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A Time to Speak Out: Jewish Voices Challenging the Jewish Establishment and Embracing Universal Principles of Justice

Allan C. Brownfeld
Summer / Fall 2009

Edited by Barbara Rosenbaum,  
Verso, 306 Pages, $18.95  
For many years, those organizations which present themselves as speaking for the Jewish community have embarked upon the politicization of religion.  
The State of Israel, not God, they have told us is “central” to Judaism. Whatever policies the government of Israel has pursued, this Jewish establishment — ranging from groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the various rabbinical bodies — has found a way to be supportive and to do everything possible to influence our government to be supportive as well. Israeli flags fly in many synagogues, and Middle East politics, not religion, seems to dominate community discourse and concern.  
This state of affairs is not unique to the United States. In England, much the same is the case. And in England, as in our own country, more and more thoughtful Jewish voices are being heard rejecting the “Israel, right or wrong” philosophy and embracing the universal principles of justice and human rights which Prophetic Judaism not only embraced — but introduced to the world.  
The Times of London of February 5, 2007, and the Jewish Chronicle of February 9, 2007, featured a declaration signed by prominent Jews, most of them British, but from a number of other countries as well.  
Commitment to Social Justice  
They declared: “We are a group of Jews in Britain from diverse backgrounds, occupations and affiliations who have in common a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights. We come together in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole.”  
Among the points made in this statement are these:  
“1. Human rights are universal and indivisible and should be upheld without exception. This is applicable in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as it is elsewhere.  
“2. Palestinians and Israelis alike have the right to peaceful and secure lives. These principles are contradicted when those who claim to speak on behalf of Jews in Britain and other countries consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of an occupied people. The Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip face appalling living conditions with desperately little hope for the future. We declare our support for a properly negotiated peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people and oppose any attempt by the Israeli government to impose its own solutions on the Palestinians. We hereby reclaim the tradition of Jewish support for universal freedoms, human rights and social justice. The lessons we have learned from our own history compel us to speak out.”  
Brutal Assault  
The assault upon those signing this statement was brutal. One strongly pro-Israel columnist, Melanie Phillips, for example, said that those who joined in this statement were “Jews for genocide” belonging to the “lamentable tradition” of Jews who “want to destroy the Jewish people.” The term “self-hating Jew” was widely used by defenders of the establishment.  
The effort by those who have appointed themselves to be “thought police” within the organized Jewish community is long-standing. In an interview with The Guardian of London, the distinguished Israeli author Amos Elon, who died in self-imposed exile in Italy in May at the age of 82, recalled being confronted on Israeli television by “some reactionary” who demanded to know, “Are you one of those self-haters?” He replied: “No, I don’t hate myself. I just hate Jews like you.” Elon, in his book The Israelis: Founders and Sons (1971) declared: “The Arabs bore no responsibility for the centuries-long suffering of Jews in Europe. Whatever their subsequent follies and outrages might be, the punishment of the Arabs for the sins of Europe must burden Israelis for a long time to come.”  
Conceived in the aftermath of the declaration of Independent Jewish Voices, from which the title of this book is taken, this collection of essays is a response to the glare of publicity — and bitter attacks — which followed the group’s founding.  
Debate Over Zionism  
The editors note that, “Jews have fiercely debated Zionism ever since the movement began in the late 19th century, and they have argued over Israel from the creation of the state 60 years ago in 1948. As for Jewish identity (what makes a Jew a Jew), this is a subject as old as the seven hills of Jerusalem, if not older. The situation in the Middle East could hardly be more grave, while the climate of debate in the Jewish world is acrimonious. That makes these conversations a current affair and a matter of urgency. This is no time for polite evasion. Too much is at stake for too many people. On this, at least, all the contributors agree: it is time to speak out.”  
Jews outside of Israel are, the editors point out, “implicated in the human rights violations of a population under occupation” because “successive Israeli governments claim to represent Jews in general, a claim that is as groundless as it is injurious” and, as a result, “it is vital to speak out ... Many Jews refuse to view these events through a narrow, ethnocentric lens. They base their opinions instead upon universal principles of justice and human rights. And they refuse to accept that Israel offers a viable identity for Jews.”  
An essay by Geoffrey Bindman, a solicitor who has represented the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International and other groups in human rights missions in many countries, including Israel and the Occupied Territories, deals with the question of whether or not the occupation is legal.  
