More on How Judaism Does Not Equal Zionism

Earlier today I put up a two-part piece attacking the attempts by the Israel lobby in the Labour party to smear Mike as an anti-Semite by claiming that his posts against Israeli atrocities are anti-Semitic because they deny the right of the Jews to self-determination. I quoted Carl Ehrlich, a professor of the Hochschule fuer Judische Studien at Heidelberg in Germany, in the Oxford Companion to the Bible, who stated that there had always been debate over the nature of Judaism, including whether it was a religion or a nation. Samuel Montague, the Jewish member of Balfour’s cabinet who opposed Balfour’s declaration in support of a Jewish state, did so because he believed that Judaism was a religion, not a nation. He believed that British Jews were simply Brits of a different religion, and that the Declaration would increase anti-Semitism by automatically making Jews the citizens of a foreign country. And he wasn’t alone. Other Jewish communities throughout Europe held the same view.

I have found another quote, similar to Ehrlich’s, describing Jewish opposition to Zionism, in the article ‘Zionism’, in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, edited by John Bowker (Oxford: OUP 1997), p. 1068. This contains the lines

Early Zionism was not supported wholeheartedly by the Jewish community. Many of the Orthodox believed that the return to Zion would only be effected by divine intervention, and that it was wrong for human beings to anticipate divine providence. At the other extreme, members of the Progressive movements were anxious to play down the ethnic and nationalistic aspirations of Judaism and were convinced of their successful future in the countries of the diaspora.

I have repeatedly blogged about the Orthodox Jews, who still oppose Zionism because of their conviction that it should only be brought about by the Messiah. These include members of the ‘Old Jewry’ in Israel itself, who have been severely persecuted by the Israeli state for their beliefs and opposition. At the same time, there are very many Jews, who continue to reject Zionism because they wish to be equal citizens of the countries in which they were born and have lived for centuries with their non-Jewish compatriots, and despise Zionism for its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Tony Greenstein is just one of these Jews.

Given the deep debate within Judaism over its nature and relationship to Zionism, it is grotesque and simplistic for the Israel lobby to try to claim that opposition to, or criticism of the state of Israel, constitutes anti-Semitism. Especially when it leads to the smearing of sincerely anti-racist gentiles like Mike, and self-respecting, secular and Torah-observant Jews. As I have pointed out ad nauseam, very many of these have suffered real abuse and assault for their religious/ethnic identity.

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