Judaism or Zionism

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The voice we hear is the voice of the victims of injustice, but that is precisely the voice of God. As ones whose consciousness has been touched by the spirit of God, we say: vox victimarum vox Dei: the cries of the victims are the cries of God.

Kairos consciousness South Africa

A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz 1968

A few words today on Zionism and Judaism, a very hot topic in today’s world. The shocking military force, the disproportionate firepower visited on Gazan civilians has revolted people around the world. This has confused so many people of good will. Many ask is this Jewish? is it israeli. With its obvious belief in pure force is this a rejection of Jewish tradition?For many the modern state of Israel has done great harm to the religion of Judaism.

Here are a few probes on this question.

Abraham Geiger (d 1874) a German rabbi argued that Judaism was an evolutionary movement, from Moses and the prophets to the present. Its central core was its morality, its covenant with the Holy One which commanded compassion, mercy and justice. Judaism was not a nation but a community. According to the prolific American Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner The prayers that Judaism teaches teaches all use the world israel but this doe not refer obviously to the state. ”Israel” is the holy community called to model life in the holy image, made manifest in the Torah. Today Neusner says “israel in synagogue and Jewish community affairs means “the state of Israel.”. For this reason Palestinian Christians never use the psalms in their worship. When people hear the word “Israel” they shudder. Like Neusner they are well aware of its biblical context, but in the the context of their own lives, the resonance is simply too painful.

“The state has become more important than the Jews”, Neusner says. The worst fears of the Zionist rejectionists have come true.

in 2001 the Liberal Jewish synagogue of London expressed this problem well: ”We seem to have to choose between loyalty to our people and loyalty to God. Did not the prophets love their people? Yet they castigated its leadership.” Zionism in effect, a colonialist expansionist movement created a historic break in Jewish identity. There has always been rabbinic resistance to this though Zionism has become extraordinarily powerful across the Jewish world.
While this is hardly the place to get into the extraordinary history of Zionism one must place it in context of the powerful cries of nationalism of the late 19th century. It inspired many Jews particularly of antisemitic Russia to rise up seeking self-determination and a new identity. Its brilliant leaders, among them Jabotinsky and Ben Gurion, both atheists, had no compunction about instrumentalizing religion with its powerful prophetic and messianic themes. Many symbols were kept but God was gone,torah replaced by fiery nationalism. It is fascinating to read about the rebbes of 100 years ago who were appalled by this development. For example Dov Baer Schneerson (d 1920) the fifth Luvatitche rebbe stated, ”The Zionists must give nationalism precedence over the Torah because it is known that those who cling to Torah and the commandments are not likely to change and accept another identity.

Moritz Gudemann, the chief rabbi of Vienna,(d 1918) predicted that “the Zionists would ultimately create a Judaism of cannons and bayonets that would invert the roles of David and Goliath and would end in a perversion of Judaism, which never glorified war and never idolized warriors.” Quoting from an from an Austrian poet, he concluded that the Zionist leadership was following a path that leads “from humanity through nationality to bestiality.”

The land of Israel (“Eretz Israel”) would become the heart of the new Jewish identity. And as we see anything to gain the land was acceptable. Murder and terror were commonplace. Two terrorists became Prime Ministers, Begin and Shamir. The original occupants of the land the Arabs had to be demonized. So many “Jews of Conscience” became horrified. Where was Torah? Where were the mitzvahs?

Remarkably today in the Toronto Star former rabbinic student Rick Salutin quoted one of the towering voices of “Jews of conscience” Yeshayahu Leibowitz (d.1994).This extraordinary polymath. an Orthodox Jew, from Riga emigrated to Palestine in 1935 where he distinguished himself in science and philosophy. In 1993 he turned down the state’s highest award the Israel Prize.I finish today’s post with this statement

The historical Jewish people was defined neither as a race, nor as a people of this country or that, or of this political system or that, nor as a people that speaks the same language, but as the people of Torah Judaism and of its commandments, as the people of a specific way of life, both on the spiritual and the practical plane, a way of life that expresses the acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, the yoke of the Torah and of its commandments.

