35 thoughts on “Ethan Bronner Condescends to Avrum Burg – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Richard: The compound Nuremburg-like doesn’t lend itself to specificity. Can you spell out a bit more which future Israeli Nuremburg-like laws wouldn’t surprise you? And perhaps some Nuremburg-like laws which would?

  2. This is an interesting post. The reason Israelis don’t take him seriously is because secular Israelis are wondering why this guy is wearing a kippa when they have liberated themselves from Judaism. Religious Jews are wondering why a guy with a knitted kippa is running around with the most left of leftists! Religious Zionists don’t say “He wants it to be a nation like other western nations.” That is why people in Israel dismiss him-he doesn’t really appeal to any mainstream part of Israeli society.
    The fact that he was born in German complicates his story. Many Israelis that were born in Germany are deeply affected by this-it has an impact on their daily existence. It is an odd thing for a Jew to be born in Germany. In conjures up many emotions (particularly within that person).

  3. @NILI: This is nonsense. YOU don’t take him seriously. Don’t extrapolate from yr individual disdain for him that all Israelis don’t take him seriously. His book was widely read BY ISRAELIS ergo they take him seriously.

    And again contrary to yr claim, there are religious Zionists who believe in Israel being a democracy as Burg does.

    The fact that he was born in German [sic]

    Another error on yr part. His father escaped Hitler’s Germany in 1939. Avrum was born in Jerusalem as the NY Times article makes clear.

  4. @Alex Stein: I am not just speaking of “laws” (though we can include that too). I am speaking of government policy which segregates by religion and ethnicity. The refusal by Israel to let married couples–one of whom is a Palestinian–live together inside Israel. I’m speaking of discriminatory treatment both for Israeli Arabs and Palestinian Arabs. The inability of anyone but Jews to receive building permits. The destruction of homes built by Bedouins and Arabs without such authorization. I’m speaking of the public opinion polls which show consistent racist attitudes among Jews toward Israeli Arabs (though strikingly not by Arabs toward Jews). And I’m speaking of course of serious efforts by Israeli Knesset members to expel Arabs from Israel.

    Nuremberg laws posited Jews as a sub class of German citizen and non-Jewish Germans as a superior class. Both Israeli law, custom and government regulation has a similar distinction between Jew and Arab, though it perhaps isn’t quite as pernicious in effect (yet).

  5. Thanks for clearing that up. I’d say that accuracy in discussing Israel/Palestine is of critical importance. If the analogy/metaphor/simile is not utterly compelling, it’s probably best to steer clear. In this case, referring to the Nuremburg Laws in a discussion on Israeli-Arabs is an incendiary one which is more likely to create heate than shed light. You may be interested, by the way, in my piece on Umm-el-Fahm – http://falsedichotomies.com/2008/12/20/114/

    Incidentally, I saw Avraham Burg in a mall this morning; I think he was being interviewed by someone, presumably about the book. I should have asked him about this point.

  6. In fact, it’s worth taking a quick look at the Nuremburg Laws point by point, to assess the similarities with Israel.

    1. Marriage between Jews and citizens of German or kindred blood are forbidden.

    No such similar law in Israel. Of course, it’s impossible to have a civil marriage in Israel (which is bad), but your marriage overseas will be recognised. Then there’s the issue you raised of the law preventing Israeli-Arabs living with their Palestinian spouses in Israel. Very problematic, this, but it’s hardly possible to have a rational discussion of it without mentioning the context in which it was formed, i.e. the Second Intifada in which there have been cases of WB/Gaza Palestinians using marriage in order to gain access to pre-1967 Israel. I’m opposed to the law, but I don’t think a comparison with Nuremburg stands up to much scrutiny.

    2. Extramarital intercourse between Jews and the subjects of the State of Germany or related blood is forbidden.

    Er, without going too much into my own personal experiences, we haven’t got anything like that here.

    3. Jews will not be permitted to employ female citizens of German or kindred blood as domestic workers under the age of 45.

    You are right to point out the issue of workplace discrimination against Arabs, but it’s not legalised. In fact, in the civil service, for example, there’s actually affirmative action for Arabs. Still, Israel has a long way to go in this department.

