Affirming a Judaism and Jewish identity without Zionism

Brian Walt
Brian Walt

A month ago, I was invited by American Jews for a Just Peace to give a talk in Boston in memory of Hilda Silverman z’l, a friend, congregant and passionate advocate for justice for Palestinians. In honor of Hilda, I wrote a talk that described my journey from liberal Zionist to a belief in a Judaism and Jewish Identity without Zionism. The talk is long but it describes the journey as well as paying tribute to one very courageous and visionary friend. I welcome comments and responses.

Part 1: Hilda z’l

Thank you so much for inviting me to give this lecture in memory of Hilda Silverman z’l, a dear friend, congregant, teacher and comrade. Hilda, as many of you know, was a very passionate, articulate and relentless advocate for justice, particularly for Palestinians. Passion for justice was core of her Jewish identity. The Torah commands: Justice, Justice, shall you pursue! Hilda’s tireless pursuit of justice is reflected in the Torah’s repetition: Justice, (Yes!) Justice shall you pursue!

For Hilda, as for most liberal Jews, this commitment to justice was based not only on Jewish text but also in Jewish history, in the experience of Jews as victims of injustice. We must never do to others what was done to us. In the words of the Torah: “You shall not oppress the stranger for you know the soul of the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” For Hilda, solidarity with the oppressed, with those who are treated unjustly, was what it meant to be a Jew.

hilda
Hilda Silverman

Hilda saw the discrimination and oppression of Palestinians was the most urgent and pressing moral Jewish issue. Every day she challenged the high wall, a “Separation Barrier”, a “Mechitza” that many progressive and liberal American Jews involved in many different justice issues build around the issue of Palestinian human rights. American Jews have a proud legacy of challenging discrimination in America in housing, education, voting rights and every form of human and civil rights, yet are often silent about the systematic denial of precisely these same rights to Palestinians by Israel. (I wonder how many synagogue and family seders were held 10 days ago where rights for women, gays and lesbians, immigrants, the poor and many others were mentioned but not a word about the violation of Palestinian human rights.)

For Hilda the issue of Palestine was the issue on which the integrity of the Jewish ethical tradition and the Jewish legacy rested. And, it wasn’t just the silence that was so disturbing, but the silence is acccompanied by the massive and effective support of the American Jewish community for Israel and the profound influence of the American Jewish community in ensuring massive American military, political and diplomatic support for Israel that enables the oppression of the Palestinian people. As Hilda met Palestinians and encountered Palestinian suffering, the role of her community, so committed on issues of justice in America, while at the same time enablers of the oppression of Palestinians, pained her so deeply and inspired her to act fearlessly. She angered many with her relentless insistence that this issue must be confronted and for this we are all so indebted to her.

Hilda and I met in Philadelphia in the 1980′s, I think in the Philadelphia chapter of New Jewish Agenda. Then I was a rabbinical student and Middle East Peace activist training to become a social justice rabbi anchored in the prophetic tradition of Judaism.

Hilda read everything she could put her hands on about the Palestinians. She would send me long handwriten notes suggesting I read photocopied articles that she enclosed on the history of the conflict and on the disturbing realities of the Occupation. She invited Palestinian speakers and arranged educational events. She opened my eyes to realities that I wanted to deny. She was always ahead of me, understanding realities that it took me years to acknowledge. She understood how important and painful it was for us to step beyond the comfort of denial.

In my first congregation, she helped me put together a unique adult education series on Israel: Hearing Both Sides that included speakers such as Rashid Khalidi, Afif Sefieh, Meron Bevenisti and several prominent Israelis. At the time there was an Israeli ban on speaking to anyone associated with the P.L.O and yet Afif Sefieh who devoted his life to representing the P.L.O. was welcomed into our little synagogue.

In 1987, my Yom Kippur sermon, A Generation of Occupation, discussing the corrosive moral effects of twenty years of Occupation on Jews and Judaism. cost me my first position as a congregational rabbi. When we founded Mishkan Shalom, an explicitly activist congregation with a commitment to support to justice and peace in Israel/Palestine, Hilda joined the congregation. I think it was the first time she became a member of a congregation. I will always remember the first Hannukah service in our congregation that Hilda planned honoring Human Rights Day and the first anniversary of the intifadeh.

Hilda moved to Boston but we kept in touch and later when I helped found Rabbis for Human Rights North America we reconnected. Hilda always was a devoted and passionate supporter of Rabbis for Human Rights, particularly the work of Rabbi Arik Ascherman with whom she had a close relationship. She always helped bring him to different communities.

Hilda was my teacher and friend and a very important part of my own spiritual/ethical journey that I want to share tonight. As I said, she was always ahead of me. My talk, “Affirming a Judaism and Jewish Identity without Zionism: A Personal Spiritual/Ethical Journey” is a way of honoring and thanking her. It is also a way of sharing publicly in a comprehensive way an important transformation that I have undergone in my understanding of the conflict and of my activism in the past two to three years.

My talk will be divided into three parts:

1. Zionism

2. Judaism

3. Privilege, Power and Solidarity

1. Zionism

I grew up in a fiercely and passionately Zionist family and community in South Africa and have been a progressive, liberal Zionist for most of my life. The schools I attended as a child were Weizmann and Herzlia, named after the two Zionist leaders. I was part of Habonim, a Zionist youth movement, and spent three months in Israel in 1967 following the 67 War. I love Hebrew language and culture. In 1969 one of the highlights of my life was meeting David Ben Gurion, the founding father of Israel, and representing South Africa in the International Bible Quiz in Jerusalem on Israel Independence Day. I made aliya after high school, and studied in the regular program with Israelis at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While I returned to South Africa in 1972, liberal Zionism and a deep connection to Israel remained a core part my Judaism and Jewish identity. (My great grandfather, Avraham Zeev, after whom I am named, is buried on Mount of Olives. According to family legend he made aliya to Israel in 1926, a few days after his daughter asked if she could go to a store with a non Jewish friend on Shabbat!)

Liberal Zionism

Liberal Zionism meant that I believed in the creation of a Jewish state that would provide a desparately needed safe haven for Jews around the world, a state that would be a cultural center for the Jewish People, and a state that would reflect the highest ideals of the Jewish tradition. After centuries of victimization, the creation of a Jewish state would afford Jews an opportunity to test our values: not do unto others as was done to us. The Jewish State would treat all with dignity, equality and respect. In the words of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the state will be “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”

This was the Zionist vision that I learned as a child, that was the ethos of Habonim, my Zionist youth movement, that inspired me to make aliya, and that inspired my involvement over the past three decades in Breira, New Jewish Agenda, Tikkun , Rabbis for Human Rights, Americans for Peace Now, the Shalom Center, and many related organizations. Athough these organizations are to the left of the mainstream American Jewish community they all share a progressive/liberal Zionist vision, deeply attached to the Jewish state, while viewing the oppression of Palestinians, the Occupation and the settlement policy as deviations from the true intent of Zionism and a violation of the core values of Judaism.

Public Letter to Netanyahu

One of the very first public acts of Rabbis for Human Rights – North America was a public letter in 2004 to Prime Minister Netanyahu from over 400 rabbis protesting the arrest of Rabbi Arik Ascherman for blocking a bulldozer demolishing a Palestinian home. The letter articulated our Zionism.

We wrote: “We are concerned about the decision to prosecute our colleague who has devoted his life to Israel and to the Zionist vision of building and sustaining a Jewish State that exemplifies the values of compassion and justice. Rabbi Ascherman has dedicated his career to protecting the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and his Zionist and Jewish commitments inspire thousands of Jews in Israel and abroad. …….. For us and for many Jews in our communities the work of Rabbi for Human Rights represents the Jewish moral conscience. We express our love and commitment for Israel by supporting that work. To silence it is to push us away from the Israel we love.”

For many years I expressed my love and commitment to Israel by supporting the work of Rabbis for Human Rights and other Israeli Human Rights and peace organizations as they embodied the Israel that I believed in and loved.

Over time, engagement with these organizations also led to a transformation in my own relationship to Zionism and my understanding of the relationship between Zionism and Judaism. This transformation came to a head in 2008.

Home Demolition:

As part of my involvement with these organizations, particularly Rabbis for Human Rights in the 1990′s and first decade of this century, I got to see some very disturbing realities most Jews and Israelis choose not to see.

As Rabbis for Human Rights worked very closely with the Israel Commmittee against Home Demolition, in the 1990′s I witnessed or visited several demolished Palestinian homes. The memory and visual images of these experiences live within me, in my body and soul.

I remember standing on the site of a recently demolished Palestinian home seeing the childrens toys lying in the rubble and a small one person tent next to the demolished home where the father of the family now lived. The experience shook me to my core. What does it mean for me to believe in a Jewish state that demolishes Palestinian homes using bulldozers to destroy everything including the toys of children, while it builds and subsidizes thousands of homes for Jews, homes that house among others, friends of mine who make aliya from America? How can I understand this reality as a Jew? Is this the Jewish state I believe in and support? As a supporter of Israel, a Zionist, am I implicated in this evil act? What is the appropriate response?

These questions haunted me every time. On one visit to Israel a small group of rabbis participated in rebuilding a demolished home. While we were there some of us slept in a home threatened with imminent demolition. Later in the day as we watched the demolition trucks, police and ambulance make their rounds demolishing various Palestinian “illegal” structures, we actually saw the home being demolished. First, dozens of Israeli soldiers and police cut off access to the village, then we saw the bulldozers do their dirty work while the homeowners were wailing, the neighbors standing in shock and awe. It is is a scene that I will never forget. I was proud that Rabbi Arik Ascherman wearing a kippah was present protesting the demolition but the questions remained. Do I still believe in Zionism? Can I still be a Zionist? A Jew?

As a person who had grown up in South Africa under Apartheid, these acts of discrimination were very evocative of scenes from my childhood. Evictions was one of the brutal realities of Apartheid, part of my reality as a chid.

Over the years as I saw more and more horrifying basic violations of human rights: massive tracts of stolen Palestinian land on which settlements were built, trees uprooted and burned by settlers, homes in Silwan taken over by settlers in the middle of the night who are then protected by the Israeli army. Each time the question of Zionism came up. These demolitions, settlements, violent disposession of Palestinian homes were not “rogue” acts, the Israeli state with all its military might enabled and supported these actions. Because of my deep connection to Israel, to my friends, to Israeli culture, to what Israel meant to me and the Jewish people, it was hard for me to even think of relinquishing my Zionism. It was so much part of me and my connection to my community.

In 2008 it came to a head.

In honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of Rabbis for Human Rights, I planned and led a Rabbis for Human Rights trip to Israel and the West Bank entitled Planting Justice. This solidarity mission to Israel and the West Bank was part of a campaign to support the efforts of Rabbis for Human Rights and all those in Israel working to fulfill the dream of an Israel that upholds equality and justice for all -Jews and Arabs alike.

On the trip:

We visited an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev where Palestinians have lived since 1948 without any services, while over the same period of time countless Jewish towns, and villages have been created. There are over 150 such unrecognized villages in Israel of Palestinians displaced in the 48 war. While the Bedouin village was still unrecognized 60 years after the founding of the Israel, the government was advancing plans to ”Judaize” the Negev.

We witnessed the humiliation of Palestinians waiting for hours early in the morning at a checkpoint and then processed like a group of animals.

We replanted olive trees on Palestinian land, uprooted by Jewish settlers with the full protection of the Israeli army. The trees were undoubtedly uprooted again within days after our visit. The tract of land adjacent to where we planted the trees had been stolen from a Palestinian who took the case to the Supreme Court with the aid of Israeli human rights organizations. Despite a ruling in his favor several years ago, the land had still not been returned to him.

