Judaism, Zionism and Israelism

by Nizar Sakhnini

Zionism is not synonymous to Judaism. Not all Jews are necessarily Zionists. There are the assimilationists who see themselves as an integral part of the nations among whom they live. They also consider the countries in which they live as their homeland. In fact, many Jews are anti-Zionists. On the other hand, as a result of the complex relationship between the Zionist movement and the imperial and colonial powers especially Great Britain and the USA, many non-Jewish politicians and fundamentalist religious leaders in the West were very enthusiastic Zionists.

In the years before WWI, political Zionism was rejected by many Jews. While many religious Jews supported spiritual Zionism, which saw Palestine as the cultural center of Judaism, they remained convinced that political Zionism was heretical. It was opposed by practically every rabbi in Europe, many of whom denounced political Zionism as a vile heresy since religious Jews at that time believed that only the Messiah could resurrect the Kingdom of Israel. It was not until well into the twentieth century that a number of religious Jews was converted to political Zionism. Herzl, Max Nordau and many of the other early Zionist leaders were non-believers. Religious objections to political Zionism did not concern them. Assimilated Jews, on the other hand, were offended by the suggestion that their loyalty must by divided between a Jewish state and the land of their birth. But Zionism had surprising support among the non-Jewish population in most Western countries. (Michael Palumbo, "The Palestinian Catastrophe: The 1948 Expulsion of a People from their Homeland", pp. 5 - 8)

Orthodox rabbis had learned over the centuries to believe that the Jews should stay in the Diaspora until the Messiah led them back home and established a religious state in "Eretz Yisrael". To establish a secular state there seemed blasphemous. Some rabbis even refused to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem lest they condoned the Zionists. Thus Zadok of Lublin (1823 - 1900) wrote: "I fear lest my departure and ascent [aliyah] to Jerusalem might seem like a gesture of approval of Zionist activity. I hope unto the Lord, my soul hopes for his word, that the Day of the Redemption will come. I wait and remain watchful for the feet of his anointed. Yet though three hundred scourges of iron afflict me, I will not move from my place."

Religious Jews, who were living in Palestine before the advent of Zionism, had lived a devour life according to the Torah. They were horrified by the chalutzim (the pioneers), and claimed that when Herzl had entered the Holy Land "evil entered with him". For their part, the Zionists turned away from their Orthodox brethren in disgust. These religious people clinging to the Wailing Wall in their archaic clothes and long beards seemed to symbolize everything that was wrong with the Jews. They wanted to liberate their people from anachronistic religious traditions that shackled them to attitudes of hopeless dependence and they created a new "secular religion" of their own - a religion of labor. The new Labor Zionists replaced religious Judaism with a cult of work in "Eretz Yisrael", but expressed themselves in traditional Jewish terms. For them, "the redeemed Jew of chalutzism does not need God, he is the creator". (Karen Armstrong, "The Holy War: The Crusades and their Impact on Today's World", p. 62).

Equating Zionism with Judaism and Israelism is a myth purposefully created by the Zionists to confuse everyone and to use as an excuse to accuse anyone who criticizes Zionism or Israeli policies as an "anti-Semite". This myth is also abused by the Zionists to confuse Jews and lead them to believe that "non-Jewish people (the Goyim) were hopelessly anti-Semitic. Their anti-Semitism was based on the existence of Jews among them. The solution was 'separation' (apartheid)." Accordingly, Zionism claims that it is "hopeless to fight against racism and anti-Semitism. Anti-Jewish prejudices were so to speak imminent features of a non-Jewish mind". Such a perverted myth have led many Jews to the wrong conclusion that only a "Jewish State" would guarantee the personal safety of Jews and ensure their "emancipation". (The quotations are taken from a paper written by an anti-Zionist Jew, Elias Davidsson, in April 1998: A Progressive Vision for Palestine. Davidsson introduced the paper by a "personal background" giving his experience as an "Israeli" child who was "subjected to a systematic Zionist indoctrination").

Consequently, it is of utmost importance that no one, Jew or non-Jew should ever be caught by such illusions advocated for cheap political reasons. Ethnic hatred as we have witnessed in Kosovo and in Palestine, anti-Semitism in Czarist Russia and Western Europe, and all kinds of discrimination based on color, religion or ethnic origin, are all man-made and have nothing to do with God or religion, any religion. Such illusions obscure vision and keep us caught in a vicious circle of hatred, violent conflicts, and endless bloodshed. God is much, much greater, merciful, and loving creator who calls for peaceful co-existence and love among his creatures.

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