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Non-Zionism: an Under-Recognised Non-Position

August 30, 2009 – 4:47 pm59 Comments

non-zionismBy Anthony Frosh

In the current political discourse of the Jewish Diaspora, we often see the Zionist camp pitted against the anti-Zionist camp.  This dyad is of course a gross reduction of the diversity of opinion on (and relationship with) Israel to be found within our community.

For starters, amongst the Zionists there is an enormous range of opinion and attitude.  For example, there are those whose rule of thumb is to support the policies of the democratically elected Israeli government (regardless of which party is in power), and there are those who are willing to be critical of the government, whether their criticism comes from the right or (more often than not) from the left.  There may well be diversity of political opinion amongst the anti-Zionist camp as well, although I am less aware of it. (Editor’s note: Perhaps someone out there would like to write an article on this).

However, there is one position (or non-position, as it may better be described) that is rarely acknowledged.  And this is what I like to call the non-Zionist position.

There is a huge difference between anti-Zionism and non-Zionism.  Allow me to illustrate with a description of some genuine non-Zionist Jews that I know.  They celebrate the Shabbat, they celebrate the festivals, and they participate in Jewish life-cycle events, but they do not concern themselves with Israel or Middle-East politics.  Typically, they do not have any interest in geo-politics.  They frequently have not even visited Israel, and do not send their children to youth movements or Israel programs.   However, their reasons for not visiting Israel have nothing to do with a boycott; rather, it is simply disinterest.  In fact, it is disinterest that most characterizes their relationship with Israel, or lack thereof.   They don’t kvell over Israel’s successes, but they also do not feel shame, nor defensiveness, about Israel’s perceived failures.

Most importantly, while they might be disinterested in Israel, they are probably even more disinterested in Palestinians, complaints by anti-Israel NGOs, and the whole boycott Israel movement.  Theirs is a Jewish identity that predates modern Zionism, and hence also has nothing to do with anti-Zionism.  Despite the fact I myself fairly strongly identify with Israel and Zionism, I have no problem at all with the true non-Zionist position.  I cannot say the same for the anti-Zionist position.

For whatever reason (and this is somewhat of a side-point), almost all the genuine non-Zionists I know are not of Ashkenazic background.  This could be due to random chance or some other selection bias, but I suspect that there is something that makes Jews of Ashkenazi background more likely to take on a Zionist or anti-Zionist position.  Perhaps it is because the Occidental diaspora was typically a more foreign and hostile land to the Jewish people than the Oriental diaspora, at least prior to the development of Arab nationalism and later Islamic fundamentalism well into the 20th century.  This reality, as well as the fact that the nation-state idea grew out of Europe, is why modern Zionism developed initially out of the European capitals, and not Iraq, Persia, Morocco, Egypt, or Syria etc.

Acknowledging that not all Australian Jews fall into Zionist or anti-Zionist camps would better represent the true diversity of the community. In addition, it suggests that not all Jewish organizations need to take a position on Zionism.

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59 Comments »

  • What about those of us who are non-Zionists, not because we can’t be bothered thinking about the issue, but because we don’t believe that Israel constitutes the eternal homeland of the Jewish people? Wouldn’t that be a better definition of the term? I’m sure that there are people out there who genuinely do not care one way or another, but I doubt that those people would define themselves in relation to the issue that disinterests them so much.

  • David Zyngier says:

    I agree with Simon – non-Zionsim can be a definte political ideology or philosophy – just as Zionism & anti Zionism are. His position description perfectly I believe describes the archetypal Bundist who have believed in doirkeit or hereness

    What Frosh suggests as non-Zionism seems to me to be just plain old self-centred selfishness typical of the nouveau-riche bourgeoisie found in second generation immigrant communities. This might explain why so many of the respondents in the recent community survey identified as non Zionist – simply in Hebrew lo echpatli – I don’t care!

  • David Zyngier says:

    Oops the URL didn’t work. here it is again:
    doirkeit or hereness

  • Chaim says:

    Simon and David: How would you differentiate a non-Zionist and anti-Zionist?

    With all the varied and contradicting definitions displayed on the previous articles I don’t think any poll could at all be accurate.

  • Chaim says:

    Then again we probably couldn’t even come to a consensus what Jewish is.

  • No, we probably couldn’t :-)

    To my mind, a non-Zionist is simply somebody who does not identify with Zionism. Speaking personally, I find the notion of a “homeland” to be a fundamentally religious idea, structured around the conception that history possesses some kind of cosmic imperative. While I appreciate the excitement that must have come with the building of the yishuv and the declaration of a state, I see that as stemming moreso from 19th century European philosophies of nationalism than from a millenia-old yearning for Zion. Whether the Zionist goals have succeeded or not is a different issue, but I reject the notion that the state constitutes the centre of the Jewish world and that all else is the diaspora. The diaspora, by the very definition of the word, includes the State of Israel.

    An anti-Zionist, so far as I am concerned, would go one step further and actually denigrate the possibility of Zionism. I have no objection to other people (Jews and non-Jews) being Zionists, just as I have no objection to them possessing different religious convictions. I object, sometimes, to the manner in which they express those convictions, and I object to the fact that they sometimes shout down any opposing perspectives. Nonetheless, that they should view Israel in all the ways that I do not is not something that bothers me at all.