Israel a Paradox  
Mr. Bindman, currently chairman of the British Institute of Human Rights and a visiting professor of law at University College London, writes: “Israel is a paradox. It is not an authoritarian or repressive regime. It has all the attributes of a democracy on the Anglo-American model. It is a nation of many lawyers who take pride in the respect of their state for the rule of law. Unfortunately, pride is very far from justified when one examines the policies and practices of the Israeli govern¬ment toward Arab citizens in Israel and towards Palestinian Arabs in the Occupied Territories. Unlike most of those who support the occupation (including Israelis themselves), I have visited the West Bank and Gaza and seen for myself the appalling conditions there in which people are compelled to live.”  
Israel, Mr. Bindman declares, is clearly in violation of international law in building settlements in the West Bank: “... it has violated the prohibition on transfer by the occupying power of any part of its own population into the occupied territory. The prohibition strikes directly at the status of the settlements that have been a crucial feature of Israeli policy ... over the last 140 years. There are now 460,000 Israeli citizens illegally resident in the West Bank.”  
Beyond this, notes Bindman, “There is expropriation of land and the exclusion — condemned by the International Court of Justice — of many Palestinians from access to their own land by the interposition of the wall that now separates a large part of the West Bank from Israel. Some 80 per cent of the wall has been built on Palestinian land, much of which is on the Israeli side of the wall, to which access by its owners is severely impeded or from which they are completely excluded. ... The creation of a network of roads across the West Bank that Palestinians may not use ... and other acts of discrimination against the Palestinians lead some to use the term ‘apartheid’ in describing the treatment of Palestinians by Israel.”  
Afraid for Jews of Israel  
In an essay entitled “Solidarity at a Distance and Dreams of Peace,” Lynne Segal, professor of Psychology at Birkenbeck University of London, quotes the writer Grace Paley: “I am afraid for the Jews of Israel,” she wrote in 2003, because for thousands of years Jewish people had lived without a state of their own, and were they to want one, she continued, next thing they’d need “an army, airplanes, nuclear weapons, borders, checkpoints, and maybe a big wall and a lot more land.”  
Paley imagines the voice of her father, restlessly turning in his grave: “My God, I’m glad I’m six feet under. And the Jews of America say all of this is OK? They don’t yell stop. I think they lost their Jewish minds. Us. Poor people hounded all over the earth for a couple thousand years and now they want to be the hounds? I want to correct him. No, no, Pa, there are people on both sides. A lot who want to live like human beings. You would recognize them. He said sadly, I know, of course. Usually they’re better, the people. But always in the end I have noticed how it grows, the state and its terrible power.”  
Professor Segal recalls that her grandfather, Alfred Harris, was the founder of the Hebrew Standard in Sydney, Australia in 1895 and served as editor for over 30 years. He spent the last two decades of his life embattled in bitter disputes over the political goals of Zionism. She notes that, “He feared for the Arab population of Palestine, who had lived there for fourteen centuries, were a Jewish state to be established in the region. As late as 1941 he summarized his anxieties in a series of editorials entitled ‘Zionism Today,’ remaining adamant that what he called ‘Political Zionism’ is ‘unjust, dangerous to a degree, even cruel in its inevitable consequences and, after all, unobtainable.’”  
Grandfather’s Concerns  
Assessing her grandfather’s concerns, Segal writes that, “What he got right, sadly, has proved as prophetic and enduring as what he got wrong. ... His fears about the cruelties that might attend a fully triumphant Zionism are once again beginning to receive an airing in some Jewish thought today, even in the occasional ‘post-Zionist’ writing of a few Jewish Israelis. ... The ongoing construction of the separation wall in the Occupied Territories follows a route cutting like a sheaf of daggers between pockets of closed-off Palestinian communities ... ‘Yes, this is apartheid,’ as former Israeli MK, once Minister for Education and Culture, Shulamit Aloni argued in January 2007. In sorrow, this eminent Jewish politician listed more of the ways in which her government was daily denying the human rights of Palestinian people: ‘We not only rob them of their freedom, land and water. We apply collective punishment to millions of people and even ... destroy the electricity supply for one and a half million civilians.’ ... Each side in this continuing tragedy trumpets its collective sense of victimhood and trauma, as though the playing field were level ...”  
Discussing “Occupation, Human Rights and the Quest for Peace,” Tony Klug, special adviser on the Middle East to the Oxford Research Group and formerly head of international development at Amnesty International, reported on his own visits to the Occupied Territories.  
