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Larry Wolf became an anti-Zionist in his 60s, so there’s hope for you

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Larry Wolf, a musician who lives in Westchester County, NY, heads a chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace but only became an activist five years ago, during Israel’s assault on Gaza in summer 2014, when he was in his late 60’s. I interviewed him in June.

Q. It took you till 2014 to get on the Palestine issue, and I would never shame you because this issue is not going to go away until many other people make the transition you made. We can’t just wait for them to die off. So I wanted to quiz you about your mental process. What allowed you to go through that doorway so we can encourage such an epiphany for others.

Gotcha. I had a feeling that’s what we were going to discuss and I’ve been going through my entire background to see what I can remember after so many years. Israel had no interest for me at all growing up, even when I was in Hebrew school — Sunday school. And Judaism had very little interest for me. As a matter of fact as soon as I could get out of school after confirmation I was out of there. We’re going back to the dark ages. I was a sophomore in 1961 in high school.

But one of the things I remember from Hebrew school was that we would see movies of Holocaust victims. And then after that we would hear about bonds for Israel. Well obviously I mean the movies of the Holocaust victims were very shocking for a sophomore. The rest of it for the most part never took hold. But after I got out of high school I had nothing to do with any of it. As opposed to so many of people I’ve talked to since then: they had the struggle of how do I wean myself away from Zionism and how do I wean myself away from these myths, these stories that I’ve been hearing for  my entire life. I never had that. My parents never talked about Israel. They never talked about Judaism. My father thought religion was a crock of shit; he said any God that would allow your mother to be as sick as she is [with multiple sclerosis] is no God at all–that was how he felt.

So it wasn’t really until 2014 when Operation Protective Edge came about. I had started to be in contact with high school  acquaintances. We had a little blog and I would hear how horrible these Palestinians were. They were monsters. Second Holocaust here we go. I thought– Really? I’ve always been for the underdog and so for whatever reasons I just never could go hook line and sinker for the Zionist approach.

So I started to do some research. One person I read was Norman Finkelstein, and I got very taken by his articles. And a fellow I met was Bob Schaible, the head of Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights. He sent me a lot of articles and the first time we met we were together talking for six hours about this whole subject. And I began to look at What’s really happening here. And I was taken aback by the injustices of it all.

Your parents were both Jewish?

Yeah. My father’s family came from Poland. They moved here in the mid 1880s. So they escaped the pogroms and I believe that they were peasants, shtetl folks. My great-grandparents were pretty much Orthodox Jews. My grandfather was orthodox and became conservative. My father was raised conservative and became Reform. And my brother and I were raised Reform and we’re nothing. Basically unaffiliated.

Tell me about the high school blog.

I went to Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. And before the 50th reunion the class of 1963 opened up a web page. Then one person had squabbles with how the reunion was being run, the anti-gay rhetoric, and he said To hell with all of you, I’m starting my own blog. And that blog consists of mostly Jewish kids with a few gentiles. We’re talking about 250 kids in the official site, and the little blog had 14 or 15 people. I was asked to join it. They’re all liberals. Very progressive in their civil rights. They’re PEPs. [Progressive Except Palestine].

And your gay friend is Jewish?

Yes and very pro-Israel. We do not speak now!

Do you remember the first incident?

That’s very clear. There’s a gentile member of this blog who went to Israel and saw the wall, and the backyard of Israel, and got castigated. It was a couple of years ago. He said peace has to come when everybody is free to go worship at the holy sites in Jerusalem, when Jerusalem is really open to all. One guy said, “You of all people should know better than to make that kind of statement. Since 1967 people of all faiths and everywhere around the world could come and worship the holy sites.”

And I said, “That’s bullshit.” I challenged him where no one else would. And by the way, there were a few critics of Israel’s policies in that high school class blog class but none, save yours truly,  dared to stand up and challenge the Zionists in our group to any great extent. [Wolf wrote, in part:]

It is fact that Gazans and Palestinians from the West Bank are forbidden to travel to East Jerusalem to visit their holy sites without a permit from the Israeli government. It is also forbidden for Palestinians living in East Jerusalem to travel to Bethlehem, which is in the West Bank, without a permit. Unfortunately for Palestinian Christians, Easter coincides with Passover. Israel usually imposes a closure on the occupied territories during Jewish holidays, which means permits are automatically canceled and people with permits will not be able to cross checkpoints into East Jerusalem, which Israel considers part of its territory since it annexed it after its occupation in June 1967. Given that these permits are rarely if ever given to Palestinian Arabs for the purpose of visiting holy sites, I don’t understand the basis for your claim that people of all faiths have never been dealt with so equally and respectfully. And not only are Gazans denied permits to visit the holy sites, getting a permit to leave Gaza for medical treatment is also very difficult.

He laid into me. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” And he called my remarks anti-Semitic. That was the first time anybody ever called me antisemitic. That was the first real altercation.

So when that exchange happened you had become awakened already?

I had become awakened a good year before that. I’d already been immersed in it and belonged to Jewish Voice for Peace.

Was there anything about your remarks that might have been interpreted as anti-Semitic?

Oh no. I didn’t say anything except the facts. I responded [in part]:

You cannot dispossess hundreds of thousands and murder thousands of people (1947-49), steadily take away their land and bulldoze their homes (West Bank since 1967), imprison and starve their children (Gaza) and expect them to submissively accept it. Despite these facts of Israel, you prefer to be enthralled by a story/myth of Israel’s innocence and therefore are unable to see the true cause of Israel’s woes.