  • Chaim says:

    except the bible out-dates 19th century European philosophies of nationalism and is clearly zionist.

  • How do you define Zionism then, Chaim? Because if it’s the belief that the land of Israel constitutes the eternal homeland of the Jewish people, then I would dearly love for you to find me a Biblical verse that even acknowledges the existence of the Jewish people. Furthermore, find me a Biblical verse that mandates the reconquest of the land, post-destruction.

    Nobody would deny that Zionism bases itself upon the Bible (it’s no mistake that nationalistic forms of Judaism are markedly more Biblical than the passive rabbinic Judaisms that they sought to supersede), but to deny the 19th century origins of the movement would be to whitewash all of Jewish history up until that point.

  • ariel says:

    Chaim makes an interesting point.

    The Bible is the only text of its kind that I know of (Simon, please feel free to correct me :)) which promises a (tiny) piece of land to the people of its (the book’s) subject, where they will live in peace, unfettered by those around them. That is, simply left alone.

    The Christian Bible does not do this. The Qur’an does not do this (except to mention the holiness of mecca and medina to muslims). In fact both of these books acknowledge the promise of the Land of Israel to the People of Israel.

    Non-Zionism is an interesting position. Those non-Zionists whom I know are different from those whom Anthony knows. Mine are non-Zionists, but are also non-everything else. They may hang out in the Jewish community and identify with it, but do not necessarily practice any of the traditions. In other words, they are apathetic to most religious and geopolitical issues, Jewish/Israeli or otherwise.

    I agree to an extent with Simon that the State of Israel need not be the centre of Jewish life, but it should be the aspiration of all Jews to one day live there in an ideal setting (the State as it exists now seems to cause issues amongst many of us on the Right and Left).

    I see the return of sovreignty to Israel after 2000 years as inspiration, not “happenstance” or even as a result of the pogroms and Shoah (although these were probably catalysts). But I also believe one can live a fulfilling Jewish life outside Israel and could possibly even provide a greater contribution to the Jewish People, depending on who you are and what you do for a living.

  • Chaim says:

    Simon: I quote you “are you kidding me”?”

    Are you talking only about modern zionism?

    G-d promised Abraham, Isaac, Jacob the land of Israel. After the Jews left Egypt they traveled to the land of Israel. Joshua conquered the land and all the prophets spoke about returning to and yearning for the land after the destruction of both temples.

    The existence of the Jewish people – How many times are they called Bnei Israel after coming to Egypt????

    As for a verse that mandates the reconquest: There are mitzvot to live in the land, to have a king, shmittah and yovel which only apply in the land of Israel. And there are boundless quotes of G-d promising to bring the Jews back to the land.

    The Jews were always considered a minority in EXILE!

    However the active movement for Jewish return did not appear until the 2nd half of the 19th century YES from the nationalistic phenomenon e.g. French revolution . This was Zionism as a political force but Zionism as a concept of the land being our eternal homeland outdated this by millenia.

    Jews maintained a presence in Israel throughout history even before this.

  • frosh says:

    David Z,

    It seems to me that Bundists/SKIF and these types would be better off to adopt the non-Zionist approach as described in the above article (which would certainly work well with “Hereness”), rather than an anti-Zionist approach.

  • I would say the modern Bund is more non- than anti-. Anti- might have been more necessary in the earlier days as the Bund developed to distinguish its idealogy.

    Of course the difference between non- and anti- is one of degree. Simon calls himself “non-” but some of the stuff he writes sounds quite “anti-“.

    Which brings me to the an important question in this whole debate: where do we draw the line between non- and anti-Zionism?

  • frosh says:

    Hi David W,

    You may well be correct about the Bund today being more “non” than “anti”, and I hope this is the case. I’m personally not clued up on the current situation with these groups. By the way, we would like to have a contributor who is from this political persuasion on Galus.

    Based on Simon’s writing on Galus (which is all I know of Simon), I too would not class him as a non-Zionist, at least not in the sense that I have used the term in the article – although I accept that I do not have a semantic monopoly here.

    To me a non-Zionist is someone who doesn’t have any particular political relationship (positive or negative) with the State of Israel, or at least little more of a relationship than they would have with some other 3rd party state.

  • Chaim says:

    We are back to arbitrary and varying definition of labels again…

    Which prove to Larry and David Z: the polls they quote are irrelevant.

    Simon: If you don’t like Bnei Yisrael. Moses told Pharaoh : the G-d of the Hebrews sent me” Shmot (7:?). The clearly became a people / nation in Egypt.

    Furthermore the Chumash is quite clear about the purpose of these people / nation / race / religion / whatever you want to call the group. To serve G-d through the mitzvot / Torah in the Land of Israel. The land (specifically not the current state though)is at the core of the definition of authentic “Judaism”.

    As for reconquest, it should be noted 10 nation states where promised to the Jews and only 7 have been fulfilled which means the mandated initial conquest has not been fully realised.