This consciousness exercised its effect from within the people. It formed its national essence; it maintained itself down through the generations and was able to preserve its identity irrespective of times or circumstances. The words spoken by Saadia Gaon more than one thousand years ago, ‘Our nation exists only in the Torah’ (d Baghdad 942 CE)had not only a normative but also an empirical meaning. They testified to a historical fact whose power could be felt up until the 19th century. It was then that the fracture, which has not ceased to widen with time, first occurred: the break between Jewishness and Judaism.”  

Tomorrow a modern Jewish prophet Henry Siegman.

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6 Comments »

  1. 1
    mushafta Says:

    Very educational! I always thought zionism was the belief that God had given the land of Israel to the Jews. No one else. I know that many evangelical churches- Alliance (Harper’s brand) are very supportive of this model.
    Most of us are profoundly ignorant- and I do include myself, of so much of Judaism. There is so much to learn. And unlearn, as the media has told us so many lies.

  2. 2

    Mushafta: If you admit ignorance, that is wonderful and praiseworthy, but please, for the love of God, get yourself informed NOT by this left wing ideologue who simply cannot entertain the slightest possibility that he might be wrong or that there is a bigger picture, but get informed by those who have spent their lives studying this. The issue is so complex. Whenever someone argues his side and it appears so clear and onesided to him, whether he is a right wing Catholic or a left wing Catholic, let the red flags go up. No one has every been entirely wrong in the history of thought. Whenever one side demonizes the other, let the red flags go up and pay attention to them. Ted’s posts raise red flags all the bloody time. Ted never suggests that he might be wrong or that his conclusions are tentative, or that things are a bit more complex than he makes them out to be. Be suspicious of people like that, no matter who they are.

    “Zionist” is a concept that’s basically simple, clear, easy to define and understand, and there should be no difficulty defending its definition. But over the past 20 to 30 years, this simple concept has turned into one of the most confused and complicated notions of identity, and its overuse has made it impossible to agree on what it means.

    The right likes to use it as a type of whipped cream to improve the taste of dubious dishes, while the left treats it with fear, as if it were a mine liable to explode in its hands − which is why it always feels the need to neutralize it with some strange adjective, as in “sane Zionism” or “humane Zionism.” In the dispute between the “national camp” and the “peace camp,” Zionism is used as an offensive weapon that is batted from one side to the other.

  3. 3

    A paradigmatic characteristic of all bigotry is to take a fault that is widespread among all cultures, races, religions and nationalities and to attribute it singularly to one group.

    For example: “Blacks are violent.” “Jews are cheap.” “Asians are sly.” “Gays are pedophiles.” “Women are irrational.” “Romanies (gypsies) cheat.”

    The truth, of course, is that all groups have some among them with these negative characteristics.

    The bigots who make these claims correctly point to the fact that some members of these groups display the negative characteristics attributed to the groups as a whole.

    But the bigotry consists of singling out any such group for unique condemnation on the basis of these widespread faults without acknowledging that members of other groups have them as well, sometimes in greater proportion than the group that is singled out.

    This is precisely what is occurring in the context of the nation state of the Jewish people, Israel, being singled out for boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

    As the president of the American Studies Association, Curtis Marez, acknowledged, after his organization singled out Israel for an academic boycott: Many other countries, including all of Israel’s neighbors, have far worse records when it comes to human rights and academic freedom.

    Moreover, other countries (including China, Russia and Turkey) have had longer and far more oppressive occupations than Israel without offering (as Israel has) to end the occupation as part of a negotiated peace. But ProfMarez’s response to the charge of bigotry in applying the double standard to the nation state of the Jewish people was “We have to start somewhere.”

    That is the characteristic response of the bigot. When it comes to condemning violence, we have to start somewhere, so let’s target African-Americans for stop and frisk. When it comes to stopping pedophilia, “we have to start somewhere” so let’s start with profiling gays. Surely this would be recognized as bigotry personified.

    Marez’s benighted response is more than simply bigoted, it is mendacious.

    His association is not simply starting with Israel, it is stopping with Israel. A vote to boycott Chinese, Cuban, Russian or Palestinian academic institutions— which are worse by every measure of civil liberties, human rights and academic freedom than Israeli institutions – would garner few, if any, votes. This too is the paradigm of bigotry: starting and ending with one ethnic or religious group and applying a different standard to every other group.

