American Jews have a right to resist Israel as Jews

Middle East
on 29 Comments

Israeli journalist and blogger Yossi Gurvitz has published an article here on Mondoweiss two weeks ago, titled “Sorry, American Jews, you don’t have a birthright”.

Whilst I love a lot of the insights Gurvitz has offered over the years, as well as many on the insights offered in the article, I think the essential message in his mentioned article is somewhat misleading. And it’s not about the title.

In the article, Gurvitz starts out with the Israeli jargon “get out of my veins”, which he addresses at American Jews, sarcastically moderating it to “American Jews, kindly get out of my veins”.

What Gurvitz is saying here, if I should summarize, is as he writes towards the end:

“When you are trying to impact Israel’s policy as a Jew, you are granting legitimacy to this [discrimination of non-Jews]. You are saying: I, who was not born in Israel, should have not just a voice in its affairs – but a much louder voice than its non-Jewish natives. What do they call that popular hasbara trip? I have a birthright. You don’t.”

But is this really what an American Jew is saying, necessarily so?

Does a Jew who tries to impact Israel’s policy, even declaredly so, as a Jew, necessarily claim that they have a “much louder voice” than the non-Jewish natives? Gurvitz continues,

“At least, you can’t claim a birthright here and still claim to be a liberal. If you do, you’re playing Israel’s game: you’re claiming Jews are a nation, you are claiming Israel is the national homeland of the Jews, and that therefore your voice counts more than non-Jews who live here. It shouldn’t.”

But are all Jewish Americans criticizing Israel claiming a ‘birthright’? Gurvitz’s point concerning ‘birthright’ is in itself interesting, in that it goes to the heart of Zionism and its manifestation in Israel as a Jewish State. One of the first laws passed in Israel was the Law of Return (1950) allowing any Jew from anywhere to receive immediate citizenship in Israel. The notion of this law, embedded in its very name, is the mythological Zionist notion that Jews are actually ‘returning’, after millennia of ‘exile’. This mythology relies on the perception of Jews as a ‘nation’ (rather than a mere religion). The ‘birthright’ notion is a euphemism subscribing to this myth. So Gurvitz is completely right to say that subscription to the ‘birthright’ notion is subscription to the Zionist notion of ‘Jewish nation’. But this still doesn’t prove that all Jewish Americans subscribe to it. And Gurvitz’s address is a general one to all Jewish Americans. What Gurvitz is essentially saying is that they should relinquish Zionism root and branch. Relinquishing Zionism root and branch is something that I am completely for. But many American Jews hold anti-Zionist views. And I am not just speaking about the ultra-orthodox who do so from religious Talmudic background (whom Gurvitz also refers to in footnote at the end of his article). I am also speaking about progressive American Jews. Philip Weiss wrote here in April in his article ‘The Jewish revolution’:

“Stefanie Fox [deputy Director, Jewish Voice for Peace] said that JVP was undertaking a review of its position on Zionism, a signal that the organization will adopt a strongly anti-Zionist stance in the months to come.”

Weiss noted about these young people, that

“They are trying to find their own way, Jewishly; and this has so far meant an openness to anti-Zionists, if not a rejection of the idea of a Jewish state.”

Fox said that Zionism is “not about the protection of Jews but the protection of a violent state”.

That’s quite a cutting statement.

So there is a movement in that direction. But regardless, Zionism is not Judaism – and that is exactly what this younger generation is already getting quite strongly. They are not relinquishing their Judaism – they are cutting it from Zionism.

Robert Cohen, in his article here on Mondoweiss from three days ago titled “If you can’t say equal rights, I can’t work with you”, writes:

“The greatest issue, the greatest challenge:

If you’ve read any of my writing over the last six years, you’ll know that I come at all of this from a particular Jewish perspective. I come to this issue out of solidarity with the Palestinian people but I come to it firstly from a concern for the future of Jews and Judaism. I’m in no doubt that as Jews, our relationship with Israel and the Palestinians is the greatest issue, and the greatest challenge, facing us in the 21st century. Everything else either relates to that relationship, or it pales into insignificance against it.”