  • Jon says:

    As the meaning of Zionism itself is a term so difficult to define, given different streams, and the fact that at the extreme end of the spectrum, it negates the very viability of the diaspora (in which case, I doubt anyone living in the diaspora without an intention to move to Israel would be considered a Zionist), it is somewhat difficult to define what a non-zionist is. I guess taking the Ahad Haam approach ie- sees Israel as the cultural centre of the jewish people, and does not negate the diaspora, in that case a non-zionist would be someone who simply does not view Israel as somekind of Jewish centre, and does not see the diaspora as a kind of exile.

    I’m not sure a discussion deliniating the difference between Zionist/non-zionist/anti-zionist etc takes us very far when looking at modern Israel today, given that zionism has largely acheived what it set out to do: that is create a modern Jewish state. Despite the rants of a rather small minority, the state of Israel is not about to disappear and head towards a one state solution.

    I think a better way of looking at things is simply trying to ask what kind of state we would like Israel to be, which involves, amongst other things, trying to find the right balance between being a Jewish state and being a liberal democracy.

  • I don’t identify as an “anti-Zionist” because, to me, that prefix denotes being against something. I am not against Zionism: neither the philosophy nor its adherents. I don’t subscribe to it, but I also don’t necessarily subscribe to its antithesis.

    As for the Bible, while the Jewish religion might be sourced in the Bible (and the Rabbinic literature, etc), it is not found within the Bible. References to the nation that was forged in Egypt are references to the Israelites, not to the Jews. I think that this is more than just semantic quibbling. The Land of Israel, a land flowing with milk and honey, promised by God and owned by the descendants of Abraham, is never unequivocally presented as a land owned in perpetuity by the Jewish people or as a land that needs to be reconquered in order to be claimed.

    That bit is quibbling because, if I were religious, there is enough standing within the Jewish tradition for the belief that the land will one day return to the Jewish people. There is not, however, much standing to the idea that the Jews should fight for it again and displace those who live in it. If you wish to read the Bible in a particular (in my opinion, non-historically literal) way, then you can find source texts to justify such opinions. It’s no mistake that nationalistic Jews have returned so much to the Biblical literature, while their passive religious contemporaries still focus almost exclusively on the Rabbinic literature instead.

  • frosh says:

    Simon you wrote in a comment you made under the Jews Against Israel: Uncovering the Anti-Zionist Agenda piece by Philip Mendes

    “I suspect that at heart Zionism is a racist ideology”

    How do you reconcile the above comment you wrote with your claim that you are not an anti-Zionist?

  • I don’t need to: I already said that I don’t subscribe to it. You want me to tell you that I’m against it but, sorry, I’m simply not. I have no objection to you or anybody else being a Zionist. If you want to define anti-Zionism as simply being strongly non-Zionist (non-Zionist with an opinion on the topic, if you will), then I fit the bill. I don’t define it that way and so I don’t identify that way.

  • Simon,

    Now you are really playing semantic games! “If you want to define anti-Zionism as simply being strongly non-Zionist …

    Several people in this topic and the previous one seem desperate not to be characterized as anti-Zionists.

  • At the end of the day, you can classify me as whatever you like. If it’s important for you to do so, do so. But if you’re going to ask me whether or not I see myself as an anti-Zionist, then the answer is that I do not. Not because I’m desperate not to be classified as an anti-Zionist, but only because I’m not anti Zionism. If I vote Liberal, do I become anti-Labour? It takes more than simply disavowing a particular philosophy to be considered to be against it, and you could only really call somebody anti-Labour if they actually wanted the party eradicated and all of its followers absorbed into others.

    I only brought this up because I thought that Frosh’s portrayal of non-Zionism was too simplistic. I see myself as a non-Zionist and it’s not because I don’t care about the issue. If you’re going to be the ultimate arbiter on how other people identify, then I guess you can have any schema you like, but I suspect that nobody on this thread wants to do that.

  • Chaim says:

    Any written text is open to interpretation. this is why we were give the oral Torah at the same time – to show what is the correct interpretation.

    Above Simon – through his own interpretation of the bible (which goes against thousands of years of tradition eg Rashi’s commentary which is almost 1000 years old) decides that the Jews are not the Israelites (also a statement made by anti-Semitic groups – NOT that I am accusing Simon of anything of the sort)and that Israel was given to these Israelites but not to Jews and was not an eternal promise from G-d as documented in the bible.

    The land is often referred to as the Promised Land because of G-d’s repeated promise (Gen. 12:7, 13:15, 15:18, 17:8) to give the land to the descendants of Abraham. In Deuteronomy 1:8, it is promised explicitly to the Israelites.

    do you really need quotes from Rabbinic literature also??????

    “Jewish religion might be sourced in the Bible (and the Rabbinic literature, etc), it is not found within the Bible” – I really really do not understand this statement…………..

  • Chaim says:

    A midrash states that, “The Holy One, blessed be he, further took the measure of all lands and found no land but the Land of Israel that was truly worthy for the people Israel” (Leviticus Rabah 13:2).

    Exile is threatened if these conditions are not met (Leviticus 26:32).

    BUT redemption is promised with repentance.

    Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.” (Deuteronomy 30:4-5)

    For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.” (Ezekiel 36: 6-12,24)

    In the end I can quote multiple biblical and rabbinic quotations but it is the interpretation that matters..

