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Defending The Indefensible: Where Zionism Has Led The American Jewish Community

Allan C. Brownfeld
Spring - Summer 2021

In the name of Zionism, the major organizations which claim to represent the  
American Jewish community have often found themselves in the position of  
defending the indefensible. We have seen this in their response to convicted  
spy Jonathan Pollard, in their efforts to thwart naming the mass murder of  
Armenians a genocide, and in their rush to label criticism of Israel, even  
from the Nobel Peace Prize winning Human Rights Watch, as “anti-Semitic.” It  
is instructive to review the positions such groups have taken, allegedly in  
the name of Jewish Americans, only a small number of whom belong to their  
organizations or share their views.  
Defense of the State of Israel has led these groups to promote actions and  
policies they oppose in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. In the U.S.,  
for example, Jewish groups are strong proponents of separation of church and  
state and religious freedom. In Israel, quite to the contrary, there is a  
state religion and taxpayer-supported chief rabbis. Non-orthodox Jews, the  
overwhelming majority of Jewish Americans, cannot have their rabbis perform  
weddings, conduct funerals, or engage in other religious functions.  
Beyond this, the leaders of Israel’s state religion are often the most vocal  
advocates of the most extreme positions. In 1994, when Yasser Arafat,  
chairman of the PLO, was expected to visit the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a  
former Israeli chief rabbi issued a religious ruling calling upon Jews to  
kill him. The New York Times (July 1, 1994) reported: “Rabbi Shlomo Goren  
said he had made a formal rabbinic ruling that declared, ‘There is no doubt  
that Yasser Arafat deserves death according to Israeli and international  
law... It is therefore a commandment to kill Arafat, and there is no need to  
wait to bring him to trial.’ Goren continued interpreting Jewish religious  
law: ‘Every (Jew) is commanded to kill Arafat.’... Goren, who served as  
chief rabbi of Israel for a decade and before that as chief military rabbi,  
said Arafat ‘deserves killing under Jewish law.’”  
Case of Jonathan Pollard  
Consider the case of Jonathan Pollard and the manner in which many Jewish  
leaders embraced him and accused those who prosecuted him for espionage of  
the usual charge aimed at critics of Israel, “anti-Semitism.” Indeed,  
Pollard is an example of where Zionism can lead.  
Pollard, who as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy admitted  
to and was found guilty of spying for Israel and served 30 years in prison,  
not only has no regrets for his actions but urges other American Jews to  
follow in his footsteps.  
Now a resident of Israel, which he considers his real “home,” Pollard was  
interviewed by the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom (March 25, 2021). He said,  
“The bottom line on this charge of dual loyalty is, I’m sorry, we’re Jews,  
and if we’re Jews we will always have dual loyalty.” Pollard said Jews were  
deluding themselves if they thought of America as their home. He suggested  
that he would counsel a young Jewish American working in an American  
security agency to spy for Israel, as he did.  
“I would tell them,” Pollard said, “that not doing anything is unacceptable.  
So simply going home (to Israel) is not acceptable... You have to make a  
decision whether your concern for Israel and loyalty to your fellow Jews is  
more important than your life.”  
Hero’s Welcome in Israel  
Pollard was paroled from his life sentence in 2015 and arrived in Israel  
last year. He was met at the airport by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. He  
arrived on a private plane provided by the late casino mogul Sheldon  
Adelson. Adelson once said that he regretted having served in the U.S. Army  
rather than the Israeli military.  
Jonathan Pollard grew up in a family committed to Zionism. He recalls that  
at his synagogue “there were two flags: a U.S. and an Israeli one. That’s  
how I was raised.” He was told that Israel was the “homeland” of all Jews  
and that he was “in exile” in America. In his extensive espionage for  
Israel, his actions seemed consistent with the Zionist philosophy he had  
While many Jewish Americans were harshly critical of Pollard, the Jewish  
establishment was not. In the 1990s, a wide range of Jewish leaders urged  
the President “to demonstrate your commitment to justice by commuting  
Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to the time... he has already served.” Among  
those signing this statement were Rabbi Norman Lamm, president of Yeshiva  
University, Rabbi Arthur Green, president of the Reconstructionist  
Rabbinical College, and Rabbi Gerald Zeller, president of the Rabbinical  
Assembly. Also joining this effort in behalf of Pollard were the Rabbinical  
Council of America and the New York and Chicago Boards of Rabbis. Rabbi  
Avraham Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, N.Y. wrote in the Los  
Angeles Times that Pollard “remains incarcerated because of the  
improprieties, prejudice, downright anti-Israelism and elements of anti-  
Semitism... now he has become a political prisoner.”  