We can discuss which angle one should or could enter the paradigm of Zionism and “Jewish state” through, but is it not valid to consider it as a paradigm that is deeply connected with Judaism today, even if one believes Zionism to be anathema to Judaism?

Does claiming to be a Jew, whilst not being Israeli, necessarily buy into the ‘Jewish nation’ orthodoxy of Zionism? Does criticizing Israel whilst noting one’s Jewishness openly (as for example Jewish Voice for Peace supporting BDS), necessarily grant legitimacy to Israel’s discrimination?

I find the logic here somewhat disingenuous. It suggests a blanket definition of Jews all over the world, wherein they either put away their Jewish identity completely when they criticize Israel, or they are being hypocritical.

Indeed, Gurvitz suggests that the only valid and applicable notion wherein Jews oppose Israeli policy, is by them completely dismissing the fact that they are Jews, and acting simply as ‘liberals’. As Gurvitz writes in his final paragraphs:

“Does it mean I don’t want to hear from you? Not at all. You are important to me as liberals. Liberalism everywhere is under attack. You might have noticed that Israel is walking hand in hand with Russia and the eastern European anti-liberal governments. We are facing an international ultra-national movement. We need to link hands against it if we are to survive. So, as liberals, you are my allies; but, as Jews, kindly get out my veins. By speaking as Jews, you are lending force to the illiberal forces here. Speak to us in the voice of humanity you earned by standing by the civil rights movement, by the martyrs of the Freedom Riders; but don’t speak to as Jews. My country only sees you as Jews when it needs to exclude others. Don’t legitimize it.”

Gurvitz’s argument seems to suggest this is really, essentially, an Israeli matter. When he says ‘get out of my veins’, he is posing himself as the ‘Israeli’, who is asking the ‘non-Israelis’, in this case particularly American Jews, to keep away from the discussion about Israeli oppression, unless they can completely put away their Jewishness.

On one level, there’s a logic here, which is supposedly based upon the geographical aspect of Israel, as opposed to its Jewish ‘character’ as a state. Gurvitz seems to want to accentuate this – that it’s an Israeli matter, not a Jewish matter really.

But Gurvitz surely knows that an Israeli nationality doesn’t exist. And that he thus does not exist as an Israeli national, because Israeli nationality is not recognized by Israel. Bluntly put – Israelis don’t exist in the national sense. What really exists in the national sense, what Israel really is in the national sense, is a Jewish State, and the only ones who actually enjoy national rights (rather than merely citizenship rights), are the Jews – all over the world, whether they or their ancestors have ever stepped foot there or not. This is a novel concept.

Hence, Israel is an exceptionally Jewish issue (whether one agrees with the notions of a Jewish nation, Jewish state, Zionism etc. or completely rejects them). It is not illogical that Jews all over the world, indeed, as Jews, rise up even in the name of Judaism, and oppose Israeli policy as well as its national construct (which its policies vis-à-vis non-Jews are unquestionably an integral resultant of).

It would, in my view, be sterile and rather illogical to address Israel as a state divorced from Judaism, when it claims so loudly and so unequivocally to be married in with Judaism. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regularly exploits terror to promote the Jewish State, announcing to all Jews that “Israel is your home”, as he did in the wake of the Paris attacks and Copenhagen attacks in 2015 (and he’s not the only Israeli leader doing that, see for example centrist Yair Lapid). This is indirectly saying to Jews all over the world, that where they happen to be living is not their home, not nationally so – because Israel is their ultimate, and hence only, national home.

Jews have a right to resist this attempt to speak on their behalf, and to resist such insidious and cynical attempts (supposedly for their own good) to drive a wedge between them and the societies and nations of which they are an integrated part. It makes very much sense that they do this as Jews, and this does not automatically legitimise the ‘Jewish nation’ notion as Gurvitz warns. In the mentioned example of Netanyahu, they are precisely opposing the blanket ‘Jewish nation’ notion by protesting the ‘Israel is your home’ advocacy, as many of them did.