    Therefore: I can not and do not need to give proofs. What we do know is that millions of people were present at Sinai and passed on this tradition of thousands of years and despite being separated into different geographical and cultural areas the accounts are remarkable similar and ancient texts are nearly exactly the same.

    For an individual revelation their is always subjective interpretation – misunderstanding and lies but millions of people to tell the same story and the lies don’t get out?? We are not talking about texts found yesterday.

    The land of Israel belongs to G-d (who you don’t believe in anyway) He can give it to whoever he wants. Right now he gave it to the Jews. Lets see if he will take it away or not but I say we should not give up one inch.

  • Michael Brull says:

    Frosh doesn’t appear to have read the last Jewish News very carefully. They asked about people’s interest in Israel. Less than 5% were not at all interested in events in Israel. So perhaps 5 of the 20% who did not identify as Zionist were simply apolitical. But we still don’t know the politics of the remaining 15%, if they identify as non-Zionist, post-Zionist, or anti-Zionist (or some other category). It appears from the question that the only options were Zionim, non-Zionism, or refusal to answer.

    I have a question for you Chaim. If you think All of the land is Jewish, and god gave it to us, what do you think Israel should do with the West Bank and Gaza? As you presumably know, Israel controls these territories, but they have not annexed them, nor granted the Palestinians citizenship. So what do you think they should do? Keep them occupied, but not annexed? Annexe them, but not enfranchise the Palestinians? Annexe them and expel the Arabs?

  • frosh says:

    Michael,

    You wrote

    “Frosh doesn’t appear to have read the last Jewish News very carefully”

    Actually, I’ve hardly looked at it at all.

    As someone who manages surveys and survey-based research projects for a living, I can only tell you that the average person puts far too much faith in the validity and level of accuracy of surveys. Also, the more complex the topic, ceteris paribus, the more wary one should be of taking survey results at face value.

  • Michael Brull says:

    My point is that I got the impression from your blog that you thought lots of the non-zionist or decliners were people who don’t care about Israel. But they account for only 5% of the 20%.

    I don’t know how much trust people have in the survey. If we can find out more about the methodology etc, we can get a better sense of how seriously we should take it. Certainly, it appears to be the best info we’ve had in a long time, and has some interesting findings.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Michael,

    I wouldn’t know about the numbers of people who are Zionist, anti-Zionist, or what I describe as non-Zionist.

    As for this survey, I don’t want to knock the efforts of those behind the survey. I assume their motives are honourable, and they have made great efforts to use sound methodology.

    Nevertheless, I think the complexity of the topic makes it very difficult to tackle with a survey.

    Also, surveys tend to under-measure disinterested parties. The reason for this is that people’s passion correlates with their likelihood to actually respond to/complete the survey.

    Anyway, I agree that we need to find out more about the methodology before making to many judgements.

  • Chaim says:

    Michael – Annex it. Settle all unoccupied territory with Jews. Offer the Arabs citizenship. Expel those that do not except Israel as Jewish state and follow its values as it attains to them as non-Jews (ie they do not need to be Jewish). Make sure the secular laws are strong to maintain a free Jewish state which can not be lost. The Jewish identity of our state is the major priority.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Perhaps other readers missed Chaim’s response above or am I the only one that is deeply uncomfortable and disturbed with what they have written?

    Chaim seems to be advocating the expulsion of Arabs who don’t agree with a certain ideological position based on religious/cultural identity? Does anyone else find this troubling?

  • Chaim says:

    TheSadducee:

    How about I say it diplomatically:

    “Non-Jews who do not accept Israeli sovereignty should be encouraged to emigrate from Israel.”

    I do not say Non-Jews need to accept / practice / identify as Jews. They do need to uphold certain basic values – 7 noachide laws. (it is not too hard)

    Any non-Jew who want to stay in Israel and help make it a Jewish state is more than welcome to be a part of it. In fact there would be a great need for them.

    I do not believe in a secular Jewish state which makes laws against Torah.

  • Jon says:

    Yes, the Sadducee I found it troubling, but didn’t want to engage in any discussion on it. It sounds pretty Kahanist to me.

  • Michael Brull says:

    I wonder if you’re a Chaim I know. I think what you do not appear to realise is that there are currently about as many Arabs as there are Jews in Israel and the occupied territories (what you might call “Gaza, Judea and Samaria, and liberated Jerusalem”). If you make the Palestinians citizens, given their higher birthrate, wouldn’t you expect them to dismantle the Jewish state by voting? How would you prevent this? How can you ensure that it will remain a Jewish state? Would you agree undemocratic measures would be necessary? How would this differ from maintaining the status quo, where Israel rules the territories, but does not enfranchise the Palestinians there?

    It’s a little strange to claim anything Chaim’s said it strange. Which Jewish organisation thinks the Palestinians should be granted their human rights? Who can even say that they oppose the expulsion of Palestinians? ECAJ? AIJAC?

  • Chaim says:

    I don’t think you know me Michael – I am from Perth….

    I believe most Palestinians are secular and would thrive from living in a Jewish run state as it would not force any religious beliefs on them (unlike the current situation in Gaza). They would be entitled to health, education, social services and would not be used and abused by their own government like they are now for political reasons.