As to your judgment of my comments as anti-Semitic, save that judgment for when it counts. The continued misuse of the term Anti-Semitic renders the term meaningless. Does criticism of our American government make us anti-American or traitors? If not, then why are those, Jews especially, who criticize Israel’s policies labeled anti Semites? The fact that anti Semitism is on the rise and will continue to do so with the coming of the next administration makes it all the more imperative to differentiate between real anti Semitism that needs to be condemned as opposed to silencing people whose views on the actions of the Israeli government differ from yours. I for one will not be silenced.

To which another member of the blog responded:

You, sadly, have bought into a narrative that at its core is antiSemitism.

There are a lot of rancorous political discussions that happen online that don’t snag us. This one snagged you. Did what you saw in 2014 during the Israeli assault on Gaza play a part?

Yes. I can’t even call it the Israel Palestine conflict because Israel had all the guns and ammunition, and Palestine has nothing, but I would see on television or on websites where Gaza was just blown to bits.

Why didn’t it happen in 2008-09?

Because I didn’t pay any attention to any of it in 2008-09.

So it was this argument among people that you cared about that caused you to open your ears?

Exactly right. They would go on and on about these hideous monsters. And no forgiveness. I mean they were just the scum of the earth. There were three or four people that just went off on the Palestinians. They were terrorists, they didn’t deserve to live. Yada yada, doo-dah-day. And people said, you know, I’m concerned about Palestinians. Meaning they were pro-Palestinian and they were trying to understand the situation. But one person came on like gangbusters. She was basically shutting the blog down. You couldn’t talk about this. I asked myself, Is this really true? [An example of the argument a high school classmate made against Palestinians:]

Did you ever ask yourself why the Egyptians didn’t want Gaza back after the six day war, or the Jordanians didn’t want the West Bank back?

The first job of any nation is the security of its own people. If the United States found itself under constant threat of annihilation we would obliterate our enemy.

I am more than willing to discuss Israel’s shortcomings as well as its incredible discoveries and advances in so many of the sciences in its short existence if you and others like you would look at the rest of the world, especially the countries in the Middle East and make honest comparisons.

One conversation that got to me, I had lunch with a former classmate in New York city and he said, These Palestinians, they’re worthless people. What have they ever contributed to society. Have they won any Nobel prizes? Are they doctors? They contribute nothing. It was basically like talking to some southern racist about black people. And I was stunned.

Did you say anything?

I said, “I’m stunned.” I said, “How could you justify the taking of somebody’s land to form your own state? What justifies you to do that?” And he really didn’t give me an answer. He  was very upset with me. This was our land since you know 4000 years ago. Yada yada yada yada. Also he’s a Holocaust-a-phobe. We suffered this, we suffered that. So I started listening to Norman Finkelstein. I started reading. I read Miko Peled’s book. I got pretty much through most of Ilan Pappe’s book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. The more I read the more interested I became in the whole subject.

What was your first Norman Finkelstein book?

I think “The Holocaust Industry”.

Who told you to read it?

Pat Hanna [a professor of linguistics]. She had the same views on Israel Palestine and was stunned by the attitudes of our classmates toward Palestinians.

Is she Jewish?

No. She’s atheist.

Can you give me a sense of what sort of political engagement you have had in your life? 

Well being a child of the Vietnam age: civil rights, abortion rights, pro-choice.

Were you engaged on those questions, more than just an observer?

Other than marching a few times in the 70s or late 60s, I have not been actively engaged. Among friends I’ve been outspoken. But I never got up and spoke on a soapbox. I would say that this is really the first time I have taken such an active interest in anything political, to this extent.

How do you explain that? 

I ask myself every day, and I don’t know if I have an answer. I will say this, despite the fact that I don’t observe Judaism, I don’t even know when the holidays are most of the time– there is something there that grabs me and I don’t know if it’s cultural. I don’t know if it’s Judaism itself. But I still have a strong, strong feeling about my grandparents and my great-grandparents being born in Poland. There’s something there.

And when my friend Pat came to New York from Utah, she loves the Lower East Side, and we spent the whole day down there. We went to the Bialystoker synagogue. It’s an amazing amazing edifice. And I would just sit there and I was just mesmerized by those places. Then Eldridge Street synagogue.

Are you moved to worship because of this?

No. Beside the fact that the Palestinians need equal rights– and that’s the whole purpose of my getting involved– there’s still a strong feeling that Judaism is at risk of losing itself, if it hasn’t already. The one thing that keeps us all together is one word, Torah. Without the Torah, what are Jews? Nothing.

But you don’t have Torah.

I don’t have Torah.

So you’re nothing?

That’s a very good question. This is what I am conflicted about. I know first place, I would not set foot inside a temple that flies the flag of Israel. And I don’t have any use for the way the religion is observed. You can teach a parrot how to say the prayers and you can teach a monkey how to drink the four cups of wine. Right? Basically the religious education was rote learning. You sit down, you do this. That’s not Judaism.

Torah is law. And don’t you ultimately have a strong sense of something being wrong, so that essentially is a question of Torah.

Well yeah I have a sense of something being very wrong. But then again what do I know? I haven’t been involved in anything Jewish for you know most of my life.

But right now Jewish is important to you?

Give me a minute. [laughing] Palestinian rights are more important. Human beings are more important.

What faith is your wife from?


And do your children have religious identity?


Do you feel bad about that?

I don’t. My wife does. My son doesn’t. When he got close to thirteen, he was going to a ton of bar mitzvahs, and he said, I want to get a bar mitzvah. I said, Why? And he hesitated. Oh, the cake and stuff. I said Well guess what, Sam you’re not getting bar mitzvah’d.  If he had had a sincere and heartfelt reason for wanting it, he would have gotten it. But now he’s very happy he was raised without a religion.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a musician. Mostly classical. These days I’m an organist at St Barnabas Episcopal church.