    4. Jews are forbidden to display the Reich and national flag or the national colours.

    I saw the odd Israeli flag in Umm-el-Fahm (although most of the flags were the green of the Islamic Movement).

    5. On the other hand, they are permitted to display the Jewish colours.

    Well, perhaps you can claim that one.

    Then we get onto the punishments.

    In short, the analogy is absurd. Context is everything. When you give up on the difficult task of describing reality, you are neglecting your task as a writer.

  7. Richard: You are correct about the Germany issue. In any case, on that issue I still hold. To clarify, most people in the religious community don’t hold by him. Just as Ran Cohen doesn’t represent most Mizrahim, Burg doesn’t by any means represent religious Israelis. He is an oddity here.

  8. I, as an Israeli, agree with Nili, that Burg is not considered a serious thinker in Israel. I don’t know how many books he sold in Israel (Richard, do you have the figures?) but it is not found in most homes of Israeli Leftists, much less than the rest of the population. I am sure you noticed how the postings on TPM regarding his book got fewer comments than do most of the postings there on other subjects
    I disagree with Nili for the reasons he is not taken too seriously. I think the reason is because he is viewed as just another shady politician who suddenly “saw the light” and moved further to the Left (e.g. Olmert, Sharon, Livni, HaNegbi, etc, etc), realizing that this is the way to receive kudos in the world, particularly from the “progressives” in Europe. I discussed this with you some time ago on an earlier thread, so I won’t repeat the details, but he was involved in several scandals, some of which involved criminal activities, including the ballot-box stuffing that led to his victory in the 2001 Labor Party leadership primary being nullified and him being subsequently defeated in a revote. Olmert, like I said, has also seen the light, he is now saying that he now realizes that “Israel is a racist country”, etc, so there is nothing new here. The bottom line is that Burg is perceived as another guy making a good living on the lecture circuit around the world telling everyone how bad Israel is.

  9. “This is an interesting post. The reason Israelis don’t take him seriously is because secular Israelis are wondering why this guy is wearing a kippa when they have liberated themselves from Judaism.”

    Secular Israelis have liberated themselves from Judaism? In their fantasies! The most important personal status decisions: those regarding marriage and divorce, are CONTROLLED by the (so-called) religious ministries.


    I am intrigued by your charge, or rather your agreement with Burg’s charge, that the Knesset might/could pass Nuremberg-type laws. My question is: why would they have to? Members of different religious persuasions already cannot marry. There is no civil marriage in Israel. So why the need even for Nuremberg laws?

  10. “I’m speaking of the public opinion polls which show consistent racist attitudes among Jews toward Israeli Arabs (though strikingly not by Arabs toward Jews)”

    Do you have any links handy on this? I’m not questioning you–from what little I’ve read I have the same impression, but I don’t recall seeing poll data.

  11. If what Mr Burg says is true, why doesnt the UN just dismantle Israel? It is obvious from Mr Berg’s writings that the zionists are incapable of self govt.

  12. @Alex Stein: No, he’s not wrong. He’s talking about the fact that they cannot marry in Israel as they should be allowed to do if Israel were less a theocracy & more a democracy. Having the marriage recognized abroad is a fig leaf solution.

  13. Richard – As someone who wants civil marriage in Israel, I agree it’s a fig-leaf solution. But if silverwheels is saying “why the need even for Nuremburg laws,” he can’t be aware that ‘intermarried’ couples are perfectly able to live in Israel.

  14. Alex,

    What’s your point?


    I repeat my question. If “intermarriages” by law cannot be performed in Israel, then what’s the need for Nuremberg-type laws?

    Perhaps I am missing something here. Perhaps you are sayiing that Israel will someday pass laws invalidating the “intermarriages” performed abroad?

    [Just to clarify, I put the word “intermarriage” in quotation marks because I hate it. To me, the word should be applied only to marriages between humans and bonobos. Otherwise a marriage is a marriage.]

  15. @jsilverheels
    “Secular Israelis have liberated themselves from Judaism?”
    Yes. These are Jews who don’t keep shabbat or kashrut and get married in Cyprus (sometimes with non-Jews). I know many of them. The Rabbanut isn’t controlling as much as you think it is!

