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Christians need to know Jewish opposition to Zionism is on the rise

Opinion
on 23 Comments

Dear Christians:

Suppose that you were a guest at a Passover Seder and you dared to bring up Israeli treatment of the Palestinians . . . and your host turned to you and said, “Thanks, for raising that. We really have trouble reclaiming our Judaism from the old Zionist narrative.” Unthinkable? Not as much as it used to be.

 It might seem easier than ever to say the wrong thing about Israel-Palestine, at least as measured by, say, the U.S. Congress. A new definition of anti-Semitism popular in Congress says that criticism of the “Jewish State” is anti-Semitic. But 40 highly qualified American Jews recently provided passionate, personal testimony against that view. Their written statements are collected in a new book titled Reclaiming Judaism From Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation, edited by Carolyn L. Karcher, that documents radical changes in American Jewish attitudes toward Israel and its foundational Zionist ideology.

These are far from the first Jewish voices to fault Israel and Zionism, of course. Indeed, several of the authors make the point that for decades Zionism was a marginal movement denounced by Jews from every land and every religious persuasion from orthodoxy to atheism. They admit that the reality today remains that almost all Jews support Israel — or are very reluctant to openly oppose it. They tell of the deep emotional and religious hold that Israel and the idea of a Jewish State had on them from their earliest years. Zionism was at the very heart of their Jewish identity. But each one has a tale to tell of becoming disenchanted as they confronted the reality of systematic Israeli dispossession of the Palestinians. Each offers searing personal examples of the “wild world of [Zionist] silencing and bullying,” as physician Alice Rothchild puts it.

What’s new is that these are not isolated or lonely voices. Nor can the authors be dismissed as “self-hating Jews.” They are proud, self-loving Jews. Their anti-Zionism doesn’t exist despite their Judaism but because of it, they say. They tell why Zionism for Jews is a “mental prison,” a mortal threat to their deepest Jewish identities, and inimical to Jewish values and Jewish creativity.

They oppose Israel’s policies and ideology from the heart of their Judaism. Accused by Jewish leaders, and even friends and family, of betraying their people and abandoning their faith, the authors have dug deep, reached out and, they say, they have found a deeper faith and vibrant new Jewish communities. “Judaism is so much more than Israel … so much more than Torah,” Rachel Winsberg writes. Judaism “is thousands of years of Jewish scholarship, of people digging deeper and deeper into the possibilities of what it all means.” Natalia Dubno Shevin speaks of “a diaspora practice to imagine all the possibilities to build Jewishness after Zionism.” Rabbi Michael Davis talks of “claiming our place as the dynamic heart of the Jewish tradition.”

Not only are these anti-Zionist Jews deeply Jewish, they are getting organized. That, too, is new. Having fled the spiritual place that Zionists say is their only true home address as Jews, these critics are building a “Jewish home that enables people to be their full selves.” Those are the words of Rabbi Alissa Wise and Rebecca Vilkomerson, who are top leaders of Jewish Voice for Peace, in a joint essay titled, “The Discarded Materials Have Become the Cornerstone.” JVP, along with other Jewish groups such as If Not Now and Open Hillel, is a fast-growing national organization cited in many of the stories as a home where Jews young and old are “re-engaging with Judaism in a new and more authentic way,” in the words of Tali Ruskin. All three groups were formed in the belief that Judaism can no longer abide the unequal treatment of Palestinians by Israel, and that Jews are safer with pluralism than with Jewish supremacy.

Will this movement succeed in bringing the end of Israel as a Zionist state? A lot will depend on the impact that their message has on all of us non-Jews who would not dream of bringing up Israeli policy toward Palestinians at a Passover seder, no matter how deep our belief that Israeli policies are unjust. Until now, we doubtless have correctly understood that the cost of raising the issue would be too steep, the chances of a positive outcome too remote. But if our continued silence is based on the false assumption that Jewish Americans remain virtually unanimous in supporting Israel – or at least not openly criticizing Israel – we non-Jews are actually helping keep Jews silent. At a minimum then, dear Christians, if we wish to see positive change in the Holy Land, we need to read Karcher’s book and assess the importance of the reclaiming-Judaism movement.

Steve France

Steve France is a retired journalist and lawyer in the DC area. An activist for Palestinian rights, he is affiliated with the Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine-Israel Network and other Christian Palestinian-solidarity groups.

