Jewish History - Part 1
This is a book "Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three
Thousand Years," by, Professor Israel Shahak. And it is like most so-called
Jewish exposures. They tell so much and leave the largest part out. So
when you read this realize that most of the REALLY important revelations
are left out. But for the most part it is informative; if one keeps the
above in mind while reading it.
Also you will notice that he makes mention of the HoloHoax, but even
though with a close reading one can see that he knows the Holocaust story
is false, he cannot bring himself to say so. And you will notice also that
he soft soaps some of the quotations that he provides from the Talmud and
other Jewish writings.
However, I send this out so you can have knowledge of what this particular
Jew has to say. I noticed that on the newsgroups there have been some mention
of this book being one of the greatest revelations to come from a Jew.
It is not, in fact, it really is a poor revelation, compared to "The Thirteenth
Tribe," by Arthur Koestler or the book "The Zionist Connection II" by,
Alfred M. Lilienthal or "Facts Are Facts," by, Benjamin Freedman and many
others which are too numerous to mention here.
There will be several posts in this series, so bear with me if you are
interest, if not simply delete. But if you find it interesting send it
to as many as you would like.
Sometime in the late 1950s, that world-class gossip and occasional historian,
John F. Kennedy, told me how, in 1948, Harry S. Truman had been pretty
much abandoned by everyone when he came to run for president. Then an American
Zionist brought him two million dollars in cash, in a suitcase, aboard
his whistle-stop campaign train. 'That's why our recognition of Israel
was rushed through so fast.' As neither Jack nor I was an antisemite (unlike
his father and my grandfather) we took this to be just another funny story
about Truman and the serene corruption of American politics.
Unfortunately, the hurried recognition of Israel as a state has resulted
in forty-five years of murderous confusion, and the destruction of what
Zionist fellow travelers thought would be a pluralistic state - home to
its native population of Muslims, Christians and Jews, as well as a future
home to peaceful European and American Jewish immigrants, even the ones
who affected to believe that the great realtor in the sky had given them,
in perpetuity, the lands of Judea and Samaria.
Since many of the immigrants were good socialists in Europe, we assumed
that they would not allow the new state to become a theocracy, and that
the native Palestinians could live with them as equals. This was not meant
to be. I shall not rehearse the wars and alarms of that unhappy region.
But I will say that the hasty invention of Israel has poisoned the political
and intellectual life of the USA, Israel's unlikely patron.
Unlikely, because no other minority in American history has ever hijacked
so much money from the American taxpayers in order to invest in a 'homeland'.
It is as if the American taxpayer had been obliged to support the Pope
in his reconquest of the Papal States simply because one third of our people
are Roman Catholic. Had this been attempted, there would have been a great
uproar and Congress would have said no. But a religious minority of less
than two per cent has bought or intimidated seventy senators (the necessary
two thirds to overcome an unlikely presidential veto) while enjoying support
of the media.
In a sense, I rather admire the way that the Israel lobby has gone about
its business of seeing that billions of dollars, year after year, go to
make Israel a 'bulwark against communism'. Actually, neither the USSR nor
communism was ever much of a presence in the region. What America did manage
to do was to turn the once friendly Arab world against us. Meanwhile, the
misinformation about what is going on in the Middle East has got even greater
and the principal victim of these gaudy lies - the American taxpayer to
one side - is American Jewry, as it is constantly bullied by such professional
terrorists as Begin and Shamir.
Worse, with a few honorable exceptions, Jewish-American intellectuals
abandoned liberalism for a series of demented alliances with the Christian
(antisemitic) right and with the Pentagon-industrial complex. In 1985 one
of them blithely wrote that when Jews arrived on the American scene they
'found liberal opinion and liberal politicians more congenial in their
attitudes, more sensitive to Jewish concerns' but now it is in the Jewish
interest to ally with the Protestant fundamentalists because, after all,
"is there any point in Jews hanging on dogmatically, hypocritically, to
their opinions of yesteryear?' At this point the American left split and
those of us who criticized our onetime Jewish allies for misguided opportunism,
were promptly rewarded with the ritual epithet 'antisemite' or 'self-hating
Fortunately, the voice of reason is alive and well, and in Israel, of
all places. From Jerusalem, Israel Shahak never ceases to analyze not only
the dismal politics of Israel today but the Talmud itself, and the effect
of the entire rabbinical tradition on a small state that the right-wing
rabbinate means to turn into a theocracy for Jews only. I have been reading
Shahak for years. He has a satirist's eye for the confusions to be found
in any religion that tries to rationalize the irrational. He has a scholar's
sharp eye for textual contradictions. He is a joy to read on the great
Gentile-hating Dr Maimonides.
