Jewish Critics of Zionism and of Israel’s Treatment of the Palestinians
By Edward C. Corrigan / April 16th, 2010
It may surprise some but most of the strongest critics of Zionism and Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians are Jewish. However, as Michael Selzer writes, “Zionism is a complex phenomenon, adequately understood by only a small percentage of its critics and by even a smaller percentage of its supporters.” As Professor Yakov M. Rabkin writes, “According to a sarcastic remark of an Israeli colleague, ‘Our claim to this land could be put in a nutshell: God does not exist, and he gave us this land.’ Indeed, secular nationalism and religious rhetoric lie at the root of the Zionist enterprise.”
The political ideology of Zionism was the subject of intense debate, especially within the Jewish religious community. However, Zionism meant different things to different people. Zionism could be interpreted in a religious, political, national or racial light depending upon the circumstances. For some, Zionism was a solution for the age-old problem of anti-Semitism. For others merely an excuse for getting rid of the Jews. As Hannah Arendt noted, “The Zionist Organization had developed a genius for not answering, or answering ambiguously, all questions of political consequence. Everyone was free to interpret Zionism as he pleased …”1
The only Jewish member of Lloyd George’s cabinet when Great Britain first threw its weight behind Zionism in 1917, Sir Edwin Montagu, was adamantly opposed to the creation of a Jewish state. He attacked the Balfour Declaration and Zionism because he believed they were anti-Semitic. Montagu argued that Zionism and anti-Semitism were based on the same premise, namely that Jews and non-Jews could not co-exist.2
Montagu’s opposition to Zionism and the Balfour Declaration was supported by the leading representative bodies of Anglo-Jewry at the time, the Board of Deputies and the Anglo-Jewish Association, and in particular, by three prominent British Jews Claude Montefiore,3 David Alexander and Lucien Wolf.4
Without the history of Christian anti-Semitism that has existed in Europe and the centuries of persecution of the European Jewish community political Zionism would have no legitimacy.5 As Hannah Arendt noted that on the question of anti-Semitism the Zionists “have indeed exploited it.”6
Here is what the ultra-Othodox Neturi Karta anti-Zionist Jewish sect say’s about the political Zionists and how they exploit anti-Semitism:
It is openly stated in books written by the founders of Zionism that the means by which they planned to establish a state was by instigating anti-Semitism, and undermining the security of the Jews in all the lands of the world, until they would be forced to flee to their state. And thus they did – They intentionally infuriated the German people and fanned the flames of Nazi hatred, and they helped the Nazis, with trickery and deceit, to take whole Jewish communities off to the concentration camps, and the Zionists themselves admit this. (See the books Perfidy, Min Hameitzor, etc.). The Zionists continue to practice this strategy today. They incite anti-Semitism and then they present themselves as the “saviors”. Here are two replies given by Leaders of the Zionists during World War II, when they were asked for money to help ransom Jews from the Nazis. Greenbaum said “One cow in Palestine is worth more than all the Jews in Poland.” (G-d forbid).
Weitzman said, “The most important part of the Jewish people is already in the land (of Israel) and those who are left, are unimportant” (May we be spared).7
Lenni Brenner in his book Zionism in the Age of the Dictators provides documentation of the anti-Semitic tendencies of the Zionists. For example who told a Berlin audience in March 1912 that “each country can absorb only a limited number of Jews, if she doesn’t want disorders in her stomach. Germany already has too many Jews?” It was not Adolf Hitler but Chaim Weizmann. He later became president of the World Zionist Organization and was the first president of the state of Israel.8
Here is another example Brenner unearthed, originally composed in 1917 but republished as late as 1936: “The Jew is a caricature of a normal, natural human being, both physically and spiritually. As an individual in society he revolts and throws off the harness of social obligation, knows no order nor discipline?” It was not published in Der Sturmer, the Nazi Party paper, but in the organ of the Zionist youth organization, Hashomer Hatzair.9
According to Brenner the above quoted statements reveal that Zionism itself encouraged and exploited anti-Semitism in the Diaspora. Zionists started from the assumption that anti-Semitism was inevitable and even in a sense justified so long as Jews were outside the land of Israel.10
Stephen Lendman also cites anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish motivation targeted against diaspora Jews as a means to create or help build a Jewish state. He quotes True Torah Jews Against Zionism as saying believing Zionism protects Jews is “probably the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the Jewish People” and accuses Zionists of fostering global anti-Semitism. “Indeed, hatred of Jews and Jewish suffering is the oxygen of the Zionist movement, and from the very beginning has been (used) to deliberately incite hatred to justify the existence of the Zionist state — this is, of course, Machiavellianism raised to the highest order.”11 Lendman quotes leading Zionists in support of this thesis. The founder of Zionism Theodor Herzl is reported to have said:
It is essential that the suffering of Jews … becomes worse … this will assist in (the) realization of our plans . . . I have an excellent idea … I shall induce anti-semites to liquidate Jewish wealth … The anti-semites will assist us thereby in that they will strengthen the persecution and oppression of Jews. The anti-semites shall be our best friends.11
According to Lendman other leading Zionists also shared this view:
In 1920, other Zionists voiced similar ideas, including Nahum Goldmann, later president of the World Zionist Organization and World Jewish Congress head. Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizman, said Germany had too many Jews. In 1921, Jacob Klatzkin called for German Jews to undermine Jewish communities as a way to acquire a future state.
