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Monday, 30 January 2012

An Essay by a Young Jew as to Why he has Rejected Zionism



Dietrich College News
2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards
Prose: High School
First Place (Tie)

One of the more remarkable signs of the cracks and crisis in the Zionist movement is the growing number of Jewish youngsters prepared to say ‘no’ to the blandishments of Zionism. Who refuse to accept the kith and kin argument that you must not criticise Zionism and Israel because blood is stronger than water, you are betraying your own, the Jewish tribe must protect itself etc.

The old charges of ‘self hatred’ are like water off a ducks back and it is something that is an accusation that simply draws attention to the lack of any intellect or analysis of the Zionist flunkey making it. Appeals to blood mean a lack of reason.

When I ‘came out’ as a Jewish anti-Zionist 40+ years ago there were no role models, no one to inspire you. The only Jews who were anti-Zionist were in far left groups. I joined the International Socialists (now the SWP) which was led by Tony Cliff (Yigal Gluckstein as the fascists never failed to call him) who was a Palestinian Jews expelled by the British for being a communist (with the support of the Zionist ‘trade union’ Histadrut). But Cliff rarely spoke about his experiences and wrote very little too.

The first anti-Zionist pamphlet which I read was the classic ‘Class Nature of Israeli Society’ by Moshe Machover, Haim Hanegbi and Akiva Orr (it was first printed in New Left Review). Although it was wrong in the belief that the incorporation of Palestinian labour from the West Bank and Gaza Strip would result in Israelis being dependent on those they had expelled (Israel today prefers migrant labour from Asia), virtually everything else was spot on.
But Jewish anti-Zionists, of whom I met a few in Brighton and as I became more outspoken nationally, including Liverpool where I established a life-long friendship with American exile, Sam Semoff, were still a rarity.

But the 1982 war changed all that. A few years previously the Jewish Socialists Group had been formed. Although it had originally been set up by an ex-Communist Party member Aubrey Lewis, in order to attract those Jews who were drawn to the New Left it soon veered off in the direction of Bundism. But for the JSG Palestine was never a priority.
Jews for Justice for Palestinians was also set up a few years later and although it was always considered the ‘soft left’ of the anti-Zionist left it undoubtedly contributed to changing the atmosphere.

When the JSG was set up, the Board of Deputies of British Jews held urgent talks about what to do about this challenge!
But today there are hundreds of Jewish youth and not so young who reject Zionism in Britain and in the USA there are major splits appearing. Jewish Voices for Peace has over 100,000 signatures. It has steadily moved towards a Boycott position.

American Jews are in an invidious position because many of them are not recognised as Jews by those who control the rabbinical institutions in Israel. Converts will not be recognised at all, and nor will the offspring of a marriage where the woman is non-Jewish. There is also greater recognition that Israel is a positive liability for Jews today and a growing repugnance against its far-right policies.

It used to be said that Zionism insisted that American Jews leave their liberalism at the door when Israel was on the agenda. However today they can see that their anti-Semitic foes, people like Glenn Back and John Hagee, are the darlings of the Zionist institutions.
This is an interesting essay, written for Martin Luther King day.

Tony Greenstein



By Jesse Lieberfeld 11th grade, Winchester Thurston

I once belonged to a wonderful religion. I belonged to a religion that allows those of us who believe in it to feel that we are the greatest people in the world—and feel sorry for ourselves at the same time. Once, I thought that I truly belonged in this world of security, self-pity, self-proclaimed intelligence, and perfect moral aesthetic. I thought myself to be somewhat privileged early on. It was soon revealed to me, however, that my fellow believers and I were not part of anything so flattering.

Although I was fortunate enough to have parents who did not try to force me into any one set of beliefs, being Jewish was in no way possible to escape growing up. It was constantly reinforced at every holiday, every service, and every encounter with the rest of my relatives. I was forever reminded how intelligent my family was, how important it was to remember where we had come from, and to be proud of all the suffering our people had overcome in order to finally achieve their dream in the perfect society of Israel.

