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Silencing ‘Goliath’

Max Blumenthal’s new book, Goliath, is a well-researched jeremiad against Israel’s march toward authoritarianism.  He has traveled to Israel, to all the hot spots; he’s waded into the ultra-nationalist community and recorded its ideological miasma.  He’s done the work that any good journalist should do in reporting this story.  The problem is that very few journalists have been willing to do such painstaking work.  There is little pay-off in glory or career advancement.  As a result, instead of intense discussion of the Israeli Occupation and the injustices on which Israel is based, there has been a largely empty echo chamber.

I especially like the title of the book and its reference to a Biblical enemy of ancient Israel: Goliath. He was the Philistine warrior who the little shepherd David challenged and slew with his slingshot, or so goes the story. Goliath was the prideful giant, the invincible. And he was felled by a much smaller, ostensibly weaker, less well-defended Israelite boy. The book title says that Israel has turned into its own worst enemy through its hubris. It is a warning that the Biblical giant’s fate could be Israel’s as well.

I welcome this book.  Like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, it will take its place as a must-read reference work on the subject.  And like that earlier book, Goliath has been excoriated by all manner of self-appointed liberal Zionist experts who see in it the worst forms of Israel demonization.  Perhaps chief among them is Eric Alterman, The Nation’s long-time liberal columnist, who knows a great deal more about baseball and domestic politics than he does about Israel.  Alterman’s screed, the ‘subtly’-titled, I Hate Israel Handbook, disguised as a book review, was so dyspeptic and defensive that it’s not even worth quoting it at length.  Linking to it gives anyone interested the opportunity to read it if your blood pressure is at a manageable level.

The New York Times commissioned Max to produce a video for its new Doc Ops feature and when he presented to them the documentary he produced about vicious anti-African pogroms in Tel Aviv, the editors said “thanks, but no thanks.  There will be no New York Times Book Review for Goliath (though a nice one by Akiva Eldar at Al Monitor); no segments on PBS Newshour.  The only promotion he’ll get is what he can organize himself.  So he’s discussed the book with Prof. Ian Lustick at the University of Pennsylvania and will do the same with Prof. Gabi Piterberg in Los Angeles.  Those types of events will, of course, bring the book to the attention of the activist community that is already well-informed about the issues (as will this post).  But that won’t turn this book into a NY Times bestseller as his previous one, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, was.  More’s the pity since Goliath is a powerful book.  Even Israel’s fiercest advocates should read it to know what they’re up against, what they have to explain or defend to their audience..

A disclosure is in order: Max and I had had no contact for a year or so since he wrote me an e-mail saying that he thought I was being used by intelligence interests, which he clearly implied were Israeli.  I get very riled when I hear such nonsense and thought it best to sever contact.

He sent me an e-mail before the book was published and noted that he’d included my reporting about the Ameer Makhoul and Omar Said case in his book (pgs 150-152).  I was impressed that despite our differences, he acknowledged my work in his book.  This, in fact, was only the second reference to my blog in an English-language work.  I freely acknowledge a debt to Max.

You can be the judge of whether what I write here is dispassionate.

But I do have a quarrel not just with Max’s approach to reporting on Israel, but to an entire class of blogging on the subject.  This includes Mondoweiss and to a much lesser extent, Electronic Intifada (there are others in this class, but I’ve named the most popular ones).  Though Max deeply reports his Israel stories and works closely with Israeli activists, there is a hint of schadenfreude in his approach.  Israel, for Max and other anti-Zionist bloggers, is a freak show.  The average Israeli is a bit actor in the three-ring circus that is latter-day Israel.  Bibi Netanyahu is the circus master, the far-right government and Knesset are the equivalent of the elephants and tigers putting on a show for the incredulous audience represented by Max and his readers.

These crazy circus animals entertain with blood, guts, and mayhem galore.  Something akin to the Roman circus with gladiators in the form of Israelis and Palestinians fighting each other to the death.

To be clear, I don’t dispute the legitimacy and accuracy of Max’s reporting.  Anyone who reads this blog knows how offensive and troubling I find all the incidents he reports.  That’s why I value what he does.

But many who report on Israel are outsiders.  That means that while they have valuable insight into what they see in Israeli society, they see it from an emotional and physical distance.  It may mean they miss nuance that insiders or others who are more sensitive, understand.  It goes beyond differences of language and culture, though that is part of it.  It is possibly rooted in a profound alienation from one’s own religious or ethnic identity and traditions.