Hebron

And, for me this was the clincher a deserted street restricted to Jews, in the middle of Hebron, passing by Palestinian homes where the residents are not allowed to walk on the street in front of their homes. When Michael Manikin, our guide, mentioned that this was a Jews only street and showed us the apartments where Palestinians climb over the roof and then down a ladder to go to the store, the supermarket, the hospital, something in me had changed. Sadness and rage overwhelmed me. I realized that this was in some ways worse than what I had witnessed as a child in South Africa. Whenever I would compare my experience on the West Bank with my experience during Apartheid, Jews would get very angry. For many years I knew I should never use the A (Apartheid) word. At that moment I broke down crying and made a pledge that I would never again censor myself. I didn’t know it then, but that was the moment when I crossed over.

There was no word that accurately describes what we had experienced on this 12 day trip on both sides of Green Line other than systemic racism. I finally had to admit to myself what I had known for a long time but was too scared to acknowledge: political Zionism, at its core, is a discriminatory ethno-nationalism that privileges the rights of Jews over non-Jews. As such political Zionism violates everything I believe about Judaism. While there was desperate need in the 1940′s to provide a safe haven for Jews, and this need won over most of the Jewish world and the Western world to support the Zionist movement, the Holocaust can in in no way justify or excuse the systemic racism that was and remains an integral part of Zionism.

In the past I believed that the discrimination I saw: the demolished homes, the uprooted trees, the stolen land were an aberration of the Zionist vision. I came to understand that all of these were not mistakes nor a blemishes on a dream, they were all the logical outcome of Zionism.

As a Jew I believe in the inherent dignity of every human being. As a Jew I believe that justice is the core commandment of our tradition. As a Jew I believe that we are commanded to be advocates for the poor, the oppressed the marginalized. Zionism and the daily reality in Israel violated each of these core values. And, I could no longer be a Zionist. I will always be a person with deep and profound connection to Israel and my friends and family there, but I was no longer a Zionist

I came to understand that the democratic Jewish state is an illusion. There is no democratic Jewish state nor will there ever be. Israel will either be a Jewish state or a democratic state. A Jewish state by definition privileges Jews and cannot be democratic. Israel is a democratic state for Jews and a Jewish state for Arabs. It is true that Palestinians who live within Israel have the franchise but they are do not have eqaul rights in many different ways, nor could they ever be full and equal citizens of a Jewish state.

And there was another profound change in my thinking. I also came to understand that there was a direct line between the formation of Israel in 1948 and the Occupation. Just as I thought that the human rights violations were blemishes on an otherwise inspiring vision, I, like many liberal Zionists saw the Occupation as the issue. The problem were the right wing settlers and the settlements. Like most liberal Zionists, I ignored the Nakhba and the direct connection between the Nakhba and the Occupation. Without knowing it at the time, this confrontation with the Nakhba began at that meeting with Ben Gurion when I was in high school.

Ben Gurion in South Africa

When Ben Gurion visited South Africa in 1979 he was asked at a meeting of the counsellors of the Zionist youth movements about charges that in 1948, Palestinians were expelled from their homes. Red in his face, banging on the table, he adamantly asserted that not one Palestinian was expelled. The opposite: We pleaded with the Arabs to stay and promised them security but they followed the Mufti of Jerusalem who encouraged them to drive the Jews into the sea. This story is still told to explain the exodus of over 700,000 Palestinians in 1948.

For a few years I believed this standard and still prevalent untruth. We now know conclusively that this story is simply not true. Not only were Palestinians expelled from many villages and towns, often with great brutality, but Ben Gurion himself gave the order for some of these expulsions. He one of the architects of the policy of transfer. The debate still rages about exacty what happened in each village but there is overwhelming evidence that most of the Palestinians left because of actions of the Israeli forces.

The expulsion of over 600,000 Palestinians some of whom left out of fear and most because they were expelled, and the refusal to allow them to return to their homes as required by United Nations Resolution was also a logical outcome of Zionism. Removing or transferring them was essential to create a “democratic” Jewish state. Ben Gurion understood this and he was one of the architects of this policy. The Jewish state could only claim to be democratic if it had a minority of citizens that are not Jewish. Demography, not democracy is the driver. Zionism has always had the goal of control over the maximum amount of land with the minimum number of Arabs. Demography has always been the main rationale for Israeli policy. It was the policy in 1948 and it has been the same policy on the West Bank since 1967. The Occupation is simply the continuation of the same Zionist goals that led to the Nakhba.

As a liberal Zionist, we never talked much about the Nakhba. We never paid attention to the over 400 Palestinian villages that were razed to the ground, their names erased and replaced by Jewish towns, villages and kibbutzim with Hebrew names. When I made aliya to a kibbutz in 1970, I simply had no idea that most kibbutzim were built on the ruins of Palestinian villages. Last year as I was thinking about this I looked up my kibbutz and with the aid of Google in a few minutes I found a photo of the Palestinian village on which it was built.

In 2010, my family spent five months in Israel in Katamon, a neighborhood with many Anglo immigrants to Israel. As I walked around the neighborhood I wondered who lived in all these beautiful Arab homes before 48 and where were they now. In 2009, I was in Bethlehem and when some Palestinian friends and I made our way back to Jerusalem, one of them told me that her home was in Katamon! There will be no reconciliation without an acknowledgement of the dispossession of the Palestinians.

It is true that what happened in Israel was no different from what the colonialists did in North America and Africa and around the world. What is different is that the Nakhba is ongoing. The Occupation, the stealing of Palestinian land, the creation of settlements, the demolition of Arab villages in the Jordan Valley and elsewhere are a continuation of the Nakhba. It is a systematic policy by which Israel creates facts on the ground that will make life difficult for Palestinians thereby encouraging or precipitating a voluntary “transfer” of Palestinians from the West Bank. And the policy has met with success. According to the Civil Administration about a quarter million Palestinians voluntarily left the West Bank between 200-2007.

Palestinian Residency:

Another dramatic example of this policy are the regulations that revoke Palestinian residency for Palestinians who leave the country for a few years. By the time of the Oslo accords, Israel had revoked the residency of 140,000 Palestinians from the West Bank.

Gideon Levy writes: “In other words 14% of West Bank residents who dared to go abroad had their right to return to Israel and live here denied forever. In other words, they were expelled from their land and their homes. In other words: ethnic cleansing.”

He writes; “Anyone who says “it’s not apartheid” is invited to reply: Why is an Israeli allowed to leave his country for the rest of his life, and nobody suggests that his citizenship be revoked, while a Palestinian, a native son, is not allowed to do so? Why is an Israeli allowed to marry a foreigner and receive a residency permit for her, while a Palestinian is not allowed to marry his former neighbor who lives in Jordan? Isn’t that apartheid? Over the years I have documented endless pitiful tragedies of families that were torn apart, whose sons and daughters were not permitted to live in the West Bank or Gaza due to draconian rules – for Palestinians only.”

Israel recognizes that many Palestinians will not leave but it hopes to contain them in four disconnected Palestinian cantons over which it will exert maximum control and have minimal responsibility. This is the situtation Israel has created in Gaza and this is the intention for the West Bank. This is exactly what was called a Bantustan in South Africa, an area where Blacks seemingly had indepdence and autonomy but in fact were totally controlled by the White South African government.

Zionism has become a movement that displaces Palestinians and privileges Jews. The problem here is much deeper than demography; it is a problem of ethics. Political Zionism contradicts what we hold as the sacred values of Judaism and the lessons of Jewish history. Judaism has been fused with Zionism and we need a Judaism and Jewish identity without political Zionism.

2. Judaism and Zionism

Prior to the 1940′s there was a vigorous debate about Zionism and Judaism. Within the Zionist movement there was a small but influential group of very prominent leaders – Buber, Magnes and others – that understood that imposing our will on the Palestinians would create an unending cycle of violence and violate our deepest values as Jews. There were vigorous debates about Zionism and a division between political Zionists and cultural Zionists. Most Jews were not Zionists. The Holocaust transformed the Jewish world and Zionism won the sympathy of the world.

Today 60 years later there is almost no distinction made between Zionism and Judaism. Zionism has become the religion of American Jews. Even the Reform movement, the most liberal of the movements with a proud commitment to social justice and which prior to 1948 was opposed to Zionism, has made Zionism a core tenet of Judaism.

I was recently preparing a Shabbat morning service for Tikkun v’Or the Reform congregation in Ithaca. As I reviewed the service in Mishkan Tefila, the new Reform prayerbook, I came across the prayer for light that preceeds the recitation of the Shma.

“Shine a new light upon Zion, that we may all swiftly be privileged to bask in its radiance.

Blessed are You, God, Creator of the Light”

My eyes were drawn to a commentary on the bottom of the page by my colleague, Rabbi David Ellenson, the President of Hebrew Union College, the Rabbinical School of Reform rabbis.

He writes:

“Classical Reform prayerbook authors in the Diaspora consistently omitted this line with its mention of Zion from the liturgy because of their opposition to Jewish nationalism (Zionism). With the restoration of this passage to our new prayerbook, the Reform movement consciously affirms its devotion to the modern State of Israel and signals its recognition of the religious significance of the reborn Jewish commonwealth”

In his brief comment, Rabbi Ellenson describes the transformation in the Reform movement’s relationship to Zionism in the mid 20th century. In the first half of the 20th century only a minority of the world’s Jews were supporters of Zionism. The Reform movement actively opposed Zionism as antithetical to the core values of Reform Judaism dedicated to a form of Judaism that would allow Jews to uphold our tradition while fully participating in American society. Since the Holocaust there has been a complete reversal. with Reform Judaism not only affirms its devotion to Israel but ascribes to the State of Israel religious significance.

What does it mean to ascribe to a political state that is predicated on privileging a particular ethnic group, religious significance? How can American Jews who firmly advocate separation of Church and State ascribe religious significance to a Jewish State? Do we believe in a separation of religion and state in America but not in Israel?

The idea that the State of Israel has religious significance is shared by all the movements of Judaism except for some sectors of the ultra Orthodox. The formulation that is most widely accepted is that Israel is of the flowering of our redemption. of redemption, the beginning of the messianic age “Reishit tzmichat geulateynu”

Last year there was some controversy in the Reform movement when Rabbi Rick Jacobs was chosen to replace Rabbi Eric Yoffie as the the head of the Reform movement. To allay the fears of those who were afraid of Rabbi Jacobs’ support for J Street and the New Israel Fund, my colleague Rabbi Peter Knobel defended Jacobs as a “staunch Zionist.”

He wrote in Haaretz:

“This is not just a reflection of Rabbi Jacobs’ personal views, for this staunch Zionism and support for Israel are enshrined in Reform Judaism – and in the hearts of most of our more than 1.5 million Jews. For us Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) is not only a national celebration but a religious one as well. [We have enriched our ritual life with new observances and liturgy rooted in our commitment to Israel. The Israeli Reform siddur, “Avodah Shebalev,” has a special Amidah and Kiddush for Independence Day. The new North American Reform siddur, “Mishkan Tefillah,” has a special service for Yom Ha’atzmaut, which uses the Israeli Declaration of Independence as a sacred text.”

“We believe that the renewal and perpetuation of Jewish national life in Eretz Yisrael is a necessary condition for the realization of the physical and spiritual redemption of the Jewish people and of all humanity. While that day of redemption remains but a distant yearning, we express the fervent hope that Medinat Yisrael, living in peace with its neighbors, will hasten the redemption of Am Yisrael, and the fulfillment of our messianic dream of universal peace under the sovereignty of God.”

What does he mean? Is the existence and perpetuation of a Jewish State, one that was created by dispossessing the Palestinian people, one that is has imposed the longest military occupation in human history is a “necessary condition for the realization of the physical and spiritual redemption of the Jewish people and all humanity?”