Personally, I consider my concern for Palestinians as one that is closer to the ‘liberal’ one which Gurvitz describes, and I do not come out from the same prime concern for the “future of Jews and Judaism”, as Robert Cohen puts it. But this to me is not the most central issue – people can reach Rome from many directions. What is important for me is that opposition to Israeli policy and ideology, not be alienated if it has a valid logical basis, also when that basis is declaredly ‘Jewish’. Otherwise, I feel we are getting way too far into people’s heads, and between them and their God. I feel this could easily become a matter of ‘getting into people’s veins’. What I’m saying is, you can both be Jewish and liberal.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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29 Responses

  1. Paranam Kid
    August 10, 2017, 12:25 pm

    Israel is a Zionist state, predicated on the racist ideology of Zionism. The Zionists have, from the time they started with their project, and certainly from when they set foot in Palestine, cynically manipulated the Jews & Judaism for its depraved, iniquitous objectives.

    So when you state “…Israel is an exceptionally Jewish issue…” you are wrong because you are thus saying that Israel represents all the Jews in the world, which is definitely not true. The fact that Israel has this right of return law for all the Jews in the world, does NOT mean it represents all of those Jews.

    What’s more, nowadays only Jews in agreement with the government are allowed in, as has been pointed out by Mondoweiss too.

    “It would, in my view, be sterile and rather illogical to address Israel as a state divorced from Judaism, when it claims so loudly and so unequivocally to be married in with Judaism. ”
    That is Israel’s claim, but by that same claim it is marrying Judaism and racism, which is completely false. Therefore Israel’s claim remains a claim, and an extremely disingenuous one at that.

    “It makes very much sense that they do this as Jews, and this does not automatically legitimise the ‘Jewish nation’ notion as Gurvitz warns.”
    Gurvitz is absolutely right. The more Jews from outside Israel get involved in the discussion, the more Israel’s claim of being married with Judaism gains de facto in legitimacy.

    The only way to make Israel understand that it does NOT represent the Jews worldwide is for the non-zionist Jews to stay out of the discussion, let it be an Israel-Israel/Zionist-Zionist discussion.

    • George Smith
      August 10, 2017, 2:37 pm

      “So when you state ‘…Israel is an exceptionally Jewish issue…’ you are wrong because you are thus saying that Israel represents all the Jews in the world, which is definitely not true. The fact that Israel has this right of return law for all the Jews in the world, does NOT mean it represents all of those Jews.” — Paranam Kid

      ?? Really?? Zionists claim to speak on behalf of the “Jewish people”–a tendentious and dishonest attempt to recruit the entirety of worldwide Jewry to the defense of the Zionist project. Jews who vehemently reject this claim have a special duty to discredit it AS JEWS. They have special standing in this aspect of the public conversation, not because THEY think Jews are more important than Palestinians or other non-Jews, but because ZIONISTS do. On other aspects of the conversation, they’re speaking as human rights advocates with no special standing.

      • Paranam Kid
        August 11, 2017, 9:34 am

        I don’t know if we differ in our view of Zionism & Judaism. But just to make my view absolutely clear: Zionism is a secular racist ideology that cynically manipulates Judaism & its adherents as tools for its depraved, iniquitous objectives.

        Zionism purposely conflates its ideology with Judaism, and yes, the non-Zionist Jews should keep denouncing that devious, depraved conflation.

        So I don’t understand what you are taking issue with in what I stated above.

      • jd65
        August 13, 2017, 8:47 pm

        Hello Paranam Kid:

        So I don’t understand what you are taking issue with in what I stated above.

        I can’t speak for George, but my guess is that this may be the thing:

        The only way to make Israel understand that it does NOT represent the Jews worldwide is for the non-zionist Jews to stay out of the discussion, let it be an Israel-Israel/Zionist-Zionist discussion.

