Exchange on anti-Sephardi racism on the left

On January 2nd, David Shasha published the following critique of Rabbi Brant Rosen’s blog post reviewing the new book The Gaza Kitchen:

Let us not be fooled into thinking that committed Ashkenazi Jewish Leftists who support peace and reconciliation are free of anti-Sephardi racism.

Here is yet another case in point dealing with the political football of Arab cuisine and Israel: http://rabbibrant.com/2012/12/30/pay-a-visit-to-the-gaza-kitchen/

The key assertion is made clearly by Rabbi Rosen:

I personally consider the legacy of Israeli cuisine to be a complex and painful one. Reading through this book through the eyes of an American Jew, I was constantly reminded that so many of the foods that we assume to be uniquely “Israeli” are in fact dishes that have long been indigenous to Palestinian culture.

It is certainly true that there is really no such thing as uniquely “Jewish food.” To be sure, Jews have lived (and cooked) in a myriad of societies and cultural contexts over the centuries – and our cuisine has traditionally emerged from a (pardon the expression) fusion of Jewish sensibilities with our respective host cultures. Given the circumstances of Israel’s creation, however, I have long been troubled by Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian/Mediterranean culture – and the assumption, for instance, that dishes such as hummous and felafel are somehow “uniquely Israeli.”

While it is certainly true that Zionism has acted in racist and imperious ways vis-à-vis the native Arab culture of the Palestinians, it is equally true that this Arab culture is not limited to Muslims or Christians, but is shared with Jews who are native to the region.

But when we read the statement we can clearly see that native Arab Jews are not even a possibility in the author’s mind.  Being an Israeli Jew means being an Ashkenazi Jew.  Arab Jews continue to be invisible; without any voice in the discourse.

It is not that Ashkenazi Israeli Jews have not stolen culture, history, and freedom from Palestinian Arabs.  That is certainly true and we should be on guard against it.  But when we look at culture, history, and freedom being stolen, it is not something limited to the Palestinian Arabs. 

In advocating on behalf of the oppressed Palestinians, Rabbi Rosen asserts Ashkenazi hegemonic privilege and completely ignores the fact that the food culture of Palestine is shared by Jews, Muslims, and Christians.  Beyond food, these groups share literary values, religious values, philosophical values, and much else.

https://groups.google.com/group/Davidshasha/browse_thread/thread/bdd64635d3bbbefb#

https://groups.google.com/group/Davidshasha/browse_thread/thread/02a85beb4963b166#

Zionism has robbed the Arab Jews of their culture and history.  Those criticizing Zionism, like Rabbi Rosen, should not repeat this Zionist theft of our Arab Jewish civilization.  And yet it seems like the Ashkenazim – whatever their political beliefs may be – cannot help themselves. 

https://groups.google.com/group/Davidshasha/browse_thread/thread/c089b2e1e08e3ea3#

The nameless Arab Jews have no role to play in peace discourse or in the formation of Israeli culture:

http://groups.google.com/group/Davidshasha/browse_thread/thread/67c80edee8a0c504#

For the Ashkenazim all Jews are Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.”  All Jewish food is Gefilte Fish, Chopped Liver, and Matzoh Ball soup.  It is not in the realm of the possible that Palestinian “Arab” food can be Jewish food as well. 

It is not that we should appropriate this food for Israel or Zionism, but to clarify what is the truth of the matter and to restore Arab Jewish culture to its rightful place in the discourse.

I have addressed it most recently in item 9 in the following “Weekly Items of Note” post:

https://groups.google.com/group/Davidshasha/browse_thread/thread/872bb61dd0ce43a3/d5f1d9169cdf2bbc?lnk=gst&q=arab+food#d5f1d9169cdf2bbc

Even though I have written about this matter extensively in the past, it seems that I will have to continue pointing it out for the foreseeable future:

http://tpcmagazine.org/article/assessing-myths-interfaith-dialogue

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-shasha/the-voice-of-um-kulthum-t_b_595161.html

http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/may_jun_09_shasha/print

Once again it shameful to point out that reliably Progressive Jewish voices are themselves harboring racism against fellow Jews who because they are not Ashkenazi simply do not exist.

Brant Rosen responds:

Like David Shasha, I too believe that anti-Sephardi racism is a critically important and egregiously ignored issue. Yes, Arab Jewish voices need to be a part of a great many conversations. This just wasn’t one of them.

It’s true: I didn’t feel the issue of Arab Jewish culture was germane to my review of The Gaza Kitchen.  That’s because the essential focus of my review was the rich heritage of Gazan cuisine and its historic place in Palestinian food culture. My brief reference to the Zionist appropriation of Palestinian food culture (from which Shasha quoted) was quite frankly, a side issue.

No, in the end I didn’t delve into the very complex issue of Israel’s interface with Sephardi culture. I didn’t do so because I believe it was a separate conversation. Shasha is clearly unable to consider that I was justified in making this good faith pedagogical decision. While I don’t expect to change his mind on this score, I would only recommend that in the future Shasha think very carefully before he accuses others of racism – and to consider whether or not his own credibility is compromised when he wields this serious epithet so freely.

Having said all this, I’m struck by some interesting generalizations in Shasha’a argument. While I would never accuse Shasha of something as egregious as racism, I can’t help but feel that he inadvertently falls into some of traps that he obviously wants others to avoid.

I’m certainly familiar with the political background of the term “Arab Jew;” still, I find it notable that Shasha freely bandies about the term “Arab Jewish culture” as if it actually represents one unified socio-cultural tradition. In many ways, his use of the term reminds me of the ignorant generalizations so many Westerners make about “the Arabs,” “Arab culture” and “the Arab world.”

As Shasha must well know, those to whom we refer to as “Arab Jews” in Israel come from extremely diverse cultures throughout a vast region – from countries as varied as Iraq, Morocco, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, etc. I’m sure Shasha would not want his imprecision on this point lead readers to the mistaken assumption that all Arab Jews or Arab Jewish cultures are somehow “alike.”

On this point, I was puzzled – even troubled – by his statement:

In advocating on behalf of the oppressed Palestinians, Rabbi Rosen asserts Ashkenazi hegemonic privilege and completely ignores the fact that the food culture of Palestine is shared by Jews, Muslims, and Christians.  Beyond food, these groups share literary values, religious values, philosophical values, and much else.

True, the food culture of Palestine is shared by Jews, Muslims and Christians. But in making this claim, Shasha leaves out one incredibly important fact: most Arab Jews there, unlike the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Muslims and Christians, came to Israel/Palestine from other Arab countries. And by doing so, they brought with them their own unique regional cultures and traditions. By stressing the importance of “universal” Arab values, Shasha perpetuates the mistaken impression that the “food culture of Palestine” isn’t all that different from the “food culture of Iraq” or the “food culture of Morocco” or the food cultures of any of the diverse regions from which the Arab Jews of Israel originally came.

This is, indeed, one of the reasons I believe The Gaza Kitchen is such a valuable book: it successfully debunks the notion that there is one “Arab culture” by vibrantly illuminating the regional variations within Palestinian cuisine itself – and Gazan food in particular. In his passion to advocate for Arab Jewish culture, Shasha misses these critical points entirely.

Rather than criticize further, I will simply state the obvious: as imperfect and biased humans, each and every one of us will sometimes say or write things that others may experience as “racist” despite our most well-meaning intentions. In this regard, David Shasha is no different than the rest of us.

After reading his self-righteous protestations, I was actually reminded of an old joke I hadn’t thought of in years:

A woman goes to a butcher as asks to see the chickens. She then proceeds to inspect them thoroughly, peering under their wings and sniffing them between the legs. “Not fresh, not fresh” she said repeatedly.

Finally, the disgusted butcher looks up at her and said, “Hey, lady, could you pass that test?”

I do hope that that David Shasha will continue to “write about this matter extensively…for the foreseeable future.” I would only hope that he do so with a spirit of humility and an assumption of good faith on the part of his progressive allies.

  1. So Mizrahi Jews wanna take parts of their Arab heritage and redefine it as Israeli? I’ll respond with my favorite Arab word, which any Arabic speaker should be able to understand: Toz!

    Mizrahi Jews rejected their Arabness in favor of their Jewishness. They don’t have the right to take what is Arab and then call it Jewish or Israeli. Like the keffiyeh, it’s Arab and it’s gonna stay Arab (with thanks to Shadia Mansour). Whether Israelis are stealing Palestinian/Levantine culture or trying to define Arab cuisine as Israeli, it’s all theft.

    • Ashkenazim Jews also rejecting their European-ness in Israel because they grew up under sovereign Jewish culture. Forth Mizrahi Jews descendants in Israel don’t see themselves “Arabs” by culture, as the Ashkenazim Jews. The third and forth generations of Israelis are already mixed because of large numbers of intermarriage.
      Keffiyeh, Humus etc. are not solely Arabic by nature but a Middle Eastern culture that is shared among all tribes and peoples. Keffiyeh is an old head cover that all ancient peoples wore even before the Arabs invaded out of Saudi Arabia. Ancient Hebrews, Israelites, Judeans and Jews in the Middle East wore the same cloths then and until 20th century. The Jews wore also Keffyie which in Hebrew is called “Kipa”. They didn’t have to “steal” the Keffiye or the Kipa from Arabs. The same is about Humus and Pita, for example. Humus (chickpeas) was the main food of the oriental for the last 10,000 years. Jews ate it as the others. Humus is mentioned in the Bible even before Arabs were first mentioned in history scripts. – Ruth, 2, 14 : “And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar…..” . There is a problem in translation from Hebrew to English but what in English is called “Morsel” is written in Hebrew “Pita” (flat round bread) and the “Vinegar” is not the now day’s liquid but Hometz (chickpeas) or Himtza and in Arabic it called Hummus. The Hummus is mention again in Isaia, 30, 24 : “The oxen likewise and the young asses that till the ground shall eat savoury provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan”. “Savoury provender” written in the Hebrew texts as “Blil Hamitz Yochelu”, “Mixture of Hamitz they shall eat”, a perfect Yiddish Hummus.

      • There is a problem in translation from Hebrew to English but what in English is called “Morsel” is written in Hebrew “Pita” (flat round bread) and the “Vinegar” is not the now day’s liquid but Hometz (chickpeas) or Himtza and in Arabic it called Hummus.

        That’s not quite true. Hometz or Khometz is Hebrew for vinegar. And it has nothing to do with Hummus.

        In addition, the name, Hummus, in Arabic is not related in any way to Himtza or Hometz. It’s an entirely different etymological root.

        Humtzah in Hebrew means acid. And Hametz — re: Passover — means yeast.

        The Hummus is mention again in Isaia, 30, 24 : “The oxen likewise and the young asses that till the ground shall eat savoury provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan”. “Savoury provender” written in the Hebrew texts as “Blil Hamitz Yochelu”, “Mixture of Hamitz they shall eat”, a perfect Yiddish Hummus.

        “Yiddish Hummus”, that’s cute. But, again, not true.

        By the way, does this Yiddish Hummus come with an Israeli invented cherry tomato on top?

      • This is one of the most quintessentially Zionist comments I’ve seen here in a while.

        The Hebrew word for chickpea, “himtzah”, is a modern, invented word, based on the Aramaic “himtza” (final aleph, rather than heh) and the Arabic “hummus” (the invented Hebrew word is hardly ever used in Israeli Hebrew, which simply uses the Arabic). A modern interpretation of the two biblical verses AbeBird cites suggests that such a Hebrew word for chickpea may have existed in ancient Hebrew, although there is no indication in the verses themselves or elsewhere in the Bible or post-biblical Hebrew literature that this is indeed the case. Traditional commentators (including Arabic-speakers such as Abraham Ibn Ezra and David Kimhi – who actually cites an Arabic cognate in his interpretation of Ruth 2:14, but not the word for chickpea!) offered other explanations of the verses in question.

        So what we have here is the tangible reality of an element of Palestinian Arab culture (and Arab culture generally) countered by invented mythology desperately trying to “prove” a more ancient and thus (at least by implication) superior claim to that element: romantic fantasy attempting to trump reality. (Note also the attempt to link all Jews to “ancient peoples” of the region, while stressing the extraneity of the Johnny-come-lately “Saudi Arabian invaders”.)

        Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin has referred to this “denial of reality” in favour of invented mythology/eschatology, as a central element of Zionist thought and Israeli policy.

        Interestingly, the entry for “himtzah” in Even Shoshan’s classic Hebrew dictionary notes that it is consumed “particularly among Mizrahi Jews [edot ha-mizrah] and Arabs”, concluding with the colloquial “houmous” and a transcription of the Arabic word from which it derives.

        • Shmuel
          Note, also, how this knowledgeable character equated the kipa with the keffiyeh when the only thing they have in common is that they sit on the head!
          BTW, the kipa is also worn by Arabs.

        • Thanks for the little linguistic excursus Shmuel, very helpful. I wish Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin’s work was translated much more than he seems to be, maybe you can you help a little? ;) Very fascinating scholar.

          I was deeply puzzled by this conflict between David Shasha and Rabbi Brant Rosen, admittedly. David may use Arab Jews instead of Oriental Jews but doesn’t his attitude towards Rosen indirectly attack his more enlightened, less Orientalist, term?

          Is this a debate about racism or about ideology? Some type of hypersensitivity in search of evidence?

          I may be as hesitant about Atzmon and his latest book as you are, and thus may wonder why Richard Falk supported it, but I am afraid considering the clashes between Obama and Netanyahu I cannot consider the incriminating cartoon on Falk’s website as purely antisemitic but in a way can’t help but perceive the UN Watch’s actions as censorship of a maybe cynical artistic response to reality? Additionally smearing Falk for the pure usage. Obviously they were lying in wait to find something to diminish his influence. In a way this reminds me of a debate between Amy Goodman and Norman Finkelstein about Human Rights Watch as defining the limits of discourse, or as far as the left may dare to advance. As we see one of the more critical left voices or influences of Human Right’s Watch has just been effectively taken out of the discourse.

          Should I consider I am antisemitic just like Rabbi Rosen has to consider, according to Shasha, he is racist for my above take on the cartoon as maybe cynical but surely not purely antisemitic?

        • Note, also, how this knowledgeable character equated the kipa with the keffiyeh

          Noted.

          As long as you’re here …

          The Hebrew root ḥmṣ has to do with fermentation (hence leaven, vinegar, acid, sour, etc.). In Arabic, I understand it has to do with baking or roasting. Is that correct? If so, the connection between the two is obvious (in Aramaic, it also means “heat”).

          By the way, we grew chickpeas in our garden this year, and the fresh pods had a distinct, sour, lemony taste :-)

        • Shmuel,

          Permit me to pick your brain, since I know you are knowledgeable about this subject.

          Would you regard these to be true or untrue statements?

          1. The contemporary Jewish religious establishment has for the most part embraced Zionism and merged Judaism and Zionism into a single ethno-religious nationalist ideology.

          2. Contemporary Jewish religious Zionism is grounded in the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism.

          Mostly true or mostly untrue?

          An example of what I am talking about:

          “Egalitarian Jewish worship”
          The Jerusalem Post
          January 2, 2013

          link to jpost.com

          1. “there is one worldwide Jewish people”

          2. “that people has one eternal national homeland in the State of Israel”

          3. “loyalty, commitment and connection in Jews around the world to the land of Israel for thousands of years”

          4. “fundamental to Zionism is an abiding recognition that the unbroken historical connection of the Jewish people to its sacred land and history cannot be addressed by substitutions”

          5. “our sacred relationships to God, Torah, Israel and one another.”

          These statements reflect the views of highly influential leaders in the Jewish religious establishment. Which highly influential leaders in that establishment disagree with them?

          Thanks, if you respond. The context here is an ongoing discussion on Mondoweiss on this subject with Annie, Mooser, Leander, American, Sibiriak, sardeplasti and others, which has stirred up quite a bit of emotion among those who think that Judaism hasn’t been substantially hijacked by Zionism.

        • Would you regard these to be true or untrue statements?

          1. I would say that the bulk of the various Jewish religious establishments – from Jewish Renewal to Lubavitch (mutatis mutandis) – have largely embraced Jewish nationalism and made it an integral part of their respective religious cultures and belief systems. So I’d opt for “mostly true”.

          2. Tautology. Of course Jewish religious Zionism is grounded in elements of Jewish religious tradition. As a matter of fact, so is secular Zionism. Both groups however, have stressed those elements of tradition that reinforce their beliefs (Zionist and otherwise), reinterpreting, reinventing or discarding those that don’t. Both groups are also products of modernity, grounded in modern myths, symbols, beliefs and themes. If you are referring to the Gush Emunim variety of religious Zionism, they certainly go to great lengths to find “Jewish” roots for all of their beliefs and actions. The views of “progressive” (e.g. Reform) religious Zionists on the other hand, are virtually indistinguishable from those of their secular Zionist counterparts.

        • Shmuel,

          I would say that the bulk of the various Jewish religious establishments – from Jewish Renewal to Lubavitch (mutatis mutandis) – have largely embraced Jewish nationalism and made it an integral part of their respective religious cultures and belief systems. So I’d opt for “mostly true”.

          Excellent, Shmuel. Coming from you, someone who has given a great deal of thought to this issue, those two carefully composed sentences are authoritative and persuasive for me.

          The sun rises in the east. Our planet orbits the sun. Our planet is not flat. Rain is wet. Contemporary Judaism has become deeply entangled with Zionism and Jewish nationalism.

          A few people on Mondoweiss have been highly offended by this obviously truthful assertion, for reasons that are still completely inexplicable to me. I have been unable to make any sense of their comments and thinking on this issue.

          The main question now is — and it’s a really big question — how and when will Judaism succeed in disentangling itself from Zionism and Jewish nationalism?

