Sunday, October 18, 2009

Is Jewry responsible for the Holocaust?

“Jews have experienced anti-Judaism during most of our Diaspora existence, and at great cost in life. One prominent Holocaust research center suggests that, had Jewry not been subject to two millennia of European persecution our numbers today would equal that of the entire British Isles!”

According to one respondent to my recent article, Understanding the Holocaust: Shoah in Historical Perspective, Jewry should, “seek the causes (for antisemitism) in our own acts.” Self-blame is not an uncommon response to tragedy. Rape victims are one group that comes immediately to mind. But what motivates such a comment as we Jews, by our own actions, invite antisemitism, are somehow responsible for the Holocaust?

Several years ago a prominent Israeli rabbi attributed the massacre of a bus load of children by terrorists as G-d’s punishment for the “sins of Israelis.” As if G-d targets children, uses terrorists to carry out His will. In the wake of Shoah, seeking to somehow explain the inexplicable, some orthodox Diaspora leaders suggested that Shoah was G-d’s punishment for the sins of our people in Europe. But as in the Israeli bus massacre, most Jews victim to the European slaughter, during and for centuries before Shoah, were mostly the pious and the poor, those least likely to be Halachic “transgressors.” And was the hand of G-d also present in the elimination of Eastern Europe’s famed Hasidic centers, for the murder of orthodox communities dedicated to a life of learning and Halachic tradition? I, for one, prefer not to seek G-d’s intention in such events.

Jews have experienced anti-Judaism during most of our Diaspora existence, and at great cost in life. As I observed in my earlier submission, one prominent Holocaust research center suggests that, had Jewry not been subject to two millennia of European persecution our numbers today would equal that of the entire British Isles!

Since we had never experienced anything on the scale of Shoah, we could not have anticipated, taken evasive or direct action to the emerging danger. Yes there were those few, Jabotinsky and Abba Kovner, for example, who by intuition born of their Zionist background were more sensitive and alert to the unfolding events. But Martin Buber was more typical of general Jewish understanding and response: antisemitism was a pendulum that was now at its extreme. Germany would, he believed, sooner or later pass through that terrible period and life to return to normal for the Jews. As a result Buber urged German Jewry to remain in place, to wait out the storm.

Sixty years later Shoah is part of our Diaspora experience. We cannot now pretend that such a thing as a government organized effort to murder each and every Jew alive, including non-Jews defined “Jewish” due to a single grandparent convert to Christianity (1930’s German legal definition) is impossible, unthinkable. It is an established fact. We ignore at peril to self and our future generations that the Holocaust is the latest, but not last development in a process begun two thousand years ago. As that prehistory and cultural experience served as precedent for state-organized murder (Nazi leaders on trial at Nuremburg referred to Luther’s writings as inspiration and justification), so does the nearly successful Final Solution of the Jewish problem serve the future. The road to Shoah may have been twisted in detail, but the process was continuous and straight.

So Shoah is neither unique in history, nor a mystery beyond human comprehension. It did and, if history serves, will again befall us, for the solution was not yet final. The Holocaust was not an invention of the twentieth century as so many of our historians would have us believe, an event comparable to other such 20th century genocides. It was only the most recent in a long and continuing process. The only real contribution of the twentieth century was technological: those computers IBM provided Hitler, the software IBM developed to identify and locate each and every Jew for arrest and murder; Henry Ford’s assembly line adapted to the problem of mass production and disposal of human corpses.

While each of us, every Jewish adult alive today, may choose not to study the evolution of antisemitism and Shoah, still we cannot avoid awareness of Shoah as a real and recent event. Our responsibility for another such occurrence is not in somehow acting to encourage its recurrence since that is a permanent characteristic of the fabric of western culture, but in choosing to ignore its precedent. Our guilt lies in Denial, a denial expressed in insisting that our particular chosen homeland is “exceptional,” that such a thing cannot happen here. Denial was the response of our German community, with far more justification. Had not Jews settled the Danube one hundred years before the Common Era? Had not a Jew been prime minister in the Weimar Government in the years before the election of Adolph Hitler? Had not a Jew authored the Weimar constitution which was the very foundation of Weimar German democracy? Where else, or since, had our people resided longer, achieved such prominence, contributed to and been more accepted and assimilated?

