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After Gaza, American Jews Are Increasingly Divided Over Zionism and Israel


Recent events in Gaza have revealed growing divisions within the American Jewish  
community with regard to their relationship with Zionism and the state of Israel.  
Many Jewish voices are speaking out on behalf of Palestinian victims of Israel’s  
assault upon Gaza. In their view, while expressing shock over the brutal attack  
by Hamas, the mass killing of civilians in Gaza violates humane Jewish moral and  
ethical values.  
Sara Roy, senior research scholar at the Center for Middle East Studies at  
Harvard University, whose parents survived the Holocaust while 100 members of her  
family were killed in Poland, wrote an open letter to President Biden (London  
Review of Books, Nov. 2023)  
She writes: “when does the death of a Palestinian child become unacceptable? Or  
perhaps I should ask the question this way: when will you assign a Palestinian  
life the same sanctity you assign an Israeli one? Yesterday, Israel bombarded  
the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza. Part of the camp was destroyed and at least  
100 people were killed or injured. My friend the poet Mosab Abu Toha, his wife  
and children moved to Jabaliya recently after Israel warned them to leave their  
home in Beit Lahiya, a city north of the camp, because Beit Lehiya would be  
shelled. It was and Mosab’s house was destroyed. I have just heard from him  
after two days of frantic worry. ‘The bombing in Jabilya Camp was just 70 meters  
away from us,’ he said. ‘A whole neighborhood was wiped out.’”  
Largest Of Gaza’s Refugee Camps  
Dr. Roy writes that, “Jabilya is a familiar place to me…It is the largest of  
Gaza’s eight refugee camps, with 26 schools, two health centers and a public  
library. More than 116,000 are in an area of 1.4 square kilometers. Do you have  
any idea what it means to crowd over 100,000 into half a square mile? I must  
also tell you that as a Jew and child of Holocaust survivors, I was welcomed into  
every home I visited in the camp. In fact, I was embraced…I don’t know if my  
friends are among those murdered or injured by Israel. But I do know that this  
is not the first atrocity, and it won’t be the last if the barbarity continues to  
be justified by you and the others with the power to stop it. You call for a  
‘humanitarian pause,’ which I do not understand. What does a pause mean in the  
middle of the carnage? Does it mean feeding people so they can survive to be  
killed the next day? How is that humanitarian? How is that humane?”  
Professor Emeritus Yakov M. Rabkin of the University of Montreal, author of the  
book “What Is Modern Israel?” provides this assessment (Pressenza, Nov. 1, 8,  
2023): “The new state of Israel placed Palestinian Arabs under military rule,  
which lasted nearly two decades. Refugees and exiles who tried to return to  
their homes were killed, expelled, or arrested…The murderous attack of Oct. 7,  
2023, obviously enraged most Israelis. But instead of taking pause, military and  
political leaders immediately subjected Gaza to massive bombardment followed by a  
ground invasion. This caused a humanitarian crisis.”  
In Rabkin’s view, “Vengeful demonization of the Palestinians has become common.  
Even the soft-spoken president of Israel claimed that there were no ‘innocent  
civilians’ in Gaza. Meirev Ben-Ari, a parliamentarian from Yesh Atid, which in  
Israel passes for a liberal centrist party, said in reference to thousands of  
Palestinian children killed by Israeli bombardment, ‘The children of Gaza have  
brought this upon themselves! We are a peace-seeking nation, a life-loving  
nation.’…Many Jews…have been trying to come to terms with the contradiction  
between the Judaism they profess to adhere to and the Zionist ideology that has  
taken hold of them. A new variety of Judaism has taken root in Israel: National  
Judaism…Among its most fervent followers one finds the assassin of Prime Minister  
Yitzhak Rabin, who had attempted to find an accommodation with the Palestinians,  
and prominent members of today’s Israeli government.”  
“Does Israel Really Keep Jews Safe?”  
In an article, “Does Israel really ‘Keep Jews Safe?’,” (Truthout, Dec. 11, 2023),  
Carolyn Karcher, professor emerita at Temple University, writes that, “In the  
wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, many supporters of Israel have doubled  
down on the idea that Jews can only be safe in a state whose government they  
control through majority rule and laws favoring Jews over non-Jews. This idea—-a  
fundamental tenet of Zionism, first articulated by Theodor Herzl in ‘The Jewish  
State’ (1896) —-is what led the U.N. to vote for creating the state of Israel in  
1948, despite the united opposition of Palestinian and Arab spokespersons…How has  
this belief held up in the light of the past 75 years? Have even the most  
draconian methods succeeded in stamping out the resistance of the indigenous  
Palestinian population to military rule and forced displacement?”  