          I don’t have any glib answers, predictions or prophecies. I do wonder, however, at this point whether there is any light at the end of the tunnel for Judaism, given current historical vectors.

          Probably the collapse of the Zionist experiment would be a sobering experience for the worldwide Jewish religious establishment — that would enforce a radical rethinking of what Judaism is all about.

        • “Tautology.”

          And there’s a whole lot more where that came from. Sean is climbing down so fast I’m afraid he’ll bump his butt on the ground.

        • “In many ways, the current gathering storm between Israel and the United States/Europe (and the whole damned world) seems to be a replay of the Jewish-Roman wars — one sees the same archetypes, myths, beliefs and symbols in play.” seanmcbride

          And back up the greasy pole go Klaus and Sean.

          And I sure would like to know how we “enforce a radical rethinking of Judaism”? Maybe pass a law that the Sanhedrin must submit all motions to the Presbyterian General Assembly?

        • Mooser,

          And back up the greasy pole go Klaus and Sean.

          “Anti-Zionist” Mooser now regularly throws around the antisemitism smear as carelessly as hophmi — and without any informed discussion of the issues on the table.

          He has lost me completely and probably permanently.

          And I am still waiting for Mooser to mention the last book he read on Mideast politics and to share his considered thoughts on that book.

        • Mooser,

          And there’s a whole lot more where that came from. Sean is climbing down so fast I’m afraid he’ll bump his butt on the ground.

          Let’s see you unpack Shmuel’s full statement and develop your ideas on his thoughtful and well-informed remarks.

          I haven’t altered a single statement I have made on this issue. Contemporary Judaism has fully embraced Zionism and Jewish nationalism and it is constructing its current ideology and belief system on symbols, myths and themes from ancient and classical Judaism, in combination with 19th century European nationalism.

          But this is the most important point: the biblical themes in Jewish religious Zionism greatly overshadow the European nationalist themes. In fact, most Jewish religious Zionists are extremely hostile to European nationalism.

        • shmuel, i’m glad you’ve entered this conversation too. it’s moved from another thread. sean appears to be completely mystified why anyone would find objections to his “perfectly reasonable assertion that Judaism and Zionism have become inextricably entangled”. which, to me..implies judaism cannot exist outside of zionism.

          when queried about this, he asserts we’re missing the word “establishment”. however when it’s pointed out to him when he in fact does say thing like There is no now distinction in the public mind worldwide between Zionism and Judaism, he’s speaking for everyone.

          and when one says the establishment has completely collapsed any important distinctions between the two ideologies i have to ask you, as part of the public mind, has the establishment succeeded in collapsing all distinction between judaism and zionism..for you? do you agree Judaism and Zionism have become inextricably entangled?

          shmuel, is there no distinction in your mind between Zionism and Judaism?

          now of course you do not speak for the majority. the establishment does. but to sean:

          I think you would have to agree with me that for quite some time now Judaism and Zionism have been deeply and thoroughly entangled — there is really no difference between them — they have merged and fused.

          so it’s really a mystery to sean how i find these kinds of statements offensive. even if, for the most part, i completely agree about his point wrt the establishment. he doesn’t seem to understand why i think words matter. and when i try pointing out the implications of those words wrt people i know who are religious and non zionist, i am met by

          Are your friends Jewish religious leaders who are defining theology for the Jewish religious establishment — including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism?

          as if, judaism doesn’t, or can’t exist outside of zionist religious leaders who define theology. iow, according to sean “miscellaneous individuals” practicing judaism …”are not relevant.“.

          so it’s not quite as simple as sean has made it out to be. i know it’s very confusing for him why some of his statements i might object to. but i just do not believe judaism has been inextricably entangled with zionism, because if that was true, it would be impossible for any practicing religious jew to free themselves from a zionist ideology.

        • Annie,

          I have asked you several times to envision realistic scenarios in which contemporary Judaism can disentangle itself from Zionism and Jewish nationalism.

          And I am asking again.

          As for you being “offended” by discussing these questions — that is really mystifying. The best minds in the Jewish world have been discussing these issues for several decades (or longer) — I know the literature well. There is nothing controversial or “offensive” about the discussion.

          The content and calm *tone* of Shmuel’s response was precisely what I expected when I addressed this question to him. He knows what he’s talking about.

        • sardelapasti,

          mcbride: What stuck in Annie’s craw was the qualification “inextricably”, which you omitted here.

          Annie knows full well that I took the trouble to replace the phrase “inextricably entangled” with “deeply and thoroughly entangled.” She didn’t acknowledge that key fact in this latest comment of hers.

          Yes — it is possible that Judaism will find a way to disentangle itself from Zionism and Jewish nationalism. But the prospects for that happening look quite bleak at the moment. That is why I am asking her to envision realistic scenarios in which that might happen.

          In the meantime, Jewish religious Zionism is gathering enormous force in Israel and the worldwide Jewish community. It is an incredibly important issue to discuss.

        • ” I haven’t altered a single statement I have made on this issue. Contemporary Judaism has fully embraced….”

          No Sean, everything you are saying is right in line with your original statement: (Dec. 5th)

          “Judaism’s core driver: messianic ethnocentrism and ethno-religious nationalism organized around a particular physical territory (Eretz Israel and Jerusalem).

          The key components:

          1. ethnocentrism
          2. territorialism
          3. nationalism
          4. messianism”

          But you know you can’t stand on that, so you’ve resorted to all sorts of qualifiers and obfuscation.

        • i have to ask you, as part of the public mind, has the establishment succeeded in collapsing all distinction between judaism and zionism..for you? do you agree Judaism and Zionism have become inextricably entangled?
          shmuel, is there no distinction in your mind between Zionism and Judaism?

          No, I think there is a chasm between Judaism and Zionism – despite intensive efforts by Zionists (and some anti-Semites) to create the impression that they are one and the same.

          Has communal Judaism been corrupted by Zionism? Tragically, yes. Those of us who actively reject Zionism on ethical, spiritual and religious grounds often find it difficult to participate in mainstream Jewish cultural, intellectual and religious life – except in the narrow context of anti-Zionism and Palestinian solidarity. In that sense, anti-Zionism has also become “entangled” with Judaism.

          Post-Zionist Judaism will not only have to replace Israel (and the Holocaust) as exclusive or predominant components of Jewish identity and expression, but will also have to deal with the challenges of modernity that Zionism has, to a large extent, put on hold.

        • Thank you for the lingustic exercise. Given the ubiquity of chickpeas throughout the Mediterranean area I have to assume that the ancient Hebrews had a word for thyem – any clues?

        • Annie knows full well that I took the trouble to replace the phrase “inextricably entangled” with “deeply and thoroughly entangled.” She didn’t acknowledge that key fact in this latest comment of hers.

          what you didn’t take the trouble to do sean, is walk back your statement. of course i noticed you changed your wording, but i don’t recall any acknowledgement when i said “words matter“, that your words were an over reach. you responded you were going to give me last word in this exchange for the time being but that didn’t last long.

          you have kept arguing and making your larger pt over and over, as if i object to it (i don’t) or just don’t get it (i do) with the pretense it’s “still completely inexplicable”to you why others are “highly offended” (i said offensive, not highly) by your “obviously truthful assertions”. as if i have even once disagreed with your amended point, sans the part i objected to.

          completely inexplicable? sean, merely changing your assertion is not the same as walking it back, something i have pointed out to you previously: (“it’s just..that isn’t what you said“). it’s called jumping over a persons point without ever acknowledging..they were right or that you misspoke. you not only misspoke, you claimed your position was “perfectly reasonable”.

          when actually, it isn’t perfectly reasonable to claim “there is really no difference between them” ( judaism and zionism).

          so while you may have ‘taken the trouble’ to replace your phraseology, you never bothered answering my question:

          why would you even say ‘inextricably’ if you were trying to solve something. it’s almost as if you’re bent on making the religion wrong instead of the actions people have taken in the name of religion. it’s just offensive.

          so if you in fact said somewhere..”i misspoke, i didn’t mean perfectly reasonable assertion that Judaism and Zionism have become inextricably entangled“, i just missed it. and when i pointed it out again you said you had “trouble” following my reasoning in this particular discussion although said i was “generally a lucid thinker” implying my point was not even ‘lucid’.

        • This is a question about authenticity. If approached in good faith authenticity questions are inherently very difficult. Almost all groups contain people who vehemently deny each other’s claims to belong. (I remember someone saying that he didn’t consider members of the British National Party to be British, the very thing that most BNP members most hotly claim to be.)
          If Judaism in authentic form implies Zionism (I’ll call this Proposition A) then all people genuinely of Jewish faith ought to be Zs, or if they cannot stomach Z consciously set out to change the direction that their religion has been taking.
          If in practice some are not Zs – and do not see the difficulties of their position – this only shows, if Prop A is true, that their logic is at fault.
          If Prop A is false but in practice most people of Jewish faith are Zs it follows that an inauthentic form of that faith has become dominant.
          I think that most of us on Mondoweiss take this view, perhaps because of an understandable dislike of religious polemic. Of course people who are both Jewish and Z would, for all that we may not wish to fling insults around, be deeply insulted.
          Are we right? People tend to swap texts, but the trouble with texts is that they are always open to different interpretations: the heart of the difficulty over authenticity disputes.
          My feeling is that we should accept that there are different views about authenticity and not get too frustrated or insulted because not everyone agrees with us. The important thing is not so much to persuade people that they’re wrong about what form of their ideology has been authentic hitherto but about what form it should take in the future – though this may involve finding ‘sympathetic’ figures from that ideology’s past. If you think that the Church of England should have women bishops the real question is not ‘is this what we’ve always somehow believed?’ but ‘is this what in all the circs we should believe now?’

        • Given the ubiquity of chickpeas throughout the Mediterranean area I have to assume that the ancient Hebrews had a word for thyem – any clues?

          What ain’t in the Bible, ain’t in the Bible – and the evidence for identifying the word “hometz” or “hamitz” as chickpeas is pretty weak.

          In Mishnaic times (1st-2nd century CE), it is likely that chickpeas were referred to in Hebrew as “afunim” with or without an additional qualifier (the Mishnah uses the same word to refer to a number of different legumes, often with a qualifier, such as “white”, “black” or “large”). By that time however, Aramaic and Greek were the dominant languages in Palestine.

        • “has completely collapsed any important distinctions between the two ideologies”

          Oy Gevalt I thought I had a religion, but all I got was this lousy ideology.
          Yes sir, if there’s one thing Jewish history shows us, it’s a unified Jewish ideology, leading inevitably to today’s Zionism.
          And once a gain, I ask, what can you do with people like that? A people like that devoted to the “core drivers” (as noted above) are a danger to the entire world, already! Will we have to “enforce a radical rethinking” of this “ideology”?
          That doesn’t sound like fun.

          Fixed my keyboard! A small gobbet of cream cheese was agglomerating the “tab”, “shift lock” and “Q” keys. Leading to complications when I tried to put a letter in front of “u”. A bit of borscht on a Q-tip cured the jam-up.

        • “all people genuinely of Jewish faith ought to be”

          Of course determining what the “genuine Jewish faith” is completely irrelevant to this particular little syllogism, is, huh?
          But then, since you know what that is, (the “genuine Jewish faith”) and know how to determine if somebody has got it, there should be no problem!

        • “perfectly reasonable assertion that Judaism and Zionism have become inextricably entangled”.

          Oh sure, if you put in the “have become” qualifier. It’s those “core drivers” I worry about. Does anybody “breathalyse” them? I am totally against drunk core drivers. And you should be, too!

        • Sean, did you ever hear the old story about St. Thomas Aquinas and the humanist Erasmus meeting in a small village in Germany? As I remember, it too, turned on a question of historical reference.

        • Shmuel: “As a matter of fact, so is secular Zionism. Both groups however, have stressed those elements of tradition that reinforce their beliefs (Zionist and otherwise), reinterpreting, reinventing or discarding those that don’t. Both groups are also products of modernity, grounded in modern myths, symbols, beliefs and themes. (my bold.)

          So there goes “Judaism’s core drivers”?

        • I think there is a chasm between Judaism and Zionism – despite intensive efforts by Zionists (and some anti-Semites) to create the impression that they are one and the same.

          thank you. that was my suspicion (and my premise) although i know very little about judaism.

        • “trouble” following my reasoning in this particular discussion although said i was “generally a lucid thinker”

          That’s what makes conversing with Sean so gosh-darn nice. It’s his easy, bluff, regular-guy, hail-fellow-well-met, win fiends and effluent people, I-can-tell-by-the-cut-of-your-tie-you’re-an-American-and-so-am-I, kind of zeitgeist. He never talks down to people.
          He’s the kind of guy I’d like to spill a beer on.

        • “Contemporary Judaism has fully embraced Zionism and Jewish nationalism.”
          The problem with this statement is that all of Judaism coexists at the same time – ancient and modern. “Contemporary Judaism” has no trump card in deciding what future currents will look like.
          Whatever future Judaism looks like, it will trace a lineage to ancient times, picking and choosing, making ethical choices and prioritizing according to existing conditions.
          The versions of Judaism that see Zionism as a tragedy (as opposed to merely a crime) are likely to thrive, but they won’t simply replace whatever Zionist inflected Judaism becomes. There will probably be versions that descend from both.

        • Annie,

          I am getting the impression that you are not taking the trouble to read the comments in this discussion with care. You haven’t addressed most of the key points I have addressed to you in the previous comments — go back and read them — every sentence — and you will see this is the case.

          Look at how you responded to Shmuel’s last comment. You focused on this statement of his:

          I think there is a chasm between Judaism and Zionism….

          and ignored the following paragraph:

          Has communal Judaism been corrupted by Zionism? Tragically, yes. Those of us who actively reject Zionism on ethical, spiritual and religious grounds often find it difficult to participate in mainstream Jewish cultural, intellectual and religious life….

          Shmuel, the individual Jew, thinks there is a chasm between Judaism and Zionism — a view which puts him in conflict with the Jewish religious establishment, which has enthusiastically embraced the ideology of Jewish religious Zionism.

          I have repeatedly acknowledged that there are dissenters within Judaism from the program to fuse Judaism with Zionism, but these dissenters have very little influence over the Jewish religious ESTABLISHMENT. In truth, they seem to have no influence over that establishment whatever. And historical trends are moving against them — I presume that Shmuel is enough of a social scientist to know this — the hard numbers regarding demographic trends have been widely circulated.

          Bottom line: Shmuel supports my point.

        • Mooser,

          I stand strongly by my assertion that the following elements are core drivers of contemporary mainstream Judaism:

          1. ethnocentrism
          2. territorialism
          3. nationalism
          4. messianism

          Why? Because clearly this is the truth.

          I took the trouble to unpack and analyze the recent Jerusalem Post article I cited above:

          “Egalitarian Jewish worship”
          The Jerusalem Post
          January 2, 2013

          link to jpost.com

          Here are the key concepts in religious Zionism as enunciated in the article:

          1. God
          2. Jews around the world
          3. one eternal national homeland
          4. sacred land and history
          5. sacred relationships to God
          6. the Jewish people
          7. the land of Israel
          8. the State of Israel
          9. thousands of years
          10. Torah
          11. unbroken historical connection
          12. worldwide Jewish people
          13. Zionism

          Those are all *direct quotes* from the article.

          Now let’s categorize/tag some of those concepts:

          # Jewish globalism
          1. Jews around the WORLD
          2. WORLDWIDE Jewish people

          # Jewish ethnocentrism and ethnic nationalism
          1. the Jewish PEOPLE
          2. worldwide Jewish PEOPLE

          # Jewish territorialism
          1. one eternal national HOMELAND
          2. sacred LAND and history
          3. the LAND of Israel

          # Zionism
          1. one eternal national homeland
          2. the State of Israel
          3. Zionism

          # Jewish historical mysticism/triumphalism
          1. one ETERNAL national homeland
          2. sacred land and HISTORY
          3. thousands of years
          4. unbroken HISTORICAL connection

          # Jewish messianism and mysticism
          1. GOD
          2. SACRED land and history
          3. SACRED relationships to GOD
          4. TORAH

          We are still waiting for Mooser to explain why he doesn’t believe that messianic and mystical ethnocentrism, nationalism and territorialism are not core drivers of contemporary Judaism and Jewish religious Zionism.

        • Annie,

          1. How and when do you envision Judaism disentangling itself from Zionism and Jewish nationalism when current historical trends are driving that already deep and thorough entanglement towards even greater entanglement?

          2. Which organizations do you consider to be the leaders of the contemporary worldwide Jewish religious establishment?

          3. With which denominations of Judaism are your dissenting Jewish friends associated? Which synagogues? What are the public positions of those synagogues on Israel and Zionism?

        • Mooser,

          I have already addressed Shmuel’s statement:

          Both groups are also products of modernity, grounded in modern myths, symbols, beliefs and themes.

          in another comment:

          Contemporary Judaism has fully embraced Zionism and Jewish nationalism and it is constructing its current ideology and belief system on symbols, myths and themes from ancient and classical Judaism, in combination with 19th century European nationalism.

          But this is the most important point: the biblical themes in Jewish religious Zionism greatly overshadow the European nationalist themes. In fact, most Jewish religious Zionists are extremely hostile to European nationalism.

        • Annie,

          You should check out this article:

          /title Zionism As Judaism
          /author Robert Wolfe
          /publication The Jewish Magazine
          /date April 2005
          /url link to jewishmag.com

          Summary quote:

          Zionism is, in sum, the constant and unrelenting effort to realize the national and universal vision of the prophets of Israel.

          Wolfe’s views are consonant with the thinking of contemporary mainstream Judaism.