This last mandatory belief was one which I never fully understood, but I always kept the doubts I had about Israel’s spotless reputation to the back of my mind. “Our people” were fighting a war, one I did not fully comprehend, but I naturally assumed that it must be justified. We would never be so amoral as to fight an unjust war. Yet as I came to learn more about our so-called “conflict” with the Palestinians, I grew more concerned. I routinely heard about unexplained mass killings, attacks on medical bases, and other alarmingly violent actions for which I could see no possible reason. “Genocide” almost seemed the more appropriate term, yet no one I knew would have ever dreamed of portraying the war in that manner; they always described the situation in shockingly neutral terms. Whenever I brought up the subject, I was always given the answer that there were faults on both sides, that no one was really to blame, or simply that it was a “difficult situation.” It was not until eighth grade that I fully understood what I was on the side of. One afternoon, after a fresh round of killings was announced on our bus ride home, I asked two of my friends who actively supported Israel what they thought. “We need to defend our race,” they told me. “It’s our right.”

“We need to defend our race.”

Where had I heard that before? Wasn’t it the same excuse our own country had used to justify its abuses of African-Americans sixty years ago? In that moment, I realized how similar the two struggles were—like the white radicals of that era, we controlled the lives of another people whom we abused daily, and no one could speak out against us. It was too politically incorrect to do so. We had suffered too much, endured too many hardships, and overcome too many losses to be criticized. I realized then that I was in no way part of a “conflict”—the term “Israeli/Palestinian Conflict” was no more accurate than calling the Civil Rights Movement the “Caucasian/ African-American Conflict.” In both cases, the expression was a blatant euphemism: it gave the impression that this was a dispute among equals and that both held an equal share of the blame. However, in both, there was clearly an oppressor and an oppressed, and I felt horrified at the realization that I was by nature on the side of the oppressors. I was grouped with the racial supremacists. I was part of a group that killed while praising its own intelligence and reason. I was part of a delusion.

I thought of the leader of the other oppressed side of years ago, Martin Luther King. He too had been part of a struggle that had been hidden and glossed over for the convenience of those against whom he fought. What would his reaction have been? As it turned out, it was precisely the same as mine. As he wrote in his letter from Birmingham Jail, he believed the greatest enemy of his cause to be “Not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who...lives by a mythical concept of time.... Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” When I first read those words, I felt as if I were staring at myself in a mirror. All my life I had been conditioned to simply treat the so-called conflict with the same apathy which King had so forcefully condemned. I, too, held the role of an accepting moderate. I, too, “lived by a mythical concept of time,” shrouded in my own surreal world and the set of beliefs that had been assigned to me. I had never before felt so trapped.

I decided to make one last appeal to my religion. If it could not answer my misgivings, no one could. The next time I attended a service, there was an open question-and- answer session about any point of our religion. I wanted to place my dilemma in as clear and simple terms as I knew how. I thought out my exact question over the course of the seventeen-minute cello solo that was routinely played during service. Previously, I had always accepted this solo as just another part of the program, yet now it seemed to capture the whole essence of our religion: intelligent and well- crafted on paper, yet completely oblivious to the outside world (the soloist did not have the faintest idea of how masterfully he was putting us all to sleep). When I was finally given the chance to ask a question, I asked, “I want to support Israel. But how can I when it lets its army commit so many killings?” I was met with a few angry glares from some of the older men, but the rabbi answered me. “It is a terrible thing, isn’t it?” he said. “But there’s nothing we can do. It’s just a fact of life.” I knew, of course, that the war was no simple matter and that we did not by any means commit murder for its own sake, but to portray our thousands of killings as a “fact of life” was simply too much for me to accept. I thanked him and walked out shortly afterward. I never went back. I thought about what I could do. If nothing else, I could at least try to free myself from the burden of being saddled with a belief I could not hold with a clear conscience. I could not live the rest of my life as one of the pathetic moderates whom King had rightfully portrayed as the worst part of the problem. I did not intend to go on being one of the Self-Chosen People, identifying myself as part of a group to which I did not belong.

It was different not being the ideal nice Jewish boy. The difference was subtle, yet by no means unaffecting. Whenever it came to the attention of any of our more religious family friends that I did not share their beliefs, I was met with either a disapproving stare and a quick change of the subject or an alarmed cry of, “What? Doesn’t Israel matter to you?” Relatives talked down to me more afterward, but eventually I stopped noticing the way adults around me perceived me. It was worth it to no longer feel as though I were just another apathetic part of the machine.