You have been a keyboard man all your life.


What has your engagement on this question involved in the last couple years?

I’m actively involved with Westchester JVP. I serve as the chapter coordinator. To the extent that JVP Westchester is involved in supporting other groups like Wespac— I’m involved. I attend as many events as I’m able to to get to that support other groups. There are things I’d like to be involved with more. One of them is Birthright. Birthright seems to be a young man and young woman’s endeavor. So it’s difficult for older people to be on the forefront of that. But I need to learn more about the mechanics of what goes on in terms of opposing Birthright.

Do you have any advice for people who are not engaged?

It’s very important for other people to be engaged. And you’ve got to have an open mind. You have to read. So much of this is education. If you don’t know the other side of the narrative, you’re never going to move one way or the other. And I adhere to Gideon Levy’s words of wisdom. It’s not going to happen in Israel. It’s going to have to happen outside Israel. I am a supporter of BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions].

You’ve never been there?

No; and I hate to say, I have no desire to go there.

Larry Wolf at a demonstration in New York.

Why do you believe what you’ve read?

I talk to Palestinians. I talk to people who have been there. And reading material that I think is more factual from people who live there, the Ilan Pappes, the Avi Shlaims, the Gideon Levy’s– I have not found anything yet that I would question to any great extent.

It seems that the big change for you was the high school reunion blog. 

I think part of it was working out in a strange way some unresolved issues that I had had toward this group of Jewish people that I had so-called grown up with. And I was working through things because I never felt part of this group, I never felt really part of the Jewish community. You know in the Jewish community in Cincinnati, it was really a divided community in the sense that there were the Russian Jews, there were the German Jews, and the twain hardly met. There were economic divisions. Certain people lived certain places, others didn’t. And I always felt that God forbid Hitler would come along, what difference does it make– a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. And it always bothered me, and I don’t know if I had a chip on my shoulder or I was trying to work through an understanding of this, but here is an issue that I began to realize, that this divided Jews from other Jews.

So I kept reading and reading and reading and I finally got to the point– I have no one to talk to about this. And I looked to groups. I was getting hungry to have conversations with people about all of this. I looked at J Street. And I chose JVP. So I called the national office and I said Is there anybody in my neighborhood you could direct me to. And they said well Priscilla Read and Bob Herbst. And so we had lunch together once, in White Plains, and Bob is asking me somewhat the same questions you’re asking me now. I started going to meetings and I listened and listened and it was nice to be around people who felt somewhat the same that I did.

Then a year passed and Priscilla asked me to represent the Jewish contingent to one of the state assemblyman, when they were trying to pass an anti-BDS bill. She also asked me to go to meet with some of the Board of Legislators in Westchester about their resolution. And so I went with her. I began to talk with other people, began to state my case. Then a couple of years later she asked me to meet at Kirsten Gillibrand’s office.

So I got involved more and more… I became chapter coordinator. I really don’t know if I did anything consciously, but I just knew the conscious thing was I wanted to be involved with people who were for Palestinian rights and were not afraid to criticize Israel for what they were doing.

Do you enjoy that public work?

If I know my subject and I am prepared. I do my best speaking for funds from the church [St Barnabas] when it has to do with Palestine… There is an organization from the diocese that’s called the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. I would invite people to come to our church from that group. I pleaded for funds for emergencies particularly the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza. I had no problems getting up there.

You have a kind of a diverse religious experience.

My wife is Episcopalian. She is the warden of the church. I’m just a lowly organist and choir director.

In the divide in the Cincinnati Jewish community, where was your family? And were you the brunt of discrimination?

Good question and thank you for asking it. My father did not do well in business. My father was not considered by many standards successful. He struggled. I remember him walking and pacing the floors at night wondering where his next dollar was going to come from. So we were not considered financially elite. That was one of the circumstances. And my mother, for 21 years she suffered with multiple sclerosis. So that kind of put their social life on ice in many respects. I remember one affair that I attended. There was a wedding and my mother and father were invited. Everybody else was sitting with everybody else socializing, and my mother and father come, my father wheeling my mother, and they sat at a table by themselves. It broke my heart. Very few people came over to speak with them. It was painful to watch.

There were definite social divides. In the Israel question, we were the first generation after the Holocaust, World War 2, where many folks imbued their children with this loyalty to Israel… Bonds for Israel, these little tin boxes, the coin boxes, any money you can spare for Israel. That’s what we grew up with. A lot of the folks were very very pro Israel.

You put money in those boxes?

I didn’t. But I can picture them right now.

A lot of Jews have faced a great internal barrier, the concern that their family would throw them out, and they would face social ostracism or go against parents and grandparent. That caused Richard Goldstone, an eminent judge in South Africa, to sort of recant his human rights report on Gaza because he was becoming a heretic in the Johannesburg Jewish community. Did you ever fear the consequences?

I have felt at times fear of confronting people and getting called every name in the book– until I got called every name in the book and then it went away. They called me an antisemite, a self hating Jew. So maybe this high school group is a Petri dish for me really working out all those things. I got called an Aryan at the Westchester board of legislators meeting. This guy didn’t know me from a hole in the ground. He thought I was a Nazi. Here I am, a little Jewish kid from Cincinnati Ohio.

But this is 2019 and it’s not your first day at the fair. Now you’re engaged in this it’s fulfilling to you. It’s highly meaningful and you’re going to be around. What’s your age?