        • So what we have here is the tangible reality of an element of Palestinian Arab culture (and Arab culture generally) countered by invented mythology desperately trying to “prove” a more ancient and thus (at least by implication) superior claim to that element: romantic fantasy attempting to trump reality.

          i visited a mall in LA when i was there over the holidays. dressed up like a vintage disneyland town. but no one would begin to pretend it was authentic.

        • “picking and choosing, making ethical choices”

          ROTFLMSJAO!!! Choosy ethical choices like Zionism? May God save us from our own ethics!

        • “Shmuel, the individual Jew, thinks there is a chasm between Judaism and Zionism — a view which puts him in conflict with the Jewish religious establishment, which has enthusiastically embraced the ideology of Jewish religious Zionism.”

          Yeah, Shmuel, what does he know? Shmuel don know nuffin!

        • “Post-Zionist Judaism will not only have to replace Israel (and the Holocaust) as exclusive or predominant components of Jewish identity and expression, but will also have to deal with the challenges of modernity that Zionism has, to a large extent, put on hold.”

          And it would be wonderful if there was some kind of reconciliation between the different denominations (Reform, Orthodox, others) and the different branches (Sephard and Ashkenazi, to name the most obvious). Is it all too much to hope for?

        • Annie,

          I am getting the impression that you are not taking the trouble to read the comments in this discussion with care. You haven’t addressed most of the key points I have addressed to you

          sean, not that it will matter to you:

          January 3, 2013 at 5:32 pm

          yes, of course the establishment has gone to great efforts to merge the two, and within the establishment perhaps they have in the minds of believers (of judaism)

          January 4, 2013 at 2:57 pm

          i would fully agree judaism has been entangled with zionism, who could argue with that….. sean amended (or i should say clarified) his statement explaining he was referencing the establishment which i would largely agree with his point

          January 4, 2013 at 5:33 pm

          The assertion that Judaism has embraced and merged with Zionism is not an imagined and airy “idea” or speculation

          just to be clear sean, that’s not an argument in which i have engaged.

          January 5, 2013 at 11:12 pm

          it’s like talking to a brick wall. i reject the concept they are inextricably linked (impossible to wrench free) and i get another lecture about how merged they’ve become. as if i don’t already know this stuff.

          January 6, 2013 at 2:04 am

          (i ) am talking about your claim there is no difference between judaism and zionism. “there is really no difference between them”…..i already know there are countless examples of religious leaders whose judaism has merged seamlessly with zionism. so you can beat that horse repeatedly, i could care less……..

          sean, i did not ignore the rest of shmuel’s comment. it simply is not anything i am contesting nor does it address any part of my argument wrt comments you have made. i keep making my point, and you keep beating your horse. (it’s called arguing a strawman btw)

          I have repeatedly acknowledged that there are dissenters within Judaism from the program to fuse Judaism with Zionism……..Bottom line: Shmuel supports my point.

          and what does that have to do with my point? do you even know what my point is? i am over addressing your key points sean. been there done that.

        • “But then, since you know what that is, (the “genuine Jewish faith”) and know how to determine if somebody has got it, there should be no problem!”

          Mooser, read again. MHughes doesn’t claim to know any of those things. He starts his sentence with “If

        • Annie,

          I still have no idea why this discussion over Judaism and Zionism became so heated — there was no reason for it to do so — we just needed to quickly sort through our language, refine it, get it focused and mutally understood.

          I read you collection of quotes carefully and — yes — you get that Zionism has made deep and pervasive inroads into contemporary mainstream Judaism.

          I presume you also understand that I get that there are some dissenters against these developments within Judaism (like Shmuel and Hostage) who, unfortunately, lack any power for the time being to influence the Jewish religious establishment. There are too few of them, they are not well-funded and they are poorly organized. For now, history is not on their side.

          Where we disagree at this point I am not sure — we seem to agree on all the main points. Perhaps the main issue is that I think this issue is the most important problem blocking any effective solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and that we need to address it with considerable force. That discussion will ruffle many feathers, but, yeah — that’s how it goes when challenging entrenched power.

        • Sean, I appreciate your kind invitation into the ongoing discussion. But I wasn’t even aware I entered an “ongoing discussion” to start with, and as happens occasionally, immediately regretted to have jumped into the debate (in support of a friend really), at least when I noticed I couldn’t bear to read another of my meandering comments. To avoid that, let me get down to basics a bit:

          I am not sure if I want to enter a debate that has been framed by you anymore. There is something rigid and ideological about your position, I miss a certain degree of playfulness beyond sloganeering. It’s not a discussion, it’s an attempt to frame the debate from a specific rigidly defined perspective.

          Only to a rather limited degree, you are flexible in your responses, it’s ultimately always about hammering in your message.

          I would need to rack my brain to get down to a vague memory trail of something you once wrote. It feels it went like this: In every academic debate you have to hammer in your points. I remember, it startled me at the time. I may have used it occasionally, but basically with ill-prepared co-students that were a waste of time, but I never found it satisfying to play the credit getting leader. I am not fond of leaders, that may be our basic distinction, I prefer teams.

          You avoid Shmuel’s qualifier “mostly”, you also avoid his hint at a trace of tautology. And in this context I am actually asking myself, if another memory trail may be correct. It’s equally vague by now admittedly, and it would take time to look it up, but apart from the political now, would you still say that ultimately Judaism is the cradle of “ethnocentrism”. That was your argument once, it feels. Didn’t you once venture to suggest that Judaism may have in fact somehow have inspired European ethnocentrism, to put it crassly the Nazis copied the Jews and not the Zionists responded to the extreme European right embracing their racist theories: Yes indeed, we are a nation among foreign nations?

          In other words the world hates the Jews since they stand apart, and that would really be the Janusface of Goldberg’s they hate us, if we are week or if we are powerful, so let us better stay powerful.

          You write below:

          Contemporary Judaism has fully embraced Zionism and Jewish nationalism and it is constructing its current ideology and belief system on symbols, myths and themes from ancient and classical Judaism, in combination with 19th century European nationalism.

          But this is the most important point: the biblical themes in Jewish religious Zionism greatly overshadow the European nationalist themes. In fact, most Jewish religious Zionists are extremely hostile to European nationalism.

          Are you challengeing Shmuel’s use of nationalism, but not quite directly? Since yes indeed if Israel wouldn’t figure in Jewish history and religion there wouldn’t have been a Zionism or not quite the same type? And that is representative of analytical thought?

          I know you always wrote you are looking at ethnocentrism as a universal negative force, but it feels you have with a little nod to 19th century ideological political currents managed to lay the core blame at the door steps of Judaism.

          In other words, I am not so sure about your rigid focus, maybe I never was. But then you seem to be much more rigid in your argument in this intellectually much richer environment here, with less challenge you occasionally showed a softer part of yourself.

          As you know it’s not that I am unaware of potentially dangerous matter in religion, dangerous readings. (What about the book of revelations?) but lately I sense something like glee beneath your long prognosticated urgent danger that has slightly mutated into the necessary coming demise. Could this be some kind of Janus Face of the constant threats from “the Hasbara” in the US post 911 universe, I ask myself.

          I hate the inquisitorial mindset that David Shasha’s ill-advised responses above to a certain degree symbolizes for me just as UN Watch’s much more mainstream type, as we have come to know it. But there you go, you invited me in. But strictly I am off again, I only came in to say hello and thank you to Shmuel.

        • Interesting passage from the Robert Wolfe article:

          The only form of Zionism that could actually succeed was one which had entirely abandoned the expectation of miracles and relied solely on its own strength and capabilities. But the goals of the secular Zionists were at heart no different from those of the religious Zionists. Those goals were to create a Jewish state and society in the land of Israel that would serve both to rehabilitate the Jewish people and act as a light unto the nations. This was the program of the “Zohar” no less than it was the program of Ben Gurion, and Ben Gurion repeatedly described this program as “Messianic” in his writings and speeches.

        • sean, the reason you do not ‘get it’ is because you’re so focused on your ‘point’ you can’t hear mine. i ask you if you even knew what my point was. predictably you chose to completely not address it, again. it’s not all about what’s important to you sean.

          we just needed to quickly sort through our language, refine it, get it focused and mutally understood.

          really, you mean you don’t want to quickly sort thru your point and spend two threads on mine? how unsurprising.

          btw, this isn’t heated. my point was very clearly expressed several times. thus far, you’ve ignored it til this one particular comment. there’s a clue in there. do you know what my point is sean?

        • Leander,

          Your posts would be more effective for me in some cases if you got down to plain facts, concise and focused, with vigor and clarity, in the style of German Lefty.

          I don’t recognize any of my own beliefs or ideas in this comment of yours.

          I did point out once that Dennis Prager, a leading Jewish pundit on the contemporary American scene, once argued — in his book “Why the Jews?” (as I recall) — that Nazism in part was inspired by the Chosen People theme from the Bible. I thought that was an interesting idea, but didn’t commit myself for or against it.

          I think that ethnocentrism, at various degrees of intensity, is universal in the human race, and can sometimes have a positive influence in the world. I love many of the products of ethnic cultures — including German, Italian, Irish, British, French, Jewish, African-American, etc.

          Ethnocentrism, however, becomes a problem if it becomes too strident, too messianic, too aggressive, and too disdainful of the rights of ethnic outsiders. The combination of ethnocentrism with messianic religion can often be toxic.

          The core issue here: I have made the argument to Shmuel that biblical myths and symbols from ancient and classical Judaism have played a much greater role in Zionism than 19th century European nationalist myths and symbols. I suspect he will agree with me since this is an obvious truth to anyone who has read Zionist literature with an attentive eye. The writings of the founding and leading Zionists are steeped in biblical language (David Ben-Gurion is a good example.)

          Sorry to say that you missed all your targets. :) There’s a lot of that going around lately — from Mooser, Dan Crowther, Keith and one or two others.

        • Annie,

          Apparently you are still wound up.

          I am really only interested in pursuing three questions with you at the moment, which I asked in another comment:

          1. How and when do you envision Judaism disentangling itself from Zionism and Jewish nationalism when current historical trends are driving that already deep and thorough entanglement towards even greater entanglement?

          2. Which organizations do you consider to be the leaders of the contemporary worldwide Jewish religious establishment?

          3. With which denominations of Judaism are your dissenting Jewish friends associated? Which synagogues? What are the public positions of those synagogues on Israel and Zionism?

          These are the points that interest me in the context of our recent exchanges.

          If this discussion is becoming wearing or nonproductive for you, by all means we can drop it. Shmuel and others here with direct experience within the Jewish religious community may wish to probe more deeply into these issues — I would love to get their point of view on these matters.

        • Apparently you are still wound up.

          I am really only interested in pursuing three questions with you

          sean, would it impress you if i claimed you were wound up? your point scoring is unattractive. i already know you’re only interested in what you want to discuss, which really doesn’t include anything you don’t agree with or don’t understand. it’s been days and you don’t know what my point is. ;) funny.

          btw, you don’t have to respond.

        • But this is the most important point: the biblical themes in Jewish religious Zionism greatly overshadow the European nationalist themes. In fact, most Jewish religious Zionists are extremely hostile to European nationalism.

          Once upon a time, there were a bunch of European Jewish assimilationists, who wanted nothing more than to be good Germans, Austrians, Hungarians and Czechs. When they discovered that their discarded religious origins were a greater impediment to that goal than they had originally thought, they decided that if they could not be good Germans etc., they would become like good Germans etc. … but Jewish!

          They had their work cut out for them. They needed to invent a people, a homeland, a national language, mythology, folk culture, high culture, symbols, holidays, etc. Some things could be borrowed (with a few necessary changes) from the Jewish religious traditions they had rejected as primitive and backward, while others would have to be baked from scratch. The political and cultural model would of course be mitteleuropäisch, but the specific content would have a different national flavour. European folk cultures were a good place to start, with a little orientalism thrown in (after all, Jews were “semitic” and the moorish style was all the rage in modern synagogue architecture) and a little religious culture to taste (weren’t European nations infused with their religious culture?)

          Bourgeois assimilationists weren’t buying it, nor were religious Jews of all stripes. So they looked eastward to the impoverished, but largely traditional Jewish masses. That meant upping the dose of religious elements in Jewish nationalism (Palestine, myths, symbols, holidays, etc.) and even tossing in a little socialism (for those Jews so inclined), but that couldn’t be helped. They enjoyed a modicum of success, but were still opposed by virtually all religious leaders, although they were quick to exploit any sign of religious support for their new ideology – whether that had been the intention of the leaders in question or not.

          They were eventually joined by a small group of religious Jews, who embraced their modern, European national aspirations, but needed to flesh out the religious justification for it (and develop their own mythology regarding their role in the movement from its very inception, and even before). For the most part, these religious Zionists aligned themselves with the mainstream within the movement. Some had serious doubts and fears of where such nationalism might lead, and took moderate, pragmatic positions.

          Fast forward. The State of Israel is established and gradually, the reformist religious streams that had been vehemently opposed to Zionism, come around, but (not believing in the supernatural or the divine authorship of Scripture) adopt the secular Zionist positions. After the ’67 war, both secular and religious messianism went wild, with Orthodox religious Zionism finally finding its niche in the movement – largely imitating the culture of the earlier, secular settlement movement on which they had missed out. From a small, core group of mystic-nationalists, Orthodox religious nationalism spread to virtually the entire Orthodox Zionist public, even making inroads into some Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) groups. They rallied around the Zionist flag – but heightened its “authentic” Jewish meaning; embraced the army, guns, violence, apartheid and ethnic cleansing – but sanctified them and sought religious justification and precedents; and developed a theology that would explain the secular origins of the Zionist movement and the scant enthusiasm it had aroused among religious Jews.

          Of course religious (and secular) Zionism is “hostile to European nationalism”. It is both modelled on it and a reaction to it. Rival nationalisms often resemble one another, although they would never admit it.

        • I find myself in broad agreement with Sean. Without going too deeply into the history, from a Biblical perspective there really is no such thing as “Judaism”, merely a tribal nationalism based on its own creation myth with a territorial constitution held together by a theocentric mythology. Once the land around which all of this was based was lost, the concrete elements of this nationalism were transformed into symbolic form and strung together as what would eventually become Orthodox Judaism. Yet the only purpose of this ideology was to preserve the practical nationalism in allegorical form so that it could once more be retransformed into practice upon the reclamation of the lost land. Thus Orthodox Judaism was still not a religion in the proper sense of the word, since it lacked any spiritual content or objective. It was only with the universalism of the Reform movement that Judaism assumed a proper religious character, as a result jettisoning all ambitions for a re-actualisation of the original nationalism via a return to Zion or a practical re-implementation of the original laws governing the tribal territory. Unfortunately it was at this point that Zionism entered the scene, and the Reform movement re-introduced a “return to the land” as one of its official doctrines, hence once again robbing Judaism of its religious function. It is only by re-embracing its founding universalism (as expressed in the Pittsburgh declaration of 1885) that Judaism can reassert itself once more as a proper religion. In terms of Sean’s query therefore, I would say that Judaism can be untangled from Zionism, and rather easily, since the original Reform blueprint exists, and only needs to be embraced once more. Orthodox Judaism is inherently Zionist; even if some streams believe that the current State of Israel is not a legitimate manifestation of their religious doctrine, they still hold fast to the idea of a Jewish kingdom in the Promised Land…and would in fact be far more vicious in creating such a state than most Zionists if ever they felt that the time for this had come.

        • “I understand it has to do with baking or roasting. Is that correct?”

          Correct. Khobz muhammas= baked or rather roasted (after being baked) bread.
          Lucky you! Fresh Chickpeas in pods are a delicacy that I enjoyed as a child. One could buy them by the bunch at street corners. But roasted too they’re yummy.. Never had a chance to taste either ever since.

        • seanmcbride:

          2. Contemporary Jewish religious Zionism is grounded in the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism.

          Shmuel:

          2. Tautology. Of course Jewish religious Zionism is grounded in elements of Jewish religious tradition. As a matter of fact, so is secular Zionism. Both groups however, have stressed those elements of tradition that reinforce their beliefs (Zionist and otherwise), reinterpreting, reinventing or discarding those that don’t.

          I agree with Shmuel’s statement (including the continuation), but I don’t think he necessarily demonstrates that Sean’s statement is tautological.

          Sean refers specifically to “ancient and classical Judaism”, while Shmuel refers to “the Jewish religious tradition” in general.

          If you take “ancient and classical Judaism” to be only a part of the Jewish religious tradition, not the whole, then Sean’s statement is not tautological. It suggests which particular elements of the Jewish religious tradition were emphasized and privileged by secular Zionism and “Zionized Judaism”.

          The question, though, is: what specifically did Sean mean by “the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism”?

          I’m going to engage in some conjecture– I could be way off base, I admit.

          Based on Sean’s previous references to Biblical tales of conquest, ethnic cleansing, genocide, a “Chosen People”, a “Promised Land” etc. in discussing (religious and secular) Zionist ideology, I’m thinking that he’s referring to Jewish religious thought which emphasizes Old Testament narratives as opposed to Rabbinical traditions which de-emphasized those narratives (and, in fact, prohibited mass migration to the Holy Land).

          Shlomo Sands (“The Invention of the Jewish People”) writes:

          For there to be a national consciousness, a modern collective identity, both mythology and teleology are required. The foundation myth was, of course, the textual cosmos of the Old Testament, whose narrative, historical component became a vibrant mythos in the latter half of the nineteenth century, despite the philological criticisms aimed at it.20 For Graetz, the teleology was nurtured by a vague and not yet wholly nationalist assumption that the eternal Jewish people were destined to bring salvation to the world.