I say this with a great degree of caution because I too feel a degree of alienation from American Jewish identity as filtered through its rich, white male leadership.  But the difference between me and others like me, like M.J. Rosenberg, Magnes Zionist (who wrote a terrific defense of Max) and others–and Max and Phil Weiss–is that we believe in an alternate, dissenting Jewish identity that is no less strong or Jewish than the American Jewish consensus definition.

To phrase this in prophetic terms, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos and the other moral titans of that era were equally fierce in their denunciation of the transgressions of ancient Israel.  But they were not outside their society (in fact, some were members of the élite) when they railed against its injustices.  In fact, this only increased the power of their words.

I imagine that if you scratched beneath the surface you’d find that many anti-Zionists either equate Judaism with Zionism, saying there is no difference and both are equally pernicious; or they believe that there is a fundamental divide between the two.  That is why you’ll find a website featuring the Neturey Karta, as if they somehow are the representatives of an authentic Judaism instead of the marginal offshoot they are.  It’s why they often point to the bygone idyll of American Jewry in the period before the Holocaust, when Reform Judaism was largely anti-Zionist.

I write all this not to deny the historical validity of this perspective: Reform Judaism has largely abandoned and rejected its history without understanding it.  You know what happens to those who forget their history…So it is a valuable contribution to acknowledge the past and attempt to revive rejected ideas that are relevant to contemporary Jewish life.  This is why many of us want the visionaries of Brit Shalom (Magnes, Buber, et al.) to be restored to their previous place in the Zionist pantheon alongside far more problematic figures like Jabotinsky.  But it is, to an extent, wishful thinking to pretend that Neturey Karta are authentic Jews while all the rest of us are somehow interlopers or Zionist imposters.  Just as its wishful thinking to believe that American Jewry will return to those days of yesteryear and become anti-Zionist.

One of the more problematic aspects of the anti-Zionist narrative among Jews is the almost knee-jerk rejection of the term “Zionism,” and the assumption that it can only represent forces that are dark, atavistic, and hateful.  Again, the problem here is lack of nuance and lack of understanding of the disparate streams that have composed Zionism over the past century or more.

There is no question that the prevailing mode of Zionist thinking today, what I call “classical Zionism,” is ultra-nationalist, implacable, and revanchist.  It seeks to restore an imagined historical era of Jewish supremacy in the Biblical Land of Israel.  When what I call “settlerism” becomes a synonym for Zionism, then it is legitimate to reject both.

But it is far too sweeping to say that there is only one stream in that river I alluded to above.  I maintain that there is a Zionism that can co-exist with Palestinian nationalism peaceably.  It can do so within a two-state or one-state context.  Such a revisionist (if you’ll allow me to pilfer the term) definition of Zionism is not the consensus today.  But in truth, what is the consensus today is such a failed project, that retrieving abandoned models from the past can only help meet the crisis in the present.

I’ve often written here that Israel today is not just one homeland.  It is at least two: one for Israeli Jews and another for Israeli Palestinians.  Israel as a unitary state cannot be only a Jewish state.  Rather, it must be a state that incorporates two peoples and doesn’t privilege or prejudge either one.

In this, unlike much of the anti-Zionist Jewish left, I don’t prejudge whether the ultimate solution is one-state or two.  That’s frankly not my responsibility.  As Ian Lustick wrote in the NY Times recently: history and the two peoples themselves will work this out over time.

The most important thing is to establish the principles of democracy, equality and tolerance that will have to inform any future Israeli state.  Max is right to focus on the subjects he does.  If Israel is to survive it will somehow have to rid itself of the violence and hate he documents.

But frankly, I don’t believe the anti-Zionist left understands or cares about religious identity (either Jewish or Muslim) in Israel.  It is similar quarrel I have with Palestinians who denounce Hamas and have their hearts set on what used to be called a “secular democratic state.”  Derogating religious identity is a surefire way to guarantee that you will miss important elements of contemporary Israeli (Jewish) and Palestinian identity.  It will also lead you off the beaten path into the weeds in terms of maintaining political relevance.

When I use the term religion or religious identity I am not talking about them in the triumphalist sense that Jewish extremists and Islamist fundamentalists use them.  I mean a religious identity that offers a guide to ethical behavior and to living side by side with other religions and cultures.  Despite the religious hate that Max documents so well in his book, there is another form of religious expression.  I don’t believe that Max or those who share his views believe that such a tolerant form of religious identity can be realized on the ashes of the current religious extremism.

So my ultimate quarrel with Max has to do not with what he writes, but what he doesn’t write.  What he misses.  I believe that religious identity and expression is one key to co-existence in a future State of Israel.  Rejecting it or reviling its most extreme forms is only the beginning of the process of redemption that must happen if Israel is to survive.  What must follow is a radical transformation that allows two peoples and three religions to co-exist in peace, security and prosperity.