    Those Palestinians eg Hamas, Al Queida who will never except any form of Jewish state whether two states or one will have to leave with compensation if desired. Any government including Australia would not accept refugees, immigrants if they do not accept and follow their sovereignty. These Arabs have plenty of choices to live in.

    What other nation has in their own government politicians who meet with enemy states, collude with enemies and try to dismantle the state and yet tolerate it like Israel.

    I do agree undemocratic measures would be likely. Democracy means equal rights for all, irrespective of racial or religious origins. Judaism is not a democratic party. I don’t fully believe in democracy as an end to all problems anyway. Does democracy work in every country? China? Russia?

    The difference from the status quo is that ordinary civilians would not be used as pawns and the billions of dollars of aid would actually put to use to make their lives better. Although Israeli Arabs do not have the best possible existence (and I believe this needs to be addressed)they are far better off than those under Palestinian authority. Education especially with the young is key.

    Lastly there is an urgent need to settle all unoccupied territory with Jews – I do not say to displace Arabs.

    I want a JEWISH state – not a Hebrew speaking, Jew visiting, America or Australia. Many here will think I am racist. I am not. I work and help African, Asian or Arab refugees, Men or women, straight or gay all the time. This is positive discrimination. Israel is the Jewish homeland.

    Most people on this website are Left or far Left and hate what I write – I understand that. They are coming from a completely secular approach. I can understand their views- I was there too. This is my opinion. I feel their solutions are unrealistic, impractical and wrong as seen many times from Jewish history – “a utopian dream seen through rose coloured glasses”.

    My approach is maintain and promote JEWISH survival with its authentic definition.

  • Chaim says:

    On second thoughts.. Michael (PS I read your Blog / articles)

    I should not pretend to think I know what the Arabs want. Maybe being a part of an authentic democracy is extremely important for them given it does not exist for them elsewhere.

    No one is perfectly happy in the society they live in. There are always compromises an individual needs to make when accepting a particular society to be a part of.

    The Arabs would obviously would have the choice to stay or not in Israel.

  • Michael Brull says:

    What measures would you be willing to advance to protect the existence of a Jewish state? Right now, a significant part of the Palestinian Israeli vote in the Knesset goes to candidates who call for Israel to become a “state for all its citizens”. That is, to stop Israel being a Jewish state. Can you see how institutionalising the protection of Jewish interests means necessarily relegating the interests of non-Jews to lesser value? In what way do you think discrimination against Arabs should be addressed? Do you think the land reserved for Jews in Green Line Israel should be allowed to non-Jews? Do you think Israel should redress the enormous disparities in social spending, in representation in the justice system and so on?

    Why do you think the Palestinians should accept Israel as a Jewish state or leave? Do you think it would be reasonable for them to institute an Islamic state, and offer the choice of acceptance or exile for Jews?

    What sort of undemocratic measures do you favour? Do you support Chechnyan style repression? Do you support China style democracy? In what way do you think these examples “work”?

    I know you think you have differences with most of the people here. I think with the exception of a few AJDS folk, the differences are largely religious, not political.

  • Chaim says:

    Well Michael you ask a lot of questions in one paragraph.

    You do not believe in religions or theocracies – what do you really care about my views? What are you trying to really get at here?

    Other people here believe in a 2 state solutions, Jerusalem is debatable. I don’t.

    My starting point is that the land of Israel belongs to Jews and any state should be run according to Orthodox Jewish Law and this includes the Judiciary. – the answers are simple and I think you know them already. I told you a western type of democracy is not going to work if Arabs will try to vote or act to undermine the Jewish state.

    My views are essentially mute anyway as the majority in Israel and the current government is secular at present. However the demographics are changing rapidly with the net migration very positive orthodox and the Orthodox versus secular birth rate.

    Jews have lived in Islamic and Christian states for thousands of years. It was only a problem when they where physically attacked, had forced conversions, Judaism was disallowed, people held captive for ransom or children taken away to serve in the army against their will. Even the disproportionate taxes and social services given to Jews were accepted. They formed local community counsels to deal with social issues. I do not advocate anything of the sort against the Arabs. They will have essentially complete freedom of religion as long as it not against Jewish law – which is unlikely. Jews should be allowed to stay in or leave Iran and similarly Arabs can stay or leave Israel. Jordan was also Palestine.

    I do advocate adequate health, social and educational resources.

    Again as long as the Arabs are not trying to undermine the Jewish state because then in that case their interests would be of lesser value.

    “a significant part of the Palestinian Israeli vote in the Knesset goes to candidates who call for Israel to become a “state for all its citizens”. That is, to stop Israel being a Jewish state.” – this is obviously a problem.

    Why? – It is my particular orthodox Jewish beliefs. The land belongs to G-d. He gave to the Jews as an eternal gift but obviously has exiled them for known reasons. Right now he has given a portion of it back and this land in our control needs to be dealt with according to Jewish law. If not, G-d could take it away from us again.

    Is this fair and just or not? – to me the question is irrelevant.

    By the way on your column re Iran. Even if that statement was misinterpreted Aminajad has said on over 20 occasions to wipe Israel off the map or the Jews into the sea. Also FYI I have a friend who is an Iranian Muslim. He said (from info given by his family still there) that the demonstrations where not as big as the media made out and were only in Tehran.

