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Resistance Growing To Zionism's Corrupting InfluenceAllan C. Brownfeld Salem-News.com
Narrow nationalism, in recent years, has corrupted this humane Jewish tradition.
(WASHINGTON DC) - Zionism, the philosophy of Jewish nationalism which believes that Israel is the "homeland" of all Jews and that those living outside of Israel are in "exile," has distorted American Jewish life and is driving large numbers of young people away from what is becoming an increasingly intolerant community.
Many synagogues fly Israeli flags and have replaced God with Israel as the virtual object of worship, a practice akin to the idolatry practiced in the worship of the Golden Calf. In 1999, the Union for Reform Judaism adopted a resolution declaring that Israel, not God, "is central to our religion." Emigration to Israel---"aliyah"---was encouraged as the highest form of religious expression.
Sadly, the organized Jewish community has turned itself, in effect, into a defense attorney for Israel, defending actions by the Israeli government which are vigorously opposed at home. When it comes to separation of church and state, Jewish groups have led legal battles even against voluntary, non-sectarian school prayer. Yet, in Israel, they embrace a society with no separation of church and state, one which is, in real terms, a theocracy. Non-Orthodox Jews have fewer rights in Israel than any place in the Western world. Non-Orthodox rabbis cannot perform weddings or funerals in Israel, and their conversions are not recognized.
Do these Jewish groups really believe in religious freedom in the U.S. as a matter of principle----or do they take this position as a minority defending its self-interest? When Thomas Jefferson and James Madison promoted the Virginia Declaration of Religious Freedom, their advocacy was based on their belief in religious freedom as an essential element of a free society. Jefferson and Madison were part of a protected majority---but opposed a state-supported church of any kind. The same cannot be said for American Jewish defenders of Israel's theocracy.
Defending whatever a sovereign state does is hardly the expression of a religious worldview, hardly the Judaism of the prophets, who called for justice for men and women of every race and nation. What was the Anti-Defamation League thinking when it opposed a congressional resolution commemorating the Armenian genocide? Turkey, as it turns out, was then an ally of Israel, and would have been offended by such a resolution. The ADL's concern was with Israel-Turkish relations, not with the victimized Armenians. And how does the ADL explain its opposition to the construction of a mosque in New York City. Surely something other than a commitment to religious freedom was on its agenda.
The Israel which American Jewish groups defend---whatever the issue----may be far different than the one many American Jews envision. NEW YORK TIMES columnist Thomas Friedman (April 16, 2014) writes: "We're not dealing anymore with your grandfather's Israel, and they're not dealing with your grandmother's America either. Time matters, and the near half-century since the 1967 war has changed both of us in ways neither wants to acknowledge."
More Religious Society
Israel, Friedman points out, "has become a more religious society---on Friday nights in Jerusalem now you barely see a car moving on the streets in Jewish neighborhoods, which only used to be the case on Yom Kippur---and the settlers are clearly more brazen...there are a growing core who are armed zealots, who will fight the IDF if it tries to remove them. You did not go to summer camp with these Jews. You did not meet them at your local Reform synagogue. This is a hard core...There are now about 350,000 Jews living in the West Bank. It took 50,000 Israeli police to remove 8,000 settlers from Gaza , who barely resisted. I fear the lift in the West Bank to make peace there is now just too heavy for conventional politics and diplomacy."
With regard to Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to mediate a peace settlement, Friedman is not optimistic: "The truth is Kerry's mission is less an act of strategy and more an act of deep friendship. It is America trying to save Israel from trends that will inevitably undermine it as a Jewish and democratic state. But Kerry is the last of an old guard. Those in the Obama administration who think he is on a suicide mission reflect the new U.S. attitude toward the region. And those in Israel who denounce him as a nuisance reflect the new Israel. Kerry, in my view, is doing the Lord's work. But the weight of time and all the changes it has wrought on the ground may just be too heavy for such an act of friendship. If he folds his tent, though, Israelis and Palestinians will deeply regret it, and soon."