  16. Nili,

    Like I said, in your fantasies. Instead of facing up to the bastards, they slink away and get married in Cyprus. They haven’t liberated themselves from anything. Claiming to be free while living in a bubble isn’t freedom – it’s a dream world. (Or rather, a nightmare.)


    My question still stands: do you think the Knesset will invalidate the so-called intermarriages contracted abroad? I await your answer.

    Another point: while I mainly agree with you about Bronner, I did think that at the very end, when Bronner writes, ” Israelis look out for family” he is being slyly ironic about Israeli (Jewish) clannishness. Give him something. And he’s right. Jews get away with much more than non-Jews in Israel.

  17. The Nuremberg laws and American anti-miscegenation laws (which were deemed unconstitutional only in 1967 at a time when 16 states still enforced them) were based on preserving racial purity while the inability of intermarriage between members of different religions in Israel is a result of religious orthodoxy. Jews and Arabs can marry if one of them converts to Judaism or Islam, and I know a few such couples that married in Israel. Like Alex, as a secular Israeli, I favor a system which includes a pathway for secular marriage. The trend in Israel is towards liberalization. I find it hard to believe that this trend will reverse. During the 20 years I live in Israel the religious have definitely had a reduced influence in all spheres of life.

  18. fidler said: “If I’m not mistaken, Israeli immigration law defines “Jewish” according to the Nuremberg laws, and contrary to halachic law, as having one Jewish grandparent.”

    Germany defined Jews as descendants of three or four grandparents. Descendants of one or two grandparents were classified as “Mischlings” or mixed (mestizo). The rabbinate defines Jews as the child of a Jewish mother (or convert) but the “law of return” is applicable to anyone with a Jewish grandparent since they were persecuted by the Nazis. When they arrive in Israel they are not recognized as Jews by the rabbinate (which is a source of all sorts of problems).
    All these contradictions and problems is a result of Israel being somewhat democratic and chaotic and different political forces exerting their influence to a different degree at different times. Only a dictatorship could be free of contradictions.

  19. @amir: You’re right about the Nuremberg classifications; I was probably trying to be overly concise. For practical purposes however, the distinction between Jews and “Mischlingen” existed just in technical terms, persecution was the same for both.

    The “law of return” was enacted only after the genocide had ended, and past persecution looks like a poor excuse for including specifically “quarter-Jews”. After all, Israel was founded as a state for Jews only, not for other groups (Sinti, Rroma, homosexuals, mentally ill, political dissidents etc.) who were equally persecuted. The genocide of Sinti and Rroma had fewer victims only because there were fewer available. So my suspicion is the new state wanted as large a base of potential immigrants as possible, without deviating too much from the self-imposed ethnic-religious standard.

    A dictator, being a human being, is also prone to contradictions, like all of us. I see no reason for you to pat yourself on the back because such flaws are a result of being somewhat democratic, especially since they detract from, not contribute to democracy.

  20. @jsilverheels: For me, Nuremberg-like laws regulate conduct of non-Jews and ensure they are subservient to Jews. However, these laws & regulations (they’re not just laws, but government policies as well) are injurious to Jews as well–at least Jews who want Israel to be a democratic state rather than a theocracy.

    So intermarriage is only part of a much larger set of issues that include land ownership, educational opportunties, employment opportunities, building permits, etc.

  21. @amir: Not precisely. Orthodox parties like Shas have a stranglehold over the Israeli political system. They have veto power over major political issues like sharing Jerusalem; and they extort money from Israeli leaders to support their members. This is why Livni refused to negotiate w. Shas about joining her coalition.

    Right wing Orthodox also exert an enormous influence in the extremist settler movement.

  22. @amir: Of course a dictatorship, which is more or less what the extremist settlers would like to see, would bring a whole host of other contradictions.

    The choice isn’t between having a messy definition of who is a Jew due, supposedly, to Israel being “somewhat democratic” or a dictatorship. I don’t accept those as the proper terms of discourse.

