I will begin by saying that I am an ardent Zionist. From the perspective of international relations, the international state system which currently prevails, World War III, and Cold War II, as an ardent American exceptionalist (please see “American exceptionalism” by Wikipedia for information on this term I just found) it only makes sense to be a Zionist.
You must have heard that term, “Zionist.” It is often used pejoratively by many peoples of the world. But it is something we ought to be familiar with, if only because of its rôle in world politics.
What Zionism is depends on which phase one is considering. In its early, initial phase, “Zionism” referred to the belief that Jews ought to establish an atonomous presence. In the beginning, a prevalent interpretation concerned itself solely with the establishment of a polity, anywhere in the world, wherein Jews could exercise autonomy. But this aspect condensed to themes that had run through Jewish liturgy, belief, theology, religion, expectations, and history for millennia: the reestablishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land.
Reasons to justify this endeavor are many. Some are:
- Create a safe haven for Jews, free from persecution by Gentiles, who were untrustworthy. The Holocaust made this a crucial reason: it opened the eyes of Jews that no matter where they were, their safety, security, and future in no way could be guaranteed. The unspeakable, the unbelievable could happen.
- Regain land that always rightfully belonged to the Jews. Usurping invaders (Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, Arabs) unjustly exercised sovereignty over the Holy Land (which God gave to His people) and, even worse, persecuted and expelled the Jews from the Holy Land. A return thereto would set aright this unnatural and unacceptable state of affairs. It should be mentioned that although this belief has animated the sense of entitlement, it is not a primary reason for returning to the Holy Land or for the establishment of a Jewish state.
- The fulfillment of the Redemption. (This point is important: this is the foundation of religious anti-Zionism.) Jews have always awaited for the Messiah to come to bring the Jews in from their exile, defeat the Jews’ enemies, reestablished the Jewish state, rebuild the Temple, reestablish the Temple cult, and reassume the throne of David. But whereas the religiously-oriented depended on the supernatural appearance of the Messiah, secular and humanist Jews argued that the Redemption will not come through the instrument of the Messiah but, rather, through Jews themselves. That is, rather than waiting for the Messiah to come to save the Jews from exile and persecution, Jews should take their future and matters in their own hands and effectuate the Redemption through their own efforts. As such, the reestablishment of a Jewish state and the end of the Exile would not be accomplished by the Messiah but by Jews. The position of the traditionalists was seen as backward superstition, something holding the Jews back. And so they set out to effectuate the Redemption by establishing, through their own efforts, a Jewish state.
- What with the Holocaust, and what with the prominent role of Jews in Western states, it was time the Jews assumed responsibility and autonomy for themselves, as equals among other Gentiles (literally, “nations”), on their own terms in their own polity. Rather than keep themselves subjugated and unequal, it was time that they raised their heads and joined the world rather than keeping separate from it.
There was substantial opposition to Zionism, which then was dominated by secular Jews, by traditional Jews. There are a number of reasons they opposed and still oppose Zionism:
- Hastening the Redemption is expressedly forbidden. Trying to establish a Jewish state, which is the Messiah’s duty, is considered to be hastening the Redemption. Such an act is blasphemy and would only anger God.
- By normal Jews assuming the duty or job of the Messiah, who would be sent by God and who is charged by God with his respective duties, is an affront to God. This is heresy. This is apostasy. This will only anger God, and goes againsy Judaism.
- By taking an active role in politics, the Zionists would only stir up the anger of Gentiles against Jews, endangering Jewish survival.
Theologically, the traditionalist objections to Zionism carries some water. But the issue does not end there. Secularists and traditionalists both agree on certain important facts:
- Jews cannot depend on the goodwill of Gentiles for their survival. Gentiles will oppose them, persecute them, and even seek to exterminate them.
- The Holy Land belongs to Jews. Jews belong in the Holy Land. God’s Law, revealed to and through His people, must sanctify the Holy Land: only with Jewish presence will the Holy Land be able to fulfill its God-given destiny. (Secularists may refuse to view the Holy Land as such: instead, they consider it their ethnic and national inheritance.)
- It is good for Jews to settle in the Holy Land, whether it is autonomous or not, whether it is independent or not. It is only natural. It is only right.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 (Iyar 5, 5708 according to the Hebrew calendar), a sort of repositioning has taken place among both the secularists and traditionalists.
(Sidenote: “Zionism” comes from the oft-used word for the Holy Land, use sanctioned by millennia of tradition. When Zionism began, there was no consensus on what the new Jewish state would be called.)
Whereas initially Zionism dealt with the establishment of a Jewish state (and with a view of effectuating the Redemption by Jews by their own efforts and acts), after the establishment of Israel, Zionism became concerned with preserving Israel. The state had just been born, through a troublesome delivery, and it was attacked, facing staggering odds.