I’m 73 and will be 74 next month.

Are you an anti Zionist?


What does that mean to you?

It means that Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism. It means that Zionism has co-opted Judaism. The two things that Zionism has done: it’s destroyed the Palestinian community or it is in the process of damn near destroying it. And it is in the process of destroying Judaism, as I knew it.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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40 Responses

  1. Stephen Shenfield on July 27, 2019, 3:25 pm

    “Without Torah Jews are nothing.” That means they are nothing AS JEWS. Or — they are not Jews. It does not prevent them (us) from being something in other capacities.

    Phil suggests that Larry’s sense of right and wrong comes from Torah. Read it and consider. Torah says that Larry’s father should have been stoned to death for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16). Perhaps his sense of morality has other sources?

    Regarding Larry’s “diverse religious experience,” it is not all that diverse. For instance, no input apparently from any of the religions of south or east Asia. The differences among the religions of the book are very slight. For a long time Christianity was generally viewed as a Judaic sect. The old lady who used to live next door tried out all the churches and synagogues in the neighborhood, eventually rejecting them all because the only thing any of them wanted from her was her money.

    • CigarGod on July 28, 2019, 11:39 am

      Torah is like a Horoscope or Web MD.
      You might be a Scorpio, but the 11 others seem to fit you, too.
      Or…the symptoms for a common cold are also found in more serious illnesses.

  2. Cabe on July 27, 2019, 3:26 pm

    What is so interesting here – and what also matches my own experience – is how violently angry Zionists, like other nationalists, become when their beliefs are contradicted. My assessment of that is that they don’t have a leg to stand on and also feel guilty over the Zionist project. It is easier to just blow up, end friendships, cut people off. Because they have no argument, their leaders are also continuously constrained to use force. In the context of the US and other “western” countries, this means implied or overt threats to get people fired from their jobs and deprived of their livelihoods as well as more direct means such as trying to criminalize BDS and even all anti-Israel speech. Another reason for their intemperance is the feeling that the project of Israel, for all its apparent solidity in the form of material and military triumph, is fragile. But why should it be so fragile? Because it has no moral ground to stand on, at all. Given this, it would seem the wiser course for Zionist leadership to rescue something for the future would be to try to build a moral basis, at least a little, by some kind of behavioral change (not more hasbara), but everything seems to be going the opposite way, and now dragging the US further into the inferno as well, or trying to.

    • DaBakr on July 28, 2019, 5:02 am


      Why on earth would Israeli jews trust your sense of personal morality over their own? If you believe this is how human nature is it wouldn’t be a surprise if pro-israel folks accused you of living in a bubble (maybe the same way you might believe Israel is in a bubble but that is a big mutual exclusion)

  3. echinococcus on July 27, 2019, 6:01 pm

    Not very relevant, is it?

    Even if all Americans who consider themselves “Jewish” converted from their chronic, malignant religion of Zionism, together with any other sorts they still wouldn’t amount to even 3% of population. Besides, they as a group of persons have not much to say in the current American system, because this system functions on the principle “one dollar one vote”.

    Looks like it’s time to concentrate on the general population and start getting rid of the curse of identity lobby politics. And religious irrelevancies.

    • Citizen on July 28, 2019, 12:35 am

      ” this system functions on the principle “one dollar one vote”.
      And how many dollars have the Adelsons donated?

      • Stephen Shenfield on July 28, 2019, 11:59 am

        One reason why the 3% punch above their weight is implicit in the title of a recent piece in Mondoweiss: ‘Christians need to know Jewish opposition to Zionism is on the rise.’ In other words, very many Christians follow the trend among Jews. Of course, that wouldn’t be so if they dared trust in their own judgment.

      • echinococcus on July 28, 2019, 12:11 pm

        Precisely. Even if all Jews, or “Jews”, except for Adelson and Saban, converted away from Zionism, they would count for nothing, zilch, love.

        Which is the only reason for what Shenfield observes, viz “very many Christians follow the trend among Jews. Of course, that wouldn’t be so if they dared trust in their own judgment.” Their own judgment is worth no money on the US marketplace. And “the trend among Jews” is determined by Zionist dollars, not three blind mice.

  4. Emet on July 27, 2019, 6:25 pm

    I would place a major wager that Larry has no zero idea what the Islamic Hadith’s are, never mind what they say. Because if he did he would be in total shock after he realized how violent and backward some of the thinking is. There is no modern interpretation of the Koran, nor the Hadiths, that allows for Jews to live independently as free people practicing their religion in the Middle East. There is no modern interpretation that allows any kind of sharing with Jews. The message is that Jews need to convert or die. Larry and Philip and all those naive schmucks prefer to remain lazy instead of doing the real homework and research.

    • JohnSmith on July 27, 2019, 7:27 pm

      Kudos on the seething racism! It’s a real accomplishment to be so full of hate! Did you develop your viciousness as an Israeli or is your moral depravity something you practice in the United States?

      I seem to recall a geographic area known as the Levant, Palestine, Israel, etc., where Jews and Moslems lived in relative peace and enjoyed a shared Arab or Levantine or Mediterranean culture. And then a bunch of racist Europeans came and decided all the inhabitants should die, be destroyed, “go away,” etc.

      And then the European bigots decided to spend their time going to Web sites that believe in decency and human rights to attack their victims. Weird, huh?