Needless to say, Israel's authorities deplore Shahak. But there is not
much to be done with a retired professor of chemistry who was born in Warsaw
in 1933 and spent his childhood in the concentration camp at Belsen. In
1945, he came to Israel; served in the Israeli military; did not become
a Marxist in the years when it was fashionable. He was - and still is -a
humanist who detests imperialism whether in the names of the God of Abraham
or of George Bush. Equally, he opposes with great wit and learning the
totalitarian strain in Judaism. Like a highly learned Thomas Paine, Shahank
illustrates the prospect before us, as well as the long history behind
us, and thus he continues to reason, year after year. Those who heed him
will certainly be wiser and - dare I say? - better. He is the latest, if
not the last, of the great prophets. (Gore Vidal)
A Closed Utopia?
This book, although written in English and addressed to people living
outside the State of Israel, is, in a way, a continuation of my political
activities as an Israeli Jew. Those activities began in 1965-6 with a protest
which caused a considerable scandal at the time: I had personally witnessed
an ultra-religious Jew refuse to allow his phone to be used on the Sabbath
in order to call an ambulance for a non-Jew who happened to have collapsed
in his Jerusalem neighborhood. Instead of simply publishing the incident
in the press, I asked for a meeting which is composed of rabbis nominated
by the State of Israel.
I asked them whether such behavior was consistent with their interpretation
of the Jewish religion. They answered that the Jew in question had behaved
correctly, indeed piously, and backed their statement by referring me to
a passage in an authoritative compendium of Talmudic laws, written in this
century. I reported the incident to the main Hebrew daily, Ha'aretz, whose
publication of the story caused a media scandal. The results of the scandal
were, for me, rather negative. Neither the Israeli, nor the diaspora, rabbinical
authorities ever reversed their ruling that a Jew should not violate the
Sabbath in order to save the life of a Gentile. They added much sanctimonious
twaddle to the effect that if the consequence of such an act puts Jews
in danger, the violation of the Sabbath is permitted, for their sake.
Jewish History - Part 2
It became apparent to me, as drawing on Talmudic laws governing the
relations between Jews and non-Jews, that neither Zionism, including its
seemingly secular part, nor Israeli politics since the inception of the
State of Israel, nor particularly the policies of the Jewish supporters
of Israel in the diaspora, could be understood unless the deeper influence
of those laws, and the world view which they both create and express is
taken into account. The actual policies Israel pursued after the Six Day
War, and in particular the apartheid character of the Israeli regime in
the Occupied Territories and the attitude of the majority of Jews to the
issue of the rights of the Palestinians, even in the abstract, have merely
strengthened this conviction.
By making this statement I am not trying to ignore the political or
strategic considerations which may have also influenced the rulers of Israel.
I am merely saying that actual politics is an interaction between realistic
considerations (whether valid or mistaken, moral or immoral in my view)
and ideological influences. The latter tend to be more influential the
less they are discussed and 'dragged into the light'. Any form of racism,
discrimination and xenophobia becomes more potent and politically influential
if it is taken for granted by the society which indulges in it.
This is especially so if its discussion is prohibited, either formally
or by tacit agreement. When racism, discrimination and xenophobia is prevalent
among Jews, and directed against non-Jews, being fueled by religious motivations,
it is like its opposite case, that of antisemitism and its religious motivations.
Today, however, while the second is being discussed, the very existence
of the first is generally ignored, more outside Israel than within it.
Without a discussion of the prevalent Jewish attitudes to non-Jews, even
the concept of Israel as 'a Jewish state', as Israel formally defines itself,
cannot be understood. The widespread misconception that Israel, even without
considering its regime in the Occupied Territories, is a true democracy
arises from the refusal to confront the significance of the term 'a Jewish
state' for non-Jews.
In my view, Israel as a Jewish state constitutes a danger not only to
itself and its inhabitants, but to all Jews and to all other peoples and
states in the Middle East and beyond. I also consider that other Middle
Eastern states or entities which define themselves as 'Arab' or 'Muslim',
like the Israeli self-definition as being 'Jewish', likewise constitute
a danger. However, while this danger is widely discussed, the danger inherent
in the Jewish character of the State of Israel is not. The principle of
Israel as 'a Jewish state' was supremely important to Israeli politicians
from the inception of the state and was inculcated into the Jewish population
by all conceivable ways.
When, in the early 1980s, a tiny minority of Israeli Jews emerged which
opposed this concept, a Constitutional Law (that is, a law overriding provisions
of other laws, which cannot be revoked except by a special procedure) was
passed in 1985 by an enormous majority of the Knesset. By this law no party
whose program openly opposes the principle of 'a Jewish state' or proposes
to change it by democratic means, is allowed to participate in the elections
to the Knesset.