“Often in the company of Palestinians or Israelis or both,” he writes, “I moved about the West Bank virtually unhindered throughout the l970s. There were few roadblocks or checkpoints, few Israeli settlements and few terror attacks. Even travel across the old Green Line was barely monitored ... But following the surprise election in May 1977 of the overtly nationalist Likud Party under the leadership of Menachem Begin — who considered the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to be the liberated territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza and an integral part of the Land of Israel — the land confiscations and settlement program accelerated dramatically. The occupation began to look as if it had come to stay. ... If there is one cast-iron law of history, it is probably that all occupations and other forms of colonial rule are, eventually, resisted. At that point, the occupier has a choice of pulling out and letting the native people exercise self-determination or clamping down. Despite its avowal in the years immediately following the 1967 war that it would stay only temporarily, Israel chose to remain, The rest was predictable.”  
Contradiction Between Motive and Result  
The motive of Zionism and its result, in Klug’s view, have shown themselves to be contradictory: “The motive of Zionism was the positive one of achieving justice and safety for one tormented people, not the negative one of doing damage to another people. Yet, in effect, this is precisely what it did do, and at some point Israelis and their supporters around the world will need to come fully and openly to terms with this ... Palestinians ... dispossessed, degraded and derided, their original felony was simply to be in the way of another anguished people’s grand enterprise. Almost everything that has happened since then is in some way a consequence of this.”  
“A Student’s Story” by Emma Clyne, who was born and raised in Stockholm and is a graduate in politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) where she chaired the SOAS Jewish Society during the academic year of 2006-7, shows how established Jewish organizations do everything possible to promote the idea that Judaism and Jewish identity revolve around Israel and defending its role in the Middle East.  
Clyne writes that, “The Swedish Jewish population doesn’t include a large enough number of Jews, so the thought of there being enough Jews at a university campus to make up a whole society was admittedly intriguing to me. What I found, however, was a Jewish society that seemed more like an Israel society, featuring a whole series of talks by distinguished pro-Zionist speakers who appeared to seize any opportunity to defend Israeli policies regardless of what they entailed.”  
“Self-Hating Jews”  
When she expressed concern over particular Israeli policies, such as the treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, she was told, “I can’t believe I’m hearing this, you seem like one of those self-hating Jewish anti-Semites.” She recalls that, “This exclamation came from the lips of a fellow member of the Jewish Society at SOAS ... The comment prompted a chain of events in which I found myself thrown head first into an entirely new world, where I was surrounded by controversy relating to the question of Jewish identity.”  
After Clyne became chair of the SOAS Jewish Society, she sought to make a clear distinction between the Israel Society and the Jewish Society: “The Israel Society would appropriately engage with issues relating to Israel and Israeli politics and the Jewish Society would focus on Jewish culture, history, religion, philosophy and questions of identity ... At Hillel House ... I was told that the two societies were essentially the same thing. I was told in a firm voice ‘That’s not what the Jewish Society does. You can’t separate Israeli politics from Jewish identity. It’s all the same, part of the same thing.’ I replied that it was indeed possible to make such a distinction, and that the SOAS Jewish Society had just successfully done so. Furthermore, I pointed out, we had agreed to do this in a democratic manner.”  
Clyne laments that, “It seems as if we have arrived at the point where one’s credentials as a Jew are being measured by his or her commitment to Zionism and unconditional and unequivocal support for Israel ... You may have never seen the interior of a synagogue and never have celebrated a single Jewish festival in your life, but if you are prepared to justify the occupation of Palestinian territory and the erection of Israel’s wall, you may rest assured that no one will question your Jewish identity. ... As a people plagued by persecution ... I feel that we, as Jews, should never cease to be vigilant about human rights violations committed against our fellow human beings. And that we, as Jews, should do everything we can to ensure that human rights are never violated in the name of Judaism or the Jewish people.”  
The frequent charge of “self-hatred” used in an attempt to silence Jewish criticism of Zionism or of particular policies of the Israeli government is addressed in an essay, “On the Myth of Self-Hatred,” by Professor Jacqueline Rose of Queen Mary, University of London, author of the widely read book, The Question of Zion.  
Against the Spirit of Judaism  
She declares that, “Rather than accusing Jews who criticize Israel of self-hatred, we should therefore be asking ourselves what love — a love that is creative rather than self-deceiving and suffocating — can and should be able to tolerate. To demand only love is autocratic ... It goes against the spirit of Judaism that is endlessly open to the different meanings and interpretations invited by the Bible. ... I do not hate myself, or Jewishness, or Israel, when I criticize the policies of the state. I hate what the Israeli government is doing, and has been doing for a very long time, to the Palestinians and to itself ... Israel’s own conduct is playing a key part in rendering its future precarious.”  
Professor Rose notes that, “Hannah Arendt cited Golda Meir, who, Arendt reports, said something along the lines: ‘You will understand that, as a Socialist, I do not believe in God; I believe in the Jewish people,’ Arendt was dismayed that this great people who had once believed in God, and ‘believed in Him in such a way that its trust and love towards Him was greater than its fear,’ was now to believe only itself. ‘What good,’ she asked, can come out of that?”  