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{ 33 comments… add one }
  • Woody October 31, 2013, 1:31 AM

    Excellent review that recognizes the importance of this book, but manages to frame disagreement within broader debates among, essentially, allies. The question is, why are liberal Zionists just freaking out and not putting in the work of examining why their own narrative, even their own approach for accounting with things, is increasingly out of step with reality they seem to hide from, willfully.

  • Daniel October 31, 2013, 3:07 AM

    Thank you for sharing your take on the book, Mr. Silverstein.

  • pabelmont October 31, 2013, 7:45 AM

    RS: “Even Israel’s fiercest advocates should read it to know what they’re up against, what they have to explain or defend to their audience.”

    WELL, I’d hope that those advocates would read it for a different reason, because, after all, this book my only be read by the “choir” and not pose a political problem for Israel. Zionists may NEVER need to defend against the assertions in GOLIATH unless those assertions become public in another manner.

    What I’d hope is that Zionists and especially American Zionists would read this book to judge whether the Israel reported there is something they’d care to [1] support [2] change [3] oppose [4] learn more about than AIPAC tells them.

    RS: As to your insider/outsider contention, I don’t understand it.

    I never went to Germany, not in 1930s (before I was born), not ever. But I’ve read about the holocaust and its 1930s precursers and I find what I read believable adn I think it true. Indeed, I am ASKED, NAY DEMANDED, to find the Story-of-The-Holocaust believable and, in fact, TRUE. The Remember-The-Holocaust-as-the-Major-Event-of-20th-Century-Society-Inc makes these demands. they DEMAND that outsiders believe these horrors.

    I’ve also not been in cambodia or Rwanda.

    Thus, as to Germany, I am an OUTSIDER, blaming the government and many of the people of Germany (in those days) for crimes against humanity. HOW would you expect that attitude of mine to have changed if I had lived there, if I had been a German then, an “insider”? Would I “see” the same things, but feel more sympathy for the Germans “caught in the middle”? Is THAT what being an “insider” buys?

    Because GOLIATH does not spend much space asking us to feel sympathy for Jews “caaught in the middle”, though it does talk about many Israeli Jews who oppose the horrors. THOSE PEOPLE clearly want to TELL the story of GOLIATH, not to suppress it or even change it (as far as I can see).

    RS: Now, as to “classical Zionism” and “settlerism” (which seem pretty much the same to me — 1948 was the marker for “classical Zionism” and for “settlerism” as well, and the settleristic Nakba of 1948 continues today inside green-line Israel, with the Bedu) and in any case are VERY DIFFERENT from Magnes’s and, maybe, Buber’s cultural Zionism) — what have these differences WITHIN the umbrella (so to speak) of “Zionism” got to do with insider/outsider?

    GOLIATH presents an ugly story. I could try to imagine that the ugliness is not as pervasive as GOLIATH paints it, and that would be a very good criticism (if it were true) but I don’t hear you or Alterman saying that.

    I can certainly imagine American Zionists (especially 50-y-o and older) saying, “Gee, what an unpleasant surprise, that’s not what we ever imagined.” Someone can certainly write a book on the (imaginary) feelings of horror felt by American Zionists when they learn (but as matters stand they are unlikely to learn) the ugly truths of GOLIATH from rading the book if at all. That would be a book ABOUT American Zionists, how they’d been misled, how they learned the truth, and how they dealt with that truth. But that’d be a different book, having a different purpose.

    But back to insider/outsider. In a way, anyone who’s lived with Palestinians, sung Handel’s Messiah with palestinians as I have, even merely talked with Palestinians as equals, as human beings, is an “insider” in ways that the Nazi-like settler-Zionists and Border Police and soldiers and regular police and JUDGES and POLITICIANS described in GOLIATH are not — they are “outsiders” in the matter of regarding Palestinians as human beings with human rights, national rights, property rights, civil rights, etc.

    So, Richard, please help me and your readers generally to understand if your “insider/outsider” idea is merely an emotional reaction of your own to a perceived lack of sympathy by GOLIATH, MondoWeiss, and others to ordinary Zionists in Israel (or the like), or a more substantial criticism of the work (or of its likely reception by various audiences).

    I’ve given you my view that ALL materials written about Israel’s existence-project and settlement-project (both as I see it part of “classical Zionism”) should be written by “insiders” to the lives and feelings of Palestinians (and not to those, alone. of Zionist Jews). In fact, i don’t believe I have ever read a description of the holocaust which was written by an “insider” whose “insiderness” consisted of his sensitivity to German feelings, purposes etc.