I myself strongly oppose this constitutional principle. The legal consequence
for me is that I cannot belong, in the state of which I am a citizen, to
a party having principles with which I would agree and which is allowed
to participate in Knesset elections. Even this example shows that the State
of Israel is not a democracy due to the application of a Jewish ideology
directed against all non-Jews and those Jews who oppose this ideology.
But the danger which this dominant ideology represents is not limited to
domestic affairs. It also influences Israeli foreign policies. This danger
will continue to grow, as long as two currently operating developments
are being strengthened: the increase in the Jewish character of Israel
and the increase in its power, particularly in nuclear power.
Another ominous factor is that Israeli influence in the USA political
establishment is also increasing. Hence accurate information about Judaism,
and especially about the treatment of non-Jews by Israel, is now not only
important, but politically vital as well. Let me begin with the official
Israeli definition of the term 'Jewish', illustrating the crucial difference
between Israel as 'a Jewish state' and the majority of other states. By
this official definition, Israel 'belongs' to persons who are defined by
the Israeli authorities as 'Jewish', irrespective of where they live, and
to them alone.
On the other hand, Israel doesn't officially 'belong' to its non-Jewish
citizens, whose status is considered even officially as inferior. This
means in practice that if members of a Peruvian tribe are converted to
Judaism, and thus regarded as Jewish, they are entitled at once to become
Israeli citizens and benefit from the approximately 70 per cent of the
West Bank land (and the 92 per cent of the area of Israel proper), officially
designated only for the benefit of Jews. All non-Jews ( not only all Palestinians)
are prohibited from benefiting from those lands. (The prohibition applies
even to Israeli Arabs who served in the Israeli army and reached a high
The case involving Peruvian converts to Judaism actually occurred a
few years ago. The newly-created Jews were settled in the West Bank, near
Nablus, on land from which non-Jews are officially excluded. All Israeli
governments are taking enormous political risks, including the risk of
war, so that such settlements, composed exclusively of persons who are
defined as 'Jewish' (and not 'Israeli' as most of the media mendaciously
claims) would be subject to only 'Jewish' authority.
I suspect that the Jews of the USA or of Britain would regard it as
antisemitic if Christians would propose that the USA or the United Kingdom
should become a 'Christian state', belonging only to citizens officially
defined as 'Christians'. The consequence of such doctrine is that Jews
converting to Christianity would become full citizens because of their
conversion. It should be recalled that the benefits of conversions are
well known to Jews from their own history. When the Christian and the Islamic
states used to discriminate against all persons not belonging to the religion
of the state, including the Jews, the discrimination against Jews was at
once removed by their conversion.
But a non-Jew discriminated against by the State of Israel will cease
to be so treated the moment he or she converts to Judaism. This simply
shows that the same kind of exclusivity that is regarded by a majority
of the diaspora Jews as antisemitic is regarded by the majority of all
Jews as Jewish.
To oppose both antisemitism and Jewish chauvinism is widely regarded
among Jews as a 'self-hatred', a concept which I regard as nonsensical.
The meaning of the term 'Jewish' and its cognates, including 'Judaism',
thus becomes in the context of Israeli politics as important as the meaning
of 'Islamic', when officially used by Iran, or 'communist' when it was
officially used by the USSR.
However, the meaning of the term 'Jewish' as it is popularly used is
not clear, either in Hebrew or when translated into other languages, and
so the term had to be defined officially. According to Israeli law a person
is considered 'Jewish' if either their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother
and great-great-grandmother were Jewesses by religion; or if the person
was converted to Judaism in a way satisfactory to the Israeli authorities,
and on condition that the person has not converted from Judaism to another
religion, in which case Israel ceases to regard them as 'Jewish'.
Of the three conditions, the first represents the Talmudic definition
of 'who is a Jew', a definition followed by Jewish Orthodoxy. The Talmud
and post-Talmudic rabbinic law also recognize the conversion of a non-Jew
to Judaism (as well as the purchase of a non-Jewish slave by a Jew followed
by a different kind of conversion) as a method of becoming Jewish, provided
that the conversion is performed by authorized rabbis in a proper manner.
This 'proper manner' entails for females, their inspection by three rabbis
while naked in a 'bath of purification', a ritual which, although notorious
to all readers of the Hebrew press, is not often mentioned by the English
media in spite of its undoubted interest for certain readers.
Jewish History - Part 2??
I hope that this book will be the beginning
of a process which will rectify this discrepancy. But there is another
urgent necessity for an official definition of who is, and who is not 'Jewish'.
The State of Israel officially discriminates in favor of Jews and against
non-Jews in many domains of life, of which I regard three as being most
important: residency rights, the right to work and the right to equality
before the law.
