Book Review by ALLAN C. BROWNFELD
RECLAIMING JUDAISM FROM ZIONISM: STORIES
OF PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION
Edited by Carolyn L. Karcher, Olive Branch Press, 371 Pages, $20.00
Full text of review below the fold.
[This review will appear in the Fall 2019 “Issues,” the quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism]
The relationship of American Jews with Israel has undergone many changes in recent years. Zionism, or Jewish nationalism, was always a minority view among Jews. The vast majority of American Jews viewed Judaism as a religion of universal values, not a nationality. In the wake of the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust, sympathy for the establishment of a Jewish state grew.
In the years after World War ll, for many Jews, the State of Israel became “central” to their Jewish identity, replacing God and the Jewish moral and ethical tradition. Israeli flags flew in many American synagogues, young people were sent on free Birthright Israel trips, and Middle East politics seemed to dominate the organized Jewish community.
During these years, many believed that Israel and American Jews shared common values. Slowly, it became clear that this was not really the case. American Jews, for example, believe in religious freedom and separation of church and state. In Israel, there is a theocracy, with state-employed Chief ultra-Orthodox rabbis. Reform rabbis cannot perform weddings, funerals or conversions. Jews and non-Jews who wish to marry must leave the country to do so. At the same time, Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem for 51 years. Millions of Palestinians are without political rights, a challenge to the American Jewish commitment to equal rights for men and women of every race, faith and background.
Transformation In Jewish Thinking
As a result of these many contradictions, there is a major transformation in the thinking of American Jews now under way. In this book, edited by Carolyn L. Karcher, a professor emeritus of English, American Studies and Women’s Studies at Temple University, she has gathered a powerful collection of personal narratives from forty Jews. They represent diverse backgrounds and tell a wide range of stories about the roads they have traveled from a Zionist worldview to activism in solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis striving to build an inclusive society founded on justice, equality and peaceful coexistence.
The contributing authors want, in particular, to demolish stereotypes of dissenting Jews as “self-hating” and traitorous. They want to introduce readers to the large and growing community of Jewish activists who have created groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow and Open Hillel. They want to strengthen alliances with like-minded people of all faiths and backgrounds. They seek to nurture models of Jewish identity that replace ethnic exclusiveness with solidarity, Zionism with a Judaism once again nourished by a transcendental ethical vision.
Of particular interest is Dr. Karcher’s Introduction, “History of Zionism and Anti-Zionism, 1880-1948.” She writes, “What is the relationship between Zionism and Judaism? Zionism is a political ideology of Jewish nationalism and Judaism is a religion. Zionism centers on the belief in Israel as a haven where Jews can remain safe from the persecution that dogged them in Europe and exterminated six million of them in Nazi death camps and killing fields. ; it is based on the conviction that nothing but a state controlled by Jews for Jews can protect them against anti-Semitism and the threat of another holocaust. Judaism centers on a body of sacred texts , ritual npractices and ethical precepts.”
Care Deeply About Judaism
This book’s 40 contributors, Karcher notes, “care deeply about the future of Judaism and the Jewish people. Nearly all of them previously identified themselves as Zionists. Their personal narratives explain why they no longer do.”
Zionism, Karcher points out was always a minority view among Jews. Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism in late 19th century Europe, did not believe in God or Judaism. The state he sought to create would be secular and based on the idea of Jewish “national” or “ethnic” identity and incorporating those features he found most attractive in Europe, particularly Germany. It
immediately brought opposition from Orthodox Jews as well as those Jews who rejected the idea of a separate Jewish nationalism. In America, Reform Jews rejected the Zionist idea, proclaiming that Judaism was a religion of universal values not a nationality. In 1897, the Central Conference of American Rabbis adopted a resolution disapproving any attempt to establish a Jewish state. The resolution declared, “Zion was a precious possession of the past…as such it is a holy memory, , but it is not our hope of the future. America is our Zion.”
The early Zionists turned away not only from the Jewish religious tradition but in their disregard for the indigenous population of Palestine , Jewish moral and ethical values as well, in his book “Israel: A Colonial-Settler State,”. the
French Jewish historian Maxine Rodinson writes that, “Wanting to create a purely Jewish or predominantly Jewish state in Arab Palestine in the 20th century could not help but lead to a colonial-type situation and the development of a racist state of mind, and in the final analysis to a military confrontation.”