    A BOOK I’D LIKE TO SEE: the lives adn statements and feelings of israeli Jews who are embittered and horrified by settlerism and how they deal with it, with the quasi-fascistic poklitics now steamrolling Israel, etc. Adn such a book would be most valuable if it explained how these people “squared” what I imagine would be their acceptance (then and perhaps still) of the project of 1948 with whatever their feelings are today. about the settlerism of 1967. Are they “cool” with the displacement of the Bedu today and the destruction of houses (because not “permitted”) within green-line Israel, or have they become 9retroactively) horrified by the whole project?

    • Pamela Olson October 31, 2013, 7:15 PM

      I can see how it might be interesting and useful (if distasteful) to read a book sympathetic to the sensibilities and belief systems of Apartheid-supporting Afrikaaners, segregation-supporting Southerners in the US, etc. But it should hardly be *required* in order for anyone to be allowed to write about them — especially when the (horrific) crimes are ongoing (and have the potential to quickly become much worse — as, for example, hell was unexpectedly unleashed in the form of Cast Lead one terrible winter; and we’ll never get all those kids back).

      If large numbers of Jews were the ones being killed, beaten, imprisoned, impoverished, exiled, denied educational and economic opportunities, nutritionally stunted, and forced to die when hospitals could otherwise save them a few miles away — *specifically because they were Jews* — I wonder if you would be so sanguine in your analysis, or so disconcerted if someone wrote an unpleasant (and yes, deliberately and openly one-sided) book about their oppressors.

      I make these comments with respect, and I would be interested to hear your thoughts on them if you have the time and inclination. Many thanks.

      • Pamela Olson October 31, 2013, 7:16 PM

        By the way, the previous comment is directed at Richard Silverstein, even though it is under the comment by pabelmont.

      • Richard Silverstein October 31, 2013, 10:54 PM

        @ Pamela Olson: There are a jumble of different issues & I think in a few instances you misunderstood what I was saying about Max’s book. I don’t think your analogy is at all apt. A more apt analogy would be if Nelson Mandela had written a book skewering the Apartheid regime before it was toppled. In that case, if South Africa’s leaders wanted to understand the arguments of their enemies they ought to read the book.

        What I meant here was not to make a moral argument, but to discuss political tactics. There is clearly a moral dimension and a political one. Each has its place. But my point in that sentence was to discuss politics. Of course, I think all sorts of people should read Max’s book both right, left and center. But the problem with writing such a highly provocative book is that he runs the risk of only drawing the already converted to read it. I’m not saying this discredits the book at all. It’s just that as a strategy, it can limit you.

        I don’t know why you say that I’m “sanguine in my analysis.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m not sanguine at all. In fact, I think the situation is rather desperate. That again is why I find Max’s book useful & powerful.

        Neither am I “disconcerted” that Max wrote the book. I think you cannot have read my post if you can believe this. I urge you to read it again. You’ll find that I welcome the book.

        • Pamela Olson November 2, 2013, 8:26 AM

          @Richard, thanks for your response. I admit, I read the piece a bit quickly the first time and missed some of the nuance, and read it as a moral rather than tactical commentary. Apologies for that.

          But I still disagree with you as far as having a quarrel with Max’s book and Mondoweiss simply because their author/editor are generally alienated from “American Jewish identity as filtered through its rich, white male leadership,” as you yourself claim to. Or even if they are alienated from Judaism as a whole (which I don’t think is the case; they talk about outward expressions of modern interpretations of Judaism, not Judaism itself, as the problem). Besides, if you don’t see some large and prominent sections of modern Israel as basically a cruel, callous freak show badly removed from reality that deserves to be named and shamed (them and many of their openly racist supporters in America), I’d be surprised. Naming and shaming dangerous freak shows is part of Max’s MO, and I think there’s a place for that kind of (accurate, as everyone admits) reporting in otherwise complacent and ignorant times. If (most) Zionists don’t read it, well, they probably wouldn’t have read a toned-down version, either, and it would be like Obama watering down his health care plan — a concession for absolutely nothing in return. Many Zionists are brick walls, and not everyone has the patience to tilt at brick walls. Might as well be honest (Max’s book will be an important historical document if nothing else) and let the chips fall where they may.

          As far as Max missing nuance, I’m sure Alexis de Toqueville missed some nuances in America as well. But as Amira Hass wrote, well I can’t find the exact quote, but it’s something like, An outsider can see things we do that we don’t even see anymore because we’ve become so used to them, even though they are completely nuts. [very paraphrased, but I think the sentiment remains.]