Discrimination in residency is based on the
fact that about 92 per cent of Israel's land is the property of the state
and is administered by the Israel Land Authority according to regulations
issued by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and affiliate of the World Zionist
Organization. In its regulations the JNF denies the right to reside, to
open a business, and often to work, to anyone who is not Jewish, only because
he is not Jewish.
At the same time, Jews are not prohibited from
taking residence or opening businesses anywhere in Israel. If applied in
another state against the Jews, such discriminatory practice would instantly
and justifiably be labeled antisemitism and would no doubt spark massive
public protests. When applied by Israel as a part of its 'Jewish ideology',
they are usually studiously ignored or excused when rarely mentioned.
The denial of the right to work means that
non-Jews are prohibited officially from working on land administered by
the Israel Land Authority according to the JNF regulations. No doubt these
regulations are not always, or even often, enforced but they do exist.
From time to time Israel attempts enforcement campaigns by state authorities,
as, for example, when the Agriculture Ministry acts against 'the pestilence
of letting fruit orchards belonging to Jews and situated on National Land
[i.e., land belonging to the State of Israel] be harvested by Arab laborers',
even if the laborers in question are citizens of Israel. Israel also strictly
prohibits Jews settled on 'National Land' to sub-rent even a part of their
land to Arabs, even for a short time; and those who do so are punished,
usually by heavy fines. There is no prohibitions on non-Jews renting their
land to Jews.
This means, in my own case, that by virtue
of being a Jew I have the right to lease an orchard for harvesting its
produce from another Jew, but a non-Jew, whether a citizen of Israel or
a resident alien, does not have this right. Non-Jewish citizens of
Israel do not have the right to equality before the law.
This discrimination is expressed in many Israeli
laws in which, presumably in order to avoid embarrassment, the terms 'Jewish'
and 'non- Jewish' are usually not explicitly stated, as they are in the
crucial Law of Return. According to that law only persons officially recognized
as 'Jewish' have an automatic right of entry to Israel and of settling
in it. They automatically receive an 'immigration certificate' which provides
them on arrival with 'citizenship by virtue of having returned to the Jewish
homeland', and with the right to many financial benefits, which vary somewhat
according to the country from which they emigrated.
THE JEWS WHO EMIGRATE FROM THE STATES OF THE
FORMER USSR RECEIVE 'AN ABSORPTION GRANT' OF MORE THAN $20,000 PER FAMILY.
All Jews immigrating to Israel according this law immediately acquire the
right to vote in elections and to be elected to the Knesset -- even if
they do not speak a word of Hebrew.
Other Israeli laws substitute the more obtuse
expressions 'anyone who can immigrate in accordance with the Law of Return'
and 'anyone who is not entitled to immigrate in accordance with the law
of Return'. Depending on the law in question benefits are them granted
to the first category and systematically denied to the second. The routine
means for enforcing discrimination in everyday life is the ID card, which
everyone is obliged to carry at all times. ID cards list the official 'nationality'
of a person, which can be 'Jewish', 'Arab', 'Druze' and the like, with
the significant exception of 'Israeli'.
Attempts to force the Interior Minister to
allow Israelis wishing to be officially described as 'Israeli', or even
as 'Israeli-Jew' in their ID cards have failed. Those who have attempted
to do so have a letter from the Ministry of the Interior stating that 'it
was decided not to recognize an Israeli nationality'. The letter does not
specify who made this decision or when. There are so many laws and
regulations in Israel which discriminate in favor of the persons defined
in Israel as those 'who can immigrate in accordance with the Law of Return'
that the subject demands separate treatment. We can look here at one example,
seemingly trivial in comparison with residence restrictions, but nevertheless
important since it reveals the real intentions of the Israeli legislator.
Israeli citizens who left the country for a
time but who are defined as those who 'can immigrate in accordance with
the Law of Return' are eligible on their return to generous customs benefits,
to receive subsidy for their children's high school education, and to receive
either a grant or a loan on easy terms for the purchase of an apartment,
as well as other benefits. Citizens who cannot be so defined, in other
words, the non-Jewish citizens of Israel, get none of these benefits. The
obvious intention of such discriminatory measures is to decrease the number
of non-Jewish citizens of Israel, in order to make Israel a more 'Jewish'
The Ideology of 'Redeemed' Land
Israel also propagates among its Jewish citizens
an exclusivist ideology of the Redemption of Land. Its official aim of
minimizing the number of non- Jews can be well perceived in this ideology
, which is inculcated to Jewish schoolchildren in Israel. They are taught
that it is applicable to the entire extent of either the State of Israel
or, after 1967, to what is referred to as the Land of Israel.
