcing our tendencies to believe in power and domination rather than in love, compassion and open-heartedness…It pains me deeply to see the Israel lobby so successful in turning many of the Jews who are supposedly religious into worshipers of power; people who believe that the Will of God can be read by the outcome of military struggles like the 1967 Six Day War. This is straightforward idolatry—-the worship of power and the betrayal of the God of Israel.”
Silence On Intolerance In Israel
As intolerance grows in our own country, as seen, most recently, in the growing number of attacks upon Asian-Americans, Jewish organizations, quite properly, speak out in behalf of tolerance and inclusion. As intolerance grows in Israel, they remain largely silent. Recently, a prominent Israeli Arab television anchor spoke out about the attacks she has received after marriage to a Jewish Israeli. The Times of Israel (April 18, 2021) reports: “Lucy Aharish describes a barrage of criticism over her marriage to actor Tsahi Halevi, and says their child will make his own decision on Judaism. Aharish is a prominent Arab Israeli media personality…Aharish and Halevi’s wedding in 2018 drew widespread condemnation from the Israeli right, with politicians weighing in and some ministers publicly berating them at the time. In a Channel 12 interview on April 16, Aharish said the past 2 1/2 years since the wedding have ‘not been easy.’ She described how the couple suffered through multiple miscarriages and lamented the loss of her prime-time t.v. spot as Israel’s first Arab anchor…following what she believes was political pressure.”
Aharish was known among Jewish Israelis as a moderate Arab voice and in 2015, she was awarded the honor of lighting a torch at the national Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl for work as “a trailblazing Muslim journalist who brings a discourse of tolerance and interdenominational openness to Israel’s public agenda.” Aharish recalls that when her pregnancy was first announced, someone had wished her a stillbirth. She asks, “Where does this evil come from? To hope someone gives birth to a dead child? Where does this come from? Why? Why? Because I’m an Arab woman married to a Jewish man? …I’m scared of the world into which I am bringing my children. My child is a part of this country whether politicians like Bezalel Smotrich, the far-right leader of the Religious Zionism party, like it or not.”
The Times of Israel reports that Smotrich issued a message declaring that, “True Muslims understand that Israel belongs to the Jewish people, and over time Arabs who do not recognize this will not stay here.” Aharish responded, “This is racism.” In 2014, Bentzi Gopstein, head of Lehava, an organization that fights inter-faith marriage, told Aharish, during an appearance on her t.v.program, that as an Arab citizen “you’re not supposed to be here in the Jewish state.” When she replied that she wasn’t going anywhere, he said, “We shall see.” According to the Times of Israel, “Two years later, Gopstein appeared to threaten her during a commemoration of slain extremist rabbi Meir Kahane in Jerusalem when he held up a cleaning rag with her picture on it and warned that she would soon be mopping floors.”
A Religion Dedicated to God, Not Geography
In his book “Judaism, Human Values and the Jewish State,” the late Hebrew University Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz argued that Judaism is a religion dedicated to God, not to any particular geographical area, and that those who have confused Judaism and the policies of the State of Israel are guilty of a kind of idolatry.
He writes: “As for the ‘religious’ arguments for the annexation of the territories—-these are only an expression, subconsciously or perhaps even overtly hypocritical, of the transformation of the Jewish religion into a camouflage for Israeli nationalism. Counterfeit religion identifies national interests with the service of God and imputes to the state—-which is only an instrument serving human needs—-supreme value from a religious standpoint…The idea that a specific country or location have an intrinsic ‘holiness’ is an indubitably idolatrous idea…Nationalism and patriotism as such are not religious values. The prophets of Israel in the period of the first commonwealth and the Jewish sages in the period of the second commonwealth were, for the most part, ‘traitors’ from the perspective of secular nationalism and patriotism. The rabbis who argue today that we should keep the territories for ‘religious reasons’ are not carrying on the tradition of Elijah and the prophets of God but rather of the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah ‘who ate at the table of Jezebel.”
The Contradiction Between Jewish Values and Israeli Power
the contradiction between Jewish values and the uses of Israeli power is becoming a reality recognized by more and more Jews who seek to restore the humane religious tradition of their faith and separate it from the nationalism which has, more and more, corrupted it. In her book, “The Fate of the Jews,” Roberta Strauss Feurlicht noted that, “In Israel, Jews have created a mutant, a non-Jewish Jew. Jews have become the kind of people their mothers warned them about. Applying my mother’s measurement—-‘A Jew doesn’t do this’—-it appears that Israel is no place for a Jew…Judaism as an ideal is infinite. Judaism as a state is finite. Judaism survived centuries of persecution without a state; it must now learn how to survive despite a state.”
This, it is becoming ever more widely understood, is where Zionism has led.