22 thoughts on “Conflating Judaism and Zionism: Bad for the Jews – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I have just skimmed this essay but I will give some initial comments.

    Firstly it is very good but it contains a number of misconceptions and mistakes.

    1. Israel was never a secular state, even under Labour Zionism. When in 1949 the two Zionist Labour Parties (Mapai and Mapam) had an absolute majority in the Knesset 65/120 Ben Gurion chose to ally with what became the National Religious Party. Ben Gurion understood that it was essential to obtain Rabbinical support for the new state. He therefore handed over the rabbis all personal matters of birth, marriage and death including the interpretation of who was a Jew, which until 1970 was more restrictive than it is now.

    2. I do not accept that the Zionists engaged in valiant rescue of Jews. Ben Gurion’s infamous quote was directed AGAINST the Kindertransport which they opposed. The Zionists blocked rescue. The reference you provide from the US Holocaust Museum is deliberately wrong e.g. about Kasztner who was a Nazi collaborator if not agent.

    3. The most egregious mistakes are where you say that:

    Israel, in the beginning, was a secular state in which the ruling parties endorsed socialism and offered a version of the welfare state. But when Benjamin Netanyahu became finance minister in 2003, he dismantled it with a series of harsh Thatcherite polices. They in turn rendered socialism obsolete. Even more recently Israel has dropped secularism as well. A plurality of Jews continue to be secular, but overwhelming political power and social control rests on a system of Judeo-supremacism.

    Mapai NEVER endorsed socialism. It was always fundamentally anti-socialist and this was the basis of its merger in 1930 with Hapoel Hatzair (see Zeev Sternhell’s Founding Myths of Israel). The Stabilisation Pact of Netanyahu was supported by the Israeli Labor Party. There was a form of state capitalism in Israel given the weakness of the private sector and the strength of Histadrut. But it was Histadrut itself which began the privatisation.

    1. @ Tony Greenstein: As for your comment:

      1. Ben Gurion’s inclusion of the Orthodox in the early coalitions did indicate it was important to him to include religious political representation in government. And it did set the stage for the eventual takeover of the state by such theocrats. But the state was overwhelming secular at least till 1967 if not after. Even Likud in its earlier stages was a secular liberal party (in the sense of UK “liberals”) That changed gradually after Greater Israel and the settler movement.

      2. I agree with you that much of the Zionist leadership was generally indifferent to rescue during the Holocaust. But there were some efforts like Hannah Senesch. There were also Zionist partisans during the War. I’m not arguing that resistance and rescue were systemic features of Zionism. Just that there were some such efforts.

      3. Israel was established on socialist principles. But the de facto way the state was run was a hybrid of capitalism & socialism. You might call it democratic socialism or social democracy. SOmething akin to the Scandinavian model. I’m not aruging that this was a pure socialist model. But whatever remained of this was wiped out by Netanyahu. If Labor supported Netanyahu’s policies that doesn’t obscure the fact that he was the minister who ran the show and devised the program.

      1. To be continued

        Socialism is about class struggle. Histadrut was both employer and union.

        A secular state is one in which religion plays no part. Because Zionist claims to the land took on a religious hue, unlike say America, the Rabbis were integral to the project. They defined who was racially Jewish using religious criteria. Israel didn’t become a theocratic state either. The Rabbis simply became the legitimisers of the State and were responsible for all personal matters but after the growth of messianism after the 1967 war then of course that was what the NRP morphed into. And who laid the basis of that? The Greater Israel Movement of which the Labour Zionist pioneers were at the forefront – Tabenkin, Galili and of Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon.

        A Jewish state could not help but develop in that direction and we know now that Israel was not under threat in 1967 and it was the Labour Zionist generals under Dayan who pushed for war. Settler colonialism demands expansion ie further colonisation and of course politically it meant a transformation from a sleepy backwater of US imperialism into what you have today.

        But we should be clear, Labour Zionism began all this. It was the most militaristic and people like Sharon came from it. It set up Unit 101 which perpetrated Qibya and all the other atrocities. Socialism means unity of the working class. Labor Zionism was opposed to this and implemented transfer. All the institutions of land theft today were laid down by Labour Zionism. Eg. the Absentee Property Law.

