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Zionism and Jewish Values: A Contradiction Exposed

Allan C. Brownfeld
Spring-Summer 2015

The glaring contradiction between Zionism and Jewish moral and ethical values is becoming clear to all.  
From the earliest days of Zionism, the philosophy which proclaimed that Jews were a distinct nationality, not a religious community, and should return to their ancient “homeland” in Palestine, it represented a minority view among Jews.  
Religious Jews objected because they believed that the creation of a political state was a heresy, an intervention that usurped God’s own redemptive plan. Reform Judaism believed that the idea of Zionism contradicted almost completely their belief in a universal Judaism. The first Reform prayer book eliminated references to Jews being in exile and to a Messiah who would miraculously restore Jews throughout the world to the historic land of Israel.  
American Council for Judaism  
The American Council for Judaism (ACJ), ever since 1942, has maintained that Judaism is a religion of universal values, and that American Jews are Americans by nationality and Jews by religion, in precisely the same manner as other Americans are Baptists, Catholics or Muslims. Jonathan Sarna, a Brandeis University historian and author of the book American Judaism, states: “Everything they (the American Council for Judaism) prophesied — dual loyalty, nationalism being evil — has come to pass.”  
In 1897, the Central Conference of American Rabbis adopted a resolution disapproving of any attempt to establish a Jewish state. The resolution stated: “Zion was a precious possession of the past … as such it is a holy memory, but it is not our hope of the future. America is our Zion.” In 1904, The American Israelite, edited by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the leader of American Reform Judaism in the 19th century, noted: “There is not one solitary native Jewish-American who is an advocate of Zionism.”  
Speaking at the January 1937 annual convention of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in New Orleans, an early leader of the ACJ, Rabbi Morris Lazaron, who served from 1915 to 1946 as rabbi of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, declared: “Judaism cannot accept as the instrument of its salvation the very philosophy of nationalism which is leading the world to destruction. Shall we condemn it as Italian or German, but accept it as Jewish?”  
Rise of Nazism  
The rise of Nazism and the Holocaust led many Jews to embrace Zionism and support the establishment of a Jewish state. One result, sadly, is that we have seen Judaism increasingly corrupted and politicized. Jewish religious bodies, ranging from Orthodox to Conservative to Reform, have embraced the notion that the State of Israel — not God — is, somehow, “central” to Judaism. The center of attention within the organized American Jewish community has not been the traditional Jewish commitment to God and to traditional Jewish moral and ethical values, but something far different. More and more thoughtful Jewish voices, in the U.S. and throughout the world, are increasingly using the term “idolatry” to describe the elevation of the State of Israel to the “central” position in Judaism.  
In recent days, Zionism’s true nature has been laid bare to the world. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, early in February, said that he was not just the prime minister of Israel, but also a “representative of the entire Jewish people.” It is unprecedented for the leader of one country to claim to speak in the name of millions of men and women who are citizens of other countries simply because of a shared religious faith. Even David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, agreed that Israel can speak only on behalf of its own citizens “and in no way presume to represent or speak in the name of Jews who are citizens of other countries.” That was 1950. Now in 2015, Benjamin Netanyahu has not only taken it upon himself to speak in the name of all Jews, but has urged Jews to abandon their countries and emigrate to Israel, which, in his view, is their real “homeland.”  
Thus, in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, Netanyahu traveled to France and urged French Jews to flee their country. After a terrorist attack in Copenhagen, Denmark in February, Netanyahu called upon Danish Jews and Jews throughout Europe to abandon their homes and move to Israel.  
At Home in Europe  
If Netanyahu thought he was speaking for all Jews in urging mass emigration, he quickly learned that Jews in France, Denmark and elsewhere were quite at home and rejected the notion that their real “homeland” was Israel. Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, said that far better than emigration to Israel would be the preservation and protection of Jewish life in the many countries Jews call home. He regretted that “after every anti-Semitic act in Europe, the Israeli government issues the same statement about the importance of aliyah rather than employ every diplomatic and international means at its disposal to strengthen the safety of Jewish life in Europe. The Israeli government must stop this Pavlovian response every time there is an attack against any Jews in Europe.”  