For we who lived an ocean away from Europe’s death camps antisemitism was little different in popularity and intensity. Nativism, antisemitism and isolationism kept the United States neutral towards German persecution of their Jews, leaning as much to join Hitler in the crusade against the “godless” Soviet Union as to ally with America’s traditional ally England against the German threat. Even the Nazi program of racial hygiene which inspired the Holocaust was modeled after the American “science” of eugenics, America’s effort to create its own white, Nordic master race.

Had Henry Ford or Charles Lindberg, populist antisemites and isolationists decided to accept the Republican Party nomination and opposed Roosevelt for the presidency and won, a real possibility before Pearl Harbor, then it takes little imagination to appreciate the likely outcome for New World Jewry also. Even under the Roosevelt Administration the US built concentration camps to imprison its Japanese-American citizens.

As our German experience proves, antisemitism does not require a religious base. Western society is anti-Jewish by history and tradition. This is a fact we cannot, by our actions, change. The starting point for eliminating antisemitism would be for Christianity in all its forms to delete those anti-Jewish references from its gospels. But that is unlikely to happen since to do so would be to throw into question the divine inspiration of the texts as the true word of God. And where would that leave Christianity?

And where does this leave the Jewish people?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Understanding the Holocaust: Shoah in Context

In response to a recent contribution to this blogspace, Understanding the Holocaust: Shoah in Historical Perspective, one respondent suggested that we Jews, “seek the causes (for anti-Semitism) in our own acts.” My critic was himself a Jew, and living in Israel. Self-blame for tragedies which befall us is not uncommon. Rape victims are one group that come to mind. But what motivates such a suggestion as we Jews, by our own actions, are possibly responsible for bringing down a Holocaust on our own heads?

Are we Jews somehow responsible for antisemitism, for Shoah? That by our behavior we anger God and bring down His wrath is not unknown in history, or in modern day Israel. A terrorist bus bomb which killed dozens of children was attributed by a prominent Israeli rabbi as God’s punishment for our deeds. In the wake of Shoah there were suggestions by some orthodox figures that Shoah was God’s punishment for the sins of Europe’s Jews. Except that most Jews victims to the European slaughter, in the Shoah and the centuries before were mostly poor and pious, those least likely to fall into the category of “transgressors;” that Europe wiped the most prominent Hassidic centers of Eastern Europe seems not to enter the logic of these pious critics.

So, are we responsible? Certainly not our victims of Shoah or, for the most part, our victims of western persecution before Shoah. Yes there were those few, Jabotinski and Abba Kovner, for example, who by instinct and background were more sensitive to the significance of the unfolding events. But not even Martin Buber, a community leader and educator in Germany, appreciated the significance and severity of the approaching storm. He encouraged German Jewry to wait it out.

But today we can no longer fall back on such excuses as ignorance of Shoah as possible since it is historical fact. Neither can we ignore the obvious connection between the Holocaust, and two thousand years of persecution precedent, and process in the long road to Shoah, because today we have the benefit of hindsight: Shoah is a fact; Shoah is precedent and blueprint for the future. We can no longer ignore the fact that those two millennia of persecution which preceded 1933 provide the historical foundation upon which1933 and a final solution to the West’s Jewish Problem were built.

The contribution of the twentieth century to the West’s nearly successful solution to its twenty century-long Jewish problem was IBM’s computers and software the company created for Germany to locate each and every Jew for death, and Henry Ford’s assembly line applied to the problem of mass production and disposal of human corpses.

While each of us, every Jewish adult alive today, may not give thought to the mechanics of Shoah, still we are each aware of Shoah as a recent event. Our responsibility for another such occurrence is not in encouraging its recurrence, but in ignoring the precedent it represents. Our guilt lies in repeating the tried and failed response of our pre-Shoah German community who, until it was to late refused to accept that their civilized, educated and cultured fatherland was capable of transforming suddenly from welcoming and accepting, into executioner. Was not a Jew prime minister in the Weimar Government in the years before the election of Adolph Hitler? Was it not a Jew who authored the liberal Weimar constitution? Where else, or since, had our people achieved such prominence, contributed more to the beloved homeland?

For we who lived an ocean away from the death camps, we too experienced fear and confusion. Antisemitism in the United States was little different from Europe in popularity and intensity. Nativist isolationism kept the United States neutral and ambivalent, as inclined to join Hitler in the crusade against the “godless” Soviet Union as to ally with England against Nazi Germany. The Nazi program of racial purification which inspired the Holocaust was modeled after the “science” of eugenics, America’s effort to create its own white, Nordic master race. Had Henry Ford or Lindberg decided to oppose Roosevelt for the presidency in 1932 and, as is more than possible, won the presidency then it takes little imagination to appreciate the likely outcome for American Jewry. Even under Roosevelt the US built concentration camps to house Japanese-Americans.