An article in THE NEW YORK TIMES (April 13,2014) asked the question, "Are Iran and Israel Trading Places?" The authors, Israel Waismel-Manor, a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa, and Abbas Milani, who heads the Iranian studies program at Stanford, note that while Islamic extremists appear to be in retreat in Iran, religious extremism in Israel is on the ascent.
They write: "As the winds of change blow across Iran, secular democrats in Israel have been losing ground to religious and right-wing extremists who feel comfortable openly attacking the United States, Israel's strongest ally. In recent months, Israel's defense minister, Moshe Yaalon called Secretary of State John Kerry 'obsessive and messianic,' while Naftali Bennett, Israel's economy minister, labeled Mr. Kerry a 'mouthpiece' for anti-Semitic elements attempting to boycott Israel. Israel's secular democrats are growing increasingly worried that Israel's future may bear an uncomfortable resemblance to Iran's recent past."
Shift Toward Orthodoxy
The authors believe that, "Israel's shift toward orthodoxy is not merely a religious one. Since the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are also against any agreement with the Palestinians, with each passing day, the chances of reaching a peace deal diminish. Nor is time on the side of those who want to keep seeing a democratic Israel. If Israel continues the expansion of settlements, and peace talks serve no purpose but the extension of the status quo, the real existential threat to Israel will not be Iran's nuclear program but rather a surging tide of economic sanctions...One of Israel's most popular singers, the Iranian-born Rita Jahanforuz, laments on her recent album, 'In this world, I am alone and abandoned, like wild grass in the middle of the desert.' If Iran's moderates fail to push the country toward reform, and if secular Israelis can't halt the country's drift from democracy to theocracy, both Iranians and Israelis will increasingly find themselves fulfilling her sad prophecy."
In Israel, racism and religious intolerance are growing---with targets ranging from Palestinian Muslims and Christians to Africans seeking political asylum to Bedouin tribesmen to non-Orthodox Jews. In response, American Jewish organizations have been silent.
Israeli Jews who are concerned about their country's escalating intolerance have expressed dismay with this silence on the part of their American counterparts. Daniel Blatman, a history professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wrote an article in HA'ARETZ (March 7, 2014) headlined, "If I were an American Jew, I'd Worry About Israel's Racist Cancer." The article's subhead read, "Amid the awareness that Israel is sliding toward an apartheid regime, the silence of Jews worldwide is deafening."
In Blatman's view, it is not "the Iranian threat that endangers Israel's survival, it's the moral and ethical collapse of its society...The racist cancer after 47 years of occupation and domination of another people has spread deep into Israeli society...World Jewry must help Israel be cured of it. It must speak out and act...and cooperate with the shrinking groups of Israelis who have not yet lost hope that it's possible to stop this downside toward the abyss."
"The King's Torah"
Consider the reality of contemporary Israel, which American Jewish groups completely ignore. The year 2009 saw the publication of Torat Ha'Melech ("The King's Torah"), which the Israeli newspaper MA'ARIV described as "230 pages on the laws concerning the killing of non-Jews, a kind of guidebook for anyone who ponders the question of when it is permissible to take the life of a non-Jew."
According to the authors, Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, non-Jews are "uncompassionate by nature" and may have to be killed in order to "curb their evil inclinations."
The commandment "Thou shalt not kill," the rabbis argue, refers only to killing other Jews. In their opinion, "There is justification for killing babies if it is clear they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation may be harmed deliberately and not only during combat with adults."
Torat Ha'Melech was written as a guide for Israeli soldiers and army officers seeking rabbinical guidance on the rules of engagement. According to the authors, all enemy civilians---including women and children---can be killed. The rabbis also justify the murder of Jewish dissidents, a philosophy which emerged from the settlement of Yitzhar in the occupied West Bank, where Shapira helps lead Od Yosef Chai yeshiva.