In 1963, Moshe Sharett (Israel’s second prime minister from 1953-1955) told the 38th Scandinavian Youth Federation Annual Congress that Jewish freedom imperiled Zionism. Delegates at the 26th World Zionist Congress were told that easing US anti-Semitism and freedom endangered Jews.11
According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Golda Meir, who was Israel=s Foreign Minister in 1958 and later Israel=s Prime Minister, told Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Katriel Katz, “don’t send sick or disabled Jews to Israel.” This letter, written in April 1958 and marked “Secret Top,” was discovered by a Polish historian Szymon Rudnicki. Professor Rudnicki said that “the content of the letter surprised him as a scholar and a Jew.” He elaborated, “This is a very cynical document … It is known that Golda was a brutal politician who defended interests more than people.” This letter seems to indicate that Golda Meir who became Prime Minister of Israel was more interested in building “the Jewish State” than saving or showing compassion to Jews.”12
The truth is that many Jews were anti-Zionist and opposed the settlement of Jews in Palestine.13 In fact historically Zionism was not supported by the majority of Jews. As Nahum Goldmann, former President of the World Jewish Congress wrote, “When Zionism first appeared on the world scene most Jews opposed it and scoffed at it. Herzl was only supported by a small minority.”14
There is a very respected and honored Jewish tradition of opposition to injustice and human rights violations. There is no monolithic position for Jews when it comes to Israel and the Palestinian issue. Many prominent Jewish intellectuals and activists have criticized Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.15
Franz Kafka, for example, was very critical of Zionism. According to Philip Weiss, “Kafka was against political Zionism because he understood it would transform the Jewish presence in society. It would make Jews the administrators of a nation rather than inhabitants of one. I think he anticipated that Jewish nationalism would call on the worst aspects of Jewish society.”16
There is an article published in Haaretz that suggests that Kafka was a Zionist. However, the article also quotes Louis Begley’s new book, The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head: Franz Kafka: A Biographical Essay. Begley writes, “that despite the writer’s preoccupation with his Jewish identity, he was neither a Zionist nor an active member of the Jewish community.” Mr. Begley quotes Kafka as saying, “I admire Zionism and am nauseated by it.”17
A subsequent article published in Haaretz, also addressed Kafka’s views on Zionism. Here is an excerpt from the essay written by Dan Miron a Jewish and Israeli scholar. Miron holds the Leonard Kaye chair for Hebrew and comparative literature at Columbia University, and is a professor emeritus at the Hebrew University in Israel. On Kafka he wrote:
And yet we can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that Kafka’s gut reaction to the modern national-cultural Jewish enterprise, whether or not he was a Zionist, was one of distaste. Proof can be found across the spectrum, from his almost roaring silence to a variety of criticisms, some harsher in tone than others, such as his remark that Bialik’s poetry “exploited” the Kishinev pogrom to promote a certain agenda.
To put it bluntly, Kafka couldn’t stand modern national Jewish culture and the literature that cultivated and promoted it, especially the Hebrew-Zionist brand. Not only did he say outright on several occasions that he had no interest in this kind of literature (as opposed to Talmudic legends and mainly Hasidic tales, which he probably read in Buber’s famous adaptations), but he was totally opposed to it …18
Clearly Kafka was not a political Zionist despite efforts of some to make him a supporter of Zionism.
Sigmund Freud also would not have been surprised at the continuing conflict in the Middle East. He predicted as much 70 years ago. Here are Freud’s views on political Zionism given in a letter he wrote to Dr. Chaim Koffler in 1930. Freud was asked, as a prominent Jewish intellectual, to support a petition condemning the Arab riots of 1929, where more than a hundred Jewish settlers were killed. Here is his reply in its entirety:
Letter to the Keren Hajessod (Dr. Chaim Koffler)
Vienna: 26 February 1930
I cannot do as you wish. I am unable to overcome my aversion to burdening the public with my name, and even the present critical time does not seem to me to warrant it. Whoever wants to influence the masses must give them something rousing and inflammatory and my sober judgement of Zionism does not permit this. I certainly sympathise with its goals, am proud of our University in Jerusalem and am delighted with our settlement’s prosperity. But, on the other hand, I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state, nor that the Christian and Islamic worlds would ever be prepared to have their holy places under Jewish care. It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land. But I know that such a rational viewpoint would never have gained the enthusiasm of the masses and the financial support of the wealthy. I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.
Now judge for yourself whether I, with such a critical point of view, am the right person to come forward as the solace of a people deluded by unjustified hope.
Your obedient servant,
Erich Fromm, the eminent scholar and author, also argued that the Arabs in Israel had a much more legitimate claim to ownership of the land than the Jews. Fromm wrote:
The claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse.20
Albert Einstein made a presentation to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, which was examining the Palestine issue in January 1946 and argued against the creation of a “Jewish State.”21
Here is a quote from Einstein’s testimony before Judge Hutcheson, the American Chairman of the Committee:
Judge Hutcheson: It has been told to our committee by the Zionists that the passionate heart of every Jew will never be satisfied until they have a Jewish state in Palestine. It is contended, I suppose, that they must have a majority over the Arabs. It has been told to us by the Arab representatives that the Arabs are not going to permit such condition as that, they they [sic] will not permit having themselves converted from a majority to a minority.
Dr. Einstein: Yes.
Judge Hutcheson: I have asked these various persons if it is essential to the right or the privilege of the Jews to go to Palestine, if it is essential to real Zionism that a setup be fixed so that the Jews have a Jewish state and a Jewish majority without regard to the Arab view. Do you share that point of view, or do you think the matter can be handled on any other basis?
Dr. Einstein: Yes, absolutely. The state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with many difficulties and a narrow-mindedness. I believe it is bad.
Judge Hutcheson: Isn’t it spiritual and ethical B I do not mean this particular Zionist movement, I do not mean the idea of insisting that a Jewish state must be created B isn’t it anachronistic?