I can obviously never know what it must have been like to be an African-American in the 1950s. I do feel, however, as though I know exactly what it must have been like to be white during that time, to live under an aura of moral invincibility, to hold unchallengeable beliefs, and to contrive illusions of superiority to avoid having to face simple everyday truths. That illusion was nice while it lasted, but I decided to pass it up. I have never been happier.

See also Jewish Rebels Rally Against Zionism

18 comments:

redscribe said...

Commentary on this posting here

Tony Greenstein said...

Yes I've read the commentary but, you'll be surprised to hear, I don't agree with it.

Primarily I don't agree that Atzmon comes at things from an anti-racist perspective because he homes in on Jews as Jews, failing to see - as with young Jesse - that identity changes as circumstances and surroundings change.

Or to put it another way, any group of people, given the right set of circumstances, can become racists/fascists etc. Of course there are some whose humanitarian instincts are such that they refuse to accept such abhorrent principles and often pay, as with the White Rose movement, with their lives.

But that is the lesson of the Jewish people that Atzmon fails to understand. That Zionism proves that the Jews, who were subject to the utmost barbarities in Europe in the 1930's and 1940's are,nonetheless, also capable of barbarities towards another people when they are the colonists and settlers.

Atzmon's analysis is entirely different. As in his Hunters of Goliath he sees what Israeli Jews doing as a continuum of what Jews in Europe were doing and that is why they met the fate they did. That is an entirely different analysis.

Jews, because of the supremacist Judaic religion, became persecuted in Europe and went to Palestine where they've done much the same thing.

I also think that Atzmon's politics are incredibly contradictory and I've shown on the Guide to his sayings (March 2011 on this blog) that he says different things to people all the time. So Jews are de facto, unless Orthodox, Zionists yet Jesse doesn't say he has abandoned describing himself as Jewish. He describes instead how he has broken from Zionism within the Jewish community.

I don't want to second guess him and he may end up not considering himself Jewish. That's fine by me. There is nothing wonderful or magical about being Jewish or of Jewish origin, but to hold it as a black mark against someone is where racism begins!

Evildoer said...

redscribe thinks that if Atzmon eats lunch around noon then he can't be all that different from Trotsky, who also ate lunch around noon.

Wow! Not surprising that he is bedazzled with Atzmon's brilliance. They share the same lack of ability to tell reasoned arguments from horse manure and plagiarizing neo-nazi publications.

redscribe said...

I would not expect a reasoned argument from evildoer on this. He argued on my blog that anyone who uses the term 'political Islamist' must me a racist. When I pointed out that the well known website 'Islamophobia watch' regularly uses this term, he had no reply. See this exchange.

As for my 'plagiarising neo-nazi publications', would evildoer like to substantiate that with a concrete example?

Will respond to Tony's points when I get a bit more time.

redscribe said...

Incidentally, if you read slightly upwards from the exchange between myself and evildoer just referred to, you would be a long argumentation by me against a political Islamist who argued ... that the Nazi genocide of the Jews never happened.

I wonder if evildoer thinks that my arguments against holocaust denial here were plagiarised from some neo-Nazi website or other?

Or is he talking about something else? Please enlighten me, because I am completely mystified by this claim.

Evildoer said...

Redscribe,

Had you actually read Tony's posts about atzmon, you would have known the evidence as he mentioned it and linked to it.

Had you actually paid attention to Atzmon's writing, assuming you know what goes on the right wing nutring, you would have yourself identified the transparent plagiarism.

You did neither because Atzmon is your sock puppet. You don't have the courage to support his actual garbage, which is what you truly want, so you defend him on "procedural grounds".

And no, I did not say that anyone who uses the term "Islamist" is a racist. I said the term itself belongs to a racist discourse about Islam. This should be obvious to any critical person reading newspapers. There are Muslims, and Muslims are engaged in politics, and when they do, often Islam is part of their political language, in various and often contradictory ways. Lumping together "Islamists" for all Muslims that refer to their faith in their politics is like putting Hugo Chavez and Tony Blair together under the rubric "Christianists." Or indeed like lumping together "third category Jews", your favorite crap shot. It's a categorization that only make sense from a position of white orientalism looking at Islam.

