Friday, March 27, 2009

Zionism is the Problem? A Reply to Ben Ehrenreich

Back in 1975 when Kurt Waldheim was its Secretary General, the United Nations approved the Infamous "Zionism is Racism" resolution. Widely discredited and eventually repealed in 1991, it now has a proponent who in the tradition of "Jews for Jesus" seeks to lend new respectability to dubious ideas.

In a March 15 article in the Los Angeles Times titled "Zionism is the Problem", Ben Ehrenreich attempts to make a case for the fundamental illegitimacy of Zionism and the State of Israel. Going beyond even Jimmy Carter, Ehrenreich states as follows.

If two decades ago comparisons to the South African apartheid system felt like hyperbole, they now feel charitable. The white South African regime, for all its crimes, never attacked the Bantustans with anything like the destructive power Israel visited on Gaza in December and January, when nearly1,300 Palestinians were killed, one-third of them children.

Israel has gone to unprecedented lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas has by contrast hidden behind civilians at every opportunity, even transporting arms in ambulances. It refrained from retaliatin for months and then endangered its own soldiers to protect civilians.

Ehrenreich deals in deceptions and half truths with the deftness of a three card monty dealer. He brandishes his Jewish credentials and throws around biblical quotations with the purpose of advocating the dismantling of the State of Israel at a time when not only its citizens but Jews around the world are under physical attack. How does justify what seems to be national suicide?
His ideas deserve close scrutiny and plausible answers.

Mr Ehrenreich takes a marginal group and attempts to pass off as mainstream Jewish thought its equation of Zionism and Nazism. He states as follows.

It's hard to imagine now, but in 1944, six years after Kristallnacht, Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, felt comfortable equating the Zionist ideal of Jewish statehood with "the concept of a racial state -- the Hitlerian concept." For most of the last century, a principled opposition to Zionism was a mainstream stance within American Judaism.

Even among non observant Jews, an attachment to the land of Israel remained during a time that the truly marginal Council for Judaism campaigned against the founding of a Jewish State. Ehrenreich overlooks the fact that much of the land in what was today Israel was barren and undeveloped until Jews came and developed it. Rather than employing solely Jewish labour in resettling the Holy Land, Arabs were attracted from neighbouring regions by the jobs that were created in the course of developing the land.

At the end of the war, European survivors found themselves unwanted when they returned to homes that had been occupied by their Christian neighbours. A safe home away from Europe was a practical necessity to the remnants of European Jewry.

You might ask why the plight of European Jewry should be an Arab problem. This is a question you might want to address to Mohammed Haj Amin Al Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem who worked closely with Hitler in advocating for and implementing the Final Solution. From his personal visit to Auschwitz to his activities of organising Bosnian SS units, Husseini was deeply interested in the extermination of European Jewry. Jimena.org, an organisation advocating for Jews from Arab countries reports as follows.

In 1941 pro-Nazi Palestinian nationalist leader Hajj Amin al-Husayni, the Mufti of Jerusalem, arrived in Berlin, along with many other Palestinian leaders, as a guest of the German Nazi regime. He worked in several capacities for the triumph of the Nazi "new order:" he directed propaganda beamed to the Arabs of the Middle East and North Africa as well as Muslims in Asia to elicit rebellion and sabotage against the Allied powers; he was the linchpin for the Nazi espionage network in the Middle East and organizer of saboteurs who were spirited into the area; he organized an Arab Legion to serve with the German Army, and was active recruiting Muslim SS divisions in the Balkans and occupied Russia.

The Nazis welcomed him and his entourage warmly. He was given a generous stipend and subsidies to sustain five residences and suites at two hotels in Germany. He established an "Arabishes Büro" and a so-called "Jewish Institute" at Nazi expense.

With no small measure of German prodding, Arab nationalists during World War Two set upon Jews from Baghdad to Cairo. During this time, the word"Farhud" became widely known as the Arab equivalent of a pogrom. The Jews in Arab countries were often prosperous, with a history in Arab countries dating back many centuries. Many were terrorised into trading mansions from Damascus to Cairo and Baghdad for tents in Israeli resettlement camps. Many Jews fled to Israel in fear for their lives from a society in which the servile status accorded non Muslims had taken on a murderous edge.

Ehrenreich complains as follows about what he perceives as the defensiveness of Zionism's supporters.

For the last several decades, though, it has been all but impossible to cry out against the Israeli state without being smeared as an anti-Semite, or worse. To question not just Israel's actions, but the Zionist tenets on which the state is founded, has for too long been regarded an almost unspeakable blasphemy.

There are indeed opponents of Zionism who do not hate Jews. I have met such people, Their sincerity resonated with me. Such individual should not be tarred with the brush of Jew hatred. But there is a double standard by which Israel is judged by the nations of the world. When a hostile neighbour showers Israel with rockets and sends in suicide bombers, it is totally legitimate to remove the threat. Israel has endangered its own soldiers in attempts to pinpoint terrorists and spare civilians. Instead of lauding the Israelis, they are condemned for "targeted assassinations." Israel is consistently found wanting as it is judged by standards never used before. It is totally legitimate to cite and prove the application of double standards and to describe the injury that results from this.

