YOU HAVE SAID THAT IT ISN’T ACCURATE TO REFER TO ISRAEL AS “THE JEWISH STATE.” HOW CAN THAT BE?
The State of Israel is a product of the Zionist revolution that successfully challenged Judaism, Jewish tradition and Jewish Diaspora. Its ethos is rooted in that revolt. Moreover, its institutions reflect Ottoman, British and East European traditions, rather than any Jewish one. Very few Jews from Western countries have actually settled in Israel. To speak of “the Jewish state” is to confuse religion and politics and to associate the Jews of the world with what Israel does and is. Quite a few Jews not only disagree with Israel but consider it irrelevant (and some even a threat) to their Jewish aspirations.
YOU WRITE THAT MANY ORTHODOX JEWS FEAR THAT ZIONISM IS ACTUALLY A THREAT TO JUDAISM . HOW SO?
First, Zionism creates an alternative to the traditional Jewish identity defined by a relationship with Torah and its commandments. Since Zionism began to take root at the turn of the 20th century, most rabbinic authorities have seen it as a dangerous tool to tear the Jews away from their tradition. They believe that Jewish unity must be articulated around the Torah, rather than the Israeli flag. Zionism and the state of Israel have indeed transformed what it means to be a Jew: from a community bound together by a commitment to the Torah into an ethnic nation committed to a state. This continues to be the main reason of the enduring Judaic opposition to Zionism.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO SAY THAT OPPOSITION TO THE STATE OF ISRAEL CONSTITUTES ANTI-SEMITISM?
This is a most effective method to stifle debate about Israel and its place in Jewish continuity. These accusations are hurled at anyone daring to criticize Israel or even its policies, from President Carter to Professor Chomsky. In fact, quite the contrary is true: it is unconditional, knee-jerk support for Israel on the part of many Jewish Zionist organizations that foments anti-Semitism. Zionism has benefited from anti-Semitism, which made the Jews leave their countries, often for Israel. On occasion, Israeli agents have covertly organized anti-Semitic outbursts in order to uproot the old Jewish communities and settle them in Israel. Finally, the fact that most resolute opposition to Zionism comes from the most traditional Jews should put to rest any confusion between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
AFTER ALL THE JEWS HAVE BEEN THROUGH, ESPECIALLY THE HOLOCAUST, ISN’T IT REASONABLE FOR THEM TO HAVE THEIR OWN HOMELAND?
Different lessons have been drawn from the tragedy of the Nazi genocide. Some have argued that one should beware of ethnic nation states that practice discrimination. They promote liberal universal values, equality and the rule of law. Religious Jews see in the tragedy a divine punishment for the Jews’ abandonment of their covenant with God and His Torah. Many secular Jews believe that they should assimilate and merge with the ambient population in their respective countries. The Zionists accept the anti-Semites’ premise that the Jews constitute ‘an alien element’ in the countries of their birth and argue for their separate development in a separate country.
YOU HAVE SAID THAT RATHER THAN ISRAEL BEING A SAFE HAVEN FOR JEWS, IT IS ACTUALLY THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE OF ALL, YET SO MANY JEWS HAVE MIGRATED THERE. THERE MUST BE A REASON.
The reason is quite clear. Several Jewish thinkers had warned of this predicament. One of them prophesied during the War of Independence in 1948: « And even if the Jews were to win the war, […] [t]he “victorious” Jews would live surrounded by an entirely hostile Arab population, secluded inside ever-threatened borders, absorbed with physical self-defence. ». This warning came from Hannah Arendt who understood the perils of establishing a state against the will of local inhabitants and all the surrounding nations. Secular and religious thinkers alike had feared that Ben Gurion’s version of Zionism would endanger both physical and spiritual survival of the Jews.
JEWISH OPPONENTS OF ZIONISM HAVE BEEN REFERRED TO AS SELF-HATING JEWS. HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?
There may be people, including Jews, who hate themselves. But this term has become meaningless because it is being used to disqualify those Jews who criticize Israel. In fact, these critics may be more loyal to the Jewish values as articulated in Torah and Jewish tradition. Zionism has been a rebellion against Diaspora Judaism and its cult of submission, humility and appeasement. It has been a valiant attempt to transform the humble Jew relying on divine providence into a intrepid Hebrew relying on his own power. Zionists are the ones who have disdained 2000 years of Jewish eexperience and if at all, this term may be more applicableto them than to their opponents.
FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER HAS BEEN CALLED AN APOLOGIST FOR PALESTINIAN TERRORISM. I TAKE IT YOU DON’T AGREE WITH THAT ASSESSMENT.