  • Michael Brull says:

    So what should be done about Jews who do not behave according to Jewish law in Israel?

    I’m glad you read my article. If that’s so, you should have no problem finding the dates and texts of those speeches where Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be wiped off the map, or for the Jews to be pushed into the sea. It is my suspicion that you will be able to find precisely one speech where Ahmadinejad is supposed to call for the former.

    I do not think your friend’s information is accurate.

  • David Zyngier says:

    Thank you Michael – I checked Google “Ahmadinejad’s called for Israel to be wiped off the map” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israel to find that indeed it might be a case of Goebbels’s like propaganda – tell a big enough lie often enough and people will believe it. I urge people to read his ONE solitary speech on this issue and make up their own mind.

  • aussie says:

    Michael Brull and David Zyngier are anxious to clarify that Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be wiped of the face of the earth in “ONE solitary speech..” and in “precisely one speech…” By clouding the issue are they trying to make us forget that a country needs to be wiped off the face of the earth only ONCE for it to be gone forever.

  • I think that Aussie makes a good point but, until somebody who reads Farsi is able to check the actual speech, this debate is liable to go around in circles. Wiping a country off the map is an English expression, and I don’t personally know what the Farsi equivalent is, or whether that’s what Ahmedinajad said. The only thing that I do know is that, in the Islamic world, exaggerated political rhetoric is the general rule. Does Ahmedinajad personally wish to eradicate all life in Israel? I don’t think so, but I don’t know any more about the topic than other people here.

  • Chaim says:

    Michael; Putting aside my crazy beliefs to make practical suggestions… I do not believe that a Jewish state should control personal lives of anyone with respect to religions, Whether they keep the laws or not is personal. BUT state institutions and laws should be as much as possible to fit in with Jewish law.

    Have you read the entire Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s proposal for Palestinian state: It will be an Islamic state with Sharia law. What about the Jews who would live in this state?

    http://english.wafa.ps/?action=detail&id=12943 – read the whole thing.

    Quotes:

    Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs

    Developing and implementing programs of Shari’a education as derived from the science of the Holy Qur’an and Prophet’s heritage.

    Department of the Chief Justice of the Family Courts

    Enhance the performance of the religious (Shari’a) judicial system through:

    · Building capacities and increasing the number of Shari’a court judges, as well as providing necessary equipment.

    · Constructing Shari’a courthouses, throughout the Palestinian countryside.

    · Automating operations at Shari’a courts.

    The Israeli Arabs currently get money from the Israeli government for the mosques, Muslim education. Do they want this to stop as well in their desire for a secular state in Israel?

    Some proposals:

    1) making the entire area under US or international control: including the army, police. That way all religious groups will have full freedom but not control. Although you should know Germany is currently making laws to prevent the influx of Muslims from eventually changing their society. A democracy like Spain with local areas of autonomy.

    2) Giving full democracy to all Arabs but first make a constitution so strong in support of an Jewish state that it could not be changed.

  • Michael Brull says:

    No Aussie, I said that Ahmadinejad is alleged to have called for Israel to be wiped off the map once. You are clouding the issue, because Ahmadinejad didn’t threaten Israel twenty times, or once. On the other hand, Israel routinely threatens to bomb Iran, Israeli pundits and retired military officers advocate bombing Iran, papers run polls about bombing Iran, and on and on.

  • Michael Brull says:

    Chaim: I oppose all theocracies (and religions for that matter). I don’t care much about anything Fayyad says. The idea that there will be a Palestinian state in 2 years is a joke. If there is one, it will be few small Bantustans in the West Bank, and will simply prove how venal and corrupt Fatah is.

  • Chaim says:

    PS

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel

    Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, stated: “Palestinians recognise the right of the state of Israel to exist and I reject his comments. What we need to be talking about is adding the state of Palestine to the map, and not wiping Israel from the map.”[31][51]

  • Chaim says:

    Michael: you can not propose a realistic solution without taking into account religion in the region……………..

    Either a non-partisan completely secular state controlled by a third party or one or two states based on religion giving freedom of religion to others although this is probably possible in a Jewish state but as a Jew, if I stepped foot in Saudi Arabia I would be shot so this happening in an Islamic state is unlikely.

    I think the Arabs would never go for 3rd part secular control over the whole region.

  • Michael Brull says:

    Chaim: what happened to the twenty other occasions?

    Anyway.

    Do you think Erekat (or Fatah) is really a reliable source?

    On Bronner – well he’s basically an Israeli propagandist imo. But note this casual admission: “In October, when Mr. Ahmadinejad quoted Khomeini, he actually misquoted him, saying not “Sahneh roozgar” but “Safheh roozgar,” meaning pages of time or history. No one noticed the change, and news agencies used the word “map” again.”

    Okay, so Ahmadinejad didn’t say wipe Israel off the map.

    Secularism isn’t up to me, but my values are secular. Why should I take religion into account? I don’t think there’s a god, and even if there were, sensible religious people understand the need for a separation of religion and state. You can have your kooky beliefs, just don’t make the state enforce them on others.

  • Michael,

    … sensible religious people understand the need for a separation of religion and state. You can have your kooky beliefs, just don’t make the state enforce them on others.

