Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

Corruption of Jewish Values by Blind Support for Israel Was Foreseen,Even by Some Prominent Zionists

Allan C. Brownfeld
Winter 2010

by David N. Myers,  
Brandeis University Press,  
308 Pages.  
The organized Jewish community continues to provide almost blind support for the government of Israel, regardless of what policies it implements and pursues.  
In September, 2009, the Rabbinical Assembly, which represents Conservative Judaism, asked their rabbis to read a political statement in lieu of the traditional Shofar service on Rosh Hashanah.  
Among other things, this declaration states: “On this Rosh Hashanah our brothers and sisters in Israel face the threat of a nuclear Iran — a threat to Israel’s very existence. Today, we Jews around the world also confront anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment of the Goldstone report which blames Israel disproportionately for the tragic loss of human life incurred in Operation Cast Lead, which took place last winter in Gaza. This unbalanced U.N. sponsored report portends serious consequences for Israel and the Jewish people. On this holy day, which is not only Roth Hashanah, but also Shabbat, the Shofar is silent in the face of this spurious report, the world is far too silent. Today the state of Israel needs us to be the kol shofar, the voice of the shofar.”  
Object of Worship  
Making Israel — rather than God — the object of worship is hardly new in some Jewish circles. By any rational standard, it is a form of idolatry. It is ironic, of course, that the author of the report which has been vilified as part of a sacred religious service is South African Judge Richard Goldstone — who is Jewish, a Zionist, and long a supporter and friend of Israel.  
In his speech to the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Gold-stone report a “travesty,” “a farce” and “a perversion.” He compared Hamas to Nazi Germany and said that the report sought to undermine Israel’s “legitimacy.”  
Judge Goldstone said that he was “upset” by the speech. He declared that, “It is disingenuous to put it lightly, what Netanyahu said. The idea that this is aimed at deligitimizing the state of Israel — that is the last thing I would want to do.” He argued that Israel’s leaders were behaving contemptuously, “ignoring the specific allegations and simply launching a broadside.”  
What is not widely known — and should be — is that Richard Goldstone is one in  
a long line of committed Jews, often Zionists, who have warned for more than a century that the Zionist enterprise — and blind support for it — would, in the end, seriously corrupt Jewish moral values.  
Wide-Ranging Thinker  
An important new book, Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz (Brandeis University Press) brings new attention to Rawidowicz (1897-1957), the wide-ranging Jewish thinker and scholar who taught at Brandeis University in the l950s. At the heart of this book, written by David N. Myers, Professor of History at UCLA and Director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, is a chapter that Rawidowicz wrote as a coda to his Hebrew tome Babylon and Jerusalem (1957) but never published.  
In this coda, now published for the first time in English — 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.  
Neither a Palestinian nor an Israeli, Rawidowicz was a Jewish thinker, ideologue and scholar who followed a long and meandering career path from his native Eastern Europe to Germany and England before arriving in the U.S. at the age of 51. A year after coming to the U.S., he joined the faculty of the newly founded Brandeis University as professor of Jewish thought. It was while at Brandeis that he arrived at the conclusion that the most compelling moral and political challenge facing Jews after 1948 was the resolution of the “Arab Question,” a term he used to refer to the status of Arabs resident in the new state of Israel, as well as to the Arab refugees who left Palestine in 1948. Rawidowicz issued a plea to address the Arab Question, culminating in his bold call to repatriate Arab refugees.  
Epochal Turning Point  
Professor Myers notes that, “The creation of the State of Israel in 1948, Rawidowicz affirmed, marked an epochal turning point in the history of the Jews ... But the ascent to political power by Jews also posed major challenges. Rawidowicz approached this new development not as a pacifist opposed to the use of force, but as a skeptic wary of the misuse of power. Would the sensitivity that Jews had cultivated and internalized over centuries of existence as a national minority in the Diaspora vanish? Would they adopt the ways of Gentiles —an especially unappealing prospect in the wake of the Holocaust — when relating to the new national minority in their midst?”  