What is the relationship between these inspiring words and the Jewish soldiers who invaded a Palestinian home last night to arrest Palestinian children? Or to Palestinian children who are imprisoned in Israel? Or to the villagers of El Arakib whose village has been destroyed several times over the past year?

Tragically, Zionism has become the primary religious commitment for most liberal Jews, more important than any other commandment or ethical concern. As a rabbi one can say almost anything one wants about the most sacred traditions and rituals of the Jewish people but if one criticizes Israel, one could quite easily lose your job.

Birthright

In response to concern about Jewish continuity, the Jewish community has invested millions of dollars in Birthright, free trips to Israel. Instead of building a vibrant Jewish life here in America and/or creating programs in which our children could engage meaningfully in spiritually engaging/justice related projects we take our children to Israel on “birthright” What is their birthright? Do they as Jewish children growing up in security and with much privilege here in America, have a right that comes to them because they were born Jewish of a free trip to a country where Palestinians who lived there for centuries were expelled and not allowed to return and where the process of dispossession of the Palestinians is an ongoing project day by day?

This fusion of Judaism with the interests of that nation state is a tragedy for Judaism. Judaism is a religion. Zionism is a political movement associated with a particular nation state. And we need to separate the two, to create daylight between Judaism and Zionism.

We are all indebted to Mark Ellis who coined the term “Constantinian Judaism” comparing the fusion of Judaism and Zionism to the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christianity by becoming the religion of the empire, assumed the role of legitimating the actions of the empire. A religion that is based on the teachings of a radical prophet who taught a message of love, justice and peace was wedded to the needs and brutality of an empire. Similarly, Judaism with its profound commitment to the human dignity of all, to freedom and to justice, is now wedded of the actions of the Israeli government.

Diaspora Judaism

We need to return to the vibrant debates about the Jewish future that existed prior to 1940. We need to reclaim with pride the history of Diaspora Judaism, a Judaism that was attached to Spirit and community, not to political power. We need to affirm the value of life in Diaspora, living alongside and in relationship with people of other faiths and ethnicities. We need the wisdom of two thousand years of Jews living in Diaspora creating community and surviving despite victimization. The Zionists portray Jewish life in the Diaspora in shameful terms, as weak, effeminate, shameful. Living in Diaspora offers us many blessings.

We need to envision an Israel that is a state for all it’s citizens, a true democracy. We need to reclaim Judaism as a source of ultimate values not as the cheerleader for a nation state. Judaism is an ethical system that can and offer us wisdom about how to use power ethically.

Cast a New light upon Zion and may we all be privileged to bask in that light.

We truly need a new light with which to see Zion and it must be a a light that all can bask in.

Part 3: Solidarity, Privilege and Transformation

In his recent book, The Crisis of Judaism, Peter Beinart has pointed out the contradiction between the story of victimisation that is told almost exclusively by mainstream Jewish leaders and the reality of Jewish privilege and power. Jews in America, Israel and around the world have significant power and privilege. We were victims and have been victimized but thankfully in our world Jews are no longer victims. The challenge we face is how to live Jewishly with power and privilege. How do we respond ethically to our power and privilege.

I believe the answer to this question lies in the concept of solidarity. Judaism calls us to be in solidarity with those who are the victims of injustice. The God of Judaism is the God who cares about the oppressed Oseh mishpat la’ashukim. Our God is the God who brings people out of slavery, poverty, injustice.

The Jewish response to privilege and power is to stand in solidarity with all who are seeking justice for all. In our time, this includes standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice and equal rights. As Americans we have a direct responsibility for the oppression of the Palestinian people – we make it possible.

Hilda followed a path of solidarity. As a Jew she was in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice just as she was in solidarity with the struggle of African Americans, Black South Africans, the people of Haiti and Central America. She understood far earlier than many that this issue, the Palestinian issue, was a Jewish issue, one for which she and we are accountable.

There is a growing movement of Jews who, as Jews, support the Palestinian struggle for justice. They can be found in American Jews for a Just Peace, in Jewish Voice for Peace, in J Street, in Students for Justice in Palestine, in the US Campaign to end the Occupation and in the B.D.S. movement. Every person, every Jew will have to make a choice about how we can best support the struggle for justice.

Every day the Nakhba continues. Every day land is expropriated, Palestinians are imprisoned, brutalised. Every day our precious Jewish tradition is used to justify this oppression.

For those of us, like Hilda, for whom Judaism is essentially about justice, who have deep love for Jewish culture, we need to join in the task of reclaiming a new Judaism without Zionism. It will require vision, courage and the ability to endure many difficult and painful conversations. There are many who want to silence this new movement by name calling and intimidation.

Hilda was one person who continued despite the name calling. She developed a community of resistance, a community of Jews, Palestinians, and people of many faiths and ethnicities tied together in a shared commitment to justice. There is no better way for us to honor her memory than by traveling beyond our comfortable assumptions and choosing how we may be part of the growing movement for justice.

May her soul live on in us.

A Sheynem Dank/ Todah Rabba/Shukran/ Thank You

This post was originally published on Rabbi Walt’s blog .

Posted in American Jewish Community, Israel/Palestine, Occupation | Tagged

{ 123 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. What a fantastic, powerful and moving post. Every zionist and their supporters should be forced to read and understand this before opening their mouths and spouting inane defences of their racism, apartheid and utterly inhumane policies. Thank goodness there are some decent, intelligent and ethical people prepared to rescue Judaism from the evil that zionism has done to it.

    • seafoid says:

      link to nybooks.com

      As Ali Abu Awwad, one of the leaders of the new generation of Palestinian nonviolent resisters, often says: “The Jews are not my enemy; their fear is my enemy. We must help them to stop being so afraid—their whole history has terrified them—but I refuse to be a victim of Jewish fear anymore.”

      i thought this was pathetic

      The new North American Reform siddur, “Mishkan Tefillah,” has a special service for Yom Ha’atzmaut, which uses the Israeli Declaration of Independence as a sacred text.”

  2. dimadok says:

    Tell my rabbi-do you pray : “לשנה הבאה בירושלים הבנויה” ?
    And if you do-what does it mean to you.

    • seafoid says:

      dimadok

      I think לשנה הבאה בירושלים הבנויה has to go back to the realm of the mind .

      Next year in Jerusalem there will just be more racial tension, torture at the Russian compound and ethnic cleansing . Is this what 80 generations prayed for ?
      Is this what all those mitzvot amounted to ? I refuse to believe it.

    • Ellen says:

      Dim,

      Next year in Jerusalem is a figgin’ metaphor for peace, resolution, communion of all.

      Are you really so simple?

      The Torah, Old testament is a metaphor. People wrote in parables, stories, metaphors for larger meaning. This literal interpretation of written words is something modern.

      • dimadok says:

        Whether I’m simple or not- it’s not relevant here. Neither your “metaphoric” explanations of Torah. It is a matter of beliefs. The question is where lays his Jerusalem-here on land or somewhere in the sky.
        Judaism has evolved around being both metaphorical, when speaking of matters beyond human understanding, all very practical and methodical when it came to the matters of everyday life. Deny the right of any of these branches to exist and be participated in is a denial of Jewish history, it’s sacrifices and memory.

        • Hostage says:

          The question is where lays his Jerusalem-here on land or somewhere in the sky.

          No it isn’t, the question for thousands of years has always been, and remains, where is your Messiah? No unbiased person who has witnessed the seething racial hatred directed toward gentiles by Israelis today can be asked to accept the platitudinous nonsense about modern day Zion being the manifestation of our “messianic age”. To paraphrase Rabbi Yohanan ben Torta, grass will grow through your cheek bones and still the messianic age will not have come.

          Rabbi Simeon bar Yobai taught, “Akiva, my master, expounded, ‘A star will go forth from Jacob’ (Num. 28:17), (as) ‘Koziba has come forth from Jacob.’ “When Rabbi Akiva would see Bar Koziba, he would say, “This is the King Messiah!” Rabbi Yohanan ben Torta said to him, “Akiva, grass will grow on your cheeks and still the Son of David will not have come.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Taanit chapter 4:5 page 68d) — link to cojs.org

    • Bumblebye says:

      dimduck
      It probably originally meant referencing the hope of making a brief pilgrimage to the holy city. Then with the long passage of time and the advent of zionism, the meaning was warped into significantly more than that.

      • dimadok says:

        Suddenly everyone here became experts in Judaism.

        • seafoid says:

          YESHA is like all of Judaism’s dirty laundry in open view.
          gosh, does she wear those knickers?

        • Djinn says:

          Dont need to be an expert to know I dont give a crap what it means, same as I dont give a crap what any other myth throughout man kinds history says.

        • Shingo says:

          Suddenly everyone here became experts in Judaism.

          As are all the Jewish experts who can’t seem to agree on it.

      • Shmuel says:

        It probably originally meant referencing the hope of making a brief pilgrimage to the holy city.

        The phrase “Next year in Jerusalem” appears twice in Ashkenazi Jewish liturgy: in the Passover Haggadah, and in the closing prayer on Yom Kippur.

        The context on Passover (at least in traditional Haggadot) is clearly the hope for messianic redemption and the restoration of the sacrifices in the Temple – specifically the sacrifice of the paschal lamb (which can only be performed in Jerusalem). The line was tacked on to a liturgical poem to that effect (Hassal siddur pesah), composed in 11th-century France.

        The context on Yom Kippur is the final blowing of the shofar after the “Ne’ilah” prayer – in memory of the proclamation of the Jubilee at the Temple in Jerusalem after Yom Kippur in ancient times, and is thus again, the expression of the desire for the messianic age in which all of the Temple rituals will be restored.

        Both on Passover and on Yom Kippur, the line is recited at a point of completion and release, and the meaning associated with it over the generations has undoubtedly been a function of time and place, as well as individual circumstances and beliefs.

        Needless to say, the German Reformers (and their American successors) removed all such references to Zion as well as the Temple cult.

        • sydnestel says:

          “The line was tacked on to a liturgical poem to that effect (Hassal siddur pesah), composed in 11th-century France.”

          I am not sure that “tacked on” is the right phrase. It fits very well in context. The last stanza of the 11th century poem is:

          “Splendid One residing on high
          Raise up your people, a congregation who can count,
          Soon bring your offshoots
          Freed to Zion in song.”

          The return to Jerusalem, in traditional Judaism, was always associated with messianic redemption.

        • Shmuel says:

          I am not sure that “tacked on” is the right phrase. It fits very well in context.

          I assure you, I meant “tacked on” in the nicest possible way :-)

          Seriously, I just meant it wasn’t part of the original piyyut (which wasn’t written for the Seder anyway).

        • evets says:

          ‘I am not sure that “tacked on” is the right phrase.’

          I believe ‘velcroed’ would be more tasteful.

    • Shmuel says:

      The word “הבנויה” is a relatively recent addition (based on a disjointed phrase from Psalms 122). The original prayer (recited on Passover and Yom Kippur, according to some traditions) was simply “Next year in Jerusalem”. Apart from the fact that the wish/request expresses the desire for redemption and not a holiday itinerary, no mention is made of political sovereignty or military control. Jerusalem is both a metaphor and a physical place – both of which have been violated by Zionism.

      When I was a child (raised in an Orthodox Zionist home), it was explained to me that the prayer “Next year in Jerusalem” was recited even in Jerusalem, because this is not the Jerusalem we pray for – which is the righteous Jerusalem of God’s Kingdom.

      At our Passover Seder, we no longer say “Next year in Jerusalem” because of the ways in which the prayer and the concept behind it have been abused, but perhaps we should reclaim it.

      • seafoid says:

        Next year in Jerusalem is a bit like Bukra fi mishmish .