Exploring what many have called “The New Anti-Semitism,” by which is meant not hatred of Jews or Judaism but criticism of Israel and its policies, Richard Kuper, who has been an academic, publisher and trade union activist and is active in Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, points out that, “One of the core claims in the ‘new anti-Semitism’ argument is that Jews worldwide are being held responsible for what Israel does. Clearly this does sometimes happen and it is wrong: Jews are not responsible and should not be held responsible for Israel’s actions. Nonetheless, the accusation that Jews and Zionists are being conflated is curious since Zionism itself has systematically made just such a conflation, ‘Real’ Jews (it is said) love Israel and, if they don’t go to live there themselves, they hope their children will. A failure to make a clear distinction between Jews and Israelis is, in my experience, the common sense of Zionism. We always thought that was what the ‘right of return’ was all about.”  
“Jewish Anti-Semitism”  
Kuper cites many who charge that criticism of Israel is, in effect, “anti-Semitism.” In a December 2006 article called “Fighting Jewish Anti-Semitism,” for example, Brandeis University Professor Shulamith Reinharz made it clear that, for her, “in a world where is only one Jewish state, to oppose it vehemently is to endanger Jews.” Those guilty as “Jewish anti-Semites,” in her view, include such respected academicians as Tony Judt, Ilan Pappe, and Jacqueline Rose as well as playwright Tony Kushner and poet Adrienne Rich.  
Such a charge, Kuper believes, “is not simply an innocent description: for Jews in general and for many others as well, it functions to evoke the catastrophic and bloody history of the Holocaust ... It is a clarion call to unite against ‘our enemies’ without bothering to look at the substance of the criticism ... Is it anti-Semitism to make these points because of their ‘unhealthy’ focus on Israel? Or to point out that Israel was founded on an expulsion of Palestinians, as Israel’s ‘new historians’ have been doing for two decades now? Or to suggest that serious accommodation on this issue will be a precondition for a lasting settlement? You might think it wrong — but anti-Semitism?”  
Writer and sociologist Anne Karpf, who teaches at London Metropolitan University and is the author of a family memoir, “The War After: Living with the Holocaust,” considers the question of “The ‘Arab Nazi’ and the ‘Nazi Jew.’”  
Demonizing Arabs  
She reports that the first time she heard Arabs being characterized as Nazis was in December 1988 in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. On a visit organized by the First International Conference of Children of Holocaust Survivors, the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir spoke of the unchanging nature of the threat to the Jews and, in keeping with the narrative of Yad Vashem’s own exhibits, stressed the need for a powerful Israel to combat it. “One moment,” she writes, “Shamir was speaking of the atrocities of the Holocaust, the next he was talking about the danger posed by the Palestinians, and so smooth was the slippage between the two that most people hardly noticed, although a number of those that did were angered by the political exploitation of the victims of Nazism and their relatives.”  
David Ben-Gurion, speaking of the imminent war in Palestine, warned that the enemy would be “the disciples and even teachers of Hitler, who know only one way of solving the Jewish problem: total destruction.” In a discussion with Holocaust survivors about German reparations in l95l, he was more explicit: “We don’t want again to reach the situation that you were in. We do not want the Arab Nazis to come and slaughter us.” Abba Eban famously referred to the Green Line as “Auschwitz” borders. Menachem Begin, on the eve of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, told his cabinet: “There is no way other than to fight selflessly. Believe me, the alternative is Treblinka, and we have decided that there will be no more Treblinkas,” At the height of the bombardment of Beirut he sent a telegram to President Reagan declaring, “I feel as a Prime Minister empowered to instruct a valiant army facing ‘Berlin’ where amongst innocent civilians, Hitler and his henchmen hide in a bunker deep beneath the surface.”  
Begin’s invocation of the Holocaust did not go unopposed. The novelist Amos Oz responded: “Mr. Begin, Adolf Hitler died thirty seven years ago. Unfortunately or not, it is a fact: Hitler is not hiding in Nabatea, in Sidon, or in Beirut. He is dead and gone. Again and again, Mr. Begin, you reveal to the public eye a strange urge to resuscitate Hitler in order to kill him every day anew in the guise of terrorists.” And The Jerusalem Post suggested that the epitaph of the war with Lebanon would be: “Here lies the international stature and moral integrity of a wonderful people. Died of a false analogy.”  