Rawidowicz was hardly alone in his concerns. His assessment of the Arab question parallels that of a Jewish figure whom he held in the highest esteem, the Israeli author S. Yizhar (ne Yishar Smilansky, 1916-2006). In 1949, Yizhar published a well-known short story “Hirbet Hiz’ah,” that described the expulsion of local Palestinians by a callous and indifferent group of Jewish soldiers during Israel’s war of independence.  
Of particular relevance are Yizhar’s words delivered at a memorial tribute to  
Martin Buber in 1990. Yizhar was no longer addressing the events of 1948 but rather the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War. He called for an end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, not the least on ethical grounds, which he described as “the primary consideration, the strongest, and in the final analysis, the most decisive.” He declared: “The Palestinian Question is not an Arab Question, but entirely a Jewish question ... It is a question for the Jews and a question for Judaism. And instead of continuing to run away from it, one must stop and turn to face it, turn and look at it directly.”  
Expulsion of Palestinians  
Myers points out 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 in order to proceed with the goal of stabilizing the new Jewish state. In fact, there were those who referred to the flight of Arabs, either by force or choice, in the recurrent messianic language of the day: as a ‘miracle.’ Moreover, the new Israeli government often undertook to erase traces of the physical presence of Arabs in parts of Palestine that fell under the jurisdiction of the State of Israel, a process chronicled by Meron Benvenisti in ‘Sacred Language.’ This effort was intended not only to ‘Judaize’ the new state, but to set firmly in place the image of the mythic Hebrew reclaiming of his land. One consequence was that reminders of Palestinian Arab dispossession were largely repressed from the early l950s, soon to be supplanted in Israeli public consciousness by an even larger wound: the searing tale of Jewish victimization in the Holocaust.”  
Simon Rawidowicz knew well the ancient tradition into which he stepped. Like the prophets Amos and Jeremiah, he beseeched his people to retain a measure of humility in its behavior and to acknowl-edge its errant ways. His call became increasingly urgent at the point when he recognized that the millennial fulfillment of the Jews’ dream of renewed sovereignty coincided with — indeed, contributed to — the “catastrophe” of Palestinian dispossession. He particularly lamented the manner in which Jewish groups in the United States and elsewhere 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.  
“New Historians”  
Slowly, with the advent of Israel’s so-called “New Historians,” a group of scholars who began to comb the newly opened archives in Israel more than two decades ago and, as a result of their discoveries, challenged the historical myths that had accompanied Israel from its birth. One of the key findings of these historians was that the Palestinian refugee problem did not arise solely as a result of voluntary flight in the midst of wartime. Rather, the Israeli side was responsible for the forced removal of a significant portion of the Arab population from Palestine in 1948.  
Shlomo Ben-Ami, historian and former Israeli foreign minister during the late phase of the Oslo peace process, wrote recently, in a summary of events of 1948, “of an Arab community in a state of terror facing a ruthless Israeli army whose path to victory was paved not only by its exploits against the regular Arab armies, but also by the intimidation, and at times atrocities and massacres, it perpetrated against the civilian Arab community.” A similar recognition prompted the respected Israeli author Amos Oz to declare in a recent opinion piece: “The time has come to acknowledge openly that Israelis had a part in the catastrophe of the Palestinian refugees. We do not bear sole responsibility and we are not solely to blame, but our hands are not clean.”  
Myers points out that, “Rawidowicz affirmed the right of Jews to a place under the sun, but was concerned that 1948 had unleashed a torrent of uncontrollable forces. In particular, he feared that Jews had become, in the words of Proverbs, ‘the servant who has come to reign’ (Proverbs 30:21-22). Hannah Arendt, for her part, described this phenomenon as ‘the tendency, only too common in history, to play the oppressor as soon as one is liberated.’ Rawidowicz’s great trepidation was that the new political power accorded Jews in their state would dull the ethical sensors that had guided them and preserved them throughout history. The result, he feared, would be a most Pyrrhic victory.”  