Returning to the beginning, I am not judging the religious dedication of Europeans but suggesting that which should be obvious. As individual or as culture, while we generally have free choice in our behavior, our choices are conditioned by our history. The history of Europe is Christianity, and the theology of hate at the heart of that religion.

St. Paul accused the Jews of rejecting Jesus out of blindness; the gospels accused the Jews of condemning and crucifying their messiah. The theme of anti-Judaism was further developed by such prominent theologians as Sts. Augustine and Aquinas and, most viciously, by Luther the Reformer. I suggest that such anti-Judaism by such important figures in Christian history are bound to impact popular attitudes and prejudices, perpetuating and promoting that which was to become, with the advent of secular society, antisemitism. Nor am I alone in this obvious conclusion as my reference to Ms. Reuther, a highly regarded Catholic theologian herself suggests.

Whether or not Europe has been mostly secular since before Shoah, that would no more remove its identification with its thirteen hundred year long theocracy, and another three hundred years of religious competition between the Church and Protestantism. All contributed to the character of secular Europe, to its attitude towards the Jews. Even Hitler, assumed to have been, and perhaps by some actions was, anti-Christian was, none-the-less a self-affirmed, if conflicted tithe-paying Catholic to the end. Indeed, one platform of the Nazi Party was the establishment of an Aryan-Christian church. So we should not confuse appearance for reality: Christianity is still Gospel-based, and secular Europe is still culturally and historically Christian.

2. As regards Islam, I accept that there is an obvious river of antisemitism. But there is a significant difference between Christian and Islamic antisemitism. Islam is not historically anti-Jewish, at least no more so than anti- any other non-Muslim religion or people. And while I write as a committed Zionist, I also recognize that the Arabs and their Islamic supporters have a here-and-now animus towards the Jews born of conflict over Israel as opposed to an ancient and theologically-based animus. Moslem anti-Judaism will likely pass with resolution of the Palestine problem.

Returning to 3. If the “cause” of Western antisemitism is, as I maintain, Christian theology and its secular inheritors, then it will only begin to diminish with acceptance by the Christian denominations to finally accept responsibility and address the substance of the problem, the anti-Jewish slant of the gospels. While this is unlikely to immediately close the chapter on antisemitism, it will be a first and important step. But more immediate will be the impact on its own community of faith in removing the obvious contradiction between “love and forgiveness” and “hate and rejection.”

For we Jews, while we would applaud this very brave first step towards penance for crimes past, it would have little impact on our security within a community of nations nurtured on the milk, the history of bigotry and vengeance. We are still responsible for our choices, and for our resistance to choose. For we risk not only our own lives on the alter of hope, convenience and familiarity, but our denial of the obvious will have obvious consequences for those we are sworn to protect. Today’s denial will, as among our German community, ultimately cost the lives of our children, or our children’s children. Because the technology that so effectively identified European Jewry back three generations is exponentially more powerful today. And the technology of death born of the 20th century has only grown more efficient at its future assigned task.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Obama, far-sighted peacemaker or naïve meddler?

If Obama's real diplomatic agenda is to achieve a breakthrough, a united front between Israel and the Arab states facing the Iranian threat accross the Gulf, and his adherance to the failed concept of peace between Israel and the Palestinians is diplomatic cover, then he and his administration will, in managing international affairs, be head and shoulders above any since the 1940's. If not, then Obama and his team of experts will simply add another sorry chapter to the long tradition of US bungling and misadventures in the Middle East.
"President Barack Obama is getting set for some military arm-twisting against Iran spearheaded by Israel." One day the US threatens Israel with sanctions for threatening to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. One week later, Hillary warns that, "it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons." And adding muscle to the threat Defense Secretary Gates arrives in Israel to discuss military options. What's real, what not in reporting regarding the US-Israel relationship? When Israel threatens to attack Iran is the threat substantive and imminent, or theatre, the Israeli bad cop playing to Obama's good cop? When Clinton demands a complete halt to settlement construction across the Green Line is that really US policy, or is it just a bone to the Arab street? And when news media warn of a crisis in Israel-US relations is the whispered information feeding those reports accurate or slanted to create an impression serving a hidden diplomatic purpose?