Armenian Genocide  
In another instance of promoting Israeli interests in violation of  
traditional Jewish values, the organized Jewish community opposed efforts to  
recognize the Armenian genocide for fear that it would endanger Israel’s  
ties with Turkey. Now that President Biden has officially recognized the  
slaughter of up to 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire as a  
genocide, the first in the 20th century, it is interesting to review Jewish  
efforts to prevent this recognition over the years.  
As Hitler planned his invasion of Poland in 1939, he was aware of the  
slaughter of the Armenians and noted that the world looked away. He believed  
that the world would look away from the Holocaust he planned as well. As  
Armenians sought the world’s recognition for what happened in 1915, Israel  
stood in the way, together with American Jewish groups which followed  
Israel’s lead. In April 2001, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said,  
“We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the  
Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It was a  
tragedy what the Armenians went through, but not a genocide.”  
When there was an effort to recognize the Armenian genocide in 2007, it was  
vigorously opposed in the Congress by Jewish groups, including the American  
Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. In a House committee  
meeting on October 10, 2007, seven of eight Jewish representatives on the  
committee said they could not in good conscience deny a genocide when they  
were often forced to repudiate Holocaust denial. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)  
said his lifetime of Jewish advocacy left him no choice: “Genocide denial is  
not just the last step of a genocide, it is the first step of the next  
Jewish Groups Host Turkish Officials  
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (April 28, 2021), “In the months  
prior to the vote, there had been a full-court press against advancing the  
resolution. Turkish officials flew to Washington, D.C. to make their case,  
often at private events hosted by Jewish groups. That same year, the Anti-  
Defamation League (ADL) made national headlines when it fired one of its  
Boston officials who openly criticized the organization for not naming the  
Armenian genocide as such. ADL had hosted Turkish Prime minister Recep  
Erdogan two years earlier in New York.”  
In the view of historians Rifat Bali and Marc David Baer, “The single most  
important factor in successfully concluding the process of normalization  
between Israel and Turkey was Armenian genocide denial.” American Jewish  
groups followed Israel’s lead. Abe Foxman, former leader of the ADL, said  
that the key reason for Jewish groups opposing the recognition of the  
Armenian genocide was “their not wanting to damage the Israeli-Turkish  
In his 1939 speech prior to the invasion of Poland, Hitler declared, “...  
our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical  
destruction of the enemy... with orders ... to send to death mercilessly and  
without compassion, men, women and children of Polish derivation and  
language... Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the  
Armenians?” This reference is now inscribed on one of the walls of the U.S.  
Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.  
Defending Israel’s Occupation.  
Defending Israel’s occupation, its history of ethnic cleansing, and its  
continued violation of international law——all of which contradict Judaism’s  
humane moral and ethical values—-is something establishment Jewish  
organizations continue to do, although it is becoming more difficult as more  
and more Jewish voices are heard in opposition.  
In April, Human Rights Watch, the widely respected research and advocacy  
group that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, released a report declaring  
that the Israeli government is committing the crime of apartheid. It is the  
first official use of the term by the group, which documents abuses across  
100 countries. The 213-page report cites Israel’s “intent to maintain the  
domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians.” Titled “A Threshold  
Crossed,” it alleges decades of persecution that cannot be justified by  
Israel’s security needs or the stalled peace process.  
Human Rights Watch found that the Israeli government systematically  
discriminated against non-Jews in all areas under its control—-including the  
nearly 2 million Arab citizens within the state’s 1948 borders—-but that an  
additional layer of severe human rights abuses in the occupied West Bank and  
Gaza amounts to the crime of apartheid. The report contends that Israeli  
officials are using military rule to ensure a Jewish majority across the  
combined land of Israel and the West Bank. Eric Goldstein, acting director  
for Human Rights Watch Middle East division, said the group’s report is  
intended to show that Israel’s abuses against Palestinians were not isolated  
incidents. “For years, the international community—-and many Israelis—-have  
the tendency to think of the cases we document as the unfortunate symptoms  
of a lack of peace. But the peace process has unfortunately gone nowhere and  
the abuses have become more entrenched.”  
