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Long past time to reclaim Judaism from Zionism


“Do you think Judaism will ever recover from having been hijacked by Zionism?” a friend recently asked me.

I have wrestled with a similar question for many years: how can the ethical precepts of Judaism—pursue justice, love your neighbor, love the stranger, repair the world—be reconciled with Zionism? Any Judaism I can believe in is at odds with this nationalist ideology, which claims that only a state controlled by Jews and privileging them over non-Jews can protect them against anti-Semitism and the threat of another Holocaust.

I did not always realize this.  When I was growing up in Tokyo, Japan, in the 1950s, I thought Judaism consisted only of rituals performed with Hebrew prayers and allegiance to the newly established state of Israel. Our small Jewish community, made up mainly of Ashkenazi emigres from Siberia like my father’s family and of Sephardi emigres from Syria and Lebanon, together with Israeli Embassy staff and American businesspeople, did not have a rabbi.

Perhaps that is why, instead of Judaism’s key ethical tenets, our Sunday School class was taught the story of Israel’s heroic founding, as recounted in Leon Uris’s novel “Exodus.”  No wonder I confused Zionism with Judaism, mistaking a political ideology of Jewish nationalism born in the late nineteenth century for an ancient religion rooted in the Torah and the Talmud.

The cover of Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation

The cover of Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation

Not until Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon did I begin to question my idealized image of Israel and, ultimately, the premise of Zionism.  Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Beirut, shelling of hospitals, and collusion with Lebanese Phalangist militias in massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps shook me to the core.

Struggling to digest these atrocities, I went to a teach-in. The main speaker contrasted Israel’s boasts of “making the desert bloom” with its destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes and olive trees. My stomach in knots, I recoiled from her message. Only when I learned that she was not Palestinian but an Israeli Jewish human rights lawyer could I let her words penetrate my consciousness.

Back then, disputing Zionism felt very scary. It certainly isolated me from friends and family. I did not know that at the start of the Zionist movement, most Jews worldwide had opposed it. Even throughout World War II, Jewish opponents of Zionism continued to hold up an alternative vision for Palestine of a secular democratic state in which all citizens would enjoy equal rights. In 1947, they demanded freedom for the region’s “entire population” and a guarantee of “the national rights of both communities,” Jewish and Arab.

Although by 1948 the Holocaust convinced a majority that a Jewish state offered the best protection for Jews, Israel’s decades of ethnic cleansing and unending warfare—and Palestinians’ tenacious resistance—have since led me to understand that a Jewish state was a false solution to the quest for safety.

Over the years, I met more and more Jews who were questioning Zionist ideology. In 2016, the idea occurred to me of collecting their stories so others contending with the same doubts could know they were not alone. I designed the collection as a vehicle for initiating difficult conversations within Jewish families and communities, through stories with which readers could identify.

I began with a handful of acquaintances. Then I solicited narratives from people who told personal stories at public events, or wrote insightful op-eds, articles, or letters to the editor. I found more contributors when those I recruited spread the word through their networks.

To ensure that the collection reflected diverse backgrounds and perspectives, I made special efforts to seek out Sephardi/Mizrahi as well as Ashkenazi Jewish contributors. And in view of the leading role that college-age Jews are playing in the Palestine solidarity movement, I worked hard to enlist them. I ended up with forty fresh and deeply personal accounts.  This year, the book came to fruition, under the title Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation.

The collection defies the stereotype of Jews who reject Zionism as “self-hating.”  On the contrary, it reveals that many remain religious and observant, while others take pride in a secular Jewish identity intertwined with their progressive ideals. The authors include rabbis, historians of Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, other academics, lawyers, social workers, journalists and media professionals, activists, and recent graduates. Whether religious or secular, they have come to see Zionism as violating Judaism’s most sacred ethical principles.

The Torah commands Jews: “The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:34).   Zionist ideology instead teaches Jews to treat Palestinians as strangers in their own land, enemies who must be expelled.

It is long past time to reclaim Judaism from Zionism, long past time for all who value the ethics of Judaism—or of simple humanity—to repudiate any ideology that denies Palestinians equality, freedom, and dignity.

Carolyn L. Karcher

Carolyn L. Karcher is Professor Emerita of English, American Studies, and Women’s Studies at Temple University, where she received the Great Teacher Award and the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2002. She is the author or editor of eight books about the fight for racial and gender equality in nineteenth-century America. Her latest book, Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation, has just been published by Olive Branch Press of Interlink Books.

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52 Responses

  1. just on June 7, 2019, 2:11 pm

    Hi Carolyn, and thanks for the article. I read something yesterday that I believe is appropriate to post here:

    “This Chicago Synagogue Commemorates Nakba Day, Not Israeli Independence Day …

    If a pro-Israel activist were to conjure an image of an anti-Zionist synagogue, they’d probably come up with something like Tzedek Chicago.

    A congregation of 180 people that meets in a church basement, Tzedek Chicago’s “Core Values” declare that it’s non-Zionist. In practice, though, that means an explicit emphasis on advocating for Palestinian rights and criticizing Israel’s conduct. Those themes were woven throughout its service last Yom Kippur — from the rabbi’s sermon to the Torah service to the liturgy itself.