        Pigs will fly.

      • tree says:

        At our Passover Seder, we no longer say “Next year in Jerusalem” because of the ways in which the prayer and the concept behind it have been abused, but perhaps we should reclaim it.

        Perhaps you could reclaim it as a wish for what Jerusalem could become (a home to all religions living in equality and harmony), perhaps next year, but more likely in a more distant future.

        Suddenly the Arabic “Bukra fil mish mish” came to my mind. Maybe you could combine the two sayings: “Next year in Jerusalem the apricots will bloom.”

        l’shanah haba’ah birushalayim fil mish mish???

        • Shmuel says:

          Great minds :-)

          I will propose “l’shanah haba’ah birushalayim fil mish mish” to the other member of our family ritual committee. I like the irreverence :-)

          In Jewish tradition there is a certain amount of tension between the obligation to believe in the coming of the Messiah (at any moment!) and healthy scepticism (as well as irreverence). I’ve never heard “Next year in Jerusalem” used in the sense of “bukra fil mishmish”, but that is exactly the meaning of the phrase “when Moshiach comes”.

        • seafoid says:

          I would add a touch of Cairo to it and say

          l’shanah haba’ah birushalayim fil mish mish khaalis ya’ni

          Next year in jerusalem BFMM..utterly

        • tree says:

          Well, I’m sure that when Moshiach comes all the apricots will bloom! ;-)

      • sydnestel says:

        Shmuel

        At my seder, we end with “Next Year in Jerusalem: a city of peace and justice for all its inhabitants” and then we play the song Jerusalem by Steve Earle (see link to youtu.be ).

        This year we added a small glass of Palestinian olive oil to our seder plate as well. And we usually expand the 10 plagues to include and additional 10 plagues of the nakba/occupation.

        • WOW, what an awesome song!! who is steve earle? total

        • Shmuel says:

          We use olives, and have written an explanation of its significance (like the explanations of the other symbolic foods).

          As for Jerusalem, Psalm 122 offers some possibilities:

          Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say: ‘Peace be within thee.’

          Verse 3 (“Jerusalem that is built as a city connected”), that has been so abused in the context of modern conquest, annexation and ethnic cleansing (e.g. as the hackneyed slogan of “Jerusalem Day”) is also worth reclaiming. In the Talmud, the verse is explained as a reference to the bond between the earthly and the heavenly Jerusalem – emphasising the spirituality of the city, rather than its (violent) physical or political possession.

  3. Ellen says:

    Zionism has always had the goal of control over the maximum amount of land with the minimum number of Arabs. Demography has always been the main rationale for Israeli policy. It was the policy in 1948 and it has been the same policy on the West Bank since 1967. The Occupation is simply the continuation of the same Zionist goals that led to the Nakhba.

    The enterprise of Zionism (the Golden Calf, if we will) has only used Judaism for it’s ends.

    As more and more Jews such as leaders like Rabbi Walt come to see, the enterprise will fail (as all enterprises do) and a return to Judaism may begin. But he is still on the Journey.

    For Hilda, solidarity with the oppressed, with those who are treated unjustly, was what it meant to be a Jew.

    Isn’t such solidarity what it means to be a complete human being?

    I wish Rabbi Walt much success and hope that his message will be embraced, but am afraid he will pay a terrible price for the honest journey he has taken.

  4. Newclench says:

    Rabbi Walt demonstrates how you can support Israel, Palestine, the people on all sides, and still be a committed Jew and an anti-Zionist. May those who equate Judaism with Zionist – on either side – be duly chagrined.

  5. seafoid says:

    Powerful stuff. It must have been a painful and lonely journey . It is far easier to turn the head and ignore what Israel has become. And that’s the apathy that feeds the settlers.

    “As a Jew I believe in the inherent dignity of every human being. ”

    As a non-Jew I believe Judaism has to get back to this or there is simply no point in wearing those kippot.

    interestingly in this video
    link to normanfinkelstein.com

    the guy defending Israel (drunk or sober) doesn’t debate the morality of the occupation.- He just says 90% of Jews approve. So there is already a massive problem when he frames the argument thus.

    • American says:

      It is very powerful, true honest and painful for him I am sure.

      One thing here:

      “As a Jew I believe in the inherent dignity of every human being. As a Jew I believe that justice is the core commandment of our tradition. As a Jew I believe that we are commanded to be advocates for the poor, the oppressed the marginalized.”

      I hope he is using “Jew’ in the religious sense, similar to ‘as Christians we must” and not the people- hood/tribal sense. If not, he’s not quite out of the tar pit yet.
      I am against appealing to Jews on any group basis except that of their religion..to recognize or encourage Jewishness as a separate people or some kind of world wide nation of people is where their main problems stem from. It’s an ego construct….being some kind ‘distinct’. Looks like the US supremist and Zionism will probably have to learn their lesson on their ‘specialness’ together….the hard way most likely.

      • seafoid says:

        I think for a long time Jew meant decent.
        Decent people believe in fairness and justice.

        And now ?

        • American says:

          seafoid says:
          May 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm
          + Show content
          I think for a long time Jew meant decent.
          Decent people believe in fairness and justice.

          And now ?”

          Never meant anything to me except ‘of a certain religion’ before my ‘awakening’ on Israel-I/P.
          But I don’t know that much about Judaism, so I just assume it’s probably no better or worse than most any other religion and has the same share of different kinds of characters as any other.
          I am sort of leery of very, very religious people or I should say people who base their ideas too much on religious teachings….they can be very good or they can be very bad and when they’re bad they tend to be very, very bad imo. But then you could say the bad religious were whackos to begin with.

    • evets says:

      ‘I believe Judaism has to get back to this or there is simply no point in wearing those kippot.’

      I agree, and I wear one and sometimes it feels heavy.

  6. seafoid says:

    For me this video is why Israel is lost

    Channel 2 interviewing Dr Abu el Aish after the IDF liquidated his family

  7. - “Shine a new light upon Zion, that we may all swiftly be privileged to bask in its radiance.” – from Mishkan Tefila, the new Reform prayerbook.

    - Classical Reform prayerbook authors in the Diaspora consistently omitted this line with its mention of Zion from the liturgy because of their opposition to Jewish nationalism (Zionism.)
    __________________________________________________________
    The 1893 Jewish Prayer Book of a Berlin synagogue says this on the fundamentals of Jewish morality:
    ” Judaism teaches: the Unity of Mankind. It commands us therefore to love our neighbor, to protect our neighbor and his rights, to be aware of his honor, to honor his beliefs, and to assuage his sorrow. Judaism calls upon us through work, through the love of truth, through modesty, through amicability, through moral rectitude, and through obedience to authority, to further the wellbeing of our neighbors, to seek the good of our fatherland, and to bring about the loving fellowship of mankind.”
    - Quoted by Roger Cohen in The International Herald Tribune, April 6, 2010
    __________________________________________________________
    - Note the reference to “our fatherland” (Germany, not the Zionist project).

    The Holocaust changed all this. Okay, but why did some of Rabbi Brian Walt’s American friends and relatives move to Israel? Were they Hitler refugees or came from a post-WW II displaced person’s camp? Why should the Holocaust motivate American Jews to move to Israel?

    • Klaus B. – I assume you would admit that Jews who did not live in Europe during the war still experienced a tremendous trauma when they digested the extent of that genocide. Some of them reacted by seeing the necessity of countering the trauma with an affirmation of Jewish continuity, specifically by moving to Israel. Is this idea so contrary to your knowledge of human nature?

      • - “an affirmation of Jewish continuity [after the Holocaust] … by moving to Israel. Is this idea so contrary to your knowledge of human nature?” – wondering jew

        This ‘affirmation’ is nonsense. When I was in Israel in December 2002 I met an elderly New Yorker Jew who had come to Israel to visit his son. I asked him: “Why did your son move to Israel?” His answer was: “My son is a Zionist” Was this son a Zionist because of the Holocaust? Did this son face any persecution in New York City?

        • Klaus B. – I was not referring to 2002, I was referring to 1948. Do you think it was possible for a Jew in 1948 to seek some sort of affirmation of Jewish continuity, because of the Holocaust?

      • sardelapasti says:

        “Some of them reacted by seeing the necessity of countering the trauma with an affirmation of Jewish continuity, specifically by moving to Israel. ”
        1. What in “Israel” has anything to do with “Jewish” in any way or wise, except its fake name? (and everything to do, of course, with 19th-century Prussian nationalism)
        2. Where is “Jewish continuity” in getting “Jewish” persons to emigrate, by hook, crook or armed provocation, to occupate other people’s land and become war criminals, instead of remaining in their own countries to help rebuild them and stamp out Nazism (and related national dementia including Zionism)?

        “Is this idea so contrary to your knowledge of human nature?”
        The nature of invaders is more bestial than “human”, word that many generally prefer to use for civilized behavior.

        • sardelpasti- I am implying the possibility that Larry Derfner offers in his reference to the “nakba”. He asserts that it is possible to regret/mourn/decry the nakba, while at the same time celebrating the birth of Israel. I realize that this is a difficult dichotomy, both for those who celebrate the birth as well as for those like you who decry the nakba.

          But my main point was that in the aftermath of the Nazi genocide of the Jews 1939-1945, the need for a rebirth is to me self evident. The fact that this rebirth took place in Jerusalem and thereabouts was no arbitrary fact, although the residents of Jerusalem and thereabouts suffered in an arbitrary way (as a result of the sins of others). You are not about to suggest some other possible location for this rebirth. Nor do I assume you are about to deny the need for a rebirth. But you decry the suffering “accomplished” by this rebirth.

          The inability to differentiate between the rebirth and the suffering (especially while the suffering persists) is human, acceptable and probably necessary if there is to be change. But if the change that you proffer is that of a single state, you will have to learn to accept the rebirth attitudes of the other. But it may be that the single state is so far away and the suffering that will take place between now and then is so far away, that right now your apathy towards the other or disdain for the other is perfectly appropriate to the political realities.

  8. Shmuel says:

    שפתים ישק משיב דברים נכוחים, Rabbi Walt. Thank you.

    • Jaufre says:

      Estimado Shmuel: Can you transliterate translate your Hebrew phrase and give source?
      I start with Shoftim as Judges… and I get “devarim” as Words but I am lost in the midddle & the end and I want to understand your word of thanks & I think praise Thank you
      Todah Rabbah
      Jaufre ( ben Avraham)

      • sydnestel says:

        Proverbs 24:26

        “He kisses the lips that give a true answer.” or more colloquially “An honest reply is like a kiss on the lips”

        • Jaufre says:

          Wow Was I lost between Lips and Judges ( Shoftim / But Many thanks for the source which sends me to a Summer study of Proverbs along with Ruth in Hebrew/ Shalom rav to you and the work of peace with Justice .Jaufre

  9. hebron: At that moment I broke down crying and made a pledge that I would never again censor myself. I didn’t know it then, but that was the moment when I crossed over.

    you made me cry Rabbi Walt. what a beautiful memorial to Hilda.

    May her soul live on in us.

    just tears

  10. Citizen says:

    So Rabbi Walt has an epiphany at the Checkpoint of Reality, Palestinian reality, day to day? He’s not alone; even some evangelical Christians are having the same epiphany: link to christatthecheckpoint.com

    They are wondering if they should treat human beings as pawns in a game to insure their own individual assent into heaven. They are turning their eyes to other conflicting parts of scripture, such as the notion that all mankind was made in the image of God.

    And so too, some Christian Establishment types are battling each other towards the same, towards the ultimate issue with Christian Rome and its counterpart, Zionist Israel, e.g., the Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers.