Unpublished Chapter  
This volume, Myers notes, focuses on a small portion of Rawidowicz’s work, particularly the unpublished chapter of his book dealing with the question of Arab refugees and their treatment by the new state of Israel, because of what Myers calls “a personal reason.” This, he describes as, “My own growing awareness of and unease over the relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel/Palestine. Like Rawidowicz, I have become unsettled by the intoxicating effects of political power and sovereignty on the Jews. And like him, I recognize that the absence of such power has had even more devastating effects on the Jews. ... I am drawn to Rawidowicz’s project of self-criticism, which enabled him to see that a major — if not the major — measure of Zionism’s success would be its treatment of the Arab question.”  
In Myers’ view, “... Rawidowicz’s intuition that the State of Israel must address the deep wound of Palestinian dispossession strikes us as painful, yet legitimate and healthy. So too was his intuition that the sovereign Jewish state has the power, responsibility, and, though not always evident, self-interest to initiate a resolution to the wound of 1948 ... This book, though surely not it alone, takes a step in that direction by excavating a text that frames the Palestinian refugee problem not only as an Arab question, but as a Jewish one as well ... we gain a clearer sight of the competing vectors that made up Rawid-owicz’s complex character: his deep Jewish pathos and decided rejection of received Jewish communal wisdom, as well as his political prescience and conscious disengagement from the drama of Jewish history unfolding in his day.”  
At some point in the preparation of Rawidowicz’s book Bavel vi-Yerushalayim, a decision was made to withhold from publication a chapter that he had been working on throughout the early and mid-1950s. The suppressed chapter addressed the fate of the Arab population of Palestine during the 1948 war and thereafter. Rawidowicz argued in this chapter that the triumph of the Jews — the assumption of statehood in their ancestral homeland — spelled disaster for the Arabs. In the first place, he sought to demonstrate that the Arabs who remained within the borders of the new state — 156,000 in 1949 — were subject to unacceptable discrimination by the Knesset. Even more dramatically, he argued that it was the responsibility of the State of Israel to attend to the plight of hundreds of thousands of Arabs displaced during the hostilities that ensued in Palestine from late 1947 through the armistice agreements of 1949.  
Name of New State  
Why, Rawidowicz wondered, did the Jewish community in Palestine arrogate to itself the right to decide the name of the new state? If the new state aimed to be Jewish in the broadest sense, then it should share the responsibility for determining its name with Jews throughout the world. He did not believe that the state — which he referred to rather dismissively as “the partition-state of 1948,” hinting both at its trumped-up nature and recent vintage — could or should call itself, formally or colloquially, “Israel.” Rather, he believed, the Jewish people the world over deserved this Biblical appellation. To tie the name Israel to a political state, Rawidowicz wrote, would be to undermine “the purity and integrity of a millennia-old tradition, a framework of thoughts and feelings hidden in the depths of the soul of the nation.”  
Many Jews heralded the sight of the bronzed, gun-toting Sabra soldier. Rawidowicz, by contrast, lamented the triumph of precisely that which he had warned against: a “cruel Zionism” that had little concern for or connection to Jews who lived elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, the Israeli soldier and his newly discovered power had replaced, as far as he could see, the Jewish author and his pen as the embodiment of the Jewish spirit. Raison d’etat had become the Jewish raison d’etre.  
After 1948, Rawidowicz believed, “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.”  
Equitable Division  
In the ancient Jewish teachings of the Mishnah (Baba Metzia 1:1), the remedy in a case in which two parties lay claim to the same object is equitable division. But that principle, Rawidowicz suggested, was not upheld in the battle between Jews and Arabs over Palestine. Driven by the Zionist injunction to overcome their centuries of powerlessness, the Jews had assumed power and, in the process, displaced the Arabs. This did not mean that sovereignty was an illegitimate goal. Rather, Rawidowicz believed, in paraphrasing the Book of Proverbs, that the risk was great when “the servant has come to reign.”  