    Discussing the biblical story of Jacob and Esau, a speaker said that Esau, the scorned older brother, experienced a “personal Nakba,” the name Palestinians use for the catastrophe they commemorate on the anniversary of Israel’s independence. The sermon was about a recent trip to Gaza. For the Martyrology, a section of the service that traditionally commemorates Jews who died for their faith, the synagogue instead memorialized Gazans who died in clashes with Israel on the border.

    And in addition to atoning for personal misdeeds, the congregants collectively beat their chests to repent for Israel’s actions.

    “For the sin we have committed before you for blockading 1.8 million Gazans inside an open-air prison,” the congregation recited. “For the sin we have committed before you for wedding sacred Jewish spiritual tradition to political nationalism and militarism.”

    Even as they disagree over whether God exists or where the Torah comes from, synagogues across the country of all denominations take supporting Israel as a matter of course. Many recite prayers for the state and its army. It’s standard to see Israeli and American flags flanking the front of synagogue sanctuaries. AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, welcomes hundreds of synagogue delegations to its annual conference.

    Tzedek Chicago was born of a desire to escape all of that. But the synagogue doesn’t disengage from Israeli-Palestinian discourse. It goes in the opposite direction. There are no flags at the front of the sanctuary, and instead of celebrating Israeli Independence Day, they commemorate Nakba Day.

    “There were no places for Jews — we believe there are a significant number of them — who either were not Zionist or were engaged actively in Palestinian solidarity work and really wanted their social justice identity to be expressed through the life of the congregation,” Tzedek Chicago Rabbi Brant Rosen said. “We state specifically that one of our values is we do not celebrate the fusion of Jewish tradition and political nationalism.”

    Rosen, 56, once was a liberal Zionist serving as rabbi of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in suburban Chicago. He’s also the past president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. But successive trips to Israel and Palestinian areas, especially surrounding Israeli wars in Gaza, led him to affiliate with Jewish Voice for Peace, which advocates a boycott of Israel and identifies as anti-Zionist. Rosen is the co-founder of JVP’s rabbinical council.

    After the 2014 war in Gaza, Rosen says “it became impossible for me to do my work anymore,” and he resigned from his former synagogue. He and a group of former congregants founded Tzedek Chicago the next year. Rosen says it’s loosely affiliated with JVP.

    During the week, Rosen is the Midwest Regional director for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that supports the boycott Israel movement and draws frequent criticism from pro-Israel voices, including for its role in co-hosting a peace dinner in 2008 featuring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. …

    … “It is not particularly Shabbesdik to bring that level of protest into Shabbat, which should be about renewal and replenishment and rejuvenation,” Rosen says.

    But for some members, non-Zionism is an inherent part of that rejuvenation. Uncomfortable in nearly every other synagogue they’ve encountered, they say they finally feel at home.

    “It felt like an LGBTQ person coming out of the closet,” said Lesley Williams, a JVP member who belongs to Tzedek Chicago. “We were able to say who we are without being judged or ostracized or kicked out of the Jewish community.””

    • Misterioso on June 8, 2019, 8:37 am

      @just et al

      Here’s an example of a righteous, gutsy Rabbi reclaiming “Judaism from Zionism.”

      Must watch, just received from Canada:

      Rabbi David Mivasair, a true hero of the Palestinian cause, just returned from a visit to “Israel” and occupied Palestine. Here is a two part video in which he discusses what he experienced:

      An “Arresting” talk with Rabbi David Mivasair

      1 of 2:

      2 of 2:

      “On Monday, May 27, Rabbi David Mivasair explained to a full-house audience his recent trip to Hebron area to repair a Palestinian road. He was arrested by the Israeli military, along with more than a dozen fellow Jewish and Palestinian activists.

      “Using many photos, the good Rabbi described the systematic discrimination, segregation, ethnic cleansing, and oppression of the Palestinians. He also offered several ways in which Canadians could help the Palestinian cause, especially in the context of the upcoming Canadian federal election.

      “Now YOU can listen to David’s hit lecture, organized hastily as soon as word was out of David’s arrest.”

      • hipocampelo on June 8, 2019, 5:18 pm

        Misterioso: Thank you very much for the breath of fresh air videos.
        I am a first generation American, and most of my tribe is scattered
        all around the world. No matter where I am, I have a relative.

      • Maghlawatan on June 8, 2019, 9:08 pm

        That dude is from the Tzedek congregation

        The clue is in the name

        Deuteronomy: ‘tzedek, tzedek, tirdof’ — ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue.’

        Zionism isn’t based on tzedek
        It’s settler colonialism so it’s based on violence

        All of the Jewish holiday stories are based on Tzedek and the fight against tyranny.

        Palestinians are left with no say in the laws governing them. That is tyranny .

        Israel is a tyranny

        You can’t triangulate between tyranny and Tzedek

        Something will give.

        Another way of looking at it


        quasi-monopolies of geopolitical power are self-liquidating. Other states improve their economic, and then their political and cultural, positions and become less willing to accept the “leadership” of the erstwhile hegemonic power. »

        With BDS, the elections, the Eurovision, the millennials turning away, , Bernie Sanders taking about Palestinians, the new IHRA definition etc, Zionism is in a structural crisis

        The primary characteristic of a structural crisis is chaos.