          The centuries-old Jewish communities never thought of the Old Testament as an independent work that could be read without the interpretation and mediation of the “oral Torah” (the Mishnah and Talmud).

          It had become, mainly among the Jews of Eastern Europe, a marginal book that could be understood only through the Halakhah (religious law) and of course its authorized commentators.

          The Mishnah and Talmud were the Jewish texts in regular use; passages from the Torah (the Pentateuch) were introduced, without any narrative continuity, in the form of a weekly section read aloud in the synagogues. The Old Testament as a whole remained the leading work for the Karaites in the distant past and for Protestants in modern times.

          For most Jews through the centuries, the Bible was holy scripture and thus not really accessible to the mind, just as the Holy Land was barely present in the religious imagination as an actual place on earth.

          Mostly products of rabbinical schools, educated Jews who were feeling the effects of the secular age and whose metaphysical faith was beginning to show a few cracks longed for another source to reinforce their uncertain, crumbling identity.

          The religion of history struck them as an appropriate substitute for religious faith, but for those who, sensibly, could not embrace the national mythologies arising before their eyes—mythologies unfortunately bound up with a pagan or Christian past—the only option was to invent and adhere to a parallel national mythology.

          This was assisted by the fact that the literary source for this mythology, namely the Old Testament, remained an object of adoration even for confirmed haters of contemporary Jews. And since their putative ancient kingdom in its own homeland presented the strongest evidence that Jews were a people or a nation—not merely a religious community that lived in the shadow of other, hegemonic religions—the awkward crawl toward the Book of Books turned into a determined march in the imagining of a Jewish people.

          ——

          Henceforth, for many people, Judaism would no longer be a rich and diverse religious civilization that managed to survive despite all difficulties and temptations in the shadow of giants, and became an ancient people or race that was uprooted from its homeland in Canaan and arrived in its youth at the gates of Berlin.

          This major transformation of Judaism (not complete, of course), which began in the late 19th century and accelerated rapidly after the Holocaust (and further after 1967), seems to me a key part of what Sean is trying to draw attention to.

          Shmuel:

          If you are referring to the Gush Emunim variety of religious Zionism, they certainly go to great lengths to find “Jewish” roots for all of their beliefs and actions. The views of “progressive” (e.g. Reform) religious Zionists on the other hand, are virtually indistinguishable from those of their secular Zionist counterparts.

          Yes, but all those groups turn to the Old Testament to ground their ideologies. As it has been said: the religious Zionist says, “God exists, and he gave us this land”; the secular Zionist says, “God doesn’t exist, and he gave us this land.”

        • “return to the land” as one of its official doctrines, hence once again robbing Judaism of its religious function.

          And that is why the whole land (blut und boden) thing really is the Golden Calf.

          Humanity has been moving around the planet for tens of thousands of years.

        • I finally have a moment to address Shmuel’s “tautology” remark.

          All religions and secular ideologies are human inventions and constructions — we make up this stuff as we go along, revising and modifying our ideological systems to our taste.

          In the Jewish tradition, and in the marketplace of ideas, Zionism has succeeded in largely conquering both the religious and secular Jewish traditions. A few dissenters like Shmuel and Hostage may strongly disagree with these developments, but a large majority of their associates within the Jewish tradition have chosen a different path.

          Majorities within ideological movements define the character of their respective ideologies. Minorities within ideological movements which lose these battles tend to drop out and start new ideological movements which express their views and values.

          So this is the key question: why are Jewish dissenters continuing to associate themselves with a tradition whose establishment no longer represents their views and values? Are they hoping for a magical turnaround? On what grounds?

          I will ask Shmuel the same question I asked Annie:

          How and when do you envision Judaism disentangling itself from Zionism and Jewish nationalism when current historical trends are driving that already deep and thorough entanglement towards even greater entanglement?

          You know, I don’t describe myself as a Christian humanist, or an Anglo-Irish humanist, or an American humanist — I describe myself simply as a humanist. I trust that Shmuel and Hostage will see my point.

          Joel Kovel took the radical step of converting to Christianity.

        • Shmuel,

          This was an eloquent and brilliant essay and I enjoyed reading it. But it didn’t rebut the main assertion that Zionism is overwhelmingly grounded in myths, symbols, beliefs and themes from ancient and classical Judaism. One only needs to analyze the writings of leading Zionists in detail — systematically, objectively and without preconceptions — to see that this is true.

          According to Max Nordau, someone who knew a thing or two about the ideological mainspring and inner psychic life of Zionism:

          Messianism and Zionism were actually identical concepts for almost two thousand years, and it would be difficult, without subtlety and sophistry, to separate the prayers in the Jewish liturgy for the appearance of the promised Messiah from those for the not less promised return to the historic home.

          It is long past time for dissenters from Zionism within the Jewish community to accept the fact that they have lost the battle to exert influence over the Jewish establishment and mainstream Judaism.

          So: what is their next move?

          It is easy to see what Zionists are planning: they think they will be able to herd dissenters back into the fold by playing the antisemitism card. Playing the antisemitism card may include deliberately instigating and exploiting antisemitism to maintain the internal coherence and loyalty of the tribe.

          Regarding your last paragraph: all ethnic nationalist movements strongly resemble one another, and rely on the same types of ideological themes — especially when they are competing against and slaughtering one another. True that.

        • When did I ever accuse you of being an anti-Semite, Sean? I have said you regularly use “anti-Semitic tropes” but frankly, I’m ready to apologise and withdraw that now that I’ve read more of you. In fact, I am more than ready to agree that your thinking on Jews, Zionism and Israel is just about as cogent as your thinking on anything else you bring up.
          And that easy going way you have of making friends and influencing people would make Dale Carnegie froth with envy, and want to take your correspondence course. And your readiness to admit mistakes, apologise and climb down instead of dodging, slipping and obfuscating and qualifying, will serve you well, in business and personal affairs.

        • “Mooser, read again. MHughes doesn’t claim to know any of those things. He starts his sentence with “If“”

          Oy Gevalt!! I have been misreading comments right and left, and on another thread, made a joke so tasteless I was rapidly called to account for it.
          You are right, I mis-read the “if”, responded inappropriately, and I apologise.
          Thanks for calling it to my attention, RoHa. But that’s me all over; ‘I blunder, therefore I am.’

        • According to Max Nordau …

          That is the Zionist claim. Nordau was a Zionist ideologue. Of course he would say that, but that doesn’t make it true. The historian Shlomo Sand, for example, has argued that such claims have absolutely no basis in fact.

          My “essay” (thanks for the compliments) was meant to outline cause and effect, essence and accident. Admittedly the relationship between Jewish religion and nationalism is a little more complicated than that, but as long as we are in the realm of “mostly true”, I think it’s a pretty safe assertion.

        • How and when do you envision Judaism disentangling itself from Zionism and Jewish nationalism when current historical trends are driving that already deep and thorough entanglement towards even greater entanglement?

          The obvious answer is that the effective end of Zionism will constitute a crisis of Sabbatean proportions for those dominant groups within public Jewish life that have thrown their lot in with it. The earlier the respective groups come to terms with it and try to pick up where their religious, cultural, ethical and spiritual forebears left off before sidetracked by Zionism, the better they will fare. Most will have other values to fall back on, some will crash and burn or break away from the new mainstream, while others will simply cease to exist as currents within Judaism.

          You know, I don’t describe myself as a Christian humanist, or an Anglo-Irish humanist, or an American humanist — I describe myself simply as a humanist. I trust that Shmuel and Hostage will see my point.

          I don’t describe myself as a Jewish humanist either. They are two elements of my culture, beliefs and identity that are intertwined (as is each with many other aspects of my existence), but neither is a qualifier of the other.

          Joel Kovel took the radical step of converting to Christianity.

          Non sequitur.

        • “I finally have a moment to address Shmuel’s ‘tautology’ remark.”
          ———————————————————————-
          I didn’t understand what Shmuel meant by that.
          The two following sentences don’t constitute a tautology.

          1. “there is one worldwide Jewish people”
          2. “that people has one eternal national homeland in the State of Israel”

          It doesn’t follow from the definition of a ‘people’ (Jewish or other) that it must have an “eternal homeland” – that would be a tautology.

        • “Joel Kovel took the radical step of converting to Christianity.” – Sean
          “Non sequitur” – Shmuel
          —————————–
          Shmuel,
          To ‘take a certain step’ is something real life – and not a logical conclusion from certain premises. – You avoid a real life answer by saying that the step is not a logical conclusion.

        • Klaus,

          This is the statement I referred to as tautology:

          2. Contemporary Jewish religious Zionism is grounded in the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism.

          A reasonable definition of “contemporary Jewish religious Zionism” would be ‘a form of Zionism grounded in the myths symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism’. Hence, tautology.

          Sibiriak noted a difference in phrasing between sean’s original assertion and my restating of it. I had no such intention, but was merely paraphrasing.

        • To ‘take a certain step’ is something real life – and not a logical conclusion from certain premises. – You avoid a real life answer by saying that the step is not a logical conclusion.

          I should have been more explicit. The non sequitur is between sean’s statement regarding “Jewish humanism” and his reference to Kovel’s conversion, implying that Kovel took his humanism to some sort of logical, universal conclusion (although sean himself also equated “Christian humanism” with “Jewish humanism”).

        • Shmuel:

          This is the statement I referred to as tautology:

          2. Contemporary Jewish religious Zionism is grounded in the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism.

          A reasonable definition of “contemporary Jewish religious Zionism” would be ‘a form of Zionism grounded in the myths symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism’. Hence, tautology.

          The fact Sean’s statement may express a reasonable definition of “contemporary Jewish religious Zionism” makes it at most a truism, not a tautology.

          For it to be a tautology, his statement would have to be necessarily true due to its logical form.

          In this case, however, it would be perfectly *logical* to assert the opposite of what Sean asserted: that “contemporary Jewish religious Zionism is NOT grounded in the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism.”

          Sean’s proposition would become even more informative if one specified the meaning of the phrase: “the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism”.

          I attempted to do just that by identifying a grounding in newly re-emphasized nationalistic Old Testament narratives and themes, as opposed to certain themes in rabbinic Judaism, which had downplayed those Old Testament narratives.

          I don’t claim that’s the whole story, but I think it’s a huge part of it.

        • In this case, however, it would be perfectly *logical* to assert the opposite of what Sean asserted: that “contemporary Jewish religious Zionism is NOT grounded in the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism.”

          I disagree. I do not think that it would be logical (with or without the asterisks) to assert the opposite. Zionism that is not “grounded in the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism” would not be “contemporary religious Zionism”. That is precisely what makes this particular form of Zionism “religious”. It is the meaning of the term religious in this assertion.

        • Shmuel:

          It is the meaning of the term religious in this assertion.

          There is no logical necessity to ascribe that meaning, and that one alone, to the term “religious”.

          “Religious” could equally well refer to religious symbols, myths etc. that are not part “ancient and classical Judaism” but are still part of Jewish religion. “Ancient and classical Judaism” are not the whole of Judaism (Jewish religion).

          That’s why I wrote previously:

          If you take “ancient and classical Judaism” to be only a part of the Jewish religious tradition, not the whole, then Sean’s statement is not tautological.

          Shmuel:

          Zionism that is not “grounded in the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism” would not be “contemporary religious Zionism”

          It could be. Whether it is or not is a factual question, not a logical one.

        • It could be. Whether it is or not is a factual question, not a logical one.

          The logic is based on the facts, or more precisely the meaning of the expressions. Only someone who does not understand the meaning of “contemporary Jewish religious Zionism” or of “the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism” (assuming we agree on the meaning of the word “grounded”) could assert that it might not be grounded in etc. That is precisely what religious Zionism is and what religious Zionism does. The opposite is demonstrably false.

        • Shmuel,

          We’ll just have to disagree.

          There is no logical reason why “contemporary Jewish religious Zionism” could not be grounded in Jewish religious themes, symbols etc. from outside the traditions of “ancient and classical Judaism”.

          In fact, one of Sand’s major contentions is that both religious and secular Zionism are in fact NOT grounded in the traditions of classical Judaism, if that term is taken to mean something like “rabbinical Judaism as it emerged after about AD 800 and lasted up to the end of the 18th century.”

        • Shmuel created the impression that there was something wrong with Sean’s statement – by calling it a ‘tautology’ – when in fact he agrees with that statement.

          I say: ‘I was born 1/1/2000, I’m now 13 years old’
          Shmuel: That’s a tautology.

        • There is no logical reason why “contemporary Jewish religious Zionism” could not be grounded in Jewish religious themes, symbols etc. from outside the traditions of “ancient and classical Judaism”.

          It is grounded in those as well (as are all contemporary forms of Judaism, including Haredi Judaism). That does not mean that that it is not grounded in “ancient and classical Judaism” (sean did not say “exclusively grounded”). Take the concept of the “beginning of redemption” for example, common to all streams of religious Zionism, or the “covenant between the halves”, or the prayer for “return to Zion”, or Nahmanides’ understanding of the obligation to “possess the Land”, or even “it is a matter of law that Esau hates Jacob”.

          In fact, one of Sand’s major contentions is that both religious and secular Zionism are in fact NOT grounded in the traditions of classical Judaism

          Sand argues that Zionism is not a product of classical Judaism and that it had to transform Jewish tradition to serve its purposes, but nowhere does he claim that Zionism (especially religious Zionism) has not sought to ground its modern nationalist ideas in classical Jewish myths, symbols etc. On the contrary.

          So is it the word grounded that we understand differently?

          If you still want to disagree, that’s fine with me :-)

        • Sean’s statement wasn’t a tautology (it could be empirically wrong). But anyway, Shmuel agrees with the statement – by calling it a ‘tautology’ – as he would agree that I’m now 13 years old.

        • Sean’s statement wasn’t a tautology (it could be empirically wrong). But anyway, Shmuel agrees with the statement – by calling it a ‘tautology’ – as he would agree that I’m now 13 years old.

          No, I don’t think it could be empirically wrong, if the language and reality it refers to is understood correctly.

          You’re 13? How is that a tautology?

        • Shmuel:

          It is grounded in those as well (as are all contemporary forms of Judaism, including Haredi Judaism). That does not mean that that it is not grounded in “ancient and classical Judaism” (sean did not say “exclusively grounded”).

          All the above statments are factual ones, not logical deductions from definitions of terms. I never said it was not –in fact– grounded in “ancient and classical Judaism”, but that there was no logical reason it had to be grounded in that.

          I suspect I’m flogging a dead horse here on the distinction between matters of fact and matters of logic.

          Sand argues that Zionism is not a product of classical Judaism.

          “Classical Judaism” is not necessarily the same as “classical Jewish myths, symbols etc.”. You are playing fast and loose with terms.

          He argues it is not grounded in classical Judaism, imo, given a definition of that term as I suggested above.

          “Ground”= “The foundation for an argument, a belief, or an action; a basis.”

        • “Ground”= “The foundation for an argument, a belief, or an action; a basis.”

          v. ground·ed, ground·ing, grounds
          v.tr.
          2. To provide a basis for (a theory, for example); justify.

          link to ahdictionary.com

          Btw, “classical Judaism” is not the same as “classical Jewish myths, symbols etc.”. You are playing fast and loose with terms.

          Can’t a guy paraphrase a little, without being suspected of trying to pull a fast one? Trust me; it was just meant as shorthand.

        • “You’re 13? How is that a tautology?” – Shmuel

          I say: ‘I was born 1/1/2000, I’m now 13 years old’
          Shmuel: That’s a tautology.
          ————————————
          You can say: ‘You are lying about your birthday’. But when you qualify my statement as a ‘tautology’ you don’t contest it, you agree. – Same with Sean.

        • That definition works for me as well.

          OK. Contemporary religious Zionists “ground” their ideology (provide a basis for, justify) in the myths, symbols etc. That ideology (“contemporary religious Zionism”) is thus “grounded” in the myths, symbols, etc. It is the idiom of religious Zionism. It is how religious Zionism explains its own concepts and beliefs. Sand has never said otherwise.

          “Playing fast…” is not the same as “pulling a fast one”, of course. But you were just paraphrasing, I know. -:)

          Actually, I wasn’t. I was addressing the implications of your (incorrect) characterisation of my poor innocent paraphrases :-P

        • You can say: ‘You are lying about your birthday’. But when you qualify my statement as a ‘tautology’ you don’t contest it, you agree. – Same with Sean.

          Of course I agree with sean’s statement. I have never said otherwise. I just think it is trivial. Unlike your birthday assertion, sean’s statment is empirically verifiable. Yours is simply false (forgive the assumption without actually checking your birth certificate).

        • Shmuel,

          OK. Contemporary religious Zionists “ground” their ideology (provide a basis for, justify) in the myths, symbols etc. That ideology (“contemporary religious Zionism”) is thus “grounded” in the myths, symbols, etc. It is the idiom of religious Zionism. It is how religious Zionism explains its own concepts and beliefs. Sand has never said otherwise.

          Sands argues that secular and religious Zionism are not grounded in classical Judaism (defined as I did above.) The religious grounding comes from outside classical Judaism.

          According to Sands:

          The foundation myth was, of course, the textual cosmos of the Old Testament, whose narrative, historical component became a vibrant mythos in the latter half of the nineteenth century

          It was not a “vibrant mythos” prior to that, i.e. not during the period of classical Judaism.

          The Old Testament was a “marginal book” in classical Judaism (as defined above), according to Sands.

        • That I’m 13 now is implicit in the date of the birthday. (That was my point.)
          ————–
          - “Of course I agree with Sean’s statement … I just think it is trivial. ”

          Okay Shmuel, that’s at least consistent with calling it a ‘tautology’, although the term suggested that there was something wrong with Sean’s statement.