Dr. Karcher notes that, “I would argue that the killing of approximately 1200  
Israelis by Hamas on Oct. 7 actually shows the opposite of what many are  
claiming. Rather than proving that the state of Israel keeps Jews safe, the  
bloodshed shows that Israeli Jews cannot expect to enjoy security by imposing a  
brutal siege, erecting walls, multiplying checkpoints, demolishing homes,  
confiscating land, dehumanizing, imprisoning, or killing any Palestinians who  
stand up for their rights, whether nonviolently or violently.”  
Beyond this, argues Karcher, “Zionism triumphed with the creation of Israel as a  
Jewish state. Palestinians paid a high price for the solution that the Western  
world chose to compensate Jews for the Nazi Holocaust. Between 1947 and 1949,  
Zionist militias drove 750,000 Palestinians, amounting to half the country’s Arab  
population, out of their native land and destroyed more than 500 of their towns  
and villages. The Jewish Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has called this ‘the  
ethnic cleansing of Palestine.’…Never has the need to envision alternatives  
seemed more urgent than now, as we face the horror of the genocide that Israel is  
perpetrating on Palestinians—-with the full support of the U.S. and much of the  
Western world…Consequently, increasing numbers of Americans—-Jewish and non-  
Jewish alike—-are repudiating the unconditional championship of Israel that our  
government is mandating.”  
Recalling the American Council for Judaism  
Recalling an earlier period of Jewish opposition to Zionism prior to Israel’s  
creation, Karcher points out that, “The American Council for Judaism, founded by  
Reform Jews in 1942, campaigned vigorously both to liberalize U.S. immigration  
policy and to establish a ‘democratic, autonomous government in Palestine,  
wherein Jews, Moslems and Christians shall be justly represented and endowed with  
equal rights and equal responsibilities.’”  
Prof. Wendy Pearlman, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Studies  
Program at Northwestern University, wrote an article, “Collective Punishment in  
Gaza Will Not Bring Israel Security” (New Lines Magazine, Oct. 30, 2023). She  
writes, “The current siege of Gaza has shifted…to uprooting it entirely. Indeed,  
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s declaration that Israel is fighting ‘human  
animals’ points to an even more startling biological metaphor. It not only casts  
all of Gaza as a fair target, but also deploys dehumanizing rhetoric of the kind  
that scholars have long recognized as genocidal.”  
Dr. Pearlman concludes: “Bombardment, siege, forced displacement and the denial  
of humanitarian access might satisfy the desire for revenge, but these actions  
cannot bring Israelis security. As long as self-determination is denied,  
Palestinian resistance will continue. There is no military solution to the…  
political problem of two peoples seeking to live with freedom and dignity on the  
same small piece of land. Security requires peace, which can only be obtained  
through a negotiations process grounded in respect for international law and the  
human rights of all people.”  
Zionism Is Incompatible With Judaism  
Rabbi Alissa Wise of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council states:  
“History will ask: what did you do to stop the Israeli genocide of Palestinian  
people? Have an answer…Zionism is incompatible with Judaism. The point of  
fasting today because of destruction and losses and trauma our ancestors suffered  
is to prevent us from doing the same to others. Instead, the ‘Jewish’ state uses  
the state to destroy and traumatize Palestinians. By design, under Israeli law,  
Palestinians have an inferior status to Jews legally, judicially, politically.  
This is apartheid.”  