        In a structural crisis, the only certainty is that the existing system cannot survive

        Nobody asked Israel to occupy what remained of Palestine in 1967

        This is a self made Götterdämmerung

  2. Citizen on June 7, 2019, 5:06 pm

    Here’s An article from The Israeli Press That Is Outlawed In Many US anti-BDS States (& of course, in Germany): Neither Israel’s nor Germany’s slide into fascism was accidental

  3. LiberatePalestine on June 7, 2019, 7:01 pm

    → our Sunday School class was taught the story of Israel’s heroic founding, as recounted in Leon Uris’s novel “Exodus.”

    Oppressors typically see themselves in a «heroic» light. Read about the triumphalism that attended the English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Dutch conquest of the Americas. A few isolated invaders (Bartolomé de las Casas comes to mind) opposed and denounced the settler-colonial project, just as a few isolated Israëlis oppose and denounce the settler-colonial Zionist entity. Most, however, were happy to profit from the spoliation, subjugation, and decimation of other peoples.

    Uris’s «novel» is a tissue of lies designed to heroicise what was nothing but a brazen genocidal conquest enabled by British imperialism.

    • DaBakr on June 8, 2019, 12:14 am


      Uris’s account is definitely the super Hollywood treatment of events. However inaccurate his ‘epic’ and fictional account is, the general outline of historical events is not that far off from the truth. Both Jewish and Arab scholars have corrected most of the biggest omissions without resorting to outlandish distortions of events from both perspectives. Zionists that truly believe the ‘exodus’ version of the story are as clueless, mediocre minded true believing as the zionist hating jew disliking MW posters. It’s a messy history like all history

      • Misterioso on June 8, 2019, 10:13 am


        “However inaccurate his ‘epic’ and fictional account is, the general outline of historical events is not that far off from the truth.”

        Spare us your nonsense regarding Leon Uris’s mountain of mendacity, his book and resulting movie “Exodus”, starring handsome Paul Newman and beautiful blonde haired Eva Marie Saint. It was a carefully planned con job overflowing with misrepresentations by omission along with out right lies and distortions of the truth designed to gain the support of average Americans who at the time knew and cared little about Zionism and its spawn, “Israel.”

        “In 2001, Edward Said called Leon Uris’s 1958 novel Exodus: ‘The main narrative model that [still] dominates American thinking’ about Israel. As Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston put it more recently (2012), in an article entitled ‘The ‘Exodus’ effect: The monumentally fictional Israel that remade American Jewry,’ Uris’s narrative ‘Tailor[ed], alter[ed] and radically sanitize[ed] the history of the founding of the State of Israel to flatter the fantasies and prejudices of American Jews.’ Burston quotes American Zionist Jeffrey Goldberg, who served in the IDF as a prison guard, to the effect that ‘Exodus … made American Jews proud of Israel’s achievements. On the other hand, it created the impression that all Arabs are savages.’ And he quotes none other than David Ben-Gurion: ‘As a literary work it isn’t much…But as a piece of propaganda, it’s the best thing ever written about Israel.’

        “Of course, even more Americans owe their education in Zionism to Otto Preminger’s 1960 movie version of the book, which has been ‘Widely characterized as a ‘Zionist epic’ [that was] enormously influential in stimulating Zionism and support for Israel in the United States.’ It was Exodus, the movie, that really viralized (as we say now) the “Exodus-effect.” (The Polemicist, Sept. 22, 2014, “Israel’s Human ‘Shield Hypocrisy,’ The Early Days”)

        “Yet Exodus was not the product of a virgin birth; its origin has been described by a public relations practitioner named Art Stevens in a book called The Persuasion Explosion. He writes that ‘skillful public relations can speed up the acceptance of a concept whose time has come. A striking example of this involved eminent public relations consultant Edward Gottlieb. In the early 1950s, when the newly formed State of Israel was struggling for recognition in the court of world opinion, America was largely apathetic. Gottlieb, who at that time headed his own public relations firm, suddenly had a hunch about how to create a more sympathetic attitude towards Israel. He chose a writer and sent him to Israel with instructions to soak up the atmosphere of the country and create a novel about it. The book turned out to be Exodus by Leon Uris. His novel did more to popularize Israel with the American public than any other single presentation through the media.'” (Art Stevens, The Persuasion Explosion, Washington, D.C; Acropolis Books, 1985, pp. 104-105).

        “Stevens notes that unhappily for Uris’s pretensions to objectivity, Uris became carried away by the passion of his own propaganda. He followed Exodus with another book on the Middle East called The Haj, which an Israeli reviewer in the Jerusalem Post described as ‘a raving diatribe against Arabs, their culture and their religion,’ adding that it ‘depicts Arabs in a manner that would make Meir Kahane blush.'” (“The Passionate Attachment: America’s Involvement with Israel, 1947 to the Present,” by George W. Ball, undersecretary of state in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, US ambassador to the UN, and his son, Douglas, (W.W. Norton and Company, Inc. New York, N.Y., 1992, p. 200 and p. 348.)

      • bcg on June 9, 2019, 3:33 pm

        @DeBakr: “Exodus” has nothing whatsoever to do with history, it’s advertising, it serves the same function as the ads you see on TV hawking the latest Lexus or wrinkle cream. The overwhelming majority of people don’t read history, they respond to advertising on a gut level. That’s the function of “Exodus’ the movie and the book, and so far it’s been pretty successful.

        Only relatively recently are people coming to their senses.

      • Mooser on June 9, 2019, 4:27 pm

        “Exodus” has nothing whatsoever to do with history, it’s advertising,”

        And that is something Jews are expert in, selling ourselves.

