‘You do not have a problem with 650 Reform rabbis supporting an anti-Semite’

A point of information regarding my last article, The unfinished final solution: Warning for the future, II. I tried changing the title after posting it, only realizing then that it would appear to be a re-posting of the earlier article. In fact it is entirely new. 

What follows is the second part of a continuing discussion between “pb,” an Israeli teaching in the US, and myself.

I understand, pb, you are motivated by defending Israel, and respect that. But your argument is so narrowly based I fear you cannot read by comments without bias, and so completely distort my words to suit your conclusions.

pb: “During the 60 years Israel existence, Jews and Semi Jews were admitted to Israel without asking them to prove that they are Jews.”

DT: I never said this was incorrect. In fact I am proud ofIsrael’s record in saving the Jews of the Middle East, from Iraq and Egypt to Yemen during the early days when the creation of the state greatly intensified the threat to Jews in the Arab lands. ThatIsrael’s Zionist commitment to “ingather the exiles” translated into actively reaching out to the isolated communities of Africa, of Asia Minor. I suspect that such a commitment to a humanistic ideology, to sacrifice so much in service of its dispersed people is unmatched in history.

Where you and I differ is not over history, but over the definition of Zionism, ofIsrael’s in my eye drift from its basic obligations as “Zionist.” Your passion for Israel, your continuing identification with the Orthodoxy you left behind leads you to see me as the anti-You, that my criticisms of emerging distortions within Israel mean that I am attacking that which we both would preserve, the Jewish people and its state.

pb: “you are willing and ask for the Israeli government to DECIDE who is a jew, but you want that they accept YOUR definition of who is a JEW.”

DT: The Israeli government has already decided who is a Jew, and that definition is the 1950 Law of Return, and the 1970 Grandparent Clause. I am merely reminding that this, the Zionist obligation of the state of the Jews is maintained. It is the political structures of the state that, by providing a single and minority stream of Jewish religion unprecedented and unchallenged authority over the life and character of the state Zionism built that is the issue. And perhaps the most obvious distortion of my position, the gravest error you arrive at is in failing to see the contradiction to your, as I see it, ultimate criticism of me: “you demonstrate a complete misunderstanding what democracy is all about. It is the role of the Israelis to decide through their own political and judicial system to decide how to handle that question.”

First, I’m not sure how you could miss two years of street protests challenging Orthodox encroachment in social life. I repeatedly criticize not Israeli democracy, but its coalition system of government which provides social privilege in exchange for political support. Under this system, decidedly undemocratic Orthodoxy, and particularly the anti-Zionist wing, have come to exercise influence in political and social issues far beyond their numbers within the Israeli population. And while these issues represented by extreme orthodoxy may be consistent with “preserving” a certain kind of Judaism, the reason for Zionism, for Israel, was to preserve the Jewish people. While I don’t believe you are anti-Zionist, I feel that you fail to appreciate that there is a vast difference between the two roles for Israel. Push comes to shove I see you as leaning towards preserving the religion whereas my purpose is first preserving the people, even including your despised Bogey, the Reform. Except I go even beyond and insist Zionism’s commitment to the post-Holocaust precedent of Jew back to a single grandparent also be adhered to.

pb: “You do not have a problem with 650 Reform Rabiis suporting an antisemite…”

DT: This, again, reflects you inability to see me through the filter of your ideology, pb. I have been an unceasing critic of Obama regarding his policies regarding Israel, Iran, Egypt, etc. As I was regarding Bush’s policies before him. For me the issue is not this or that particular US president but US national interests, US foreign policy objectives. We AGREE on the actions of the presidents, the failure being, it seems to me, your insistence on viewing US policy as presidential application of national policy. You seem ideologically-driven, even identify me with your personal bogeys, “the Reformed.” Certainly nothing I ever wrote would justify you attributing support by me for the supposed, “650 Reform Rabiis suporting an antisemite…” This once again, pb, is a product of your imagination, recreating me as, in your words, a “straw man.”

Of one thing you are correct, my friend: in my eyes Reform Jews are in fact “Jews.” No more nor less Jewish than those anti-Zionist Orthodox still ascendant in Israel. We are not, never have been and, so long as we survive, never will be the monolithic religion-nation-people insisted by some.

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.