      • edthespark on July 28, 2019, 5:23 pm


        Jewish history has several instances of convert or die.These days you can stay as you are or change to mainstay or whatever.
        A good example of toleration is the copts in egypt or the orthodox christians in syria.
        Luckily judaism tolerates other relegions in israel in the same way judaism was tolerated in other countries.
        Decency and human rights do exist in Israel . Christians visit the churches and moslems the mosques quite openly.
        Once upon a time this was not so but these days everything is possible.

    • Talkback on July 27, 2019, 7:28 pm

      Emet: “I would place a major wager that Larry has no zero idea what the Islamic Hadith’s are, never mind what they say. Because if he did he would be in total shock after he realized how violent and backward some of the thinking is.”

      I would place a major wager that Larry has no zero idea what the Torah and the Talmud are, never mind what they say. Because if he did he would be in total shock after he realized how violent and backward some of the thinking is. There is no modern interpretation of the Torah, nor the Talmud, that allows for Palestinians to live independently as free people practicing their religion in the Palestine. There is no modern interpretation that allows any kind of sharing with Palestinians.

      Emet “The message is that Jews need to convert or die.”

      Nope. That’s the endgame fantasy of your Zionist evangelical bedfellows.

      Emet: “Larry and Philip and all those naive schmucks prefer to remain lazy instead of doing the real homework and research.”

      Emet and all those naive schmucks prefer to remain lazy instead of doing the real homework and research.

      • gamal on July 27, 2019, 8:59 pm

        ” to remain lazy instead of doing the real homework and research”

        There is especially in its genesis something I find really interesting about Hadith ( just a pointer here it really does make you look just a tad ignorant to say ” I have read the Hadith”)

        most Arab/Islamic literature relied on the patronage of rulers and the powerful with the exception of the Hadith literature (thats right just to say it’s not really the Hadith as such but the huge, yuuge, interpretative literature that you should check out), not only was no one much interested but the compilers and others were ill treated by rulers and were kind of stoic and pious and so rejected association with rulers which many felt was a sin/”negative” act in it self, this stuff just emerged out of the religious enthusiasm of ascetics who paid little head to rulers many were very poorly used and remained both uncooperative and contemptuous towards power. The Traditionists tended to be hostile or at least indifferent to the state people like Ibn Abbas, Ibni Sirin, Ibn al Musayib of course Hasan al Basri and Al Thawri. Goldziher wrote to the effect that they became indifferent to tyrannical authority and were both hated and despised by elites as a result and undaunted continued their practise of baldly rejecting state acts on moral (religious) grounds and rational ones too, and they did it all with no funding and much suppression and contempt ….maashallah. maybe a lesson in there somewhere.

    • eljay on July 27, 2019, 8:09 pm

      || Emet: … There is no modern interpretation of the Koran, nor the Hadiths, that allows for Jews to live independently as free people practicing their religion in the Middle East. … ||

      There is nothing just or moral about the Zionist belief that the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to those who choose to embrace it the “right”:
      – to be supremacists;
      – to have as large as possible a supremacist state; and
      – to do evil unto others.

      (I like how you Zionists insist that Jewish is about so much more than religion – it’s about tribe, collective, ethnicity, culture, people, nation and even civilization – and then seemingly inevitably reduce it to religion.)

    • Mooser on July 27, 2019, 8:40 pm

      Gee, “Emet”, which one do you think has alienated more Jewish people from their religion? The actions of the Zionists, or the intransigent attitude of the Hadiths towards conversion?

    • Somervillein on July 29, 2019, 3:12 pm

      How many laws in various countries–let alone religious or philosophical advice such as “hadith”–are ignored and unenforced. Please read some history books, Emet, and you will see that MANY Jews lived in every dominantly Muslim country WITHOUT either converting or dying. السلام عليكم / Peace be with you.

  5. wondering jew on July 27, 2019, 9:16 pm

    The Palestinians are getting a raw deal from the Israelis and I am sure that they are heartened by demonstrations against Israel and demonstrators like Larry Wolf, no matter their background.

    In terms of the war of ideas the offerings here are meager. “my mother was ill. my father disbelieved. i kicked it out of my life for most of my life and dropped back in now and it defines my judaism to oppose Israel.” Okay. maybe an interesting story. maybe not, but maybe yes.
    the american jewish experience is interesting to me in all its variations from lenny bruce to abby hoffman from richard feynman to jack ruby. from dennis ross to norman finkelstein, from avi weiss to brant rosen. so here’s one more biography.

    but are there any compelling ideas here? this is not the development of a philosophy over decades: this is a few arguments and harsh words over facebook and a resolution to let one’s freak flag fly and call it jewish.

    I do not know how to improve the situation of the Palestinians, although my goal is very different from JVP’s goal, even my goal seems elusive. I’d be interested in a strategy other than the slow evolution of the democratic party away from its donors’ attitudes to its left wing’s attitude and it would be surprising to see a new idea in terms of strategy.

    but, the ideas from which zionism grew were real ideas and real historical challenges.

    what would you say if a time machine took you, an alienated jew, back to warsaw in 1939? can an idea be valid in 1939 and invalid in 2019?

    But as i said it heartens the oppressed Palestinians and they appreciate it, I’m sure.

    • oldgeezer on July 27, 2019, 10:45 pm


      You need to establish that the idea was valid in 1939 to begin with. You have failed to even attempt that.

      The ideas that zionism grew from were racist nonsense. As was white supremacy, nazism, any ethnic supremacy of any form.

      Trying to reframe zionism as not racist, unlike the others, is risible.

    • Citizen on July 28, 2019, 12:45 am

      “…can an idea be valid in 1939 and invalid in 2019?” Motivation from Philosophy? Well, yes, Hitler had a philosophy, same as Netanyahu does now. Can Warsaw Ghetto be a historic valid fact, and invalid in 2019? Can Gaza be a valid contemporary fact now? What is the relationship between ideas and facts?