    Then why are you so critical of Israel becoming more of a Jewish state, but not critical of Gaza, which is already an Islamist pseudo-state that enforces its beliefs on its residents?

    How do you expect Israel to deal with such “kooks”?

  • Michael Brull says:

    I assume you mean Hamas, rather than Gaza. I like that it’s possible for you to read what I wrote, and think I’m not critical of Hamas. I also like that Chaim can put forth his positions more or less openly, and my views are the outrageous ones.

    How can Israel deal with them? Well, for example, before Israel attacked Gaza in December, killing some 1400 Palestinians, they were offered terms for a new ceasefire: a ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank, and Israel had to end the blockade on Gaza. Israel rejected this, and maintains the blockade, so that now Palestinians can’t even import things like concrete, needed for reconstructing the homes destroyed in the attack.

    What else might Israel do? It might negotiate an end to the occupation. Start dismantling settlements. Stop obstructing reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas (such as the Prisoner’s Document), stop funding, training and arming one Palestinian faction (Fatah), and meddling in internal Palestinian politics, which only delegitimises opposition to Hamas anyway, as they pose as the only genuine resistance to Israel (and Fatah has been so coopted that the prospects for secularism are grim, and will get worse as time goes on. Zionism went from Labor to Likud, and probably one day Yisrael Beitenu. Palestinians have gone from Fatah to Hamas. It would be better not to find out what happens next.)

  • Michael,

    Yes, I meant Hamas. It is unfortunate that Gaza has now become synonymous with them, and with an Islamist regime.

    My point was that while Hamas goes very much your stated beliefs regarding the mix of religion and state (and far more so than Israel), you still find ways to direct the bulk of your comments and criticism toward Israel.

    Of course, you jumped on my final question as an opener. So let me ask you this: what should Hamas do?

  • David Zyngier says:

    Unfortunately David Werdiger, Jews (especially those in the Diaspora) can have very little if any impact on what Hamas thinks or does in Gaza or elsewhere. Likewise with Fatah in the occupied West Bank or any other Arab nation or political leader.

    However, and this may help explain why some of the Jewish community (Michael Brull and myself) seem to be more concerned with what Israel (and her proxies in the Diaspora) says and does, Jews in the Diaspora (and especially those in positions of so-called community leadership) are in a position to directly impact (even if it is only in small way like through the donation or not of money to organisations that support the occupation of Palestine or discrimination against Israeli Palestinian citizens like the JNF) see for example JNF law constitutes unjust discrimination or Who needs the JNF? or more controversially and publicly promoting a boycott of Israel. One of the Israeli proponent of this campaign Dr. Neve Gordon told the Los Angeles Times that he thought Israel had reached a historic crossroads and only dramatic measures could ensure its survival.

    “It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organisations, unions and citizens to suspend co-operation with Israel.”

    There in a nutshell is why some Jews – both in Israel and in the Diaspora – are (or seem to be) more critical of Israeli than Palestinian actions – or for that matter of any other state – because (a) as Jews we care more about what Israel does than any other country and (b) we feel that we may have an impact on those actions through our own actions (or inactions).

  • Chaim says:

    Michael: Other then demanding concession from Israel I have not seen what you think the solution is. Do you support one or two states. And again what should the eventual governments or even the international community do with Hamas or Al Queida?

    And your ceasefire was a sham considering there was one with Hamas continuously firing rockets into Israel – and even now. Do you think they should be rewarded with materials and lessening the blockage?

    Even they they may be a minority, there are many Arabs who still want Israel’s destruction. David and Michael – How does anyone deal eith them?

  • Chaim says:

    Michael: you seem to absolutely dismiss anyone who disagrees with your opinion as “propagandist imo”. Big surprise. The BBC also still stands by the interpretation of wiping Israel off the map.

    I could not find documented evidence of the other occasions.

    David: “Jews (especially those in the Diaspora) can have very little if any impact on what Hamas thinks or does in Gaza or elsewhere” WRONG. We do this by supporting Israel despite unfair world bias against it.

  • David Zyngier says:

    Chaim says:
    I do not believe that a Jewish state should control personal lives of anyone with respect to religions, Whether they keep the laws or not is personal. BUT state institutions and laws should be as much as possible to fit in with Jewish law.

    Sorry Chaim what you are suggesting for Israel here is exactly what the Sharia fundamentalists want (and have achieved in many places like Iran, Malaysia and of course Gaza.

    You cannot have it both ways – either you are in favour of a state theocracy where religion rules the judicial system – by definition it will therefore be more or less fundamentalist if it is a monotheistic religion – or you are prepared to have a secular system where the rule of law is made in reference to an elected parliamentary system with an independent judiciary.

    Ask the Malaysian woman about to be caned for an infraction of a religious law whether she keeps the laws or not is personal!

  • Chaim says:

    David Z. Personally I don’t care what other countries do as long as people have the ability to get up and leave the country. As for the caning OBVIOUSLY I would not support anything of the sort in a Jewish state. I don’t support the haredi morality patrols or their protests over car parks and the like.

    I believe that Israel belongs to the Jewish only because of religious reasons. Otherwise we have no claim to the land and Jewish law would be irrelevant to the country.

