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Israeli President Urges All Jews To Emigrate To Israel, Denies The Legitimacy of Judaism Elsewhere

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
September-October 2000

Israeli President Moshe Katsev has called upon Jews throughout the world to make aliyah, or emigrate to Israel, and criticized Israeli leaders for "legitimizing" Jewish life in other countries.  

Speaking early in September at the president's residence in Jerusalem to launch a Bar-Ilan University conference on assimilation, Katsev said that Israel should end its policy of justifying living outside of the Jewish state and begin a serious call for aliyah. He declared: "Israeli leaders gave a hechsher (kosher certification) to living in the Diaspora, because they used Diaspora Jews for their money and politics." (Washington Jewish Week, Sept.14, 2000)  

Katsav called on world Jewish leaders to set aside their differences and place aliyah at the top of their agenda, saying "The arguments among world Jewish leaders have not stopped the assimilation that threatens the continuation of the Jewish people. The only branch that can ensure the continuation of the Jewish nation is the Jewish state."  

Editorially, the Washington Jewish Week (Sept. 14, 2000) declared: "The Diaspora, after all, is what has kept the Jewish people alive. Without the dispersal of Jews throughout the world there might not be a Jewish people today...Perhaps the Israeli president should spend some time in the Diaspora, seeing the resurgence of Jewish life that is taking place in so many parts of the world, the shuls that are being rebuilt in Eastern Europe, the synagogues that are being expanded in the United States and the richness of Jewish life in so many communities, including our own. Alienating Jews in the Diaspora...won't accomplish what he wants and may, in fact, harm the state he so loves. As it is, the attachment to Israel among many Jews has been steadily eroding. A majority of baby boomers and those born later don't feel the connection...in the same way the World War II generation does. What's far more Important for Israel's leaders to do than tell Jews the only place they belong is in the Jewish state is to encourage connections between Israelis and Jews globally...The survival of the Jewish people depends on it."  

In an editorial entitled "Katsav's Tirade," The Forward (Sept. 15, 2000) declared: "This week's speech by Moshe Katsav, Israel's figurehead president, accusing his nation's leadership of `legitimizing' Diaspora Jewish life, ought to be a scandal. Sadly, it is business as usual...His analysis is nothing new. It is drawn directly, if crudely, from the classic Zionist doctrine of `negating the Diaspora.' Most early Zionist thinkers expected statehood to bring a spontaneous, mass relocation of Jews to the Middle East, ending the unfortunate interlude known as Diaspora Judaism...Events have proved the negators wrong. In America and elsewhere, Jewish life was not terminated by Jewish statehood, but strengthened...Unfortunately, nobody told the Israelis...The facts of Jewish life in America and elsewhere remain largely unknown in Israel, invisible in their culture, their media, their schools...had the head of any other foreign state suggested publicly that Jewish life in America lacked legitimacy, it would have evoked howls of protest. Israel, it seems, is the one country where American Jews remain a fair target for baseless slurs."  

The Forward concludes: "By and large, Israeli commentators have blamed Mr. Katsav`s foolish outburst on his inexperience. That is not good enough. His views reflect an important stream in Israeli thinking. The other important stream is reflected by the silence that greeted his tirade. That is the real scandal.'  

Writing in The Jerusalem Post (Sept. 22, 2000) Uri Dromi, an executive at the Israel Democracy Institutes in Jerusalem, states that for "the highest figure in Israel" to tell Jews from other countries "that the only legitimate place for Jews to live is Israel, is not only Israeli chutzpa, but also disrespect to—or ignorance of—the contributions of Diaspora Jewry to the Jewish heritage, with the Babylonian Talmud and Maimonides being just two examples."  

In a new book, Conversations With Yitzhak Shamir by David Aisner, Shamir declares: "...the every essence of our being obliges every Jew to live in Eretz Yisrael. So long as Jews wander around the world, they will not be safe...In my opinion, a man has no right to consider himself a part of the Jewish People without also being a Zionist, because Zionism states that in order for a Jew to live as a Jew he needs to have his own country, his own life, and his own future."

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