  23. @bar_kochba132:

    it is not found in most homes of Israeli Leftists

    You are a settler activist. Would you mind telling us how you know what books are on the shelves of Israeli leftists? Or are you a Shin Bet agent whose job is to find out what books are on the shelves of Israeli leftists?

    some of which involved criminal activities,

    You say you won’t “repeat the details” & yet that is precisely what you’ve done. Yes, you ARE dredging up another comment thread & I don’t want to go over it again. Your mistake here is that there were NO criminal activities. Criminality is defined by law. You have a trial & find someone guilty of criminal acts. That didn’t happen. There were charges by individuals. There may even have been an investigation of some sort. But there was never any legal action taken. Hence no “criminal activities.”

    BTW, there are plenty of right wing Israeli pols making a good living on the lecture circuit going around the world telling everyone how good Israeli is & how bad its critics are. They disgust me just as much as Burg disgusts you. So we’re even.

  24. Richard:

    Fair enough. I admit I was focusing on one aspect of Nuremberg laws. There are of course many others that regulate personal behavior. Sure. Point taken.

    With respect to dictatorship, Richard, is it too drastic to say that Israel IS a dictatorship, and the so-called religious run it? Let’s be honest. What they want, they get. OK, maybe they lost w/respect to Gaza. But that’s the way dictatorships run. The ruling party doesn’t get *everything* – unless it’s Imperial Japan. Even in Nazi Germany the Nazis had to look the other way with part-Jews. So I say that for the most part, Israel is a soft dictatorship with the religious ruling the place.

    Think of it.

    I bet there were many people in Nazi Germany, or Stalin’s Russia, who thought they could just make their own nice little world. But they were wrong.

  25. Shas doesn’t have a straglehold on anything nor do they have any veto power. They have 12 members of knesset and the right to make demands they think are compatible with the interests of their voters. Just as an example, Livni could have replaced the 12 members of Shas with: 5 members pf Meretz, 4 members of United Arab List, 3 members of Hadash and 3 members of Balad.She would have an even bigger coalition. Why don’t you ask Livni why she refused to negotiate with those parties.

  26. Richard: “Would you mind telling us how you know what books are on the shelves of Israeli leftists?”

    My weight-lifting partner is an Arab. We get along famously. I know couples who are mixed (left-right) and they are happy. The reality of life here is that people know one another regardless of what their personal passions are. It is VERY well plausible that one could visit the home of others who have a very different outlook. I for one do on a regular basis. Shabak is another story altogether (btw: no one here says Shin Bet-they are just two letters in the Hebrew alphabet).

  27. @NILI: Bar Kochba knows nothing about Israeli leftists I assure you. Or do you know him personally and are vouching for who his friends are? Bar Kochba’s buddies are in Tapuah & Migron. He doesn’t hang out much with Tel Aviv leftists.

    As for Shabak or Shin Bet, thanks for the unnecessary lesson about how the agency is referred to in Israel. Shabak is not as well known a term in English. Hence I use the better understood Shin Bet.

  28. @amir: Wrong again. They demanded an agreement fr. Livni that she not negotiate Jerusalem’s fate with the Palestinians. That’s a stranglehold AND veto power. She happily thought better of the demand & said ‘no thank you’ to them.

    I don’t need to ask her. In the wisdom of Israel’s “centrist” parties, they’ve decided that Arab parties are treif, a violation btw of the spirit of Israeli democracy such as it is. While she seems a pragmatist, she’s not willing to buck this poisonous notion that some legitimate Israeli political parties are toxic.

  29. Richard: I don’t know anyone on here! Israelis are a small group relatively speaking-Israel is quite small. We all know each other and contrary to what some outsiders seem to think, people are not SO segregated according to political or religious belief. Even haredim have relatives who are secular or dati-leumi. It’s a mixed bag. It is not possible to live in such a confined placed without everyone knowing one another. My friends in USA also say Shin-Bet, which has no meaning in Israel. I think people should use Israeli terms, like Haredi instead of ultra-orthodox. They seem so outdated!

    Everyone: Here is a recent post from Isi Leibler that confirms my previous sentiments: “Paradoxically, the Hebrew version of Burg’s book caused barely a ripple, for the simple reason that most Israelis simply wrote him off.”

    Enjoy the holidays!

  30. @NILI: Using Isi Liebler as the arbiter of Israeli opinion is ridiculous. Isi Liebler is an extreme nationalist and pro settler (& writing in the right wing J. Post besides). What would you expect him to say?

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