The Term “Apartheid” is Being Used More and More  
The term “apartheid” is being used more and more to describe Israel’s  
treatment of Palestinians. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem  
characterized Israel with that term. South Africans themselves recognize the  
similarities between their own apartheid system and the one which exists in  
Israel. As far back as 1961, Hendrik Verwoerd, the South African prime  
minister, saw parallels. He said: “The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after  
the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa,  
is an apartheid state.” After South African apartheid came to an end, Ronnie  
Kasrils, a Jewish South African cabinet minister, on a visit to Jerusalem,  
said: “Apartheid was an extension of the colonial project to dispossess  
people of their land. That is exactly what has happened in Israel and the  
occupied territories, the use of force and the law to take the land. That is  
what apartheid and Israel have in common.”  
The report comes at a time of renewed tensions between Israelis and  
Palestinians. In April, a Jewish mob attacked Arab residents of Jerusalem  
shouting “Death to Arabs.” Israeli human rights groups called it a “Jewish  
pogrom.” The recent Israeli election saw the election of openly Jewish  
racists, followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, to the Knesset. In an  
earlier Israeli society, Kahane’s Kach party was made illegal. Now its  
successor is welcomed and embraced by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Kahane and  
his current followers embrace a Jewish version of the Nazi Nuremberg laws,  
making marriage and sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews illegal.  
Discussing these developments in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Gideon Levy  
writes, “Make no mistake: these attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem are the  
harbingers of Israeli neo-Nazism. Intimidating marches, beatings, arson,  
looting and calls for death are exactly what neo-Nazism looks like.”  
In May, violence continued in East Jerusalem as the Israeli government  
prepared to remove more than 70 Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah  
neighborhood and replace them with Jewish settlers. In 53 years of  
occupation, Israel has changed the face of the city, always at the expense  
of its Palestinian residents. Nearly one third of the land of East Jerusalem  
has been expropriated from Palestinians and 11 Jewish-only neighborhoods  
have replaced them. The permanent residence status of 14,701 Palestinians  
has been removed. The plan to expel long-time Palestinian residents from  
Sheik Jarrah has met much opposition. The Office of the United Nations High  
Commissioner for Human Rights said that any Israeli evictions would be  
considered “war crimes.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-VT) said: “The U.S. must  
speak out strongly against the violence by government-allied Israeli  
extremists in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and make clear that  
evictions of Palestinian families must not go forward.” Sen. Elizabeth  
Warren (D-MA) declared that, “The forced removal of long-time Palestinian  
residents in Sheik Jarrah is abhorrent and unacceptable. The administration  
should make clear to the Israeli Government that these evictions are illegal  
and must stop immediately.”  
Assault at Al Aqsa Mosque  
The controversy over Sheikh Jarrah and the assault by Israeli police upon  
Ramadan worshipers at the Al Aqsa mosque, which led to large numbers of  
injuries, in turn resulted in missiles being fired into Israel from Gaza and  
an overwhelming response from Israel. The Middle East editor for the BBC,  
Jeremy Brown, provided this assessment: “The fundamental reason for renewed  
violence does not change. It is the open wound of the unresolved conflict  
between Jews and Arabs that has blighted and ended Palestinian and Israeli  
lives for generations. The latest episode has happened because of tensions  
in Jerusalem, the sharpest part of the conflict. The holy sites in the Old  
City are national as well as religious symbols. Crises effecting them have  
often ignited violence. The trigger for what happened this time include the  
heavy-handed Israeli policing of Palestinians during Ramadan and the  
controversial efforts in the Israeli courts to evict Palestinians from their  
homes... .This was a crisis waiting to happen in a conflict that, once  
again, has been left to fester... The biggest challenge, of making peace,  
has not been addressed seriously for years.”  
The American Jewish establishment has remained largely silent about these  
trends. The reaction to the Human Rights Watch report was almost the same  
from the Israeli government and Jewish leaders in the U.S. Mark Regev, an  
adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, said that Human Rights Watch “has been  
plagued for years by systemic anti-Israel bias.” Israel’s Ambassador to the  
United Nations said “this report bordered on anti-Semitism.” The American  
Jewish Committee called the report “a hatchet job,” and the Conference of  
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations says “the report is anti-  
Semitic.” There was no effort to refute any of the examples of human rights  
violations detailed in the more than 200-page report.  
Israel and its American friends did what they always do in response to  
criticism of Israel, dismiss it as “anti-Semitism.” Former Israeli Education  
Minister Shulamit Aloni, speaking about critics as anti-Semites, said,  
“Well, it’s true, we always use it. When from Europe someone is criticizing  
Israel, then we bring up the Holocaust.” When people criticize Israel in the  
U.S., she said, “they’re anti-Semites... It’s very easy to blame people who  
criticize certain acts of the Israeli government as anti-Semitic and to  
bring up the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people and that is to  
justify everything we do to the Palestinians.”  