Some people use this kind of language because they are racists, and other people use it because they are ignorant, and others use it because mainstream racism is a seductive discourse, which is why it works so well, as you clearly show.

redscribe said...

Evildoer

"You did neither because Atzmon is your sock puppet. You don't have the courage to support his actual garbage, which is what you truly want, so you defend him on "procedural grounds". "

Surely you must mean that I am his sock-puppet? Or do you think that he is some way a tool of my good self? Whatever, this logic makes no sense at all.

If I agreed with Atzmon I would say so. In fact, where I do agree with him, I do say so! Where I disagree with him, I also say so! There is nothing strange about this procedure, it's the way normal people interact and discuss any question. There is something deeply illogical and subjective about evildoer's thinking here.

"And no, I did not say that anyone who uses the term "Islamist" is a racist. I said the term itself belongs to a racist discourse about Islam. This should be obvious to any critical person reading newspapers. There are Muslims, and Muslims are engaged in politics, and when they do, often Islam is part of their political language, in various and often contradictory ways. Lumping together "Islamists" for all Muslims that refer to their faith in their politics is like putting Hugo Chavez and Tony Blair together under the rubric "Christianists." Or indeed like lumping together "third category Jews", your favorite crap shot. It's a categorization that only make sense from a position of white orientalism looking at Islam. "

At least there are some ideas involved here. But what you say would only be true is someone held that all Islamists, or all 'third category Jews' to use Atzmon's term, were uniformly reactionary. I think some Islamists can play a progressive role in politics, at least to an extent. That is why, incidentally, I was supportive of the Respect coalition before its demise.

I also think, unlike Atzmon, that some people who identify politically as Jewish can play a progressive role, likewise to an extent. Like Tony G, for instance, I may not agree with him on many things but I do not make the mistake that Atzmon makes, of demonising him. In case evildoer has not noticed, I have not once but several times argued against such characterisations as 'Anti-Zionist Zionists' for people like Tony, on my blog.

I am not an Atzmonite, but I am not an Atzmon-hater either.

Evildoer, please try and get your head around the simple idea that not everyone who disagrees with you is on the other side.

Your method is rather like that of Bush when he proclaimed that 'You're either with us, or against us'.

Things are more complex than that.

Evildoer said...

Redscribe,

I take the liberty to thank you personally in the name of the Umma for allowing that some islamists "can play a progressive role in politics, at least to an extent." I am sure Muslims from Goa to Detroit are feeling relieved that, under some conditions, they can meet the standards set up by your whiteness. Likewise, it is great that you give us poor third category Jews the same leeway.

Will you also offer us some remedial afternoon classes, so we can overcome our disability and be fully, unrestrictedly, progressive like you are?

Do you pity us for having those burdensome identities to carry around? Do you say to yourself every night, "There, but for the grace of God, go I"?

I am asking because knowing that you empathize really makes a difference!

redscribe said...

But that is just silly sarcasm.

And by the way, how do you know what colour my skin is?

freethepeeps said...

TG:" He describes instead how he has broken from Zionism within the Jewish community."

That seems different to what Jesse says:

"I once belonged to a wonderful religion. I belonged to a religion that allows those of us who believe in it to feel that we are the greatest people in the world—and feel sorry for ourselves at the same time,"

"I thanked him and walked out shortly afterward. I never went back. I thought about what I could do. If nothing else, I could at least try to free myself from the burden of being saddled with a belief I could not hold with a clear conscience. I could not live the rest of my life as one of the pathetic moderates whom King had rightfully portrayed as the worst part of the problem. I did not intend to go on being one of the Self-Chosen People, identifying myself as part of a group to which I did not belong."

At the very least it is the religion he is abandoning. At no point does he mention zionism.

Tony Greenstein said...

Peeps

you say that 'At no point does he mention zionism.' No people often don't but it is implicit in what he wrote re receiving disapproving stares and question as to whether Israel matters anymore.

He also rejects Zionism and a religion that operates as the sanctifier of Zionism.

But it is an interesting piece whatever we wish to see in it.

redscribe said...

A couple of additional points in response to Evildoer.

I have too much respect for Muslims and Islam to ever consider presuming to speak in the name of the Ummah, even in jest. I'll leave that foolishness to others.