    Do you need to think Jesus was a Palestinian to know that there’s a problem with Shelly Goldberg, born and bred in Brooklyn, recipient of every advantage that comes with birth in USA, and its prime mobile equal rights-separation of church & state, moving to Israel to take over a native family’s home and land in the family for centuries? Such a deal! Getting tons of perks paid for officially by Israel’s and de facto by USA’s taxpayer funding of same?

  11. I was greatly relieved on reading this speech. But still, there is a question:
    Which interpretation of Judaism is right? The humanistic one or the Zionist one?
    ————————————————-
    - Was the universalist, humanistic interpretaion of Judaism an aberration? – Or
    - Is the Zionist, chauvinistic interpretation of Judaism the aberration?
    ————————————————
    There are two stated reasons, why Jews need a Jewish state:

    1. The Holocaust one: Jews need a territory in case in the US for instance, the white supremacist, KKK people come to power – you have to move several million American Jews to Israel. You need enough territory for them.

    2. The Zionist one: They want to ingather all of world’s Jewry (or at least several million of them) into one state. You need enough territory for them.

    - Both ways, you got to kick the Palestinians across the Jordan river to get the territory.
    __________________________________________________________
    There is too much group-think on this site. Someone even suggested to block Oleg from this site. He thinks Germans haven’t suffered enough for their WW II crimes. Anyway, I sort of like his Jewishness better than Hannah Arendt’s.

    • American says:

      “1. The Holocaust one: Jews need a territory in case in the US for instance, the white supremacist, KKK people come to power – you have to move several million American Jews to Israel. You need enough territory for them”…Krauss

      You can strike the holocaust rational, zionism began the demand for a Jewish state long before the holocaust. But it did give the zionist the necessary pressure to make Israel actually happen. And then Israel increased zionism.

    • In case someone got me wrong. I think there is no need for a Jewish state, neither on the basis of the Holocaust nor the Zionist rationale. – There is no need for a Jewish state and Oleg should go back to Russia instead of kicking the Palestinians across the Jordan river. – As far as Hannah Arendt is concerned, why didn’t she just obt out of Judaism. Did she believe in the ‘chosen people’?

      • evets says:

        ‘As far as Hannah Arendt is concerned, why didn’t she just obt out of Judaism.’

        For one thing, it wouldn’t have kept her from having to flee Germany.

    • evets says:

      ‘Was the universalist, humanistic interpretaion of Judaism an aberration? – Or
      - Is the Zionist, chauvinistic interpretation of Judaism the aberration?’

      I’d say neither. I think Rabbi Walt errs in implying that illiberal Judaism is somehow aberrant or inauthentic. It’s no less authentic than his more liberal Judaism. The question is which of these valid interpretations will dominate. I’m rooting for his approach, but I’m not overflowing with optimism.

  12. Haven’t finished reading it all yet.
    Many spelling, grammar and historical mistakes. (Ben Gurion’s visit to South Africa was in 1969 and not 1979. Netanyahu was not Prime Minister in 2004.)

    A tendency to rhetorical flourish, appropriate to a eulogy maybe, but not appropriate to a serious historical subject. The occupation is “the longest military occupation in history”. Well, what about Czarist Russia’s occupation of Poland from 1795 until 1918. That was an annexation and not an occupation? Then this assertion is based on accepting Russia’s annexation of Poland. No, this is a silly assertion, which has no place in serious discourse.

    • Shmuel says:

      You are nitpicking, WJ. What do you think of the substance? This, for example:

      I finally had to admit to myself what I had known for a long time but was too scared to acknowledge: political Zionism, at its core, is a discriminatory ethno-nationalism that privileges the rights of Jews over non-Jews. As such political Zionism violates everything I believe about Judaism.

      Or this:

      In the past I believed that the discrimination I saw: the demolished homes, the uprooted trees, the stolen land were an aberration of the Zionist vision. I came to understand that all of these were not mistakes nor a blemishes on a dream, they were all the logical outcome of Zionism.

      As a Jew I believe in the inherent dignity of every human being. As a Jew I believe that justice is the core commandment of our tradition. As a Jew I believe that we are commanded to be advocates for the poor, the oppressed the marginalized. Zionism and the daily reality in Israel violated each of these core values. And, I could no longer be a Zionist.

      Or this:

      Tragically, Zionism has become the primary religious commitment for most liberal Jews, more important than any other commandment or ethical concern.

      • Shmuel- Regarding the peripheral- I think Rabbi Walt has a responsibility for all of his words and should not use stupid rhetoric.

        On to the essence. Judaism has its moral side and its amoral side. I prefer the dictum of Hillel as the essence of Judaism, but although Hillel was great, he certainly made quite a leap with his assertion. Is most of Israel’s history since Plan Dalet counter to Hillel’s dictum? Yes. Is its essence counter to Hillel’s dictum? I would agree that its essence is Ben Gurion Zionism rather than Buber Zionism and as such its essence is contrary to Hillel’s dictum. This fact bugs me. Does it bug me “enough” to join with the left? No.

        Because my next question is how to undo the situation and where Israel is headed. I have no idea how to undo the situation. Do I stand in solidarity with those who wish to undo the situation when they do not specify what steps and where we are headed. I do not. I write no blank check to the revolution. You (used as the impersonal “you”) need to specify where you are headed before I come on board.

        And there is a further problem: the prevailing vibe of those who wish to undo the situation alienates me. I do not feel comfortable with settlers, I do not feel comfortable with the left. I feel comfortable with the liberal Zionists. I assume that I do not need to specify (to you, second person singular) what makes me uncomfortable with the left. So even though the liberal Zionist proposals are weak, my alienation from the nonZionist left is very strong and at this point in my life, I do not see myself joining hands literally or figuratively with the nonZionist left. Thus my politics is limited to the comments section on Mondoweiss and arguments with friends and relatives.

        I think Israel is the major Jewish issue of the day. Do you disagree? That this fact becomes translated in blind support or unthinking support for very wrong policies and a somewhat wrong essence, is a serious problem, but I don’t think that Israel being uppermost on the minds of Jews is wrong.

        • Shmuel says:

          I think Israel is the major Jewish issue of the day. Do you disagree?

          No, I do not disagree, nor does Rabbi Walt. It is the major Jewish issue of the day because it has become a tenet of Jewish identity. I don’t believe in collective guilt, but it has become almost impossible to take part in Jewish life or even identify as a Jew without taking a position on Israel. I know Jews who resent this, and I sympathise with them but, as you say, it is the major Jewish issue of the day, and it is therefore reasonable to expect them to have an opinion and to act upon it.

          That this fact becomes translated in blind support or unthinking support for very wrong policies and a somewhat wrong essence, is a serious problem, but I don’t think that Israel being uppermost on the minds of Jews is wrong.

          Israel is certainly uppermost in my mind, and if I ever forget it, any attempt to take part in Jewish life in my local community is always sure to remind me.

          There was a public service message on Israeli TV years ago, to promote safe sex. The script was: “When you sleep with your boyfriend you’re also sleeping with his ex-girlfriend and the boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend and the girlfriend of the boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend and so on and so on.” When you take a position on something like this, you will inevitably find yourself in bed with some unsavoury friends of your friends or friends of the friends of your friends. You don’t like the bedfellows of the non-Zionist left, but you don’t like the bedfellows of the liberal-Zionist left either. You choose the association that most suits you, regardless of its bedfellows. What is it about associating yourself with someone like Brian Walt that bugs you in ways that liberal Zionists don’t?

          In the past, you have referred to Jewish commitment and continuity, and your discomfort at the ‘un-Jewishness’ of the non- or anti-Zionist Jewish left. Rabbi Walt is a Jew’s Jew. He offers a way to be both a committed Jew and a non/anti-Zionist. What specifically is wrong with the path he proposes? If you have questions for him (beyond editing notes) please ask them.

        • seafoid says:

          “I think Israel is the major Jewish issue of the day”

          It has become bigger than a Jewish issue at this stage.
          Ultimately the international community will have to take over.
          Israel is a dysfunctional family which is destroying itself slowly.

        • Dutch says:

          @ WanderingJew

          ‘You (used as the impersonal “you”) need to specify where you are headed before I come on board.’
          So where are you heading now? Can you specify that, or is it all up in the air and/or the hands of the Israeli’s?

          ‘I do not feel comfortable with settlers, I do not feel comfortable with the left.’
          So maybe international law could comfort you and act as your beacon. Why not climb aboard?

          ‘I think Israel is the major Jewish issue of the day.’
          Except that all has been said many times over. There is absolutely nothing ‘Jewish’ about Israel’s policies, and it’s hight time that Jews around the world unite on that point: Not in my name!

  13. Another rhetorical flourish- Jews are no longer victims in this world.

    Although I agree that the overwhelming thrust of the current Jewish situation is not one of victimhood, there are Jews who are victims in this world- the kids killed in Toulouse a few months ago are an example of the fact that there are still Jewish victims in this world.

  14. RoHa says:

    Or he could just give up the whole Jewish thing and affirm his human “identity”.

  15. I was deeply moved by this speech and thought, that’s what German Jews were about. They were philantropic. The main arts school in Frankfurt was established and funded by the Frankfurt Jews. It’s still there. – So, don’t get me wrong Brian.

  16. Larrysturn says:

    Dear Reb Brian,
    I read everyday and have read on the conflict and peacemaking now for many years and have seldom seen a more compelling argument for justice. I try in my own way to do what I can, recently by bringing Gershon Baskin to Philadelphia and working with others to get him a positive interview in the Jewish Exponent. I hold a different kind of Zionism in my heart, (far closer to the cultural Zionism you mention). I think that it is in the realization of peace through relationship building that two peoples and their large Diaspora communities can find a way to embrace the essence of the Judaism I hold dear; A Judaism the sees every individual as a child of G-d.

    Shalom-Salaam-Peace,
    Larry Snider

  17. Jaufre says:

    Let me second the motion in Larry’s letter above and say how moved I am by Reb Brian’s contribution on this pressing matter…I am a teacher of Spanish and Comp Lit working on a seminar proposal on Literature of Israel- Palestine in Dialogue
    and trying to discern a path towards a Judaism that is both prophetic & humanistic
    with a reasonable critique of Zionism as ethno-nationalism and not (yet) a full Liberal democracy. So Thanks and Praise & Para adelante…
    con Paz y Bien/ Shalom y Salaam /Viva la convivencia !

  18. Talkback says:

    Amazing article. Everything you wanted to know about Zionism but were afraid to ask.

  19. Theo says:

    Not being a jew I was lost in many comments, aspecially in hebrew.
    However, most commentators in this blog are highly educated and intelligent human beings, so I am very surprised how they still swallow the teachings and textes in the Torah and Talmud as the whole truth, nothing, but the truth.
    The same goes, to be fair, to the Bible and Koran, or any other “sacral” books and textes. Jewish supertition created the Torah and it has as much value as the greek, roman, german and many other myths.
    To a lot of unbelievable nonsense add a prise of truth, some historical events and blow it up like a baloon. Voilá, you have the magical solution for our present and future, even after death.
    Israel building a state on such nonsense is a crime against humanity and intelligence.

    All those books were written, and countless times re-written, to serve a purpose, mostly subjugation and total obediance to a cause. Nothing scares a human more than that unknown being, who is constantly watching over us and eventually will reward or punish us.
    The Bible says “give God what is his and the king, what is his” in many words. The believers are told, they better obey the laws where they must give 10% of their earnings to the church and 10% to the king, among others with outstretched hands, as they did for centuries in Europe.

    Religions, like political parties, are criminal associations, the more ignorant its members are, the better do they function. Don´t ask any question, just do what you are told to do. I certainly hope one day these stupid, ignorant and duped masses throw away those chains imposed on them by the different religions, and live according to human laws and ethic. The 10 commendments are a good start, without any hocus-pocus.