Parallels with Holocaust  
Professor Karpf points to the irony that, “...parallels with the Holocaust began to be deployed much more recklessly just at the point when Israel became the dominant military power in the region, in control of land to which it had no legal claim. The 1967 war in particular, according to the Israeli historian Idith Zertal, would have been seen as a secular dispute over territory, rather than an ‘existential threat,’ without the deliberate conflation of Arabs and Nazis during the Eichmann trial. The ideological value of the idea is evident. If Arabs really can be equated with Nazis, then any steps that Israel takes to combat them are justified. Israeli action is redefined as self-defense, resistance rather than aggression, and all opposition to it is delegitimized, all debate cordoned. ... Some of the very same people who insist on the uniqueness of the Holocaust as a historical event are also the first to exploit it for expedient comparisons of their own. Israel’s U.N. envoy said that a proposed visit by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Ground Zero would be similar to a visit by a resurrected Hitler to Auschwitz.”  
While Israeli Jews criticize their own government with great vehemence, when Jews in other countries do So they are subjected to widespread criticism and often brutal attack. In an essay, “Speaking Out: If Not Now, When?,” D.D. Guttenplan, London correspondent for The Nation and author of “The Holocaust on Trial: Justice and the David Irving Libel Case,” holds this double standard up to examination.  
He states: “Whether out of solidarity with our fellow Jews, or merely out of fear of communal ostracism, we held our tongues while a whole people has been brutalized and degraded ... Dissent of a kind that will get you labelled a ‘self-hating Jew’ in New York or a ‘Jewish enemy within’ here in London is taken in stride in Tel Aviv. If the Israelis don’t feel the need to demonize their country’s Jewish critics, why would Melanie Phillips? Nor does the argument that Jews living outside Israel have no right to a view on Israeli actions have much force when Israel constantly — ¬if falsely — claims to be acting in our names and on our behalf. Some signers of Independent Jewish Voices statement would doubtless welcome a divorce between Israel and the diaspora: a repeal of the law of return, and the evolution of Israel into a country that belongs to — and earns the loyalty of — all those who live within its borders. Others work tirelessly to maintain the connection. At the moment, though, no one can pretend that the relationship, however troubled, is not a fact.”  
Defensive Attitudes  
Antony Lerman, director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, discusses “Touching a Raw Nerve,” and describes the atmosphere fostered by England’s Jewish establishment this way: “Independent Jewish Voices burst on to the stage of a Jewish community whose leadership had done little to discourage the view that anti-Semitism was out of control, that much of the criticism of Israel from non-Jewish and Jewish sources was anti-Semitic, and that Muslims were threatening the position of Jews in British society. ... A climate prevailed in which multifaceted judgments and opinions about controversial issues affecting Jews were unacceptable. This cluster of defensive attitudes ... raises questions as to why IJV’s arrival took people by surprise. It was surely the inevitable result of a community burying its head in the sand. Nor is it surprising that IJV, with its roster of high-profile signatories and its ability to generate extensive publicity, should have touched such a raw nerve and made such an impact.”  
Sadly, in Lerman ‘s view, the organized Jewish community, in England, the United States and other countries, has tried to “marginalize dissent” and foster a “for us or against us” mentality. At the same time, they have redefined “anti-Semitism” to mean criticism of Israel.  
“These two issues alone,” he writes, “add up to what Jewish leaders and many commentators regard as an unprecedented crisis for Jewish communities ... the split among Jews — more acute now than ever — over particularism and universalism. The particularists see a vigilant ethno-centrism as the answer to what they perceive as multiple threats to Jewish life. The universalists believe that the reassertion of universalist values and a Jewish tradition of social justice and vigorous argument are the only path to a just peace for Israel-Palestine and to a Jewish future engaged and at ease with the world. ... Although the traditionalists and Israel-firsters retained most of their formal leadership roles in the community during the mid-l990s, they realized that they were not in tune with the mood music. Diversity and pluralism came to be more characteristic of Jewish life.”  
“Death of Interpretation”  
Lerman cites the findings of Lars Dencik, a Swedish sociologist who has been observing Jewish communities in Scandinavia for the last three decades. Dencik has referred to “the death of interpretation,” noting that while differences in the interpretation of texts may still be respected in the closed world of the yeshiva or some other more open-minded colleges and academies, the appreciation of nuance, understand¬ing the need for differentiated analysis and the readiness to listen to uncomfortable points of view without immediately condemning them appears to be increasingly absent from Jewish public space.  