In the wake of growing anti-Semitism in Russia and Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century and the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the nineteen thirties, many Jews began to look positively on creating a Jewish state in Palestine as a refuge for those being persecuted. The American Council for Judaism (ACJ) was created in 1942 to maintain the philosophy of a universal Judaism free of nationalism and politicization.
In her discussion of the role played by the ACJ, Karcher provides this assessment: “The ACJ and its chief spokesmen of the 1940s—-the Refirm rabbis Elmer Berger and Morris Lazaron and the philanthropist Lessing Rosenwald, son of the better-known philanthropist and Sears Roebuck heir Julius Rosenwald—-continued not only to warn against the dangers of creating a Jewish state in Palestine but to promulgate alternative solutions to the plight of the Holocaust survivors languishing in post-war displaced persons (DP) camps. Although they went down to defeat and were subsequently written out of history by Zionist scholars, their ideas deserve renewed attention.”
In particular, she notes, “…as the ACJ’s statement of August 30, 1943 specified, the organization contended that Jews could defend their own rights most effectively ‘by relying on the broad religious principles inherent in a democracy and implementing them wherever possible,’. And by ‘Joining…forces with…all lovers of freedom; strengthened, in that we do not stand segregated and alone upon exclusive demands.’ Accordingly, the ACJ called on the United Nations to ‘secure the earliest feasible repatriation or resettlement under the best possible conditions of all people uprooted from their homes by the Axis powers’. And ‘to provide immediate sanctuary for all refugees of all faiths, political beliefs and national origins.’ The ACJ cited Palestine as one such sanctuary and urged the resettlement there of 100,000 DPs —-a serious blow to Palestinian rights. Yet the organization recognized Palestine as the ‘heritage’ not only of Jews , but of Christians and Muslims. Thus, it recommended ‘the ultimate establishment of a democratic , autonomous government in Palestine, wherein Jews, Moslems and Christians shall be justly represented; every man enjoying equal rights and sharing equal responsibilities.’”
Urged U.S. To Set An Example
At the same time, she points out, “ACJ leaders lobbied feverishly—-but unsuccessfully—-for the U.S. to set an example to the world by liberalizing its harsh immigration laws, so that it could accommodate its fair share of World War ll DPs as refugees. Rabbi Berger’s strong commitment to fighting racism worldwide would later prompt him to join the advisory board of the International Council for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, an organization dedicated to ‘investigating racism as it relates to the Palestine conflict, South Africa and the condition of indigenous peoples in general.’. In sum, the ACJ…anticipated some of the contributors to this volume in promoting democracy , human rights and human solidarity as the continued alternative to Zionism and the ultimate solution to racial, ethnic and religious bigotry of all kinds.”
Contributors to this volume include rabbis, academics, students, writers and men and women from a wide variety of Jewish backgrounds.
In an essay entitled “Non-Zionism and the New Jewish Diaspora,” Rabbi Brant Rosen,the founding rabbi of Tzedek Chicago, a non-Zionist synagogue, and founder of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, reports that, “We decided that Tzedek Chicago would be an intentional spiritual community , founded on specific core values, including solidarity with the oppressed , anti-racism and non-violence. We also included a value we referred to as ‘Judaism Beyond Nationalism.’”
Reject Fusing Judaism With Nationalism
The synagogue’s core values statement declares: “While we appreciate the important role of the land of Israel in Jewish tradition, liturgy and identity, we do not celebrate the fusing of Judaism with political nationalism. We are non-Zionists, openly acknowledging that the creation of an ethnic Jewish nation state in historic Palestine resulted in an injustice against its indigenous people—-an injustice that continues to this day.”
In fact, Rosen points out, “Jewish tradition was actually born and bred in the Diaspora. Before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE Judaism was a land-centered , Temple-based sacrificial system that was already splintering into several competing sects. But after the Temple was destroyed, dispersing the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora, Rabbinic Judaism adapted to this new reality by developing a religious system that could be observed anywhere in the world. Judaism became, as it were, a kind of spiritual road map a spiritual response to the trauma of dispersion and exile….Our central Jewish text—-the Talmud—- was composed and compiled in Babylonia.”