Dr. Einstein: In my opinion, yes. I am against it …21
Albert Einstein wrote in a letter to American Friends of the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel shortly after the 1948 Deir Yassin massacre and referred to the Irgun, led by Menachem Begin later a Prime Minister of Israel, and the Stern Gang, whereYitzhak Shamir also a future Prime Minister of Israel was a member, as Aterrorist organizations@ and refused to support these “misled and criminal people.”22
Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook, Hannah Arendt and twenty-five other prominent Jews, in a letter to The New York Times (December 4, 1948), condemned Menachem Begin’s and Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud party as “fascist” and espousing “an admixture of ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority.”23
In 1950 Einstein published the following statement on the question of Zionism. This speech was originally given to the National Labor Committee for Palestine, in New York, on April 17, 1938 but republished by Einstein after Israel=s creation.
I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. Apart from the practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain — especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight without a Jewish state.24
Einstein also turned down the presidency of the state of Israel.25 In Albert Einstein: A Biography (Viking, 1997), Albrecht Folsing shares the following revelation about the offer to Einstein to become Israel’s second president: “While Ben-Gurion was awaiting Einstein’s decision, he asked his assistant, the future president Yitzak Navon, over a cup of coffee: ‘Tell me what to do if he says yes! I have had to offer the post to him because it’s impossible not to. But if he accepts we’re in for trouble.’”26
Einstein wrote to his stepdaughter Margot after declining the presidency of Israel. He said, “If I were to be president, sometime I would have to say to the Israeli people things they would not like to hear.”27
Einstein participated in the Sixteenth Zionist Congress in 1929. The World Zionist Organization (WZ0) mentioned and described Einstein in a document published in 1997. It is rather revealing and WZO ought to know who was and who was not a Zionist.
The Sixteenth Zionist Congress (1929) decided on the establishment of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which would be a joint body of the World Zionist Organization and those known as “non-Zionists” in the belief that all Jews wished to participate in building the National Home. Upon conclusion of the Congress, Board of the Jewish Agency convened. Of its 224 members, 112 were Zionists (members of the World Zionist Organization) including Prof. Chaim Weizmann who was elected as President of the Jewish Agency, Nahum Sokolow, Menahem Ussishkin, Shemaryahu Levin, David Ben-Gurion, Rabbi Uziel; the 112 “non-Zionist” members included Louis Marshall, Shalom Asch, Albert Einstein, Leon Blum, and members of the Rothschild family.28
There is some controversy over Einstein’s political views. Many Zionists claim Einstein as one of their own. Einstein, however, was a pacifist, a universalist and abhorred nationalism.29 To quote one commentator: “Einstein=s opposition to Israel was widely known and reported on during his life. In fact, the myth of Einstein’s support of Israel was born the day after Einstein’s death in his obituary in the New York Times, which shamelessly wrote that he “championed” the establishment of the Jewish state. This contradicted decades of reporting from the “Paper of Record.” Jerome provides some examples, including a 1930 article headlined “Einstein attacks British Zion Policy,” a 1938 article stating Einstein was “Against Palestine State” and a 1946 article stating Einstein “Bars Jewish State.”30
Einstein was not alone in his concerns over political Zionism and the creation of a “Jewish State.”
In 1943 American Council for Judaism (ACJ) was formed by a group of 92 Reform rabbis, and many other prominent American Jews with the express intent of opposing Zionism. The Council’s membership included some of the most prominent members of the American Jewish community. Lessing J. Rosenwald, the former chairman of the Sears, Roebuck & Company became president. Other active members included Rabbi Morris S. Lazaron of Baltimore; Arthur Hays Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times and Sidney Wallach of the American Jewish Committee. Rabbi Elmer Berger became its executive director.31
The American Council for Judaism was created in part as a response to a 1942 United States Zionist Conference which called for the formation of a Jewish army in Palestine. The ACJ sent letters to governments and officials expressing their objection to such a notion as a “Jewish State.” They argued, “Jewish nationalism tends to confuse our fellowman about our place and function in society and diverts our own attention from our historic role to live as a religious community wherever we may dwell.”32
A pamphlet published by the ACJ in 1944 titled “Palestine” stated as follows: “…the concept of a theocratic state is long past. It is an anachronism. The concept of a racial state “the Hitlerian concept” is repugnant to the civilized world, as witness the fearful global war in which we are involved.”33
Membership in the ACJ grew to more than 15,000. Its members were very vocal and greatly angered the Zionist leadership who wanted the American Jewish community to present a united position on the Palestine question. Thomas A. Kolsky has authored a book, Jews Against Zionism: The American Council for Judaism 1942-1948, which is a history of the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism in the period just before the creation of the “Jewish State.”34
The New York Times wrote also an anti-Zionist editorial in January, 1942 supporting the views held by the American Council for Judaism. Tom Segev, a veteran Israeli journalist writes the following about the venerable “Paper of Record” editorial:
On January 22, 1942, the New York Times ran an editorial that rejected the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. The immediate context was the idea of forming a Jewish brigade within the British Army. The Times based its objection, among other things, on the assumption that Jews did not need a state of their own, because once the Allies achieved a victory, they would be citizens with equal rights in their countries of residence, in accordance with the Atlantic Charter signed by the United States and Britain in August 1941. Hopes for a Jewish homeland would be fulfilled, the Times wrote, by “the winning of a new world in which Jews along with other religious and national minorities may live peacefully and happily in every nation, enjoying the full rights of other citizens.”35
Here is a lament on the formation of Israel and the impact of its creation written in 1954 by Henry Hurwitz editor of The Menorah Journal:
Surely the liberals of Israel will now lift up their voices? Small as you numbers may be today, it is upon you mostly that the honor and worthiness of the State must rest. The question is no longer whether the State is to exist. The question is what kind of State it will turn out to be.