    As far as the article by the rabbi, I would like to see many rabbies remembering what the 10 commandments say, if nothing else.

    • sydnestel says:

      I didn’t see anything in the comments above that indicated that the writers ” still swallow the teachings and textes in the Torah and Talmud as the whole truth, nothing, but the truth.”

      Quotation doesn’t imply agreement in part or in whole, and in any case there is no one fixed meaning to most of these texts.

      As for the 10 commandments – I hope you haven’t done any work on the Sabbath recently! Or have any engravings of sculptures in your home of office.

      • Theo says:

        The Ten Commendments were written about 3,000 years ago and it is very powerful indicator at a time, when killing, rape, robbery was a way of life.
        Just bring them up to modern times and it can be a start to ethical laws and behavior.
        Someone should introduce the zionist occupiers/killers to what their forfathers thought of crimes commited by them today.

    • @ Theo : I second your post and especially like that one : Israel building a state on such nonsense is a crime against humanity and intelligence.

      @sydnestel : You are certainly right, but in the meantime the high knowledge shown by some posters or their references to their Jewishness tend to indicate that they take their religion seriously.

      I have already noticed that before and just like Theo I find this very surprising.

  20. giladg says:

    Jews like Walt find themselves belonging to a cult but they will not admit this. The cult is their immediate community that has few connections to other Jews outside of their community. This usually works as long as the leader, usually the Rabbi but not always, is continually present and dominant in that community. Usually he/she is charismatic. Often the focus on Judaism becomes secondary where the main focus is the community. The Judaism aspect of their community life is used as a vehicle to keep the community going, instead of making Judaism the main focus.
    The mistake that Walt and Co make is that their vision is short term and inward looking. Tikun Olam has nothing to do with Judaism but becomes an activity for the community.
    Regarding Israel, the automatic response whenever negative news comes out of region, is to blame Israel first as if supporting Israel damages their desire to be part of the “accepted” world.
    The Jews in such communities feel distant to other Jews, and the rejection of Zionism follows.

    • seafoid says:

      Israel is like a city district that is slowly degentrifying
      The drug dealers will be in soon.

    • Ah, a segregationist, and non-humanist. That’s a pretty selective Judaism.

      • giladg says:

        Not one mention in his diatribe about Palestinian rejectionism of an independent Jewish state. Not one mention of the lack of options Israel faces when trying to balance being a moral, law abinding nation and then trying to prevent Arab terror.

        • Shingo says:

          Not one mention in his diatribe about Palestinian rejectionism of an independent Jewish state.

          That’s probably because:

          A. There is no such thing
          B. Israel rejects an independent Pakestinian state

          Not one mention of the lack of options Israel faces when trying to balance being a moral, law abinding nation and then trying to prevent Arab terror.

          Probably because Israel stands as a monument to the success if terror. Israel is a state of the terrorists, by the terrorists and for the terrorists.

        • sardelapasti says:

          “Not one mention in his diatribe about Palestinian rejectionism of an independent Jewish state”

          So how about a Jim Crow state, a Bwana state, an Aryan state? So many things you no doubt also wanted to survive. I forgot that your Jewish state now is dual-purpose with Jim Crow state. Make that triple purpose, adding theocratic dictatorship. “Rejectionism” is way too gentle.

        • Oh come on with the cheap hasbara, the rabbi deserves a lot more respect than such drivel.

        • eljay says:

          >> Not one mention in his diatribe about Palestinian rejectionism of an independent Jewish state.

          There’s no reason for Palestinians to have accepted a supremacist Jewish state created by means of Jewish terrorism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes and lands.

          >> Not one mention of the lack of options Israel faces when trying to balance being a moral, law abinding [sic] nation and then trying to prevent Arab terror.

          Leave it to hateful and immoral Zio-supremacists to gloss over two very obvious options the Glorious Jewish State has at its disposal to prevent “Arab terror”:
          i) Israel can halt – immediately and completely – its 60+ years, ON-GOING and OFFENSIVE (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder.
          ii) Israel can engage in sincere negotiations for a just and mutually-beneficial peace.

          The Glorious Jewish State has the power to do both these things, but it choose not to.

          Striking a balance presumes that Israel is actually a moral, law-abiding nation. But it isn’t a moral, law-abiding nation – it’s an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist state.

        • giladg says:

          The Rabbi misses the bigger picture. The drama of witnessing a home being destroyed is significant for any human being. However there are bigger moves at play with far greater significance. It is a human weakness to witness the tragedy of one family and then cancel out every other bad deed that the side the family is on, has done. The Palestinians are responsible for many barbaric acts of terror. Walt seems all to eager to blank out and ignore those acts. Normal, healthy thinking says hang on, you perpetrated acts of terror and war and people have died as a result, then a price needs to paid and those responsible need to be held accountable. Walt let’s the Palestinian terror leaders off the hook as if terror just happens out of thin air. He is naive like many on the Left are.

        • What cock-eyed self-serving nonsense. Read the rabbi’s eloquence and at least make an effort to understand what he is saying regarding the terror that the Jewish state is built on, instead of making cheap accusations with the absurd cliches which allow you to avoid the truth. Another one in complete denial. You not only miss the bigger picture, you paint a lurid parody of the truth with a typically distorted picture beyond all recognition.

        • talknic says:

          eljay May 26, 2012 at 8:52 am

          Indeed. Israel could end the occupation tomorrow. It has no legal basis for demanding
          A) that occupation continue. (Occupation is voluntary)
          B) that Israel should have more secure borders than any of its neighbours (the words ‘defensible border/s’ do not appear anywhere in any International Law, Convention, UNSC resolution or the UN Charter, which states sovereign equality )
          C) demand that a Palestine be demilitarized (it’s against the very notion of independent sovereignty)
          D) that there be a peace agreement before ending occupation in order that Palestine achieve independent statehood (the peace agreement would not be with the new state)
          E) that there be a peace agreement with the Palestinians for any RoR. (the returnees would become Israel citizens and not be a party to the Palestinian side of the agreement)
          F) that the Palestinians recognize the Jewish State (no other state in the world has recognized Israel as anything other than its official name “the State of Israel” and; recognition cannot be ‘demanded’. It is a unilateral decision to recognize)

          There is no legal basis for Israel to be beyond the “frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947″. There is only the US veto vote in the UNSC prevent the law from having its full effect.

          What will be very interesting if Palestine ever becomes an Independent Sovereign State, is that Israel will still be required to legally annex all the territories it has illegally acquired by war since May 15th 1948 in order for them to be formally and legally recognized as sovereign to Israel.

          In this respect, the US granted the State of Israel de jure recognition by the “frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947″, BEFORE Israel laid claim to any further territories, AFTER it was accepted as a UN Member State.

          Without legal annexation of these territories, the Palestinian State would have just as much right as Israel to lay claim to them and; under the law of persistent objection, the Palestinians would have more right to these territories than Israel. Israel on the other hand has no record of persistent objection, it accepted UNGA res 181.

          The Zionist Federation has created a ghastly mess which will not be resolved for decades, certainly not as long as Israel keeps believing its own propaganda.

          As Israel was declared on behalf of all Jewish people, regardless of where we live or what citizenship we might hold, it is our right if not our duty, to hold our homeland state to account.

        • talknic says:

          giladg May 26, 2012 at 11:36 am

          ” The Palestinians are responsible for many barbaric acts of terror”

          Only those who committed or ordered the acts are responsible. By far the majority of Palestinians have never borne arms or attacked anyone.

          “Normal, healthy thinking says hang on, you perpetrated acts of terror and war and people have died as a result, then a price needs to paid “

          Normal healthy thinking people don’t call for collective punishment and realize that being dispossessed, 64 years of occupation, farms, homes, villages raised and territory illegally acquired, illegally annexed and illegally settled, might result in some folk taking up arms.

          Aren’t the deaths of militants by the IDF enough for you? Israel has dispossessed hundreds of thousands of INNOCENT Palestinian citizens, the majority have never retaliated. A tiny tiny minority have taken up arms after exhausting every legal avenue available to them since 1920.

          “Walt let’s the Palestinian terror leaders off the hook “

          Uh? Israel blows them away at regular intervals, taking innocent civilians with them. How are the dead let off the hook?

          “It is a human weakness to witness the tragedy of one family and then cancel out every other bad deed that the side the family is on, has done. “

          Uh huh. I haven’t noticed you condemning anything Israel has ever done

        • Blake says:

          Bigger picture? Yeah you going to Palestine and robbing them of their freedom; homeland and lives all for a very disturbed belief Palestine is yours and they must just disappear. Your kind of lies for your cause makes any decent civilized human being cringe.

        • Bumblebye says:

          giladg
          You are blanking out at least 10 times as many acts of terror and barbarity committed by you, your family, and your compatriots who happen to be members of the tribe living in that geographic space, busily stealing and erasing a nation. Are you and yours at any point going to acknowledge your crimes against the Palestinians? Or their right to resist them, no matter how ineffectual a non-state fight is against the might of a military with a superpower funding and supplying it?

        • Hostage says:

          The drama of witnessing a home being destroyed is significant for any human being. However there are bigger moves at play with far greater significance. It is a human weakness to witness the tragedy of one family and then cancel out every other bad deed that the side the family is on, has done. The Palestinians are responsible for many barbaric acts of terror.

          Of course there is something bigger at play. You described the deliberate commission of a serious war crime, that’s a punishable offense under Article 8(2)(b)(iv) of the Rome Statute, and then attempted to rationalize that illegal act on the grounds that it targets a member of an identifiable national or ethnic group. FYI, that is a form of hate speech that is also illegal in the jurisdictions where many of our readers reside.

          Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention states:

          No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
          Pillage is prohibited.
          Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

          Article 53 states:

          Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

          The government of Israel has been made aware of all those prohibitions on many occasions by the various international governmental organizations, treaty monitoring bodies, and NGOs. So the continued demolition and destruction of hundreds of villages, and tens of thousands of homes over a period of several decades can be considered “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.” under the terms of article 147 regarding “Grave breaches”.

        • American says:

          giladg,

          I do believe you are the naive one. Tell you what…go try to steal the land and homes of people who have the resources to defend and fight back.
          You think the Palestines have terrorized you?……you have no idea of what would fall on you if tried occupying anyone but Palestines.

        • Talkback says:

          giladg “Normal, healthy thinking says hang on, you perpetrated acts of terror and war and people have died as a result, then a price needs to paid and those responsible need to be held accountable.”

          The universal moralist giladg supports bringing all Jews in front of the International Criminal Court which commited war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of Apartheid.

        • seafoid says:

          Giladg

          “Normal, healthy thinking says hang on, you perpetrated acts of terror and war and people have died as a result, then a price needs to paid and those responsible need to be held accountable”

          You are a nihilist.

          The Germans blamed the defeat of WW1 on the Jews and normal, healthy German thinking said hang on, you perpetrated acts of terror and war and people have died as a result, then a price needs to paid and those responsible need to be held accountable.

          and you know what happened.

          Israel needs to get out of the victim system because soon there won’t be a Jewish state the way things are going.

        • yourstruly says:

          and how many israelis died last month from palestinian terrorism, compared, that is, to the number of palestinians done in by israeli terrorists, whether military or civilian?

        • Shingo says:

          The Palestinians are responsible for many barbaric acts of terror.

          And the Israelis are responsible for many many more barbaric acts of terror. So wouldn’t normal, healthy thinking says hang on, becasue the Israelis perpetrated far more and far worse acts of terror and war and that many more Palestinians had died as a result, then a price that needs to paid and those responsible – ie. Israelis – need to be held accountable to a far greater degree.