In fact, the early advocate of cultural Zionism, Ahad Ha’am used this expression in his essay, “Truth From Eretz Yisrael,” written after his trip to Palestine in 1891. Far from departing in a state of euphoria, he was demoralized and depressed by what he saw on the part of his fellow Jews, particu-larly their attitude toward the local Arab population. Ahad Ha’am enjoined them to learn from both past and present experience: “How much we must be cautious in our conduct toward a gentile people in whose midst we now live, how we must walk together with that people in love and honor and, needless to say, in justice and righteousness0 And what do our brothers in Eretz Yisrael do? Exactly the opposite. They were slaves in Exile, and suddenly they find themselves in a state of unrestrained freedom ... This sudden change has planted in their hearts a tendency toward despotism, as always happens ‘when a servant comes to reign.’”  
Ahad Ha’am, Professor Myers writes, “was referring to the Jewish settlers of the First Aliyah, the first wave of modern Jewish immigrants who began to move to Palestine in 1882. Seeking to establish self-sufficient agricultural communities the settlers frequently resorted to hiring Arab workers who were cheaper and more readily available than Jewish workers. This arrangement set up a dynamic of labor dependence that the succeeding wave of Jewish immigrants, the Second Aliyah, vowed to eliminate. But it also introduced a colonial dimension to the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Palestine whereby the latter assumed a position of economic and cultural superiority vis-a-vis the latter. Ahad Ha’am took aim at this stance, condemning the widespread perception that ‘Arabs are wild desert beasts, a people resembling a donkey, who neither see nor understand what is going on around them.’”  
“A Great Nation”  
This imagery, notes Myers, “had later iterations in the Yishuv. Fifteen years later and after Ahad Ha’am’s first report, another Zionist in Palestine, Yitzhak Epstein, felt compelled to dispel the widely held impression among Jews that Arabs were uncivilized and lazy. On the contrary, Epstein argued in 1907, the Arabs are ‘a great nation, possessed of physical and intellectual terms.’ As a result, he warned against the tendency to ‘suppress the national character of our neighbors.’ Epstein belonged to a small group of early 20th century Zionists (including Nissim Malul, R. Binyomin and Joseph Lurie) who have been called ‘integrationists’ by historian Yosef Gorny. Integrationists tended to highlight the neighborly or even familial relations between Jews and Arabs and/or advocated for economic and social cooperation between the two communities in Palestine. Some of the integrationists (for example, R. Binyomin, Epstein and Lurie) would later join forces with the newly arrived Central European Jews in the mid-l920s to found Brit Shalom and work for cooperation and binational power-sharing between Jews and Arabs in Palestine.”  
Some of those who made up the new Mapam Party, Myers explains, were long-standing supporters of bi-nationalism: “Some of the new party’s members were also distinctly concerned about the fate of Arabs in 1948. Although reconciled to a Jewish rather than a binational state, Mapam leaders such as Meir Ya’ari, Moshe Sneh, Yaakov Hazan, and Aharon Cohen expressed serious misgivings in party councils, memoranda, and newspapers about (1) the manner in which Palestinian Arabs left their homes (that is, via expulsions) in the midst of the 1948 war; and (2) the refusal of the new Israeli state to consider seriously the return of the refugees.”  
An exception, Myers reports, was the debate that ensued in late July 1948 following the flight of tens of thousands of Arabs from the cities of Ramle and Lod (Lydda) on July 12-13. On the occasion of that debate, at which David Ben-Gurion was present, dissonant voices rose up to question the morality of acts of expulsion and looting reportedly undertaken by Jewish forces. Veteran activist Shmuel Yavne’eli declared that Jews, who themselves “were persecuted and expelled, slaughtered and destroyed,” had now become like “servants who had come to reign.”  
