An Open Letter to Richard Spencer

Dear Richard Spencer,

We all know who you are and what you stand for. You hold your position as the standard-bearer of white supremacy with pride. Your recent statement on Israeli news that we should “respect someone like you” because you are just “taking care of your people” and prioritizing them above all else which makes you a “White Zionist,” is complete and utter distortion of both the truth and the term “Zionist” that you deliberately employ as a tactic attempting to link your poisonous hatred and vitriol with our movement for ethno-cultural self-realization.

You are well-read and intelligent, and your use of the term was carefully planned.  This is not the first time that you have uttered such declarations. For that matter, it is not the first time that you have co-opted the language of a movement for liberation and freedom for your own distorted purposes, like when you said of the civil rights movement, “Martin Luther King Jr., a fraud and degenerate in his life, has become the symbol and cynosure of White Dispossession and the deconstruction of Occidental civilization. We must overcome!” This past December you tried to link Zionism with the alt-right by admiring the tenacity of Jews to create an anti-assimilationist ideology, as if that is in any way similar to what you stand for and advocate.

As you are given airtime to spew your lies and hatred, let me take a moment to share my own thoughts as a proud Jewish Zionist.

How dare you try to corrupt, distort and manipulate the mainstream as to thinking that your fascist, xenophobic and racist ideology is in any way similar to Zionism. How dare you attempt to corrupt Jewish ethnocultural nationalism and try to force it into alien categories.  You see, the original Zionist ideologues, as author Chaim Gans has written, all considered themselves part of an ethnocultural group that was stateless and aspired to self-determination as a means of protecting their members from persecution.

Of course, Zionism manifested itself in different forms.  There was a movement that saw Zionism as a way to escape the persecution of the Jews at the hands of people like you and those with whom you affiliate.  There was also an overlapping movement of Zionism as an ambition to realize the universal ideas of liberalism and progress within the framework of a Jewish state, as outlined in Theodor Herzl’s novel Altneuland.

There are those who say that Zionism and the State of Israel came out of the Holocaust, when we were incapable of defending ourselves against those who claimed to be of the “master race.” Those who you represent today.  Your march on Charlottesville, VA recently reminded us of the necessity to defend ourselves and of the integrity of our mission.  As Israeli President Reuven Rivlin recently stated on this past Holocaust memorial day:
“Maintaining one’s humanity: this is the immense courage bequeathed to us by the victims – and by you, the survivors of the Shoah – in actions for the sake of others, in the cold, in hunger, in the railway carriages, in the crematoria and in the ghettoes. My dear friends, we shall always undertake our own defense; the Jewish people have a shared destiny; and “Beloved is man for he was created in God’s image”. These are the lessons we learn from the Shoah and we shall repeat them to our sons and daughters for all eternity.

The beauty of Zionist values is also reiterated in the oft-quoted sections of Israel’s declaration of independence where it clearly states that:

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

And that:

“WE APPEAL – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”

Are you prepared to extend your hand and offer full and equal citizenship to all minorities, ethnicities, and races?  Please don’t pretend to be solely concerned about your own “community” against all odds.  You don’t see your neighbor as equal and definitely don’t want to live together and build a shared society.  I am aware that there are some in Israel who are also not interested in shared society and who hold racist sentiments toward the non-Jews in the land.  As Zionists, we are working to combat those sentiments with every fiber of our being.  Zionism is not-perfect, and neither are the State of Israel or the United States of America.  There is much work to be done and many lessons to be learned.

I know that Zionism is a controversial term, especially among the far-left in the U.S.  I see your efforts to make this link as an attempt to solidify the suspicion and hostility to the term held by many on the left by associating Zionism with the alt-right. Well, frankly, stop it.  We’re not buying it and, if I can presume to speak for the Jews, we don’t respect you for it. After all, how do you expect Jews to respect a neo-Nazi that marches in the streets for our destruction and idolizes the architects of our genocide? Your movement is seen for the poison that it is, and we can see straight through your appeals to Zionism to your cynical, rotten core.


Rabbi Josh Weinberg

About the Author
Rabbi Josh Weinberg is the Vice President for Israel and Reform Zionism for the URJ, and President of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America. He was ordained from the HUC-JIR Israeli Rabbinic Program in Jerusalem, and is currently living in New York.