Yesterday I published a long piece commenting on a post by Mike attacking the latest anti-Semitism smear against the vice-chair of Momentum, Jackie Walker. Mrs Walker was accused of being anti-Semitic again because she asked the organisers of a Holocaust Memorial training day why the commemoration of this most terrible crime couldn’t also include others, who have similarly suffered persecution and genocide. She also complained that the organisers did not give her a definition of anti-Semitism she could work with. Mike pointed out that we were not told what prompted her to make those comments, or what the definition of anti-Semitism to which she objected, was. Mike has now put up a post reporting the objections several other people, who attended the event, have to the allegations. These women and men, like Mrs Walker herself, are Jewish. They strongly object to this latest attack on Mrs Walker’s character by pointing out that the definition of anti-Semitism the event’s organisers used explicitly links anti-Semitism to anti-Zionism. This is a highly politicised definition of anti-Semitism, and is extremely controversial, not least because of Israel’s decade’s old policy of ethnically cleansing the indigenous Palestinians.
I’ll blog more about this latest post from Mike, and the issues it raises and refutes later. I am delighted that Mrs Walker, who is the daughter of a Black civil rights activist and a Russian Jew, and who has dedicated her life to attacking racism and anti-Semitism, has been given the support she deserves.
Unfortunately, the Jewish Labour Group, who organised the event, aren’t the only people, who confuse Judaism with Zionism. I pointed out in my piece that there are right-wing individuals and groups, who insist on an exclusively Jewish emphasis on the memorialisation of the Holocaust, and bitterly resent those Jews, who universalise their suffering into a commemoration of all, who have suffered genocide. In fairness, the Holocaust Memorial Day also does. However, what Mrs Walker objected to was that it did not commemorate the victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide that occurred before 1945. I also discussed in my piece the way Netanyahu a few weeks ago grotesquely invoked the Holocaust to justify his government’s refusal to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank. Mike also in his article noted that point of David Schneider’s definition of anti-Semitism, which states that Jews should not be automatically confused with the state of Israel and its crimes, would make many Zionists anti-Semites. This is also true. Netanyahu made a speech equating the Jewish people with the state of Israel, in order to render criticism of the state of Israel unacceptable as a form of anti-Semitism.
A few weeks ago, an American Conservative rabbi, Rabbi Jon Hausman, also declared that Judaism was identical to the state of Israel. He went further, and stated bluntly that those Jews, who did not share his views on the issue, were self-hating. They had not been brought up properly in the teachings of their faith, and so had replaced it with the op-ed pages of the New York Times.
Rabbi Hausman was speaking at an ACT for America event. ACT for America is an organisation dedicated to combating radical Islam, although in practice this seems to be just Islam. The Southern Poverty Law Centre has identified it in turn as a hate group. In this video below, Sam Seder, the presenter of the left-wing news show, the Minority Report, takes apart Rabbi Hausman’s views. He makes the point that Conservatives like Hausman, who have tried to impose their narrow definition of Judaism, have lost the debate for thousands of years. Judaism does not have a central religious official, like the Pope, who defines the faith. He goes further, and says that if you study the Jewish texts, you find that it is actually a sin to establish a state of Israel before the coming of the Messiah. That’s why, if you go to Jerusalem, you find graffiti scrawled on walls, which declare, ‘Zionism and Judaism are diametrically opposed’.
Mr Seder is also unimpressed with the rabbi’s attitude towards parenting. R. Hausman sneered at the members of his own family, and those of other Jews, who don’t make the equation of Judaism and Zionism. But he states that his daughter doesn’t make this theological mistake, but he told her that if she did, he wouldn’t pay for her college education. Mr Seder scathingly remarks about that attitude not being in the Torah.
Here’s the video. I should warn you, there is at one point an anti-Semitic slur, when one of the crew off-camera starts to parody the rabbi and those like him. Mr Seder himself laughs at the impression. I don’t condone the use of such derogatory terms. I think the reason it’s use is permissible on that part of the Majority Report is because Mr Seder and some of his production crew may be Jewish. They thus have ownership of the term, in the same way that Blacks can use the ‘N’ word, while others cannot.
From what I gather from my own, very limited reading and from talking to friends of mine, who have a background in helping to teach Religious Studies at college level, Sam Seder is entirely accurate. There is no single figure in Judaism, who has the power to make binding definitions of the faith. Individual rabbis have written responsa, which summarise the tenets of Judaism in their opinion. These may be respected, according to the status of the rabbi, but they are not authoritative statements like the Christian creeds.
I also understand that he is entirely correct about the traditional Jewish that the state of Israel could and should only be founded with the arrival of the Messiah. Many traditional Jews were shocked and horrified at the foundation of Israel, which they regarded as a secular blasphemy. For 20 or 30 years afterwards the establishment of the state Israel, its existence was the subject of fierce controversy within parts of the Jewish community. Even today, there are some Jews, who still find it unacceptable on religious grounds.
He is also right about the graffiti in Jerusalem. I’ve never been to the Holy Land, but I did read an article in the Observer way back in 1984/5, which had a story about the current situation in Israel as it was then. This had several photos, one of which showed that message scrawled on a wall, exactly as Mr Seder describes.
As for Sam Seder’s comments about the Torah not endorsing R. Hausman’s method of teaching his daughter, what he considers to be the correct attitude to Jewish doctrine and the state of Israel, while there are passages in the Bible, which do teach a very strict attitude towards bringing up children, several of the great rabbis I believe also had an appreciation of children’s need for play. There is a story that one of the rabbis bought pots, for his children to smash, so they could amuse themselves while he taught them the Law.
Judaism and Zionism are not automatically the same, and people are not anti-Semites, nor Jews self-hating, if they reject Zionism or criticise the ethnic policies of the Israeli government. This, however, is Mrs Walker’s real crime in the eyes of her accusers. As Mike and I have both written, I think they owe us an explanation and to be taken to task for their views, not Jackie Walker and the other decent men and women they’ve slandered.