The Palestine Problem: The US and most of the world have long tired of the Israel-Palestine issue, are anxious for a quick fix. Accepting the Arab assertion that Palestine is the reason for all that ails the Middle East, not the corruption and police-state controls feeding unrest at home, then the simple answer for the simple problem is for powerful Israel to bend and grant the Palestinians a state. Except that, since the introduction of the Saudi Plan and for decades before, the Palestinians never fielded a leadership capable of defining and achieving that goal. And today the Palestinian leadership, such as it is, is more divided than ever, divided politically and geographically, Hamas and Fateh engaged in a cold civil war. In short, unless and until the Palestinians can achieve a level of political and social maturity and competence it makes no sense to expect an ersatz Palestine to even manage the complexity of everyday affairs of self-governance.
So why does Obama make a Palestinian state the lynchpin of his Middle East diplomacy? Is it possible that the Administration is really as committed to the primacy of Palestinian statehood as they appear in public? I, for one, prefer to believe that Obama, Mitchell and Ross are more rational and realistic than their public diplomacy describes.

The Saudi Plan: The Saudi's too set creation of a Palestinian state as precondition for Israel-Arab peace, a condition set at the time the Plan was introduced. But in the intervening years conditions on the ground have significantly changed. Not just that the Palestinians are farther from that goal but, more importantly, the rapid growth of the Iranian threat in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq. While Ahmadinejad describes Iranian ambitions as anti-Israel, and not a threat to the Arab world, Arab states from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic know that Iranian ambitions are more dangerous to themselves than to Israel. The Saudis, for example, following the Israeli example, are building a wall entirely surrounding the kingdom, coast through desert, protection against Iran. They are also reported to have "quietly" informed Israel that the IAF could use Saudi airspace should the decision to attack the Islamic Republic be finalized. Then there is the transit of an Israeli submarine and other warships through the Suez Canal, in support of an assumed future decision to attack Iran. Iranian ambitions and the nuclear threat have stripped the fig leaf from the already existing Arab-Israel military alliance.

If the Saudis feel the need for domestic consumption to demand a conciliatory gesture from Israel to allow them to come out of the closet regarding their involvement with Israel, then the precondition definitely should not depend on an improbable Palestinian renaissance involving political and social maturity.

Obama's Grand Strategy? I began this article suggesting that President Obama and his highly experienced staff of advisors and emissaries in matters Middle East might not be so naïve and unrealistic as America's public diplomatic posture suggests. Enter the US outreach to Syria. As prime minister, Ehud Barak and Hafez al-Assad were reportedly within meters of Kineret coastline of signature. That agreement, including the legendary Rabin "pocket," secret promises presumably involving the return of the Golan should Syria meet certain conditions, already exists. Unlike the highly unstable and politically immature Palestinians, for better or worse Syria is relatively stable and mature. In fact, Israeli military and intelligence experts describe Syria as assiduously adhering to all agreements between the two adversaries since the end of the 1967 war.

Obama is returning a US ambassador to Syria, and Mitchell, his emissary to Arab-Israeli peace declared, following his recent meeting with Assad, that Syria is an important player in regional stability, a moderating influence over Hamas, etc. If Israel is to expend time and effort any way, then doing so with a more responsible governing authority holds more promise of success than with an ungoverned and ungovernable social entity. In previous negotiations the Syrians proved to be shrewd and tenacious. If past experience serves, they will be no easier today. But at least Israel is dealing with an entity offering the possibility of a serious negotiation, if not necessarily assuring its success.

But whether or not Palestine is ever capable of statehood and the responsibilities of self-governance; whether or not Israel and Syria actually succeed this go-around in signing on the line, the main problem facing Israel and the Arab states is the Iranian threat, and an open and formal alliance between Israel and the Arabs is the most effective way to contain that threat.
If containing Iran is the real diplomatic agenda of the Obama Administration camouflaged behind the chimera of an Israel-Palestine "roadmap;" then this president may prove to be the most diplomatically far-sighted and effective since the 1940's. If not, if this initiative turns out to be exactly as it appears, then the "Obama Initiative" will go down as just another naïve American misadventure in the quagmire of Middle East politics. And Obama and his experts will simply add one more chapter to a very long tradition of US bungling in the Middle East.

Postscript: Following writing this article two pieces appeared in the media throwing further light on the conduct of US diplomacy, and the apparently intimate policy coordination between the Obama Administration and the Netanyahu Government.

An article appearing in the Washington Times on 29 July quotes former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, refering to recent visits to Aab capitals, "in the past, the first thing I'd get was a lecture about Israel....I no longer receive that, and when I go and travel, what I hear is, there is greater fear of Iran than there is animus toward Israel."

