Judaism and Zionism: A Divorce In the Making…?

But even if Rabbi Goldberg did allow himself to entertain some wishful thinking about the possibility of Zionism becoming grounded in Jewish values (I presume he meant progressive, reformist, modern Jewish values), that would not detract from the significance of his very courageous and most profound statement – that it may be time for Judaism and Zionism to go their separate ways.

2001 was clearly not the time and 13 years on a provocative question seems to the Gentile me to be in order.

Why should Judaism unshackle itself from Zionism?

One part of the short answer is that the credibility of Judaism is being undermined by Zionism’s contempt for its moral values and ethical principles, In that sense there’s a case for saying that Zionism is a threat to survival of Judaism. (The detailed case was made by Auschwitz survivor Hajo G. Meyer, an anti-Zionist Dutch national of German-Jewish origin, in his 2007 book An Ethical Tradition Betrayed, The End of Judaism).

Also to be noted in the context of the paragraph above is that Zionism’s founders were secular. Their only interest in Judaism was using its idea of God as an estate agent.

The other part of the short answer is signalled by the title of my book – Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews.

Today the message of that title is being underlined by a rising, global tide of anti-Israelism. Contrary to what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and those of the neo-fascist tendency to the extreme right of him assert, this rising tide is NOT, generally speaking, a manifestation of anti-Semitism (meaning prejudice against and a loathing of all Jews everywhere just because they are Jews). It is a manifestation of concern and anger provoked by the Zionist (not Jewish) state’s arrogance of power and insufferable self-righteousness. And it is happening because more and more people of all faiths and none, including a still smallish but growing number of Jews, are beginning to see Israel for what it really is – the oppressor and not the victim.

The danger for the Jews of the world is that anti-Israelism could be transformed into anti-Semitism, setting the stage for Holocaust II, my shorthand for another great turning against Jews everywhere, and starting quite possibly in America. A warning of this danger was issued by Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest serving Director of Military Intelligence, in his 1988 book Israel’s Fateful Hour. He wrote:

Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which initially is cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism.

It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.

Harkabi also had a message for Jews throughout the world.

They must dare to speak their minds candidly, without being afraid to disagree with Israel. The reticence of the American Jewish leadership is not to their credit. Instead of publicly expressing their concern they act as apologists for policies and conduct of which many of them privately disapprove, abdicating their responsibilities as leaders in America and as influential advisers in Israel. Muteness is not neutrality but an endorsement of current Likud policies.

If Harkabi was alive today I would suggest to him that in an updated text “Likud policies” should be replaced by “the policies of the neo-fascist right and the racist religious zealots”.

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