What a paradox is here! In all the countries of the West Jews have been and continue to be in the forefront of liberalism. There have been myriads like Heine, soldiers and leaders in all of the struggles for intellectual and spiritual liberation. This contribution of ours to Western civilization is one of the glories of the ‘Diaspora.’ Yet when Jews have gotten a chance to run a State of their own, look at it! All cant aside, can anyone really affirm it to be ‘the Switzerland of the Middle East’? We rub our eyes, some of us who were life long Zionists, and we hang our heads in shame. No, we must speak with frankness: this present Israel is not what we dreamed and hoped for and worked for, we who followed Herzl or Ahad Ha’Am, Brandeis or Weizmann.36
Isaac Asimov was one of the greatest writers of the Twentieth Century and wrote on many topics. He expressed his views about Zionism in a number of pieces. One example is found in the second volume of his autobiography In Joy Still Felt. Asimov tells of having dinner in 1959 with some friends and his wife:
As usual, I found myself in the odd position of not being a Zionist and of not particularly valuing my Jewish heritage … I just think it is more important to be human and to have a human heritage; and I think it is wrong for anyone to feel that there is anything special about any one heritage of whatever kind. It is delightful to have the human heritage exist in a thousand varieties, for it makes for greater interest, but as soon as one variety is thought to be more important than another, the groundwork is laid for destroying them all.37
Asimov also commented on Zionism in a chapter titled “Anti-Semitism” in I. Asimov, his third autobiographical volume. There, Asimov discussed how he was distressed by the capability of the historically oppressed (such as the Jews) to in turn become oppressors if given the chance. Asimov wrote: “Right now, there is an influx of Soviet Jews into Israel. They are fleeing because they expect religious persecution. Yet at the instant their feet touched Israeli soil, they became extreme Israeli nationalists with no pity for the Palestinians. From persecuted to persecutors in the blinking of an eye.”38
I. F. Stone, the award-winning American Jewish journalist, who died in 1989, wrote: “… Israel is creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry. In the outside world the welfare of Jewry depends on the maintenance of secular, non-racial, pluralistic societies. In Israel, Jewry finds itself defending a society in which mixed marriages cannot be legalized, in which the ideal is racial and exclusionist. Jews might fight elsewhere for their very security and existence — against principles and practices they find themselves defending in Israel.”39
The late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone was an active supporter of Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun organization and a supporter of progressive causes. He also opposed the American invasion of Iraq.40 Senator Wellstone was a liberal Zionist and a supporter of Israel. However, he also was a strong supporter of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Here are the words of one Arab commentator describing Senator Wellstone after his tragic death in an air plane crash: “Paul Wellstone was an American and a Jew who had the courage and the dignity to befriend the Arab American community when it was less popular to do so. He also was a genuine friend of justice and peace in Israel and Palestine and spoke and voted often and courageously on the side of justice.”41 Here are some selected excerpts from a speech Wellstone gave in 2002.
….Engagement remains the only intelligent option for our country now. We must pursue a courageous approach which seeks both to meet the critical need of the Israeli people to be free from terrorism and violence, and acknowledges the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for their own state, a state which is economically and politically viable. Even in this horrific time, we must not lose sight of what should be our ultimate goal: Israel and a new Palestinian state living side-by-side, in peace, with secure borders …
Israel must show a respect for and concern about the human rights and dignity of the Palestinian people who are now and will continue to be their neighbors. It is critically important to distinguish between the terrorists and ordinary, innocent Palestinians who are trying to provide for their families and live an otherwise normal existence. Palestinians must no longer be subjected to the daily, often humiliating reminders that they lack basic freedom and control over their lives …
Both sides will need to make painful choices if there is to be a just and stable peace. There must be a recognition of the tragic Palestinian refugee experience, and also an understanding that not all Palestinian refugees will be able to return to Israel. Many observers believe that the parties will eventually need to agree on a formula which would allow some refugees to return to Israel, and then provide for resettlement, and financial compensation for the remainder.42
There is a long distinguished line of Jewish critics of Zionism and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. This list includes prominent French politician Silvain Levi,43 renown political philosopher Hannah Arendt,44 leading German poet Erich Fried,45 eminent academic and expert on nationalism Hans Kohn,46 former Chancellor of Austria Bruno Kreisky,47 Rabbi Elmer Berger the founding Executive Director of the American Council for Judaism,48 Jack Bernstein author;49 Moshe Menuhin,50 and his son world renown violinist and conductor, Yehudi Menuhin;51 prolific writer Alfred Lilienthal,52 and French political science professor and author Maxine Rodinson.53
In 1982 after Israel launched its invasion of Lebanon Mark Bruzonsky authored what came to be known as “The Paris Declaration” which was published on page 1 of Le Monde on July 2, 1982. This historic statement was signed by Nahum Goldmann, former head of the World Zionist Organization, Philip Klutznick, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and President of both the World Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith International, and Pierre Mendes-France, former Prime Minister of France “three of the world’s most senior and respected Jewish leaders at the time.”
The Paris Declaration called for a halt to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and for direct negotiations between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel. The PLO is now recognized around the World as the “official representative of the Palestinian people.” However, this call for recognition of the PLO was considered a major development at the time. The text of this Declaration read as follows:
The Paris Declaration
Le Monde diplomatique, July 2, 1982.
Peace need not be made between friends, but between enemies who have struggled and suffered. Our sense of Jewish history and the moral imperatives of this moment require us to insist that the time is urgent for mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestinian people. There must be a stop to the sterile debate, whereby the Arab world challenges the existence of Israel and Jews challenge the political legitimacy of the Palestinian fight for independence.
The real issue is not whether the Palestinians are entitled to their rights, but how to bring this about while ensuring Israel’s security and regional stability. Ambiguous concepts such as “autonomy” are no longer sufficient, for they too often are used to confuse rather than to clarify. Needed now is the determination to reach a political accommodation between Israeli and Palestinian nationalism.
