About a year ago, there was a huge cultural/political dust-up in Israel over the Hebrew-language publication of his latest book in which he made a total break with Israeli Zionism. Considering that Burg is a scion of a distinguished Orthodox Zionist family, his radicalism scandalized almost everyone. Just one indication of how provocative Burg hoped his book would be can be found in his original (since abandoned) title, Hitler Won. Ever since reading about the book in Haaretz, I’ve awaited the English translation with bated breath. Now, reader Gene Schulman, living in Geneva, informs me that LeMonde Diplomatique has reviewed the English edition titled, The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From its Ashes.
Here are some interesting passages from the review by Eric Rouleau, Judaism is Universal:
The views he expresses in his latest book The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise from Its Ashes (to be published by Macmillan in autumn 2008) are brutally frank. On the occupation of the Palestinian territories he writes: “For years I tempered my position to avoid a breach within Israeli society. I have now changed. Today I ask: are [all Jews] my brothers? My answer is no… Since the Shoah, I believe there is no such thing as genetic Judaism, only Jewish values… Even if they are circumcised and respect the Sabbath and the Ten Commandments, the wicked occupiers are not my brothers.”
Throughout the book Burg contrasts the “Judaism of the ghetto”, whose racism he deplores, with “universal Judaism”, whose humanism he supports. He rejects the Old Testament notion that the Jews are God’s chosen people, as that amounts to a claim of racial superiority.
…Burg accuses Zionist leaders of having appropriated the Shoah – a tragedy not only for the Jews but all humanity – for often shameful ends. He takes issue with the fact they have turned it into an essential part of Jewish identity, which they’ve thereby reduced to a litany of past persecutions. In Burg’s view, this distorts Jewish history and conceals centuries of peace and good relations with other peoples.
…Burg is against the use of the word Shoah (catastrophe) for the Holocaust, since it gives it a unique character, beyond comparison with other genocides. This exclusivity, he believes, undermines compassion and solidarity with non-Jewish victims. It also feeds the paranoia that anti-semitism is a universal, timeless phenomenon: “The whole world is in league against the Jews.”
Zionist leaders have made use of the Holocaust in a variety of ways. It can be used as emotional blackmail to bring both political and financial advantage. Or serve as a reminder to the Germans of their criminal guilt and to the Americans and Europeans that they looked the other way while the Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis. The Israeli authorities thereby guarantee themselves impunity, whatever their violations of international law and human rights, and whatever war crimes they carry out, such as targeted executions of Palestinians.
Burg takes issue with Israeli scholars who ignore all genocides but those suffered by the Jews, and with laws which punish only crimes against Jews. He opposes Jewish immigrants being automatically granted Israeli citizenship on religious and genetic grounds. A committed secularist, he has also criticised the “religious fundamentalists” who show contempt for national sovereignty. Noting that his country often picks its leaders from members of the military or the secret services, he has warned that “the nightmare of a state run by rabbis and generals is not impossible”.
…Burg does not consider himself anti-Zionist, except when the principles of Herzl and the values of the declaration of independence are betrayed. That is what happens when Israel is transformed into a “colonial state run by an immoral clique of corrupt outlaws”, as he put it in his Yedioth Aharonoth interview. In the same article he went on: “The end of Zionism is nigh… A Jewish state may endure, but it will be a state of a different sort, dreadful and alien to our values.”
Such views unsurprisingly provoked an outcry in Israel. But they also drew enthusiastic support from those Israelis who are eager to see root and branch reform of their country. Avraham Burg, who is in his early 50s, can hope that his dream may one day become reality. And, like the wave of iconoclasts in the Israeli intelligentsia who have absorbed the work of the new historians, he is living proof that his society is undergoing profound change.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait till October 28, 2008 to read it.