The survival of Israel, and the fact that its existence was constantly threatened, gave birth to two almost contradictory impulses: a belief in Israel’s inviolability or impregnability, and a sense of Israel’s perpetual fragility and being on the brink of extinction. This, in turn, gave birth to beliefs, ideals, movements, and a dedication to using all the clout possible to promote the continued existence of Israel (the ideological approach) and seeking the support of world powers and their materiel (the pragmatic/practical approach). (Because of the influence of Jews in The United States, and the American origin of many pioneer Jews, The United States was among the first states to recognize Israel. Because of the secular and humanist Jews’ socialist leanings (the ever-famous kibbutzim were but communes), the Soviet Union recognized Israel, hoping that it would spread socialism in the Middle East and secure the Soviet Union’s influence there against capitalist America. The Soviet Union judged incorrectly, and shortly it would side with the Arabs against Israel.)
Secularists and humanists changed in that they saw in Israel something more than another state, which is how Israel was envisioned. It was something special and extraordinary. This extraordinariness was recognized as holiness or sanctity by the traditionalists. Once established, both secularists and traditionalists vehemently supported Jewish presence, urbanization, and inhabitation. Both shared the dream of making the barren (Holy) Land blossom. Settlements were established; farming began. The early years were extremely vital and full of hardship. But on the efforts of these pioneers, an extraordinary state began to flourish. Israel was something to cherish and preserve, something on which both secularists and traditionalists could cooperate.
The traditionalists began to soften towards the State of Israel. Having been established, they viewed it as their responsibility to exercise whatever influence they could through the democratic process to steer Israel in the right direction: preserving Jewish presence and preserving Judaism. (This is the origin of the battle between secularists and traditionalists that rages on even today: the latter want a secular state whereas the former want a state faithful to the dictates of the Torah.) As such, the State of Israel was legitimized, and it became practically a duty incumbent on every Jew to support Israel. (This is especially so in Judaism today.)
Ultra-Orthodox Judaism did not soften to this extent. They approved of Jewish settlement, but only the settlement of Jews faithful to the Torah. The establishment of any government or state that was not faithful to the Torah was seen as a travesty against God, against the Torah, against Judaism. Such Jews refuse to recognize the State of Israel or its government or the Armed Forces that support it. But they support anyone who protects the integrity and safety of Israel’s borders. Indeed, they are far more fanatic about Israel holding on to every inch of land it gains than anyone else. As much as they might delegitimize the State of Israel, they vehemently charge the State with the duty and responsibility of protecting Jews, Judaism, and the Jewish state. At the same time, they see it as their duty to spread Torah-faithful Judaism among the Jews of Israel, and to expand the presence of such Jews in Israel and its lands. (Hence, the settlements; also, they are an effort to establish Israel’s presence, as if they were pegs of a tent.) Such Jews will not commemorate Independence Day, nor will they fly the Israeli flag.
Indeed, such Jewish that oppose the State of Israel and Zionism (for the theological reasons stated above) call themselves, and are, anti-Zionists. They are against Zionism in that they are against any effort by humans to effectuate the Redemption; they, furthermore, view any effort to effectuate or hasten the Redemption as bringing upon the Jews (or upon the Holy Land) the wrath of God.
Now think about those reasons. No mention made of Arabs, human rights, right of return for Palestinians, or any such issue. The fact is that such ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist Jews tend to be intolerant and inflexible. (These are the same Jews who will stone cars on the Sabbath.) They really don’t care about Arabs. If anything, they view Arabs as usurpers, encroachers.
It is, therefore, quite puzzling to see one ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist group go out of their way to slander Jews, attack Israel, and pretend to support Arabs and their causes. This group is Neturei Karta (or Netorei Karta). These are despicable and abhorrent people indeed. So much so that the Satmar sect of ultra-Orthodox ultra-conservative anti-Zionist Judaism–and a very influential sect among the many courts of the ultra-Orthodox Jews–excommunicated them. (The entire sect of Neturei Karta was not excommunicated: only certain individuals therein were.) There’s a fringe group of Neturei Karta which recently has been up to quite puzzling and alarming antics. Some delegates of this fringe of the sect went to Iran to meet Ahmadinezhad at his Holocaust-denying conference. The head delegate and Ahmadinezhad shook hands and kissed.
This meeting sent a wave of disgust throughout the Jewish world, as it should. Thereupon, the Satmar court excommunicated the delegates to that conference. Supporting Ahmadinezhad is like supporting Haman, the evil Persian vizier of Ahasuerus/Artaxerxes/Achashverosh. Haman conspired to have the Jews in the Persian Empire exterminated. When Esther, a Jewish girl whom the Persian emperor unwittingly took as a wife, saved the Jews and thwarted Haman’s plot, the victory would be celebrated for many, many generations as Purim.
I have never liked Naturei Karta. For that matter, I am not very fond of ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionism. But at least other anti-Zionist Jews limit their opposition to the actual state of Israel and to Israeli politics. (One of my favorite of Jewish sects, the Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic ultra-Orthodox Jews, are somewhat anti-Zionist; but the Rebbe (Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of blessed and righteous memory), was an ardent proponent of Israel while disagreeing with the reasons it was founded. In other words: he supported what he saw as a vital institution for the survival of Judaism, not letting theological battles detract from this fact. Like most Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, there’s a Chabad-Lubavitch settlement/presence in the borders of Israel.) None of them would even think of causing such outrage as these fringe members of Neturei Karta have.