The war in Lebanon must stop. Israel must lift it’s siege of Beirut in order to facilitate negotiations with the PLO, leading to a political settlement. Mutual recognition must be vigorously pursued. And there should be negotiations with the aim of achieving coexistence between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples based on self-determination.54
Immanuel Wallerstein, is Senior Research Scholar at Yale University, and is the author of The Decline of American Power: The U.S. in a Chaotic World (New Press). He is a highly respected American Jewish academic and made the following comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
What the Israeli governments do not realize is that neither Hamas nor Hizbullah need Israel. It is Israel that needs them, and needs them desperately. If Israel wants not to become a Crusader state that is in the end extinguished, it is only Hamas and Hizbullah that can guarantee the survival of Israel. It is only when Israel is able to come to terms with them, as the deeply-rooted spokespersons of Palestinian and Arab nationalism, that Israel can live in peace.
Achieving a stable peace settlement will be extremely difficult. But the pillars of Israel’s present strategy — its own military strength and the unconditional support of the United States — constitute a very thin reed. Its military advantage is diminishing and will diminish steadily in the years to come. And in the post-Iraqi years, the United States may well drop Israel in the same way that France did in the 1960s.
Israel’s only real guarantee will be that of the Palestinians. And to get this guarantee, Israel will need to rethink fundamentally its strategy for survival.55
Wallerstein also made the following comment on Israel shortly after the 2008 Israeli attack on Gaza.
Now, Israel has invaded Gaza, seeking to destroy Hamas. If it succeeds, what organization will come next? If, as is more probable, it fails to destroy Hamas, is a two-state solution now possible? Both Palestinian and world public opinion is moving towards the one-state solution. And this is of course the end of the Zionist project.
The three-element strategy of Israel is decomposing. The iron fist no longer succeeds, much as it didn’t for George Bush in Iraq. Will the United States link remain firm? I doubt it. And will world public opinion continue to look sympathetically on Israel? It seems not. Can Israel now switch to an alternative strategy, of negotiating with the militant representatives of the Arab Palestinians, as an integral constituent of the Middle East, and not as an outpost of Europe? It seems quite late for that, quite possibly too late. Hence, the chronicle of a suicide foretold.56
Here is another rare moment of candor published in the Washington Post in an article written by columnist Richard Cohen.
The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.57
Here is another set of critical views from Time magazine correspondent Joe Klein. Due to his criticism of Neocons support of the attack on Iraq and for their unwavering support for the Israeli right he was called an anti-Semite. Here is his commentary on his Time Magazine blog:
Then, what can one say about Jennifer Rubin, who accuses me of antisemitism? I must say that’s rather thrilling coming from the Commentary crowd. You want evidence of divided loyalties? How about the “benign domino theory” that so many Jewish neoconservatives talked to me about–off the record, of course–in the runup to the Iraq war, the idea that Israel’s security could be won by taking out Saddam, which would set off a cascade of disaster for Israel’s enemies in the region? As my grandmother would say, feh! Do you actually deny that the casus belli that dare not speak its name wasn’t, as I wrote in February 2003, a desire to make the world safe for Israel? Why the rush now to bomb Iran, a country that poses some threat to Israel but none–for the moment–to the United States . . . unless we go ahead, attack it, and the mullahs unleash Hezbollah terrorists against us? Do you really believe the mullahs would stage a nuclear attack on Israel, destroying the third most holy site in Islam and killing untold numbers of Muslims? I am not ruling out the use of force against Iran–it may come to that–but you folks seem to embrace it gleefully.
Furthermore, as a Jew, I find it offensive that the American Jewish Committee would support such an ideologically unbalanced publication as Commentary, one that spouts a Likudnik bellicosity that is out of sync with the beliefs of the vast majority of American Jews. A question to all concerned: When was the last time you opposed a policy, any policy, of the Israeli government–other than one that attempted to move toward peace?
And finally, if the Iraqi government is so wonderful, why was I advised not to carry a passport without Israeli stamps in it when I applied for my Iraqi visa?
Update and Correction: The American Jewish Committee is no longer associated with Commentary, thank God.58
Here is Klein’s second entry on the same subject:
I have now been called antisemitic and intellectually unstable and a whole bunch of other silly things by the folks over at the Commentary blog. They want Time Magazine to fire or silence me. This is happening because I said something that is palpably true, but unspoken in polite society: There is a small group of Jewish neoconservatives who unsuccessfully tried to get Benjamin Netanyahu to attack Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, and then successfully helped provide the intellectual rationale for George Bush to do it in 2003. Their motivations involve a confused conflation of what they think are Israel’s best interests with those of the United States. They are now leading the charge for war with Iran.
Happily, these people represent a very small sliver of the Jewish population in this country. Unhappily, their views have had an impact in the highest reaches of the Bush Administration–and seem to have an influence on John McCain’s campaign as well. Happily, the Bush Administration seems more interested in talking to the Iranians than in launching on them–and, according to my Israeli friends, the Israelis are not going to do anything foolish, either. I remain proud of my Jewish heritage, a strong supporter of Israel and a realist about the slim chance of finding some common ground with the Iranians. But I am not willing to grant these ideologues the anonymity they seek.
In early 2003, during my first weeks as a Time Magazine columnist, I wrote a handful of skeptical columns about the coming war in Iraq, including this one about Israel’s security as a hidden casus belli. Then, with the troops in place and the war about to begin, I said something stupid on Tim Russert’s cable TV show–reluctantly saying ok, we should proceed with the attack. It was the only statement I made in favor of the war and I quickly came to my senses–but that’s no excuse. We have lost more than 4000 Americans, tens of thousands have come home grievously injured, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and wounded, and we are weaker, palpably and morally, as a result.
