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Uri Avnery Calls on Jews to Cling to Moral Values, Not Simply Endorse Israeli Policy

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November - December 2002

Current international developments are destroying a number of Zionist myths, writes Uri Avnery, founder of Gush Shalom, an Israeli grassroots peace movement composed of Jews and Arabs.  

In an article entitled “Manufacturing Anti-Semites” (Tikkun November-December 2002), Avnery points to one of these Zionist myths: “The Diaspora, so we learned in our youth, creates anti-Semitism ... Only when the Jews gather in the land of their forefathers and constitute the majority there, we learned, will anti-Semitism disappear throughout the world. Thus spoke Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism.”  

What has happened, he points out, is quite the opposite: “Whatever good the existence of the State of Israel may or may not have done, the current government of Israel is quickly undoing. The Sharon government is a giant laboratory for the growing of the anti-Semitism virus. It exports it to the whole world ... Anti-Semitism, which had hidden itself in shame since World War II, is now riding on a great wave of opposition to Sharon’s policy of oppression. Sharon’s propaganda agents are pouring oil on the flames by accusing all critics of his policy of being anti-Semites. Many good people, who feel no hatred at all towards the Jews but who detest the persecution of the Palestinians, are now called anti-Semites. Thus the sting is taken out of the word, giving it something approaching respectability.”  

In Avnery’s view, “The practical upshot: not only is the State of Israel not protecting Jews from anti-Semitism, but - on the contrary - its government is manufacturing and exporting the anti-Semitism that threatens Jews around the world. For many years, Israel enjoyed the sympathy of most people. It was seen as the state of Holocaust survivors, a small and courageous country defending itself against the repeated assaults of murderous Arabs. Slowly, this image has been replaced by another: a cruel, brutal, and colonizing state, oppressing a small and helpless people. The persecuted has become the persecutor; David has turned into Goliath.”  

Jewish organizations in the U.S. and other countries which support whatever the Israeli government does, encourage critics to associate all Jews with policies many find oppressive: “Anti-Semites of all stripes and hues are, of course, repulsive. They will vilify Jews whatever we do. Anti-Semitism, like other forms of racism, is never justified. But that is not the point. The point is that the actions of the Sharon government, and the unqualified support given to this government by the Jewish establishment, has enabled these hard-core anti-Semites to win over well-meaning people who are repelled by Sharon’s actions. The Israeli government pretends to speak for all Jews around the world, yet no attempt has been made by mainstream Jewish organizations to reject this claim. This may turn out to be terrible mistake.”  

Avnery argues that, “There are people in Israel who secretly wish for the victory of anti-Semitism everywhere. That would confirm another Zionist myth on which we were brought up: that Jews will not be able to live anywhere but in Israel, because anti-Semitism is bound to triumph everywhere.”  

The article concludes with this advice: “I would counsel Jewish communities throughout the world as follows: break out of the vicious circle. Disarm anti-Semites by breaking the habit of automatically identifying with everything the Israeli government does. Let your conscience speak out. Return to the traditional Jewish values of ‘That which is altogether just shalt thou follow!’ (Deut. 16:20) and ‘Seek peace and pursue it!’ (Psal. 4:14). Identify yourselves with the Other Israel which is struggling to uphold these values at home. All over the world, new Jewish groups that follow this way are multiplying. They break yet another myth, that the duty of Jews everywhere is to subordinate themselves to the edicts of the current Israeli government. They know that the true duty of Jews worldwide is to cling fast to Jewish values.”

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