Shapira studied under Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh, who defended seven of his students who murdered an innocent Palestinian girl by asserting the superiority of "Jewish blood." In 1994, when the American-born Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Ginsburgh lionized Goldstein in a lengthy article entitled "Baruch Hagever" ("Baruch, The Great Man").
Funds From Israeli Government
These views are not those of just a few extremists. Instead, Od Yosef Chai has received funds from both the Israeli Ministry of Education, as well as from a U.S. tax-exempt group called the Central Fund for Israel.
Extremist rabbis, it seems, are part of Israel's religious establishment. Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Hebron, for example, has achieved considerable influence inside the military. In 2008, when the Israeli army's chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Avichai Ronski, brought a group of military intelligence officers to Hebron for a special tour, he concluded the day with a private meeting with Lior, who presented his views on modern warfare, which includes collective punishment of Palestinians. Ronski himself has overseen the distribution of extremist tracts to soldiers, including "Baruch Hagever," and a pamphlet stating, "When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers."
Ovadiah Yosef, the Shas party spiritual leader and Israeli chief rabbi, declared, "It is forbidden to be merciful to Arabs. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable."
There is much turmoil in contemporary Israel as the state plans to remove Bedouin from their traditional lands, continues to build settlements in the occupied territories and confronts black African asylum seekers, largely from Eritrea and Sudan, who had heard that there was a Jewish state across the Sinai peninsula that claimed to embrace the lessons of the Holocaust. One of those lessons was that you don't turn away refugees when they might be slaughtered when they return home.
55,000 Asylum Seekers
Today, there are 55,000 asylum-seekers in Israel. Knowing how bad deporting them all would look, Israel instead is "inviting" them to Holot, a desert facility built to "concentrate" refugees claiming status in Israel. At anti-refugee rallies, right-wing politicians have called them a "cancer" who threaten "the white man's country." Since last December, Israel has ordered more than 3,000 asylum-seekers, all of whom have resided in the country for more than four years, to report to Holot.
Because it is not described as a prison, regular rules involving trials, judges and juries do not apply. According to Allison Deger's report in MONDOWEISS (March 28, 2014), however, "The facility is a wasteland encircled in a trench of sun-dried sewage, off a dirt road where the only nearby structures are another prison, an army base and a crumbling abandoned gas station...Africans are allowed to leave the jail---comprised of small temporary structures made from shipping containers, resembling trailer-offices on construction sites---for a few hours. Still, the inmates must check in with guards three times a day and are locked in at night."
American Jewish groups in the forefront of promoting immigration reform in the U.S. have been silent. As journalist David Sheen, a Canadian living in Israel whose stay there has led to his disillusionment with Zionism, points out, "In all of 2013...the Anti-Defamation League did not have one word to say about Israel's war on African refugees. It wasn't just ADL---it was every single Jewish American mainstream group across the board. None of them had anything to say in criticism of the Israeli government as it moved to kick out all African asylum-seekers. And it's so ironic because here in the U.S., these mainstream Jewish groups, there's wall-to-wall support for immigration reform."
Ignoring Plight of Palestinians
Peter Beinart, a liberal Zionist who is concerned about American Jews ignoring the plight of Israel's non-Jewish population, notes that, "Groups like AIPAC and the Presidents' Conference patrol public discourse, scolding people who contradict their vision of Israel. Not only does the organized American Jewish community mostly avoid public criticism of the Israeli government, it tries to prevent others from leveling such criticism as well."
But if the organized Jewish community persists in its defense attorney-like relationship with Israel, more and more American Jews are disassociating themselves from that posture.
In its religion column by Mark Oppenheimer, THE NEW YORK TIMES (Feb. 14, 2014) highlights a group of men and women it describes as "devoted to Jewish observance, but at odds with Israel."
In the case of Charles H. Manekin, an Orthodox Jew who is philosophy professor at the University of Maryland, Oppenheimer finds one who "believes that his Orthodox faith calls him to take stands against Israel. Prof. Manekin, 61, became Orthodox in college and became an Israeli citizen in the 1980s. Yet...he denounced Israel's occupation of the West Bank. Although not a member of the American Studies Association, he was pleased when the group voted in December not to collaborate with Israeli academic institutions...'As a religious Jew,' he said, 'I am especially disturbed by the daily injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians."