          And futhermore, applying your yardstick further, if rockets are fired into Israel and kill no one, the Israel should not retaliate. And if a rockets kills one person, Israel should only kill one person is response.

          Do you agree?

        • Hostage says:

          What will be very interesting if Palestine ever becomes an Independent Sovereign State, is that Israel will still be required to legally annex all the territories it has illegally acquired by war since May 15th 1948 in order for them to be formally and legally recognized as sovereign to Israel.

          Odd isn’t it? The only UN member state that ever voiced a formal reservation in that regard to the General Assembly Credentials Committee was Libya. That belated action wasn’t even initiated until 1982.

          The government of Israel simply employed circular logic and announced that it had already extended its civil law to the areas under armistice occupation. That was decided upon without putting the issue to a vote in either the Knesset or in the areas in question. The government advised that it would sponsor elections in the future because that sort of thing was necessary in any democratic community that was still evolving from military to civil status. The whole affair was portrayed as an effort by Israel to maintain or leave the status quo ante unaltered. It didn’t even rate a footnote in the US State Department FRUS:

          5. Shertok explained civil law had been extended last August and was now merely being [apparent garble] affect superseding military law. It was unreasonable expect one section Israel should be governed by different principles than another. It is only effective way deal with situation.

          6. Shertok confirmed intention to sponsor municipal elections Jerusalem in March, justifying as necessary in any democratic community and based on normal evolution from military to civil status.

          link to digicoll.library.wisc.edu

          When the State’s jurisdiction was inevitably challenged by the inhabitants, the Supreme Court simply upheld the government’s actions and jurisdiction.

        • pt 8. @ your link would be comical if it wasn’t so devastating.

        • Hostage says:

          pt 8. @ your link would be comical if it wasn’t so devastating.

          Yes the State Department Historian included a telegram from the US Consulate containing their thoughts and the analysis of Mr. Ethridge, the US representative on the UN Palestine Conciliation Commission. He said the PCC was offended by the remarks about the refugees and the US Consul in Jerusalem relayed that Ethridge thought it was unwise for Israel to adopt such an “inhuman” position from the very outset. It’s amazing that, even at this late date, there were so many people in charge of the negotiations who didn’t realize that the Jewish Agency had never formally accepted the internationalization of Jerusalem under the UN plan of partition. Although Israel had annexed the territory for all practical purposes by extending its civil law, they still didn’t quite fully comprehend that fact:

          Mr. Ethridge, the same day, expressed his view that “Shertok’s presentation of PGI [Provisional Government of Israel] views regarding Jerusalem appears to me to be unyielding. It is clear that PGI does not accept world opinion regarding internationalization Jerusalem …. It is also clear PGI intends continue to take steps looking toward eventual incorporation of Israeli Jerusalem in Israel …. It may be true PGI does not intend to transfer its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On other hand facts that constituent assembly is opening here, that certain central administrative offices are operating here, that Israeli civil law applies here and that municipal elections under Israeli auspices will be held here seem to bear out my analysis. . . . It seems logical, however, present policies will continue and may only be counteracted by firmness on part of command [sic] governments there represented.”

          Mr. Ethridge also asserted that “Shertok’s statement PGI views regarding refugees offended Commission. It also astonished me in view imperative necessity for friendly relations between Israel and Arab States and importance of early establishment of economic connections with Arab hinterland. . … It is my hope PGI may be persuaded to alter these views and to ‘adopt more humanitarian measures which would redound to benefit of Israel and Arab States. It might be wise in long run to resettle ‘greater portion Arab refugees in neighboring Arab States; nevertheless, it appears contrary to Israel’s best interests at outset to take inhuman position.”

          – (Telegram 124, from Jerusalem, 501.BB Palestine/2-849)
          link to digicoll.library.wisc.edu

        • policies will continue and may only be counteracted by firmness on part of command [sic] governments there represented”

          it was true then and it’s true now.

          the lie-myth comes forth so clear in his words, “Exodus primarily cause by aggression of Arab states.”

          liars.infuriating. hundreds of thousands expelled prior to 5/24/48. “inhuman..at outset” and it remains so today.

          sometimes i have to separate myself (remind myself)..emotionally disengage..just to continue on in our mission/struggle. to allow oneself to fully comprehend the level of deceit and inhumanity contained in this ongoing agenda is, at times, enough to drive a person..almost insane..almost enough to loose faith in mankind, in humanity..that this level of deceit is allowed to go seemingly unchallenged is the disgrace of us all.

          i do not know when but i do know it will not last forever. i pray in my lifetime we will find a way, i want to see it, experience it, i want to live and breathe a free palestine. for so many years these lies have held. so very ugly, the other face of mankind, the inhumane.

        • giladg says:

          The Arab and Muslim armies have marched on Israel on multiple occasions, in defense of the Palestininin you have just described as being alone and isolated and unable to fight back. You have got to be kidding ‘American’. Do you know how many Israelis have died or have been injured in these wars?

        • giladg says:

          Jews did not “go” to Palestine. They we always there. At a pont in history many were forced to leave. Now they are returning.

        • MRW says:

          Hostage,

          Would you be willing to comment on this:
          Israel didn’t come into being because of the Shoah; Israel exists in spite of it
          An open letter to Mohammed Bakri about the relationship between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba.
          By Yehuda Bauer May.24, 2012 | 4:09 PM

          link to haaretz.com

        • Shmuel says:

          you perpetrated acts of terror and war and people have died as a result, then a price needs to paid and those responsible need to be held accountable

          What does this have to do with the home demolitions witnessed by Rabbi Walt? People often confuse Israel’s policy of home demolitions for the purposes of ethnic cleansing (refusing permits and then demolishing homes necessarily built without them) with the long-discontinued (illegal and ineffective) practice of demolishing the family homes of suicide bombers. The families whose homes are demolished are only “responsible” for wanting to live on their land, and the “price” they pay is the price of Israeli greed.

          The drama of witnessing a home being destroyed is significant for any human being.

          Have you ever witnessed such a demolition?

        • Blake says:

          Amen “American”. My feelings exactly. Palestinians have been mighty patient. “Saber” is a word I believe they use, meaning patience and there is always tomorrow.

        • Shingo says:

          Do you know how many Israelis have died or have been injured in these wars?

          Of course we do Giladg. The number is 1/10th the number of Palestinians hat have died or been injured.

          Why does only the number of Israelis count Gilad? Is it that Jewish fingernail thing?

        • tree says:

          The Arab and Muslim armies have marched on Israel on multiple occasions…

          So I guess that means that you consider the Sinai and Lebanon to be part of Israel? Because Israel has never been invaded by any other army. It specializes in doing the invading.

          Do you know how many Israelis have died or have been injured in these wars?

          Considerably less than the number of Egyptians and Lebanese that died during Israel’s aggressive wars against them.

        • Hostage says:

          People often confuse Israel’s policy of home demolitions for the purposes of ethnic cleansing (refusing permits and then demolishing homes necessarily built without them) with the long-discontinued (illegal and ineffective) practice of demolishing the family homes of suicide bombers.

          No I don’t confuse the two, but both practices are violations of the same prohibition against excessive expropriation or wanton destruction.

          The destruction of 28,000 homes in Gaza and the refusal to permit shipments of the building supplies needed for repairs or new shelters to enter the Strip had nothing to do with military necessity. It was collective punishment. The practice of punishing the family members of Palestinians collectively is alive and well too:

          ‘Barak OKs destroying Fogel killers’ family homes’ Defense minister, IDF chief agree to demolish homes of the terrorists’ families despite cessation of policy in 2005. link to jpost.com

        • Hostage says:

          P.S. a bit of clarification, that should read: “both practices are violations of the same prohibition against excessive expropriation or wanton destruction and examples of the aggravated crime of persecution.”

        • Talkback says:

          “The Arab and Muslim armies have marched on Israel on multiple occasions, …”

          When? Israel attacked it’s neighbouring countries at least in 1956, 1967, 1982 and 2006. And in 1973 Egypt and Syria where only operating in their own territory trying to free it from Israel’s occupation.

          “Do you know how many Israelis have died or have been injured in these wars?”

          While defending within partition borders or while attacking beyond them?

        • Shmuel says:

          You’re right, Hostage. The point I was trying to make was that even the illegal and immoral excuse that giladg offered lacks any factual basis. The demolitions that Rabbi Walt was referring to (the ones that Rabbis for Human Rights and the ICAHD are witness to and active against) have not even the most remote connection to “acts of terror” or “holding accountable those responsible”. They are simply a matter of making Palestinian life unbearable and stealing Palestinian land tout court. Rabbi Walt’s conclusions from having witnessed such a demolition are thus intellectually sound and coherent, and not merely an emotional response devoid of context, as giladg suggested.

        • Hostage says:

          Hostage, . . . Would you be willing to comment on this

          Yes, we’ve covered most of that territory before. Bauer is an academic consultant to the Holocaust Industry and his ox has been gored. That’s why he and many Israeli Jews don’t like Nakba Day. They don’t like being reminded about the inhuman things the Zionist leadership did, and still does, to milk the sympathy of others for their pet state-building project. Those things included the shameless exploitation of the situation of the war refugees and the victims of the Holocaust in order to raise money to build the infrastructure for the establishment of Jewish rule over all of Palestine in the decades prior to 1947-48. People like Peter Bergson & Ben Hecht raised money for terror groups and did a lot of shreying about saving Jews.

          The archival evidence proves beyond any doubt that the Zionist Executive did everything in their power to prevent fund raising efforts to assist the refugees and to save the victims still living under Hitler’s regime. They felt those efforts would detract from their own efforts to raise money for the illicit arms needed to equip their army of conquest and to fund their own enterprises. The war refugees that were absorbed under the Haavara Agreement after 1933 were accommodated by utilizing the natural resources and territory of the Palestinians in a way that offered them the least benefit and which led to their eventual displacement. Hitler’s persecution of the Jews fueled a wave of immigration. I’ve discussed the way the Zionists exploited that opportunity in the past, e.g. link to mondoweiss.net

          In addition, the Jewish Agency was totally dependent on the threat of terror from its militias or misplaced sympathy for the Jews of Europe to act as determining factors to garner support for its disproportionate territorial demands from the UN member states. President Weizmann wrote President Truman afterward:

          When the United Nations in November 1947 voted in favour of a Jewish State, it was motivated prominently by the purpose of solving once and for all the Jewish question in Europe, to get rid of the concentration camps and of the aftermath of Hitler’s holocaust. I know, Mr. President, that this purpose was uppermost in your mind when you gave us your staunch and steady support in those critical days.

          link to digicoll.library.wisc.edu

          Even after the State was established, it remained hopelessly dependent on imports of raw materials, foreign loans, and foreign charitable contributions. In the first few decades, about ten percent of the country’s economy was fueled by the money and goods the German’s provided under their agreements on Holocaust reparations. Israel had simply appointed itself as the successor in interest of any property or compensation owed to the millions of non-Israeli Jews who died leaving no heirs. Other countries which absorbed Jewish refugees received no reparations. The German government voluntarily complied with Israel’s unprecedented request to the Allied powers for the imposition of a Holocaust levy on every German citizen for billions of dollars in property claims and punitive damages that would accrue to its exclusive benefit.