Denmark’s Chief Rabbi, Jair Melchior, said he was “disappointed” by Netanyahu’s call for immigration. He declared: “If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a desert island. Terror is not a reason to move to Israel.” Claude Lanzmann, the widely respected French Jewish film-maker, best known for his Holocaust documentary film “Shoah,” said that following Netanyahu’s advice would have only one result, giving Hitler, who did his best to rid France and all of Europe of Jews, “a posthumous victory.”  
In fact, all Benjamin Netanyahu was doing was expressing the basic belief of Zionism, that Jewish life can exist only in Israel and Jews living in France, Denmark or the United States are in “exile.” Uri Avnery, the leader of Israel’s peace movement, Gush Shalom, points out that, “The blood of four Jews murdered in the kosher supermarket was not yet dry when Israeli leaders called upon the Jews of France to pack up and come to Israel. Israel, as everybody knows, is the safest place on earth. This was an almost automatic Zionist gut reaction. The basic belief of Zionism is that Jews cannot live anywhere except in the Jewish state, because the victory of anti-Semitism is inevitable everywhere. Let the Jews of America rejoice in their freedom and prosperity — sooner or later they will come to an end. They are doomed like Jews everywhere outside of Israel. The … outrage in Paris confirms this basic belief. There was very little commiseration in Israel. Rather a secret sense of triumph. The gut reaction of ordinary Israelis is, ‘We told you so!’ and ‘Come quickly before it’s too late.’”  
“Only Democracy in the Middle East”  
There are other aspects of Zionism which have now become impossible for its advocates and defenders to ignore. It has always been the position of Zionists in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world that Israel is the “only democracy” in the Middle East and that all men and women in Israel are treated equally, regardless of their religion or race. It has also been said for many years that Israel wants only peace with its neighbors and that the best way to achieve this is a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state established in what are now the occupied territories of the West Bank. We now see that the reality may be something else entirely.  
In November, 2014, a proposal for a basic law, “Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” passed in the Israeli Cabinet by a vote of 14-6. For the bill to become law it must be approved by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.  
There is much opposition to this proposed legislation by those who argue that it would make Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, 20 per cent of the population, less than equal. Editorially, The New York Times (Nov. 25, 2014) declared that, “Since its founding in 1948, Israel’s very existence and promise has been based on the ideal of democracy for all its people. Its Declaration of Independence, which provides the guiding principles for the state, makes clear that the country was established as a homeland for the Jews and guarantees ‘complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.’ That is why it is heartbreaking to see the Israeli cabinet approve a contentious bill that would officially define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, reserving ‘national rights’ only for Jews … To go back and emphasize nationality and religion in defining the country … runs counter to the long-term movement among liberal democracies toward a more inclusive vision of a state … Having experienced the grievous legacies created when a government diminishes the rights of its people, we know this is not the path Israel should take.”  
Presumptuous Claim  
It is, of course, presumptuous in the extreme to claim that Israel is the “nation-state” of “the Jewish people.” This is an ideological construct that has no relationship to reality. The “nation-state” of American Jews is the United States, just as the “nation-state” of British Jews is the United Kingdom and the “nation-state” of French Jews is France, etc.  
Israel’s election in March is instructive about the nature of that society’s political culture. Mr. Netanyahu told voters that there would never be a Palestinian state as long as he was prime minister, contravening his previous expressions of support for two states. Then, on Election Day, he warned his supporters that “Arab voters are coming out in droves” to the polling stations, what The Washington Post called “an unconscionable appeal to racism.” He was, in fact, acting very much in character. New Yorker (March 30, 2015) editor David Remnick recalled that, “In 1995, as the leader of the opposition, he spoke at rallies where he questioned the Jewishness of Yitzhak Rabin’s attempt to make peace with the Palestinians through the Oslo Accords. This bit of code was not lost on the ultra-Orthodox or on the settlers. Netanyahu refused to reign in fanatics among his supporters who carried signs portraying Rabin as a Nazi or wearing, a la Arafat, a kaffiyeh.” Leah Rabin, the widow of Yitzhak Rabin, continues to blame Netanyahu for creating the atmosphere of hate which led to her husband’s assassination.  