"They Are Human Too"
Another person featured is Stefan Krieger, who teaches law at Hofstra University. He refrains from work on the Sabbath, keeps kosher, and studies pages of the Talmud every day. When it comes to Israel, he recalls that, "My parents were very sensitive to the issue of Palestinians. My mom had a book called 'They Are Human Too,' and my memory is she would take it off the bookshelf, as if this was some sort of scandalous tract she was showing me, and show me pictures of Palestinians in refugee camps...I think nationalism and religion together are toxic."
Daniel Boyarin, who teaches Talmud at the University of California, Berkeley, attended Orthodox synagogues for 30 years. He believes that Zionism was always flawed: "The very concept of a state defined as being for one people was deeply problematic and inevitably going to lead to a moral and political disaster. Which I think it has."
Corey Robin, who teaches political science at Brooklyn College and is a regular at a Conservative synagogue, says that, "There are lots of ways to be Jewish, but worshiping a heavily militarized state seems like a bit of a comedown from our past. I love being Jewish. I just don't love the state of Israel."
Skepticism Toward Zionism
Columnist Mark Oppenheimer points out that, "Skepticism toward Zionism used to be common. Before World War II, Reform Jews tended to believe that they had found a home in the United States, and that Zionism could be seen as a form of dual loyalty. Orthodox Jews generally believed, theologically, that a state of Israel would have to wait for the Messiah's arrival (a view some ultra-Orthodox Jews still hold). In the 1930s and 40s, the persecution of European Jews turned many American Jews into Zionists...'When Hillel was founded, it took a clear non-Zionist position,' said Noam Planko, who teaches Jewish history at the University of Washington. 'What you see is a shift in the American spectrum: from non-Zionism with a few Zionists, to a situation, by the 1960s, where the assumption is that any American Jewish organization is also going to be clearly Zionist."
As the 21st century proceeds, Oppenheimer believes, that assumption is more and more open to question. In the case of Hillel Foundations on college campuses, censorship of views critical of Israel has led to an open rebellion. Hillel CEO Eric Fingerhut declares that, "Anti-Zionists will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances." Mr. Fingerhut seems unaware of the long history of Jewish opposition to Zionism and seems not to understand that Hillel was established to promote Judaism---not Zionism.
Early in 2013, the Progressive Student Alliance at Harvard University launched an effort, Open Hillel, to challenge Hillel's guidelines. It's petition was signed by more than 800 Jewish students from diverse perspectives. In December, Swarthmore College Hillel declared itself to be the first "Open Hillel"---that is, the first Hillel to reject the guidelines established by Hillel International concerning discussions about Israel. These guidelines, students at Swarthmore asserted in a resolution passed Dec. 8, 2013, present a "monolithic face pertaining to Zionism" and "stifle healthy debate."
Burg Barred At Harvard
Even Israeli speakers who are critical of that government's policies have been barred from Hillel. At Harvard, in November 2013, Avraham Burg, former speaker of Israel's Knesset and now a sharp critic of its occupation policies, spoke in an undergraduate dormitory after being barred from speaking at Harvard Hillel. "It's such a shame that Harvard Hillel would not allow an open discussion about Israel to take place within its walls," said Sandra Korn, who helped organize the talk. "Hillel should be a space for students to engage with Jewish issues regardless of religious or political beliefs."
Jewish Community leaders at Wesleyan University issued a statement on April 2, 2014 standing with the Open Hillel movement. Hillel's policies of censoring dissenting views, they declared, "have resulted in barring speakers from groups such as Breaking the Silence and the Israeli Knesset from speaking at Hillels and has resulted in Jewish Voice for Peace and other Jewish organizations not being welcome under the Hillel umbrella...At Wesleyan, values of inclusion are central to our identity both as Jews and as participants in the larger Wesleyan community..In Hillel's guidelines, Jewish plurality gives way to Zionist unanimity, and we are acutely aware that many individuals have formed robust, meaningful Jewish identities that do not comport with traditional Zionist ideas."