  4. Danaa on June 8, 2019, 4:41 am

    the ethical precepts of Judaism—pursue justice, love your neighbor, love the stranger, repair the world—be reconciled with Zionism?

    Since when have these been precepts of judaism? these values cited by Carolyne (per her Sunday school) are Christian values that were frankly “grafted” unto Judaism in the US, to beget a nicer, gentler religion.

    Judaism of the Old testament is a nasty, violent, brutish and intolerant religion through and through. The Talmud tried to make things a bit more “gentle” but only because it came about when Jews did not have power. The minute they got power, as they did in israel, they resorted to the same kind of racism, supremacism, brutality and intolerance that their precious “Torah” teaches.

    Oh yes, there’s that “justice” and “Love thy neighbour” – but it only ever applied to the jewish ones, originally. Even in the US, despite the Reform’s attempts to teach a more civilized and enlightened version of Judaism, at the end they only came up with something very similar to Christianity (may be not the catholic version, but certainly the presbitarian and other kinder, more inclusive protestant versions).

    As for that “love the stranger” bit, well, we can talk about that another day, as space will hardly suffice to puncture that balloon – it’s got so darn big over the years.

    Frankly, the best thing a jewish person who wants to help Palestinians can do (and that’s the only worthwhile thing for them to do), is to renounce Judaism itself,. Not just as the root of the sheer evil that became israel, but as an ethnic, genetically derived system one is born into. The religion that beget the zealot form of zionism is so steeped in the ingredients that turned it toxic that its very essence will also make it impossible to cleanse. There’s simply no way to launder this particular religion and turn it into something “pure” ….simply because judaism, at its core, is about a deeply tribal ethnic identity. which then gets mixed up with history of special people who were sometimes persecuted as minorities ever were.

    The key word here is “special”. That is why they had to invent a special expression “anti-semitism” to describe simple bigotry. Because they remain “special”, whether they ride high or fall low. But drop the special and what remains of the jew?

    Actually, I could bring the bible as my witness, including all the endless repetitive ramblings of those so-called prophets. In the end, if you strip the flowery mambo-jumbo, all that remains of Isiah or Jeremiah is the ‘special”.

    So, Carolyne, what is it exactly that makes your version of the “nice” non-zionist Judaism different than any one of a number of equal Christian value systems? that you don’t believe jesus was a god? that’s it? kind of like the shiites differ from sunnis because of some succession issues?

    Many good Christians are not that much into jesus anyways. So where’s the difference in terms of values? what do you believe in as a Jew that they don’t?

    I have a feeling i’m gonna have to wait a while for an answer on this one, alas (though I don’t mind being proven wrong! at least on this).

    • Keith on June 8, 2019, 4:08 pm

      DANAA- “these values cited by Carolyne (per her Sunday school) are Christian values that were frankly “grafted” unto Judaism in the US, to beget a nicer, gentler religion.”

      Nicer sounding perhaps, however, I am a firm believer that actions speak louder than words and any honest examination of “Christian” US history, including its current manifestation as empire, will quickly demonstrate the underlying values of our elite run society which emphasize militarism and warfare and an utter disdain for our victims. Any “anti-Zionist” who isn’t an anti-imperialist is a hypocrite.

      DANAA- “what do you believe in as a Jew that they don’t?”

      Tribalism and kinship nepotism? Jewishness is relationship oriented, and Zionism a return to the peoplehood of Classical Judaism in secular garb.

      • Danaa on June 8, 2019, 5:39 pm

        I am reading Sapiens now by Hariri. Some of his observations on Chimp society and our human precursors sound awfully familiar.

        I may be cynical about the “values” of Judaism (as you are about the “values” of Christianity, cf. more easily said than done) but I have been lately irritated by these American jewish fine souls (mostly American) who insist on reading a universal principle into Judaism. A principle that was frankly, orthogonal to the religion in the first place. That’s why it always has an odd sound to it – this “love thy neighbour’ stuff, especially..

        The thing to understand about most highly educated American Jews who consider themselves “cultured” and “liberal” is that they, for the most part, have very little idea of where Judaism came from, cf. that precious old testament document. Yes, the more orthodox ones study some stuff, but even for them it’s always filtered, abridged and “explained through caveats”.

        That’s why I chuckle at the peter Beinarts of this country, these fine Americans who think their jewishness can be made “whole” by simply being critical of israel and/or its lobby.

        Therein lies the difference between israelis and American jews. In israel we did study the Tanakh pretty much as written, unadorned and unfiltered. It does not read the same in Hebrew and in English, the latter being far “softer”, especially as the translations cannot be done without interpretation. That’s why people like me – and likely Gilad, and certainly someone like Yossi Gurvitz who was a yeshiva boy, level such harsh judgement upon the religion itself, not just the zionistic culture it beget.

        It could be that people like Carolyn simply don’t know because they didn’t read the core, only the wrappings. Which are American made, for the most part. So no, she wouldn’t get that Judaism at its core and essence is an exclusivist religion. Virtually by definition. That is the whole meaning of ‘chosen” as in “chosen to be separate”. To bring universal human rights into Judaism is to effectively Christianize it (cf. early christianity not modern day practice). It is Paul who turned Judaism into Christianity by doing just that, which is why the jews (cf. the orthodox crowd) hate him so (which they do).