Rabbi Brant Rosen of Congregation Tzedek Chicago states that, “After the horrific  
massacre of Israelis by Hamas…the collective Jewish world entered into an acute  
and unprecedented period of mourning. Our hearts then cracked open again—-and  
continue to crack open—-as thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are being killed by  
Israeli bombs and an Israeli ground invasion…This latest violence did not occur  
in a vacuum. It is but the latest manifestation of an injustice that Israel has  
been perpetrating against Palestinian people for decades. We must shine an  
unflinching light on the roots of this violence…For the past 75 years, Israel has  
been violently dispossessing Palestinians in order to make way for a majority  
Jewish state. And for just as long, the Palestinian people have been resisting  
their dispossession…”  
Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University declares that, “It is important to  
note that opposing Israel’s war crimes has absolutely nothing to do with  
antisemitism. This point has been made eloquently in an open letter by dozens of  
Jewish writers. Netanyahu doesn’t speak for Judaism. The Israeli government  
violates the most sacred of all Jewish injunctions, to protect life (Pikvach  
Nefesh) and to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). The message of  
Jewish ethics is found in the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 2:4) inscribed  
on a wall directly facing the U.N.: ‘They shall beat their swords into  
ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword  
against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’”  
Gaza As a Ghetto  
Writing in The New Yorker (Dec. 9, 2023), the Russian Jewish author Masha Gessen  
notes that, “For the last 17 years, Gaza has been a hyper densely populated,  
impoverished, walled-in compound where only a small fraction of the population  
had the right to leave even for a short amount of time—-in other words a ghetto…  
like a Jewish ghetto in an Eastern European country occupied by Nazi Germany. In  
the two months since Hamas attacked Israel, all Gazans have suffered from the  
barely interrupted onslaught of Israeli forces. Thousands have died. On  
average, a child is killed in Gaza every ten minutes. Israeli bombs have struck  
hospitals, maternity wards, and ambulances. Eight out of ten Gazans are now  
Gessen writes that, “The term ‘open-air-prison’ seems to have been coined in 2010  
by David Cameron, who was then British Prime Minister. Many human rights  
organizations have adopted that description. Presumably, the more fitting term  
‘ghetto’ would have drawn fire for comparing the predicament of besieged Gazans  
to that of ghettoized Jews. It also would have given us the language to describe  
what is happening in Gaza now. The ghetto is being liquidated…The Nazis claimed  
that ghettos were necessary to protect non-Jews from diseases spread by Jews.  
Israel has claimed that the isolation of Gaza, like the wall in the West Bank, is  
required to protect Israel from terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians.  
Nazi claims had no basis in reality while Israeli claims stem from actual and  
repeated acts of violence. Yet both claims propose that an occupying authority  
can choose to isolate, immiserate—-and, now, mortally endanger an entire  
population of people in the name of protecting its own.”  
The evidence that Jewish Americans are now in the process of re-thinking their  
relationship with Israel is all around us and is receiving growing attention.  
How Core Is A Connection To Israel To Being Jewish?  
A report in The Washington Post (Dec.18, 2023) carried the headline, “Gaza War  
Opens Rifts for Reform Jews.” It notes that, “…the Israel-Gaza war…spotlighted  
rifts about not just how to address Israel’s military campaign but also about  
what the word Zionism means and how core a connection to Israel should be to  
being Jewish…. U.S. Jews’ connection with Israel has been shifting, the Pew  
Research Center found. Fifty-eight per cent of U.S. Jews say they feel very or  
somewhat attached to Israel, but that number drops to 48 per cent for Jews ages  
18 to 29. Forty-five per cent of U.S. Jews say that caring about Israel is  
essential to being Jewish; 35 per cent of Jews 18 to 29 say that. But how the  
past two months will affect those questions is impossible to predict, experts  
More and more Jewish voices are being heard objecting to Israel’s bombing of  
civilian targets in Gaza. Thousands of Jewish and Israeli artists, writers and  
activists have signed a letter demanding an immediate cease fire in Gaza,  
allowing aid into the besieged city and “the end of complicity of our governing  
bodies in grave human rights violations and war crimes.”  
The letter dated Oct. 19, 2023) declared: “Silence at this urgent time of crisis  
and escalating genocide is not a politically neutral position. Over the last few  
years there have been significant steps to institutionally address social justice  
and inequality…There is ample evidence that we are witnessing the unfolding of a  
genocide in which the already precarious lives of Palestinians are deemed  
unworthy of aid, let alone human rights and justice….We reject violence against  
all civilians, regardless of their identity and call for ending the root cause of  
violence, oppression and the occupation.”  
Among the signatories were Nan Goldin, Judith Butler, Eyad Weizman, Rachel  
Kushner, A.L. Steiner and Adam Bromberg.  
