Zionism & Jewish Values

Former UK Chief Rabbi: Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism
By Ari Soffer, Aritz Sheva, 4/4/2016

 
Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has written a blistering oped slamming modern-day anti-Zionism as the “new anti-Semitism.” In his Newsweek article, published Sunday, Rabbi Sacks refers to figures showing how escalating anti-Semitism has left many Jews considering leaving Europe and noted that the phenomenon was quickly spreading to the US, specifically via university campuses.
“Much of the intimidation on campus is stirred by “Israel Apartheid” weeks and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel. These have become what Easter was in the Middle Ages, a time for attacks against Jews,” he writes.


 

Judith Butler: Zionism Is Opposed to Jewish Values
Carlo Strenger, Huffington Post, 16-3-2013

 
Judith Butler’s book, “Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism”, is symptomatic for a situation in which many liberal-leaning Jews feel they must salvage their Jewishness from Israel’s nationalism and occupation policies.
Judith Butler has been highly critical of Israel’s occupation policy, she describes herself as an anti-Zionist and endorses the BDS movement, which advocates boycotting and divesting from Israel and imposing sanctions against it.

“Parting Ways” is Butler’s latest book, and she states its goal right at the outset: She wants to make a case for a specifically Jewish critique of Israeli state violence.
In “Parting Ways,” Butler joins a large number of contemporary Jewish intellectuals who refuse to accept the notion that one’s relation to Israel determines one’s Jewishness and that being critical of Israel turns one into a self-hating Jew − or worse, an anti-Semite.
But she goes one step further: She argues that Zionism itself is profoundly un-Jewish.
Defending liberal versions of Zionism cannot salvage Jewish values as she understands them. Nothing less than a radical decoupling of Jewishness and Zionism will do for Butler, starting with the binary opposition between Israel and the Diaspora posited by classical Zionism, which valorizes the former and disparages the latter.
Contemporary political Zionism, in Butler’s view, has constructed a very slanted narrative of Jewish history − one that glorifies the kingdom of David, the Maccabees, Masada and Bar Kochba, all equated with the type of bellicose masculinity embraced by some early Zionist activists like Max Nordau, Arthur Ruppin and Vladimir ‏(Ze’ev‏) Jabotinsky and pursued by Israeli leaders like Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jewish Individualism (conscience)
versus Zionist Collectivism (ignorance)

 
“Parting Ways” is Butler’s version of a non-Zionist counter-narrative, with her own pantheon of Jewish voices: French-Lithuanian philosopher Emmanuel Levinas; Berlin-born Walter Benjamin, proponent of a non-violent form of historical messianism; German-American political thinker Hannah Arendt; and Italian writer Primo Levi.
She harnesses them for the project of a Nietzschean reevaluation of all Jewish values.
All her discussions are intended to lead the reader to the conclusion that in view of Jewish experience and history, the appropriate interpretation of Jewish identity is a diasporic interpretation that requires Jews to integrate the identities of those other groups that they live with within a given country into their own personality-identity (individualism).
‘To be a Jew’, Butler argues, ‘is to be departing from oneself, cast out into a world of the non-Jew, bound to make one’s way ethically and politically precisely there within a world of irreversible heterogeneity’.

In Israel/Palestine they ought to support a political entity whose Jewish citizens have all integrated a Palestinian component into their identities while its Palestinian citizens do the corresponding thing. For Butler any ‘coming together’ must first be predicated on a transformation of the colonial relation between them.
Butler demands the dismantling of the political and ideological structures that maintain exclusive Jewish privilege, rights, and protection at the expense of the non-Jewish population.
Butler’s theory of what constitutes the desirable Jewish identity is diametrically opposed to that of Zionism.
According to the Zionist theory, Jews ought to regard their identity as an ethno-national identity (the tribe, the collective), and take part in the realization of their right to national self-determination.

 

People cannot be reduced to ideas,
social structures, or mystical oneness
Leo Sjestov & Personalism,
a spiritual form of individualism

 
Shestov rejects any mention of “omnitudes”, “collective”, “all-unity.” As he explains in his masterpiece Athens and Jerusalem:

“Why forever speak of “total unity”? If God loves men, what need has He to subordinate men to His divine will and to deprive them of their own will, the most precious of the things He has bestowed upon them? There is no need at all. Consequently, the idea of total unity is an absolutely false idea..
It is not forbidden for reason to speak of unity and even of unities, but it must renounce total unity – and other things besides. And what a sigh of relief men will breathe when they suddenly discover that the living God, the true God, in no way resembles Him whom reason has shown them until now!”

Although a Jewish philosopher, Shestov saw in the resurrection of Christ a victory over necessity.
He described the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus as a transfiguring spectacle by which it is demonstrated that the purpose of life is not “mystical” surrender to the “absolute”, but ascetical struggle:
Cur Deus homo? Why, to what purpose, did He become man, expose himself to injurious mistreatment, ignominious and painful death on the cross?
Was it not in order to show man, through His example, that no decision is too hard, that it is worth while bearing anything in order not to remain in the womb of the One? That any torture whatever to the living being is better than the ‘bliss’ of the rest-satiate ‘ideal’ being?”

Lev Shestov (1866-1938) is a Russian-Jewish philosopher of existentialism. Variously described as an irrationalist, an anarchist, a religious philosopher, Shestov’s themes were initially inspired by Nietzsche until he found a kindred spirit in Kierkegaard. Among his contemporaries he entertained long-standing philosophical friendships with Martin Buber, Edmund Husserl and Nikolai Berdyaev.

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (18 March 1874 – 24 March 1948) was a Russian Christian universalist mystic (personalist) and Christian anarchist political philosopher.
In Berdyaev’s view, the only way of escape from the many forms of slavery (spiritual, economic, political) lies in thefuller realization of personality:
At the basis of a social world-concept of personalism lies not the idea of equality nor the idea of justice, but rather the dignity of every human person, which should receive the possibility to realise itself.

 

See also: Page 52, march 2015

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