        Alas, the Christians in the process of universalizing an exclusivist chauvinistic religion felt they had to come up with another god figure, so they elevated jesus to that august position. The rest is history.

        May be I’ll try to run this comment as a post, just to see if they’ll let me. My one saving grace is that I can’t come from a theologialc scholarly position, as I am decidedly not that. After all, I’ve been on about this issue through some of Marc Ellis’ posts, so I must have had that beef with the religion for some time.

        Also may be I’m just not so cynical yet as to give up on proper come backs. It’s still worth it to me. Besides, it’s a chapter in my little book (sort of…..more humorously), and I can use some polishing of the silverware.

      • Keith on June 9, 2019, 1:04 pm

        DANAA- ” To bring universal human rights into Judaism is to effectively Christianize it (cf. early christianity not modern day practice).”

        Indeed, the nature of Reform Judaism at the start of the 20th century was to facilitate assimilation by detaching Reform Judaism from Jewish peoplehood turning it into just another religion similar to Protestant Christianity. With the trauma of the Holocaust and the success of Zionism, however, peoplehood is back in full force. In the Jewish state, separation and discrimination is both physical and obvious. In the multicultural US where Jews are only 2% of the population, Jewish separateness is ideological and psychological, manifestations of kinship subtle but real. In a very real sense, Israel is a window on the nature of Classical (medieval) Judaism.

        DANAA- “… but I have been lately irritated by these American jewish fine souls (mostly American) who insist on reading a universal principle into Judaism.”

        This is one of the reasons that I continue to quote Israel Shahak and recommend his “Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years.” Alas, my recommendation appears to have had little impact. That is why the testimony of Israeli expats like you are important. There is nothing universal about Classical Judaism which is why Reform Judaism is virtually non-existent in Israel. Zionist Judaism is inherently sectarian, obvious in Israel, less apparent in the US.

        As to whether Judaism, particularly Reform Judaism, can be reclaimed from Zionism, theoretically yes, however, the process would be extremely difficult. Without the Holocaust, Zionism would never have succeeded in creating a Jewish state in Palestine. The success of the Zionists in exploiting the Holocaust to essentially commandeer organized American Jewry, including organized Judaism, has created a Zionized version of Judaism as part of an overall kinship network which has been highly successful in reuniting Jews as a people. In order to better understand the process, I highly recommend “Stranger at Home: “The Holocaust,” Zionism, and American Judaism” by Jacob Neusner (a Zionist theologian).

      • Boris on June 9, 2019, 3:09 pm

        Frankly, the best thing a jewish person who wants to help Palestinians can do (and that’s the only worthwhile thing for them to do), is to renounce Judaism itself


        Tell it to these self-loving mosers!

      • Mooser on June 9, 2019, 4:41 pm


        ROTFLMSJAO!! It never, ever fails. If there is one thing Zionists are totally convinced of, it is that there are too many Jews.

        “Boris”, how many Jews does Judaism need to get rid of to be the equal in numbers to the major religions?

      • Boris on June 9, 2019, 11:33 pm

        … how many Jews does Judaism need to get rid of

        A complete question should be – how many Jews does Judaism need to get rid of if Judaism could get rid of Jews?

        Mu-mu, I told you many times – Jew is something one is born with — Jewish genes.

        That’s why this article and discussion is totally stupid — Zionism is a secular movement of Jewish people. So, it is not based on religion.

        It just happened that Judaism was (I guess still is) a religion of Jewish people, and it does remain a cultural artifact.

        Thus, Judaism and Zionism belong to Jews, but they are not connected directly.

      • Mooser on June 10, 2019, 11:11 am

        “– Jew is something one is born with — Jewish genes.”

        Stored, without doubt, in the bump in our noses. No wonder the Jewish birth-rate is down.

        “Thus, Judaism and Zionism belong to Jews, but they are not connected directly.”

        I would hardly call common genetics an “indirect connection”.
        Sharing genes is about as connected as you can get.

    • Citizen on June 9, 2019, 3:34 am

      Wilhelm Marr first popularized the term “anti-semitism,” but I don’t know who invented it or coined it as a demarcation.

    • philweiss on June 9, 2019, 10:43 am

      Danaa, I’m disturbed by your ruthless dismissal of Judaism as essentially tribal, and it can’t be cleansed or laundered, etc. You even say it’s essentially that way. These are all phrases that applied to Islam would earn the writer the characterization Islamophobic, and I’m half-tempted to take the comment down right now as anti-Semitic, — or try and cleanse the offensive bits — though I know your path to this point and respect that. But really, why is Judaism different from so many other human inventions that if they have an essential badness to them it is the badness of human beings, not Jews qua Jews, or Christians qua Christians? Why aren’t cultures like this one– the one that made you and me — fluid and adaptable and even capable of progress? Doesnt JVP have a fair claim to being Jewish too, in a way I am very proud of? Phil

      • LiberatePalestine on June 9, 2019, 11:03 am

        I agree with Phil Weiss. It’s fair to opine that Judaism has developed into a tribal phænomenon, but Danaa’s comments are over the top. Apparently Danaa is testing the limits: «May be I’ll try to run this comment as a post, just to see if they’ll let me.» More analysis and less vitriol would be welcome.

      • Mooser on June 9, 2019, 1:10 pm

        “These are all phrases that applied to … “

        …the door of a Catholic cathedral by Luther, sparked the Reformation.