And a 30 July DEBKAfile article: “As recently as Sunday, July 26, a Washington sources quoted a US official as asking Israel to create "military background noise" that would harass Tehran without triggering an outright military clash, whether with Iran or its surrogates, the Lebanese Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas.

But in the last three days, fresh reports have come out of Tehran indicating that US-Israeli coordination on the Iranian threat was lagging far behind developments. The Herzliya conference therefore switched its agenda to address urgent steps, in addition to the military pressure, for expediting Ahmadinejad's eclipse.”

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I was asked by my daughter, who lives in Israel and is director of a major Jewish outreach organization, to respond to a questionnaire regarding Jewish identity from an Israel government office. The first question involved personal biography, influences on my development as Jew and Zionist. I felt my response to Question #2 covered the final questions.
Israeli Government Initiative on Jewish Identity and Identification with Israel Questionnaire

2. What are the two or three greatest challenges to sustainable Jewish identity in our time?

1. That our people, those of us who live in Israel and we who choose Diaspora, fail to grasp the lesson and meaning of Shoah. We are a people at constant and unalterable risk. The common danger over which we have no control is, of course, that we in Diaspora elect to continue to live in the midst of a dominant religion and social culture fundamentally and unalterably anti-Jewish and antisemitic. This animus is built into Christianity’s most basic theological documents; it permeates the very fabric which gives identity to its inheritor societies and nation-states. Our failure to grasp, understand and accept this reality; our preference to relegate even its most recent expression, Shoah, to an event “unique” or “mysterious,” an aberration attributable to a madman or his social-political party or the nation voluntarily or not which led its nearly successful effort to eliminate Jewry entirely from existence on the planet; this is the single greatest challenge to Jewry. And tragically, we are no closer to appreciating threat today than were our people in the years preceding Shoah itself. American Jewry as blithely today defends our country as “exceptional” as did German Jewry in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

2. Nor is the state of the Jews, Israel, more aware than our Diaspora of the reality of the dangers facing us from the Christian west. Do we need alliance, allies facing the current dangers, of course. But for Israel to identify culturally and socially with that culture and society is, by association, reinforcing the dangerous notion that the west is what it appears, either no longer guilty of its traditional of antisemitism, or that something, perhaps Wiesel’s “mystery” is the real cause of its most recent expression, Shoah. In any case Israel validates the Diaspora myth of present security and thereby contributes to the next, and perhaps final effort to bring Jewish existence physically to our end.

3. Israel is failing in its Zionist responsibility to the Diaspora. Do we need a cultural touchstone for identity, yes. Is this what Zionism is, was born to address, no. Israel’s primary debt to the mostly secular Diaspora that created the state is as refuge, not cultural center. And such expressions of particularistic chauvinism as the current conversion controversy; the efforts of the Knesset Constitution and Law committee to draw up a constitution in which the Grandparent Clause of the Law of Return is removed, the Law itself reduced to a shadow of its original framing; the recurrent appearance on the agenda of the Knesset to define for the state of the Jews one particular sect of Judaism as the threshold for Jewish identity and legal status, these alienate the same majority of world Jewry which this “Questionnaire” purports to bring back to Jewish identity. If Israel were serious about “saving the Jews” it must first consider its own identity. If Israel is the state of the Israelis then its agenda is to continue the present drift, providing a cultural focus to the ever-shrinking Diaspora. Feels good, achieves little to nothing. If Israel is to return to its pre-state reason for being, Zionist refuge and Light unto our Nation then the task is indeed formidable, but not impossible. The choice is as it has been since 1967, state of the Jews, or state of the Israelis. The choice of Israel is the true framework upon which this “questionnaire” will rest and have meaning.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Israel and the end of Zionism?

Appeared in Jerusalem Post, Monday Mar 09, 2009

For the second time in little more than a year an influential Israeli politician appears intent on turning Israel's Law of Return into a political football. This week Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit suggested revising or abolishing the Law. In December 2007, Knesset Constitution and Law Committee chairman Menachem Ben-Sasson decided he would rush a constitution through his committee in time for Israel's Independence Day. A key element of the new constitution was a modification of the Law of Return to conform to Halacha. As if all Jews living today, in Israel and the Diaspora, are Orthodox and share a single set of beliefs, rituals and traditions. It appears that the chairman's Independence Day "present" was for the benefit of the 20 percent of Israelis represented by haredi parties in the Knesset; swing parties in coalition formation. These same parties annually raise the "Who is a Jew" issue for debate in the Knesset with the intention of making Halacha the law of the land in matters of personal, social and religious identity. Tellingly, every time that self-serving and divisive issue is raised for debate, Diaspora Jewry, as in Israel overwhelmingly non-Orthodox, express outrage that the Knesset even allows the issue to appear. A recent example of Halacha-as-state-law will serve as example of the danger the issue holds for Jewish unity.