        • Sibiriak,

          So we have established that Zionism (and certainly religious Zionism), according to Sand, is grounded (provided with a basis, justified) in “ancient” Judaism: “The foundation myth was, of course, the textual cosmos of the Old Testament.”

          As for “classical Judaism” (as you have defined it), where has Sand argued that religious Zionism has not grounded its ideology in the myths, symbols, themes, etc. of Rabbinic Judaism (take as shorthand for whatever you said)? Does he say that the “beginning of redemption” (athalta de-ge’ulah) is not a “vibrant mythos” of religious Zionism? Does he say that the ideology and theology of religious Zionism is not rooted (without necessarily being a “natural” product of it – witness Haredi attitudes to Zionism) in the literature of the “Rishonim” (such as Halevi, Nahmanides and Maimonides)? I went through the religious Zionist education system in Israel, and I can assure you that it most certainly is.

        • Shmuel,
          To ‘take a certain step’ is something real life

          Of course Bloemker jumps in, at an indirect peak of Sean’s argument.

          Mooser: And your readiness to admit mistakes, apologise and climb down instead of dodging, slipping and obfuscating and qualifying, will serve you well, in business and personal affairs.

          Can I add something? Arguments that can be easily declared misunderstanding, if someone responds taking them personally. I didn’t say/mean that. I used that technique when i didn’t speak for a years with my father directly. I used indirect statements to insult him. As a quid pro quo so to speak. I could also always rely on the fact that my mother and my siblings would jump in and declare: she didn’t say that.

          Of course conversion as a solution to the “Jewish problem” has century old roots. And why would Kovel’s conversion matter in our larger context? Thus no big surprise we meet it here here, it has been present between the lines for longer before it surfaced.

          Of course one could quibble again about non sequitur. Could it simply allude to the fact that there is ample historical data that it turned out to be no solution? Suspicion remained, something essential could possibly not changed? Could some gene be responsible for ethnocentrism, as Sean at one point pondered in our earlier exchanges?

          What are the deeper psychological dynamics below this type of confrontation, I keep asking myself for longer now. The pleasure of circling in on a member of a group in a very arbitrary fashion, since often he does not in the least resemble the declared enemy, simply because he is at hand. And then declaring it a discussion. To a certain extend similar to the dynamics in the controversy above.

        • Shmuel:

          Sand argued that religious Zionism has not grounded its ideology in the myths, symbols, themes, etc. of Rabbinic Judaism (take as shorthand for whatever you said)

          I defined “classical Judaism” as rabbinic Judaism from 800 AD to approx. the beginning of the 19th century.

          Sands argues that modern religious Zionism was grounded in religious themes not at all consistent with classical Judaism.

          I’ve already shown how Sand argues that secular and religious Zionism is grounded in Old Testament historical narratives that were marginal to classical Judaism.

          Sand also points out the central and unequivocal prohibition in classical Judaism against mass migration to the Holy Land:

          A number of rabbinical prohibitions forbade hastening the salvation, and therefore migrating to the source from which it would arise. The most prominent prohibitions were the famous three vows in the Babylonian Talmud: “That Israel must not [seek to] rise up over the wall; that the Holy One Blessed Be He adjured Israel not to rise up against the nations of the world; that Holy One Blessed Be He adjured the idolaters not to enslave Israel overmuch” (Tractate Ketubot 110: 72).

          “Rise up over the wall” meant mass migration to the Holy Land, and this clear-cut prohibition affected Jews throughout the ages, instilling an acceptance of exile as a divine ordinance not to be broken.

          Sands gives many other examples of how Zionism radically departed from the beliefs and themes of classical Judaism.

          Shmuel:

          Does he say that the ideology and theology of religious Zionism is not rooted (without necessarily being a “natural” product of it – witness Haredi attitudes to Zionism) in the literature of the “Rishonim” (such as Halevi, Nahmanides and Maimonides)?

          Sand says that Nahmanides was “exceptional and eccentric” in the context of classical Judaism. I can’t find relevant references to Halevi or Maimonides.

          Sand doesn’t discuss interpreations of the “Rishonim” literature in “The Invention of the Jewish People”. He sees the roots of religious and secular Zionism elsewhere.

          (Of course, “religious Zionism” comprises a large theological/ideological “tree”–your particular education may represent only one branch.)

          Perhaps he is wrong.

          But the very fact that it is debatable shows that it is not a trivial point, and certainly not a matter of tautology.

        • “Of course Bloemker jumps in …”
          ————————————-
          Lea,
          you shouldn’t introduce this damned German way to address or talk about someone by just using his last name (you did it repeatedly). – Mooser and others will think there is something intrinsically inhuman in the German way

        • According to Baruch Kimmerling, religious Zionism, far from being grounded in classical (rabbinic) Judaism, required a major theological “revolution” that “reversed the whole Jewish-rabbinical paradigm.”

          Historically, Jews who defined themselves as religious were deeply divided in the stances they adopted toward modernity, Jewish enlightenment and secularism, Zionism, and, later, the very existence of a secular “Jewish state. 26

          From the beginning, a small religious stream was established within the Zionist movement,27 and even before the appearance of Zionism, there were rabbis who called for a mass “return to Zion.”

          The real theological revolution, however, occurred in the late 192os and was led by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook,28 who reversed the whole Jewish-rabbinical paradigm and causal relationship concerning “redemption.”

          Traditionally, the fulfillment by all Jews of all the “613 commandments” listed in the holy scriptures was the condition for the coming of the Messiah, the return of all Jews to Zion, and full redemption. Rabbi Kook reversed this, declaring that when as many Jews as possible fulfill the single commandment to “settle the holy land,” the Messiah will appear to redeem “his people” politically and theologically, and will make them follow all his commandments and precepts. A cosmic redemption of the “whole world” will then follow.

          This new religious perception granted religious meaning and legitimacy to secular nationalism and the so-called socialist pioneer Jews by making them “tools” of a divine project of religious redemption.

          The Kookian theological revolution laid the foundation for the participation of its followers in the secular Israeli state and society in the here and now, and for a collaboration between this segment of religious Jews and the secular Zionists.

          (From “The Invention and Decline of Israeliness”)

        • Mooser,

          ” I haven’t altered a single statement I have made on this issue. Contemporary Judaism has fully embraced….”

          No Sean, everything you are saying is right in line with your original statement: (Dec. 5th)

          “Judaism’s core driver: messianic ethnocentrism and ethno-religious nationalism organized around a particular physical territory (Eretz Israel and Jerusalem).

          The key components:

          1. ethnocentrism
          2. territorialism
          3. nationalism
          4. messianism”

          But you know you can’t stand on that, so you’ve resorted to all sorts of qualifiers and obfuscation.

          I don’t see how a qualification that makes an assertion more precise is a form of obfuscation.

        • Sands gives many other examples of how Zionism radically departed from the beliefs and themes of classical Judaism.

          Well of course it did; it is a modern nationalist movement. It is you who injected “vibrancy” and “consistency” and such like into the discussion. But none of that is to say that it did/does not seek to ground its modern ideology in ancient/classical myths etc. – some marginal, some eccentric and some reinterpreted to the point of being barely recognisable.

          My argument here and elsewhere has been that Zionism of all stripes is a modern European ideology that both secular and religious Zionists have sought to present as the fulfilment and natural conclusion of Jewish tradition (shorthand warning). Some of what they have done is pure fabrication, but some is rather similar to Sand’s characterisation of historiography, involving choices regarding both what to include and what to ignore. The ancient (shorthand) sources have always been viewed through contemporary lenses and have never had absolute and immutable meaning. The rest is merely a matter of degree – often dealt with in the past by declaring heresy and/or excommunicating, which is a little more complicated than it used to be.

          Halevi is a favourite of religious Zionists particularly because of his conclusion to Kuzari, in which he urges all Jews to settle in the Holy Land (and please don’t tell me that he didn’t mean establishing a modern nation-state – that is patently obvious) and his personal example of such settlement. Maimonides is mostly popular for his “Laws of Kings” and vision of the messianic age (natural as opposed too supernatural polity, free from foreign domination, laws of war, etc.).

          (Of course, “religious Zionism” comprises a large theological/ideological “tree”–your particular education may represent only one branch.)

          I kind of addressed that in a couple of my comments. Reform religious Zionism is closer to secular Zionism (which, as I have written, also resorts to said myths etc.). The additional elements I have mentioned pertain primarily to, shall we say, right-wing Conservative to National-Haredi, although due to some inferiority-complex issues in the Reform movement, they have also made inroads into Reform Zionism. My particular branch was pretty close to the settler movement, which has come to dominate Modern Orthodox (or National Religious, in Israel) Judaism.

          But the very fact that it is debatable shows that it is not a trivial point, and certainly not a matter of tautology.

          No, it doesn’t. It just shows that we have to work on clarifying our definitions, and perhaps pick a few less nits.

        • Shmuel,

          You are completely right.

          But none of that is to say that it did/does not seek to ground its modern ideology in ancient/classical myths etc.

          “Ancient/classical myths etc.” -;)

        • “And that is why the whole land (blut und boden) thing really is the Golden Calf.”

          But, but, when you look at a Golden Calf in the sunset, it almost looks like a Red Heifer!
          Of course, the Bible tells us Jews have nothing to fear from material temptation, or religious false gods and idols, or even intellectual babel, whoops, I mean babble.

        • “So is it the word grounded that we understand differently?”

          Shmuel, we already settled that. Things like Judaism, or Zionism, are ‘grounded” in their “core drivers”.

          And everybody knows what a “core driver” is. I think my computer even has one, and nuclear reactors may have them too…

        • That is precisely what makes this particular form of Zionism “religious”. It is the meaning of the term religious in this assertion.

          It can’t be denied that the *use* of religion plays a large role. I was absolutely startled when I first encountered the narrative in an exchange with an American-Israeli I actually had come to respect to a certain extend. It was also connected to my first encounter with “terra nullius”. ;)

          Truism is just as fine. But obviously if you pick out a tradition and argue that at a later state of its existence it is somehow connected to earlier stages. or its origin, it feels to me too some type of tautology is involved. Since it wouldn’t be a tradition if it wasn’t somehow related to it’s origins to start with. It feels the rest or the distinction between “ancient and classical Judaism” and rabbinic Judaism is simply playing with surfaces as long as the larger political power dynamics and Zeitgeist out of which it grew are ignored. In other words, if one looks for the origins and not at the context which resulted in the *use* of specific imagery:

          Short condensed look at the creation of Israel’s foundation myth, pretty usable from the 99,9 percent non-Jewish perspective too, I guess:
          Political Theologies in the Holy Land: Israel Messianism and it’s Critics

          Concerning context. Here is an interesting article about Max Nordau, who by the way at one point suffered “rationally” under the fact that at an earlier point in time married a non-Jewish Protestant women, as he confided to Herzl. Religion mattered much less at that point, just as nationalism or tribes, nations, blood and earth, and the whole rest mattered to him at this earlier stage:

          The idea of the Volk as a basis of nationalism was alien to his liberal thought; he suggested language as the criterion of nationality. Nordau even went so far as to reject the idea of the homeland that was later to play so important a role for his Zionist conceptions. Reviewing Barrès Les deracinés, he wrote, “Barrès maintains that man must put down roots in racially inherited ground in order to develop fully…. This is the view of conservatives in all countries who are against the right of choosing one’s own domicile. … When man puts down roots, this leads to a general standstill and then quickly to brutalization…. Movement accelerates development and progress in that it places the individual in a new relationship which forces him to adapt independently.”

          Only trying to get beyond sloganeering by adding some context, as did Shmuel in his little fairytale-like narrative, which was pretty precise from my perspective.

        • “Ancient/classical myths etc.” -;)
          ———————————–

          Martin Buber argues that the fact that Zionism is named after Zion, the *ancient* (not ‘classical’ :-) residence of King David as well as the Temple Mount, proves that Zionisn is not a modern national idea, like others.
          (‘Israel und Palästina’, Zürich 1950.)

        • “although the term suggested that there was something wrong with Sean’s statement.

          No tautology there! Just the usual Klausian non sequitur.

        • “Mooser and others will think there is something intrinsically inhuman in the German way”

          Klaus, if your shoelaces were the English language, you would have a broken nose.

        • I don’t see how a qualification that makes an assertion more precise is a form of obfuscation.

          take a closer look, besides without going back I think you combine two separate comments. That’s not completely legitimate *logically* speaking.

        • “I don’t see how a qualification that makes an assertion more precise is a form of obfuscation.”

          Really, Sib? You don’t? You just went around 400 comments with Hostage (and others, talknic, Shingo, many more) trying to do that very thing!!!
          Remember, “the Palestinians get a home, the Jews get a homeland
          You came right out finally and said in so many words, that you think the colonial hand-off from Britain (and whoever) to the European Zionists supersedes the rights of the people who live there. And you used that very technique, using obfuscatory “precision”, over and over.

          But of course, Sib, if your point is that Sean doesn’t know what he means, and doesn’t mean what he writes, I concur.

        • “(and please don’t tell me that he didn’t mean establishing a modern nation-state – that is patently obvious)”

          Why, Shmuel, everybody wanted the Zionists to establish a Jewish State in Palestine. Why, it’s inherent in the supremacy of the word “homeland” as used by Balfour! Just ask Sib and Gil! Or refer to the “Walzer” thread.

        • “Martin Buber argues that the fact that Zionism is named after Zion, the *ancient* (not ‘classical’ :-) residence of King David as well as the Temple Mount, proves that Zionisn is not a modern national idea, like others.
          (‘Israel und Palästina’, Zürich 1950.)”

          Gosh, and I was soooo sure, that Buber, as a Zionist, would say exactly the opposite. Silly me.

        • Shmuel,

          That is the Zionist claim. Nordau was a Zionist ideologue. Of course he would say that, but that doesn’t make it true.

          I find this argument to be unsatisfactory.

          The creators and leaders of ideologies define the character and content of those ideologies. Max Nordau, one of the founding fathers of Zionism, explicitly placed Zionism within the tradition of several thousand years of Judaism. Again, Nordau:

          Messianism and Zionism were actually identical concepts for almost two thousand years, and it would be difficult, without subtlety and sophistry, to separate the prayers in the Jewish liturgy for the appearance of the promised Messiah from those for the not less promised return to the historic home.

          One can find similar remarks among all the other founding fathers of Zionism.

          And if this were not enough, the worldwide Jewish religious establishment has embraced Nordau’s beliefs about the ideological identity of Judaism and Zionism! Is that establishment not the supreme authority regarding its own beliefs?

          You may say that this belief system is wrong, but you are a member of a very small dissenting faction within the worldwide Jewish religious establishment — and that small dissenting faction is losing ground in this debate within Judaism with each passing year.

          Let me rephrase my earlier statement:

          Zionism — both secular and religious Zionism — is grounded in the myths, symbols, beliefs and themes of ancient and classical Judaism. And the Old Testament is the core driver of contemporary Zionism.

          Some of the key Old Testament archetypes and themes in play in contemporary Zionism:

          1. Amalek
          2. Armageddon
          3. ethnic cleansing
          4. genocide
          5. goyim
          6. ingathering of the exiles
          7. Israel vs. the nations
          8. Jewish ethno-religious nationalism
          9. Jewish messianism
          10. Jews vs. non-Jews
          11. military aggression
          12. Moshiach (Messiah)
          13. mystical ethnocentrism
          14. mystical territorialism
          15. racism
          16. segregation
          17. the Chosen People
          18. the Promised Land

        • Shmuel,

          So we have established that Zionism (and certainly religious Zionism), according to Sand, is grounded (provided with a basis, justified) in “ancient” Judaism: “The foundation myth was, of course, the textual cosmos of the Old Testament.”

          Thanks for nicely summarizing my original argument! :)

          By the way, Mooser has made no attempt to challenge any of the points in my close reading and analysis of the Jerusalem Post article from a few days ago, which makes these connections perfectly explicit.

          There is room for interesting debate about distinctions between ancient and classical (rabbinic) Judaism — and Sibiriak has been helpful and lucid on that subject. Regarding the assertion that Zionism is thoroughly and unreservedly grounded in the Old Testament, I see no room for rational debate at all. This is simply the plain and obvious truth.

        • Shmuel,

          You responded to my remark that Joel Kovel took the radical step of converting to Christianity with two words: “Non sequitur.” How so?

          One of my main points in this discussion has been that Zionism has inflicted severe damage on the Judaism brand. This trend is likely to continue and intensify.

          At what point will this expanding damage to the image (and content) of Judaism discourage Jews from associating themselves with their official religion? For Jews with an Enlightenment, universalist and humanist outlook on the world, what would motivate them to identify themselves with a religious establishment that is in radical conflict with their own beliefs and best values?

          Independent and critical thinkers like Peter Beinart need to be thinking not only about the crisis of Zionism but of the crisis of Judaism and of the crisis of Jewish civilization in general.

          That was my point, and it is not a non sequitur to mention Joel Kovel’s conversion to Christianity in this context.

        • Shmuel,

          Sand argues that Zionism is not a product of classical Judaism and that it had to transform Jewish tradition to serve its purposes, but nowhere does he claim that Zionism (especially religious Zionism) has not sought to ground its modern nationalist ideas in classical Jewish myths, symbols etc. On the contrary.

          Well, how do you like that — I am in perfect sync with all of Shmuel’s recent statements in this thread. :)

          Zionism modified a few elements of classical Judaism and fully embraced many other elements.

          In any case, the symbol system that Jewish nationalists (Zionists) drew upon for their ideas was quite different from the symbol systems that German, Italian and Japanese nationalists drew upon. German, Italian and Japanese nationalists were not Old Testament cultists — quite the contrary. 19th century European nationalists in particular often viewed themselves as being in sharp conflict with Old Testament myths, symbols, beliefs and themes. Let’s not mince words: they were largely Judeophobic movements.