        3. The Zionist movement was opposed to the resistance that Zionist activists engaged in in occupied Europe. They sent frantic messages to their partisans in the Warsaw Ghetto and elsewhere to withdraw, leave. Hannah Senesh and the 32 paratroopers were not sent in to rescue Jews.

        According to two articles by Yechiam Weitz, When asked by Yoel Palgi what was their central task Ben Gurion replied ‘that Jews should know that Eretz Israel is their land and their stronghold.’ [Yechaim Weitz, The Positions of David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Tabenkin, p. 195.]


      2. To be continued

        ‘While the parachutists outwardly defined theirs as a rescue mission… their primary goal was in effect to influence the survivors to choose Palestine as their ultimate destination. This point is corroborated by testimonies from that period.’ [Yechiam Weitz, Jewish Refugees and Zionist Policy, p.359]

        It is a very common misconception that they were sent to rescue but looking at it objectively this was absurd. They first went to Yugoslavia where there was a well entrenched partisan movement. As Veesenmayer, the Nazi overlord in Hungary said, he would rat her a year in Hungary than a day in Yugoslavia.

        You really should read Ze’ev Sternhell’s book. It shows that the Histadrut was simply a colonising agency in Golda Meir’s words. It was the main instrument of the Jewish Agency. It controlled Hagannah. There were rarely elections in Histadrut and it had a self-perpetuating and corrupt oligarchy who paid themselves loans they never repaid. The elections when they did take place were fixed in advance.

        Unlike all other social democratic parties there was never any discussion of socialist or marxist theory. It was simply inapplicable to a colonial situation. Their socialism was simply for the gullible foreigners.

    1. Richard,

      It obviously depends by what you mean by capitalism and socialism.. The Israeli Labor Party and Histadrut were national socialist institutions or nationalist socialist as Sternhell says in order not to suggest that they were Nazi.

      The main slogan of the Histadrut was Conquest of Land, Labour and Produce. They fought AGAINST unity in the Histadrut with the Arab workers. Their battle was always with Arab labour ie keeping it out. On t his they relied on the colonial state to evict the landless peasants and they violently picketed out Arab labour.

      The Union of Railway, Postal and Telegraph Workers was a bastion of the left with a mixed Arab-Jewish membership. Histadrut incorporated the union in order to separate Arab from Jewish workers and create a separate Arab section. Arab workers objected to Histadrut’s Zionism, especially its policy of Jewish Labour. At a meeting in Haifa in 1924, union activist Elias Asad described how Arab workers
      ‘saw on the membership card the words ‘Federation of Jewish Workers’ and they cannot understand what purpose this serves. I ask all the comrades to remove the word ‘Jewish,’ and I am sure that if they agree there will be a strong bond between us and all the Arabs will join.’

      The slogan Ben Gurion coined was ‘from class to nation’ in other words the class struggle was a national one against Arab labour.

      Speaking of ‘the evil of mixed labour’ Ben-Gurion described the employment of Arabs as ‘class–hatred of intelligent Jewish labour.’ (Rebirth & Destiny p. 74)

      As Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Israel’s 2nd President stated:

      ‘whenever we come across a contradiction between national and socialist principles, the contradiction should be resolved by relinquishing the socialist principle in favour of the national activity. We shall not accept the contrary attempt to solve the contradiction by dispensing with the national interest in favour of the socialist idea.’

      The Israeli Labor Movement had first to build the state and the economy before it could give way to private capital as has now been done. All forms of colonialism in their early states are collective to some extent, the Boer Trek and the circling of wagons in the American West. Israel’s was a peculiar form, because of the conditions of colonisation that it took specific forms. Remember Histdrut barred Arabs until 1959 and was still called a Confederation of Hebrew Labour till 1966 and from then on had an Arab department headed by a Jew.

      To be continued

      ly for the gullible foreigners.

  2. Hello Richard,

    Please help me understand something. I see your point about keeping religion out of politics. But the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have texts which they believe are divine affirming that God gave the land to the Bani Israel.

    Didn’t Moses lead the Jews to the promised land in Israel? Didn’t Joshua conquer the land? How then do you separate Judaism? Chief Rabbi Mirvis, whom European Jews regard as their spiritual leader affirmed that Zionism is part of Judaism. This is the Chief Rabbi not some extremist Likud settler/Kahanist.