Some months ago an anti-Zionist trio of rabbis wrested control of the Conversion Court from its pro-Zionist director (with the passive support of the prime minister) and immediately rescinded ten years of conversions conducted under the director's supervision. According to Rabbi Sherman, the insurgent leader, the director's conversions did not conform to the trio's interpretation of Halacha. Thousands of loyal Israelis disenfranchised, they and their children stripped ofJeewish identity and Israeli citizenship!

Barely sixty-four years since our few survivors walked away from Auschwitz, sixty years since Ben-Gurion declared independence for our state, risen from the ashes of Shoah, Israel is losing its Zionist bearings, neglecting its most basic obligation: to provide a welcoming refuge for our Diaspora.

In 2007, Russian-Israeli youths describing themselves as neo-Nazis vandalized Jewish symbols in Petah Tikva. An outrage, of course, and a crime deserving of punishment. But is the Law of Return the culprit for allowing them to be brought to Israel by their parents? This, apparently, was the justification for MK Ben-Sasson suggesting the Law be modified, the Grandparent Clause eliminated. And today's hot issue, which Mr. Sheetrit advances as his reason for launching an assault on the Law, is demographic - Israel's policy of encouraging the inflow of cheap third-world labor to replace Palestinian labor. Again, rather than deal with a failure of the political culture and decision-making that created the problem, the Interior Minister would abolish the Law and Zionist identity of the state. In this instance there is not even a rational connection between the asserted "problem," immigration, and the Law.

That the Law of Return and its Grandparent Clause can so casually be targeted as expendable demonstrates the depth of non-comprehension and insensitivity within Israel’s political establishment towards Israel’s Zionist responsibility as the state of ALL Jews. Israel as Refuge is the reason world Jewry invested life and treasure to create a state for the Jews. Jewish independence is not the property of Israel's current residents but of the Jewish people entire. The law is above the state, not to be demeaned and expediently compromised in service of current and transitory domestic problems.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Jews living in the Christian Diaspora recognized that Emancipation had failed, that the secularization of the West liberated us from religious anti-Judaism and serfdom only to define us as outsiders, a "nation within a nation" and, soon after, a biologically distinct "race" polluting those among whom we reside. Rather than reduce anti-Semitism, secularism increased it, made it more lethal. Holocaust was already in the air.

The Jewish people continue to need Israel, a home for those of us seeking national identity; refuge for those of us who continue to prefer Diaspora, aware of the threat. The Law of Return was among the first laws legislated by the new State of Israel. The Grandparent Clause was Israel's direct response to the German legislation of the 1930s defining a Jew as anyone with a single Jewish grandparent. The Grandparent Clause anticipates that the 1930's legislation could be a precedent for the future. The Law and the Clause are the very reason for being of the state of the Jews.

I would like to believe that Israel and its politicians continue to recognize and appreciate the continuing danger of anti-Semitism, that the conditions which inspired a Zionist response are as real today as in the 1890s. The religious foundations for anti-Judaism remain, following Nostre Aetate, still unchanged in the unremitting assault on Judaism in four gospels and letters of Paul. The secular states of the West are inheritors of that religious tradition and of the 2000 years of persecution of the Jews that tradition inspired. We do not need yet another economic meltdown, or a Gaza war, to remind us that anti-Semitism is alive and well. The only thing that has changed is that the Jewish people, previously helpless victims, have returned to sovereignty; that Zionism identified and responded to the eternal Diaspora threat.

Israel's Law of Return and its Grandparent Clause are the guarantee and continuing commitment of the state of the Jews to our dispersed and powerless people. It is the compact between the state and the Jewish people worldwide. The Law is not the property of Israel, a plaything of her politicians. And it definitely is not available as largess for coalition favors present or future. Any question of modifying the Law or, for that matter, of considering Halacha as legal code for the secular State of Israel, impacts more than Israel's current residents. Such changes could prove catastrophic in alienating or restricting immigration for our Diaspora. For this reason any change in either must be considered only in dialogue with, and with the approval of Diaspora Jewry. The Law is the guarantee that Jewry, in our state and Diaspora, are yet one!