But one key progressive aspect of Islam is that skin colour is irrelevant to Muslims - or at least to ones whose primary loyalty is to Islamic universalism. Read Malcolm X's autobiography if you want to see how powerful that is to people who have been on the receiving end of racism.

Its deeply ironic that someone who falsely accused me of racism, and of 'plagiarising neo-Nazi publications', after being unable to substantiate that one iota when challenged to do so, then pretends to speak in the name of the Ummah and makes derogatory remarks about someone's (presumed) skin colour!

If this is not racism, I don't know what is. It is also an insult to Muslims.

Think before you type, it does help!

Evildoer said...

Redscribe,

In fact, I made no reference to the color of your skin. But your anonymity is of course part and parcel of your imaginary politics of being from nowhere, which is one way to define whiteness.

redscrjbe said...

Yes, I am just as anonymous as someone whose name is 'evildoer'

:-)

joe90 kane said...

I see in the comments section of the new windbag on the block, redscribe's blog, that they have imported me into the imaginary internet world of their psuedo-politics. I'm a marxist apparently, which is news to me especially.

Just to say, I didn't wipe the floor with anyone, never mind Andy Newman, who I have the greatest respect for.

I see redscribe manages to claim I've caused some kind of controversy with people I don't even know or care about, and that Andy Newman is worse than Atzmon. All from a simple blog thread. Yet after all the voluminous evidence Atzmon is a racist redscribe is unable to come to that conclusion on their own and even describe this far-right racist as "left-liberal".

It doesn't surprise me Andy Newman banned a poisonous, shit-stirring, crypto right-wing snake like you who goes around pimping their boring blog and apologising for Holocaust deniers and racists like Atzmon.

redscribe said...

Joe Kane

"Just to say, I didn't wipe the floor with anyone, never mind Andy Newman, who I have the greatest respect for."

No, you wiped the floor with 'jellytot' - another anonymous internet person. And a Zionist.

As for Marxism, I'll take your word for it if you disclaim it. That's something you and Atzmon have in common.

A 'far-right racist' who expressed classic liberal illusions in Barack Obama and Amir Peretz, and who published Jesse Liberfield's letter as an of how people brought up as Zionists can embrace anti-racism. Without that publication, its quite like that this thread would never have been posted.

That is evidence that contradicts Joe's view of Atzmon as a 'far-right racist'. And no matter how much he huffs and puffs it will still contradict it.

In your verbal fireworks against me, you are just shooting at the messenger because you don't like the message. Why not deal with the evidence? If you were confident you were right, you would not need the fireworks, your message would be enough.

Do I think Andy Newman is worse than Atzmon? Meaningless question, since both have different politics from me and both are right about some things and wrong about others. And both are part of the liberal left in different ways.

Evildoer said...

...shit-stirring, crypto right-wing snake

Oh my oh my, Joe. I'm afraid that the famous leftist activist pretending to be a white ass internet troll is going to sue you now. In any case, if you need to set up a defense fund, I will chip in. Hard times are a coming.

joe90 kane said...

Thanks evildoer. Feel free to donate to the Kane Mansions defence fund. Brown envelopes stuffed with readies are acceptable especially before the start of weekends.

I'm looking forward to finding out who it is we are all libelling.

It's a bit ironic the prickly ego of redscribe threatens people with libel, given they're always telling the rest of us off for our behaviour, and if only we would wrap up antisemites and holocaust deniers in pink fluffy cotton wool then everything would turn out lovely.

Anyway, I've seen this letter from this young Jewish man in plenty of places. Big deal if Atzmon puts it on his website. Why shouldn't he given his racist fantasy-world obsession with Jews which he tries to pass off as some kind of form of solidarity with Palestinians.

According to the redscribe holocaust denier apologist, because Atzmon publishes this letter it makes him a left-liberal, and maybe even a hugely original mind whose work we really need to get to the bottom of such is its profundity.

And if evildoer makes just a reference on redscribe's indescribably boring blog to a half-decent honest review of Atzmon's book by a white supremicist that makes evildoer some kind of white supremicist.

And if I make a few quotidian comments on a thread on Socialist Unity it makes me a marxist. Denying it means I share something in common with Atzmon.

Good job then Atzmon doesn't give full attribution to Mein Kampf in his work otherwise redscribe would have to shut up and leave us all in peace forever. What a loss that would be.