I am not going to make the same mistake twice. I don’t think a war with Iran is coming, thank God, but this time I am not going to pull any punches. My voice isn’t very important in the grand scheme of things, but I’m going to do my job–and that means letting you know exactly where I stand and what I believe. I believe there are a small group of Jewish neoconservatives who are pushing for war with Iran because they believe it is in America’s long-term interests and because they believe Israel’s existence is at stake. They are wrong and recent history tells us they are dangerous. They are also bullies and I’m not going to be intimidated by them.59
New York Times columnist Roger Cohen also wrote an interesting expose on the situation of Iranian Jews that was largely opposite to the image of “oppression and persecution” that the Zionist lobby was presenting on the Jews of Iran. One of the more salient comments made by Cohen was “the basing of Middle Eastern policy on the construction of imaginary worlds C has led nowhere.”60 He also wrote:
Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran C its sophistication and culture C than all the inflammatory rhetoric.
That may be because I’m a Jew and have seldom been treated with such consistent warmth as in Iran. Or perhaps I was impressed that the fury over Gaza, trumpeted on posters and Iranian TV, never spilled over into insults or violence toward Jews. Or perhaps it’s because I’m convinced the “Mad Mullah” caricature of Iran and likening of any compromise with it to Munich 1938 C a position popular in some American Jewish circles C is misleading and dangerous.60
Richard Falk, who is Jewish, is the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and the author of more than 50 books on war, human rights and international law.61 In a statement issued by the UN, “Gaza: Silence Is Not An Option,” he called Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories “a crime against humanity.” Falk also has compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi treatment of the Jews. On December 15, 2008 Professor Falk was denied entry into Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories by the Israeli government.62 Professor Falk has said, “I think the Palestinians stand out as the most victimized people in the world.”
I think that my life’s work in a sense has been associated with helping or identifying with those who are victims of injustice. If we look at the world today, there are many victims of injustice. But I think the Palestinians stand out as the most victimized people in the world. And symbolically, their struggle is one that engages people of conscience everywhere in the world in a manner that resembles the way the anti-apartheid movement worked effectively to undermine South Africa’s claims of sovereignty and legitimacy. And I hope that this small role that I play contributes to that kind of process on behalf of the Palestinians.63
Richard Falk also had an article, “Israel’s war crimes,” published in Le Monde diplomatique’s English edition in March 2009. Here is an excerpt:
In the end, the haunting question is whether the war crimes concerns raised by Israel’s behaviour in Gaza matters, and if so, how. I believe it matters greatly in what might be called “the second war” B the legitimacy war that often ends up shaping the political outcome more than battlefield results. The US won every battle in the Vietnam war and lost the war; the same with France in Indochina and Algeria, and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Shah of Iran collapsed, as did the apartheid regime in South Africa, because of defeats in the legitimacy war.
It is my view that this surfacing of criminal charges against Israel during and after its attacks on Gaza resulted in major gains on the legitimacy front for the Palestinians. The widespread popular perceptions of Israeli criminality, especially the sense of waging war against a defenceless population with modern weaponry, has prompted people around the world to propose boycotts, divestments and sanctions. This mobilisation exerts pressure on governments and corporations to desist from relations with Israel, and is reminiscent of the worldwide anti-apartheid campaign that did so much to alter the political landscape in South Africa. Winning the legitimacy war is no guarantee that Palestinian self-determination will be achieved in the coming years. But it does change the political equation in ways that are not fully discernible at this time.64
There also is a most interesting perspective from another prominent Jewish academic, Gabriel Kolko, on the question of Zionism and the founding of the “Jewish State.” Kolko is considered one of the leading historians on modern warfare. He is the author of the classic Century of War: Politics, Conflicts and Society Since 1914, Another Century of War? and The Age of War: the US Confronts the World. He has also written a highly acclaimed history of the Vietnam War, Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the US and the Modern Historical Experience. His latest book is World in Crisis, from which this quotation has been excerpted.
The result of the creation of a state called Israel was abysmal. Jews from Poland have nothing in common with Germans and neither has anything to do with those from the Arab world. It is nationality, not religion, that counts most. Jews in Israel, especially the Germans, largely ghettoized themselves by their place of origin during the first generation, when a militarized culture produced the mixed new breed called sabras — an essentially anti-intellectual personality far different from the one the early Zionists, who were mostly socialists who preached the nobility of labor, expected to emerge. The large majority of Israelis are not in the least Jewish in the cultural sense, are scarcely socialist in any sense, and daily life and the way people live is no different in Israel than it is in Chicago or Amsterdam. There is simply no rational reason that justifies the state’s creation.
The outcome is a small state with a military ethos that pervades all aspects of Israel’s culture, its politics and, above all, its response to the existence of Arabs in its midst and at its borders. From its inception, the ideology of the early Zionists — of Labor Zionism as well as the rightist Revisionism that Vladimir Jabotinsky produced — embodied a commitment to violence, erroneously called self-defense, and a virtual hysteria. As a transcendent idea, Zionism has no validity because the national differences between Jews are overwhelming.65
Here are the comments of Bruce Jackson, another American Jewish academic, on the stereotype that all Jews think alike on the question of Israel. Professor Jackson writes, “They’re spreading poison about American Jews. Many of the people spreading this poison are Jews themselves, a relatively small group that wants to convince everybody (or at least everybody in power) that the great bulk of us think the way they do, which we don’t.”66 He continues:
There is an ever-growing number of organizations of American Jews trying to get the word out that the press and politicians should look beyond the noisy minority. (Just glance at the web sites of Jewish Voices for Peace, Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, Not in My Name, Jews Against the Occupation and Brit Tzedik v=Shalom.) Thus far, they seem to have made little impact. Their activities get almost no coverage in the press and few members of Congress consider them the same kind of threat as the militant right or the neocons.