Rabbi Linda Holtzman, one of the first women rabbis to preside over a synagogue , and now head of
a Tikkun Olam Chavurah, a prayer group that pursues social justice, describes her movement away from Zionism: “Golda Meir was my hero and when she said that there was no Palestinian people, how could I not believe her? Israel really was, as I learned over and over again, ‘a land without people for a people without a land.’ I did not know the truth and for a long time I did not try to learn the truth.”
Zionism and Racism
Rabbi Holtzman writes: “I remembered how appalled I was when when the United Nations voted in 1975 that Zionism was a form of racism. The idea was unthinkable. When signs proclaiming ‘Zionism is racism’ appeared at rallies that I went to or at protests that I marched in, I worried about the other causes I was supporting. …I tackled the question of Zionism and racism myself. …Pondering this, led me back to one of the teachings that had drawn me to Reconstructionism’s Mortimer Kaplan’s view that the Jews are the chosen people. I had to wonder whether Zionism was basically another version of what Kaplan had critiqued. …I had never seen the similarity of Zionism and chosenness, but there it was.”
Now, she writes, “I can no longer call myself a Zionist because the memories of Palestine will never let me. I am deeply saddened by the loss of something I treasured, of a link in a link to my family, of a dream I once shared with people I love. But the truth is more important than my dreams, or childhood memories. Now, as I serve on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, or work for Palestinian Rights in any way that I can, I feel a connection to the values that underline my Judaism.”
It is not only the treatment of Palestinians in Israel which challenge Jewish moral and ethical values, but also the treatment of Jews who are not European. Professor Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber of Suffolk University, is of Yemeni Jewish origin. She describes the discrimination felt by Jews from the Arab world, including taking their children from them for adoption by European families.
Taking Yemeni Children
Such an event took place within her own family. She writes: “On the day that my father and his sister, my aunt Hammama, together with the rest of the family emigrated from Yemen in 1949, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. She was rushed to the hospital, while the rest of the family was taken to the absorption camp…when she returned from the hospital…a few days later, the nurse who had accompanied her in the ambulance took the baby from her arms and told my aunt to step down. When she turned around, the ambulance was gone with the baby in it.”
Dr. Madnoni-Gerber writes that, “I heard this story repeatedly…when I became a reporter in the early 1990s, I heard similar stories from other families of Yemenite and other non-European ethnic groups.Their stories indicated that hundreds if not thousands of Jewish families in the state of Israel were carrying the same tragic narrative. …Through extensive research and interviews, with dozens of families and activists over the next two decades, I discovered that while the Israeli government and public tried to forget and silence this ‘affair.’ Yemenite families continued to stuffer from the pain of their terrible loss.”
Seth Morrison, once a Zionist activist who worked with AIPAC, among other Pro-Israel groups, slowly became disillusioned with Israel’s ethno-centric nature and its treatment not only of Palestinians, but all non-Jews. In his essay, “From AIPAC to JVP: My Evolution On Zionism and Israel,” he declares that, “It is very distressing for me that many Americans, both Jews and non-Jews, brand Jewish Voice for Peace and BDS as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.”
Motivated By Jewish Values
In Morrison’s view, “JVP members are primarily Jewish and we are motivated by our Jewish values to support Palestinian human rights. Many of us, including me, have friends and family in Israel that we do not want harmed. Yes, it will be hard for Jewish Israelis when Israel’s apartheid policies are ended, but it is the right thing to do. Whatever the solution to this conflict is, we recognize that it must fully respect the rights of all residents, regardless of religion, nationality or ethnicity. I urge all Americans to read the Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The BDS movement was founded by Palestinian civil society and it explicitly recognizes the existence of Israel and outlines clean criteria for ending the boycott. It is time for open and honest dialogue.”