To defend Israel “right or wrong” has become a desperate undertaking. It is this despair that explains the indiscriminate opprobrium hurled at anyone who dares criticize Israel, its Zionist nature and policies. President Carter did not pioneer the use of the word “apartheid” with respect to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. It had been used in an editorial in Haaretz, a mainstream Israeli newspaper. American Zionists are trying to enforce a stricter control on criticism of Israel in the United States than what exists in Israel, they seem to claim to be more Catholic than the Pope.
IS IT LIKELY THAT U.S. GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL WILL EVER WAVER?
This support has been based on the remarkably successful work of the Israel Lobby, that covers the entire spectrum of political activities in the United States. The Lobby has been exposed as a nefarious factor in the forming the US foreign policy and may be losing its effectiveness. Moreover, many prominent Jews, both American and Israeli, have come to protest the unconditional support that all Israeli policies get in the United States. There may be a change of emphasis: support for peace-seeking Israelis rather than for the most intransigent elements in Israel.
ISRAEL HAS EXISTED FOR NEARLY 60 YEARS NOW AND SHOWS NO SIGN OF GOING AWAY. THAT BEING THE CASE, HOW DO YOU STOP THE ONGOING VIOLENCE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS?
I would be guaranteed a Nobel Peace Prize if I were to stop the violence in Israel/Palestine in a few words. However, the root of the problem is well documented: Zionist dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinians since 1948. The State of Israel must officially recognize the injustice done to the Palestinians for the sake of establishing and expanding the Zionist state and propose ways to correct the injustice and thus to assuage the grievances of the Palestinians that have plagued Israel throughout her history.
IS THERE A PERMANENT SOLUTION TO THE PALESTINIAN ISSUE THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE THE DISSOLUTION OF ISRAEL?
According to the Zionist doctrine, Israel is a state of the entire Jewish people rather than of its citizens, a state that desperately tries to maintain “a Jewish majority”. For a relatively small group of people like the Jews, this is an impossible challenge that endangers the future of the state and, indirectly, the future of the Jews in other countries. “Dissolution of Israel”, “denial of Israel’s right to exist” etc are terms that refer to the Zionist nature of the state, not to a mass massacre of its inhabitants. All states evolve and change their character: Israel may also evolve so that the state institutions better reflect its realities rather than the Zionist doctrine. If Israel becomes a state of all its citizens, the citizens may decide how to accommodate the refugees and their descendants, how to share the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
ALMOST EVERY DAY THE PRESIDENT OF IRAN IS QUOTED AS CALLING FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL YET YOU SAY IRAN POSES NO THREAT TO ISRAEL. HOW CAN THAT BE? This answer is a bit longer: you may wish to split the question in two parts.
According to the Associated Press, the Iranian president said that “the Zionist regime will be wiped out soon, the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom.” Just as the Soviet Union was not wiped out in a hail of nuclear weapons, the Iranian president does not suggest using force to bring about the demise of Israel. Nor would this be even realistic since Israel is believed to enjoy an overwhelming military superiority over any combination of Arab and Muslim states. His wish may amount to no more than the prayer “for the peaceful dismantlement of the Zionist state” uttered regularly by members of the Jewish anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta. If Jews can voice this opinion and no one accuses them of wanting to “wipe out the Jewish people” or “bring about a second Holocaust”, why can’t Mr. Ahmadinejad voice the same opinions?
It is telling that in Israel those who see Iran as a danger and call for a preemptive strike agaisnt it belong to the right wing that wants to retain indefinite control over the entire Palestine. These people must prove that the entire world is against Israel, even against the Jews, that Israeli Jews can only survive if they maintain a democraphic majority and an overwhelming military advantage. Once the Arab states pose no longer a military threat to Israel it is Iran that is presented as a mortal danger. Just next to Iran, which is as yet far from acquiring a nuclear potential, lies Pakistan, an unstable regime with a strong Islamist movement and a real, not imaginary, nuclear arsenal. Just as Arendt prophesied, there may be no end to existential threats if Israel continues its present policies.
YOU’VE SAID THAT THE SABRE RATTLING ABOUT IRAN BY MANY IN ISRAEL IS ACTUALLY A PRETEXT FOR TAKING MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAN.
SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT A NUCLEAR IRAN IS NOTHING FOR THE ISRAELIS TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT?
MANY FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA ARE STRONG SUPPORTERS OF ISRAEL. WHY IS THAT?
WHAT ABOUT THE MESSANGER, THE U.S. MEDIA. WHAT ROLE DO THEY PLAY IN THIS DEBATE?