        That doesn’t make sense to me, and maybe that’s what doesn’t make sense to George.

      • Paranam Kid
        August 14, 2017, 9:08 am

        @jd65
        The Zionists will always claim that they & Israel represent world Jewry, no matter what the non-Zionist/anti-Zionists Jews say, because Israel’s only Raison d’être is as that “representative”.

        If the non-Zionist/anti-Zionist Jews would ignore the Zionists & keep going about their business in a normal way within their country of citizenship/residence, and only firmly reject them when asked to be involved with Zionists/Zionism/Israel, then maybe the Zionists would eventually give up.

        As long as one keeps the discussion open, the Zionist zealots will use that as justification to maintain their “representation” claim.

    • DaBakr
      August 11, 2017, 1:56 am

      @p

      Ok. So it represents almost 90% of jews worldwide. 10% have a problem with it. their welcome.

      • eljay
        August 11, 2017, 8:39 am

        || @ar: … [Zionism] represents almost 90% of jews worldwide. … ||

        Wow. Almost 90% of the people in the world who choose to hold the religion-based identity of Jewish are hateful and immoral hypocrites who believe that Jews are entitled to:
        – a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine; and
        – to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

        I pity the 10% that constitute cannon-fodder to the Jewish and non-Jewish Zionists who anti-Semitically conflate Israel and Zionism with all Jews and all Jews with Israel and Zionism.

      • Paranam Kid
        August 11, 2017, 9:35 am

        @DaBakr
        No, it represents than 50% of Jews worldwide. Your 90% is part of that sick, depraved activity called hasbara.

      • Misterioso
        August 11, 2017, 6:41 pm

        DaBakr

        Reality:

        “Why Do A Third of Israelis Want To Leave The Country?”
        The Forward, March 22, 2017 By Naomi Zeveloff
        “A third of Jewish Israelis would leave the country if they could, according to a poll conducted by Masa Israeli, a group looking at the divisions of Jewish society in Israel.

        “It found that secular Jews were the most likely to want to emigrate, with 36% saying they would leave the country if they could. Orthodox Jews were the least likely to want to emigrate; only 7% said they would leave. The poll, which was reported by the Walla! news site, found that while 44% of secular Jewish Israelis identify as Israelis foremost, 83% of traditional and 90% of religious Jewish Israelis identify as Jews foremost.

        “The poll was conducted ahead of a conference called the “Israeli Journey to Change” in the Knesset which is looking for common ground in Israel.

        “ ‘The survey data indicates a problem with a sense of identity, connection and belonging to the people, to the land and to the state among a growing part of society in Israel and that reality already has created a rift and split in all of Israeli society,’ said Masa Israeli director, Uri Cohen.”

        Times of Israel, June 21/17:
        http://www.timesofisrael.com/devastating-survey-shows-huge-loss-of-israel-support-among-jewish-college-students/

        Also, it seems that support for Israel is in general decline in the U.S., especially among all important youth. No surprise!!
        “Support for Israel on Campus Drops by ‘Devastating’ 27%: Study” – The Forward, June 21/17

        “The Brand Israel Group, a coalition of volunteer advertising and marketing specialists, has released a survey that shows a significant decrease in Israel’s approval rating among Americans.

        “’The future of America no longer believe that Israel shares their values. This is huge! Devastating,’” Fern Oppenheim, a co-founder of BIG, told The Times of Israel.

        “While approval of Israel among American college students dropped 27% between the group’s 2010 and 2016 surveys, Israel’s approval rating among all Americans dropped 14 points, from 76% to 62%.”

        Furthermore, regarding the USA: http://forward.com/news/ national/376097/study-israel- losing-support-among- democrats-minorities- millennials/ The Forward July 2, 2017 ”Study: Israel Losing Support Among Democrats, Minorities, Millennials ”It appears that the more Americans learn about Israel, the less they like it.”

        The handwriting is on the wall. Around the world, including within the Jewish community, Israel is increasingly viewed as a rogue/pariah. The handwriting is on the wall. It’s only a matter of time.