    By extension, what about Christianity? Jesus was the Messiah who was supposed to have ended Roman rule, his followers believed he would liberate the Jews, the early Christians were Jews who believed in Jesus as a Jewish nationalist. I know that Christianity later became a separate religion but that was only a few centuries later when the Romans wanted it to become the state religion and separate it from its Jewish roots. The fact remain that Jesus was a Jewish nationionalist. He wanted the Romans out of Israel.

    How do Muslims separate your claim that religion should not be used as a ‘tool’ for Zionism. The Holy Quran affirms that Allah gave the land to the Bani Israel. Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, a prominent Pakistani cleric is just one example of the ulema who only last week affirmed as such.

    All of the above points, would discredit your claim that Zionism and Judaism is not the same thing. Certainly from a Muslim point of view, the Quran is Zionist if Zionism means that Allah gave the land of Israel to Jews.

    1. @Ilyas: The Quran “affirms” that God gave Israel to Jews? Where? Nor does Christianity have such sacred texts in its religion. Not Christian texts anyway. It merely endorses Jewish sacred texts. And we’re only talking about Christian Zionists, who are by no means a majority of world Christianity.

      As for what the Bible claims Moses or Joshua did, why does this have any bearing on political issues today? And how can we know whether any of it has any historical accuracy? If it is a religious myth, why is it any more valid than any other national or religious myth?

      Read what I have written about Rabbi Mirvis. He is a right-wing Tory fool. Nor is he regarded as a religious authority anywhere other than among UK Orthodox Jews, who are by no means even the majority of UK Jews, let alone European Jews. Stop inflating his importance and authority.

      Jesus was never viewed by anyone as a “nationalist.” His views were based on moral and spiritual principles, not political ones. He never participated in the liberation movements spearheaded by Judean militants.

      It is laughable that you offer a Pakistani cleric as proof of Jewish sovereignty over the land. 99.9% of Muslims reject such a view. And you’ve cherry-picked the one (or two) outliers to prove your point. When you’ve done nothing of the sort.

      You, my friend are a fraud. I put you on notice. You are done in this thread.

      1. [comment deleted: when I tell you you are done in a thread I mean it. Be sure to read the comment rules carefully if you publish comments again here. You get one comment per thread.]

  3. most wars had religion as reason. all states based on religion are a form of dictatorship and cannot hide as democracy. bibi purports that israel is the “only” democracy in the middle east , not by a longshot . when religion and state mingle there is no democracy, no monotheistic religion is democratic.
    i hate myself for saying this, but lets ask if jewish orthodoxy did not bring the holocaust.
    why – when a state within a state is allowed to dictate it is not farfetched to believe that it creates hatred when this hatred is boiled and over-boiled by a dogmatic charismatic speaker it can be harnessed to create the worst.
    when brooklyn jews are allowed to participate in the thousands in a wedding in the midst of a pandemic – 15k or 50k fine for the richest of the jews – without grave results then sorry to say the u.s. made a mockery of its “all men are created equal’
    religion has made a mockery of all philosophies so what so surprising that also zionism has fallen.
    all thatcherism has been proven as bad policies it destroyed england in the 70s it destroyed israel in the 2000s.

    1. But then you can say the same about the Muslims in Germany today. Just because they don’t want to assimilate does it mean they are responsible for the hatred from those who don’t want them to assimilate? Did the Bosnians bring their Holocaust upon themselves because they didn’t become Serbs and Christian?

    2. Nessim,
      To add to my last comment, Macron of France is another example. He claims the French Muslims should be forced to integrate. The Far Right in France like Marie Penn claim the Muslims will never integrate. So if you are saying Orthodox Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves, you are saying Muslims should become secular or they will be to blame if they face a similar Holocaust in France and Germany?

      1. @ Ilyas: As a hasbara troll and fraud of some sort I’m imposing commenting limits on you. No more than 3 comments in any 24 hour interval. And only one comment per thread. Respect these rules which are imposed to prevent hasbaroids from dominating the comment threads.