Perhaps they have been too polite. Perhaps they will have to start making the same kind of noise that has frightened Chuck Schumer and so many powerful people in Washington. Perhaps they will have to remind those politicians that they also vote and write checks, and that of all the things you can accuse us Jews of there is at least one that is true: we remember.66
Here is what Murray Polner, another American Jewish commentator, has to say about the diversity of political views of American Jews on Middle East issues:
Back in the 1980s the major American Jewish welfare organization adopted as its fundraising slogan “We are One.” The implication was that American Jews were a united bloc. But we are not “one” and never have been. Ideologically, we are everything from anarchists to Zionists, working people to the gilded rich. Noam Chomsky is as Jewish as Irving Kristol, and Norman Finkelstein as Jewish as Alan Dershowitz. We are neither angels nor saints. And we are certainly not monolithic, despite perennial efforts to paint anyone critical of various aspects of Israeli policies as “self-hating” Jews …
American Jewish peace voices do not genuflect before the Israel Lobby. See, for example, Brit Tzedek v=Shalom B the Jewish Peace Alliance for Justice and Peace B which is said to have more than 15,000 members, the Jewish Voice for Peace, and Meretz USA an affiliate of Israel’s Meretz bloc; Americans for Peace Now, which reportedly has 25,000 members, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Jewish Peace Fellowship, and the Shalom Center. Prolific writers abound too: Rabbis Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center, Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine and Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Congress when it was still liberal and now President of the U.S./ Middle East Project, Michael Massing at the New York Review of Books, Tony Karon, Philip Weiss, Norman Birnbaum, and many more who will never be silent.67
Tony Judt, one of the leading Jewish thinkers and academics of our time and University Professor at New York University and director of the Remarque Institute, has addressed what some consider a contradiction in Zionism and its relationship with the Jewish People. In an article published in the respected Financial Times he writes:
What exactly is “Zionism”? Its core claim was always that Jews represent a common and single people; that their millennia-long dispersion and suffering has done nothing to diminish their distinctive, collective attributes; and that the only way they can live freely as Jews B in the same way that, say, Swedes live freely as Swedes B is to dwell in a Jewish state.
Thus religion ceased in Zionist eyes to be the primary measure of Jewish identity. In the course of the late-19th century, as more and more young Jews were legally or culturally emancipated from the world of the ghetto or the shtetl, Zionism began to look to an influential minority like the only alternative to persecution, assimilation or cultural dilution. Paradoxically then, as religious separatism and practice began to retreat, a secular version of it was actively promoted.
I can certainly confirm, from personal experience, that anti-religious sentiment B often of an intensity that I found discomforting B was widespread in left-leaning Israeli circles of the 1960s. Religion, I was informed, was for the haredim and the “crazies” of Jerusalem’s Mea Sharim quarter. “We” are modern and rational and “western”, it was explained to me by my Zionist teachers. But what they did not say was that the Israel they wished me to join was therefore grounded, and could only be grounded, in an ethnically rigid view of Jews and Jewishness…
…Israel’s survival does not rest on the credibility of the story it tells about its ethnic origins. If we accept this, we can begin to understand that the country’s insistence upon its exclusive claim upon Jewish identity is a significant handicap. In the first place, such an insistence reduces all non-Jewish Israeli citizens and residents to second-class status. This would be true even if the distinction were purely formal. But of course it is not: being a Muslim or a Christian B or even a Jew who does not meet the increasingly rigid specification for “Jewishness” in today’s Israel B carries a price.68
Professor Judt’s conclusion and recommendation:
My own inclination, then, would be to focus elsewhere. If the Jews of Europe and North America took their distance from Israel (as many have begun to do), the assertion that Israel was “their” state would take on an absurd air. Over time, even Washington might come to see the futility of attaching American foreign policy to the delusions of one small Middle Eastern state. This, I believe, is the best thing that could possibly happen to Israel itself. It would be obliged to acknowledge its limits. It would have to make other friends, preferably among its neighbours.
We could thus hope, in time, to establish a natural distinction between people who happen to be Jews but are citizens of other countries; and people who are Israeli citizens and happen to be Jews. This could prove very helpful. There are many precedents: the Greek, Armenian, Ukrainian and Irish diasporas have all played an unhealthy role in perpetuating ethnic exclusivism and nationalist prejudice in the countries of their forebears. The civil war in Northern Ireland came to an end in part because an American president instructed the Irish emigrant community in the US to stop sending arms and cash to the Provisional IRA. If American Jews stopped associating their fate with Israel and used their charitable cheques for better purposes, something similar might happen in the Middle East.69
One important Jewish organization is Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). It was founded in 1996. JVP is “a national grassroots peace organization dedicated to promoting an US foreign policy in the Middle East based on peace, democracy, human rights and respect for international law. With some 85,000 supporters and members, JVP’s board of Jewish American and Israeli advisors includes Pulitzer and Tony award winner Tony Kushner, actor Ed Asner, poet Adrienne Rich, historian Howard Zinn, singer Ronnie Gilbert as well as other respected rabbis, artists, scholars and activists.”
A United Nations fact-finding mission, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone and whose report was released on September 16, 2009, investigated the Israeli attack on Gaza that was launched on December 27, 2008. It found that Israel, “punished and terrorized” civilians in its three-week assault on Gaza … and cited strong evidence that Israeli forces committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions. The casualties included more than 1,400 Palestinians, about a third of them women and children, only thirteen Israelis died in the hostilities.70
The 575-page UN report came at the end of a six-month inquiry and was based on dozens of interviews and investigations. Judge Richard Goldstone, the former chief prosecutor of the international courts for Yugoslavia and Rwanda headed the Inquiry. Judge Goldstone found that Israel deliberately attacked civilians and failed to take precautions to minimize loss of civilian life.