        • Leander,

          How deeply have you read in the history of ancient Judaism? Do you have a bibliography of works you would like to recommend?

          Ancient Judaism was intensely political at the core — it was an ethnic nationalist movement in contemporary terminology — the phrase “blood and soil” fits perfectly. Try reading the Old Testament carefully to get yourself conceptually oriented in this discussion.

          It is not a coincidence that the zealots who are spearheading Jewish settlements in the illegally occupied territories are using Torah and the Old Testament as their “bible.” And these settlements are pushing Israel and “the chosen people” into an apocalyptic confrontation with the entire world — “the nations” in biblical parlance — a core Old Testament theme.

          Focus, madame, focus.

        • Shmuel,

          A clarification regarding Joel Kovel: Jews who decide that Zionism has too much damaged the Judaism brand may choose any number of paths to disengage from the Jewish religious establishment (and perhaps the Jewish establishment in its entirety): Buddhism, Christianity, universalist humanism, atheism, theosophy — you name it. The possibilities are endless. There are many productive belief systems through which we can express our full creative humanity.

          But I think there are certain core values of Jewish civilization as a whole that should be protected and nurtured under any circumstances — and I have no doubt that they will in fact be protected and nurtured and thrive and lead the world in many endeavors and spheres. Visionary Jews will figure out how to sort all this out.

        • ” Just the usual Klausian non sequitur”
          ———————————————————-
          Mooser,
          my first comment on the matter of Sean, Shmuel and Sibiriak was:

          - “Shmuel created the impression that there was something wrong with Sean’s statement – by calling it a ‘tautology’ – when in fact he agrees with that statement.” – And in fact, Shmuel said that he agrees.
          ———————-
          Mooser, when will you ever cure your Klaus-trophobia?
          Start with taking a cold compress.

        • 2. Armageddon

          Armageddon is NT, but if you mean some form of Doomsday, yeah it “plays” (see e.g. A. Raz Krakotzkin on the nuclear option as redemption and Doomsday all rolled into one).

        • Thanks for nicely summarizing my original argument! :)
          Well, how do you like that — I am in perfect sync with all of Shmuel’s recent statements in this thread. :)

          I think there is a clear distinction between our positions (and yours and Sand’s), but I’ll leave that up to ever has had the patience to wade through this long and rather repetitive thread.

        • You responded to my remark that Joel Kovel took the radical step of converting to Christianity with two words: “Non sequitur.” How so?

          Sorry about the terseness of my response. I meant that the comment about Kovel’s conversion did not follow from your argument about Christian/Anglo-Irish/Jewish humanism.

          Now that you’ve explained, I don’t think it follows from the “damage to the Jewish brand” either (as Kovel explained in the interview he gave Phil). He had a tenuous connection to Judaism and some unpleasant family experiences, and found things that spoke to him in Episcopalianism.

        • “Mooser, when will you ever cure your Klaus-trophobia?
          Start with taking a cold compress.”

          Well, Klaus, you just did, upthread! I’d give anything to be thirteen again, not knowing then what I didn’t know now, of course.

        • Jews who decide that Zionism has too much damaged the Judaism brand may choose any number of paths to disengage from the Jewish religious establishment

          Or they can decide that Judaism is not a “brand” and that they can dissociate themselves from those who have actually done wrong without making unnecessary generalisations or rejecting their own beliefs, culture or identity.

          Beinart is right that many of those (particularly young people) who have no other knowledge of or connection to Judaism beyond Israel and Zionism will be quick to dump it, but those who see far more to the tradition than a part of the reality (albeit an increasingly dominant part) of the past century have no such problem.

        • “Without going too deeply into the history, from a Biblical perspective there really is no such thing as “Judaism”, merely a tribal nationalism based on its own creation myth with a territorial constitution held together by a theocentric mythology.”

          Sure, that may be true, but it’s a ‘high concept’ “theocentric mythology” and after a couple of scenario conferences and rewrites, it’ll be a wow out in the sticks! What do those borscht-eaters know about real religion?

        • “Ancient Judaism was intensely political at the core — it was an ethnic nationalist movement in contemporary terminology — the phrase “blood and soil” fits perfectly. Try reading the Old Testament carefully to get yourself conceptually oriented in this discussion.”

          Did things get better in the New Testament? Did people finally get a crack at a better class of religion? A true, revealed faith? Not just, you know, a “theocentric mythology” (ewwww!) And of course, something which shed itself of politics, once and for all?

        • Shmuel,

          Within some streams of the Jewish religious tradition, Armageddon = the defeat of all of Israel’s enemies at the hands of the Jewish Messiah (the King of Israel), among other things, at least according to this source:

          link to armageddononline.org

          Judaism

          In Judaism, the end of the world is called the acharit hayamim (end of days). Tumultuous events will overturn the old world order, creating a new order in which God is universally recognized as the ruler over everyone and everything. One of the sages of the Talmud says that, “Let the end of days come, but may I not live to see them”, because they will be filled with so much conflict and suffering.

          The Talmud, in the tractate Avodah Zarah, page 9A, states that this world as we know it will only exist for six thousand years. The Jewish calendar (luach) functions completely on the assumption that time begins at the Creation of the world by God in Genesis. Many people (notably Conservative and Reform Jews and some Christians) think that the years of the Torah, or Jewish Bible, are symbolic. According to the ancient Jewish teachings continued by today’s Orthodox Jews, the years are literal and consistent throughout all time, with 24 hours per day and an average of 365 days per year. Appropriate calibrations are, of course, done with leap years, to account for the difference between the lunar calendar and the solar calendar, since the Jewish calendar is based on both. Thus the year 2005 equals 5765 years since creation on the present Jewish calendar. According to this calculation, the end of days will occur in the year 2240.

          According to Jewish tradition, the end of the world will see:

          Ingathering of the scattered Jewish exiles to geographic Israel,

          Defeat of all of Israel’s enemies,

          Building of the third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the resumption of the sacrificial offerings and Temple service,

          Revival of the Dead (techiat hameitim), or the Resurrection,

          At some point, the Jewish Messiah who will become the anointed King of Israel. He will divide the Jews in Israel into their original tribal portions in the land. During this time Gog, king of Magog, will attack Israel. Who Gog and the Magog nation are is unknown. Magog will fight a great battle, in which many will die on both sides, but God will intervene and save the Jews. This is the battle referred to as Armageddon. God, having vanquished this final enemy once and for all, will accordingly banish all evil from human existence. After the year 6000 (in the Jewish calendar), the seventh millennium will be an era of holiness, tranquility, spiritual life, and worldwide peace, called the Olam Haba (“Future World”), where all people will know God directly. The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah has many identical aspects to the Islamic belief in Qiyamah, such as the title of, “Day of the sounding of the Shofar”.

        • “Without going too deeply into the history, from a Biblical perspective there really is no such thing as “Judaism”, merely a tribal nationalism based on its own creation myth with a territorial constitution held together by a theocentric mythology.”

          “Without going to deeply into the history” is right – from a biblical or any other perspective.

          What do those borscht-eaters know about real religion?

          Which brings us back to the subject of this post. I can assure you that the biblical prophets, Sa’adia Gaon, Bahya ibn Paquda, Yosef Albo, Maimonides, Gersonides and Hasdai Crescas knew a thing or two about religion and “spiritual content”, but they most definitely did not eat borscht or even barszcz.

        • Within some streams of the Jewish religious tradition, Armageddon = the defeat of all of Israel’s enemies at the hands of the Jewish Messiah (the King of Israel), among other things

          As I said, the name Armageddon is NT (the reference to “Har Meggido” in Zechariah notwithstanding), but Judaism does have a Doomsday concept, and it is an element of the Zionist world view.

        • “I’ll leave that up to ever has had the patience to wade through this long and rather repetitive thread.”

          Thanks, Shmuel, for taking the time to write on this.

          Okay, so there it is, it’s not a real religion, just a intensely political cult devoted to vanquishing Israel’s enemies. Sorta makes me wonder where Judaism would be placed on a list, with truest religion at the top and base superstition at the bottom.

        • proves that Zionisn is not a modern national idea, like others.

          Klaus, I am flexible, you see. That is pretty obvious in 1950, don’t you think. Buber surfaces in David Ohana’s study too, I mentioned above, I think. I read it fast and decided it is not really the subject I want to dive more deeply in.

          Don’t forget Buber only left in 1938, so his Zionism may be the result of something else in 1950, don’t you think. We are shaped by events too.

          Besides, if you are interested, a British friend of mine used surnames too, pretty much the way I do, to signify a certain distance. But yes, it is not polite. On the other hand Mr. Bloemker would have a similar effect. Would you prefer that?

        • Focus, madame, focus.

          German, Italian and Japanese nationalists were not Old Testament cultists — quite the contrary. 19th century European nationalists in particular often viewed themselves as being in sharp conflict with Old Testament myths, symbols, beliefs and themes. Let’s not mince words: they were largely Judeophobic movements.

          Interesting statement. How could they have been, or considered themselves thus? German, Italian, Japanese? Explain how the Japanese could have been old testament cultists? Or what exactly it signifies? Only “Old Testament cultists” considered all other people, or nations (“the nations” in biblical parlance), or tribes around them as ultimately enemies at the time?

          Maybe you explain. What exactly are you trying to tell? I really have no time to look into other discussions here in this context. If you are trying to state that Zionism is far worse than 19th century nationalism since it is based on the Tanakh, than I would really like to see your argument?

          It doesn’t necessarily mean European or Japanese nationalist were right, does it, you never gave me the impression you thought so. You think they are worse since they take over someone else’s country and all these other nationalist only occupied their space and expanded or tried to expand from there?.

          I have tried to focus very much on your statement, I hope you respect that.

          How deeply have you read in the history of ancient Judaism? Do you have a bibliography of works you would like to recommend?

          Maybe we can start with your reading list in this context. Ideally, as I once asked you concerning articles you forwarded with a short summery or hint at what makes them important to read? That can be also done for a group of books if they relate to the same subject.

        • But I think there are certain core values of Jewish civilization as a whole that should be protected and nurtured under any circumstances — and I have no doubt that they will in fact be protected and nurtured and thrive and lead the world in many endeavors and spheres. Visionary Jews will figure out how to sort all this out.

          Isn’t there a contradiction between in the statement that they should or could leave and adopt any other believe system and the basic acception it contains something worth preserving? If so, why should they give it up?

          Can’t you possibly envision change from the pressure below, over here Reform has returned. Late, but anyway. Or do you think this type of change is much too slow for the rest of “the nations”?

        • “What do those borscht-eaters know about real religion?”

          I’m sorry for confusing you Shmuel. The sentence was intended to make fun of the idea that any body could tell me my religion wasn’t a religion.
          Sure, maybe compared to fully revealed religion, it’s pretty insipid, nothing more than an intensely political mythologised theography, but given time, I think we could do something with it.

          Of course, if I’m wrong, and Judaism is basically a plot against the rest of the world, well, what are you going to do with people like that? Enforce a rethinking? Nah, they’re much too dangerous. There has to be a more final solution.

        • “Without going too deeply into the history, from a Biblical perspective there really is no such thing as “Judaism”, merely a tribal nationalism based on its own creation myth with a territorial constitution held together by a theocentric mythology.”

          Shmuel, I hope you don’t think that I wrote that crap, do you? I did not, and I reject it entirely. I do not tell other people whether their religion is valid or not.

        • Mooser:

          You came right out finally and said in so many words, that you think the colonial hand-off from Britain (and whoever) to the European Zionists supersedes the rights of the people who live there

          I’m sorry to see you completely misunderstand Khalidi’s and my position on the Mandate, namely that the Mandate constituted an “Iron Cage” that effectively–and reprehensibly—made it very difficult for Arab Palestinians to press their rightful claim to self-determination.

          I guess you just can’t help putting words in people’s mouths. Perhaps it is because you are fighting old battles and imaginary foes.

        • LeaNdr

          Short condensed look at the creation of Israel’s foundation myth, pretty usable from the 99,9 percent non-Jewish perspective too, I guess:
          Political Theologies in the Holy Land: Israel Messianism and it’s Critics

          Thanks for the reference. Looks interesting. Expensive, though!

        • tgia- What is the etymology of the word keffiye? I always assumed it came from the Hebrew kipa or kafa to cover. Do you know for a fact that it came from elsewhere?

          I don’t know if such a word is used in biblical Hebrew, but in Midrashic Hebrew there is a famous comment that God forced the Israelites at Sinai to accept the Torah- Kafa aleihem har k’gigit. the verse says they were at the bottom of the mountain, but the word bottom tkht (as in tuchus) literally means under and the rabbis use it to say that God placed the mountain over them and the word used is kafa. and that is where the word kipa comes from. i am not an etymologist, so these are all amateur assumptions.

        • seanmcbride- At first I thought it best to leave the disabuse of your theory, Judaism=Zionism to the antiZionists. But when you come up with lists like this one:
          Amalek
          Armageddon
          ethnic cleansing
          genocide
          goyim
          ingathering of the exiles
          Israel versus the nations
          Jewish ethno religious nationalism
          Jews versus nonJews
          military aggression
          Messiah
          mystical ethnocentrism
          mystical territorialism
          racism
          segregation
          the Chosen People
          the Promised Land.
          I feel a need to participate.

          Let me just deal with
          Israel versus the nations
          goyim
          Jews versus nonJews.
          (if you were making a list for top 10 movies you would be accused of naming the same movie three times, but let’s leave that alone for a second.)
          What you are doing is ignoring the history that was taking place while the modern Zionists were anticipating taking history into their own hands. As if there was no hatred of Jews by nonJews in Eastern Europe, when in fact, hatred of Jews by nonJews was one of the primary movers of the early Zionists.

          Yes in 2013 the reality is different and too many Zionists and Jews are still living with the expectation of the return of the reality of 1881 to 1945, but if you are dealing with the birth of modern Zionism, for you to include these three ideas and call them elements of Judaism rather than elements of reality (the reality of that time), then you are obfuscating rather than clarifying.

        • I’m sorry for confusing you Shmuel. The sentence was intended to make fun of the idea that any body could tell me my religion wasn’t a religion.

          You were as clear as a fine borscht.

        • In response to Shmuel and his assertion regarding the Jewish sages and their knowledge of religion and spirituality, of course he is right – intellectuals will always be drawn to more profound considerations, and it is clear that many Jews have allowed themselves to explore notions of spirituality over the years and centuries. However, from a doctrinal point of view, the purpose of religion is to facilitate the communion between the human and the divine (to “reconnect” as the Latin root would have it), whereas the primary purpose of rabbinic Judaism was merely the preservation of Israelite law for the the ultimate purpose of re-establishing it as the legislative framework of a newly-established Kingdom of David following the advent of the messiah. It was not meant to operate any kind of “spiritual elevation” in its practitioners – any such content inserted into rabbinic Judaism would not have been reflective of its main purpose.

        • Mooser said:

          “Shmuel, I hope you don’t think that I wrote that crap, do you? I did not, and I reject it entirely. I do not tell other people whether their religion is valid or not.”

          I, on the other hand, did write that crap (thanks for that), and stand by it. As I say in another post somewhere, the purpose of religion is to facilitate communion between the human and the divine. Since I do not consider animal sacrifice as a viable method of doing this, I do not consider ancient Israelite temple worship as religion in the proper sense of the word (proto-religion perhaps). And since rabbinic Judaism was created purely for the preservation of such practice (as well as Israelite law) in representative form, it follows that I do not consider it as a religion in the full sense of the term either. The upside of this is that Judaism has shown itself capable of evolution, adapting to a changing world and becoming better. We no longer yearn to slit animal throats or stone gays to death – what this means in terms of becoming a proper religion (i.e. achieving harmony with the divine) I’ll leave to the more pious among us, but in terms of its social operation, we are clearly much better off.

        • However, from a doctrinal point of view, the purpose of religion is to facilitate the communion between the human and the divine (to “reconnect” as the Latin root would have it), whereas the primary purpose of rabbinic Judaism was merely the preservation of Israelite law for the the ultimate purpose of re-establishing it as the legislative framework of a newly-established Kingdom of David following the advent of the messiah.

          From the Bible to the Nazarenes (and numerous late Second Temple cults) to Yavne to the Talmud to the Pietists, philosophers, mystics, messianists, Hasidim, ethicists, etc. there has always been tension in Judaism between the Law and communion with the divine (just as there have been tensions between law/power/hierarchy and communion with the divine, or rationalism and gnosticism, in other religions), with a lot of intermingling between the two. Interaction between Judaism, Islam and Christianity also had a profound effect on the development of Rabbinic Judaism. Attitudes to the Temple cult and the land also varied – from the very beginning of Rabbinic Judaism which actually arose as an alternative to the centrality of the Temple, to Maimonides’ explanation and rejection of animal sacrifice.

          To posit a single “doctrine” of preservation of the law for the specific purpose of re-establishing the Jewish kingdom in the Messianic Age is to completely misunderstand Rabbinic Judaism, Jewish spirituality and eschatology. It is also to repeat the shallow law vs. love argument employed by Christians to distance themselves from Judaism and “prove” its inferiority.

        • Mooser,

          I do not tell other people whether their religion is valid or not.

          I’m not sure what you mean by “valid”, nor do I recommend simply going around and “telling” people things, but I certainly believe religious ideologies should be just as subject to rational critique as political ideologies (and the two are often entangled, as we well know.)

        • Byzantium:

          from a doctrinal point of view, the purpose of religion is to facilitate the communion between the human and the divine (to “reconnect” as the Latin root would have it).