In an essay, “Moving Away From Zionism,” Gael Horowitz, a recent graduate of Wesleyan University, notes that, “During my gap year in Israel there was very little explicit education on the occupation. …In this narrative, the occupation was only a post-1967 issue and not a larger issue of settler colonialism. …Two friends and I decided to take it upon ourselves to to complete the part of our experience that seemed to be lacking. We went on a trip to Hebron, Susya and the South Hebron Hills with a group that included…a tour guide from the Israeli veterans organization Breaking the Silence, dedicated to informing the public about the violence that maintaining the occupation requires…we saw Shuhada Street and the settlement on top of the hills. The intentionally crafted and manipulated geography of settler colonialism became clear and I began to wonder why this was the first time I had been able to see it. ..We learned about the morally reprehensible occupation, but the movement’s belief system did not, and perhaps could not, entertain the idea that nationalism was inherently toxic.”
It is Horowitz’s belief that, “ I deeply understand that my Judaism is political and as Jews we have a responsibility to be in solidarity with Palestine———not because it proves expectations wrong but because Israel is a country that says it speaks for all of us. If we remain silent, then we are tacitly agreeing. We must be able to speak up powerfully, Jewishly , and consistently to be able to say, ‘Not In My Name.’”
Experience With Birthright Israel
Another recent college graduate, from Columbia University, Chris Godshall, describes how his disillusionment with Zionism grew as a result of his experience on a Birthright Israel student trip. “The novelty of belonging wore off quickly and the questions I had been ignoring bubbled to the surface, I began to read up on Israel and Palestine and learned more about the occupation. A dissonance began to form between the Zionist narrative I was hearing—-that Israel was a victim defending itself from hostile neighbors to protect the Jewish people—-and my growing understanding that Israel was, in fact, an aggressor illegally occupying and colonizing Palestinian Land. When I expressed these thoughts to people from my Birthright trip, I was met, at best, with disregard and, at worst, with hostility. I hadn’t yet abandoned Zionism itself—-I didn’t like the occupation and the prevention of the creation of a Palestinian state. But I certainly wasn’t on the same page as…the other people on the Birthright Trip . I found myself…searching for a place in the Jewish community…”
Currently a student at Georgetown University Law School, Godshak believes that the best way to connect to Judaism’s moral and ethical tradition is to work for justice for all people, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.
Dr. Linda Hess, senior lecturer emerita in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University, contributes a piece entitled,”Who Are The. Chosen People?” For her bat mitvah many years ago, she wrote her own speech. She recalls, “the speech I wrote picked up the widely repeated and never questioned idea of the Jews as God’s chosen people. I arracked it. I said that such an idea could lead to no good. None of the original words are in my memory, but I must have pointed to the unhealthy insularity that would lead to both victimhood and superiority. I must have noted, in my youthful language, that the chosen people myth would cut us off from other people and mar our capacity to feel equality with everyone. The chosen people story was a bad story. It should be eliminated, so we could open our hearts to a wider kinship with all,people. “
Mirror Image Of Its Oppressors
She notes that, “After the horrors of World War ll, it was tragic to see Israel move in the direction it did. My personal and historical knowledge led to the understanding that Israel was becoming a mirror image of its fascist oppressors: crushing Palestinians, turning turning ever more cruel and prejudiced in its policies and attitudes, ever more unreasonable and self-obsessed in its entitlements and demands. I attributed this to the kind of post-traumatic disorder that makes you hell-bent to possess the power of your torturers, to take care of your own people and see only your people’s suffering, not that of others, to have a collective enemy whom you dehumanize, humiliate, squeeze into ghettoes, deprive of basic needs, maim and kill without mercy.”
In the end, Dr, Hess concludes, “…I identified with and needed to protect Palestinians because of the Holocaust, not in spite of it. I took a stand against Zionism and Israeli policies because of being Jewish, not in spite of it. We each make our own deal with belief or no belief in a deity. For me, if there’s God, it’s that God of the open blue sky who, despite the absence of anthropomorphic features, seems to be smiling. There is no chosen people. That includes everyone.”
Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, recalls that, “I joined the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu , winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has drawn parallels between apartheid in his country and Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. When I published ,articles critical of Israel,, I invariably receive messages accusing me of anti-Semitism, of being ‘a self-hating Jew.’ Thus, I was pleased to read Tutut’s opinion in the Tampa Bay Times: ‘My Voice will always be raised in support of Christian-Jewish ties and against the anti-Semitism that all sensible people fear and detest. But this cannot be a reason for for doing nothing and for standing aside as successive Israeli governments colonize the West Bank and advance racist laws,’ he wrote, adding ‘Israel’s theft of Palestinian land’. and ‘Jewish-only colonies built on Palestinian land in violation of international law.’”