Discussing the election results in an article entitled “The End of the Liberal Zionist Facade,” Neve Gordon, author of Israel’s Occupation, writes that, “The outcome is clear: the people of Israel have voted for apartheid. It is now extremely likely that a spate of anti-democratic laws that had been shelved will soon resurface. These include laws that monitor and limit the financing of human rights NGOs, restrict freedom of expression, reduce the authority of the Supreme Court, cancel the official status of Arabic, and, of course, bring to a vote the nation-state law … We can also expect an array of discriminatory policies to be enacted. The new government will likely implement some variation of the Prawer Plan, which intends to forcefully relocate thousands of Palestinian Bedouins and take over their land. It will continue pouring billions of dollars on Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights and expropriate more houses and land in East Jerusalem.”  
Election Provides Clarity  
In Gordon’s view, “There is, however, one clear advantage to the election results: clarity. At least now there will be no liberal Zionist facade, camouflaging Israel’s unwillingness to dismantle its colonial project. The Israeli refrain that a diplomatic solution with the Palestinians cannot be achieved because the Palestinians lack leadership will ring even more hollow. Finally, the claim that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East will be exposed for what it is: a half-truth. While Israel is a democracy for Jews, it is a repressive regime for Palestinians.  
The idea of a Palestinian state has always been anathema to Israel’s right-wing. The Likud Party platform for the 1977 election, which was won by Menachem Begin, declared: “The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is indisputable … Therefore, Judea and Samaria will not be handed over to any foreign administration. Between the sea and the Jordan River there will be only Israeli sovereignty.” Later, Benjamin Netanyahu, from the start of his term as prime minister (1996-1999) made it clear that he opposed the Oslo Accords.  
But the allegedly more “liberal” Israeli parties have never really challenged the occupation and settlement of the West Bank. In fact, Labor Party governments have pursued policies which are little different from those embraced by Netanyahu, although their rhetoric has been less provocative. In this regard, Neve Gordon writes: “We can expect little resistance to the new government, since Herzog’s Zionist camp and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid are also Arabphobes and therefore less against the substance of such a government and more against Netanyahu’s blatant raw style. After all, it was a political action committee associated with Herzog’s party that in the days leading to the elections paid for large billboards with a picture of Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing contender Naftali Bennett warning the viewers that ‘with Bibibennett we will remain stuck with the Palestinians for eternity.’ The PAC must have overlooked the fact that 20 per cent of Israeli citizens are Palestinians.” (Occupation Magazine, March 20, 2015)  
Unilateral Transfer, Not Bilateral Negotiations  
According to The Forward (March 27, 2015), Netanyahu’s “belief in unilateral transfer rather than bilateral negotiations has never been a secret. Before Israel’s independence, his father, like the Stern Gang, had long promoted the physical ‘transfer’ of Palestinians. Netanyahu once said, ‘Israel should have taken advantage of the suppression of the demonstrations in China, when the world’s attention was focused on what was happening in that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs in the territories. However, to my regret, they did not support that policy that I proposed, and which I still propose should be implemented.’”  
Discussing the election results in an article “Bibi: The Hidden Consequences of His Victory,” (New York Review of Books, April 23, 2015), Professor David Shulman of the Hebrew University writes: “… the Israeli electorate is still dominated by hyper-nationalist, in some cases proto-fascist, figures. It is in no way inclined to make peace. It has given a clear mandate for policies that preclude any possibility of moving toward a settlement and that will further deepen Israel’s colonial venture in the Palestinian territories, probably irreversibly.”  
Beyond this, argues Shulman, “I think that deeper currents are also at work … for example, the ongoing, ultimately futile effort to squeeze Jewish civilization, in its tremendous variability and imaginative range, into the Procrustean confines of the modern nation state with its flag and postage stamps and proclivity to violence. Modern nationalism always makes a distorted, very limited selection of the available cultural repertoire, flattening out the potential richness; fanatical atavistic forces tend to take the place of what has been lost. Palestinians suffer from a very similar problem … Netanyahu was actually speaking the truth, a popular truth among his traditional supporters. He explicitly renounced his pro forma acceptance of the notion of a two state solution … He made it clear that Israel would make no further territorial concessions anywhere … Israel has, in effect, knowingly moved further toward a full-fledged apartheid system. Those who don’t like the word can suggest another one for what I see each week in the territories and more and more inside the Green Line.”  