1 Chris USA, Wednesday Mar 11, 2009
Your article does nothing to help Israel or jews. Todays antisemitism comes from Iran and is based on Islam - which the EU is rapidily becoming. You got the right string but the wrong yoyo. "Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone." Nostre Aetate, Vatican Archives.

2 David Turner, Wednesday Mar 11, 2009
It is clear, Chris, that you are not familiar with the history of church persecution of the Jews, a persecution turning official state policy with Constantine making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century. I cited Matthew above and suggest that an excellent starting point to understand the suspension of Christian Love, at least towards the Jews, the inspiration for nearly 2000 years of persecution and murder, inspiration and justification for our recent Holocaust. Regarding Iran, definitely a threat to Jews and Israel. But the main danger- still in Diaspora.

3 Hofikoman, Wednesday Mar 11, 2009
Both Christianity and Islam are religions with a perfectionist core - Jesus or the Prophets in toto as emobdiments of the Divine Word and therefore without sin. In Torah, there can never be anyone without sin! And thus, Jewry is the bad messenger destroying the good tidings that there is a "perfection" you can rely on with the truth that you have only the quest for responsibility without idols of perfection. People hate such messengers! The one grandparent criteria is simply compassion for being victimized by deep and unrelenting hatred. Shame on Israeli politicians for ignoring our victimhood

4 Roz-USA, Wednesday Mar 11, 2009
The law of return allows the small number of reform and conservative converts to come to Israel, with full rights. Their conversions will not be accepted by Orthodox Jews, but that will not deter most of them. With the grandparent clause, any Jew from the FSU will tell you of knowing plenty of people, in the US or elsewhere, who buy fake papers claiming that one grandparent. We need a better law in place to deal with non-Jews coming from abroad, and fraudulent ones, as the economic meltdown allover will push people to try this mode of "return". We literally cannot afford them.

5 Surendra, Gurgaon, India, Thursday Mar 12, 2009
The author makes an interesting point about how "secular" Europe became even more dangerous for Jews. Secularism may be an important prelude to genuine acceptance of diversity - but it is clearly NOT sufficient. Ultra-nationalism, racism, colonialism et al - can all lead to irrational and violent hatreds. For instance, there are many Muslims who are non-religious - yet they hate Jews or Hindus with a passion that can exceed the bigotry of the religious-minded. The author's point is a very thoughtful and sobering one.

6 Chris USA, Friday Mar 13, 2009
David Turner, I am very familiar with the constant bickering between jews and catholics and how it ended - I know how close Orthodoxy came to convincing catholics that they were a cult of judaism and needed to return to mosaic law. I now how they constantly fought each other and what the results were. I'm telling you that today its different - arabs aren't antisemitic - they are trying to prune the line of abraham by removing us. The non-semities are being anti-semitic when they allow or cave in to the tide. If not for the state of Israel Sunni and Shia would be at war - its what Ishmael is.

7 David Turner, Saturday Mar 14, 2009
Your point regarding Israel distracting Muslim sects from warring each the other is right on, Chris. And Israel is far more alone, even with the myth of her *Special Relationship* with the US (See today’s article in Middle East Times, [ Link to page ] /, for example). Israel and the Jews are at risk. But Israel has a military to defend against a foe that has a real issue justifying their enmity. The Christians have an imaginary one. Easier to fight an enemy with a material grudge than a self-deluded sociopathological one.

8 Chris USA, Sunday Mar 15, 2009
We must not lose sight of the individuality of people David. Rabbi Israel Weingarten was convicted in NY of molesting his 16 yr old daughter. Does that mean Judahism is depraved? A Catholic bishop is a holocaust denier. Does that mean Catholicism is anti-Semitic? The divisions which seperate our faiths are slowly being removed. The underlying unity which must be acheived is the third oath God made to Abraham - to bless the nations thru Abraham and his seed forever. Scandals will come and go. Some people will hide behind religion to protect their evil. We must be aware and take action.

9-11 David Turner, Sunday Mar 15, 2009
I understood your point in your first comment, Chris, and agree. One person does not represent a people and should not be symbolic for the actions of the remainder. Christianity should not be judged by the words of an individual, or the error in judgment of the head of the church in reinstating that person or his sect any more than should an entire people be subjected to punishment for the purported actions of several two thousand years earlier. But that is precisely the point, that half of all Jews born since the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans have been murdered by the dominant religion among whom we have been dispersed since the church convinced Constantine to adopt Christianity as state religion in the 4th century. Half of all Jews born since the fall of Jerusalem. The most recent atrocity called Shoah, which claimed six million Jewish lives accounts for a small proportion of the total lives of Jews lost over the centuries. Christian Love, whatever meaning it may have beyond theory, certainly never applied to the Jews.