BDS Supported By Many Jews
She writes, “….If BDS is anti-Semitic, why do so many Jews like me support it? Writing in the Tikkun Daily: Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), board member Donna Nevel noted, ‘respected members of the liberal Jewish community and a few liberal Zionist groups,’ formerly opposed to BDS are now calling for boycotting products made in the settlements. …In his article, Tutu cited the 2018 Human Rights Watch report which ‘describes the two-tier system of laws, rules and services that Israel operates for the two populations in areas of the West Bank under its exclusive control which provide preferential services , development and benefits for Jewish settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians.’ Tutu added: ‘This, in my book, is apartheid. It is untenable.’ “
Cohn concludes that, “…my deep feelings about the suffering of my ancestors during the Holocaust are not inconsistent with my criticism of Israel for subjecting the Palestinians to a different kind of Holocaust. Most of my family members have progressive politics. But many of them are what we call ‘PEP’—-progressive on everything but Palestine. It was difficult for my older relatives, particularly my mother, father and older cousins, to accept my criticism of Israel. Ultimately, I found the most effective way to deal with our differences was to accept that this is an extremely divisive issue, we would never change each other’s minds and agree to disagree. Those of us in the Jewish community have a special responsibility to fight against the Israeli system of apartheid and its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. The BDS movement is an increasingly effective weapon in this struggle. .”
The final essay in this collection is by JVP leaders Rabbi Alissa Wise and Rebecca Vilkomerson and is titled “The Discarded Materials Have Become the Cornerstone.” They write: “Almost by definition, joining JVP as a Jewish person entails being willing to push your own boundaries and challenge yourself to think differently from how you’ve been accustomed or socialized to do. This is not universally the case, but for those of us who grew up inside Jewish Communities, moving away from the accepted discourse on Israel meant being willing to defy. In some cases, our families, friends, rabbis or teachers. Each of us had a moment when we consciously realized that what we had been taught as articles of faith was wrong and we had to shift our thinking.”
Jewish Denominations Struggling
Vilkomerson i and Wise note that, “As many Jewish denominations are struggling to maintain membership, new chuvurut and minyanim self-organized spiritual communities, have been forming into and out of JjVP chapters. In cities like Durham, New Orleans, Boston and others JVP members are self-organizing the spiritual spaces they need to reflect, inspire, nourish, heal and collect themselves in this olong hard work…So what does building alternative Jewish spiritual communities have to do with ending Israeli apartheid? First, we need more American Jews to refuse cooperation with Israeli policies and actions. …As we seek to grow the numbers to change the foreign policy, k we need to create a welcoming landing place for those finding themselves at odds with Israel. We need to make it possible to be at odds with Israel without leaving Jewishness or Judaism behind.
In a thoughtful afterword,”American Jews’ Changing Attitudes Toward Israel; 1948-2018” Carolyn Karcher writes: “In the wake of World War ll, irresistible forces propelled the world toward the creation of Israel: the overwhelming ghastliness of the Holocaust, the guilt felt by both American Jews and Western nations for not having done enough to prevent the tragedy, the urgency of resettling the Holocaust’s surviving victims ; the unwillingness of the United States and other Western nations to admit these victims in sufficient numbers coupled with the insistence of Zionist leaders that Palestine be the refuge offered them, and the colonialist mentality that led Europeans, Americans and Zionists alike to disregard the indigenous Palestinian population”
In Karcher’s view, the Zionist leaders, from the very beginning sought to remove as many of the indigenous Palestinian population as possible by a calculated campaign of “ethnic cleansing.” In this connection, she reports that in March 1948, two months before the end of the British Mandate, tha Haganah adopted a “blueprint for ethnic cleansing: plan Dalet’ This plan, she notes, “involved terrorizing the population through massacres that provoked mass flight, driving Palestinians out of villages and urban centers, and reducing nearly all the structures in the depopulated areas to rubble…The number would rise to between 700,000 and 800,000 when the organized ethnic cleansing finally ended in the summer of 1949.”