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23 Responses

  1. philweiss on July 25, 2019, 12:05 pm

    Thanks for this article, esp the insight into how deeply Zionist ideology is embedded in the Jewish community. Ayanna PRessley says Jews in her district are attached to the Jewish state. We need to change that. And we will…

  2. wondering jew on July 25, 2019, 1:40 pm

    All human beings are welcome to opine regarding the geopolitical conflict of Israel versus Palestine. Humans come from different traditions and learned their ethics through various texts, so the feelings of the heart are bolstered by verses and traditions.

    The worship of Jesus and the consecration of the New Testament ended up in a supersessionist attitude towards Judaism, the new testament has come to replace the old testament and even though the gist of the teachings were/are in the direction of kindness the accessories to the teachings ended up including Jew hatred, as in why did you reject the messiah? why did you kill the messiah? why did you reject god? don’t you know that god has rejected the old testament and declared a new testament? don’t you see how you have called curses on yourselves and your children.

    thus he who approaches jews from a christian perspective needs to answer for the history of christian jew hatred.

    this only serves to complicate the human case for palestinian freedom. so when you label your letter, dear christians, this is part of the side effect of your words.

    • hai_bar on July 25, 2019, 5:19 pm

      “All human beings are welcome to opine regarding the geopolitical conflict of Israel versus Palestine.”

      Dear wondering jew,

      Your use of language is so deceitful and renders what follows meaningless. Perhaps you should’ve opened your comment with a more accurate and honest usage of language, If you wanted to start a discussion about religious texts and ethics extracted from them, or from any text for that matter. In the end almost all of these are basically languages describing thoughts. .

      “geopolitical conflict between Israel versus Palestine”

      Where and what is Palestine in this context? How big is it’s army? Where are the front lines in this “Israel versus Palestine”?

      • Talkback on July 26, 2019, 2:40 am

        wj: “the geopolitical conflict of Israel versus Palestine”

        A description to whitewash Zionist settler colonalism versus the indigenous people of Palestine.

        wj: ““thus he who approaches jews from a christian perspective needs to answer for the history of christian jew hatred.”

        Sure. And he who approaches from a Jewish perspective needs to answer for the history of Jewish hatred against Nonjews AND Zionism.

    • Mooser on July 25, 2019, 6:15 pm

      “thus he who approaches jews from a christian perspective needs to answer for the history of christian jew hatred.”

      And that, of course, can only be done by supporting Zionism.

    • RoHa on July 25, 2019, 9:44 pm

      Is this the first step towards a “The Christians made me do it” defence?

      • Mooser on July 27, 2019, 12:48 pm

        “Is this the first step towards a “The Christians made me do it” defence?”

        No, it’s “Yonah’s” way of saying that anybody, of any religion, creed or color, is welcome to help Zionism. Zionism is real ecumenical that way.
        Ever seen Zionism reject anything help or money, because it didn’t have a Jewish origin?

    • Misterioso on July 26, 2019, 9:54 am

      @wondering jew

      Sigh
      More meaningless blather. You seem to have an endless supply.

      BTW, regarding your reference to “the history of Christian jew hatred,” I remind you of today’s real world, i.e., well documented Jewish ‘hatred’ of historic Palestine’s Christian and Muslim indigenous inhabitants.

  3. aloeste on July 25, 2019, 5:06 pm

    the ‘jews’ who are antizionist fall into two essential groups

    1. gentilized hebrews ,generally non practicing [ or non-halachic members ] whose real religion is leftism . These leftists bow to the leftist statue , an d anti-israel is a sacrament

    2. the ultraorthodox antizionists that hang with you all are the neturei karta outcasts. the larger satmar community would agree with the sainted reb yoilish who concluded [correctly ] that any anti-israel goy [and gentilized hebrews] does it out of jew animus

    • bcg on July 25, 2019, 8:01 pm

      Aloeste, you mean like Rabbis For Human Rights?

      https://rhr.org.il/eng/

    • RoHa on July 25, 2019, 8:06 pm

      First, what are we supposed to conclude from your analysis of the two essential groups?

      Second, let us pretend that reb yoilish (whoever he was) was correct (he wasn’t) when he said that those of us who oppose Israel are motivated by anti-Jewish feelings.

      So what?

      Israel was evil in conception, it was evil in creation, and it is evil in conduct.

      Our motives do not change that.

      When we say Israel is evil, we are telling the truth.

      Our motives for saying it do not make it false.