Exploring “Lessons from History,” Francesca Klug, Professorial Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics and a commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, points to the fact that, “... the link between the two — human rights and speaking out — was partially forged through the experience of Jewish people in Europe. Today we tend to forget how recent is the idea that human rights abuses anywhere in the world should matter to us all. It is less than 60 years since crimes like torture or genocide were outlawed by international human rights instruments in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust. ... It was with an awareness of this history and its significance, that some of us signed the IJV declaration ... The statement was drafted in response to the daily humiliations and flagrant human rights abuses of the Palestinian people under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and the widespread discrimination of Palestinians within Israel itself ... The text of the statement reaches to the core of Jewish experience down the ages.”  
Jewish Emancipation  
Although historic parallels are never exact, Klug reports that, “When I hear of the debate over whether the state of Israel should give full and equal rights — and equal recognition — to all its citizens, regardless of ethnicity or creed, how can I not recall the struggles for Jewish emancipation in post-revolutionary France? When I read of the ‘collective punishment’ meted out to whole Palestinian families because of the actions of a few, when I learn of terrified children and humiliated parents, how can I not recall the experience of the Jews of Europe down the generations? How often have many of us thought: if only the world had not turned away when our own human dignity was denied? How can we turn away now when we see injustice done to others in our name? Not to speak out about such abuses of human rights: what a betrayal that would be of our history.”  
In the summer of 2002, Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, spoke to journalist Jonathan Freedland and gave voice to certain moral qualms that, argues Howard Cooper, a rabbinic graduate of Leo Baeck College, London and a psychotherapist whose most recent book is The Alphabet of Paradise: An A-Z of Spirituality for Everyday Life, “one might have considered normative for a Jewish religious leader speaking about Israel.”  
Rabbi Sacks declared: “I regard the current situation as nothing less than tragic, because it is forcing Israel into postures that are incompatible in the long run with our deeper ideals ... There are things that happen on a daily basis which make me feel very uncomfortable as a Jew.” He noted that the command “Do not ill-treat a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21) is found 36 times within the Hebrew Bible and said that, “I regard that as one of the core projects of a state that is true to Judaic principle.”  
High Moral Purpose  
The Chief Rabbi’s remarks appeared on the front page of The Guardian (August 27, 2002). Still, Cooper writes, “What the Chief rabbi said ... was mild in comparison with what he could have said. He could have reflected further on how the Jewish people, historically associated with high moral purpose ... have become identified with a nation-state loathed around the world for its oppressiveness towards a subjugated indigenous people ... Israel’s former Attorney General Michael Ben-Hair, who wrote in Ha ‘aretz in 2002 that, since 1967, ‘We enthusiastically chose to become a colonialist society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all this.”  
Dr. Cooper cites the history of Orthodox Jewish opposition to the early Zionist enterprise on the basis that mere humans must not take into their own hands what only God can execute. More recently, he shows, “... it is the post-1967 messianic fervor of certain influential Orthodox rabbis that has driven the ongoing settlement/occupation of so-called ‘Judea and Samaria.’ And, in the course of this latest, contemporary manifestion of periodic Judaic upsurges of false messianic hopefulness, these same rabbis created the conditions for the third year Bar-Ilan University honors law student Yigal Amir to murder Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin out of the mistaken conviction that Rabin’s late conversion to the possibilities of peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians — which would have included ceding parts of the ‘holy’ land — delayed the unfolding messianic process. ... Amir, a lucid Talmud seminarian, thus enacted what amounted to, in his eyes, a rabbinic fatwa as he said at his first trial, whoever ‘gives over his people and his land to the enemy must be killed. My whole life has been studying the halachah (religious law) and I have all the data.’”  
Justice and Jewish Purpose  
Those who composed the canonical texts of the Torah made justice the sina qua non of Jewish purpose: “Justice, justice you shall pursue ...” (Deuteronomy 16:20a ). Cooper writes: “Those of a genuinely religious disposition, those attuned to the spirit of historic Israel’s prophetic consciousness, might say that, without adherence to the principles of justice, the Jewish people have no raison d’etre and ‘Israel’ has no right to existence ... Not only is justice indissolubly linked to inheritance of the land, but the text ... makes the divine act of giving existentially alive in an unfolding present. The text does not say that God has given or will give, the land. It is not a statement or promise about history, past or future. It is a pragmatic theological perspective. There is no so-called ‘right’ to the land: its inheritance is consequent upon, and dependent upon, Israel’s continuing commitment to the pursuit of justice.”  
Anthony Rudolf, writer, translator and publisher whose books include the first study of Primo Levi in English “At an Uncertain Hour,” served during the 15 years between the Six Day War of 1967 and the revelations about the Israeli role at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982 as editor of the magazine European Judaism. He also worked with Israeli cultural attaches and writers in organizing readings and other events and helped edit prayer-books for the Reform and Liberal Jewish movements.  