(According to The International Jerusalem Post, Neturei Karta was not always like this. When the founding leadership died away, the younger generation took over and imposed a brasher regime on the group. The older generation was like other anti-Zionist Jews: they kept a low profile. The younger generation wanted a more outspoken and active policy.)
There is a tendency in every religion for small groups to form that believe that their group is the only true form of the religion. As such, Neturei Karta holds that any Zionist Jew is not a real Jew. (And this may go further: the only real Jews are those that are as anti-Zionist as they are.) This tendency exists in a number of groups, and this is nothing new in Judaism. The Essene group considered all other Jews as heretics or apostates: that is, they were at least extremely wayward, sinning Jews and at most Gentiles. Hence, why the Essenes would not eat with non-Essene Jews: Jews are prohibited from eating with unrepentant sinners (who are being punished for this) and with Gentiles. This tendency continues.
Now, members of Neturei Karta say that they are doing what they are doing to ease the pressure on Jews. They say that by demonstrating that there are anti-Zionist Jews, perhaps the Gentiles will realize that Zionism is not a Jewish poison but a poison that has affected some Jews. Thus, not all Jews should be punished for the sins of a few. Plus, they add, their antics will increase awareness of the evils of Zionism among Jews, hopefully putting an end to Zionism. Then all the Jews will have to do is wait for the Messiah to come to reestablish the Jewish state the right way. They also raise the issue of human rights for Arabs, that the land is rightfully the Arabs’ (and thus support a Palestinian state not alongside Israel but in place of Israel), and so on. But this is ridiculous. It’s all a bluff; it’s all lies. In reality, Neturei Karta (or, at least, this idiotic, fanatic fringe) are so Arab-friendly because they hate Jews. Yes, they hate their brother Jews. Well, they don’t view the other Jews as brothers. They believe that other Jews are so wayward that they would rather converse with Gentiles than with Jews.
When the leader of Neturei Karta was asked whether he would meet with any Israeli politician to explain to him/her Neturei Karta’s point of view, the leader outright refused. He said they would not meet with any Jews. Period. No exceptions. It was clear that the other Jews disgusted him.
But do you want to guess whom he would meet with? You’d never guess it. Let me quote The International Jerusalem Post:
I ask him if he or any other Natorei Karta member would accept an invitation to a conference sponsored by the stridently secular Meretz (“no”), Likud (“no”), the National Religious Party (“no”) or even the haredi United Torah Judaism (“no”). “These are all Jews who deny what a Jew is,” he says, “so we cannot cooperate with them.”
But when asked if he would like meet and talk things over with Osama bin Laden, he smiles and says, “The whole world wants to find him and nobody has yet. It’s hard for me to say what his intentions are, but certainly, yes, I’d like to explain our views to him, and I believe that if I could talk to him, I could make him understand.”
(The National Religious Party is a Torah-oriented party; it one of the main political vehicles of Orthodox Judaism. “Haredi” means “ultra-Orthodox”.)
Usama bin Ladin.
This cockroach of a man said he would like to meet Bin Ladin, but he would never even entertain meeting a Jewish leader.
Tell me, how can I have any positive feelings for a Jew who would rather meet men who aspire to be the butchers of Jews, but who refuses to meet the men who make his existence in Israel a possibility? It really astounds me that he and his people hate Jews so much that they would rather live under the tyranny of fickle Arabs, and Palestinians at that.
This reminds me of idiotic Israeli/Jewish leftists. One, of college student age, said that blowing up an Israeli bus (as in a terrorist attack) was more legitimate than serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. (Were I God, a thunderbolt would have mysteriously reduced him to ashes. Honestly.)
I think the Catholics had something right going on the canon law of “latae sententiae excommunication”, that certain acts automatically excommunicates one from the community of the faithful. I hold that anyone Jewish, by birth or conversion, who strays to such a treacherous extreme has excommunicated himself, and I will refuse to recognize him as a Jew. Jews may not agree, but this is my halakhah.
But I have little worry, really. Disgust, yes; worry, no. There is a huge world of Zionists, encompassing a great many Jews, Christians, agnostics, and atheists. We see what is right and wrong pretty clearly. And we do not allow ourselves to be blinded by propaganda from any side. We are practical and yet ethical: we scold Israel as we excoriate the Arabs (who, really, are not being condemned nearly enough for their crimes against humanity).
Although the battles between secularists and traditionalists, between Zionists and anti-Zionists, continues, I have a feeling of certainty Israel will survive. There will never be peace. There never was peace or stability. (Consider: By his death in 970 BC, King David consolidated the Kingdom’s borders. In 931 BC, under his grandson Rehoboam/Rechav’am, it split into two. In 722 BC, the Northern Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of Israel, ceased to exist. In 586 BC, the Southern Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of Judah, ceased to exist.)
At least Neturei Karta gives me something unusual to fume about. Such people prove, in their own way, the reasonableness of the very ideologies they oppose.