Sam Lehman-Wilzig
Sam Lehman-Wilzig
Prof. Sam: Academic Pundit

Anti-Zionism, Left and Right: Closing the Circle

At a recent anti-Israel demonstration in New York City, a placard was raised (among other similar ones) that said: “Zionism Has No Place In My Judaism”. Question: was this a protest by rabidly anti-Zionist, ultra-conservative, Satmar Jews – or by fervently anti-Zionist, “Progressive”, BDS-supporting Jews?

In this case, it was the latter, but you wouldn’t be far off if you said the former. And that shouldn’t be surprising. In many respects, and regarding several issue areas, the Far Left and Far Right actually close the circle at the same point, rather than being found at polar opposite extremes of the political spectrum. Thus, it isn’t a coincidence that totalitarian Communist Russia and totalitarian Nazi Germany were allies for a while at the start of World War II, despite their ostensibly huge divide in socio-economic policy. Both systems were autocratic at the extreme. To paraphrase the well-known dictum: “Great [dictator] minds think alike”.

To be clear: protesting Israeli policy in any sphere – religious or territorial – is perfectly legitimate. There are, of course, “far Leftists” and “ultra-Orthodox” who are virulently against certain policies, whether Israeli settlement activity or cutting Haredi subsidies – and that’s well within acceptable protest in a democratic society. However, negating the very existence of Jewish nationalism and its concomitant State is beyond the pale, especially when no other nationalism is fought with the same vigor (or at all), as I mentioned in my last post here: (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/tikkun-olam-really/

And yet, there is an important difference between the Satmar and BDS (both as exemplars of a wider Jewish, anti-Zionist phenomenon). The Satmar are driven by theology pure and simple – most probably a misreading of Jewish tradition and Rabbinic principles. As a result of serious political weakness 2000 years ago – the Temple’s destruction and later Bar-Kochva’s disastrous rebellion against Rome – Rabbinic Judaism foreclosed attempts to reinstate sovereignty. But this was a temporary, situational edict, not “eternal” (until the Messiah arrives); the Satmar sect, however, views Messianic redemption (exclusively) as “halakhic” – not to be transgressed.

BDS supporters are guilty of far worse (by Jewish standards): historical amnesia. If anything represents Judaism over the course of history, it is “Zakhor”: Remembrance. The BDS historical amnesiacs have chosen to forget several historical facts: Jewish nationalism has existed for over 3000 years; it was lost only through “colonial conquest” on the part of the Roman Empire; Jews have suffered from persecution more than any other global ethnic group throughout world history, and thus are in greater need of a homeland than any other people; the UN offered partition to Zionists and Palestinians in 1947 – only the latter refused; at least three more times since, Israel has made serious offers for peace that the Palestinians rejected; and finally (although not a complete list), Hamas has never rejected its constitutive “Charter” calling for the destruction of the State of Israel and ejecting all Jews: “Palestine is an Islamic land… Since this is the case, the Liberation of Palestine is an individual duty for every Muslim wherever he may be… There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility” (Article 13). And: “The day the enemies usurp part of Muslim land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Muslim. In the face of the Jews’ usurpation, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised” (Article 15). What exactly is Israel supposed to do: pick up and leave for other anti-Semitic climes around the world?

Anti-Zionists, especially Jews, must be extremely blind and/or deaf to such clear Palestinian pronouncements, not to mention their “cluelessness” about Jewish history as well as the universality of modern Nationalism. One can perhaps “explain” the Satmar’s stance based on their total ignorance of anything historical and empirical; given that Jewish, “Progressive” anti-Zionists tend to be intelligent and well-educated, even “explanations” (forget about “justifications”) are hard to come by.

If I started off with a pithy dictum, let’s end with another one (this time Hebrew) – highly suited for both these anti-Zionist camps: ״הפוסל, במומו פסול״ – “those who reject, are ipso facto rejected through their own defect”.

About the Author
Prof. Sam Lehman-Wilzig (PhD in Government, 1976; Harvard U) taught at Bar-Ilan University (1977-2017), serving as: Head of the Journalism Division (1991-1996); Political Studies Department Chairman (2004-2007); and School of Communication Chairman (2014-2016). He was also Chair of the Israel Political Science Association (1997-1999). He has published three books and 60 scholarly articles on Israeli Politics; New Media & Journalism; Political Communication; the Jewish Political Tradition; the Information Society. For more information and other publications (academic and popular), see: www.ProfSLW.com
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