    • eljay on July 28, 2019, 7:31 am

      || wondering jew: … the ideas from which zionism grew were real ideas … ||

      I agree that ideas like supremacism, colonialism and the “right” to commit (war) crimes (a.k.a. “necessary evil”) were real ideas. But they were neither just nor moral ideas.

      It’s a shame that Zionism grew from those ideas rather than from ideas like justice, accountability and equality universally and consistently applied.

      It’s an even bigger shame that the majority of people in the world who choose to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish choose also to advocate, enforce, support and defend Zionism’s unjust and immoral ideas.

    • Misterioso on July 29, 2019, 10:49 am

      @wondering Jew

      “…but, the ideas from which zionism grew were real ideas and real historical challenges.”

      Bullcrap!! Zionism was and remains theft and violent, brutal, murderous dispossession, expulsion and occupation of Palestine’s indigenous Christian and Muslim inhabitants and the occupation of other Arab lands.

      To wit:
      “We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border…. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.” (Theodor Herzl, diary entry, 12 June 1895)

      Israel Zangwill, the influential Anglo-Jewish essayist and Zionist, 1901: [W]e must be prepared to either drive out by the sword the [Arab] tribes in possession…or to grapple with the problem of a large alien population….”

      In May 1911, Arthur Ruppin, one of early Zionism’s leading figures proposed to the Executive of the Zionist Organization, a “population transfer” of the Arab peasants from Palestine.

      In 1918, Polish born David Ben-Gurion (real name, David Gruen), described the future borders of the Jewish state as: “to the north, the Litani River; to the northeast, the Wadi’Owja, twenty miles south of Damascus; the southern border will be mobile and pushed into the Sinai at least up to Wadi al-`Arish; and to the east, the Syrian Desert, including the furthest edge of Transjordan.” (Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs)

      In the February 1919 issue of the League of Nations Journal, Zangwill proposed that the Palestinians should be “transplanted” in Arab countries and at a public meeting in the same year he remarked that “many [Palestinians] are semi-nomad, they have given nothing to Palestine and are not entitled to the rules of democracy.” (Jewish Chronicle, Dec. 12 1919).

      Palestinians knew that the Revisionist Party (precursor of the Irgun and Stern Gang terror groups and today’s Likud party), founded in 1925 by Vladimir Jabotinsky, consisted of fascists who intended to expel them, but unlike Weizmann and the Labour Zionists who had the same objective, (see Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians, pp. 30-38) they were up front about it. Jabotinsky did not mince his words: “We Jews, thank God, have nothing to do with the East….The Islamic soul must be broomed out of Eretz-Yisrael.” (Ya’acov Shavit, “The Attitude of Zionist Revisionism towards the Arabs.” (Zionism and the Arab Question, p. 74.) Nor did he hide his vicious racism. He viewed Palestinians as “yelling rabble dressed up in gaudy, savage rags” (Joseph Schechtman, Rebel and Statesman: The Vladimir Jobotinksy Story, the Early Years, New York: T. Yoseloff, 1956, p. 54) and the colonization of Palestine by European Jews would “push the moral frontiers of Europe to the Euphrates.” (Shlomo Avineri, The Making of Modern Zionism, p. 180; cited by Michael Palumbo, The Palestinian Catastrophe, faber and faber, London. Boston, 1987, p. 13).

      Although its origins can be traced back to Herzl and other early Zionists, Plan Dalet (Plan D) began to take concrete form in 1937, when the Jewish Agency’s Transfer Committee was established by Yosef Weitz and others. The committee’s purpose was to devise a plan that would lead to the “transfer” of the Arab population out of Palestine so that Jews would become a large majority. This would be accomplished by “promoting measures designed to encourage the Arab flight.” Weitz did not mince his words: “…there is no room for both people together in this country….The only solution is a Palestine…without Arabs. And there is no way other than to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries, to transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe, should be left.” (Yosef Weitz, My Diary and Letters to the Children, 1965.)

      Ben-Gurion, 1937: “”[a] partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish state will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety.”

      During a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive on 12 June 1938, Ben-Gurion again advocated expulsion of the Palestinians: “I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see in it anything immoral.” (Benny Morris, “Refabricating 1948”)

      In 1944 and 1947, the basis of Plan D was formulated by Israeli staff officer Yigal Yadin. He described its top priorities as “the destruction of Arab villages near the Jewish settlements and the expulsion of the inhabitants [along with] the domination of the main arteries of transportation that are vital to the Jews and the destruction of Arab villages near them. [Plan D also called for the] siege of Arab towns that are located outside the [Jewish] state created by the UN resolution [e.g., Acre and Jaffa].”

      In December 1947, a Jewish official with the Palestine government was asked by Glubb Pasha, the British commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion, if he was concerned about the fact that the Jewish state would have so many Arab inhabitants. The official replied: “Oh no! That will be fixed. A few calculated massacres will soon get rid of them.” (Sir Bagot Glubb, A Soldier with the Arabs, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957, p.81; cited by Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, p. 85)

    • Somervillein on July 29, 2019, 3:19 pm

      I like your Mondoweiss name, “wondering Jew.” Keep wondering. I wonder if you would dare to read the 40 more compelling testimonies in the new book, “Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism.”
      FYI, I myself have long since reclaimed my humanity from Americanism.