          The government of Israel stipulated that $1.5 billion was the minimum it needed to absorb and rehabilitate 500,000 immigrants from territories occupied by the Nazi regime. No such offer was forthcoming from the government of Israel in connection with the Nakba and the 700,000 Palestinian refugees. Israel eventually recieved about $8 billion. All of this is a matter of public record. See for example the Chapter on the German Holocaust Reparations in Volume 3 of Netanel Lorach, “Major Knesset Debates, 1948-1981, JCPA/University Press, 1993, starting on page 703. link to jcpa.org

          The claim that the Holocaust destroyed the human reserve that the Zionist movement was counting on or that 3.3 million Jews in Poland ever had a snowball’s chance in hell of immigrating to Palestine is nonsense. The President of the Zionist Organization advised the US government in 1942 that there would only be about 2 million potential Jewish immigrants after the war, and that Israel only wanted to pick and choose about one million of them. He called the remainder “human dust” and said they had no future. He had no desire whatever to bring them to Palestine. link to digicoll.library.wisc.edu

        • Elliot says:

          Thanks, Hostage.
          The State Department’s evaluation is consistent with Israeli attitudes to Jerusalem (essentially: too many Arabs, too many non-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Jews). The Labor Zionist elite may have preferred the new Hebrew town of Tel Aviv to dusty Jerusalem, but still needed it to be the Israeli capital. Zionism is built on the ruins of Judaism. It can’t be all new to work.
          Not much has changed in the Israeli elite’s attitude to Jerusalem today.

        • RoHa says:

          “Jews did not “go” to Palestine. They we always there.”

          There have always been Jews living in Palestine. But they were not European or American Jews.

          ” At a pont in history many were forced to leave. Now they are returning.”

          Those who were forced to leave have been dead for a very long time. The Europeans and Americans who went to Palestine had never been there before, so they were not returning.

        • Hostage says:

          Thanks, Hostage. The State Department’s evaluation is consistent with Israeli attitudes to Jerusalem

          Well the Israeli logic was completely circular, i.e. its already part of Israel and it’s unreasonable expect one section of Israel to be governed by different principles than another section of Israel.

          The Knesset adopted an ordinance, retroactive to 15 May 1948, which applied Israeli law to any territory the Minister of Defense had defined by proclamation as being held by the Defense Army of Israel. See the Area of Jurisdiction and Powers Ordinance, No.29 of 5708-1948 link to israellawresourcecenter.org

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          “Jews did not “go” to Palestine. They we always there. At a pont in history many were forced to leave. Now they are returning.”

          What racist twaddle. That there have always been people in Palestine of Jewish descent is true, if trivial. Further, the fact that some Jews, centuries or millenia left (whether by force or choice) Palestine is, again, true, but trivial. But “they” aren’t returning. They — those who left — are dead. The Jews who have invaded Palestine in the past 150 years are not “returning” — they were never there to begin with. They’re invaders and squatters, with no legitimate claim on the land, and have stolen the land from the Palestinians, who are the people with the legitimate claim on the land.

        • Hostage says:

          The Jewish population of Palestine consists of three distinct strata. The first is made up of those Sephardic Jews who have lived in the country for centuries, have become closely assimilated, in mores and in the general mode of life, to the local Arabs and who, side by side with Spaniolo, speak Arabic too. A good picture of the life of these Jews is furnished by the town of Saida (the ancient Sidon) where 2000 Jews — all of them Sephardic — may be found. They receive no ‘Halukkah, earn a difficult and pitiful living as small merchants and artisans, are poorly educated and of a not particularly high moral standing. — Dr. Arthur Ruppin: “The Picture in 1907″
          link to jewishvirtuallibrary.org

        • Citizen says:

          filadg, do you support the right of the Roma people to move to northern India and forcefully take over that land where they originated? Consider that they suffered as proportionately as the Jewish people under the Nazi regime, and indeed, have a long history of victimhood in Europe, and do not have a state of their own.

        • MRW says:

          Hostage,

          Thank you so much. My sister-in-law’s mother was one of those pieces of human dust they didn’t want to save because she was too young and not of baby-making age. They left her to die.

  21. dbroncos says:

    The righteous might of his logic, and his transformation, speaks for itself. One of the best cases against Zionism I’ve seen. Hey, Mr. Beinart, we know you’re out there – don’t you think Rabbi Brian Walt and Hilda Silverman have something to teach you about Zionism?

  22. eljay says:

    >> The Palestinians are responsible for many barbaric acts of terror. Walt seems all to eager to blank out and ignore those acts.

    Jews are responsible for many barbaric acts of terror. Hateful and immoral Zio-supremacists like giladg seem all too eager to blank out and ignore those acts.

    >> Normal, healthy thinking says hang on, you perpetrated acts of terror and war and people have died as a result, then a price needs to paid and those responsible need to be held accountable.

    Correct. Jews have perpetrated acts of terror and war and people have died as a result. Jews continue to perpetrate acts of terror and war and people continue to die as a result. A price needs to be paid and those responsible need to be held accountable.

    >> Walt let’s the Palestinian terror leaders off the hook as if terror just happens out of thin air.

    Zio-supremacists absolve themselves, their co-collectivists and their Glorious Jewish State as if terror just happens out of thin air.

    The dissimulating cluelessness of giladg’s post might have been amusing if it weren’t for the fact that he and his sentiments are utterly revolting.

  23. American says:

    The lastest from MJ (Rosenberg). Sock it to them mj…lol.

    Blog May 25 2012

    My Letter From Obama: Dear Jewish Person

    Here is the email my fellow Jews and I received today from the White House. Please forward similar emails to other similar communities particularly those sent to Arab-Americans.

    Of course, other groups don’t receive these special ethnic missives either because the White House is not worried about their campaign donations. Or, perhaps the White House considers them to be AMERICANS and not as something else. In any case, this letter is just plain offensive and this is worse.

    The problem is that this administration’s entire view of our community comes from its AIPAC donor’s — and not from the Jews Barack and Michelle Obama knew so well in Chicago (all progressives, none Israel Firsters). And it is the AIPAC crowd this is really addressed to.

    I get it.

    But it is damn insulting. Jewish Americans are no less American than Catholics, Protestants or any others. Yes, we have particular concerns but as far as the White House should be concerned, we are Americans — not foreigners living amongst Americans. So, Mr. President, talk to us as if we were as American as our neighbors. Because, despite what you hear from AIPAC and the other Jewish organizations, WE ARE. And this is our country (with no close runner ups).

    One more thing. If you do want to write to us about the Middle East, write to us along with Arab-Americans. As the two American ethnic groups with a special interest in that part of the world, perhaps you should write us jointly. You could explain your policies to both groups because both groups are Americans and you are our president. You could help bring us together rather than treat me as your beloved godson and my Muslim friend as invisible.

    I know the White House no longer acknowledges Arab-Americans so that may be hard in an election year. Maybe in 2013. Think about it. Your predecessor did.

    Friends,

    We have had a busy month here at the White House. On May 4th, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew addressed the American Jewish Committee Global Forum where he reiterated the President’s commitment to Israel’s security and to building a better world both at home and abroad. Later that week, Vice President Biden addressed the Rabbinical Assembly where he shared the story of his connection to the Jewish people and the shared values between the Obama Administration and the Conservative Jewish community.

    Last week, we heard from Ambassador Norm Eisen about his experiences serving as the United States’ Ambassador to the Czech Republic and his deep family ties to the country.

    On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden met with leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and addressed the Administration’s support for Israel’s security and the White House’s commitment to a lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

    Throughout May, U.S. and Israeli officials continued a series of meetings between senior officials. Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was in Washington, D.C. for meetings with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Earlier this week, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Israel where she signed a customs agreement between the two countries.

    Chag Sameach,

    Jarrod Neal Bernstein

    Director of Jewish Outreach | White House Office of Public Engagement

    link to whitehouse.gov

    link to whitehouse.gov

    • Elliot says:

      Bernstein is not listed with the long list of senior staff at the White House’s Office of Public Engagement. So, he’s a junior staffer. I wonder how many other ethnic constituencies have staff liaisons at the White House. Interestingly, one of the senior staffers, Danielle Borrin flaunts her Jewish community experience in her bio.

  24. seafoid says:

    I think the title should be Affirming a Judaism and Jewish identity AFTER Zionism
    The ideology has nothing to offer judaism and is, rather, dragging it to a very dark place.

    This is very striking, from Richard Silverstein

    link to richardsilverstein.com

    “I regret to say that there was a time when such a heartfelt cry moved me to tears, made me proud in a depressing sort of way that there were still Israelis who felt this way, who had a conscience, even if they were a beleaguered minority. Now, I’m a bit more jaded. Dankner is, no doubt an important voice, perhaps even an Israeli bellwether. But there’s been too much “shooting and crying” among Israeli liberals. This may be more of the same.”

    Israel has gone beyond the point where it can be repaired internally and the idea that the wider Diaspora can save it is deluded.

    A Mr Wolf type figure is required to restore order.

    Israel you have 40 minutes to get the f*ck out of Dodge. Which if you do what I say when i say should be plenty
    link to youtube.com

  25. yourstruly says:

    given, that the israel’s brutal occupation of palestine is why much of the arab/islamic world hates america, and given, that a u.s.-backed israeli attack on iran could lead to doomsday, it therefore follows that for not only jewish-americans but all of us americans the essential task is to force our government to sever its special relationship with the apartheid entity. furthermore it is the participation of jewish-americans in this effort that will bring about the affirmation of judaism and jewish identity. has to do with unity being forged through struggle.

    • yourstruly says:

      what was that sound?

      the special relationship breaking down

      and the loud and sustained chorus that followed?

      universal sighs of relief

  26. MHughes976 says:

    I’m still a bit uncertain about what R.Brian means by ‘Zionism’: what proposition did he once affirm that he now denies?
    He does explain what ‘Liberal Zionism’ is – ie belief that it is right that there should be a Jewish place where Jewish people can find refuge and express their culture. Almost everything about that definition would be satisfied by modern Western states, except that they’re not Jewish in the sense of having a Jewish majority. Did he ever really think that there is such a thing as the right to be part of a majority? How did he justify it?
    Lib Z, as defined, makes no mention at all of Palestine, not one syllable of mention. Yet even the most liberal form of Z has been dedicated in practice to creating a certain situation specifically in Palestine. We’re all free to define words as we like but it may be misleading to produce a definition which says nothing about such an important aspect of its topic.

  27. Theo says:

    To those who still think that the Torah and Talmud should be a guide to jewishness and in their private life:

    Recently I had the pleasure of reading several articles based on the findings of several well knows ISRAELI archeologists, who are digging in Israel since 20-25 years to find traces of jewish history. Their findings are historical, not necessary to prove or disprove the Torah or Talmud.

    1. Case.
    He is digging north of Jerusalem since 25 years in what was known at that time Israel, the south being Juda. He found that:
    Jerusalem was not the original place of the great temple, but further north, where the samariter lived and still live. At that time Jerusalem was a small village of about 1,500 inhabitants with a temple as large as a shack.
    The assyrer invaded Israel, destroyed the temple, and drove many jews toward the south.
    The priest in Jerusalem used this opportunity to rewrite the Torah and Talmud, araise all mention of the previous temple and sent troops to destroy any remains of the original large temple. The scrolls from the Death Sea are much different as a Torah today, they prove the falsification.
    The samariter, there are still about 1,500 of them, are the real and original jews, because they follow the teaching of the old religion, that “they may never leave the Holy Land and may not mix with other peoples”.
    The jews all over the world originate from Juda, they left the Holy Land, mixed with other peoples and in their ranks there are a great number of converts, also not jews at all!! Those are the ashkenazies, among others.

    2. case:
    A different israeli scientist, also digging more than 20 years, made the following statement: In his oppinion,

    there was never the great wandering in the desert, with Moses splitting the sea, the manna and the rest of that nonsense.
    There was never the great empire of David and Salomon.
    Jews were probably never in Egypt with Moses in a basket, Joseph and his prophesies, etc.

    In other words, those who are building Israel on the teachings of the Torah, they do it on fairy tales and outright lies.
    Who can call those scientists anti-semites for telling the truth?
    Self-hating jews? I doubt it.