The students argue that efforts at censorship violate basic Jewish values: "We believe that dialogue and critical engagement are central Jewish values. Our community is founded on texts that are meant to be interpreted, argued over, and debated endlessly... Hillel draws its name from the great rabbinical sage who believed that all should be able to learn, and that discourse should be free and unbound by guidelines imposed from above...We believe Hillel International's deviation from these principles alienates members of our community and strays from Jewish tradition." Among those signing this statement were former Wesleyan Jewish Renaissance Fellows Danny Blinderman, Becca Caspar-Johnson, Sydney Lewis and Hannah Plum.
Resignation From Hillel
In Florida, in March, Rabbi Bruce Worshal, writing in the FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL/JEWISH JOURNAL, announced his resignation from an honorary Hillel board to protest the bar on free speech. He declared: "It is with a heavy heart that I write this column. I have long been a supporter of the Hillel movement on college campuses...I also played a significant role in obtaining funding for the Hillel building on the Florida Atlantic University campus. I have served on the board of directors of my local Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach...I am publicly declaring that I am getting off the Hillel bandwagon."
Rabbi Worshal noted that, "Hillel is no longer the Hillel of yester years. In 2010 the national Hillel issued guidelines as to what is permissible dialogue at Hillel...This has essentially banned all liberal Jews who love Israel but disagree with the current Netanyahu government from Hillel involvement...I refuse to let my Zionism dominate my Judaism. The love of Israel is only part of Judaism. The Zionist movement is only 150 years old; Israel is only 65 years old. Judaism has existed for thousands of years without both. Unfortunately, for too many years, American Jewry has made Israel the major part of its Judaism. It's a part, but not the major part."
Voices of dissent within the Jewish community are increasingly vocal. In his book, "Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion," a former militant Zionist, Rich Forer, writes that, "Zionism, in its current manifestation, is out of control....It is the ideological force that enables the stealing of another people's land and enslaving them in a virtual prison...Israel does not represent Judaism or traditional Jewish values. Its Zionist foundation distorts the very essence of Judaism...The dynamic of the victim mutating into the victimizer has been a frequent feature of conflict throughout history. After the trauma of their European experience, it is a tragic irony that the Jewish people did not guard against this paradigm, that their leaders would become committed to safeguarding their people's future through a movement that required the subjugation of another people."
Reverence For Human Life
Forer expresses the hope that, "One day...Jews will realize that Judaism's most sacred tenets extol reverence for human life more than an emotional attachment to land, no matter how holy they believe that land to be." He cites Rabbi Schlomo Yitchaki, better known by the acronym Rashi, the most famous biblical commentator of the Middle Ages, who taught: "Where the Torah tells about the creation of the first human being...the earth from which Adam was formed was not taken from one spot but from various parts of the globe. Thus, human dignity does not depend on the place of one's birth nor is it limited to one region."
Anna Baltzer, author of "Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman In The Occupation," grew up in a secular, unaffiliated Jewish household. She recalls that, "I knew where my allegiance lay. I saw Israel as a victimized country that simply wanted to live in peace but couldn't because of its aggressive, Jew-hating Arab neighbors...I first confronted an alternative narrative while traveling through the Middle East. I was taken in by families of Palestinian refugees, who told me their stories, They recounted tales of displacement, destroyed villages, land confiscation, imprisonment without trial and torture. When I first heard these accusations, I didn't want to believe them. In fact, at first I didn't...I set out to do some research to prove them wrong and quickly realized how little I actually knew about the situation."