“A Devastating Report”  
Professor Lawrence Tribe of the Harvard Law School has this advice for those  
who refer to the Human Rights Watch Report as “anti-Semitic.” He declares:  
“As a proud Jewish American with cousins who were born and live in Israel, I  
sadly associate myself with this Human Rights Watch conclusion. If you’re  
tempted to call Human Rights Watch anti-Semitic, first read its devastating  
report—-and then reconsider.”  
Hadar Susskind, president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, who at one  
time served in the Israeli military, provided this analysis of the American  
Jewish response to the Human Rights Watch report: “Almost no one in the  
Jewish community is addressing the question of whether current Israeli  
policy meets the criteria for the crime of apartheid under international  
law. Instead, they cry ‘anti-Semitism’... and they seek to delegitimize the  
world’s leading human rights organization. All this, instead of taking an  
honest look at the root cause: 53 years of occupation.”  
Writing in Washington Jewish Week (May 13, 2021), Susskind notes that, “The  
unwillingness of so many in our community to move past the zero sum game of  
trying to prove your righteousness, the inability to acknowledge that  
Israeli policy is not always in the right would be comical if it wasn’t so  
tragic. These same Jewish organizations that speak with pride about the  
Jewish value of Tikkun Olum (fixing the world) and of being ‘a light unto  
the nations’ fall silent at the mention of the occupation and cry ‘double  
standard’ when Israel is asked to comply with international law... The issue  
is occupation. The issue is the unequal treatment of Palestinians,  
generations of whom have now lived only under Israeli military rule. The  
issue is the erosion of Israeli democracy, and what most of us considered  
Jewish values. If we could harness even a fraction of the energy and money  
that our community spends on shielding the occupation and deflecting the  
discourse about it to instead acting to end it, we would go a long way  
toward the strongest unifying wish of American Jews, true peace for Israel.”  
More Than $3 Billion Annually In U.S. Aid  
More and more commentators are pointing to the fact that Israel receives  
more than $3 billion in U.S. aid each year, which has made its military the  
most powerful in the region. As violence continued in Gaza, New York Times  
columnist Nicholas Kristof, known for his commentary on human rights  
violations around the world, wrote: “As taxpayers we provide several billion  
dollars a year in military assistance to a rich country and thus subsidize  
bombings of Palestinians. Is that really a better use of our taxes than,  
say, paying for Covid-19 vaccinations abroad or pre-K at home? Shouldn’t our  
vast sums of aid to Israel be conditioned on reducing conflict rather than  
aggravating it?”  
To those who say that criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians  
constitutes “anti-Semitism,” Kristof responds: “The suggestion that it’s  
anti-Semitic to criticize Israel for stealing land or bombing civilians  
seems to me ridiculous and a cheapening of a genuine threat. It’s like  
suggesting that it’s Islamophobic to criticize Iran or that it’s anti-  
Christian to denounce (Donald) Trump.”  
The contradiction between the values many Jewish organizations promote in  
the U.S. and those they endorse in Israel became clear in the controversy  
which unfolded in April 2021 between the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and  
Fox News talk show host Tucker Carlson. In one broadcast, Carlson said that  
there was a coordinated plan by Democrats to replace the existing U.S.  
population with immigrants from “the third world.” White supremacists refer  
to the idea as a “Great replacement” orchestrated by Jews. After this  
program appeared, the ADL called on Carlson to be fired. Fox declined to  
act, citing Carlson’s claim that he wasn’t talking about race.  
Tucker Carlson Challenges ADL  
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (April 17, 2021) reported that, “Carlson  
delivered a 20-minute defense of his ‘replacement’ idea. He took at the ADL,  
saying its defense of Israel’s majority and opposition to the return of  
Palestinian refugees contradicts its advocacy for immigrants in the U.S.”  
