The Holocaust, Zionism and the question of Who is a Jew

Over the years I have been challenged by critics who insist that me discussing the Holocaust without reference also to other such human tragedies is unjust, even “racist.” Since the Eichmann trial there seems to be a consensus that there is a distinct difference between such massacres as simultaneously perpetrated by Germany against, for example, the Roma, or say, Polish intellectuals and the Holocaust, the Final Solution to the West’s Jewish Problem. The murder of Europe’s gypsies was also, perhaps, a case of genocide; eliminating Poland’s elites was in service of leaving the remaining population leaderless, more available as slaves to the Aryan Germans intended to settle their countryside. The attempted genocide of Europe’s Gypsies, the murder of Polish intellectuals, the Holocaust of the Jews; the more recent designated holocausts in Bosnia and Rwanda: all are equally human tragedies. Where the Holocaust is different is unique is that these other tragedies occupy a moment in time, while the Holocaust is part of a very long historical process.

The Holocaust may in fact represent a unique event in history since, to my knowledge, never did one peoples determine to eradicate another entire people. When I noted that “the Holocaust is part of a very long historical process” I was not implying that it has historical precedent, a prior intention to murder each and every Jew alive in the world. Rather I am referring to a history of anti-Jewish persecution spanning 1600 years, a religious-based persecution of Jews and Judaism originating in the first century effort by a sect of breakaway Jews seeking legitimacy against the parent religion. The gospels describe “the Jews” as enemy, and for 2,000 years theology expanded on the theme. If religious anti-Judaism provided an escape from Christian persecution through conversion, with the Enlightenment and the advent of secularism, conversion was no longer an escape.

While I could expand on the above explanation, I feel it sufficient for present purposes: “the Holocaust” is and deserves to be recognized as a uniquely Jewish tragedy. But perhaps a better and less controversial description of German intentions would be simply to rename it according to the designation provided by National Socialism, the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.

Because, after all debating by philosophers and historians, it was the stated intention of the Third Reich to murder each and every Jew in the world; man, woman and child, including third generation Christians with a single Jewish grandparent: Germany sought a final solution to the West’s 2000 year-long Jewish Problem! So why mince words?


The Law of Return and Who is a Jew: the limits of Israeli Zionism

The Law of Return is Israel’s commitment as Zionist refuge to Jews facing persecution, to the Jewish people facing the next Western effort to finally achieve its Final Solution. First adopted as law in 1950, it was amended twenty years later to make clear its post-Holocaust obligation also to Christian descendants of Jews also threatened as “Jews.” The 1970 “Grandparent Clause” guarantees refuge to a:

“child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion.. . . ‘Jew’ means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.”


“Who is a Jew” is the legislative effort of Israel’s religious parties to make Halacha the basis for civil law in Israel. The recognition of the Rabbinate as authority responsible for Jewish identity in Israel goes back to a compact between David Ben-Gurion and two religious parties aimed at presenting a united Yishuv before the 1947 UN vote on partition. Since that time the religious parties have sought to extend Halacha also to determine identity under the Law of Return. And more recently secular politicians and intellectuals have also promoted reforming the Law. “Who is a Jew” may or not be a matter for Israel’s current Jewish population to decide. But the effort to and even eliminate sections of the Law of Return is anti-Zionist, a retreat from Zionism, I will return to this question in a future article.

About the Author
David made aliya in 1960 and has been active in Jewish issues since. He was a regional director for JNF in New York, created JUDAC, Jews United to Defend the Auschwitz Cemetery during that controversy; at the request of Jonathan Pollard created and led Justice for the Pollards in 1989.