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of the Conversion Court from its pro-Zionist director (with the passive support of the prime minister) and immediately rescinded ten years of conversions conducted under the director's supervision.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.