      • Mooser on July 25, 2019, 10:47 pm

        ” he said that those of us who oppose Israel are motivated by anti-Jewish feelings. “

        I don’t know where they get the idea that anti-Zionists must pass a Zionist purity test before they can be anti-Zionist. It doesn’t work like that.

      • Sibiriak on July 26, 2019, 11:08 am

        There’s hope:

        By the year 2050, 41% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ definitely (23%) or probably (18%) will have returned to earth.

        https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2010/07/14/jesus-christs-return-to-earth/

      • echinococcus on July 26, 2019, 6:12 pm

        “By the year 2050, 41% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ definitely (23%) or probably (18%) will have returned to earth. ”

        We Americans are exactly as drop-dead stupid as we imagine we are.

      • Keith on July 27, 2019, 12:38 am

        ECHINOCOCCUS- “We Americans are exactly as drop-dead stupid as we imagine we are.”

        Jeez, I really didn’t need to see that! This is why I have lost all hope. I (we?) are under attack by the psychopathic elites who are willing to kill us all in their quest for power. And, we are under threat from the consequences from mass stupidity. Silver lining? To be alive at end times when power lust and hubris end the human experiment. Something to behold.

      • RoHa on July 27, 2019, 5:12 am

        But not, I desperately hope, as stupid as the rest of the world thinks you are.

      • echinococcus on July 27, 2019, 10:39 am

        RoHa,

        We have insider knowledge: it’s way deeper than any furriner can even start to guess.

      • Keith on July 27, 2019, 11:01 am

        ROHA- “But not, I desperately hope, as stupid as the rest of the world thinks you are.”

        And not even a “present company excluded, of course?” That’s cold, dude.

    • Talkback on July 26, 2019, 2:34 am

      Who needs Nazis to tell Jews who is a good or a bad Jew when you have aloeste?

      It’s even more disturbing that aloeste calls Neturei Karta “outcasts”, because they maintain the original Jewish religious view that Jews should not “storm the wall” (establish Israel on their own). And of course Aloeste has to mention the “Reb Yoilish” (Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum) who said that Zionism was a herecy and the Holocaust was a punishment for secular Zionism. What a reference, Go figure!

      But what can you expect from someone who is racist enough to
      1.) call Palestine “a ‘slur’ conceived of by the Roman meant to de-judaize ‘eretz yisrael'” but not “Israel” conceived of by the Zionists meant to de-palestinize Palestine.
      2.) claim that only the Jewish people have a legitimate claim to “any biblical land” and not its real indigenous population who were actually citizens of Palestine pre 1948 contrary to all the Jews who had not even acquired citizenship of Palestine in 1948 to even call themselves “natives” or at least “naturalized”.
      3.) claim that Palesinians are not a people, allthough the Palestinian Citizenship legally exists since 1925 and there is no “Jewish” citizenship to call the Jews in Israel a “people” or a “nation” in the legally relevant sense of nationality/constitutive people and interpretation of “nation”. Not to mention that Israel similar to the Nazis differentiates between Israel’s “only-Jews” nationals (Reichsbuerger) and citizens who don’t enjoy full citizenship rights if they aren’t Jewish.
      4.) claim that there was never a “State of Arabs” which is a red herring, because Palestine (whether under mandate or occupation) has always been a state for all of its citizens contrary to the racist, exclusivary Apartheid entity called Israel.

      • Mooser on July 26, 2019, 11:50 am

        “aloeste” like the rest, clings to the precious fantasy that Zionism is an ideology which gives Zionists the power to judge, control and discipline Jews.

        Am I the only one here who would like to hear “aloeste’s” definition of a “gentilized hebrew”? Just, you know, so we have a basis for discussion.

    • Misterioso on July 26, 2019, 10:08 am

      @aloeste

      Patent drivel! Jews ‘who are antizionist’ are intelligent, well read, informed and ashamed that their faith has be hijacked by Zionist fascists like you who toss aside hard won international and humanitarian law. They are morally compelled to stand shoulder to shoulder with Palestine’s indigenous Arab inhabitants who have been dispossessed, slaughtered, brutalized, occupied and expelled from their ancestral homeland by those Jews who rule the borderless expansionist racist entity referred to as “Israel.”

  4. DaBakr on July 26, 2019, 1:47 am

    @MW

    Yankee fan or not : the great Mariano Rivera. He has been made aware. He doesn’t care.

  5. Elizabeth Block on July 26, 2019, 8:55 am

    I shall send the link to this to my Christian colleagues.

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