According to this ideology, the land which
has been 'redeemed' is the land which has passed from non-Jewish ownership
to Jewish ownership. The ownership can be either private, or belong to
either the JNF or the Jewish state. The land which belongs to non-Jews
is, on the contrary, considered to be 'unredeemed'. Thus, if a Jew who
committed the blackest crimes which can be imagined buys a piece of land
from a virtuous non-Jew, the 'unredeemed' land becomes 'redeemed' by such
However, if a virtuous non-Jew purchases land
from the worst Jew, the formerly pure and 'redeemed' land becomes 'unredeemed'
again. The logical conclusion of such an ideology is the expulsion, called
'transfer', of all non- Jews from the area of land which has to be 'redeemed'.
Therefore the Utopia of the 'Jewish ideology' adopted by the State of Israel
is a land which is wholly 'redeemed' and none of it is owned or worked
by non-Jews. The leaders of the Zionist labor movement expressed this utterly
repellent idea with the greatest clarity. Walter Laquer a devoted Zionist,
tells in his History of Zionism:
1). How one of these spiritual fathers, A.D.
Gordon, who died in 1919, 'objected to violence in principle and justified
self defense only in extreme circumstances. But he and his friends wanted
every tree and bush in the Jewish homeland to be planted by nobody else
except Jewish pioneers'. This means that they wanted everybody else to
just go away and leave the land to be 'redeemed' by Jews. Gordon's
successors added more violence than he intended but the principle of 'redemption'
and its consequences have remained.
In the same way, the kibbutz, widely hailed
as an attempt to create a Utopia, was and is an exclusivist Utopia; even
if it is composed of atheists, it does not accent Arab members on principle
and demands that potential members from other nationalities be first converted
to Judaism. No wonder the kibbutz boys can be regarded as the most militaristic
segment of the Israeli Jewish society. It is this exclusivist ideology,
rather than all the 'security needs' alleged by Israeli propaganda, which
determines the takeovers of land in Israel in the 1950s and again in the
mid-1960s and in the Occupied Territories after 1967.
This ideology also dictated official Israeli
plans for 'the Judaizition of Galilee'. This curious term means encouraging
Jews to settle in Galilee by giving them financial benefits. (I wonder
what would be the reaction of US Jews if a plan for 'the Christianization
of New York' or even only of Brooklyn, would be proposed in their country.)
But the Redemption of the Land implies more than regional 'Judaizition'.
In the entire area of Israel the JNF, vigorously backed by Israeli state
agencies (especially by the secret police) is spending great sums of public
money in order to 'redeem' any land which non-Jews are willing to sell,
and to preempt any attempt by a Jew to sell his land to a non-Jew by paying
him a higher price.
Jewish History - Part 3
The main danger which Israel, as 'a Jewish state', poses to its
own people, to other Jews and to its neighbors, is its ideologically motivated
pursuit of territorial expansion and the inevitable series of wars resulting
from this aim. The more Israel becomes Jewish or, as one says in Hebrew,
the more it 'returns to Judaism' (a process which has been under way in
Israel at least since 1967), the more its actual politics are guided by
Jewish ideological considerations and less by rational ones.
My use of the term 'rational' does not refer here to a moral
evaluation of Israeli policies, or to the supposed defense or security
needs of Israel - even less so to the supposed needs of 'Israeli survival'.
I am referring here to Israeli imperial policies based on its presumed
interests. However morally bad or politically crass such policies are,
I regard the adoption of policies based on 'Jewish ideology', in all its
different versions as being even worse. The ideological defense of Israeli
policies are usually based on Jewish religious beliefs or, in the case
of secular Jews, on the 'historical rights' of the Jews which derive from
those beliefs and retain the dogmatic character of religious faith.
My own early political conversion from admirer of Ben-Gurion
to his dedicated opponent began exactly with such an issue. In 1956 I eagerly
swallowed all of Ben-Gurion's political and military reasons for Israel
initiating the Suez War, until he (in spite of being an atheist, proud
of his disregard of the commandments of Jewish religion) pronounced in
the Knesset on the third day of that war, that the real reason for it is
'the restoration of the kingdom of David and Solomon' to its Biblical borders.
At this point in his speech, almost every Knesset member spontaneously
rose and sang the Israeli national anthem.
To my knowledge, no Zionist politician has ever repudiated Ben-Gurion's
idea that Israeli policies must be based (within the limits of pragmatic
considerations) on the restoration of the Biblical borders as the borders
of the Jewish state. Indeed, close analysis of Israeli grand strategies
and actual principles of foreign policy, as they are expressed in Hebrew,
makes it clear that it is 'Jewish ideology', more than any other factor,
which determines actual Israeli policies.