      • Danaa on June 9, 2019, 2:36 pm

        Phil, sorry, I was annoyed because it all feels so utterly pointless to me by now. On one side people trying to release Judaism from the bondage of zionism. Ok, I can see why, and normally i’d cheer the process on. OTOH, I have to imagine myself a Palestinian reading all this and wondering – what about us? what good will it do to us – in the next year, or 5 or ten?

        Anyways, I know I was harsh but that’s what happens when hope fades – not for israel which seems to be doing just fine (even as they sink ever deeper into the morass of their own making) but for a future for the Palestinians. History, when written 50 years for now may well uphold groups like JVP and Code Pink for bravely fighting against deadly injustice, but the majority of American jews living now, even the best of them, even you and me, will end up with a share of the collective blame. So I may just be channeling some of things that’ll be said some day long from now, after the Palestinians will have suffered the final acts of dispossession.

        Of course, I may be wrong and a miracle will happen. I just don’t see it anywhere in sight. So while some can keep their equanimity while witnessing dire and brutal happenings of what humans do to other humans, I don’t have the temperament for such.

        Anyways, feel free to expunge my comment. Tomorrow is another day and perhaps hope will return. Ahed Tamimi (great interview recently) is what gives me hope today.

        PS I still maintain the old testament, the tanakh is what it is. That’s what the reform minded jews should reckon with a little more because that’s what israel really harkens back to. I don’t mean every single book is genocidal but every single book and every chapter celebrates, cajoles and preaches “separateness” as a supreme value. I see this kind of reckoning in certain individuals (may be Ellis who’s trying to come to terms with it), but the concept is deep and needs to be tackled with more depth by many American jewish reformers.

      • Keith on June 9, 2019, 3:09 pm

        PHIL- “Danaa, I’m disturbed by your ruthless dismissal of Judaism as essentially tribal, and it can’t be cleansed or laundered, etc.”

        Ruthless? Danaa’s polemic is in response to Carolyn Karcher’s ahistorical nonsense about rescuing Judaism’s ethical precepts from Zionism. The reality is that it is only recently that the enlightened Reform Judaism movement developed anything resembling liberal values. Prior to this there was the long period of Classical Judaism which began somewhere around 800 CE and lasted for about 1000 years. Classical Judaism still exists in a somewhat modernized form as Orthodox Judaism, the primary (only?) Judaism of Israel. In other words, Carolyn Karcher is misrepresenting the history of Judaism, particularly Israeli Judaism, and Danaa is responding emotionally. I might add that the beliefs of Classical (medieval) Judaism were significant factors in Jew/Gentile relations during a long history. Also, the current support of even Reform Jews for Zionism is an acceptance of Classical Judaism’s beliefs reworked into a secular Blood and Soil framework. The whole concept of Birthright is classic Jewish tribalism whether it encompasses Israel or merely forms the identity of secular Jews. As for renouncing Judaism, I am under the impression that about one-half of US Jews consider themselves secular Jews. I don’t see that this had made much of a difference. Besides, religion has been around a long time and will likely be around long after I am gone so that change seems the more viable option. This is what the Reform movement attempted but Zionism and the Holocaust ended (at least temporarily) that approach.

      • echinococcus on June 9, 2019, 4:27 pm


        Where, exactly, is “the top”, what are the objective criteria to know it’s been reached or passed? Why is it a problem being “over” it, especially if one is presenting a fact or a logical opinion? Why shouldn’t it be a good thing to be over the top? Why not use vitriol, a very useful chemical for several tasks?

      • Mooser on June 9, 2019, 5:32 pm

        I hope I’m still around when the newly revived “Classical Judaism ” bumps up against the Jewish out-marriage rate.
        That should be a dramatic confrontation.

      • slandau38 on June 10, 2019, 11:49 am

        Phil, nice job covering your ass. I realize that you are on the line here personally, and that Danaa’s bean-spilling could cause you serious trouble. I saw the video where you slap down the unhinged lady who said Jews deserved the Holocaust, so you clearly see yourself as a protector of red lines. I just can’t figure out whether your motives are understandably self-protective, or whether Aunt Goldie is having the intended retroactive effect.

    • Mooser on June 9, 2019, 12:16 pm

      “Frankly, the best thing a jewish person who wants to help Palestinians can do (and that’s the only worthwhile thing for them to do), is to renounce Judaism itself”

      No, surely not that! There must be some other way. There must be.

      • Danaa on June 9, 2019, 2:38 pm

        Oh well. See my reply to Phil who admonished me most severely. I was mad and couldn’t take it any more.

      • Mooser on June 9, 2019, 6:36 pm

        “Oh well”

        If only Judaism had been made for Jews, instead of Jews being made for Judaism, perhaps something could be done.

      • Danaa on June 9, 2019, 8:25 pm

        If only Judaism had been made for Jews, instead of Jews being made for Judaism

        Now this is deeper than meets the eye (though surely you did not intend to dabble in depth where creatures – of the deep – abound…) . May be “some” should take note?

      • RoHa on June 9, 2019, 8:41 pm

        Why are you worried, Mooser? You haven’t been a Jew for years. I remember that commenter eee gave you the Spinoza treatment a long time ago.

      • Mooser on June 10, 2019, 11:16 am

        “You haven’t been a Jew for years.”

        What are you talking about? I was submerged in a warm beef broth just last night.

