We are at a crossroads. Jews in the Diaspora – especially during the years of
the conservative Likud Knesset – claim they are being increasingly isolated.
They point to religious fundamentalist laws as reasons to stay in the Diaspora
and yes, they even demonize the Jewish state.
Critics of recent Israeli
policy have censured the state for fundamentalist laws related to the religious
rights of women – that is, the right of women to handle a Torah scroll in the
Western Wall compound; they have complained about strict protocols concerning
non- Jewish spouses of Israelis who seek citizenship; they have complained about
Israel’s settler policy and sounded the alarms of the Western world’s ingrained
fascist-watch when a new boycott law passed through Knesset in 2011 facilitating
lawsuits by business owners in Judea and Samaria against those who wish to
boycott their businesses, products and facilities.
They stay in the
Diaspora and they blame such political and religious trends for making them feel
isolated as Jews. The anti-Israel Jews of the second Netanyahu Knesset, however,
are nothing new or original.
A former president of Brandeis University,
Jehuda Reinharz, writes in the 1977 essay “The Origin and Development of the
Bund Jüdischer Corporationen,”: “Before World War I, Western European Zionism
was primarily a movement of intellectuals and academicians, who reflected its
idealistic nature, based on ideology rather than on immediate physical needs.”
Jews who enjoy freedom of religion and a high quality of life in the Diaspora
today are not different than German Jews before World War I.
writes: “From the inception of the movement it was clear that the
well-established, economically comfortable Jewish middle class felt no necessity
to heed the call of Zionism. The typical assimilated German Jew,” he continues,
“did not analyze his community and environment or conceptualize the
psychological situation of Western Jewry in such a way that Zionism could be
seen as the solution of the Jewish question: for him, even at the very end of
the 19th century, the whole idea was a utopian abstraction.”
even features a quote from a young member of the Vereinigung Jüdischer
Studierender, an organization founded in the late 19th century that stressed
Jewish religious freedom and rebirth of Jewish history while pledging allegiance
to German nationalism.
The young fraternity member was quoted saying, “I
am not a Zionist. Their goals are in my opinion completely unattainable. Zionism
is harmful to those ideals I hold dear (equality of rights...). Moreover, a
state composed of so many different elements (German, French, Russian Galician
Jews...) offers rather a bleak prospect.”
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The sentiment expressed by this
soul more than a century ago reverberates throughout the years. Leftist American
Jewish blogs such as OpenZion, Mondoweiss and the Israeli 972mag (three Israeli
political blogs that are written only in the English language) are the
newfangled, Americanized, journalistic extension of the sentiment proposed by
Vereinigung Jüdischer Studierender or the Freie Verbindung Viadrina (a non-
Zionist Jewish rights organization founded in Breslau in 1886).
Jewish thinkers, either Diaspora Jews who throw stones at Israel, or Israelis
who paint Israel in increasingly ugly brush strokes, should heed the lessons
learned from the erstwhile-mentioned generation.
A generation humiliated,
betrayed and ultimately annihilated.
New anti-circumcision laws in parts
of Europe echo old European anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Recently, David
Goldberg, a rabbi residing in Germany, was charged with inflicting harm to the
body of another by performing circumcisions on newborn baby
“Goldberg, who is a mohel... regularly travels throughout Germany,
Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Italy performing the procedure for Jewish
He has not been arrested formally, but a Cologne court
confirmed... that he faces charges that could result in jail time and heavy
fines,” reads one news report in the American press.
“In late June, the
Cologne court ruled that non-medical circumcisions amount to ‘irreversible
interference in the integrity of the human body’ because the procedure is
performed on non-consenting minors who cannot object. According to the court
ruling, ‘The minor’s body is permanently and irreparably changed by the
circumcision. This change conflicts with the child’s interest of later being
able to make his own decision on his religious affiliation.’” reads the news
On the heels of these developments in Germany comes another
strange, related story, this time in Tasmania, an island off the coast of
Australia. A similar law bans the circumcision of minors without their consent,
except in the case of established religious rites. Less draconian than the
charges being filed against Rabbi David Goldberg, but nevertheless, Jews have to
be more offended by these laws than gentiles are offended by
Last week, President Shimon Peres sent a letter to German
President Joachim Guack (a former Lutheran pastor) urging him to fight such
legislation. Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger held a press conference in Berlin,
expressing Jewish ire over the new law, and Interior Minister Eli Yishai sent a
letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, urging her to fight what can be
perceived as anti-Semitic laws.
When the day has arrived that a Zionist
government in Palestine must look back at Europe and request that they kindly
refrain from anti-Semitic legislation, you can bet that Zionism is not just an
ideology. It is beyond pragmatism, it is a lifesaver.
The writer is a
graduate student at the IDC.
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