The disregard of Judaism as it really is and of 'Jewish ideology'
makes those policies incomprehensible to foreign observers who usually
know nothing about Judaism except crude apologetics. Let me give
a more recent illustration of the essential difference which exists between
Israeli imperial planning of the most inflated but secular type, and the
principles of 'Jewish ideology'. The latter enjoins that land which was
either ruled by any Jewish ruler in ancient times or was promised by God
to the Jews, either in the Bible or - what is actually more important politically
- according to a rabbinic interpretation of the Bible and the Talmud, should
belong to Israel since it is a Jewish state. No doubt, many Jewish 'doves'
are of the opinion that such conquest should be deferred to a time when
Israel will be stronger than it is now, or that there would be, hopefully,
a 'peaceful conquest', that is , that the Arab rulers or peoples would
be 'persuaded' to cede the land in question in return for benefits which
the Jewish state would then confer on them.
A number of discrepant versions of Biblical borders of the Land
of Israel, which rabbinical authorities interpret as ideally belonging
to the Jewish state, are in circulation. The most far-reaching among them
include the following areas within these borders: in the south, all of
Sinai and a part of northern Egypt up to the environs of Cairo; in the
east, all of Jordan and a large chunk of Saudi Arabia, all of Kuwait and
a part of Iraq south of the Euphrates; in the north, all of Lebanon and
all of Syria together with a huge part of Turkey (up to lake Van); and
in the west, Cyprus.
An enormous body of research and learned discussion based on
these borders, embodied in atlases, books, articles and more popular forms
of propaganda is being published in Israel, often with state subsidies,
or other forms of support. Certainly the late Kahane and his followers,
as will as influential bodies such as Gush Emunim, not only desire the
conquest of those territories by Israel, but regard it as a divinely commanded
act, sure to be successful since it will be aided by God.
In fact, important Jewish religious figures regard the Israeli
refusal to undertake such a holy war, or even worse, the return of Sinai
to Egypt, as a national sin which was justly punished by God. One of the
more influential Gush Emunim rabbis, Dov Lior, the rabbi of Jewish settlements
of Kiryat Arba and of Hebron, stated repeatedly that the Israeli failure
to conquer Lebanon in 1982-5 was a well-merited divine punishment for its
sin of 'giving a part of Land of Israel', namely Sinai, to Egypt.
Although I have chosen an admittedly extreme example of the Biblical
borders of the Land of Israel which 'belong' to the 'Jewish state', those
borders are quite popular in national-religious circles. There are less
extreme versions of Biblical borders, sometimes also called 'historical
borders'. It should however be emphasized that within Israel and the community
of its diaspora Jewish supporters, the validity of the concept of either
Biblical borders or historical borders as delineating the borders of land
which belongs to Jews by right is not denied on grounds of principle, except
by the tiny minority which opposes the concept of a Jewish state.
Otherwise, objections to the realization of such borders by a
war are purely pragmatical. One can claim that Israel is now too weak to
conquer all the land which 'belongs' to the Jews, or that the loss of Jewish
lives (but not of Arab lives!) entailed in a war of conquest of such magnitude
is more important than the conquest of the land, but in normative Judaism
one cannot claim that 'the Land of Israel', in whatever borders, does not
'belong' to all the Jews. In May 1993, Ariel Sharon formally proposed in
the Likud Convention that Israel should adopt the 'Biblical borders' concept
as its official policy. There were rather few objections to this proposal,
either in the Likud or outside it, and all were cased on pragmatic grounds.
No one even asked Sharon where exactly are the Biblical borders
which he was urging that Israel should attain. Let us recall that among
those who call themselves Leninists there was no doubt that history follows
the principles laid out by Marx and Lenin. It is not only the belief itself,
however dogmatic, but the refusal that it should ever be doubted, by thwarting
open discussion, which creates a totalitarian cast of mind. Israeli-Jewish
society and diaspora Jews who are leading 'Jewish lives' and organized
in purely Jewish organizations, can be said therefore to have a strong
streak of totalitarianism in their character.
However, an Israeli grand strategy, not based on the tenets of
'Jewish ideology', but based on purely strategic or imperial considerations
had also developed since the inception of the state. An authoritative and
lucid description of the principles governing such strategy was given by
General (Reserves) Shlomo Gazit, a former Military Intelligence commander.--
According to Gazit, "Israel's main task has not changed at all [since the
demise of the USSR] and it remains of crucial importance. The geographical
location of Israel at the center of the Arab-Muslim Middle East predestines
Israel to be a devoted guardian of stability in all the countries surrounding
it. Its [role] is to protect the existing regimes: to prevent or halt the
processes of radicalization, and to block the expansion of fundamentalist
religious zealotry. For this purpose Israel will prevent changes
occurring beyond Israel's borders [which it] will regard as intolerable,
to the point of feeling compelled to use all its military power for the
sake of their prevention or eradication."