  5. RayJosephCormier on June 8, 2019, 9:36 am

    Reading this leads me to the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
    The notion Zionism is not Judaism expressed in this article, is confirmed in verse 9 in both the 2nd and 3rd Chapters of the Revelation.

    [9] I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but you are rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
    Revelation 2

    [9] Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.
    Revelation 3

    Believing in the Universal Jewishness of Christ, logic should tell us that same wording could be applied to Christians and Muslims these 2000 years later.

  6. Brewer on June 8, 2019, 2:51 pm

    Also time to reclaim History from Judaism/Christianity:
    “A city gate from the time of King David was discovered after 32 years of excavation in the ancient city of Bethsaida in the Golan Heights’ Jordan Park, opening up a world of new possibilities, opinions and theories about the ancient landscape of the Land of Israel.
    ……Findings presented by the researchers point to the possibility that Bethsaida was not an Israelite kingdom but instead an Aramaic one. Within the city limits of Bethsaida, there was a stone stele bearing the image of their bull-shaped moon god, which dates back to the 11th century BCE. This monument is one of seven other similar tombstones found from the ancient world, from southern Turkey to Egypt. Two have been found in Bethsaida alone.”

    • LiberatePalestine on June 8, 2019, 7:50 pm

      The Zionists have succeeded in selling the lie that only Jews were present in Palestine at the start of the Common Era. There were in fact many other populations, including the ancestors of the Palestinians. In the linguistic department, the Jews had indeed assimilated to their neighbours: most Jews spoke Aramaic, some also spoke Greek, but Hebrew had been relegated to the status of a liturgical language.

      Jews, however defined, would have no collective claim to Palestine even if they had been the sole inhabitants of Palestine two thousand years ago. But back then they were just one group among many.

      • Mayhem on June 11, 2019, 8:45 pm

        @LiberatePalestine, of course there were many peoples living in Palestina but one thing for sure is that the ancestors of the Palestinians were not amongst them. The confected Palestinian identity is a 20th century phenomenon.

      • LiberatePalestine on June 11, 2019, 9:04 pm

        Nonsense. The Canaanite ancestors of the Palestinians were in Palestine before Judaism existed.

      • Mayhem on June 12, 2019, 8:44 pm

        @LiberatePalestine, total nonsense from you that the Palestinians come from the Canaanites.
        Checkout Ancient DNA solves mystery of the Canaanites, reveals the biblical people’s fate
        “The geneticists sequenced the Canaanite genome and compared it to genomes of modern people, including Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and others from around the world. The comparison revealed that 90 percent of the genetic ancestry of people in Lebanon came from the Canaanites. “

      • LiberatePalestine on June 13, 2019, 2:12 am

        What you have quoted does not contradict my claim.

      • Mayhem on June 18, 2019, 8:14 pm

        @LiberatePalestine, get this into your thick skull:
        MYTH – The Palestinians are descendants of the Canaanites.
        FACT – Palestinian claims to be related to the Canaanites are a recent phenomenon and contrary to historical evidence. The Canaanites disappeared three millennia ago, and no one knows if any of their descendants survived or, if they did, who they would be.
        Over the last two thousand years, there have been massive invasions (e.g., the Crusades), migrations, the plague, and other man-made or natural disasters that killed off most of the local people. The entire local population has been replaced many times over. During the British Mandate alone, more than one hundred thousand Arabs emigrated from neighboring countries and are today considered Palestinians.
        Sherif Hussein, the guardian of the Islamic Holy Places in Arabia, said the Palestinians’ ancestors had only been in the area for one thousand years.11 Even the Palestinians themselves have acknowledged
        their association with the region came long after the Jews. In testimony before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, for example, they claimed a connection to Palestine of more than one thousand years, dating back no further than the conquest of Muhammad’s followers in the seventh century.
        By contrast, no serious historian questions the more than three thousand-year-old Jewish connection to the land of Israel, or the modern Jewish people’s relation to the ancient Hebrews.
        We know that some of those who live in our villages are Jews who converted to Islam after the Muslim conquests beginning in the 7th century, and most of us are the descendants of foreign workers who came to British Mandate of Palestine from the various Arab countries in
        the wake of the Zionist enterprise. By trying to trace our “ancestry” to the Canaanites, we lie to ourselves and demonstrate our silliness and self-deception to the world. And when we try to claim that Jesus was a Palestinian, we make ourselves an international laughing stock.
        —Bassam Tawil

        Refer Myths and Facts – A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

      • LiberatePalestine on June 19, 2019, 3:12 am

        When you have learnt to speak civilly, I shall consider continuing this discussion. I will not, however, tolerate personal abuse.