      1. Richard
        i purposely started the sentence with I hate myself
        from day 1 of my life i’ve been a fair and salomonic soul, believing in equality down the line for all no exceptions bar none, i have done by my spouse better than i have done by me
        i agree no government has done well by all as my soul has demanded of me
        no government past or present is devoid of some “ism” or another
        wasnt man created at the equal of god, was god subjugated, therefore all religions have “created” rules and regulations to subjugate , those rules made zombies of followers
        so if the perpetrators is guilty can those perpetrator reason that their natural order “within parity” were broken down with impunity be cause of their actions .
        The 3rd reich was borne out of revolt against europe’s subjugation, antisemitism was prevalent and legislated by 1933. jews guilt for germany’s political and economical situation is beyond doubt the reason. but THAT reason was the LAST REASON FOR CEMENTING ANTISEMITISM.
        the money reason in addition to the orthodoxy were and are at the root of evil.
        i am trying to justify the reason i said i hate myself, but yet i see it day in day out when i a jew of pure jewish blood is spat upon by other those who consider themselves “different and in ways better” than me
        my grandfather was a rabi in cairo and had a synagogue on the main floor of his building and yet growing up we ever ever felt the split , separation and hate mongering that i see flowering in this desert and i ask myself was this ostracism philosophy in and by itself the ugly reason.
        i always ask myself why is judaism not a cult , a religion is by itself accepting , yet judaism must be proven by genes and acceptance rules are created by the whim of man
        so again i hate myself but weigh the cult vs religion (as it is now) why is it easy to leave and yet impossible to return. and that’s what i hate most

  4. For me this essay comes down to this: here an honest, angry and courageous man is defending his inclusive and humanitarian Judaism against those who weaponise a deformed and exclusive Judaism. They do so to justify their political goals; at the same time they obscure these man-made goals by pretending they’re part of a G’d given destiny for the people they belong to.

  5. ben gurion acceptance of religious groups was based on his notion that this group would ‘for ever” be a tiny drop within israeli society but no that tiny group saw an opening in which it could grow outside the main israeli rule and it is here that diaspora limitless funds perversed the original idea by fomenting and fermenting an outside the rule society.
    at no point did ben gurion dream that within 9 millions there would be 50 000 rabis ,
    could the natural state of israel within its budgetary abilities give rise to such a rate,

  6. Have you considered the fact this piece was rejected by publications and censored on Reddit means editors see it as inappropriate (this is a soft term so I don’t break your strict comment rules).

    1. @ Ariel: Have I considered the fact that you’re a hasbaroid seeking Gotchas everywhere you turn? Yes, I have.

      As for editors, that’s what they do. They decide whether a piece is right for them or not. But they make these decisions on many factors. Often they make them based on factors having little or nothing to do with content. I assure you that if this piece was written by Peter Beinart or someone Jewish Currents really valued, they would have accepted it just as I wrote it.

      As for Reddit, there are pro-Israel mods there who were clearly offended by the content. In censoring it, they decided that though it is a subreddit devoted to religion, there are some ideas about Israel and Judaism that are too offensive to permit. That’s not really an editorial decision based on quality of content. Rather it’s a political decision that reeks of censorship.

      1. Have you not offered it to any other outlet? Al-Jazeera or MEE, for example? Or are they in the pocket of the Zionist lobby as well?

        Peter Beinart would have never written this piece, at least not the way you wrote it, so it is irrelevant.

        Like anyone else, if serious editors reject your paper, you should consider they completely disagree with the content or just afraid of another scandal like the op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton.

        1. @ Ariel: You clearly don’t understand a great deal about freelance journalism. After you decide to write on a subject you target the piece to an outlet that has special interest in that subject. That would not be Middle East Eye or Al Jazeera given the subject matter they generally cover.

          As for Peter Beinart, you’re quite wrong. As recently as a year ago, no one would have expected him to publish a piece embracing a one-state solution. But he did. For all I know, he may agree with everything I wrote.

          Regardless of all that, you missed my point; which was that Jewish Currents would publish virtually anything Peter Beinart wanted to publish there. Because he has a liberal reputation while seeking to have impact within the mainstream community. That gives him special privileges that writers like me don’t have. Which means my work isn’t judged by its content or quality, but by other political factors. Which is what I object to.

          The Tom Cotton-NYT controversy was entirely different. The op ed page editor made the awful decision to publish an op ed justifying violence against BLM protesters. That editor quit due to the justified outrage over his decision.

          My piece is entirely different. And even if Jewish Currents published it (which it in fact rejected), there would be no way it would generate the same level of controversy.

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