          As far as “sanguine,” it was perhaps a poor choice of word, but I just mean that I think Max and Phil’s outrage are fully justified. And their writings are not aimed at Zionists. They are aimed at the people who can hopefully educate themselves and band together and overcome the virulent strain of Zionism that currently dominates the landscape and the [official/mainstream] conversation. I think they are doing fantastic and necessary work in that arena. You seem to be asking them to play nice. I don’t think “playing nice” is necessarily called for in situations of grave and ongoing injustice. It’s refreshing for many of us to see them call a spade a spade. Somebody’s gotta do it.

          And neither ignores the many Israelis who do not want to spend their lives dominating another race/religion. They try to amplify those voices, too. But Max’s book Goliath is about the freak shows in Israel that should be outed, like his book Republican Gomorrah revealed a lot about a bunch of Tea Party crazies. I don’t see what the problem is. It’s not the whole puzzle, but it’s an important piece of it.

          • Richard Silverstein November 3, 2013, 1:33 AM

            @ Pamela Olson: I am not asking Max or Phil Weiss to “play nice.” It wouldn’t work even if I wanted them to. I’m a critic pointing out what I see as patterns in their approach to the issue that I see as problematic. I write this critique as someone who is deeply informed by my own Jewish identity, both religious and ethnic. They approach this from a far different vantage point.

            You should keep in mind that you too are either alienated or less informed about the Jewish religion & ethnicity. So saying you don’t think that they are “alienated from Judaism as a whole” doesn’t prove much.

          • Pamela Olson November 3, 2013, 6:28 AM

            [I'm replying here to Richard's comment below because there doesn't seem to be a reply button under his comment.]

            Max and Phil (and I) approach this conflict from a primarily human rights perspective. I don’t think that’s problematic at all. You don’t need a PhD in Afrikaaner studies (or a deep and abiding connection to their religion/ideology) to struggle against Apartheid effectively.

            I’m not Jewish. I lived in Palestine for two and a half years during and after the second Intifada, with many visits to Israel and near-religious reading of Israeli press all during that time, and up until today. I still think I’m qualified to tell difficult, direct, and honest truths about Israel and Palestine to Americans who pay for Israel’s oppression, dispossession, and worse of the Palestinian people. And I still don’t see why I (or Phil or Max) shouldn’t.

          • Richard Silverstein November 3, 2013, 7:27 PM

            @ Pamela Olson: As you yourself concede you, Phil & Max don’t attribute much value to religion or ethnicity as factors either in the Israel-Palestine problem or, more importantly, its resolution. I fundamentally disagree.

          • Pamela Olson November 3, 2013, 9:46 PM

            I don’t know what you mean by “value.” That’s kind of a broad term. I know that understanding religion and ethnicity are important, and we strive to do so — on both sides. We do, however, value human rights over ethnic and religious sensibilities/ideologies/privileges. As I think we should. Do you disagree?

            We also believe this conflict isn’t fundamentally about religion or ethnicity. It’s fundamentally about power, money, rights, and resources — as nearly all wars are, at root. If you clear those things up, there’s no particular reason that these religions and ethnicities need to keep fighting, any more than Catholics and Protestants or French and Germans need to fight. Do you disagree?

          • Richard Silverstein November 4, 2013, 2:15 AM

            I know that understanding religion and ethnicity are important, and we strive to do so — on both sides. We do, however, value human rights over ethnic and religious sensibilities/ideologies/privileges. As I think we should.

            I disagree with your premise. I don’t believe that the anti-Zionist left, specifically Max, Phil and others like them attribute any positive value to religion or ethnicity, certainly not Jewish religion or ethnicity. They consistently show either a lack of understanding of it or else portray it as a caricature. Not that there isn’t plenty to caricature in the elements of Judaism that are displayed by Israel’s more extreme forces. But there is no understanding that Judaism offers other models–alternative or dissenting models.

            As for human rights, that for me is incorporated into my understanding of Judaism. So I don’t necessarily see them as contradictory or competing as you appear to.

  • richard childers October 31, 2013, 9:51 AM

    The reason most people confuse Zionism and Judaism is because most Zionists represent themselves as being the approved representatives of Jewish society – and no one in Jewish society objects or resists this domination.

    This is changing but for many decades Zionists controlled the Jewish narrative – and they have done their best to tangle the two words – ‘Jew’ and ‘Zionist’ – until they are indistinguishable in the minds of most everyone else.

    I speak from personal experience – when I worked at Oracle Corporation, in 1992, I got tangentially involved in a USENET brouhaha over exactly how many people were killed in concentration camps – you know, the ‘six million’ debate – where all I did was call for freedom of speech and a cessation of threats, and, suddenly, I found my own VP, Bob Miner [Jewish, located in California], ordering the Director of MIS, Steve Zoppi [Jewish], to order my manager, Patricia McElroy [Jewish], to terminate me, immediately – at the request of one Barry Shein [Jewish, located in Boston, not an Oracle employee].