Myth of Self-Defense
The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe dispels the myth that the fledgling Israeli State was defending itself against a “second Holocaust.,” as David Ben-Gurion and other Zionist leaders claimed in public. In private, they never used this discourse,” notes Pappe. “The Zionist leaders were confident they had the upper hand militarily and could drive through most of their ambitious plans. And they were right.”
The alleged consensus of the organized American Jewish community behind Israel in the post-World War ll years always included dissenters. “In 1973,” Karcher points out, “Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, the director of the Yale University Hillel, founded Breira (meaning ‘alternative’’in Hebrew) its l name, he spelled out, signified ‘our desire for an alternative…to the intransigence shown by both the Palestinian and Israeli leadership.’Breira’s membership, iothough only 1,500 strong at its peak, included dozens of rabbis, at least eight Hillel directors, and professionals staffing mainstream Jewish organizations as well as nearly one hundred Reform and Conservative rabbis on its Advisory Council, among them Arthur Waskow. Unlike the American Council for Judaism, Breira in no way challenged Zionist ideology. On the contrary, the group explicitly identified itself as coming ‘From within the mainstream of the American Jewish community …and from a moderate perspective.’ But that did not shield it from what Dov Waxman calls ‘the almost hysterical’ fury of the Zionist establishment. Breira’s very rootedness in the organized Jewish community, he suggests, constituted a threat to the United front the Jewish establishment wanted to present to the world. Simultaneously, its insider status made Breira more vulnerable to retaliation. …rabbis identified with Breira were fired and employees of Jewish organizations were obliged to choose between retaining their jobs or adhering to Breira,.”
Though Breira came to an end, dismay with Israel’s policies and its role in the Middle East led to growing Jewish dissent. The 1982 invasion of Lebanon, writes Karcher, “…unlike the six day blitz of 1967, ,was universally recognized as a ‘war of choice.’ Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Beirut, which produced massive civilian casualties, sparked protest at home as well as in the U.S., inciting Israeli combat veterans to refuse army service in Lebanon with the slogan ‘Yesh Gia,, there is no limit’—-an unprecedented development in a society that imposed universal conscription. The shocking massacre of 3,500 Palestinian women, children and old men in in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila perpetrated by Lebanese Phalangist militias with the connivance of the Israeli military, , even prompted a government investigation of then a Defense Minister Ariel Sharon “
Ranks Of Jewish Dissenters Have Grown
In recent years, the ranks of Jewish dissenters have grown dramatically. In 1996, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) was started by several women students at the University of California at Berkeley. JVP moved in 2006 from being a small Bay Area group to a national organization that has been growing rapidly ever since. Its i2002 mission statement described JVP as “a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice and human rights.”9
That statement articulated JVP’s goals as: “ A U.S. foreign policy based on promoting peace, democracy, human rights and respect for international law. An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. A resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem consistent with international law and equity. An end to all violence against civilians. Peace between the peoples of the region.”
In Karcher’s view, “JVP differed from all predecessors ‘in embracing people with a wide range of views on difficult topics like Zionism and the Right of Return.’ …JVP’s guidelines specifically instructed members to ‘avoid using the term Zionism or anti-Zionism in either a positive or negative way.”
Another organization promising a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is J Street, which emerged in 2002. Founded by former Clinton administration domestic policy adviser Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street sought to “provide a political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who believe that ‘a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel’s survival as as the National home of the Jewish people and a viable democracy.”
At the present time, Karcher argues, “Nothing better epitomizes the chasm between American and Israeli Jews than Israeli leaders’ and their supporters’ gleeful embrace of Donald Trump, against whom some 70 per cent of American Jews voted. This chasm can only widen in the long run, given Trump’s close ties with white nationalists …whom he refused to condemn even after one of them murdered a counter demonstrator at a Charlottesville, Virginia rally; the declaration by Israeli leaders that white nationalists and neo-Nazis represent less of a threat to Jews than the Black Lives Matter movement and the friendliness that some sectors of the pro-Israel establishment have shown to white nationalists. In the short-run, the U.S. pro-Israel establishment will continue to use all of its financial and political clout to crush the Palestinian solidarity movement…A final cause of diminishing support for Israel among American Jews has been disillusionment with the peace process…Even those who believed in it can now see that no one in the current Israeli government (or in any possible future one) is willing to accept a Palestinian state. They can also see that settlement expansion , land confiscation and continued demolition of whole Palestinian villages have long since filled up most of the West Bank with Jewish colonies,preventing any possibility of creating a viable and contiguous Palestinian state.”