Treacherous and Comprising  
Yavne’eli’s statement reveals that there were Jews in the newly established State of Israel who feared that the transition from powerlessness to power would be treacherous and compromising, especially as it affected Arabs. A small cohort of Israeli journalists, authors and scholars in the late l940s and early 1950s took it upon itself to address the difficult questions of how, when and why the Palestinian Arab refugee problem developed. This disparate group refused to accept the narrative of total Arab culpability for the plight of the Palestinians. Writing in Hebrew journals such as Ner, Hol ha’am and Al ha-mishmar, they openly discussed the expulsions by Jewish forces of Palestinian Arabs from their homes.  
The Ihud journal Ner, from its opening issue in February 1950 was filled with reports of expulsion, displacements and discrimination against Arabs. The editor, Rabbi Binyomin, used the journal to challenge Israeli society to assume responsibility for the expulsion of Arab residents and to accept their right of return to the State of Israel. An early issue of Ner uses the familiar phrase “a servant who has come to reign,” along with the famous dictum associated with the first-century sage Hillel: “That which is hateful to you, do not unto your neighbor.”  
This era of relative openness did not last long. Anita Shapira observes of the immediate postwar cultural climate that “the expulsion (of Palestinian Arabs) which at the beginning of the l950s had been acknowledged as an obvious fact of war, was now transformed into a virtual ‘state secret’ — of course, with many ‘confidants.’”  
With a few notable exceptions, this “state secret” was preserved in Israeli and Jewish collective memory from the early l950s until the 1980s. In that later period, the group of scholars known as the New Historians (including Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, Tom Segev and Avi Shlaim) began to make use of newly available archival sources to question long-standing assumptions. American political scientist Don Peretz, whose 1954 Columbia dissertation — published in 1958 as “Israel and the Palestine Arabs” — offered a careful and judicious analysis of the stages of development.  
“Sacred Landscape”  
Meron Benvenisti, the former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, in Sacred Landscape (2000), chronicles in detail the conscious effort by the new State of Israel to erase traces of a large and vibrant Arab community in pre-state Palestine. The book opens by discussing the efforts of state officials to draw up new maps that replaced Arabic place names with Hebrew ones. Benvenisti then moves on to argue that Israeli actions in June-July 1948 “came dangerously close to fitting the definition of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and chronicles the disappearance of 400 Arab villages and the reclamation of 4.5 million dunams of Arab land by the State of Israel.  
Benvenisti’s book, which concludes with a chapter that raises the prospect of Israeli acknowledge-ment of “historical injustices” committed against Palestinians, is, Myers declares, “significant because it comes from a veteran Israeli public official with deep ties to the land and extensive experience in issues of land and extensive experience in issues of land and natural resource management.”  
Another subject addressed by both Myers and Rawidowicz is Israel’s Law of Return, approved by the Knesset July 5, 1950. It laid out the special status of Jews in Israel, proclaiming that “every Jew has the right to come to this country as an ‘oleh’; that is, as a new immigrant with full rights to settle in the state and become a citizen.” Arabs were eligible for citizenship only under stringent circumstances, among them, “They were inhabitants ... on the day that the National Law came into effect ... They were in Israel continuously from the establishment of the State (May 15, 1948) to the day on which the Nationality Law took effect (July 14, 1952).”  
The law paved different legal paths toward Israeli citizenship for Jews and Arabs and effectively limited the number of Arabs eligible for citizenship by removing from consideration those who were displaced by the war of 1948 and either were unable to register with the state between 1948 and 1952 or sought to return to their homes from beyond the state’s borders.  