Carlson declared, “In the words of the ADL, why would a government subvert  
its own sovereign existence?” He referred to an essay on the ADL website and  
said, “Maybe ADL president Jonathan Greenblatt will join tucker Carlson  
Tonight some time and explain and tell us whether that same principle  
applies to the United States.” Carlson presented screen shots of the ADL’s  
website which discussed Israel’s status: “With historically high birth rates  
among Palestinians, and a possible influx of Palestinian refugees and their  
descendants now living around the world, Jews would quickly be a minority in  
a bi-national state, thus ending any semblance of equal representation and  
protections. In this situation, the Jewish population would be politically—-  
and potentially physically —-vulnerable. It is unreasonable and unrealistic  
to expect the Jewish population, to expect the State of Israel to  
voluntarily subvert its own sovereign existence and national identity and  
become a vulnerable minority in what was once its own territory.” Carlson  
invited Greenblatt to come on his show to explain why the same principles  
that he promotes for Israel should not exist for the U.S.  
The idea that Jews adopt a white supremacist policy when it comes to Israel  
was popularized in 2016 and 2017 by Richard Spencer, a white supremacist  
ideologue. He claimed that all he wanted was for the U.S. to adopt laws  
similar to those of Israel—-only to benefit white people rather than Jews.  
In a 2017 interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Spencer referred to himself as  
a “white Zionist in the sense that I care about my people. I want us to have  
a secure homeland for us and ourselves just like you want a secure homeland  
in Israel.”  
Andrew Anglin, in the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, wrote: “Jews come to America  
and force us to have unlimited immigration, while in their own country they  
have a wall and DNA-based citizenship.”  
Straying from Judaism’s Moral Principles  
That Israel has become a role model for individuals and groups such as this  
is further evidence of how far some Jewish groups have strayed from  
Judaism’s moral principles. Peter Beinart, an editor of Jewish Currents,  
said of ADL: “This is the problem with being an anti-bigotry organization in  
the U.S. but opposing equality for Palestinians. You have a glass jaw. White  
nationalists like Carlson see Israel’s system of ethnic privilege as a model  
for the U.S.”  
The mistreatment of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants goes back to the very  
beginning of Zionist settlement. And from the very beginning, there were  
Jewish critics who pointed out that Zionist actions contradicted the Jewish  
moral and ethical teachings to which they gave what was nothing more than  
lip service, if that.  
At the very start of Zionist colonization, many Jews who supported one form  
or another of a Jewish “homeland” were concerned about the rights of the  
indigenous inhabitants of Palestine. Ahad Ha’am, the Russian Jewish writer  
and philosopher, in 1913 protested against a Jewish boycott of Arab labor.  
He wrote: “I can’t put up with the idea that our brethren are morally  
capable of behaving in such a way to humans of another people, and  
unwittingly the thought comes to my mind: If this is so now, what will our  
relations to the other be like if, at the end of time, we really achieve  
power in Eretz Yisrael? And if this be the Messiah, I do not wish to see his  
In 1922, young Jewish zealots killed an Arab boy. This brought a cry of rage  
from Ahad Ha’am: “Jews and blood—-are there two greater opposites than  
these? Is this the goal for which our ancestors longed and for which they  
suffered all those tribulations? Is this the dream of the return to Zion...  
that we should come to Zion to pollute its soil with the spilling of  
innocent blood?”  
Ethnic Cleansing  
In the years to come, Zionist efforts to engage, as much as possible, in the  
ethnic cleansing of Palestine became increasingly clear. Israeli historian  
Ilan Pappe writes that, “By 1945, Zionism had attracted more than half a  
million settlers to a country whose population was almost two million. ...  
The local native population was not consulted, nor was its objection to the  
project of turning Palestine into a Jewish state taken into account... As  
with all earlier settler colonial movements, the answer to these problems  
was the twin logic of annihilation and dehumanization. The settlers’ only  
way of expanding their hold on the land beyond the 7 percent, and ensuring  
an exclusive demographic majority, was to remove the natives from their  
homeland. Zionism is thus a settler colonial project, and one that has not  
yet been completed. Palestine is not entirely Jewish demographically, and  
although Israel controls all of it politically by various means, the state  
of Israel is still colonizing... dispossessing Palestinians, and denying the  
right of the natives to their homeland.”  
In 1937, David Ben-Gurion told the Zionist Assembly that, “In many parts of  
the country it will not be possible to settle without transferring the Arab  
Fellahin.” He articulated the place of expulsion in the future of the  
Zionist project in Palestine when he wrote, “With compulsory transfer we  
would have a vast area for settlement... I support compulsory transfer. I  
don’t see anything immoral in it.”  