Summing up the material in this book, Karcher concludes that, “The narratives presented here defy stereotypes of both a monolithic pro-Israel American Jewish community and a rag-tag band of ‘self-hating Jews’ outside it. On the contrary, they reveal that many who reject Zionism do so out of deeply held religious values and remain and remain observant Jews, while others take pride in a secular Jewish identity intertwined intertwined with their progressive ideals. As diverse as they ar, these narratives share some common threads, .”
A State Run By Jews For Jews
She continues; “…those who have witnessed the Israeli occupation firsthand have learned that a state run by Jews for Jews and dependent on maintaining a Jewish majority cannot guarantee either physical safety or spiritual wholeness for Jews—indeed, that such a state must necessarily be an ethnocracy rather than a democracy……Once they applied to Israel the critical thinking they had been taught to consider the essence of Judaism, they came up against the censorship and silencing necessary to preserve faith in Israel as a democratic haven for the Jews, and in Zionism as a central tenet of Judaism. …For many, rejecting Zionism has entailed alienating family members, losing friends and enduring expulsion from Jewish communal places. In compensation, however, dissenting Jews have found new spiritual homes in Open Hillel, was , IfNotNow , JVP, and non-Zionist havurot and minyans (informal prayer groups) that have been springing up around the country. “
Today, the authors who have contributed to this book believe, American Jews face an important choice. We can be loyal to the ethical imperatives at the heart of Judaism—-love the stranger, pursue justice and repair the world. Or, unconditional support can be given to the state of Israel. It is a choice between Judaism as a religion and the nationalist ideology of Zionism.which is usurping that religion.
In this thoughtful collection of personal narratives , 40 Jews of diverse backgrounds tell a wide range of stories about the roads they have traveled from a Zionist worldview to activism in solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis striving to build an inclusive society founded on justice, equality and peaceful coexistence.
Zionism Was Always A Minority View
In her introduction, Dr. Karcher shows that Zionism was, from its start in late 19th century Europe, a minority among Jews. It was opposed by Orthodox Jews, by secular Jews in groups such as the Bund, and by Reform Jews. For Reform Jews, it contradicted almost completely their belief in a universal, prophetic Judaism. The first Reform prayerbook eliminated references to Jews being in exile and in a Messiah who would miraculously restore Jews throughout the world to the historic land of Israel and who would rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. The distinguished Reform rabbi Abraham Geiger argued that revelation was progressive and new truth became available to every generation, the unchanging essence of Judaism was ethical monotheism. The Jewish people were a religious community destined to carry on the mission to to “serve as a light to the nations,” to iobear witness to God and His moral law. The dispersion of the Jews was not a punishment for their sins, but part of God’s plan whereby they were to disseminate the universal message of ethical monotheism.
It is this tradition, as Dr. Karcher points out, which the American Council for Judaism has kept alive since 1942. Were it not for the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust, that tradition would surely have remained dominant in American Judaism. This book shows us that a new generation of American Jews is rejecting nationalism and seeking to restore the humane Jewish moral and ethical tradition. As a result, there is every reason to be hopeful about the future. This book deserves a wide readership. It is an important step in rethinking the path organized Judaism has embraced in recent years—-a path leading away from Judaism’s unique historic contribution. ##
Allan C. Brownfeld is a nationally syndicated columnist and editor of ISSUES, the quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism.The author of five books, he has served on the staff of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President.
Phi Beta Iota: The Zionists are so very good at lying, bribing, and blackmailing that the chances of the above being deleted at the source are high. We are less vulnerable to Zionist pressure so we have taken the precaution of posting the entire review and recommend both the review and the book to one and all. Zionism is evil, Judaism is not. The time has come to un-invent the invented criminal genocidal apartheid state of Israel, and restore Palestine to the Palestinians. Zionism and the state of Israel are a cancer against all Jews and a parasite against the United States of America.