      • Mooser
        August 15, 2017, 8:49 pm

        “So it represents almost 90% of jews worldwide.”

        And when 90% of Jews worldwide won’t do anything for Zionism, they may still say they support it.
        That costs nothing, and obligates a Jew to nothing.

  2. Boris
    August 10, 2017, 4:04 pm

    STOP THE PRESSES!!!

    Two Jews – one opinion!!!

  3. yourstruly
    August 10, 2017, 4:09 pm

    The only way to make Israel understand that it does not represent Jews worldwide is for the non-Zionist Jews to stay out of the discussion? Is this exclusionary policy to apply not only to non-Zionist but also anti-Zionist Jews such as myself? And this despite Zionism’s call for Jews to “return home” clearly being all-inclusive.? Supposedly our remaining out of the discussion will make Israel understand Jews worldwide? What’s wrong with this ethnocentric approach is that left out is any discussion of the liberation of the Palestinian people from the yolk of Zionist settler colonialism. Presumably not only Jewish non/anti-Zionists but Jewish supporters of Palestinian liberation are to remain silent re: their religion , the better to make Israel understand that it does not represent worldwide Jewry?

    Except Zionist Israel is well aware that American Jewry’s bond to Zionist Israel is gradually weakening. Indeed, Israel’s most likely factored this into its projections as to what lies ahead.

    Instead what it’s concerned about is the growth of the Palestinian liberation movement, with BDS leading the way. And while there’s remarkable diversity within its ranks, a significant Jewish representation is acknowledged. Zionists’ response to this development by branding Jewish anti-Zionists/pro-Palestinians self-haters. But Zionism’s real fear here is not so much Jewish opposition to Israel, but the effect this might have on the indifference if not support that American non-Jews (98% of the population) extend towards Israel. This is because the presence of Jews in the Pal. liberation movement will tend to immunize non-Jews against charges of antisemitism that Zionists are sure to unleash – “but how can I be an antisemite when so many Jews are marching with me.”

    And that’s what this nonsense about what Jews can and cannot say re: Israel & Zionism is all about!

    • Stephen Shenfield
      August 10, 2017, 8:19 pm

      Right. Speaking out as Jews shatters the false stereotypes still peddled by the corporate media, conflating Zionism and Judaism and blaming the conflict on age-old and insuperable religious enmities. It can have a strong positive impact on people encountering an anti-Zionist Jewish viewpoint for the first time.

      Besides, surely we have a right to loud protest against those who impudently seek to speak in our name, misrepresent us, and implicate us in their crimes? Why let them get away with it?

      Incidentally, the thing people used to have to stoop under to show their subjection was a YOKE. A yolk is the yellow stuff in the middle of an egg.

      • yourstruly
        August 10, 2017, 9:05 pm

        thank you, Stephen, for the correction.

  4. DaBakr
    August 11, 2017, 2:11 am

    Shee-suss! This has got to be the stupidest, the most lamely cobbled together, and absolutely the single most “mythical” piece ive read here in years. even pw’s fanciful gushings about the coming onslaught of young anti-zionist jews are far better written then this disaster.

    • Mooser
      August 11, 2017, 1:07 pm

      “This has got to be the stupidest, the most lam…”

      Well, “DaBakr”, you can do one of two things.
      1)You can write a response and mercilessly flay the article on your blog.
      Or, (2) you can simply insist that Mondo take the article down, and pffft!, it’s gone. That takes care of it, and it’ll scare the hell out of the author, too!

    • Misterioso
      August 11, 2017, 6:45 pm

      @DaBakr

      In other words, the truth is getting to you. You ain’t seen anything yet!!

  5. Marnie
    August 11, 2017, 2:34 am

    The zionists are very simple. If you call yourself a jew and say you’re not a zionist or even an anti-zionist, you can’t possibly be a real jew (anyone remember JeffB?) or at best are a self-hating jew, which is what the zionists see when confronted by a jew with a conscience, and guided by that conscience cannot support anything the ‘jewish state’ stands for.