“As a diaspora Jew of my generation,” he writes, “I, like so many others, became emotionally involved with Israel at the time of the Six Day War, over 40 years ago. My Zionist background was common enough at the time: it was non-existent ... I became a member of Hashomer Hatzair, a socialist Zionist group to the left of the Israel Labor Party and associated with the most egalitarian of the kibbutz movements.”  
Zionism as Colonialism  
Later, Rudolf observed “... the rise of Begin’s version of Zionism and ... what can be legitimately labelled colonialism, and, later, apartheid in the Occupied Territories. Military occupation demands responsible behavior on the part of the occupier; the presence of settlers, especially the original ideological ones, with the concomitant expansion of settlements in the territories, has poisoned the wells of dialogue ever since, and rendered the implementation of U.N. resolutions that much more difficult. All the same, I would spend many years critically engaged and more or less in agreement with socialist Zionism before I came to understand that even my own comrades (thus, myself too) were in profound denial concerning Israel’s responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians, and that our ideology enabled us to ride two horses. We were sleepwalking.”  
An essay entitled “You Shall Not Follow a Multitude to Do Evil” by Jeremy Montagu, former president of West Central Liberal Synagogue and, until he retired as Lecturer/Curator of the Bate Collection of Instruments in the Faculty of Music at Oxford University, discusses the importance of each individual thinking through the questions of morality — and not following blindly those who pretend to speak in his or her name.  
“I signed,” writes Montagu, “because I am a Jew who loves and supports Israel, who has children and grandchildren there, who visits the country regularly but who does not support its present government ‘right or wrong.’ I signed, too, because I believe that every Jew has the right to a voice independent of those who purport to speak for all Jews, such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which does not speak for me. I also signed because I hear the Torah read every week in synagogue and because it says: ‘You shall not follow a multitude to do evil’ (Exodus 23:2). It also says that “in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). And specifically commands: ‘And a stranger you sha1l not oppress; for you know the heart of a stranger, seeing you were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Exodus 23:9). These are my reasons for signing the IJV declaration.”  
Two-tier State  
From its creation as a state, Israel, in Montagu’s view, “has always been a two-tier state comprising ‘us’ (those citizens who are Jewish) and ‘them’ (everyone else). Conditions in the state have never been the same for ‘them’ as for ‘us.’ Jewish and Palestinian communities have never had access to equal infrastructures. Street-¬paving, rubbish collection, the provision of schools and hospitals: the inequality is plain in almost every area of social policy. To those Jews who, like me, identify with Israel, I want to say: we should be ashamed of such behavior and ashamed of such conditions. When we see such things happening, how can we not speak out?”  
The idea that Jews should remain silent about conditions in Israel or the policies of the Israeli government is one widely promoted by established Jewish organizations, both in the U.S., England and other countries. Jeremy Montagu responds to such a position this way: “When the government of Britain behaves wrongly or immorally, every citizen is at liberty to say so. Nor are we, as British citizens, obliged to remain silent about the wrongs committed by other states. We speak our minds, whether about the government of Zimbabwe or the actions of the Sudanese in Darfur. Why should we treat Israel any differently? Surely, those of us who love Israel should be the first to speak out when we see its government behaving wrongly or immorally, just as we hasten to speak about it with pride when given reason to do so. Within Israel itself, the press is prepared to speak out. Many of our friends and family who live there do not hesitate to protest against the actions of the government. They do not remain silent. Why should we not support them and speak as loudly about injustices in Israel as we do about those elsewhere?”  
Unregimented Thinking  
In this connection, Michael Kustow, who has been Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts and Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, declares: “Britain’s Jews are a small community compared with the ranks of American Jewry in which to raise a Jewish independent voice. But a small island may provide a fruitful ground in which to sow the seeds of unregimented thinking, and what has begun with this informal gathering of voices may make a few more diaspora Jews stand up and say what they feel. It will also give heart to the Israeli opposition, who must sometimes feel demoralized with their fellow Israelis’ paranoia and belicosity and diaspora Jews’ largely unthinking support. Israel is squandering its moral credit by acting out the hoariest psycho-cliché of all: the victim/survivor who victimizes others.”  
The manner in which dissent and honest discussion is discouraged among Jews in England, the U.S. and other countries is a constant theme of the contributors to this book. Julia Bard, who edits the British Channel 4 “Faith and Belief” website and produces materials and provides editorial training for groups such as Amnesty International and the National Children’s Bureau, points to the fact that “... secular bodies ... have attempted to police the borders of Jewish life in the diaspora, defining the limits of allowable debate so that dissidents are silenced, marginalized or excluded. ... create an illusion of homogeneity and unity behind those who claim the mantle of communal leaders. It ... paralyzes or distorts communication with the wider society.”  