          That seems to me a prescriptive rather than descriptive notion.

          As for the etymology of the word “religion” see:

          link to etymonline.com

          religion (n.)

          c.1200, “state of life bound by monastic vows,” also “conduct indicating a belief in a divine power,” from Anglo-French religiun (11c.), Old French religion “religious community,” from Latin religionem (nom. religio) “respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods,” in Late Latin “monastic life” (5c.).

          According to Cicero derived from relegere “go through again, read again,” from re- “again” + legere “read” (see lecture (n.)).

          However, popular etymology among the later ancients (and many modern writers) connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.” Another possible origin is religiens “careful,” opposite of negligens.

          The “religare” — “to bind fast” (cf. “ligament”)—root meaning always made sense to me.

        • Yonah Fredman,

          Yes in 2013 the reality is different and too many Zionists and Jews are still living with the expectation of the return of the reality of 1881 to 1945, but if you are dealing with the birth of modern Zionism, for you to include these three ideas and call them elements of Judaism rather than elements of reality (the reality of that time), then you are obfuscating rather than clarifying.

          My point is rather simple: the Jewish religious establishment has fully embraced Zionism — it has been Zionized — all important distinctions between Judaism and Zionism have collapsed — Judaism has morphed into Jewish religious Zionism and Jewish ethno-religious nationalism.

          For those who understand the overall history and arc of Jewish civilization, this is a development of extraordinary importance — and almost certainly a disaster. And, as a result, the worldwide Jewish community is facing a crisis not only of Zionism (in Peter Beinart’s words), but crises of Judaism and Jewish civilization as well. Talk about a war of ideas….

          Meanwhile, Americans and Europeans are going to be preoccupied with distancing themselves from the problems that messianic Jewish ethno-religious nationalism has created for itself — like the ever-expanding settlements being driven forward by Greater Israel zealots and Old Testament cultists.

          This is what the Chuck Hagel nomination is mostly about — Israel’s traditional Western allies are getting ready to bail on Israel. They have lost all hope that Israel is going to correct its self-destructive course.

        • Byzantium,

          I was surprised to see Shmuel characterize your well-grounded and well-developed thoughts as “crap.”

          Perhaps he can develop his “line of argument” on this point a bit more. :)

          By the way, I am coming at these issues from the standpoint of having done quite a bit of study and research on comparative world religions, both Western and Eastern. I am not trying to defend Christianity or Roman Catholicism, even though I was raised in those traditions. I am simply trying to understand the similarities and differences among the most influential religious ideologies in world history. It’s a fascinating subject — and it provides a useful analytical framework for understanding and interpreting contemporary Mideast politics.

        • Sibirak,

          I’m not sure what you mean by “valid”, nor do I recommend simply going around and “telling” people things, but I certainly believe religious ideologies should be just as subject to rational critique as political ideologies (and the two are often entangled, as we well know.)

          *All* human belief systems — including all religions — are up for rational inquiry and debate.

          Is Mooser suggesting that we shouldn’t express disagreements with, say, Christian Zionists like John Hagee and Pat Robertson? Politely tiptoe around their crazy ideas? :)

          It is becoming increasingly clear that Mooser is highly sensitive and emotional about certain belief systems or a single belief system — perhaps he will eventually describe what precisely are his core beliefs.

          I am always happy to describe my own beliefs — ask me about anything. I’m an open book. I have thought long and hard about them.

        • Byzantium, I am a bit baffled by the strange combination of your aka and apparently not much historical awareness, or for that matter about religion beyond “(i.e. achieving harmony with the divine)”. Maybe you start by looking up the semantic field the Latin noun religio covers? And if you like it’s relation to the verb you used slightly narrowly. It may help to get a better grasp. I am aware that it is used rather frequently.

          But since you are so obsessed with law and sacrifice, let me tell you about my own encounter with the sublime sacrifice in Catholicism. I was eight when I had my Holy Communion, and I can assure you I felt pretty strange about the combination of “relating” to my spiritual brother Jesus, and at the same time eat him symbolically. Somehow didn’t manage to chew the host. …

          One of my favorite profs, a Shakespearean, once said something beautifully simple about religion, it contains the wisdom of people over the centuries about how to deal with dead. That’s an important aspect I think. There are many more beyond “achieving harmony”.

          It is also always related to life and that is were laws come in.

          A Zen scholar once amused me, by his comparison between Buddha and Jesus. It is a pretty easy observation really, since there is a strange difference between one group adoring or relating, if you like, a relaxed and rather well fed living human being, at least that is the way he is usually portrayed and a human being “the son of God” killed and nailed to a cross. There were many times, when I wondered if this is not ultimate source of Christian bigotry . It’s no accident that the martyrs are worshiped in the Christian church. But what about the rest? Doesn’t that mean the Catholic church needed sacrifices too. Human sacrifice? I only partly understood the basic idea much later considering more modern biographies, still bigotry is never quite absent, if you look at the larger context.

          So yes, we can concentrate of what peculiar customs the other religions have, we can also dissect the customs. But does it really matter on what special basis we can built up faith or accept the simply idea that some “truth” may be beyond our rational grasp?

        • but I certainly believe religious ideologies should be just as subject to rational critique as political ideologies (and the two are often entangled, as we well know.)

          This discussion is already taking place, if you care to ponder more deeply about what Shmuel writes you may even realize it took place over the centuries. The problem is that it may not be as focused on Judaism as you think it should be.

          This is one of the German scholars that deals with the subject from a sociological culture study perspective. There are many more from Egyptology (development of Monotheism), over cultural studies to philosophy from the top of my head, to leave out theology for a while.

        • Leander,

          Isn’t there a contradiction between in the statement that they should or could leave and adopt any other believe system and the basic acception it contains something worth preserving? If so, why should they give it up?

          There are rich strains of Jewish civilization that rise above a literal interpretation of ancient and classical Judaism, just as there are rich strains of Christian and Muslim civilization that rise above literal interpretations of their fundamentalist traditions.

          Basically I am suggesting that all Abrahamic traditions need to rise above literalism and fundamentalism and find a productive and enlightened common ground. It’s not a new idea in Western intellectual history. Reform Judaism originally, before it was swallowed by Zionism, grasped and endorsed this project. But it has been backsliding in recent decades.

        • “I’m sorry to see you completely misunderstand Khalidi’s and my position on the Mandate, namely that the Mandate constituted an “Iron Cage” that effectively–and reprehensibly—made it very difficult for Arab Palestinians to press their rightful claim to self-determination.”

          First of all, thanks for setting me straight, I was, indeed, under the impression you thought the Mandate was a dispositive legal endorsement of a Supremacist Jewish State. And I was wrong, apparently. So thanks for that summation of your views.
          Must be that odious word “homeland”. It always sets me off.

        • The “religare” — “to bind fast” (cf. “ligament”)—root meaning always made sense to me.

          Maybe since it’s the most frequently mentioned? I am afraid in this context Wikionary is rather too limited. Even my Latin school dictionary is better. I wonder where they get the “fast” from? Oh, I see what it relies on. This one is better Although yes, needs basics.

          I use Etymoline too occasionally, and realize I should be more careful in the future.

          According to Cicero derived from relegere “go through again, read again,” from re- “again” + legere “read” (see lecture (n.)).

          Hmm? The problem seems to be that there is no consent about the roots. And to cite Cicero in this context? I thought you weren’t too fond of going back to classical approaches?

          Cicero wrote quite a lot. One usually encounters quotes were he uses the word in connection with the Roman patron saints too. But my knowledge of him is very, very, very, very limited.

          Could this be a passage that relates to Cicero’s struggle with Catiline? His adultery with the vestal virginFabia? Reread to get a better grasp of the laws? This was meant to be joke, by the way.

        • ” However, from a doctrinal point of view, the purpose of religion is to facilitate the communion between the human and the divine (to “reconnect” as the Latin root would have it),”

          Like that’s a big problem? Please, it’s child’s play: take one bagel, lightly toasted, with too much cream cheese. Bite, chew. Ahhhhhh… nosh gnosis!!

        • “You were as clear as a fine borscht.”

          Thanks for responding. I don’t know very much about it, but I have a funny feeling that religion (when subjected, of course to, “rational analysis” hmmm…I wonder what he’s got for the Resurrection?) can be whatever we damn well please. I know mine is.

        • “*All* human belief systems — including all religions — are up for rational inquiry and debate.”

          What you got for The Resuurrection? The Transfiguration? How, exactly, does that wine change to blood? The wafer to flesh? Got a rational analysis for miracles?
          Yes, sir, a rational analysis, is needed!

        • “but crises of Judaism and Jewish civilization as well.”

          Jewish “civilisation”? Where, exactly, is that located?
          Oy Gevalt I’ve got an “ideology” instead of a religion, and now you want me to be responsible for a “civilisation”?
          Oh, wait, what am I worried about? I’m an uncivilised Jew. That lets me out.

        • “Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus.”

          Maybe if this place wasn’t so darn wine-dark and many-throated, I’d have more energy.

        • Mooser,

          Jewish “civilisation”? Where, exactly, is that located?

          It’s located in the total set of cultural works created by Jews over several millennia. And it is quite amazing — I am a big fan.

        • “It’s located in the total set of cultural works created by Jews over several millennia. And it is quite amazing — I am a big fan.”

          I thought you didn’t like the four “core drivers”? I was under the impression you thought they were like, yeecchhy?

        • “Jewish “civilisation”? Where, exactly, is that located?” – Mooser
          ———————————————————————————
          According to Mooser, most of what is referred to as ‘Jewish’, be it the ‘Jewish lobby’ or a ‘Jewish civilisation’, has no location in the real world but exists only in the minds of the people who refer to it. And these minds – more often than not – are deranged ones (according to Mooser’s sound mind).

        • ‘Jewish “civilisation”? Where, exactly, is that located?

          It’s located in the total set of cultural works created by Jews over several millennia.’

          You could call that “Jewish culture”, but to call it “civilisation” is a distortion of the usual meaning of the word.

        • LeaNdr

          This discussion is already taking place

          Thanks for the heads up.

          The problem is that it may not be as focused on Judaism as you think it should be.

          I don’t think it should be focused on Judaism.

        • Mooser:

          “*All* human belief systems — including all religions — are up for rational inquiry and debate.”

          What you got for The Resuurrection? The Transfiguration? How, exactly, does that wine change to blood? The wafer to flesh? Got a rational analysis for miracles? Yes, sir, a rational analysis, is needed!

          Indeed, Christian theology, miracles etc. should be subject to inquiry and discussion from various angles, as they have been.

          What is your point? Oh, I get it now…. perhaps it’s a variation on the theme:

          Critics who habitually single out Israel for condemnation while ignoring far worse actions by other countries (especially other Middle Eastern countries) are anti-Semitic.

          link to jewishvirtuallibrary.org

          Have some people been “singling out” Judaism for too much criticism?

        • Roha,

          You could call that “Jewish culture”, but to call it “civilisation” is a distortion of the usual meaning of the word.

          Are you aware that Georgetown University has a program for Jewish Civilization?

          link to pjc.georgetown.edu

          Google ["jewish civilization"] to understand the current usage and semantics of the expression, which I used with precision and deliberate intent. It’s a good term to describe the totality of Jewish culture over several millennia.

          The terms Christian civilization, Muslim civilization, American civilization, European civilization, German civilization, etc. also work just fine to describe the totality of those cultures over their entire lifespans.

        • Mooser,

          Criticize any aspect of Christian theology or culture that you think needs criticizing — I’ve done so many times myself. I don’t become irritable and get my back up when I see criticism of Christianity. Go for it.

        • What you got for The Resuurrection? The Transfiguration? How, exactly, does that wine change to blood? The wafer to flesh? Got a rational analysis for miracles? Yes, sir, a rational analysis, is needed!

          Thanks Moose, you got that perfectly well, although my list would be a little longer. ;)

          True, sounds like a pretty impossible enterprise. But not all theologians shy away from such enterprises. Some even manage to challenge the analytical rational mindset. Concerning the above they would consider this symbolical, and develop their ideas quite well, highly abstract no doubt. …

          considering Siriak’s response, tiring. I liked it.

        • Some even manage to challenge the analytical rational mindset. Concerning the above they would consider this symbolical,

          The “analytical rational mindset” is not the be all and end all of human understanding–but it’s not to be excluded either when dealing with religious ideologies, imo. (Nor can religion be reduced to ideology alone.)

        • Sean,
          there is a small difference between criticising Judaism and criticising say Protestantism and Lutherans.
          ———————-
          Lutherans aren’t the descendents, the ‘children’, of Martin Luther and Katarina von Bora. Lutherans don’t constitute an ethnic people – as Jews do in their narrative as descendents from Abraham and Sarah and the ‘children of Israel’.

          This makes for a crucial difference in identity. The idea of a Lutheran DNA would be considered ridiculous. Not so in Judaism. – When I told Mooser (somewhat jokingly) that I considered him “intrinsically Jewish”, he asked me whether I knew his DNA.

        • Instead of Lutherans as the ‘children’ of Martin Luther and Katarina von Bora, I might as well have said Christians as the ‘children’ of Jesus Christ and Maria Magdalena. (That would make their DNA holy.)

        • “Indeed, Christian theology, miracles etc. should be subject to inquiry and discussion from various angles, as they have been.”

          And the result was? Has the Church back-pedaled on the Resurrection, or does rational science accept it now?

        • “The “analytical rational mindset” is not the be all and end all of human understanding–but it’s not to be excluded either when dealing with religious ideologies, imo. (Nor can religion be reduced to ideology alone.)”

          What a great idea! If an “analytical rational mindset” fails to condemn a religion, we can always make a spiritual judgement on it. Oh yes, that’s very helpful.

        • “However, a blundering moose can, with all that antler and hoof power, have a rather magnificent effect.”

          Oh, this is nothing! You should see me silhouetted against an Alaskan sunset, or hip-deep in a Northern pond with a mouthful of water-cress.

          Very distressing news. My brother-in-law, under cover of a “permit” or “tag” murdered a member of my family this season. It’s going to cause a terrible row, especially if he mounts the head.

      • @Abebird: You just gave us the 101 class in how Zionists make up shit. It reminds me of the two old Eastern European Jews I set next to on a long flight from Athens to Singapore: they swore up and down that the reason that Jews in Europe had lighter coloring etc was because over time they became just like the people around them without intermarrying. I think that genetics has had something to say against that for nearly a couple centuries now.

        Keffiyeh and kipa are 2 very different things – they’re not the same just because they are worn on the head. The kipa is actually more equivalent to the cap that devout Muslim men wear on their head. The keffiyeh has not had religious significance.

        As for the rest of your garbage, Avi_G and Shmuel have set it right. For your own edification, you might want to find out just how much modern Hebrew owes to Arabic. But the point I was trying to make is that you don’t get to take Iraqi, Yemeni, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Tunisian etc culture and call it Israeli. We Arabs are not monolithic nor are we amenable to having the latest in the colonial/crusader waves steal our stuff. Either you become part of the Levant or we will spit you out, in time. Enjoy Palestine while you can.

  2. If the question is “Are ‘Israeli’ dishes basically variations of those found in Mediterranean/Arab cultures”, the answer is decisively “yes”. There was no Israel prior to 1948; there was hummus prior to 1948. QED.

    And of course Sephardic Jews prepared the same (or very similar) dishes as the Palestinian/Lebanese/Syrian Arabs did. These were Palestinian/Lebanese/Syrian dishes, after all, and Jews from those places unsurprisingly enjoyed what their neighbors did (with their own variations, of course, and loyalties over minor differences can be fierce. I can still see my Lebanese Christian mom sneer when her Syrian brother-in-law would bring hummus adorned with – gasp! – cumin. Might as well have placed a small turd on there.)

    In fact, I would argue that there is no such thing, as yet, as Israeli cuisine, except in the trivial sense that Israeli cuisine is the stuff they eat in Israel. Succotash and pemmican were not “Jamestown colony cuisine”, despite their being adopted by the raiders over time.

    I agree that the Sephardim have been slighted by their Ashkenazi brothers in many ways, and that the term “Arab” has been used as though an Iraqi is about the same as an Egyptian, etc etc, Arabs in this view being an undifferentiated mass of human-like Others. This notion of the essential fungibility of Arab cultures gives rise to mischief like, “Those Palestinians! They have all those other Arab countries to go to! Why can’t they let the Jews have one?”

    So, maybe there will one day be an Israeli cuisine, but it ain’t felafel and it ain’t cholent, either. Food takes time to culture. It may be meaningful to talk about Israeli painting or literature – these things can happen in 50 or 60 years. But cuisine? Nah.

  3. All nice and true.
    But contrary to your text, which references “Arab-Jewish”, someone has put a strange title on it, about the Sefardí. Who are present nowhere in that paper, or perhaps only very marginally. The Sefardí don’t happen to be Arab Jews, not because their cooking is any better but just because they don’t belong there.

  4. Rabbi Rosen was right and not disrespecting native Sephardic Jews from Palestine when he said:

    Given the circumstances of Israel’s creation, however, I have long been troubled by Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian/Mediterranean culture – and the assumption, for instance, that dishes such as hummous and felafel are somehow “uniquely Israeli.”

    The circumstance of the State’s creation was that immigrants came in and took over Palestinian land and called it their land. They similarly took over Palestinian cuisine and called it theirs. The fact that some Jews owned land in Palestine, made Palestinian foods, or even were quite native “Palestinians” themselves does not contradict the fact that the new state made primarily of immigrants took over the native land and cuisine and claimed it was uniquely their own.

    Like Rabbi Rosen says, the food is not “uniquely Israeli”, but shared by native people in the Middle East, who were conquered.