Discriminatory Clauses  
Rawidowicz took direct aim at this law. “Morality itself,” he wrote, “protests against these discrimi-natory clauses.” Israel was a signatory, he observed, to the U.N. Charter and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which guaranteed free and equal treatment to members of ethnic minorities. He was familiar with the claims of advocates of the Nationality Law, who argued on both classical Zionist and national security grounds. But he countered that: “Neither the ingathering of the exiles nor the security needs of the State require these discriminatory clauses. Even if one were to argue that they were required, they would not trump the obligation of the State of Israel toward the Arab minority in its midst. Discrimination is discrimination, even when it serves the security needs of the state.”  
According to Myers, “A state, especially one that claimed to embody Jewish values, needed to ground its power in a firm ethical foundation ... Rawidowicz was particularly dismayed by the silence of the Jewish press in the Diaspora, which took little note of the Nationality Law. This silence violated not only Rawidowicz’s sense of ethical responsibility but, equally so, his ideal of an equal ‘partnership’ between the two centers of the Jewish nation ... he insisted that a confident and self-respecting Diaspora should not abdicate its responsibility for the well-being and moral standing of the Jewish people to the governing organs of the State of Israel, as it had in passing over the Nationality Law in silence. To do so was to cast a blind eye toward discrimination against Arabs, as well as to surrender any say in the determination of citizenship in the Jewish state ... At work was a culture of conformism in which critical or dissenting voices were stifled — and which, Rawidowicz lamented, ‘brands as an outcast anyone who doesn’t answer ‘amen’ to the abundance of propaganda that regurgitates old tales.’”  
Rawidowicz declared that, “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 fathers. From 1948 on, I have spent much time thinking about this fact, from all angles, and to the best of my ability. But it is impossible for me to come to terms with it in any way, shape or form.”  
A New Era  
There was a time, Rawidowicz argues, when the Zionist movement attempted to “redeem Zion with justice” (Isaiah 1:27). But after 1948, he asserted, the movement had entered a new era, “as a state, as a government that breaches boundaries without anyone raising a voice.”  
The unpublished chapter in Rawidowicz’s book would have stirred considerable controversy in the nineteen fifties. It is for this reason, no doubt, that he was urged to excise it from his manuscript. Reading the chapter — Between Jew and Arab — today gives us some insight into Rawidowicz’s prophetic vision.  
He writes: “Just yesterday we earned the right to create a national movement capable of conquest — and today we speak of those weaker than us in the language of aggressive nations who designate the national movement of a minority that is not convenient to them as dark and ‘destructive,’ or as an ‘enemy of freedom and progress.’ Some of our writers and politicians speak of the Arabs — employing the language of the British, French and Americans (and not the most clever or decent among them) — as purveyors of a nationalism typical of Oriental peoples. As if this nationalism is nothing but the product of inciters and seducers, demagogues thirsty for power — a foreign branch, ‘a passing contagion,’ as is said, along with other descriptions, in writing devoted to the national question in the ‘backwater’ world that is now awakening from national slumber.”  
Backward “Asiatics”  
He continues: “Meanwhile, for us they are backward ‘Asiatics,’ tools in the hands of exploitative effendis and of this or that state that uses them and their nationalism for their own purposes. When we fight for our revival, we are men of vision, heralding a national renaissance that has great value for the entire human race. And the Arabs who fight for their existence in the land of their residence — what is the name, or names by which we call them and their wars. As Moshe Smilansky has written: ‘Our brothers, the children of Israel, who return to their land after two thousand years of Exile, are daring ones, they are national heroes worthy of the world’s support — whereas the Arabs who return to their property after two or three years of exile are infiltrators, whose blood it is not forbidden to spill.’”  