  6. edthespark on July 28, 2019, 9:22 am

    “Then a year passed and Priscilla asked me to represent the Jewish contingent to one of the state assemblyman, when they were trying to pass an anti-BDS bill”

    Very interesting statement.Represent the jewish contigent.

    “There is an organization from the diocese that’s called the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. I would invite people to come to our church from that group.”

    He also invites people to his church

    “And it is in the process of destroying Judaism, as I knew it.”

    This last sentence put a smile on my dial.”Zionism is destroying judaism.”

    Well he is wrong in that respect because it is judaism that is destroying zionism,or should i say his style of judaism.

    • Mooser on July 28, 2019, 12:13 pm

      “Well he is wrong in that respect because it is judaism that is destroying zionism or should i say his style of judaism.”

      And that’s supposed to be a bad thing?

  7. brent on July 28, 2019, 12:56 pm

    These arguments about who is right or wrong can go on forever, without the other side agreeing to agree, Can it be more clear all this confusion needs to be superseded by the simple concept, so necessary to civilization, that all are equal under the law?

    Arab citizens of Israel hold the key. If they are able to generate a consensus on a campaign for equal rights, it will be embraced almost everywhere and the supremacy inherent in Zionism will recede. Mutual respect the only desirable outcome and will allow peace to come to Jerusalem.

    • echinococcus on July 28, 2019, 2:39 pm

      You guys are something. Of course invaders won’t agree to let go, duh!
      “… the simple concept, so necessary to civilization, that all are equal under the law?”

      All are not equal under the law, forget the bullshit. The law excludes the “concept” of equality of illegitimate invaders with the owners of the entire territory, period. Slice it any which way, you guys, or the well-meaning liberals either, cannot crawl out of there. Invaders have no rights, period.

      Also, your “concept” of equality is explicitly that of equality in any transactions between all the might of the USZionist empire on one side and the destitute Palestinian population on the other. Yarright.

      • brent on July 29, 2019, 12:30 am

        echinococcus, if the intention is to take what is rightful, more effective to do it with savvy, ideas and argument than firecrackers and rage, especially given political, cultural, economic, historical, factual, media realities.

        I find artifacts on my property left by indigenous people, so my hands are not clean. Yours? I don’t think there are many anywhere. True justice is elusive.

        Wasn’t the original plan for the PLO a secular democratic state, with equality for all? Makes sense to me and is probably the only way forward, so I advocate for it You have ideas to offer other than making demands on Israel they can simply ignore? What would you have Abbas do?

      • echinococcus on July 29, 2019, 8:29 am

        “What would you have Abbas do?”

        Ask his employer the Zionist Kommandantur.

        “political, cultural, economic, historical, factual, media realities” Bring the kitchen sin, too. They are all just one: Palestine is occupied by invaders, and they have to get thrown out –before they manage to finish the genocide of the owners of the country.

    • Mooser on July 28, 2019, 3:02 pm

      “Arab citizens of Israel hold the key. If they are able to generate a consensus on a campaign for equal rights”

      Yeah, it’s too bad “Arab citizens of Israel” can’t come to a consensus on whether they should have human and civil rights.

      “Brent” how long do you intend to keep your charade going?
      It doesn’t occur to you that all you are demonstrating is how absurdly dishonest Zionists are.

      Or are you ‘not-a-Zionist’?

  8. wondering jew on July 28, 2019, 2:02 pm

    Trip to Jerusalem Part 3

    Today I went to the Kotel. Kotel means wall, and it is called in Hebrew the Western Wall and also in English the Wailing Wall. The place that is truly holy to Jews is on the Temple Mount, but it is fortuitous that the rabbis, meaning the serious black clad rabbis, as in those who value Jewish law and the Jewish temple, consider the area of the Temple to be too holy for us Jews in our current impure state and thus forbid entrance to the Temple Mount itself.
    (There is nothing theoretical about this impurity, it is legal impurity: all Jews are considered to be impure as in having had by one or two or three degrees of separation contact with the dead and thus cannot go on the Temple Mount until they have been purified with the ashes of the red heifer to undo their impurity. Such ashes are not available so we are all impure.) And thus since Jews cannot go to the place of the temple, they have the wall as a type of substitute place, a place to pray to God, close to the temple.

    I usually don’t think about the destruction of the Palestinian neighborhood that was involved in the establishment of the Kotel as the meeting place for the Jews near the Temple Mount, but since I am writing this here, I mention it.

    I have been in Jerusalem a little over 11 days so far this trip and it is unusual for me not to visit the Kotel in my first week here. They say that there are no atheists in the foxhole and similarly I have prayed for the health of a close relative at the Kotel about 16 years ago, so I cannot deny the emotional belief in a God who listens to prayer, although logically my prayers are no more worthy than the hundreds of millions of prayers of people in need whose prayers have been ignored.

    I wore a black baseball cap (with “New York City” in white embroidered on it instead of a team logo) , my usual headgear when I visit religious relatives, except on the Sabbath when a baseball cap looks messy and I don a kipa. The kotel when I arrived at about 5:30 in the evening was mostly still in the sunlight, but there was a shadow furthest to the left (north) and I dragged a lectern to the shaded area and found a Psalms and found a few chapters that matched my mood. In previous years I would also get close to the wall itself for a touch. The stones have been worn down by the touch of many hands and there is sentimental value in the tactile experience of touching its stones smoothed by millions of hands, but I skipped that part this visit.