Victimization Mentality  
Bard is particularly critical of the victimization mentality which has been fostered: “The notion that we have always lived on the verge of being wiped out leaves us truly vulnerable because it decontextualizes us, detaching us from the real historical experiences that have enabled us to live for millennia — culturally, politically, economically — with other peoples. ... Many aspects of our diasporic culture that survived to link us to the past and sustain us through difficult times ... have been attacked and undermined by an insistence, since 1948, that Israel is central to Jewish life and that all other Jewish communities are subbordinate to it. This has resulted in Zionist cultural, economic, political and social imperatives being imposed on the Jewish world both by the Israeli state and by diaspora leaderships operating as its proxies and public relations agents. ... In this desperate atmosphere, the Palestinians themselves are seen not as a powerless people oppressed by a majoritarian state, with whom diaspora Jews might make common cause, but are simply added to the sea of incorrigible anti-Semites on a continuum with those who have always threatened our survival.”  
A recent study in England found that many Jews are generally uncomfortable with Israeli policies. It found that 78 percent of “moderately engaged Jews” “care deeply about Israel,” while only 47 percent agreed with the statement, “I am a Zionist.” Only 22 percent agreed with the statement, “I generally support the policies of the current Israeli government,” while more — 28 percent — disagreed, and the remainder were not sure or had mixed views. Thus, those who say that “the Jews are united behind the actions of Israel” are guilty, at best, of wishful thinking.  
All of this, writes Donald Sassoon, Professor of Comparative European History at Queen Mary, University of London, places “... those like me in a quandary. One could, of course, speak as a member of the human race and leave it at that, but that would be to concede to others, the monopoly of defining ‘Jewishness.’ This is why, in many European countries, in the United States, in Canada and elsewhere, Jews of differing views have come together to say ‘Not In Our Name.’ Their aim, like that of IJV, is to create a space in which Jews of different affiliations and persuasions can express their opinions — as Jews — about the actions of the Israeli government without being accused of disloyalty or being dismissed with the psychoanalytically dubious term of ‘self-hating Jews’...”  
“Conventional Doctrine”  
The “conventional doctrine” presented both by the State of Israel and by most established Jewish organizations elsewhere in the world, is described by Professor Brian Klug, Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford University as one which insists that the State of Israel must be the “center” of Jewish life, or the idea that “every Jew in the world” should make aliyah, as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated at the 35th World Zionist Congress in June, 2006. This doctrine also sets forth the thesis that Jews are “self-hating” if they do not show “solidarity” with Israel and that Jewish identity outside of Israel is “incomplete.”  
Beyond this, Klug notes, “All of this ... prevents a normal conception of life, as a Jew, outside Israel. So does the fear-filled belief that Israel exists to protect Jews everywhere. We certainly do not need the kind of ‘protection’ given by Olmert when he addressed an American audience in 2006 during the conflict with Lebanon, ‘This is a war,’ he said, ‘which is fought by all the Israelis.’ A slight pause for dramatic effect, then he continued: ‘I believe that this is a war that is fought by all the Jews,’ Think about this claim. He said that he believed it. What would lead him to believe such a thing? Not, I suggest, empirical evidence. It is an article of faith, an a priori conviction, a corollary of the axiom that Israel represents Jewry as a whole.”  
Rejecting Israel’s “Centrality”  
Around the world, more and more respected Jewish voices are being heard rejecting the notion that Israel is “central” to their Jewish identity and declaring that their commitment to Judaism is a religious one, and not a political association with a state which pretends to speak in their name, but does not. Groups similar to Independent Jewish Voices are active in the United States, South Africa, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Independent Australian Jewish Voices came into existence within a month of the launching of IJV in England. In March 2008, an Independent Jewish Conference in Toronto formed a new nationwide organization in Canada, adopting essentially the same text as the IJV declaration as its founding document.  
No reader of this book will agree with all of its contributors, since a variety of opinions are expressed. What becomes immediately clear, however, is how broad Jewish opinion really is and how it is totally unrepresented by those who speak of “unity” and seek to enforce some form of “acceptable” discourse. The contributors to this volume reject the idea that the role of Jews is to defend whatever other Jews may do but believe, instead, in the Prophetic ethic which imposes higher standards upon Jews and calls them to task when these are not met, Hopefully, the voices which are in this important book will be widely heard and will lead other thoughtful men and women to raise their voices as well.  
Allan C. Brownfeld is a nationally syndicated columnist and serves as Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and Editor of Issues. The author of five books, he has served on the staff of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President.

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