    • It does appear this enormous fuss is over the word “uniquely”. I hope this post is simply an indication that it’s a “slow” news week rather than the launch of “Mondoweiss lite”.

  5. Well, food aside, the issue here is that in the western Jewish narrative, eastern Jews are all but nonexistent.

    All Jews on the planet are supposedly a people, a collective, but somehow when it comes to western Jews, especially American Jews, to recognize that eastern Jews are also — allegedly — part of this so-called peoplehood, suddenly they disappear from the narrative. Their unique history, traditions, language, music, literature, customs and food, disappear into thin air as though there were never there.

    Worse yet, that kind of erasure of Arab Jews’ existence in terms of culture, history, literature and art, was a significant part of various Israeli government policies.

    Since its establishment in 1948, the state actively sought to transform, reshape, change and re-configure Arab Jews so as to turn them into an Ashkenazi ideal.

    That meant that everything and anything Mizrahi/Sephardi was shunned, marginalized, oppressed and discriminated against in order to maintain an Ashkenazi-centric society. Whether it was special government programs that forcibly took Mizrahi children and put them in Kibbutzes in order to ‘re-culturalize’ them or whether it was the media and the education system’s efforts in making Ashkenazi culture the only visible, existent and prominent culture. Western Jews from Europe and north America were always depicted as the ideal, as the paragon for all other Jewish sects to emulate, imitate and learn from.

    This also ties into the forced separation policies that sought to isolate Arab Jews within the state of Israel from the rest of the Arab world.

    It’s the essence of the Zionist enterprise.

    • But, to be fair, the Zionist ideal was NOT simply identical with Ashkenazi tradition. It was an Ashkenazi tradition deeply reformed in order to be useful for a modern society and a modern state of Israel. Insofar, Ashkenazi Zionists didn’t impose changes on the Mizrahi which they hadn’t done for themselves in former decades. Or did they?

    • Same with the land. The whole planting trees in the desert thing is a wistful (and chauvinistic, and harmful) European makeover attempt.

    • All Jews on the planet are supposedly a people, a collective, but somehow when it comes to western Jews, especially American Jews, to recognize that eastern Jews are also — allegedly — part of this so-called peoplehood, suddenly they disappear from the narrative.

      that’s my family’s experience with ‘white’ solidarity, aviG. they were ‘stupid f*cking pollaks’ when my grandparents came to the US in the 20s. when someone approaches me as if i’m a member of the universal white society to complain about indian or dominican immigrants they get a terse ‘f*ck off’.

      • that’s my family’s experience with ‘white’ solidarity, aviG. they were ‘stupid f*cking pollaks’ when my grandparents came to the US in the 20s

        And on your dad’s side, “nègres blancs d’Amérique du Nord”, n’est-ce pas?

    • “Western Jews from Europe and north America were always depicted as the ideal,”

      It seems to me (as a well-known non-expert on the topic) that it is Jews from Eastern Europe who were depicted as the ideal. Jews from (e.g.) Spain, Portugal, and other Southern parts of Europe seem to be forgotten.

      • ‘Will I ever find
        the Jew in my mind?
        The one I call My Ideal?

        He could be from the East,
        but then again, no!
        A Northern European,
        He won’t be a schmo…..’

        Sorry, just whiting up my sepulchre a bit.

  6. I have probably missed it, but I don’t recall seeing the expression “arab jews” before on Mondoweiss. “Israeli Arabs”, yes, but not “arab jews”. It reminded me of a long time faculty colleague who was a child in Haifa and later fought with the Irgun and was in a British prison for the 1948 war. I found it at first shocking and then clarifying when, during one of our coversations, he said something like, “When I was a child we were all Arabs. I was a Jewish Arab and I had friends who were Muslim Arabs and others were Christian Arabs.” So, if indeed the Israeli Jews from Russia, Italy and Poland share genes with that tribe that emigrated from Ur, expelled the people of Philistia from their land and was itself expelled by the Romans, mustn’t every Jewish Israeli be an Arab?

    • “So, if indeed the Israeli Jews from Russia, Italy and Poland share genes with that tribe that emigrated from Ur, expelled the people of Philistia from their land and was itself expelled by the Romans, mustn’t every Jewish Israeli be an Arab?”

      No. “Arabness” is not genetic. It is cultural. Your Arab Jew colleague was brought up speaking Arabic in an Arabic culture. That makes him an Arab.

      • —No. “Arabness” is not genetic. It is cultural. Your Arab Jew colleague was brought up speaking Arabic in an Arabic culture. That makes him an Arab—

        Thanks for the comment, but cultural and genetic/lineage criteria have long competed to classify human groupings, in both the pre and post-DNA days. And ideological reasons often determine the use of one over the other, witness the recent ciation of DNA markers to solidify the nationhood of the Jewish people. This is also true, historically and today, of the grouping of Arabs, the oldest tradition defining Arab as a descendent of peoples from the region of the Arabian pennisula.

        • “Arab” like “European” is a collective noun covering the inhabitants of a number of different countries with similar, but distinct, cultures. Unlike “europeans” “arabs” have a common language – arabic – which, like other widespread languages, has distict regional variations. A number of “arab countries” also have minority populations with their own languages and cultures.

        • “the oldest tradition defining Arab as a descendent of peoples from the region of the Arabian pennisula.”

          But modern usage is the cultural definition that JennieS refers to. That makes your colleague an Arab. A Polish Jew might have a genetic connection with Palestine, but he is a Pole, not an Arab.

        • Thanks to JennieS and RoHa for their comments. I agree that some use ‘Arab’ as designating a culturally definined group. But I disagree with the assertion, if I understand it correctly, that the term is not on other occasions used to designate a group that shares physical lineage. It may be that JennieS and RoHa are saying that even though some use these terms in a shared physical lineage fashion they are wrong to do so.
          In my own case, if ‘essentialism’ is the idea that different people born into different classifications (woman/man, white/black, gay/straight, Jew/Gentile) have different rights and obligation based upon their classification, then I reject essentialism and consider it to be one of the most dreadful and damaging ideas that evolution has bestowed upon us.

        • “In my own case, if ‘essentialism’ is the idea that different people born into different classifications (woman/man, white/black, gay/straight, Jew/Gentile) have different rights and obligation based upon their classification, then I reject essentialism and consider it to be one of the most dreadful and damaging ideas that evolution has bestowed upon us.”

          That is very well put, inspiring to read. I’d only quibble with blaming “evolution” for it. I don’t think it’s her fault. Nor are our little essentialisms universal with mankind. So there’s hope.

        • – I’d only quibble with blaming “evolution” for it. I don’t think it’s her fault. Nor are our little essentialisms universal with mankind. So there’s hope. –

          Mooser, Thanks for the comment. An honor. I was thinking more of the evolution of ideas, where a notion gets solidified because it has a use value but doesn’t disappear even when changed circumstance renders it dangerous. Essentialism likely had its survival benefits in tribal times as did many other morally terrible ideas. In any case the fact that something came about through evolution, even the genetic kind, is not in itself a reason to think it would be universal (think, fair skin) or immutable, (think skin color again).

  7. Thank you for publishing this exchange. As a writer, I know very well the temptation to respond to a harsh review of my work– especially a review that I feel has misread or overgeneralized me. I appreciate Rabbi Rosen’s clarifications.

    However, I’m a little uneasy at just how far Rabbi Rosen takes his critique of David Shasha’s review. Rabbi Rosen’s defensiveness takes away from the power of his critique — and it doesn’t seem to come from the same “assumption of good faith on the part of his progressive allies” that he asks of Shasha. Two instances stick out and make me deeply uncomfortable:

    1. Twice, Rabbi Rosen bends over backwards to say that he wouldn’t want to accuse Shasha of racism — but then he goes on to back-handedly accuse Shasha of racism (in the “Having said all this” paragraph and the “Rather than criticize further” paragraph). Something smells funny in the kitchen here — a whiff of the disingenuous that affects how I read the rest of Rabbi Rosen’s otherwise important response.

    2. My jaw dropped when Rabbi Rosen ended the piece quoting “an old joke [he] hadn’t thought of in years” — a joke whose humor utterly depends on the listener seeing women’s bodies as objects of exchange value. I get the joke, of course, and I’m not asking for so-called politically correct censorship. We need to laugh more than we do. But I am asking Rabbi Rosen why he thinks it’s appropriate in this instance to counter Shasha’s claims with a joke that deflects the issue of racism with the issue of sexism?

    I’m a long admirer of Rabbi Rosen’s work and his politics. I also know that the best response to a bad review is sometimes to say nothing or to wait awhile before responding.

  8. Ella Shohat who identifies as an “Arab-Jew” has a fascinating triage of Israeli society:

    If the Palestinians figure in official Euro-Israeli discourse as the Indians, associated in colonial discourse with nomadism and savagery, Asian and African Israelis are, on some levels, the Blacks. Not coincidentally, our major movement of resistance in the seventies was called ‘The Black Panthers’ in homage to the American movement, while today we have adopted the name Mizrahim (‘Orientals’). Despite its Orientalist lineage, this latter name carries an affirmation of our positive relation to the ‘East’ within the context of a state that proudly proclaims its Western-ness while choking off our ‘Eastern’ cultural expression.

  9. “The Aryanization of the Jewish State: A polemic by Michael Selzer” published by Black Star, New York, 1967 states on the first line of the book’s cover: “Zionism is antic-Semitic in its origins.” and continues by characterizing its early leaders in terms of an Ashkenazi hegemony that attempted to “preserve their European power structure through repressive, undemocratic practices in government, housing, employment and education…”

    1967!!!

    The book lends new insight to the hummus debate! Googling will take you to used copies and unsurprisingly unfavorable book reviews.

  10. I agree with Rabbi Rosen’s very appropriate response to David Sasha. And I think it is particularly egregious when progressive voices within the Jewish community, turn on one another – especially in public. We are an extreme minority within a minority and we weaken our collective voice by attacking each other – especially when it is petty, mean-spirited, and undeserved.

    I just want to add something on this subject of Israeli Jews who originated from Arab and North African countries. Just the fact that people refer to them as “Sephardi” (Spanish) or even “Mizrachi” (Eastern) is in itself denying the truth and symptomatic of denying or ignoring Arab culture. When I spent a year in Israel in the 80′s, I missed ASIAN food. One day, I saw a restaurant in Jerusalem called “The Oriental Restaurant”. I went in expecting Chinese food. It was Middle Eastern food! Not only was I sorely disappointed that I was still going to be deprived of some chop suey, but it was my first lesson on this subject. Whether it is food, dance, music, or clothing, if it has Arab origins, it will be re-named.

  11. this is just an aside. yes, I am an Ashkenazi Jew, but I come from Germany, not from the pale of settlement, and my family traces its roots there (Frankfurt/Main) back to the16th century, just like the Rothschilds, and like hem they lived in the ghetto. It was only when I came to the US that I was expected to believe in the unalterable fact that Tevvye was my ancestor and Yiddish my grandparents’ first language, just as my natural foods were pastrami and chopped liver and gefilte fish appeared with my mother’s milk. I think that most American Jews – stemming from what my relatives called ” Ost-Juden” – sadly enough in somewhat arrogant tones – just assume this is the way it was for everyone. They certainly made me feel like an outsider, and have never quite accepted me, especially now, that I alsi turn out to be “self-hating” since I do not agree with them on the queation of Zionism. I must say, however immodestly, that it was German Jews who frequently questioned the zionists position on the Palestinians – Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt, for instant, and that Uri Avnery (may he live to be 120!) is, like me, a Yekke.
    Sliver

    • “just as my natural foods were pastrami and chopped liver and gefilte fish appeared with my mother’s milk.”

      There’s noithing better for growing boys and girls, helps build strong bodies 12 ways.
      And everyboidy knows Yiddish was the world’s first language. Hell, Lucy spoke Yiddish. When she wasn’t indulging in “Anglophile orthography” that is.

    • The Jews of Germany vehemently rejected Zionism in the early days. In fact they wouldn’t even allow the first Zionist congress to be held in Germany. So it was held across the border in a Casino in Basel.

      • “The Jews of Germany vehemently rejected Zionism in the early days. In fact they wouldn’t even allow the first Zionist congress to be held in Germany. “

        You don’t think the Zionists would let a bunch of Jews keep them from having their first Zionist congress, do you? Of course not! After all, what do their opinions matter.

  12. After reading all of these responses, I am concerned about some issues that are being addressed and some that are not. I was particularly touched by rhipidon’s response, in which he addressed the serious ramifications of potential racism and sexism in the above post. It is a good reminder for us on the left that to deal with one form oppression means to deal with all forms (be they racism, sexism, etc…) of oppression. If I might have said something that offends someone, I’d want to know so that I could improve and recognize my blind-spots. Unlike LisaAK’s comment, I feel that it is a way of support and mutual growth when we help each other see our own blind-spots; I do not see this as calling one out in public.

    It is very important to have discussions of “Orientalist” notions of co-opting and appropriating others’ cultures and to discuss the origins of hummos. It is also crucial to open oneself to criticism and deepening one’s desire to learn and grow. This seems to be sorely needed more and more in leftist progressive groups.

    • “This seems to be sorely needed more and more in leftist progressive groups.”

      How right you are. It’s nothing but hubris to try and help others before we have perfected ourselves. Who are we to judge Israel?

  13. This is an odd statement:

    I do hope that that David Shasha will continue to “write about this matter extensively…for the foreseeable future.”

    Shasha has been writing about it for years. Did Rosen ever read any of it? I received Shasha’s weekly emails for the longest time. Even Tony Karon commented on Shasha’s emails five years ago when Shasha was a guest columnist. Shasha’s emails were waaay more than emails. They were journals or mini-magazines full of the most scholarly subjects; he featured authors and historians about Sephardic Judaism you’d never read anywhere else. (Shasha sent them out as .doc files, even though I would occasionally express the fear that they could be altered if not in PDF.) Karon:

    David Shasha, the founder and director of the Center for Sephardic Heritage in Brooklyn, New York, is one of my favorite weekly email reads. . . . Arab and Jew are not mutually exclusive categories. Quite the contrary. Anyone who tells you, as so many “pundits” do in this society when trying to explain the Middle East, that “Jews and Arabs have been fighting for thousands of years,” is speaking from ignorance. The idea of a conflict between “Jews” and “Arabs” is really only as old as modern political Zionism, and really only took on a generalized form in the second half of the 20th century amid the trauma that accompanied the creation of the State of Israel. Jews and Arabs had, in fact, lived together for hundreds of years in the Muslim world, and many Jews have always considered themselves Arab.

    David Shasha makes the case that this branch of Judaism, what he calls the “Levantine Option”, is tragically silenced and excluded from the mainstream Ashkenazi and Zionist narrative that dominates discussion of the Jewish experience. He argues that while the Ashkenazi tradition was both heavily influenced by Western Christian traditions and also, because of persecution, evolved a far more narrow, insular “shtetl” outlook on Jewish identity. By contrast, he argues, the Sephardic experience, in the “convivienca” of Moorish Spain and the Arab lands in the Islamic golden age actually has much more to offer Jews looking for an expansive, universalist version of their identity in a multi-cultural, cosmopolitan world. It’s fascinating stuff: Read on!

    Shasha’s brief column for Karon is well worth reading for the discussion here: link to tonykaron.com

    For the record, it was Sephardic Jews, not Ashkenazim, who helped found and build America and its institutions starting in the 16th C. Men like Cardozo, Touro, and de Leon, people we call Latinos today.

    Shasha writes:

    “The Levantine Option” was brought to the United States at the very inception of the republic: Jews living in Charleston, South Carolina, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York City, Newport, Rhode Island and various other port cities linked Jews to one another along the Atlantic coast(s) under the rubric of a shared civilization centuries old. It was this connectivity that animated the first decades of Jewish life in America along the lines of the Sephardic model until the later Eastern European immigration took place at the beginning of the 20th century.

    Shasha quotes Arthur Kiron, with this preface as a, “now-forgotten Sephardic “Haskalah” in his eye-opening article “An Atlantic Jewish Republic of Letters” (Jewish History issue 20 (2006), pp. 171-211). I won’t quote here; use the link above to read it yourselves if interested.

    One of the effects of reading Shasha’s “emails” over the years was to understand that Jewish life in America was a far more refined and enlightened participation in the broader society than the crude, exclusionary, and fundamentalist Jewishness of Kristol, Geller, and Abrams/Pipes. (There’s even an Italian in Shasha’s account to interest Shmuel.)

    Sean’s focus is on Ashkenazis, and does not take Shasha’s historical knowledge into account, so don’t be angry with him. As a Gentile who does know about Sephardic history (broadly), I’d say most discussions on here about being a Jew in 20th/21st C America refer to the visible top of the mountain, the Ashkenazi experience, and completely ignores the centuries of what preceded it.

  14. Dr. Victor Sasson

    About Middle Eastern cuisine, I wrote a short article in 2009, titled ‘Cultural Thievery’ and published it in a book: Essays From Occupied Holy Land
    (2010) — a book that has about one hundred relatively short essays — political, social, personal, etc. It includes two newspaper articles of mine published in October and November 1982 in The Rand Daily Mail, Johnnesburg, while I was a Senior Lecturer in Semitics at the University of South Africa. In those two articles I discussed political Zionism and Judaism, Zionism being a colonial ideaology and that Ashkenazi Jews are a foreign element in the Middle East. The few Israelis/Zionists in my department raised hell, and various persons and organizations protested at what I wrote, and I even received a threatening phone call.
    That was during the time of Sabra and Shatila refugee camps massacre, for which the
    Zionist State will be perpetually responsible, among its other heinous crimes.