Likud and Labor Have Similar Policies  
Israeli commentators make it clear that while the rhetoric of Likud and Mr. Netanyahu is increasingly offensive to those in the West who have long advocated a two-state solution, the policies of the Labor Party, in power, have been very much the same. Writing in the Israeli newspaper Ha’Aretz (March 27, 2015), Amira Hass discusses what she calls “Labor’s responsibility for the occupation.”  
She writes: “It’s the Labor Party which paved the road for where we are today. Not only because the Labor Party are the real experts in the colonial enterprise, and they have been so since the 1930s. The Palestinians gave us and gave Labor a golden opportunity in 1993 when they signed the Oslo Accords … (Labor) misled so many people, Palestinians included. They did not draft a deal which says our goal is to reach a two-state solution gradually … They had the gradual without the goal … This was not the invention of Labor … All those figures that are embraced as peacemakers — Peres, Rabin, Beilin — arranged a situation that leads nowhere, a status quo in favor of colonialism … The status quo keeps changing in favor of the colonialist Israel. The number of settlers almost doubled since 1992.”  
The essence of Israeli policies, whichever party was in power, according to Hass, is this: “What Israel did very artfully … it concentrated Palestinians into their areas … You look at the map and you see the Palestinian enclaves. Before Oslo, the map that everybody had in his or her mind — the map of the West Bank — was Israeli settlements scattered like spots in the entire West Bank, which was considered Palestinian … So there were all kinds of Palestinian villages, and Palestinians had freedom of movement and Israeli colonies were scattered all around … (Then) the dots of the settlers became the bulk, became the ocean, and the Palestinian villages and towns became the spots, the dots, the enclaves, encircled by Israeli territory. This is the real process of the last 20 years … They are encircled in enclaves. They are deprived of their land. Most of their land has been taken by Jews to settle, even though they are Israeli citizens.”  
Don’t Israelis Think About Their Grandchildren  
Hass concluded with a question asked by two Palestinians of her, in the same week, many years ago. First from Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator following a useless session with Israeli negotiators, and then by a farmer attacked by settlers: “Tell me, Amira, don’t Israelis think about their grandchildren.”  
More and more American Jews, who have been long-time supporters of Israel and thought of themselves as “liberal Zionists,” are coming to realize that the reality of Israel and the Israel of their imagination and dreams are quite different. Slowly, the realization is growing that the majority of Israelis apparently do not share the belief in liberal democracy which has been attributed to them. Their commitment is not, it seems, to traditional Jewish values of moral and ethical behavior, but to a far different nationalist enterprise.  
Tikkun editor Rabbi Michael Lerner says he had always imagined Israel “as a beacon of democracy.” His current assessment: “Palestinians living within the West Bank and Gaza are living under the effective control of Israel on most matters of life. They pay taxes to the Israeli government and must get permission from Israel to leave those areas. Yet they have no vote in the elections (though Jews living in the West Bank do have the right to vote). It’s certainly better than what faces people in many other Middle Eastern countries, but it’s a stretch to call Israel a democracy as long as the occupation continues.”  
Embarrassed by Haughtiness and Cruelty  
Writing in Tablet (March 27, 2015), Professor Todd Gitlin says that, “When I think about Israel, I’m a churning sea of emotions. My emotions are neither simple nor pure … I’ll start with embarrassment. I’m embarrassed that the leadership of a Jewish state (whatever exactly that means) should conduct itself with haughtiness and cruelty. Shall we count a few ways … Quasi-colonial occupation of the West Bank in violation of international law, in particular U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 339 … Extreme, disproportionate violence against civilians in Gaza … The humiliation of non-Jewish (in particular Arab) as well as Jewish minorities in ways amply documented all over and too numerous to itemize in this space.”  