  6. Elizabeth Block
    August 11, 2017, 7:26 pm

    A right to resist Israel as Jews? How about a duty!!!

    As Jews, we are privileged. I can say things, in public, that my Christian friends don’t feel they have the right to say. And I use my privilege. So should we all.

  7. Citizen
    August 11, 2017, 8:27 pm

    I wonder what a Gypsy, Roma would think about all this. As a people they were Holocaust victim # 1, right along with the Jews. Nobody gave them a state for their suffering due to discrimination, which historically has a long history in the West. Two Roma, three opinions?

  8. JoeSmack
    August 12, 2017, 3:15 pm

    “Does a Jew who tries to impact Israel’s policy, even declaredly so, as a Jew, necessarily claim that they have a “much louder voice” than the non-Jewish natives?”

    Uh, yes? Where is Ofir’s answer to this?

    If Gurvitz is arguing that Israelis have more of a say than American Jews by virtue of being Israeli, then I disagree with that. But if Ofir is arguing that American Jews have some sort of special qualification to speak, such as over Palestinian natives or simply other people with an opinion, that is a restatement of Zionism. That is literally what Zionism is. I don’t know how or why Ofir wants to square that circle. Sounds like racism to me.

    • Sibiriak
      August 12, 2017, 4:49 pm

      JoeSmack: But if Ofir is arguing that American Jews have some sort of special qualification to speak, such as over Palestinian natives or simply other people with an opinion….
      ———————–

      That’s a monumentally huge “if”.

      • JoeSmack
        August 13, 2017, 5:06 pm

        Perhaps that’s why the piece was written so ambiguously.

  9. German Lefty
    August 13, 2017, 5:35 pm

    Israeli actor cast in German reality show Big Brother VIP
    Zachi Noy, known in Germany for his role as Yudale in the Eskimo Limon movie franchise, will enter the Big Brother house in Germany for two weeks.
    He said he would not hesitate to do whatever it takes to win the prize, but clarified he hopes to avoid getting into political arguments. “Of course I’ll defend Israel if the need arises, and I hope to also make Israel proud. But I don’t want to go into politics, as I don’t understand much about it, so I hope there won’t be any need for that,” he explained.
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4999010,00.html

  10. echinococcus
    August 13, 2017, 7:42 pm

    Does a Jew who tries to impact Israel’s policy, even declaredly so, as a Jew, necessarily claim that they have a “much louder voice” than the non-Jewish natives?

    You’re damn tootin’ right: heshe is doing just that.
    Moreover, if said “Jew” is not religious, shehe necessarily aligns himself with Jewish nationalism, a political ideology without any objective basis, of which Zionism is an offshoot.

    It is understandable that the public at large, with its collective brain addled by a century of Zopaganda, may at times be more impressed when any opponents of Zionism are “Jewish”. Is that a good enough reason to give in to the enemy?

    Speaking of enemy, even with some sterling anti-Zionist characters still calling themselves “Jewish”, how good is the idea of disproportionate tribal influence when we know that the tribe is overwhelmingly Zionist?

  11. Emet
    August 15, 2017, 5:07 am

    Have the right to resit, yes, but then also give up the right to visit Israel again.

    By the way, American Jewish lefties have not caught on to the fact the likes of Jonathan Ofir pose a threat to them as well. Ofir wants nothing to do with Judaism. He does not see himself as a Jew. He is a disgruntled Israeli living in Denmark. So the “American Jews” mentioned in this article are on their way out.

    • Mooser
      August 15, 2017, 12:20 pm

      Whoa, “Emet” that’s some pretty nasty blackmail material you got there. Those charges ought to shut Mr. Ofir right up. “Wants nothing to do with Judaism”! Strong stuff.

      • Emet
        August 15, 2017, 5:05 pm

        Mooser, either you or Ofir know what I meant. I’ll give you a hint. It was not you.

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