Ilan Pappe makes clear that, “The crime committed by the leadership of the  
Zionist movement, which became the government of Israel, was that of ethnic  
cleansing. This is not mere rhetoric but an indictment with far-reaching  
political, legal and moral implications. The definition of the crime was  
clarified in the aftermath of the 1990s civil war in the Balkans: ethnic  
cleansing is any action by one ethnic group meant to drive out another  
ethnic group with the purpose of transforming a mixed ethnic region into a  
pure one. Such an action amounts to ethnic cleansing regardless of the means  
employed to obtain it—-from persuasion and threats to expulsions and mass  
Deir Yassin  
An important example of how this worked can be seen in what occurred at Deir  
Yassin on April 9, 1948. On that day the Irgun and LEHI Jewish militias  
launched an attack on the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, situated in  
the hills on the outskirts of Jerusalem, it constituted no threat to the  
Zionist forces. Its residents were considered passive, and its leaders had  
agreed with those of an adjacent Jewish neighborhood, Givat Shaul, that each  
side would prevent its own people from attacking the other. It was the  
Muslim Sabbath when the Irgun and LEHI attacked, with the acquiescence of  
the mainstream Jewish defense organization, the Haganah.  
All of the inhabitants of the village were ordered out into the square,  
where they were lined up against the wall and shot. More than 100 civilians  
were killed. News of the massacre spread widely and helped prompt a panic  
flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes.  
Most of the victims of the Deir Yassin massacre were women, children, and  
older people. The men of the village were absent because they worked in  
Jerusalem. Irgun leader and future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin  
issued this euphoric message to his troops after the attack: “Accept my  
congratulations on this splendid act of conquest... As in Deir Yassin, so  
everywhere we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou hast chosen us  
for conquest.”  
Terrifying Arabs  
David Shipler, Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times from 1979 to  
1984, provides this assessment: “The Jewish fighters who planned the attack  
on Deir Yassin also had a larger purpose, apparently. A Jerusalem woman and  
her son, who gave some of the men coffee in the pre-dawn hours before their  
mission, recall the guerrillas talking excitedly of the prospect of  
terrifying Arabs far beyond the village of Deir Yassin so that they would  
run away. Perhaps this explains why the Jewish guerrillas did not bury the  
Arabs they had killed, but left their bodies to be seen, and why they  
paraded surviving prisoners, blindfolded and with hands bound, in the backs  
of trucks through the streets of Jerusalem, a scene remembered with a  
shudder by Jews who saw it.”  
Although now forgotten, many Jewish voices spoke out against Israel’s  
treatment of Palestine’s indigenous Arab population. In an important book,  
published in 2009, “Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon  
Rawidowicz” (Brandeis University Press), attention is drawn to Rawidowicz  
(1897-1957), the wide-ranging Jewish thinker and scholar who taught at  
Brandeis University in the 1950s. At the heart of this book, written by  
David N. Myers, then professor of history at UCLA and director of the UCLA  
Center for Jewish Studies, is a chapter also entitled “Between Jew and  
Arab”—-that Rawidowicz wrote as a coda to his 1957 Hebrew tome, Babylon and  
Jerusalem, but never published.  
In this coda, Rawidowicz shifted his decades-long preoccupation with the  
“Jewish Question” to what he called the “Arab Question.” Asserting that the  
“Arab Question” had become a most urgent political and moral matter for Jews  
after 1948, he called for an end to discrimination against Arab residents of  
Israel—-and more provocatively, for the repatriation of Arab refugees from  
1948. Professor Myers notes that, “There is clear evidence that Jewish and  
Israeli forces engaged in the expulsion of thousands, and likely hundreds of  
thousands, of Palestinian Arabs from the country. We also know that some  
Israeli government officials were more than happy to be rid of these hostile  
(or theoretically hostile) residents.”  
Erasing Traces of an Arab Presence  
Moreover, argues Myers, “... the new Israeli government often undertook to  
erase traces of the physical presence of Arabs in parts of Palestine that  
fell under jurisdiction of the State of Israel, a process chronicled by  
Merton Benvenisti in ‘Sacred Landscape.’ This effort was intended not only  
to ‘Judaize’ the new state, but to set firmly in place the image of the  
mythic Hebrew reclaiming his land. One consequence was that reminders of  
Palestinian Arab dispossession were largely repressed from the early 1950s.”  
