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Jews against Zionism: Exchange in Jewish Press, NY

Jewish Press, December 6, 2006

Jews against Zionism

Jewish religious opposition to Zionism has found an echo on your pages in recent weeks. Jewish students responding to your Inquiring Photographer (Oct. 27) voiced a need to confront anti-Zionist ideas. A reader from Philadelphia (Letters, Nov. 17) expressed appreciation for Neturei Karta, perhaps the most vocal Jewish anti-Zionist group, and argued that its activities aim at saving lives. While her letter was serene, one could sense anger and indignation in the reactions to it from other readers (Letters, Dec. 1).

Indeed, Jewish opposition to Zionism has often provoked more rage than debate.

However, anger is rarely a good adviser, and our tradition emphasizes rational dispassionate analysis, particularly when lives are at stake.

It is in this spirit that I examined Judaic anti-Zionism in a book initially published in French under the title Au nom de la Torah (In the Name of Torah) and this year in English as A Threat from within: a Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism (Fernwood/Zed Books). Having presented my book in several countries, I have seen that the enduring rejection of Zionism on the part of frum Jews makes many people aware of the pitfalls of confusing Judaism and Jews with what they read and watch in the media about Israel.

Both the founders of Zionism and their adversaries agreed that Zionism was a revolutionary break with the traditional yearning for Eretz Yisrael and geula shleima, Zionism as a social and political movement overtly promoted a secular national identity, which has clashed with the traditional Judaism of Torah and mitzvos in Israel and elsewhere. Inspired by European nationalism and a romantic reading of our history, a modern proud nation has taken root in Eretz Yisrael. It rejected as shameful vestiges of the past the traditional Jewish penchant for compromise and appeasement (Jacob’s approach to Esau is a prototype of this attitude).

This new emphasis on pride and assertiveness explains the rage so many Jews feel when they see Neturei Karta members shake hands with the leader of Iran or pray at the bedside of Arafat. Many Orthodox Jews have also embraced the Zionist worldview, even though their embrace remains circumstantial and emotive. They would be reluctant to question the authority of a Chofetz Chaim or a Brisker Rov, a Satmar Rebbe or a Lubavitcher Rebbe (the Frierdiker Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson), all of whom articulated strenuous opposition to Zionism and its reliance on military force.

Israelis are more prone than their Diaspora brethren to admit that the anti-Zionist rabbis reflect our tradition. “To recognize the legitimacy of religious anti-Zionism is vital to the debate on Israel and Zionism,” writes Professor Joseph Agassi of Tel Aviv University. “As an Israeli patriot, I consider it essential to integrate the discourse of Judaic anti-Zionism into the badly needed public debate about our past, present and future.”

We can all gain by listening to this Israeli patriot: Jewish opposition to Zionism draws its strength from classical Judaism and raises questions that demand urgent and serious attention from all of us.

Yakov M. Rabkin

Professor of History

University of Montreal

Jewish Press, December 13, 2006

Consider The Source

Professor Yakov M. Rabkin of the University of Montreal last week took to the pages of The Jewish Press to defend anti-Zionism against the charge that it is poorly disguised anti-Semitism (Letters, Dec. 8).

Without even taking a breath he defended at one and the same time the Neturei Karta cult and far-left anti-Zionists as sincere believers in peace. He also cited as a “patriot” Professor Joseph Agassi of Tel Aviv University, citing Agassi’s statement that “As an Israeli patriot, I consider it essential to integrate the discourse of Judaic anti-Zionism into the badly needed public debate about our past, present and future.”

What the good professor Rabkin conveniently forgot to mention in his letter is that he himself is a longtime advocate of the “One State Solution” (also known as the Rwanda Solution) by which Israel will no longer exist as a Jewish state (http://www.one-democratic-state.org/articles/rabkin/html). When he is not turning out anti-Zionist boilerplate for PLO-front websites, Rabkin writes for the extreme left-wing Tikkun magazine.

As for Agassi, he happens to be a far-left anti-Israel radical from Tel Aviv University, which is crawling with such people. No wonder Rabkin writes of him with such fawning approval.

Chaim Weissman

Raanana, Israel

Jewish Press, December 27, 2006

Read, Then Discuss

Reader Chaim Weissman engages in the game of guilt by association (Letters, Dec. 15). Rather than discuss the content of my book (A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism, Zed Books, 2006), which explains the phenomenon that has attracted so much attention in the wake of the recent visit by Jewish anti-Zionists to Iran, Mr. Weissman attempts to besmirch its author and even more so the veteran Israeli philosopher Joseph Agassi who praises my book.

Indeed, I believe in promoting dialogue, and this is why my writings can be found in a broad range of religious and secular publications. Incidentally, the article in Tikkun that Mr. Weissman cites as “incriminating evidence” has an instructive history. I had written it in Hebrew at the invitation of Aqdamoth, a Jerusalem-based national-religious journal, which printed it in a special issue devoted to the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel. It was only a few years later that I rewrote it in English for Tikkun.

Mr. Weissman, apparently an immigrant to Israel, may learn a thing or two about freedom of debate in his adopted country from the Israeli-born Professor Agassi. The English version of my book is now available in Israel. Mr. Weissman can buy it, read it and only then discuss it. By resorting to guilt by association and insinuation, Mr. Weissman exposes the vacuity of his accusations.

Yakov M Rabkin

Professor of History

University of Montreal


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