Appeal By Staff Members Of Jewish Organizations  
More than 500 staff members of Jewish organizations appealed to President Biden  
to call for a cease-fire. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (Dec. 8, 2023) reported  
that, “Hundreds of staffers for 140 Jewish organizations signed a letter to  
President Biden and Congress urging them to press Israel to agree to a cease-  
fire…The letter is the latest sign that differences among American Jews regarding  
Israel’s response to Hamas’s deadly Oct. 7 invasion are becoming more public and  
pronounced. A number of Jewish Congress members now back a cease-fire, after  
having initially presented a unanimous voice in support of Biden’s backing for  
The signers of the letter stated that, “We are individuals who work for a wide  
variety of Jewish organizations across the United States, coming together across  
the broad range of beliefs, practices, backgrounds, and identities that make up  
the rich fabric of the American Jewish community. We are uniting together in  
this moment to call for a cease-fire, the release of all hostages, and a  
commitment towards a long-term political solution that ensures the freedom and  
collective safety of Israelis and Palestinians.”  
The letter suggested to the President that vocal Jewish groups that have opposed  
the war are representative of a wide number of American Jews. Among the  
organizations represented are Bend the Arc, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice,  
Workers Circle, IfNotNow, and Jewish Voice for Peace. There are also staff  
members from groups which have opposed a cease-fire, including J Street. There  
are staff members from synagogues and the Reform and Conservative religious  
“False Narratives About Israel” In Jewish Schools  
A Boston area rabbi, Tovah Spitzer of Dorsey Tzedek, a Reconstructionist  
synagogue in Newton, Massachusetts, said, “For the sake of defeating the…ideology  
of Hamas, for the sake of returning all of the hostages, for the sake of the  
well-being of all of the Israelis and Palestinians caught up in this war, I urge  
the Biden Administration to do all it can to bring about a ceasefire as a first  
step to a lasting, political solution to the conflict.”  
Rep. Becca Balint (D-VT), whose family members were victims of the Holocaust,  
wrote: “Thousands of Palestinians, including thousands of children, have been  
killed. Many more have been displaced, without water, food, medical supplies and  
fuel. This is inhumane. What is needed is a negotiated bilateral ceasefire that  
ensures the release of all hostages and paves a path toward peace, security and  
safety for Israelis and Palestinians.”  
Controversy was stirred when graduates of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School  
in the Maryland suburbs outside of Washington, D.C. said that their education was  
defined by “false narratives” about Israel and called upon other alumni to join  
them “to help break the cycle of ‘no matter what’ support for Israel.”  
“Feeling Alienated By Unequivocal Support for Israel”  
According to The Forward (Dec. 19, 2023), the letter signed on Dec. 12 by roughly  
130 graduates of the school, declared, “If you are similarly struggling,  
questioning or feeling alienated by the unequivocal support for Israel that  
continued to be upheld by the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School as an  
institution and by the broader Jewish community that raised us—-you are not  
The letter noted that the signatories’ “critique of Zionism and Israel is neither  
antisemitic nor a betrayal of Judaism or Jewish community; rather, these profound  
critiques stem from our commitment to Jewish values.” Describing Israel’s war on  
Gaza as “fueled by genocidal intent,” they said they were “struggling to  
reconcile “the unquestioned support for Israel’s brutal assault with the Jewish  
values they were taught.”  
The Forward notes that, “Almost all of those who signed the letter taking the  
school to task graduated in the 21st century. Their relative youth reflects a  
larger pattern among American Jews, with younger generations taking a far more  
critical view of Israel…The letter critical of the day school is the latest  
example of a segment of American Jews rejecting the unconditional support for  
Israel they were raised with. That’s the theme of the 2023 documentary film  
‘Israelism,’ which features Simone Zimmerman. A graduate of Kadema Day School…  
Zimmerman is cofounder of IfNotNow, an organization which describes itself as  
working ‘to end support for Israel’s ‘apartheid system.’ In 2017, IfNotNow  
launched a campaign on social media called ‘You Never Told Me,’ in which young  
Jews said their Jewish education ignored the history and experiences of  
Palestinians. Writing about the campaign in 2017, Reconstructionist Rabbi Sarah  
Brammer-Shlat said: ‘As a generation, we were betrayed by the institutional  
Jewish world which told us stories of Israel’s glories but no stories of the  
horror and impact of occupation on Palestinians.’”  
A Deeply Misleading Narrative  
Columnist Ruth Marcus, writing in the Washington Post (Nov. 22, 2023) makes the  
point that, “…the narrative of Israel’s founding that Jewish children of my  
generation were offered in Hebrew school and on trips to Israel was deeply  
misleading at best, tinged with anti-Palestinian bias at worst. This account  
utterly failed to acknowledge the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in  
1948 or consider Palestinians’ legitimate claims to a homeland. The tenor of our  
rabbi’s sermons, the discussions in my childhood home, were that Israel could do  
no wrong.”  