What she discovered, notes Baltzer, "shocked me beyond anything I had read or heard. I witnessed a system of complete segregation. There was one kind of road for Jews living in the West Bank and another for Palestinians. I saw Jewish Israelis paid to leave Israel and move to the West Bank, pushing off my Muslim and Christian neighbors simply because of their ethnicity and religion. I visited a Palestinian village that had been intentionally covered in raw sewage, forcing inhabitants to leave and clearing the surrounding area for subsequent Jewish-only settlement...The human rights violations I witnessed in Israel/Palestine are profoundly contrary to the basic tenets of Judaism. There is nothing Jewish about occupation and discrimination, and there's nothing anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic about recognizing and examining these practices; in fact, it's in line with a Jewish tradition of social justice."
Passivity and Indifference
Poet and essayist Irina Klepfisz was one of the organizers of the Jewish Women's Committee to End the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Her father, Michal Klepfisz, belonged to the Jewish Fighters Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto. He was killed in 1943 while protecting other Jewish fighters who were trying to escape during an uprising against the Nazis. Explaining why she was driven to seek justice for the Palestinians, Klepfisz said: "Knowing that the world was passive and indifferent while six million Jews died, I have always considered passivity and indifference the worst of evils. Those who do nothing, I believe, are good German collaborators. I do not want to be a collaborator."
In April, THE FORWARD asked its readers if the spending priorities of American Jewish charities match those of American Jews. The paper reported (April 18, 2014): "Judging by an informal but highly revealing poll of Forward readers, the answer is no. As in NO. As in: spend more money on education, culture and community, about the same on general advocacy and much less on Israel. The Forward's poll grew out of our groundbreaking series on the Jewish charitable network, in which we analyzed newly released tax documents filed by 3,600 not-for-profit organizations to better understand an ecosystem with assets of roughly $26 billion. The largest share of donor money outside the federation system goes to organizations that focus on Israel, with health care and social services second and education third. But when we asked readers to register their choices...(they) responded with a dramatically different list of priorities. Education leaped to the top, while Israel dropped to fourth place."
A long time donor to Jewish causes who has chaired federation and Israel Bond campaigns expresses concern about efforts to silence critics of Israel within the Jewish community. Larry Gellman, in an article headlined "A Donor Laments the Dwindling Size of the Tent" (Forward, April 11, 2014) writes: "I am saddened and frustrated by the recent decision of Federation and Hillel of Greater Philadelphia to co-sponsor a divisive film screening that demonizes a fellow Jewish group---in this case, J Street...The film 'The J Street Challenge,' is nothing more than a lengthy political advertisement, featuring testimony from like-minded right-wing pundits, and funded by well-known J Street detractors who are trying to move from the fringe, to defining the parameters of what can be discussed in our community."
Gellman points to the fact that, "Our community has a vibrant diversity of opinion, and we should embrace that...If we disagree about the proper course for Israel to take, we should debate those differences openly instead of slinging mud...As a person who has worked so hard and invested so much in building our Jewish communities, it saddens me profoundly to see so many of the very organizations and people whom I believed shared common Jewish values and a commitment to open respectful conversation suddenly behaving in such destructive ways."
"Israel Right Or Wrong"
Those who have sought to enforce a code of "Israel, right or wrong" within the American Jewish community appear to be in retreat, which may be the cause of their increasingly desperate attempts to enforce a standard of orthodoxy upon all discourse regarding Israel. They are being challenged by those who believe that free speech and open discussion is an important Jewish value. Many of those engaged in that challenge may not be aware that Zionism---and the notion that Israel is, somehow "central" to Judaism---is a somewhat recent phenomenon. Historically, Zionism has been a minority view within Judaism, and is likely to become a minority view in the future.
In 1841, at the dedication ceremony of Temple Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi Gustav Poznanski declared: "This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple."
In 1885, under the leadership Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, meeting in Pittsburgh, issued a statement of principles which declared: "We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any laws concerning the Jewish state."
