Wednesday, April 14, 2010
ZIONISM AND JUDAISM: NOT THE SAME THING
Judaism is a religion that is more than 3,000 years old. Its practitioners are Jewish, but Jews comprise a larger ethno-religious group, meaning that even Jews who are not religious still often identify with the culture/ethnicity.
Zionism is a political movement that was born in the 1880’s as a result of discrimination against and persecution of the Jews. The purpose of Zionism was to establish a safe homeland that was specifically—and exclusively—Jewish, to which Jews from anywhere in the world could immigrate.
Many different regions were originally considered as potential locations for this Jewish homeland, including Uganda, Argentina, and Turkey. ['Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict', by Phyllis Bennis, pg.175] The Zionists recognized that the place would need to be relatively underdeveloped and that they would need the power of a colonizing country behind them. Ultimately, they decided upon Palestine, which was taken over by Britain at the end of World War I, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The Zionists recognized that they could appeal to more Jews by emphasizing historic, religious links to Palestine.
An oft-quoted, Zionist slogan for Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land”—an attitude that totally ignored the fact that hundreds of thousands of indigenous Arabs—Christian and Muslim—already occupied the land. However, the Zionists found sympathizers among the British rulers, who grew tired of the growing conflict between newly arrived Jewish immigrants and native Palestinians and turned the problem over to the United Nations. Out of that action, with the backing of Britain, Israel was born.
Many Jews were not, and are not, Zionists. According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, “Jewish tradition and religion clearly instruct Jews to await the coming of the promised Messiah at ‘the end of times’ before they can return to Eretz Israel as a sovereign people in a Jewish theocracy…In other words, Zionism secularized and nationalized Judaism.” ['The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine', pg. 10-11.] Some of the conservative branches of Judaism, in particular, objected to the establishment of Israel by the hand of man rather than by the hand of God.
However, the Zionist founders of Israel were secular and apparently felt that the end goal of an Israeli homeland justified any means needed to obtain it. The diaries of men like David Ben-Gurion, as well as the military archives of the Zionists, hold many details of the 1948 expulsions and massacres of 750,000 Palestinians from their own land. [‘Endnotes’ in 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine', pp. 262-281]
These methods continue today in an effort to force as many Palestinians as possible to flee. For example, during Israel’s military attack on the Gaza Strip in December, 2008 to January, 2009, Israeli forces killed over 1400 Palestinians: 926 were civilians, including 313 children and 116 women. [Bennis, pg. 194] Any criticism of Israel’s actions is met by an effective tactic of the Zionists: a charge of anti-Semitism. Norman Finkelstein writes of these highly publicized charges that, “The main purpose behind these periodic, meticulously orchestrated media extravaganzas is not to fight anti-Semitism but rather to exploit the historical suffering of Jews in order to immunize Israel against criticism.” [Norman Finkelstein, 'Beyond Chutzpah', pg. 22]
Many Jews inside and outside of Israel object to the violation of human rights to which the Palestinian occupants of Gaza and the West Bank are subjected every day. Multiple human rights organizations—again, within and outside of Israel—are dedicated to changing the policies of Israel. Jewish writers such as political scientist Norman Finkelstein, professor and philosopher Noam Chomsky, analyst Phyllis Bennis, and historian Ilan Pappe work tirelessly to expose the lies and mischaracterizations of the Zionists, as well as the human suffering of the Palestinians. In this high-tech age, it is becoming more and more difficult for Israel to violate with impunity both international law and the basic tenets of humanity.