Her children, Marcus points out, “…grew up in a different environment—-more  
honest about the contours of the conflict, more complex in the nature of the  
political discussion, and more fraught. They have scarcely known an Israel  
without Netanyahu, which is to say an Israel whose aggressive settlement policy  
that has made a two-state solution increasingly unattainable, and an Israel that  
fails to treat Palestinians with fairness and dignity….Perhaps the bond of young  
American Jews with Israel, already frayed, has irretrievably severed with Oct. 7  
and what many view as an Israeli response that has killed too many innocent  
Another Washington Post columnist, Dana Milbank (Nov. 1, 2023) used the headline,  
“What a lonely time to be a Jew in America.” He wrote: “I’m as horrified as  
everyone else by the killing of so many innocent civilians in Israel’s air  
strikes in Gaza…the vast majority of American Jews have no use for the corrupt  
Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his regime—-or its racism,  
authoritarian power grabs and settlement and reckless settlement policy designed  
to undermine a two-state solution…Five years ago, I argued that if Israelis  
planned to follow Netanyahu to ‘an ultranationalist apartheid state, American  
Jews have a duty to tell Israelis that support cannot be sustained here nor  
should it be.’ ‘People are filled with anguish,’ my rabbi Danny Zemel said.  
‘It’s become very, very lonely to be a progressive, Enlightenment-believing  
Political and Economic Marshall Plan  
Once Hamas is defeated, writes Milbank, “…there must be a political and economic  
Marshall Plan for the Palestinian people that will build an independent  
Palestinian state…It’s well past time for the long-suffering Palestinians to have  
their own state.”  
Rabbinical student Josie Felt told the Israeli magazine 972 (Nov. 3, 2023) that,  
“Over the past 3 1/2 weeks, a record number of U.S. Jews have taken action to  
protest the ongoing Israeli military assault on Gaza. Thousands of Jews are  
publicly rejecting the premise that Jewish safety comes at the expense of  
Palestinian liberation. We are taking to the streets to show our elected  
officials that we will not be silent while they exploit our grief to provide  
unsanctioned military support for the genocide of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.  
Palestinians are asking, ‘Are you with us?’ American Jews are showing we are.  
As a rabbinical student, I am taking action alongside thousands to challenge the  
idea that Jewish safety must come at the expense of Palestinians.”  
Rabbi Bernard Steinberg, who served as executive director of the Harvard Hillel  
Foundation from 1993-2010, wrote an article for the Harvard Crimson (Dec.  
29,2023) with the headline, "For the safety of Jews and Palestinians, stop  
weaponizing antisemitism.” He writes, “As an elder leader, with the benefit of  
hindsight, I feel compelled to speak to what I see as a disturbing trend gripping  
our campus and many others: the cynical weaponization of antisemitism by  
powerful forces who seek to intimidate and ultimately silence legitimate  
criticism of Israel and American policy on Israel.”  
Jewish Students Urged To Be “Boldly Critical” of Israel  
Steinberg states that, “I am particularly alarmed by today’s McCarthyist tactic  
of manufacturing a scare which, in effect, turns the very real issue of Jewish  
safety into a pawn in a cynical political game to cover for Israel’s unpopular  
policies with regard to Palestinians.” He urges Jewish students to be, “…boldly  
critical of Israel—-not despite being Jewish, but because you are. There is no  
tradition more central to Judaism than prophetic truth-telling, no Jewish  
imperative more urgent than bravely criticizing corrupt leadership, starting with  
our own…It is not antisemitism to demand justice for all Palestinians living in  
their ancestral lands…. If Israel’s case is just, let it speak eloquently in its  
own defense. It is very telling that some of Israel’s own supporters instead go  
to extraordinary lengths …to silence the other side. Smearing one’s opponents is  
rarely a tactic employed by those confident that justice is on their side…If  
Israel’s case requires branding its critics antisemites, it is already conceding  
Even respected theologians who were once Zionists, have abandoned that position.  
Professor Daniel Boyarin, who taught Talmud to generations of students at the  
University of California at Berkeley, has written a book setting forth his views,  
“The No-State Solution: A Jewish Manifesto” (Yale University Press). He says  
that, “I was a Zionist in my youth. In those years I thought of myself as a  
left-wing Zionist. I was active in Habonim (a socialist Zionist youth movement).  