    The facts of this matter are embedded for public inspection in the subsequent lawsuit, Childers v Oracle, filed in San Mateo County, California – a tale of hidden witnesses, concealed emails, withheld evidence and other chicanery – all of it, committed with the eager help of (may I say) the San Francisco Bay Area’s largely Jewish legal community.

    So, you say there are differences between ‘Jews’ and ‘Zionists’ … but I say, these individuals are the exception, not the rule – and the rest, cannot be relied upon, to not behave like a herd.

  • Dana October 31, 2013, 11:28 AM

    Richard, interesting take on the book, the author and the division – not yet obvious – between those who are hopeful that Jewish Values (that may include a version of a tolerant zionism a la Buber) can be rescued from the jaws of “settlerism” (Or, as I call it “Judeanism”) and those who, deep at heart abandoned hope for the zionist project, and secretly believe that jewish values are all but gone with it).

    One you may want to read is Marc Ellis, who has posted a series of blog posts at Mondoweiss on the theme of the “Exilic and prophetic”. Not sure whether or not you mentioned him already (I am not the careful reader i should be) but he is spearheading a movement called “Jews of Conscience”, which, I think may appeal to you, as it is anchored in the best of what the jewish religion has to offer, and is actively seeking to build bridges to other religions – and people – based on commonality with the prophetic theme. He is currently on travel, but the archives on MW offer really rich material to peruse through. He doesn’t usually get lots of comments from the MW crowd, probably because his themes are more religious, as compared with the very secular commentariat crowd.

    Personally, I find Marc’s musings – many times along lines you have just broached in this post – to be interesting and thought provoking. I don’t – and can’t share the heart felt optimism that better days can come if we want it, because I am not sure about the “want”. But I think it is very important that there be some who prepare for the “day after”. Because there will be such a day, and there must be a critical mass of people who will be willing to navigate the darkness that ensues. Personally, I can’t quite join in that “day after’ endeavor, worthy as it is, because I am trapped in a certain foreknowledge of how deep and pervasive the darkness will be, when it descends, which I’m still mapping. But i applaud marc Ellis’ personal journey, just as I applaud yours.

    • Richard Silverstein October 31, 2013, 5:10 PM

      @ Dana: Thanks for that heartfelt comment. I empathize with the dilemma you face and appreciate the effort you’re putting into navigating your way through it.

  • Ari Greenfield October 31, 2013, 12:36 PM

    The old BP was a little high at the annual physical on Monday, but I can’t resist a challenge so I am going to click the link… Wish me luck, all. :-)

  • amspirnational October 31, 2013, 5:06 PM

    I fail to see how any form of Judaism other than Neturi Karta can remain viable if it is conceded that Judaism
    has always had a Zionist tendency and that the land was occupied when early Zionists dispossessed the
    Palestinians.
    I say this because only NK types require an interdiction from God in the form of a messiah to “okay” repossession and control of the land.I say this also because I am not aware of any, even soft, or “lite” Zionists who are willing to abandon
    rabbinical law as a governing underpinning of Israel.Of course as a Christian I do not believe NK’s eschatological
    projection will effectualize.

    It is true “Classic Reform” opposed Zionism from the “left” but what’s done is done until it is undone.
    So, are there left any Reform who have come out for a One State solution replete with no rabbinical law?
    Is there even a faction of Reform which has done so?
    Of course that still leaves “Humanistic Judaism” and “Reconstructionist” but are they really viable and do even they
    advocate for a One State?

    • Richard Silverstein October 31, 2013, 5:51 PM

      @ Amspirnational: There are no mainstream denominations or movements within Judaism which favor a one-state solution. If you count Neturey Karta then there is one, but I don’t. There are some ultra-Orthodox sects that do not recognize Israel as a Jewish state for the same reasons. But they are not the majority within Orthodox Judaism.

  • Clif Brown October 31, 2013, 8:02 PM

    Harriet Beecher Stowe caused an uproar with the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an account, though fictional, of what was going on inside the Old South based on what she had been told by those who knew. Perhaps Max can accomplish something similar with his non-fiction, all the more powerful for that.

    Absolute power corrupts and Israel shows how. Protected in every way (financially, politically, militarily) there is no even minimally effective check on Israeli power, Hezbollah and HAMAS notwithstanding, so it is running wild as would any country (or person) invincible to opposition, bulldozing, both literally and figuratively, its way as extremism morphs to the new norm.