If you want to somehow say that bombing a restaurant in Israel is an "act of resistance" what can be said when a synagogue is attacked in Turkey or a restaurant in Paris is bombed? What is a Jew to do? If we stay away from Israel, danger will find us in Paris or Caracas. One of the dead in Mumbai refused to have an Israeli flag draped over his casket. Will the "anti-zionists" who killed him apologise to his family?

Ehrenreich singles out the State of Israel for ethnic exclusivity in its accordance of citizenship in the following paragraph.

Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.

The concept of jus sanguinis or "right of blood" is a legal concept that predates the State of Israel by many years. It is described in Wikipedea as follows.

Jus sanguinis (Latin for "right of blood") is a social policy by which nationality or citizenship is not determined by place of birth, but by having an ancestor who is a national or citizen of the state. It contrasts with jus soli (Latin for "right of soil").

At the end of the 19th century, the French-German debate on nationality saw Ernest Renan oppose the German conception of an "objective nationality", based on blood, race or even, as in Fichte's case, language. Renan's republicanItalic conception explains France's early adoption of jus soli. Many nations have a mixture of jus sanguinis and jus soli, including the United States, Canada, Israel, Germany (as of recently), Greece, Ireland and others.

The charge that Gaza is a prison camp is ludicrous. Its elected government has both declared and waged war on Israel. People disguised as civilians have committed terrorist acts. Israel would normally be a lucrative and natural trading partner for an adjacent Palestinian state. It is the Palestinians themselves who have through terrorism made the most solid case against a Palestinian state. If Ehrenreich wants a bi-national state, he need look no further than Israel, which has Arab citizens represented by Arabs in parliament. How many Jewish citizens are there of Gaza? How many Jews are citizens of the Palestine Authority?

Singapore is 275 square miles in area. It was pushed out of the Malaysian federation in 1965. It is not a concentration camp. It is an oasis of prosparity. It has not sent suicide bombers to Malaysia. It has not fired rockets into their territory. If the Palestine Authority wants to duplicate Singapore's economic prosperity, they might want to look at their foreign policy.

Israel has not done as Czechoslovakia and Poland did at the end of World War Two. Fed up with ethnic German's collaboration with Nazi invaders, they led a number of European nations in expelling hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans.

Israel has not done as Turkey and Greece did in 1923 with the Treaty of Lausanne, according to which they had a population exchange which was notorious for its brutality. There were Arabs who fled their homes when war broke out in 1948. And there were almost a million Jews who left all they owned in Arab countries and fled to Israel. Israel urged many fleeing Arabs to stay. Many did. Their descendants are Israeli citizens. Does this not satisfy Mr. Ehrenreich?

Ehrenreich advocates a binational state. He pines for leaders who do not yet exist. He condemns Israel for electing Binyamin Netanyahu with far more vehemence than his criticism of Hamas, which was freely and fairly elected. Does he want Jews to go home? Just where is home? How much education will it take to create the sort of Jew and the sort of Muslim Ehrenreich longs for?

Ehrenreich reminds me of the old saying by Wolf Bierman that a government that loses its faith in the people must disolve them and elect another.

Ehrenreich talks about "saving Judaism" His "Judaism' is stripped of most of its commandments. When you do away with Jewish Law, and with the Jewish land, what are you left with? Israeli Jews encompass an ethno linguistic rainbow. It is a transracial unity made possible by Torah. Jewishness stripped of faith and practice degenerates into a social clique. Traditional Judaism has a law to which converts may swear allegiance much as do those who become Americans. Despite their ancestry, the entire history of the Jews back to Abraham becomes theirs as well, to pass on to their children. How is this racism?

Traditional Jewish life is tied to a code of conduct. It is also tied to dietary law and the land of Israel. Barring Jews from Israel prevents the fulfillment of volumes of commandments. There is no polite way around this.

When you strip away the Hebrew language, the laws of the Torah and the land of Israel from the Jewish people, their disappearance is inevitable. Ehrenreich's proposals point inexorably in that direction. He is asking us to be a light unto the nations by telling the last man to leave to turn out the lights, to melt into the landscape and to disappear.

I have seen the entire spectrum of skin colour in Jewish houses of worship. We are a nation of laws that welcomes converts. This synthesis of standing apart yet welcoming the stranger is the antithesis of racism. Judaism without Torah is likely to emit one last puff of tribalism and exclusivity before it peters out. Its motto seems to be "I don't know what I am, but you're not it."
I am sure that Mr. Ehrenreich does not mean to be cliquish and exclusive. But what else can his amorphous attempt at Judaism be before it disappears? Does he want us to cease our existence as a people? Perhaps if he honestly asks himself these questions, he can then answer us.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Thank you for being a voice against an unfortunate double standard, the perpetrators of which condemn another nation for a racism which seems quite evident in their own judgements.
Please keep writing. Your insights shed a truthful light on the world.