I think I ultimately caught the leftism and socialism more than the Zionism. And  
when it became clear to me that I had to make a choice, I finally realized I had  
to let the Zionism go. That choice came when Yitzhak Rabin stated that the  
Israeli Army should break the arms and legs of Palestinian kids who threw stones  
at soldiers.”  
Dr. Boyarin recalls that, “I asked at the time, what is this cruel idea of  
breaking the arms and legs of little boys? And somebody explained to me that  
this was necessary in order to maintain the state. And I said if that’s  
necessary to maintain the state, then the state is clearly a wrong thing…I had  
been moving gradually into a more critical position vis-a-vis the behavior of  
Israel, but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I remember the first  
time I wanted to say I was an anti-Zionist. I couldn’t even pronounce it…That’s  
how hard it was for me…For me, the dilemma is how to maintain a truly vital,  
authentic…Jewish cultural life without falling into the kinds of nationalism and  
ethnocentrism that we find all over the world today.”  
Shaul Magid, Distinguished Fellow in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, has  
written a book, “The Necessity of Exile: Essays From A Distance” (Ayin Press),  
which he calls “counter-Zionism.” He notes that, “If liberal Zionists are now  
forced to support an illiberal state, why not construct a new way to affirm  
Jewish self-determination, a path for supporting liberalism rather than being  
forced to support an ideology that runs counter to our basic values.” He  
declares, “I offer counter-Zionism as a way to think otherwise about the complex  
web of Jewish history, identity and politics…. Israel without Zionism may have  
the chance of truly becoming a just and equitable polity of all its citizens.  
The Jewish diaspora may flourish without Israel as its necessary center.”  
Writing in The Forward (Dec. 26, 2023), Emily Tankin provides this assessment: “I  
thought he was asking American Jewish readers to do something hard: to imagine  
who we are, as Jews, outside Zionism, or Israel. What makes us Jewish?”  
In the wake of developments in Gaza, Peter Beinart, a professor of journalism and  
political science at the City University of New York and an editor of Jewish  
Currents, wrote an article in the New York Times (Oct.15, 2023), “The Moral  
Rebuilding Must Begin Now.”  
He writes: “Hamas …has committed an unspeakable horror that may damage the  
Palestinian cause for decades to come. Yet when Palestinians resist their  
oppression in ethical ways—-by calling for boycotts, sanctions, and the  
application of international law—-the U.S. and its allies work to ensure that  
those efforts fail, which convinces many Palestinians that ethical resistance  
doesn’t work, which empowers Hamas.”  
Ending Palestinian Oppression  
In Beinart’s view, “The savagery Hamas committed…has made reversing this  
monstrous cycle much harder…It will require a shared commitment to ending  
Palestinian oppression in ways that respect the infinite value of every human  
life…It will require a shared commitment to ending Palestinian oppression in ways  
that respect the infinite value of every human life…It will require new forms of  
political community…built around a democratic vision powerful enough to transcend  
tribal divides…the effort may fail. It has failed before. The alternative is to  
descend, flags waving, into hell.”  
Over the years, notes Beinart, “Israel, with America’s help…has repeatedly  
undermined Palestinians who sought to end Israel’s occupation through  
negotiations or nonviolent pressure…As part of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the PLO  
renounced violence and began working with Israel…because they thought it would  
deliver them a state…The 1996 election of Mr. Netanyahu and the failure of Israel  
and its American patron to stop settlement growth, however, curdled Palestinian  
sentiment…Like many others who care about the lives of Palestinians and Jews, I  
have felt in recent days the greatest despair I have ever known…A Palestinian  
friend sent me a note of consolation. She ended it with the words ‘only  
together.’ Maybe that can be our motto.”  
Two far-right members of Israel’s cabinet, Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich  
called to depopulate Gaza. They called for most Gazan civilians to be resettled  
in other countries. The war, said Ben Gvir, presents “an opportunity to  
concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza, facilitating  
Israeli settlement in the region.”  
Facing Up To Israeli Extremism  
In a column, “America Must Face Up To Israel’s Extremism,” New York Times (Jan.  
5, 2024), Michelle Goldberg writes: “The Biden administration has joined  
countries all over the world in condemning this naked endorsement of ethnic  
cleansing. But in doing so, it acted as if Ben Gvir and Smotrich’s provocations  
are fundamentally at odds with the worldview of Prime Minister Benjamin  
Netanyahu, to whom America continues to give unconditional backing…Rep. James  
McGovern, a Democrat, has called for a cease-fire and said, ‘It must be clear  
that America will not write a blank check for mass displacement.”  