We came to the conclusion, on the basis of the facts we found, that there is strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law, were committed by Israel during the military operations in Gaza. The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity were committed by the Israel Defense Force.71
In Judge Goldstone’s own words in an Op-Ed published in the New York Times:
Pursuing justice in this case is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law. Western governments in particular face a challenge because they have pushed for accountability in places like Darfur, but now must do the same with Israel, an ally and a democratic state.
Failing to pursue justice for serious violations during the fighting will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy. As a service to the hundreds of civilians who needlessly died and for the equal application of international justice, the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account.72
According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Judge Richard Goldstone, believes bringing war criminals to justice stems from the lessons of the Holocaust. He delivered a lecture in 2000 at Jerusalem’s Yakar: Center for Tradition and Creativity. The lecture was attended by former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak. The Israeli jurist introduced Goldstone as “a dear friend” with “very deep ties to Israel.” Goldstone, in turn, said Barak was his hero and inspiration.73
In the Jerusalem lecture, concerning international efforts to bring war criminals to justice, Goldstone said the Holocaust was “the worst war crime in the world.” The Judge said “the perception of war crimes against humanity should resonate differently to Jewish ears, in light of how the Holocaust shaped conventions relevant to the subject.” Goldstone added that as a jurist, he “viewed the Holocaust as a unique occurrence because of how it affected judicial protocol on war, as well as international and humanitarian judicial approaches.” He also said that, “The laws that had been in place before the Holocaust were not equipped to deal with crimes of the Holocaust’s scale and therefore sought to define a new crime, which they labeled a crime against humanity.”73
In many respects the criticism that Judge Goldstone’s report leveled at Israel was unexpected. When Goldstone was appointed in April, 2009 to lead a United Nations inquiry into Israel’s war in Gaza, some initial reports noted with approval his Jewish background and his strong ties to Israel. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency pointed out that he was a governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Others reported that the judge’s daughter speaks fluent Hebrew and had lived in Israel for a number of years.
With the publication, however, of Judge Goldstone’s report, which was highly critical of Israel and Hamas, the tone changed. The internet filled up with lurid denunciations of him as a “self-hating Jew” who “should go back to South Africa.”74 Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had refused to co-operate with the UN Inquiry, dismissed the report as a “kangaroo court.”75 These were harsh words for the judicial findings of one of the world’s most celebrated jurists.
In the early 1990s Judge Goldstone led the investigation into the misdeeds of the South African security forces that many expected to be a whitewash of the crimes committed under the Apartheid regime. However, the thoroughness and even handedness of his investigation helped smooth the transition from an apartheid state to democracy.
On Operation Cast Lead, the Israel code name for the attack on Gaza, Goldstone concluded that Israeli officers should face “individual criminal responsibility” for breaches of the laws of war. The Inquiry also found that there was a “systematic” Israeli policy of destroying food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and homes in order to “make the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population.” Goldstone wrote that Israel’s virtual blockade of the Gaza Strip, allowing in only the minimum necessary to sustain life, was “collective punishment intentionally inflicted.”76 More than a few Jewish intellectuals and writers supported Judge Goldstone Commission’s findings.77
Another prominent American Jew with Jewish establishment credentials, Henry Siegman, has warned that “Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.” Siegman is the director of the U.S./Middle East Project in New York, and in 2010 was visiting research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America. He writes:
Israel’s relentless drive to establish “facts on the ground” in the occupied West Bank, a drive that continues in violation of even the limited settlement freeze to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed himself, seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that “achievement,” one that successive Israeli governments have long sought in order to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution, Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.
The inevitability of such a transformation has been held out not by “Israel bashers” but by the country’s own leaders. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon referred to that danger, as did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who warned that Israel could not escape turning into an apartheid state if it did not relinquish “almost all the territories, if not all,” including the Arab parts of East Jerusalem.78
At the present time the Dean of American anti-Zionist Jews is Dr. Norton Mezvinsky. He currently is the executive director of the International Council for Middle East Studies, a new academic-political think tank, in Washington, D.C. He was Professor of History at Connecticut State University and has been appointed a Distinguished CSU University Professor by the Board of Trustees of Connecticut State University. He has recently retired after teaching History at CSU for 42 years.79 Norton Mezvinsky has written and published numerous books and articles about various aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, a book he wrote with Israel Shahak, has been published in four languages.
- Board of Directors
- Conference on the Arab Uprisings: Accomplishments, Failures & Prospects.
- Conference on The Arab Revolts: Causes, Dynamics, Effects
- Conference on Litigating Palestine: Can Courts Secure Palestinian Rights?
- Conference on the One State for Palestine / Israel
- Conference on The Right of Return
- Open Letter to President Mahmoud Abbas
- Fact Sheets
- Website Links
- Publications: Select Books and Articles
- The Sectarianism of the Islamic State: Ideological Roots & Political Context
- Op-Ed 'Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Israel'
- The Obama Doctrine by Jeffrey Goldberg
- Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria
- Speech on America's Persian and Arabian Wars
- What Comes Next: A Secular Democratic State in Historic Palestine
- The Ten Mythologies of Israel
- Palestinian Hunger Strikers: Fighting Ingrained Duplicity
- Netanyahu’s Machine: The Crisis of Zionism
- The conflict in SYRIA: An exercise in settling accounts
- Globalized Palestine The National Sell-Out of a Homeland
- The Palestine Nakba: Decolonising History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming Memory
- The Suffering of the Palestinian Refugee
- Imperial by Design
- My Life in the PLO. The Inside Story of the Palestinian Struggle
- Select Bibliography on the Palestinian / Israeli Conflict
- Announcements, Political Comments and Breaking News
- TARI News