    I am weary of discussions of the varieties of Jewish thought on Zionism, because my concern is with the welfare of the United States. I am outraged that the world’s superpower of 300 million people is lead by the nose, starting with Harry Truman, interrupted briefly by Eisenhower, but in the last decades continually taking mincing steps so as not to offend zealotry at the head of a population the size of NYC on the other side of the world, zealotry that cares nothing for democracy or human rights and pursues openly, relentlessly, brazenly, a program of exclusion and expulsion, thumbing its nose at the world and then lecturing us all about what it will and will not do. It is not just the mouse that roared, it is the mouse that became overlord.

    The behavior of the settlers, the ripping of the Palestinians, from 1947 onward, from their land are anathema to all the America claims to hold dear. The U.S. support of Israel is shameful as we play the hypocritical fool before the world. The sooner the invincible shield that slaps down every criticism of Israel is pierced, the better. You go, Max!

    Max will be appearing nearby next month. I intend to go listen to what he has to say because of his courage and willingness to take the heat. I hope to see a packed room and to shake his hand at the conclusion. He puts religion to the side and looks at injustice, something we all can and should do. If my brother beats a man senseless, do I ignore it and rationalize it? We should all put greater or lesser family aside and look without blinking at what we do either actively, or as millions of American citizens are doing, passively, allowing the connected and wealthy to act in our names.

  • Dave Terry October 31, 2013, 8:57 PM

    (RS) ” There are some ultra-Orthodox sects that do not recognize Israel as a Jewish state for the same reasons. But they are not the majority within Orthodox Judaism”

    Clearly “Orthodox” Judaism has sold it’s soul to the Zionists, in exchange for power and prestige within the Israeli State.
    IF one honors the Torah than one CANNOT honor either a secular Jewish State OR a “self-generated” Jewish State.

    Naturei Karta are the only organization that actually practices Judaism, which means subservience to YhWh and upholding the Torah

    Judaism means subservience to G-d and upholding the Torah.

    • Richard Silverstein October 31, 2013, 10:45 PM

      @ Dave Terry:

      IF one honors the Torah than one CANNOT honor either a secular Jewish State OR a “self-generated” Jewish State.

      That’s IF your definition of Judaism includes a belief in the coming of the messiah and other supernatural miracles. Mine doesn’t. I don’t think I’m going to allow you to tell me what authentic Judaism is. So don’t try.

  • Dave Terry November 1, 2013, 10:57 AM

    (RS) ” I don’t think I’m going to allow you to tell me what authentic Judaism is. So don’t try.”

    Richard, it isn’t MY definition, it is THE definition. Are you saying that words mean whatever YOU
    arbitrarily WANT them to mean?

    Without clear definitions, no honest or meaningful dialogue CAN occur. That has been the problem
    in Palestine/Israel for generations. Do you want to extend this form of relativism/nihilism to this list?

    How can you honestly claim to be a devotee of Judaism, if you reject the fundamental tenet of Torah?

    • Richard Silverstein November 1, 2013, 12:14 PM

      You don’t know much about Judaism if you say there is only ONE definition of God or Torah or Judaism. We aren’t Catholics. We don’t have a Pope. Not even a chief rabbi gets to tell all Jews what to believe. There isn’t one answer. Judaism not only doesn’t call for, it doesn’t accept monolithic definitions on these subjects.

      Torah is not one thing either. It has many facets and all can be legitimately debated & interpreted by any Jew.

      I will not allow you to tell me what is proper Judaism, or that my Judaism isn’t proper.

      • Dave Terry November 1, 2013, 8:37 PM

        (RS); ” We aren’t Catholics. We don’t have a Pope. Not even a chief rabbi gets to tell all Jews what to believe.

        It’s ironic that you mention Catholics. In my earlier response, I had planned on making a comparison between
        Catholicism being a “politicized” version of Christianity, just as Zionism is a politicized version of Judaism. BOTH being apostates to the original.

        (RS) “You don’t know much about Judaism if you say there is only ONE definition of God or Torah or Judaism.”

        OK, I’ll bite; How MANY definitions of God do Jews acknowledge? How many versions of Torah are there? And,
        WHICH “denomination” of Judaism rejects the Messianic message?

        • Richard Silverstein November 2, 2013, 2:21 AM

          There are as many definitions of God as there are Jews.

          Most modern Jews do not accept messianism (except the Orthodox). Rejecting messianism does not make one a bad or inauthentic Jew. We are a pluralistic religion whether you like it or not.