Goldberg, who points out that she grew up in a “liberal Zionist home,” points out  
that, “…we’re writing a blank check to a government whose leader is only a bit  
more coy than Ben Gvir and Smotrich about his intentions for Gaza…The Times of  
Israel says, ‘The ‘voluntary’ resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza is slowly  
becoming a key official policy of the government, with a senior official saying  
that Israel has held talks with several countries for their potential  
absorption.’…Israel is making most of Gaza uninhabitable…Disease is rampant…  
hunger almost universal…After Hamas’ sadistic attack…Israel was justified in  
retaliating…But there is a difference between the war Israel’s liberal supporters  
want to pretend the country is fighting in Gaza and the war Israel is actually  
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, condemned calls  
for the emigration of Palestinians from Gaza. He noted that his movement’s  
opposition to Smotrich and Ben Gvir predates the war. He declared, “We condemn  
Israeli ministers’ call for ethnic cleansing. Along with most major American  
Jewish leaders, we have refused to meet with them to sanction their political  
“Grossly Disproportionate” Response  
In early January, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-VT) called on Congress to block  
additional funding to Israel: “While we recognize that Hamas’s barbaric terrorist  
attack began this war, we must also recognize that Israel’s military response has  
been grossly disproportionate, immoral and in violation of international law.  
Enough is enough. Congress must reject that funding. The taxpayers of the  
United States must no longer be complicit in destroying the lives of innocent  
men, women and children in Gaza. Israel has the absolute right to defend itself…  
They do not have the legal or moral right to kill thousands of innocent  
Palestinian men, women and children.”  
The idea that anti-Zionism equals antisemitism has been promoted by the Israeli  
government and by American Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League.  
The U.S. House of Representatives resolved in December that, “Anti-Zionism is  
antisemitism.” This notion has been widely refuted. Writing in the Washington  
Post (Jan. 7, 2024), Pulitzer Prize winning author Benjamin Moser headlined his  
article, “Anti-Zionism is not the same as antisemitism. Here’s the history.”  
Mr. Moser writes that, “When learning of this (Congressional) vote, many people  
familiar with Jewish history might have suppressed a sardonic laugh. Anti-  
Zionism, after al l, was a creation of Jews, not their enemies. Before World War  
11, Zionism was the most divisive and heatedly debated issue in the Jewish world.  
Anti-Zionism had left-wing variants and right-wing variants—-religious variants  
and secular variants—-as well as variants in every country where Jews resided.  
For anyone who knows this history, it is astonishing that, as the resolution  
would have it, opposition to Zionism has been equated to opposition to Judaism—-  
and not only to Judaism, but to hatred of Jews themselves. But this conflation  
has nothing to do with history. Instead, it is political, and its purpose has  
been to discredit Israel’s opponents as Racists.”  
Jews Have Been “At Home” In America From The Beginning  
Zionism claims that Israel is the “homeland” of all Jews and that those living  
elsewhere are in “exile.” Mr. Moser declares that Jews have been “at home in  
America from the beginning, thanks.” In 1841, he points out, in the dedication  
of the nation’s first Reform synagogue in Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi  
Gustavus Poznanski declared, “This country is our Palestine, this city our  
Jerusalem, this house of God our temple.” A century later, Rabbi Samuel Schulman  
of Temple Emanu-El in New York stated that “the essence of Reform Judaism for me  
is the rejection of Jewish nationalism.” Moser notes that, “Many Jews believed  
that talk of a ‘diaspora,’ even a ‘Jewish people,’ resembled the calumnies of  
antisemites…They noticed that many antisemites were fervently pro-Zionist: the  
better to get rid of the Jews.” Never has the debate about Zionism within the  
Jewish community “been louder than it is now,” in Moser’s view.  
The American Jewish community, with a number of notable exceptions, once seemed  
united in its support for Israel and its embrace of Zionism. That is no longer  
the case. While establishment Jewish organizations may persist in their embrace  
of whatever policies the Israeli government pursues, these groups appear  
increasingly unrepresentative of the larger Jewish community. Before Israel’s  
creation, Zionism was a minority view among Jewish Americans. It appears now to  
be in the process of becoming a minority view once again. *

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© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.