Chris, I do not write to accuse or offend Christians; I do write to warn my own people: the Holocaust was not a mystery or a unique event in history but merely the latest, and not last such event in our sojourn in dispersion in Christendom. No offense intended. But reality is reality. And history is our witness. My websites may interest you. One discusses contemporary issues at Israel, the Diaspora and Jewish Denial. My second website on the topic, Antisemitism in Art, uses period art to illustrate the evolution of anti-Judaism and antisemitism from the first century to the present.

12 Chris USA, Monday Mar 16, 2009
If you understand my point then you know that Catholicism presents itself as the fulfilment of the third oath to Abraham by God. The increase of anti-Semitism in the world is indicative of the upcoming restoration of Israel by tribe as well as the approaching reunification of Judaism and Catholicism. Catholicism has 23 rites - each representative of an order of priesthood. Israel - Judaism - is the 24th rite. What seperates them is the holiness code which conflicts with the third oath of God to Abraham and the submission of both religions to their joint teleological destiny.

13-15 David Turner, Tuesday Mar 17, 2009
Chris, we could debate this endlessly. The point of my article is Christianity’s Jewish Problem as defined by and embodied in the gospels, Paul, the church fathers, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther; the list is endless. The material and historical impact of this pathology has been the death by individual murder through pogrom, or organized murder by Crusade, Inquisition and, most recently, Holocaust of half of all Jews born since we lost independence in the first century. The Vidal Center estimates that, had Jews not been subject to Christian persecution our present population would today be roughly equal to that of the entire British Isles. However church theology sees the ultimate solution to its Jewish Problem, Judaism is not Christian and will never voluntarily merge with the church, convert to Catholicism or any other Christian sect. And this is precisely what is meant by Christianity’s Jewish Problem. Jesus, if he ever took human form, did not convince as messiah during the war with Rome, does not convince 2,000 years later. And the frustration experienced by Christendom over the centuries is expressed clearly in history up to Shoah, and beyond.

Unless and until Christianity purges itself of anti-Judaism, unlikely to happen because that would mean purging the gospels which, as Catholic theologian Reuther already understood in her book, Faith and Fratricide, would result in the destruction of Christianity so unlikely ever to be undertaken, Jews choosing to live in Christendom are, and will remain subject to assault, to Holocaust. Victimhood is the fate of Israel in Diaspora.

16 Chris USA, Tuesday Mar 17, 2009
Regarding the Diaspora - Judaism has been dispersed since 70 AD. The submission of Rome to Catholicism in 400 AD was in fulfillment of Daniel - who prophesied that the Messianic Kingdom would convert Rome - IAW traditional Catholic interpretation. You are of course free to disagree. I offer you this insight by the late Rabbi Noah Weinburg of blessed memory (founder of - we know there is a problem. The question is what are you doing about it?

17-19 David Turner, Wednesday Mar 18, 2009
Chris, you would convince me through reason based on faith. I appreciate your interest in doing so. And while I appreciate the opportunity to develop my understanding of how your faith motivates you, my writings are not directed at Christians, Christianity or Christendom, but at my people who, through denial of history, choose not to see the danger which the Holocaust represents for ourselves and our children. Holocaust is indeed the final solution to Christendom*s Jewish Problem, a solution only partially achieved in the 1940*s. For ourselves, the Jews, the Jewish Problem is our voluntary and continuing participation in our own persecution by trusting, no by needing to believe that lethal antisemitism was an aberration, a unique event in history, a mystery. Denial means to intentionally disregard the long historical precedent, the Christian theological source, for Shoah. But the Jewish Problem is not only suffered by the Jews. By allowing this cancer at the heart of Christian dogma untreated, by tolerating its theology of hate, Christianity fails in its self-proclaimed identity and mission as religion of love, tolerance and forgiveness.

By our non-acceptance of the validity of Christianity*s Jewish messiah Judaism poses significant questions for his authenticity for Christianity. This results in doubt, not itself conscious, which in turn leads to hatred for those who inspire that unconscious doubt. Antisemitism is pathological, and pathology is by definition sick and self-justifying. Unless and until Christianity heals itself of its delusions it will ever fail in its mission and ideal.