I often say that J Street does not represent the rank and file of those it claims to lead, liberal Jews. Last month at J Street’s conference, a UCLA senior stood at a panel to ask about the space for non-Zionism inside Jewish life. He said that his own skepticism about Zionism is not welcomed inside organized Judaism, even in synagogues, “which are supposed to be a place of religious expression and not political expression.”
Later I talked to him. The video is above. He gave me his last name, Liu, and said that he finds that Zionism has replaced the belief in God, the Ten Commandments, and Halakhah (the moral laws), as the core of organized Jewish religion. And: “that’s idolatry.” Jewish organizations are promoting “Jewish nationalism… promoting ethnocentrism and ethnic-based relations [over religious norms].”
I asked him where he stands on the Zionist/anti-Zionist issue.
“I’m not a Zionist in that I think the founding of Israel was a mistake.” Liu would have sought greater justice and compensation for Jews in Europe from European countries that fostered the Holocaust, not Arab countries.
After that, he explained his resistance to the idea of one state in Israel and Palestine. At the end I ask him about pressure on him to go to Israel, or move there. He said:
“I’ve already been to Israel, so my skepticism of Zionism stemmed from that first trip to Israel, where I heard blatant racism on the part of the people, friends, and exchange students I was with.”
Nonetheless, as an American Jew he feels “attachment to the conflict.” And so he means to address it in his professional life.