Rawidowicz beseeched Israelis to retain a measure of humility in their  
behavior and to acknowledge their errant ways. He particularly lamented the  
manner in which Jewish groups in the U.S. stood in lockstep with the Israeli  
government and refused to confront the challenge to Jewish morals and ethics  
inherent in the actions of that government. After 1948, in Rawidowicz’s  
view, “the nature of the battle between Jew and Arab in the Land of Israel  
has been transformed.” Resorting to a familiar rabbinic image, he  
elaborated: “This is no longer about ‘two people holding on to a garment,’  
both of whom claim to the master watching over them that the garment is all  
theirs. Rather, one has grabbed hold of it, dominates and leads, while the  
other is led. The first rules as a decisive majority, as a nation-state. The  
other is dominated as a minority. And domination is in the hands of Israel.”  
It was Rawidowicz’s belief that, “It is forbidden for the Jewish people...  
to expropriate the property of an enemy or combatant who was vanquished on  
the battlefield... Nothing stands before me —-before Israel and the entire  
world—-except this simple fact: hundreds of thousands of Arabs, man, woman  
and child, left this country and the State of Israel will not permit them to  
return to their homes and settle on their land, the land of their fathers,  
and of their father’s father. From 1948 on, I have spent much time thinking  
about this fact... But it is impossible for me to come to terms with it in  
any way, shape or form.”  
Blind Support for Israel’s Occupation  
Blind support for Israel’s occupation, argued Professor Tony Judt of New  
York University in 2010, has eroded Judaism’s moral position. An active  
Zionist in his youth, Judt declared that, “If there is one cast-iron law of  
history, it is probably that occupations and other forms of colonial rule  
are sooner or later resisted, and when that point comes, the occupier has a  
straight-forward choice between leaving and allowing the native population  
to exercise its independence and self-determination —-or staying. When the  
time came, Israel made the disastrous decision to stay. The rest was  
Referring to those American Jewish groups which have supported whatever  
Israeli governments have chosen to do, Judt asked: “How ... does a reputedly  
intelligent people, with traditionally strong humanistic values, manage  
constantly to delude itself about what is going on, what lies in store and  
what needs to be done? And how has it allowed the Jewish Star of David, and  
by implication the Jewish religion and Jewish people, to become associated  
in the eyes of growing numbers of people with repression?”  
The pro-Israel lobby, ranging from the American Israel Public Affairs  
Committee (AIPAC), the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish  
Organizations and a host of others—-was described by Rabbi Michael Lerner,  
the editor of Tikkun, as “Bad for the United States, bad for Israel, and bad  
for the Jews.”  
Israel Lobby is bad for U.S. and Israel  
It is bad for the U.S., he argued, because “The Israel lobby identifies the  
best interests of the U.S. with those of the Israeli right-wing, and that  
right wing engages in activities against the Palestinian people in  
particular and against neighboring states, which have inflamed global public  
opinion not only against Israel but against the U.S.”  
It is bad for Israel, he continued, because “The Israel lobby strengthens  
the hands of the most right-wing forces in Israel while reinforcing the view  
that the U.S. is going to back their intransigence and militarism and that,  
hence, they have a blank check to do whatever crazy and self-defeating  
scheme they come up with, including the war in Lebanon in the summer of  
2006, the dropping of cluster bombs on southern Lebanon, the refusal to give  
up land of Syria’s conquered in 1967, the holding of thousands of  
Palestinian civilians in Israeli prisoner camps, the use of torture, the  
violation of the rights of Israeli citizens who happen to be Arabs, and the  
refusal to acknowledge any responsibility for the Palestinian refugees.  
Israel will someday face a reckoning from Arab states and from the peoples  
of the world for the gross arrogance and insensitivity of their government’s  
policies, and people will someday look back at the Israel lobby in the U.S.  
and realize that it was destructive to Israel’s long-term survival  
Beyond all of this, Lerner argued, the lobby is bad for Jews: “The most  
decisive reason the Israel lobby is bad for the Jews is that it strengthens  
idolatry in the Jewish world by reinforcing our tendencies to believe in  
power and domination rather than in love, compassion and open-heartedness...  
It pains me deeply to see the Israel lobby so successful in turning many of  
the Jews who are supposedly religious into worshipers of power; people who  
believe that the Will of God can be read by the outcome of military  
struggles like the 1967 Six Day War. This is straightforward idolatry—-the  
worship of power and the betrayal of the God of Israel.”  