    When Harvard University adopted a quota system directed only against Jewish applicants, its president, A. Lawrence Lowell, justified singling out Jews, because, he claimed, “Jews cheat.”

    When told that Christians cheat, too, he responded: “You’re changing the subject. We’re talking about Jews now.”

    He too had to start and stop somewhere. So he singled out the Jews. Was this anti-Semitic? The answer to the question, is the singling out of the nation state of the Jewish people for an academic boycott an act of anti-Semitism, the answer is, if the shoe fits …

    Here not only does the shoe fit, but like Cinderella’s slipper, the bigoted shoe in this case fits only one group: academic institutions in the nation state of the Jewish people.

    There are those who claim that the BDS movement against Israel cannot be anti-Semitic, because it is directed at a country and not at individuals. But by treating Israel as the Jew among nations – singling it out for condemnation when others are far worse by any relevant standard – the advocates of BDS are simply expanding the notion of anti-Semitism beyond the individual to the nation state of the Jewish people. When Nazis condemned “Jewish physics,” “Jewish art” and “Jewish business practices,” they too claimed that they were focusing on Jewish institutions rather than Jewish individuals. That defense won’t work. Treating the Jew among nations precisely the way classic anti-Semites have treated the Jewish people is simply a new adaptation of the oldest of prejudices.

    So let the world condemn those who single out the nation state of the Jewish people for the application of a double standard. Let the world understand that bigotry is bigotry whether directed against the Jew among nations or the Jew within nations.

    Let those who want to boycott nations apply the simple test of morality: the worst first. Let them apply another moral test: focusing first on those countries in which dissent is not tolerated and in which there is no internal recourse against violations of human rights.

    Applying these tests to Israel would put the nation state of the Jewish people at the very bottom of countries deserving to be boycotted. But by ignoring the worst and condemning a nation that is near the very top in terms of human rights, academic freedom and the rule of law, the bigotry of the condemners becomes obvious.

    So let the world judge Israel by a single standard and let the world judge those who condemn Israel by that same standard.

    The writer, a veteran professor at Harvard Law School, is a prominent advocate for Israel in the United States

  4. 4

    Have any of you read the Hamas Charter yet? Or is it too long? Read the Hamas Charter and then come back and tell me that it is trivial, there’s no need to worry about it, they don’t mean it, they’re just frustrated and will respond to our love and offer of friendship and our smiles. If you can read that Charter, which I posted, please explain why no one should be concerned. Then I will be impressed. Then I will take you seriously.

    • 5
      mushafta Says:

      Francesco 49- you don’t need to be a university professor to recognize a bully. The Canadian government is a bully! Harper and Baird are bullies! Singling out one side in this war is siding with a bully. Don’t come here to bully me around. And what credentials might you have to claim to be an authority on all things? Your just an anonymous bully .

  5. 6

    Not necessarily, mushafta: If you take a hot shower, your body adjusts and the temperature outside the shower feels much cooler. But come outside after spending time in an air conditioned building, and that same temperature feels very hot. Our perception is determined by the way we are disposed. Two people, one from the hot shower, the other from the air conditioned building, make two different judgments: It’s cool out here, and, it’s hot out here.

    Piers Morgan was the biggest bully on TV. But when he was up against someone who was countering his every point, he called him a bully. A bully threatens, a bully gets violent, because he cannot argue, he cannot fight with his brain, so he used force, threats, etc. It is not possible for me to act like a bully on this forum. I have no power. Harper and Baird are only Bullies to you because they are taking an opposite position. Bully is your perception. But if you were to suddenly come in to some information that sheds new light on the situation, changing your judgment of Hamas, for example, your perception of them as bullies would change. The judgment that someone is a bully is merely a reflection of your own subjectivity, that’s all.

    I don’t call Ted a Bully. He’s not a bully. He does not threaten, he does not coerce, etc. He just does not reply; he does not dialogue, he does not investigate, he merely goes searching for articles and quotes that confirm his narrative. That’s not bullying. It is simply good ole fashioned lazy mindedness. Nothing more.

    I”m not sure why you have this mental love affair with Ted. But if you begin to look elsewhere, you’ll find more credible scholars around.


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