In other words, Israel aims at imposing a hegemony on other Middle
Eastern states. Needless to say, according to Gazit, Israel has a benevolent
concern for the stability of the Arab regimes. In Gazit's view, by protecting
Middle Eastern regimes, Israel performs a vital service for 'the industrially
advanced states, all of which are keenly concerned with guaranteeing the
stability in the Middle East'.
He argues that without Israel the existing regimes of the region
would have collapsed long ago and that they remain in existence only because
of Israeli threats. While this view may be hypocritical, one should recall
in such contexts La Rochefoucault's maxim that 'hypocrisy is the tax which
wickedness pays to virtue'. Redemption of the Land is an attempt to evade
paying any such tax.
Jewish History Part 4a
Needless to say, I also oppose root and branch the Israeli non-ideological
policies as they are so lucidly and correctly explained by Gazit. At the
same time, I recognize that the dangers of the policies of Ben-Gurion of
Sharon, motivated by 'Jewish ideology', are much worse than merely imperial
policies, however criminal. The results of policies of other ideologically
motivated regimes point in the same direction. The existence of an important
component of Israeli policy, which is based on 'Jewish ideology', makes
its analysis politically imperative.
This ideology is, in turn based on the attitudes of historic
Judaism to non-Jews, one of the main themes of this book. Those attitudes
necessarily influence many Jews, consciously or unconsciously. Our task
here is to discuss historic Judaism in real terms. The influence
on 'Jewish ideology' on many Jews will be stronger the more it is hidden
from public discussion. Such discussion will, it is hoped, lead people
take the same attitude towards Jewish chauvinism and the contempt displayed
by so many Jews towards non-Jews (which will be documented below) as that
commonly taken towards antisemitism and all other forms of xenophobia,
chauvinism and racism. It is justly assumed that only the full exposition,
not only of antisemitism, but also of its historical roots, can be the
basis of struggle against it.
Likewise I am assuming that only the full exposition of Jewish
chauvinism and religious fanaticism can be the basis of struggle against
those phenomena. This is especially true today when, contrary to the situation
prevailing fifty or sixty years ago, the political influence of Jewish
chauvinism and religious fanaticism is much greater than that of antisemitism.
But there is also another important consideration. I strongly believe that
antisemitism and Jewish chauvinism can only be fought
A Closed Utopia?
Until such attitudes are widely adopted, the actual danger of
Israeli policies based on 'Jewish ideology' remains greater than the danger
of policies based on purely strategic considerations. The difference between
the two kinds of policies was well expressed by Hugh Trevor-Roper in his
essay 'Sir Thomas More and Utopia'
2). In which he termed them Platonic and Machiavellian: "Machiavelli
at least apologized for the methods which he thought necessary in politics.
He regretted the necessity of force and fraud and did not call them by
any other name. But Plato and More sanctified them, provided that they
were used to sustain their own Utopian republics."
In a similar way true believers in that Utopia called the 'Jewish
state', which will strive to achieve the 'Biblical borders', are more dangerous
than the grand strategists of Gazit's type because their policies are being
sanctified either by the use of religion or, worse, by the use of secularized
religious principles which retain absolute validity. While Gazit at least
sees a need to argue that the Israel dictate benefits the Arab regimes,
Ben-Gurion did not pretend that the re-establishment of the kingdom
of David and Solomon will benefit anybody except the Jewish state. Using
the concepts of Platonism to analyze Israeli policies based on 'Jewish
ideology' should not seem strange. It was noticed by several scholars,
of whom the most important was Moses Hadas, who claimed that the foundations
of 'classical Judaism', that is, of Judaism as it was established by Talmudic
sages, are based on Platonic influences and especially on the image of
Sparta as it appears in Plato.
3). According to Hadas, a crucial feature of the Platonic political
system, adopted by Judaism as early as the Maccabean period (142-63 BC),
was 'that every phase of human conduct be subject to religious sanctions
which are in fact to be manipulated by the ruler'. There can be no better
definition of 'classical Judaism' and of the ways in which the rabbis manipulated
it than this Platonic definition. In particular, Hadas claims that Judaism
adopted what 'Plato himself summarized [as] the objectives of his program',
in the following well-known passage: "The principle thing is that no one,
man or woman, should ever be without an officer set over him, and that
none should get the mental habit of taking any step, whether in earnest
or in jest, on his individual responsibility. In peace as in war he must
live always with his eyes on his superior officer... In a word, we must
train the mind not to even consider acting as an individual or know how
to do it." (Laws, 942ab)
If the word 'rabbi' is substituted for 'an officer' we will have
a perfect image of classical Judaism. The latter is still deeply influencing
Israeli-Jewish society and determining to a large extent the Israeli policies.