Silence on Intolerance in Israel  
As intolerance grows in our own country, as seen, most recently, in the  
growing number of attacks upon Asian-Americans, Jewish organizations, quite  
properly, speak out in behalf of tolerance and inclusion. As intolerance  
grows in Israel, they remain largely silent. Recently, a prominent Israeli  
Arab television anchor spoke out about the attacks she has received after  
marriage to a Jewish Israeli. The Times of Israel (April 18, 2021) reports:  
“Lucy Aharish describes a barrage of criticism over her marriage to actor  
Tsahi Halevi, and says their child will make his own decision on Judaism.  
Aharish is a prominent Arab Israeli media personality... Aharish and  
Halevi’s wedding in 2018 drew widespread condemnation from the Israeli  
right, with politicians weighing in and some ministers publicly berating  
them at the time. In a Channel 12 interview on April 16, Aharish said the  
past 2 1/2 years since the wedding have ‘not been easy.’ She described how  
the couple suffered through multiple miscarriages and lamented the loss of  
her prime-time t.v. spot as Israel’s first Arab anchor... following what she  
believes was political pressure.”  
Aharish was known among Jewish Israelis as a moderate Arab voice and in  
2015, she was awarded the honor of lighting a torch at the national  
Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl for work as “a trailblazing Muslim  
journalist who brings a discourse of tolerance and interdenominational  
openness to Israel’s public agenda.” Aharish recalls that when her pregnancy  
was first announced, someone had wished her a stillbirth. She asks, “Where  
does this evil come from? To hope someone gives birth to a dead child? Where  
does this come from? Why? Why? Because I’m an Arab woman married to a Jewish  
man? ... I’m scared of the world into which I am bringing my children. My  
child is a part of this country whether politicians like Bezalel Smotrich,  
the far-right leader of the Religious Zionism party, like it or not.”  
The Times of Israel reports that Smotrich issued a message declaring that,  
“True Muslims understand that Israel belongs to the Jewish people, and over  
time Arabs who do not recognize this will not stay here.” Aharish responded,  
“This is racism.” In 2014, Bentzi Gopstein, head of Lehava, an organization  
that fights inter-faith marriage, told Aharish, during an appearance on her  
t.v. program, that as an Arab citizen “you’re not supposed to be here in the  
Jewish state.” When she replied that she wasn’t going anywhere, he said, “We  
shall see.” According to the Times of Israel, “Two years later, Gopstein  
appeared to threaten her during a commemoration of slain extremist rabbi  
Meir Kahane in Jerusalem when he held up a cleaning rag with her picture on  
it and warned that she would soon be mopping floors.”  
A Religion Dedicated to God, Not Geography  
In his book “Judaism, Human Values and the Jewish State,” the late Hebrew  
University Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz argued that Judaism is a religion  
dedicated to God, not to any particular geographical area, and that those  
who have confused Judaism and the policies of the State of Israel are guilty  
of a kind of idolatry.  
He writes: “As for the ‘religious’ arguments for the annexation of the  
territories—-these are only an expression, subconsciously or perhaps even  
overtly hypocritical, of the transformation of the Jewish religion into a  
camouflage for Israeli nationalism. Counterfeit religion identifies national  
interests with the service of God and imputes to the state—-which is only an  
instrument serving human needs—-supreme value from a religious standpoint...  
The idea that a specific country or location have an intrinsic ‘holiness’ is  
an indubitably idolatrous idea... Nationalism and patriotism as such are not  
religious values. The prophets of Israel in the period of the first  
commonwealth and the Jewish sages in the period of the second commonwealth  
were, for the most part, ‘traitors’ from the perspective of secular  
nationalism and patriotism. The rabbis who argue today that we should keep  
the territories for ‘religious reasons’ are not carrying on the tradition of  
Elijah and the prophets of God but rather of the 850 prophets of Baal and  
Asherah ‘who ate at the table of Jezebel.”  
The Contradiction between Jewish Values and Israeli Power  
The contradiction between Jewish values and the uses of Israeli power is  
becoming a reality recognized by more and more Jews who seek to restore the  
humane religious tradition of their faith and separate it from the  
nationalism which has, more and more, corrupted it. In her book, “The Fate  
of the Jews,” Roberta Strauss Feurlicht noted that, “In Israel, Jews have  
created a mutant, a non-Jewish Jew. Jews have become the kind of people  
their mothers warned them about. Applying my mother’s measurement—-‘A Jew  
doesn’t do this’—-it appears that Israel is no place for a Jew... Judaism as  
an ideal is infinite. Judaism as a state is finite. Judaism survived  
centuries of persecution without a state; it must now learn how to survive  
despite a state.”  
This, it is becoming ever more widely understood, is where Zionism has led.*  

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© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.