In his last word about morality between Jew and Arab, Rawidowicz provides this assessment: “The period between l948 and now places in question the very morality of Judaism itself. Is the morality of Judaism in which Jews have taken such pride, both religious and secular — that great joy in which ‘Israel’ reveled as a result of its lack of appetite for iniquity, for doing wrong to its neighbor — is there nothing to this concern? Can our enemies and haters say of us that this is but the morality of the Galut, the morality of a weak minority with its back to the wall, the morality of slaves, the morality of a group that does not have the ability to do what other normal groups do? So the Jew was given sovereignty in a small patch of land — and he acts like any Gentile under the sun. Your enemy lashed out, so kill him. He killed one or more from your camp, go seek him out and kill him — and his family and the family of his family. Because this is the ‘on1y language’ understandable to your enemy. ... Earlier, when the armistice between the Arab countries and the State of Israel was arranged, the following should have been declared: every Arab man and woman who had left the country with the outbreak of the war is permitted to return to their possessions — or at the very least, they will be permitted to do so after the signing of a peace treaty between the state and the Arab countries, excluding those Arabs who have no desire or ability to be loyal citizens of the State of Israel.”  
Never Forced Refugees  
In the long history of Jews in the world, notes Rawidowicz, “Never ... did Jews force refugees into the world. Let not the State of Israel begin its path by forcing refugees into the world ... it is not for their honor that I am anxious; it is for our honor that I am concerned, for our soul, for the purity of the garment of Israel.”  
Another important critic of Israeli policy at the time — the scientist and philosopher Yehayahu Leibowitz —questioned whether there was such a thing as Jewish, as opposed to universal morality. In reflecting on the notorious Kibya massacre of October 1953, in which 60 Jordanian villagers were killed by Israeli forces in a reprisal raid, Leibowitz placed the blame for the actions of Jewish soldiers not on a failure of “Jewish morality,” but on the misapplication of the Jewish religion, and particularly the core notion of holiness, to the Zionist project. “For the sake of that which is holy,” Leibowitz warned in terms that echo powerfully today, “man is capable of acting without any restraint.” The dangerous conflation of the sacred and profane, he asserted, was anchored in the famously euphemistic reference to “the Rock of Israel” in Israel’s Proclamation of Independence. And it was this conflation, he implied, that empowered Jewish soldiers to act with impunity in Kibya.  
Professor Myers believes that the voice of Simon Rawidowicz was a prophetic one — and one of the few Jewish voices to echo concern over the role of the State of Israel in the treatment of the indigenous Arab population of Palestine.  
“Rawidowicz understood,” writes Myers, “what was momentous in the restoration of sovereignty to the Jews, how it marked the fulfillment of millennial aspirations and a remedy to the ravages of the recent past. But he refused to surrender to the intoxicating feeling of historical virtue and sacred mission that often envelops nationalist movements — and that enveloped the Zionist movement and much of the Jewish world in 1946. He saw through the celebratory mist of the day to observe that the triumph of the Jewish people entailed the fall of another. He also observed that indifference and amnesia vis-a-vis the refugees were the norm among Jews in the State of Israel and the Diaspora. In response, he offered as fundamental a critique of this indifference and amnesia as any Jewish thinker of his — or perhaps any, day.”  
Center of Jewish Identity  
Even as committed a Zionist as Simon Rawidowicz was concerned about making the sovereign State of Israel the center of Jewish identity. Dr. Myers argues that, “... his intuition that veneration of the State of Israel qua state mistook the means for the end of Jewish nationalism merits attention. His was not a call to oppose the existence of the state, but rather to question whether that state, as distinct from Jewish religion, culture, or the global nation, should be the foundation of Jewish identity. The challenge to ‘statism’ did not deny that the State of Israel could serve a variety of important aims, including the provision of physical defense, social services, and a framework for Hebrew culture for its Jewish citizens. But he stubbornly refused to regard Jewish sovereignty as a supreme value in itself, and surely not as commendable if it entailed the negation of the Diaspora, or discrimination against Palestinian Arabs.”  
What Rawidowicz “could not accept,” Myers tells us, was “the view of Zionists in his day — from David Ben-Gurion to Avraham Sharon — that the assumption of statehood was the fulfillment of Jewish history. He would perhaps have even more trouble understanding the claims of those today, such as Ruth Wisse in her recent Jews and Power, who move in an opposite direction and maintain that the State of Israel is not sufficiently unmoored from a self-destructive ‘Diaspora strategy of accommo-dation’ (as, for example, when it engages in peace negotiations with the Palestinians). Rawidowicz, for his part, thought that the state had abandoned that strategy at its inception and, in fact, would do well to recall the principle, born in conditions of exile, to respect the stranger — ‘for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Exodus 22:21).”  