It was the above quoted passage which was chosen by Karl Popper in The
Open Society and Its Enemies as describing the essence of 'a closed society'.
Historical Judaism and its two successors, Jewish Orthodoxy and Zionism,
are both sworn enemies of the concept of the open society as applied to
Jewish History - Part 4b
A Jewish state, whether based on its present Jewish ideology
or, if it becomes even more Jewish in character than it is now, on the
principles of Jewish Orthodoxy, cannot ever contain an open society. There
are two choices which face Israeli-Jewish society. It can become a fully
closed and warlike ghetto, a Jewish Sparta, supported by the labor of Arab
helots, kept in existence by its influence on the US political establishment
and by threats to use its nuclear power, or it can try to become an open
society. The second choice is dependent on an honest examination of its
Jewish past, on the admission that Jewish chauvinism and exclusivism exist,
and on an honest examination of the attitudes of Judaism towards the non-Jews.
Prejudice and Prevarication The First Difficulty in writing
about this subject is that the term 'Jew' has been used during the last
150 years with two rather different meanings. To understand this, let us
imagine ourselves in the year 1780. Then the universally accepted meaning
of the term 'Jew' basically coincided with what the Jews themselves understood
as constituting their own identity.
This identity was primarily religious, but the precepts of religion
governed the details of daily behavior in all aspects of life, both social
and private, among the Jews themselves as well as in their relation to
non-Jews. It was then literally true that a Jew could not even drink a
glass of water in the home of a non-Jew. And the same basic laws of behavior
towards non-Jews were equally valid from Yemen to New York. Whatever the
term by which the Jews of 1780 may be described - and I do not wish to
enter into a metaphysical dispute about terms like, 'nation' and 'people'
(The Jews themselves universally described themselves as a religious community
or, to be precise, a religious nation. 'Our people is a people only because
of the Torah (Religious Law)'-this saying by one of the highest authorities,
Rabbi Sa'adia Hagga'on who lived in the 10th century, has become proverbial)
it is clear that all Jewish communities at that time were separate from
the non-Jewish societies in the midst of which they were living.
However, all this was changed by two parallel processes - beginning
in Holland and England, continuing in revolutionary France and in countries
which followed the example of the French Revolution, and then in the modern
monarchies of the 19th century: the Jews gained a significant level of
individual rights (in some cases full legal equality), and the legal power
of the Jewish community over its members was destroyed. It should be noted
that both developments were simultaneous, and that the latter is even more
important, albeit less widely known, than the former.
Since the time of the late Roman Empire, Jewish communities had
considerable legal powers over their members. Not only powers which arise
through voluntary mobilization of social pressure (for example refusal
to have any dealing whatsoever with an excommunicated Jew or even to bury
his body), but a power of naked coercion: to flog, to imprison, to expel
- all this could be inflicted quite legally on an individual Jew by the
rabbinical courts for all kinds of offenses.
In many countries; Spain and Poland are notable examples, even
capital punishment could be and was inflicted, sometimes using particularly
cruel methods such as flogging to death. All this was not only permitted
but positively encouraged by the state authorities in both Christian and
Muslim countries, who besides their general interest in preserving 'law
and order' had in some cases a more direct financial interest as well.
For example, in Spanish archives dating from the 13th and 14th
centuries there are records of many detailed orders issued by those most
devout Catholic Kings of Castile and Aragon, instructing their no less
devout officials to co-operate with the rabbis in enforcing observance
of the Sabbath by the Jews. Why? Because whenever a Jew was fined by a
rabbinical court for violating the Sabbath, the rabbis had to hand nine
tenths of the fine over to the king - a very profitable and effective arrangement.
Similarly, one can quote from the responsa written shortly before 1832
by the famous Rabbi Moshe Sofer of Pressburg (now Bratislava), in what
was then the autonomous Hungarian Kingdom in the Austrian Empire, and addressed
to Vienna in Austria proper, where the Jews had already been granted some
considerable individual rights. (The Jews themselves universally described
themselves as a religious community or, to be precise, a religious nation.
'Our people is a people only because of the Torah (Religious Law)'- this
saying by one of the highest authorities, Rabbi Sa'adia Hagga'on who lived
in the 10th century, has become proverbial; By Emperor Joseph II in 1782)
He laments the fact that since the Jewish congregation in Vienna
lost its powers to punish offenders, the Jews there have become lax in
matters of religious observance, and adds: 'Here in Pressburg, when I am
told that a Jewish shopkeeper dared to open his shop during the Lesser
Holidays, I immediately send a policeman to imprison him.'