Beyond this, declared Gitlin, “Aside from the state of which I am a citizen, the United States of America, only one state in the world presumes — here come the emotions — has the gall — to speak for me. I’ve been implicated. I also have strong feelings about other governments — lots of them — but neither Vladimir Putin nor the House of Saud nor the Communist Party of the Peoples Republic of China claims to speak for me. When the duly elected leader of Israel presents himself as spokesman for Jews everywhere, I object vociferously. It’s bad enough to be represented by a rotten political leadership that one has participated (however meagerly, however unsuccessfully) in choosing. The principle here is simple: no loyalty without participation … My second emotion … is a compound of revulsion and outrage. Racism is out of bounds, period … I don’t need to be reminded … that my people have been crucified by Jew-hatred … And (and, not but): when a prime minister invokes race-based hysteria in a last-ditch appeal to Herrenvolk sentiments, I’m revolted.”  
Professor Yakov Rabkin of the University of Montreal, author of “A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism,” notes that many Jews “deplore that militant Zionism destroys Jewish moral values and endangers Jews both in Israel and elsewhere.”  
Moral Cost of Reliance on Force  
He cites the film “Munich” by Steven Spielberg, which “sharply focused on the moral cost of Israel’s chronic reliance on force. During one scene, as a member of the Israeli hit squad hunting Diaspora Palestinian activists quits in disgust, he proclaimed, ‘We’re Jews, Jews don’t do wrong because our enemies do wrong … we’re supposed to be righteous. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s Jewish …’ While ‘Schindler’s List’ explores threats to the physical survival of the Jews, ‘Munich’ exposes threats to their spiritual survival. No wonder that Likud supporters in America besmirched the Jewish director and his film even before it was released …”  
Dr. Rabkin urges a “Jewish emancipation from the State of Israel and its policies” and points out that this desire “has bridged some old divides and also created new ones. Thus, an ultra-Orthodox critic of Israel, usually antagonistic to Reform Judaism, commended a Reform rabbi who had said that ‘When Israel’s Jewish supporters abroad don’t speak out against disastrous policies that neither guarantee safety for her citizens nor produce the right climate in which to try and reach a just peace with the Palestinians … then they are betraying millennial Jewish values and acting against Israel’s own long-term interests.’”  
The overwhelming Netanyahu victory in the March election shows, in the view of Forward (March 27, 2015) columnist Jay Michaelson, exactly how correct critics of the current Israeli government and its leader have been: “Obviously, the Israeli election was a disaster for Jews everywhere who favor making peace with the Palestinians.” But, he declared, “We were right when we said that Har Homa, the East Jerusalem neighborhood, was built there to block a Palestinian state. We were right when we said that settlements were bleeding Israel’s economy dry, far more than official statistics let on … We were right when we said that Benjamin Netanyahu never really wanted a two-state solution. We were right when we said that he and his allies do not regard Arab citizens as equal, and play on Israeli fear, racism and hatred … In the name of catering to a base that is part racist, part deluded, part terrified and part messianic, revisionists are creating a pariah state … We were right about the right’s intentions. Netanyahu has proved that. And we were right that his Israel will become a pariah state. Alas, time will prove that too.”  
Interfering in Domestic U.S. Politics  
Also alienating large numbers of American Jews are the efforts of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government to thwart any agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear program. In his address before Congress shortly before his March election, Netanyahu directly interfered in domestic American politics, sharply criticizing the President and expressing his opposition to an agreement with Iran. This has led to sharp criticism from many in the Jewish community. On March 1, just before leaving Israel to address a joint session of Congress, Netanyahu tweeted that, “I feel that I am an emissary … of the entire Jewish people.” Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) declared: “Netanyahu doesn’t speak for me … I think it is a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community, there are different points of view. I think that arrogance does not befit Israel.”  
Tikkun sponsored a full page ad in The New York Times (March 2, 2015) stating, “No, Mr. Netanyahu — you do not speak for American Jews … The American people do not want a war with Iran.” The ad noted that, “Most polls indicate that a majority of American Jews (and most non-Jews) support President Obama’s attempt to negotiate a settlement that would prohibit Iranian development of nuclear weapons rather than the Netanyahu approach of undermining those negotiations. Most polls indicate that a majority of American Jews oppose the expansion of West Bank settlements that Netanyahu favors and support the creation of an independent Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.”  