      • MHughes976 on June 19, 2019, 8:35 am

        There is no archaeological evidence of anything as drastic as total or even massive replacement of population at any time in the history of Canaan/Palestine, though it does seem that over the centuries before Herodotus ‘Palestine’ somehow took over from ‘Canaan’ as the most commonly used name.
        Eric Cline – ‘1177’ – (2014, p. 95) – does think that Canaanite civilisation was destroyed in the 1100s, to be replaced eventually by Israelite and Philistine emergent states and cities, though these are strong remarks compared, say, to those of Amihai Mazar ‘Quest for the Historical Israel’ – (2007, comparing Mazar with Finkelstein, p. 96) – where Canaanism continues for some time and the Phoenicians represent a new aspect of Canaanism. Cline goes on to dispute (p.159) Lawrence Stager’s idea of a rather ferocious Philistine conquest of southern Canaan in favour of a picture marked by ‘lack of violence’. None of this comes remotely near to population replacement. Stager himself had in fact produced twenty years earlier in the Oxford History of the Biblical World p.94-7 the most succinct and persuasive argument I know against an ultra Joshua-based conquest and ethic cleansing account of Canaan as a whole.
        There was never any massive ethnic cleansing of Canaan/Palestine in Biblical times except by Sargon after 721, the fall of Samaria – even that was not quite the horrible kind of thing we hear of in our own days – and on a smaller scale by Nebuchadnezzar after the fall of Jerusalem. I don’t really think that the Bible says something different. I do think it inconceivable that most people now in Palestine don’t have ancestors – and a fair number of them – among those who lived there in the first millennium BCE.
        Of course the theological interpretation placed on the very ideas of Israel and Canaan by the Biblical authors is much more important than the underlying history and much more significant for the relationship of Judaism, Zionism and Christianity.

      • MHughes976 on June 19, 2019, 5:21 pm

        I should have made myself clearer over the fact that there is, as far as I know, no archaeological evidence of a new population in Samaria following a new, by the standards of the place, way of life, a matter on which II Kings 17 is ambivalent. The evidence of a population exchange between Assyrian provinces does indeed,, as people here know, come from the Assyrian records discovered by archaeologists.

  7. [email protected] on June 8, 2019, 3:09 pm

    Am I only only Jewish American of my generation who wasn’t spoon fed Zionism along with my Judaism? The more I learn about other Jews’ experiences, the more I appreciate my own parents.

    • Mooser on June 9, 2019, 3:01 pm

      Zionism played a big part in my life as a child. ” We’ll send you to a kibbutz with your cousin_______ next summer if you aren’t good,” never failed to scare me to death.

      • Mooser on June 9, 2019, 3:54 pm

        Later on, my parents saw Israel as a place of refuge for the prosecuted. And they were sure I would be, sooner or later.

  8. Maghlawatan on June 9, 2019, 1:09 am

    The Zionism v Judaism thing is about reality and whether or not reality can be created. It’s about truth vs bullshit . It’s about groupthink .

    Neil Postman was one of the Jews Ben Gurion expected to make Aliyah after WW2. He stayed in New York.

    « perhaps most central to all of Postman’s work was the notion, which he shared with McLuhan, that technology is not neutral. “As a culture moves from orality to writing to printing to televising, its ideas of truth move with it,” he wrote. “Truth, like time itself, is a product of a conversation man has with himself about and through the techniques of communication he has invented.

    Even more basically, he was concerned not just how we used our tools – gunpowder, the clock, the printing press, the television, the computer – but how our tools use us. And unlike theorists who took a detached, on-one-hand/on-the-other hand view of media, Postman made clear where his values were: “Some ways of truth-telling are better than others, and therefore have a healthier influence on the cultures that adopt them « 

    The « technology » that Zionism adopted was violence. Postman’s theory is that technology is not neutral .

    Violence allowed Zionism to get what it wanted . But 70 years later Israel is still in its grip. And violence redefined the truth in Hebrew. It gave rise to Hasbara.

    They lie to us then lie to themselves about lying to us.

    Angela Merkel is the leader of Germany. She was in Normandy during the week with the leaders of the WW2 allies . (Russia wasn’t represented. )

    Germany made peace with France more than 70 years ago. It also renounced violence.

    Violence no longer defines the relationship between Germany and France.

    Israel is still fighting 1948. Because technology is not neutral. And reality in English in what counts, not reality in Hebrew.

    What a shonda.

  9. Mayhem on June 12, 2019, 8:56 pm

    Zionism is deeply rooted in Judaism and did not suddenly spring into existence in the 19th century as the author here has falsely intimated.
    Israel’s right to possess the land of Canaan is founded upon divine promises. Not just once, but time and time again God assured Abraham that he would give him and his descendants the land of promise.
    There is a litany of other references in the core documents of Judaism that support the essential notion of Zionism. To separate Zionism from Judaism is failing to acknowledge that the tenets of Zionism are inextricably linked to religious Judaism.

    • eljay on June 13, 2019, 7:20 am

      || Mayhem: Zionism is deeply rooted in Judaism … ||

      Makes sense. Jewish is a religion-based identity and Jewish supremacism (Zionism) is the horribly-misguided belief that the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to those who choose to embrace it the “right”:
      – to be supremacists;
      – to have a supremacist state; and
      – to do “necessary evil” unto others.

      || Mayhem: … Israel’s right to possess the land of Canaan is founded upon divine promises. … ||

      Correct: Israel’s claim to geographic Palestine has absolutely no basis in fact.

    • Mooser on June 13, 2019, 4:13 pm

      “To separate Zionism from Judaism is failing to acknowledge that the tenets of Zionism are inextricably linked to religious Judaism.”

      Shorter “Mayhem”: ‘If we can make Judaism contingent on Zionism, we can raise or pro-Israel percentage into the stratosphere!’

  10. Hemlockroid on June 18, 2019, 10:00 am

    Foreign Jews following behind the UK’s use of chemical weapons to clear Palestine is not the holy Zionism of the ancients. Israel is a manifistation of Protestantism, from Lord Sydenham to Trump.

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