Judaism and Zionism: A Divorce In the Making…?

Peter Beinart recently noted that “The reality of the growth of racism and religious extremism in Israel has been largely ignored by those groups in the U.S. such as AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which devote so much time, energy and resources to promoting what they perceive, often mistakenly, to be Israel’s interests.”

As Harkabi explained in a chapter titled Nationalistic Judaism, religion in Israel was marginal and did not attempt to influence or guide Zionist policy until after the I967 war. Because of their mistaken belief (the product of one of Zionism’s biggest propaganda lies) that Israel’s existence was in danger on the eve of that war, very many religious Jews were inspired to interpret victory as “a manifestation of God’s intervention”; and to conclude that “the conquest of parts of the historic land of Israel cast a brilliant light on the Zionist enterprise.”

What Harkabi described as this awakening of a nationalistic Judaism was a slow and evolving process which has led to what he called “national religious extremism” demanding and getting a leading role in Zionist policy making.

Harkabi concluded his chapter on nationalistic Judaism with a statement about the need “to avert a crisis in Judaism” and “alleviate the blow to the Jewish religion when the political position of annexation of Judea and Samaria supported by religion comes to grief.”

The latest expression of despair about the reticence of American Jews to speak their minds was that of Allan C Brownfield in an article for Issues, the journal of the American Council for Judaism, of which he is editor. Under the headline ON THE GROWTH OF RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM IN ISRAEL: A CHALLENGE TO ITS AMERICAN FRIENDS, he wrote:

“In a thoughtful new study guide issued by the Israel/Palestine Mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a question is asked which few have thus far been willing to pose:  ‘Given the liberal values shared by many American Jews and the long, proud tradition of Jewish participation in the struggle for human rights worldwide, why has there been so little outrage expressed at Israel’s human rights abuses of Palestinians in the decades since Israel’s founding?‘”

Brownfield then quoted the answer to that question given by Paul Krugman, the Princeton economist and New York Times columnist. “The truth is that like many liberal American Jews – and most American Jews are still liberal – I basically avoid thinking about where Israel is going.” Krugman’s explanation of why was “the high price for speaking out” which is “to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israel’s policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.”

Fear of being condemned and reviled by Zionism’s verbal hit-men and possibly ostracized is undoubtedly one reason for the silence of the majority of American and European Jews.

Another is that arguments about Israel and its policies can and do tear Jewish families apart, separating parents from children, husbands from wives and brothers from sisters.

Another is ignorance of what Zionism has done and is still doing in Palestine that became Israel. For very many American and European Jews, Zionism means nothing more than Jews from anywhere exercising their right to return to their God given, ancestral homeland. (For this article I’ll leave aside the fact that Israel/Palestine is not the ancestral homeland of most Jews of the world today). In other words, most American and European Jews have no idea that Zionism is an ethnic cleansing process in action.

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