Let’s do the Time Warp

Zionism is not just an ideology. It is beyond pragmatism, it is a lifesaver.

anti israel signs REUTERS 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
anti israel signs REUTERS 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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.
Reinharz 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.”
The essay 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.”
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).
These 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 boys.
“Goldberg, who is a mohel... regularly travels throughout Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Italy performing the procedure for Jewish families.
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 report.
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 circumcision.
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.