  • amspirnational November 1, 2013, 11:50 AM

    There are always going to be creative and nonconformist individuals who have and should have the right to
    define religion in their own terms.
    But if we are talking about a grouping with any political significance rather than that of a curio, we are talking about
    forms which have the ability to perpetuate intergenerational continuance. Of course a group could be a curio, yet be
    closest to spiritual truth, which is a different question.
    So, in that light, I once had a Chabad guy tell me in disparaging tones, Reform Jews were half-Christians, one generation away, as it were, from becoming Christians, if we talk in these terms.
    If you check the intermarriage rate, you can’t really criticise him too much.
    The question then is, can Judaism survive for long as anything but a curio without a dominant rabbinate
    leadership which does believe in some form of the supernatural?
    My chief interest regarding this question is, again, as related to Zionism and its deleterious grip on the American body politic.

    Iranian Jews, tens of thousands strong, reject Zionism, but Iranian Jews, were they the only Jews left in the world
    would certainly be a curiosity piece, of little political significance.

    • Richard Silverstein November 1, 2013, 12:10 PM

      @ amspirnational: Whether Israel or Judaism for that matter has a long-term future is a question that has obsessed Jews for decades if not centuries. Of course, Reform Jews have a high intermarriage rate; and Jews are assimilating into western society, gradually losing some of their ethnicity in the process.

      But I’m not giving up any time soon. My feeling is that if Orthodox Judaism is the only stream that survives, Judaism won’t be worth nearly as much, nor will it be as interesting as it would if the religion survives in all, or most of its diverse forms.

  • Dave Terry November 1, 2013, 8:43 PM

    (amspirnational) Iranian Jews, tens of thousands strong,
    reject Zionism, but Iranian Jews, were they the only Jews left in
    the world would certainly be a curiosity piece, of little political
    significance. A tenuous speculation, at best, but I believe you
    have hit on the subconscious fear of MANY Jews, most specifically
    those who accept Zionism and are convinced that the State of Israel
    is essential for the survival of Judaism.

    • Richard Silverstein November 2, 2013, 2:18 AM

      Jews lived for nearly 2,000 years without a homeland and while most want Israel to survive & believe it will, Judaism is bigger than any one person, sect or even country.

      You don’t have a clue what the Jews of Iran believe & I’d rather they speak for themselves than you speak for them.

  • Dave Terry November 2, 2013, 9:01 AM

    (RS) “There are as many definitions of God as there are Jews.

    Interesting. Clearly Yhwh is unknown to most Jews.
    There are ALMOST as many definitions of God as there are
    “mystics” in the world.

    ((RS); ” We are a pluralistic religion whether you like it or not.”

    “Pluralism” is the antithesis of “religion” Perhaps “cult” is a better term.
    Further, it has NOTHING to do with what I like or don’t like. Either

    By your definition, Jewish is an “ethnic” definition, not a religious one.
    Another example of very loose use of terminology.

    • Richard Silverstein November 3, 2013, 1:26 AM

      By your definition, Jewish is an “ethnic” definition, not a religious one.

      Not really. “Jewishness” may be an ethnicity, but “Jewish” or “Judaism” are religious terms. Being Jewish involves religion, ethnicity, & other forms of identity.

  • Pamela Olson November 4, 2013, 4:55 AM

    “I don’t believe that the anti-Zionist left, specifically Max, Phil and others like them attribute any positive value to religion or ethnicity, certainly not Jewish religion or ethnicity.”

    I disagree. I just think they don’t prejudice those things over the human rights of others.

    “They consistently show either a lack of understanding of it or else portray it as a caricature.”

    Again, they are not talking about Judaism or ethnicity, but the current virulent strain that dominates Zionism, and the way it exploits and desecrates religion and ethnicity.

    “But there is no understanding that Judaism offers other models–alternative or dissenting models.”

    I beg to differ again. They often give voice to Jewish Voice for Peace, the Shministim, and other Jewish dissenters and alternative models. Have you read any of their series “Exile and the Prophetic”?

    “As for human rights, that for me is incorporated into my understanding of Judaism. So I don’t necessarily see them as contradictory or competing as you appear to.”

    Once again: I see no contradiction between human rights and Judaism or human rights and Islam or human rights and Christianity, or… But I do see an obvious contraditiction between human rights and the current dominant strain of Zionism, and what it’s doing with American complicity. And I will keep saying that as long as it’s true, powerful, and active. I don’t need to be an expert on Judaism, and one doesn’t even need to care about religion or ethnicity, in order to make that distinction. Publicly. And effectively.

  • Dorothee November 5, 2013, 2:34 PM

    Just a very short comment: reading Martin Buber – or about him, as I did today in Maurice S. Friedman biography – Judaism, religion included, Zionism, and humanism, could be the base for a future of Israel.

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