Those signing this ad included Susannah Heschel, Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, author Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Dr. Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, Director of Jewish Studies at the University of San Francisco, Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, Professor of Rabbinic Literature at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Professor Shaul Magid, Chair of Jewish Studies at Indiana University, and more than 2,400 others.  
History of Interfering  
Prime Minister Netanyahu has a history of interfering in American political life. In 2002, he stated before a congressional hearing that Saddam Hussein was “pursuing with abandon, with every ounce of effort, weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons … Saddam is hell bent on achieving atomic bombs as fast as he can.”  
Netanyahu went on to charge that Saddam had sprinkled Iraq with “nuclear centrifuges the size of washing machines” and that nothing short of a U.S. invasion or regime change would stop Saddam from passing out nuclear weapons to terrorist groups. According to Netanyahu, an invasion of Iraq would be a great success: “If you take out Saddam Hussein’s regime, I guarantee you it will have enormous positive reverberations around the region.” Of course, as everyone now knows, it didn’t quite work out that way.  
Netanyahu’s predictions about Iran also have been less than accurate, but always alarmist. In 1995, he wrote that Iran would have a nuclear weapon in “three to five years” and in 1996, speaking before a joint session of Congress, he warned that the deadline for Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon was “getting extremely close.” In 2012, Netanyahu spoke at the U.N., warning that Iran was mere months away from producing a nuclear weapon.  
Mossad Contradicts Netanyahu  
Within Israel itself, Netanyahu’s alarmism has been widely criticized. Mossad’s formal assessment of Iran’s nuclear capacity and intentions contradict the scenario outlined by Netanyahu at the U.N. According to the Mossad report, Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons,” declared The Guardian. “The report highlights the gulf between the public claims and rhetoric of top Israeli politicians and the assessments of Israel’s military and intelligence establishment.”  
Many commentators argue that Netanyahu’s focus on Iran is simply a means to avoid dealing with the question of the continued occupation of the Wet Bank. Ha’Aretz (March 3, 2015) editorially stated that, “Netanyahu and other Israeli candidates are ignoring the real existential threat to Israel … the unending occupation of the territories. Israel’s insistence on ruling over millions of Palestinians in the West Bank who lack civil rights, expanding the settlements and keeping residents of the Gaza Strip under siege is the danger threatening the future.”  
The divisions within the American Jewish community over Israel are now clear to all. J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace have emerged as growing and dynamic voices challenging AIPAC and the traditional Jewish establishment. A new coalition of prominent American Jews has been pressing Israel to enact civil marriage and divorce, which are now controlled by the nation’s Orthodox chief rabbinate. Israel is a society in which Jews and non-Jews cannot marry and in which Conservative and Reform rabbis have no power to perform weddings, funerals or conversions. Non-Orthodox Jews have less freedom in Israel than anyplace in the Western world. The new advocacy group, the Jewish Religious Equality Coalition, seeks to bring genuine religious freedom to Israel.  
Zionism is What Critics Maintained  
Zionism, more and more people are coming to understand, is exactly what its critics always said it was and its challenge to traditional Jewish values has proceeded just as those critics predicted it would. It is time for a serious consideration of the many prophetic Jewish voices who warned against Zionism from the very beginning of this movement.  
In his prophetic critique of Zionism published in 1929, Rabbi Aaron Samuel Tamarat writes that, “Judaism at root is not some religious concentration which can be localized or situated in a single territory … Neither is Judaism a matter of ‘nationality’ in the sense of modern nationalism, fit to be woven into the famous three-fold mesh of ‘homeland, army and heroic songs.’ No, Judaism is Torah, ethics and exaltation of spirit. If Judaism is truly Torah, then it cannot be reduced to the confines of any particular territory. For as Scripture said of Torah: ‘Its measure is greater than the earth … ‘” (Job 11:9).  