    You here are being hypocritical. You are against Jewish influence in Israel but you are effectively supporting the establishment of Shari’a law in a Palestinian state.

    How do you guys put quotes in italics!

    Editor: see this link for a simple guide to use italics, bold etc
    http://bloggingwithsuccess.net/sweet-n-simple-html-use-those-code-for-comments

  • DavidZ & Michael,

    To suggest that you are more concerned with what Israel says and does in this conflict because, as a Jew, you have a greater influence over its actions is nonsense.

    Your position regarding Israel (a) pushes you toward the edges of the broader Jewish community, and (b) puts you in touch with many sympathetic Arabs/Moslems.

    So such a stance in fact puts you in a greater position to speak out against the actions of the Arab world than most other Jews.

  • Michael Brull says:

    Chaim: I don’t understand your question. What do you mean by a solution? What I think would be ideal? It’s not up to me. I can tell you what I think would have popular support and is attainable (a two state agreement), why I don’t think that would be the end to the issues (because the refugees will still want to return to their homes, because Israeli Palestinians would still face discrimination, etc). Hamas and al Qaeda are pretty different. What you say about the ceasefire isn’t true. You could easily discover this from even the Israeli government. Hamas abided by it until the Israeli violation in November.

    And yes, the blockade should end immediately, regardless of anything else. If you think it’s okay to starve Palestinian children, that’s you, but I happen to think Palestinians are human beings.

    Read the NYT. Hell, Bronner blurbed Dershowitz’s book. But okay, if you want to take Fatah seriously, go ahead. There’s nothing Erekat would be more objective about than the leading sponsor of Hamas. As is well known, Palestinians speak Persian, so he would know what Ahmadinejad said. Perhaps you’ll next quote Mahmoud Abbas to prove that the Holocaust didn’t happen.

    Saying that I support Sharia in Palestine is a little ridiculous. Werdiger: well, I think this just reflects your values, where the most important thing is to condemn them, rather than look in the mirror. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a very strong secularist, I do not hide my disdain for Hamas and so on (which I’ve written and spoken about). Asking what Hamas should do seems a bizarre question to me. That’s like asking what Likud should do (and I obviously compared Hamas to Likud before – do you think I like Likud?). It’s not up to me. If you want my opinion, I can’t stand them. I also think that if Israelis elect Likud, that’s who the Palestinians should negotiate with – but everyone agrees that Jews have human rights, so this won’t seem controversial to you.

    However, to backtrack. It is obscene to talk about the oppression of Palestinians by Hamas in Gaza, at a time when our community leadership supports the blockade on Gaza. Childrens growth is being stunted by a consciously chosen policy by Israel. Okay? Imposing religious headgear on Muslim women in court is one thing. Destroying an economy, devastating a society, denying a people means to rebuild their homes and so on after a massive military onslaught: kind of a bigger deal.

  • Michael,

    Read what I wrote – I never suggested you support Sharia in the Palestinian territories – rather that you are being inconsistent in your criticism.

    One man’s blockade is another man’s preventative defence of its own citizens. Do you not agree that Israel’s first priority is the safety of its own citizens and to protect them from attack by a hostile territory?

    Gaza has borders with Israel *and* Egypt, and is effectively at war with Israel. Why does it becomes Israel’s obligation to maintain trade relations when all it gets back is rockets shot arbitrarily towards schools? They can get all the building materials they like (much of which will be redeployed into weaponry) from Egypt!

  • Chaim says:

    Michael: You are rambling a bit. I was not talking about you supporting Shari’a law, Obviously you made that clear before. It was directed at David Z.

    You ignore the fact that the people of Gaza elected Hamas with all that comes with it. You reap what you sow. And while Hamas and al Qaeda are different – guess what they have in common – hatred of Israel, belief in political superiority of Islam. Al Qaeda groups are active in the territories.

    You hate Fatah, Hamas, everyone in charge there. Who do you believe in and support? The proposal for the state while being a ridiculous time-line clearly shows the intent of the leaders and their constituents. I didn’t hear any Arabs complaining about it. You seem to actively support a state being formed against everything you believe.

    There will not be an end to the issues simply because there are too many Arabs who want to kick the Jews out and have complete sovereignty over the whole region. What do you propose to do to stop them – not now but after the two states are formed? Civil war in a Palestinian sate? UN troops?

    Palestinian children have ample food available to be given to them. They are being starved by their own leaders – what is new?

  • TheSadducee says:

    “Perhaps you’ll next quote Mahmoud Abbas to prove that the Holocaust didn’t happen.”

    -I can’t be sure if Brull is speaking tongue in cheek here or not considering Abbas’ Soviet era CandSC dissertation and resulting book have been considered as an example of Holocaust denial.

    Incidentally, as to Brull’s minimization of Hamas’ activities I would refer interested readers to:

    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/09/01/gaza-rescind-religious-dress-code-girls

    As to DavidZ

    “There in a nutshell is why some Jews – both in Israel and in the Diaspora – are (or seem to be) more critical of Israeli than Palestinian actions – or for that matter of any other state – because (a) as Jews we care more about what Israel does than any other country and (b) we feel that we may have an impact on those actions through our own actions (or inactions).”

    I feel compelled to ask about (a) – why?

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