    When I left my parent a half an hour earlier I had not planned a visit, but adventures even of a limited sort often involve spur of the moment decisions. (Back in 1990 I visited the Church of the Holy Sephulcer, which left me in an agitated state and then visited the mosques, forbidden to impure Jews as I explained, but though raised with strict rules I bend the rules on a regular basis. It was December of 89 or January of 90 and I paid a Palestinian free lance tour guide a few shekels (probably the equivalent of twenty bucks when he was expecting only ten) and he showed me the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque and when I asked him if he could find for me someone who was versed in Islam so I could talk, he found an imam who was an Islamic missionary in South Africa, who was visiting his hometown (al Quds) and the imam took me by car with two others to Shuafat, where though I was quite scared for my safety, I ate a meal and had a discussion before I was taken back to the West of Jerusalem by one of my hosts. This is just an example where an agitated state led to adventure and though the stakes and the adventure were much smaller this time, it was that same agitated frame of mind that I was experiencing today, when I decided to get off the train at the Damascus Gate and visit the Wall.

    I do not recall the pill box with the Israeli soldiers at the entrance to the Damascus Gate, I’m sure that Google would tell me precisely when those combat olive green pill boxes were added for security. There were many tourists: half tourists and half Palestinians, with a smattering of Orthodox Jews also present. It is exotic. (Back in 72 my first time in the Old City, they used to have butcher shops with flanks of slaughtered cows hanging in the market place street that led from the Jaffa Gate to the Kotel.) It has been much cleaner than that for over 40 years now, but still it is different and I feel that I am on foreign turf (best behavior) when I enter through the Damascus Gate. (I have a two weeks’ growth of beard and on occasions like this I wonder how Jewish my face is and whether the Palestinian store owners or the Palestinian kids can recognize me as a Jew.) At one point I was following a teacher leading a class of fifth grade girls and they turned off and headed to the mosque and I felt tempted to follow them, but my adventurous spirit was too limited for that kind of a breakthrough for today and so I did not follow them and instead headed towards the security check for the approach to the Kotel instead.

    After my short Kotel visit, I climbed the stairs to the Rova, the Jewish Quarter. The stairs are under construction and so the path was not quite the usual path and then I found the way to the Plaza inside the Jewish Quarter. I found a place in the shade and worked on a Soduku. which has a calming effect on me. Suddenly i was surrounded by a tour group of Israeli women and fifth grade girls and the leader of the group launched a spiel about the Temple and the destruction of the Temple and a skit of a confrontation between the troop leader and a fictional prophetess regarding the future of the Temple and I thought, “Oh, no. My thoughts are focused on the moment of prayer and contemplation and these thoughts are about rebuilding the temple and reclaiming history. Totally clashing priorities.” So I walked away and left the Jewish Quarter and found my way to the Jaffa Gate and then to the alleyway that parallels the wall of the old city and leads to the western part of jerusalem.

    • echinococcus on July 28, 2019, 2:41 pm

      Reb Friedman bragging of his illegal presence in Palestine by the force of American arms.

      • Mooser on July 28, 2019, 2:56 pm

        Now we know what “Yonah” did last summer.

        So this was “part 3”. I guess we can look forward to another chapter whenever “Yonah” is desperate to divert.

      • oldgeezer on July 28, 2019, 4:16 pm


        Is yonah so devoid of empathy and morality that he doesn’t even realize what he’s doing? Could be but he is not totally unintelligent which would argue for the proposition that he knows full well exactly what he’s doing.

        He’s spitting in the face of every Palestinian that has been murdered, dispossessed, oppressed and brutalized.

        “I usually don’t think about the destruction of the Palestinian neighborhood that was involved in the establishment of the Kotel as the meeting place for the Jews near the Temple Mount, but since I am writing this here, I mention it.”

        That speaks so loudly about him. He’s not even thinking of, or mentioning it, now really except as a toss aside comment. The suffering that was inflicted is of no concern to him whatsoever. And no he doesn’t get a chance to come back and argue that isn’t what he meant. This, “but since I am writing this here, I mention it.”, takes care of any attempt at rebuttal.

        In order to be a zionist of any type you have leave any semblance of connection to humanity behind you.

        So yeah…. imho he’s well aware of what he’s doing, basking in the glow of and ubermensch and revelling in his power over others.

        Despicable and disgusting.

        Keep up your musings yonah.It speaks loudly about you.

    • Misterioso on July 29, 2019, 10:51 am

      @ wondering Jew


  9. gamal on July 28, 2019, 5:24 pm

    ” I was following a teacher leading a class of fifth grade girls and they turned off and headed to the mosque and I felt tempted to follow them, but my adventurous spirit was too limited for that kind of a breakthrough for today ”

    Epstein In Jerusalem

    • Mooser on July 29, 2019, 1:17 pm

      “Epstein In Jerusalem”

      LOL! Much better than “What I Did On My Sumer Vacation”

  10. wdr on July 29, 2019, 2:41 am

    Great. This guy is “Jewish” for the fifteen minutes needed to dump a load on Israel, and then reverts to being a church organist.

    • Talkback on July 29, 2019, 9:27 am

      He is not a “good” Jew, isn’t he? What would it take for him to become a “good” Jew? Colonize Palestine and cry antisemtism?

    • Mooser on July 29, 2019, 1:03 pm

      “This guy is “Jewish” for the fifteen minutes needed to dump a load on Israel”

      Zionists always think there are too many people claiming to be Jews.

  11. Somervillein on July 29, 2019, 3:32 pm

    Larry Wolf, this goy (me) has always been (and always will be) a great admirerer of Jewish writers, musicians, scientists, social activists, etc.; but I lament and deplore the fact that Jewish nationalism (Zionism) has claimed so many adherents–not only Jews but also Christians. HUMAN-ISM is for me!

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