As one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century, Abraham Joshua Heschel, said: "Judaism is not a religion of space and does not worship the soil. So, too, the State of Israel is not the climax of Jewish history, but a test of the integrity of the Jewish people and the competence of Judaism"
American Council for Judaism
Since 1942, the American Council for Judaism has advanced the philosophy that Judaism is a religion of universal values, not a nationality, and has maintained that Americans of Jewish faith are Americans by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other Americans are Protestants, Catholics or Muslims. Current developments and trends show us the prophetic vision of its founders.
Among the Council's founders was Rabbi Morris Lazaron of Baltimore. He had been an early Zionist, captured by the romantic vision of the movement. After visiting Nazi Germany and seeing the effects of its nationalism, Lazaron became convinced that nationalism, a force leading the world to destruction, could not serve as an instrument for Jewish salvation. For Lazaron, the mixture of religion and state spelled disaster.
Judah Magnes, chancellor of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wrote a letter endorsing the Council's statement of principles: "It is true that Jewish nationalism tends to confuse people not because it is secular and not religious, but because this nationalism is unhappily chauvinistic and narrow and terroristic in the best style of Eastern European nationalism."
Challenging The Zionist Consensus
The intolerance of the organized Jewish community was reaffirmed in April when the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations voted to deny membership to J Street, the dovish lobbying group which has been critical of some Israeli policies. THE NEW YORK TIMES (May 1, 2014) noted that, "A poll conducted last year by the Pew Research Center found that a plurality of American Jews did not believe the Israeli government was making a sincere effort to reach a peace settlement....The president of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said the vote sent a 'terrible message' to those who have concerns about aspects of Israeli policy...'It sends the worst possible signal to young Jews who want to be connected to the Jewish community, but also want to have freedom of thought and expression.'"
Recently, the number of Jewish voices challenging the Zionist consensus which has emerged in organized American Jewish life is growing. There is a new understanding that the idolatry of the state of Israel has led to the distortion of a rich religious heritage. The founders of Reform Judaism, in particular, rejected the notion of a God confined to a particular "holy" land, embracing instead a universal God, the Father of all men, and a religion of universal values as relevant in New York, London or Paris as in Jerusalem.
The Prophets preached a universal faith of ethical values for men and women of every race and nation. Narrow nationalism, in recent years, has corrupted this humane Jewish tradition. Today, more and more American Jews are seeking to return to that tradition, a vindication of the vision of those who have worked so hard to keep that philosophy alive. The Zionist moment in American Jewish life seems to have passed, although its retreat will be divisive and its assault upon those who challenge its premises will be harsh. That, after all, is how movements in retreat traditionally conduct themselves.
Allan C. Brownfeld is a nationally syndicated columnist and serves as Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and Editor of Issues. The author of five books, he has served on the staff of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President.
Salem-News.com contributor Allan C. Brownfeld received his B.A. degree from the College of William and Mary, his J.D. degree from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary and his M.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland. He has served on the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia, and the University College of the University of Maryland.
The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, Mr. Brownfeld has written for such newspapers as THE HOUSTON PRESS, THE RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH, THE WASHINGTON EVENING STAR and THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. For many years he wrote three columns a week for such newspapers as THE PHOENIX GAZETTE, THE MANCHESTER UNION LEADER, and THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. His weekly column appeared for more than a decade in ROLL CALL, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in such journals as THE YALE REVIEW, THE TEXAS QUARTERLY, THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, ORBIS and MODERN AGE.
Mr. Brownfeld served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and was the author of that committee's 250-page study of the New Left. He has also served as Assistant to the Research Director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to such members of Congress as Reps. Phil Crane (R-Il) and Jack Kemp (R-NY) and to the Vice President of the United States.
He is a former editor of THE NEW GUARD and PRIVATE PRACTICE, the journal of the Congress of County Medical Societies and has served as a Contributing Editor AMERICA'S FUTURE and HUMAN EVENTS. He served as Washington correspondent for the London-based publications, JANE'S ISLAMIC AFFAIRS ANALYST and JANE'S TERRORISM REPORT. His articles regularly appear in newspapers and magazines in England, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and other countries. You can write to Allan at email@example.com
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