In 1991, 90-year-old Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an eminent Israeli theologian, received the country’s most prestigious award, the Israel Prize. Leibowitz’s views were described in these terms by Professor Moshe Halbertal of Hebrew University: “For Leibowitz, the most fundamental principle of Judaism is the rejection of idolatry … He denounces as idolatrous a traditional assertion regarding the essential sacredness of the land and the people of Israel. Since nothing human is sacred, religion, which is in the sphere of the sacred, cannot serve any human interest. The worship of God is the exclusive purpose of the commandments of the Torah and any other purpose … even the purpose of the survival of the Jewish people, is an instrumentalization of religion and forbidden.”  
Idolatry of Jerusalem  
With regard to the religious zeal in behalf of an “undivided” Jerusalem, the respected Israeli author Amos Elon states that, “In monotheistic terms, it is probably idolatrous to consider a shrine — or a city — let alone the preservation of a national or ethnic identity — as the ultimate goal of a religion.”  
Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a renowned scholar, was among the first to warn that substituting support for Israel for a religious commitment to Judaism could not solve the identity crisis of the community. He declared that the United States was a much better place for Jews than Israel and pointed out the “irony of religious passions being lavished by mainly secular people upon a state, which like all other states, is a contingent and this-worldly fact.”  
Daniel J. Elazar coined the term “Israelotry” to denote his contention that American Jews turned to worshiping Israel rather than the God of Israel. Immanuel Jacobovits, the late chief rabbi of Britain, bemoaned that, for many Jews, “Israel became a vicarious haven of their residual Jewishness, conveniently replacing the personal discipline of Jewish life.” Indeed, some Zionists openly proclaim that support for Israel is more important than belief in God. Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse, for example, declares: “I would sooner pray among Jews who did not love God than I would among Jews who did not love Israel.”  
Judaism’s Moral Position Eroded  
Blind support for Israel’s policies of occupation, argued the late Professor Tony Judt of New York University, an active Zionist in his youth, has eroded Judaism’s moral position. He argued 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 predictable.”  
When it comes to those American Jewish groups which have supported whatever Israeli governments have chosen to do, Judt asked: “How … does a reputed 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.”  
Where Zionism would lead was very well understood by its earliest Jewish critics. Perhaps the most articulate spokesman for the early Reform movement, the distinguished rabbi and scholar Abraham Geiger (1810-1874) argued that Judaism developed through an evolutionary process that had begun with God’s revelation to the Hebrew prophets. That revelation was progressive; new truth became available to every generation. The underlying and unchangeable essence of Judaism was its morality. The core of Judaism was ethical monotheism. The Jewish people were a religious community, destined to carry on the mission to “serve as a light to the nations,” to bear witness to God and his moral law. The dispersion of the Jews was not a punishment for their sins, but a part of God’s plan whereby they were to disseminate the universal message of ethical monotheism. Rabbi Geiger deleted all prayers about a return to Zion in a Reform prayer book he edited in 1854.  
Judaism Does Not Worship Soil  
One of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century, Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for civil rights for all people, said, “Judaism is not a religion of space and does not worship the soil. So, too, the State of Israel is not the climax of Jewish history, but a test of the integrity of the Jewish people and the competence of Israel.”  
In 1885, a group of Reform rabbis met in Pittsburgh and wrote an eight point platform. It emphasized that Reform Judaism rejected Jewish nationalism in any form. It stated: “We recognize in the era of a universal culture of heart and intellect, the approaching realization of Israel’s great messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice and peace among all men. We consider ourselves no longer a nation but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.”  
Hope for the Future  
Zionism was recognized at its very beginning as a dramatic departure from Judaism and Jewish values. We have seen how large elements of the American Jewish community have replaced Judaism with a nationalist identification with Israel in which they have been prepared to embrace whatever Israel may do, and whatever goals it may pursue. Finally, the realization seems to be growing that Zionism is, in fact, the very rejection of Jewish moral and ethical values which its critics always maintained. This is a positive sign. The founders of the American Council for Judaism recognized that narrow nationalism would corrupt the humane Jewish tradition. That more and more men and women are coming to that understanding at the present time provides us with hope for future. •  
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.

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