After more than fifty years, Simon Rawidowicz’s material sees the light of day for the first time, thanks to Professor Myers. “It does so,” he writes, in an age in which reckoning with the past misdeeds — exposing the wound in order to heal it — has occurred with increasing frequency among political states. On the one hand, this trend results from an unfortunate cause: the ever-expanding number and scale of state-sponsored acts of violence ... Central to Rawidowicz’s thinking was the proposition that the welfare of the Arabs of Palestine had become inextricably linked with the welfare of the Jewish state ... This linkage remains as true today, if not more so. And thus, even though Between Jew and Arab was never published, lingering for more than half a century in silence, the ongoing relevance of its main theme prompts us to let Rawidowicz’s voice be heard.”  
Corruption of Jewish Values  
The corruption of Jewish values by “statism,” the idolatry of geography and the advent of a “cruel Zionism” was predicted by a host of thoughtful Jewish voices — from Ahad Ha’am to Martin Buber to Albert Einstein to Yehyahu Leibowitz. It is they — not the government of Israel and its blind defenders within the organized Jewish community — who have kept the genius of the Jewish spirit alive. And now, the first publication in English of Simon Rawidowicz’s Between Jew and Arab is a notable contribution to that tradition which, it is to be hoped, will grow in the future.  
What Professor Myers might have usefully explored is the larger question of whether Zionism would inevitably have led to the developments so deplored by Simon Rawidowicz, Ahad Ha’am and the others.  
Was Zionism not inherently a 19th century nationalist movement devoid of genuine Judaic content, as its critics, both Orthodox and Reform, charged from the beginning? Theodor Herzl, modern Zionism’s founding father, had little interest in Judaism as a religion and even, at one time, suggested that the answer to anti-Semitism in Europe was for Jews to convert to Christianity. Herzl never considered the consequences of importing European Jews to Palestine and displacing the indigenous Arab population, for which he never expressed empathy or concern.  
As time moves on, the prophetic vision of the founders of Reform Judaism in the United States, and their rejection of Jewish nationalism, seems visionary. Today’s organized American Jewish commu-nity, even contemporary Reform Judaism, has placed Israel — not God — at the center of their identity. Israeli flags are displayed in many synagogues. Religious bodies — Orthodox, Conservative and Reform — tell American Jews that their highest obligation is to make “aliyah,” to emigrate to Israel.  
Israel at the Core  
In October, 2009, at the inaugural conference of J Street, the new Jewish group attempting to counter the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Rabbi Eric Yoffie, leader of the Union for Reform Judaism, not only vigorously defended Israel’s role in Gaza, which J Street had criticized, but told the audience that it must “recognize that Jewish life cannot be sustained without Israel at its core.”  
It is sad to see religious leaders diminish Jewish identity to support for a sovereign state and to defend whatever that state does. Simon Rawidowicz already saw this phenomenon at work in the nineteen fifties. He, and Professor Myers, somehow believe that there could have been a different, more virtuous manifestation of the Zionist idea. Perhaps they did not consider the fact that, from the start, it would inevitably progress — as have other exclusivist nationalisms — to be what it has now become.  
If neither Professor Myers nor Simon Rawidowicz came to the conclusion that Zionism itself was a flawed philosophy, they did seek to make it consistent with Jewish ideas of justice and virtue and for this they deserve our commendation. This important book represents a significant contribution to the growing debate over this question and deserves a wide readership. •  
Allan C. Brownfeld is a nationally syndicated columnist and serves as Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and Editor of Issues. The author of five books, he has served on the staff of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President.

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.