Why young Jews don’t trust what their institutions say about Israel

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American Jews from the Center for Jewish Nonviolence meet with Palestinians in the West Bank. (photo: Gili Getz)

Growing up, the Conservative movement embraced nuanced approaches to the Torah, yet that critical approach never extended to discussions of Israel. Questioning Zionism was verboten.

By Eliana Fishman / +972 Magazine / Sep 14, 2017


No one within the Conservative movement ever discussed the rabbinic texts that oppose the Jewish people’s return to the Land of Israel. Questioning Zionism was verboten. And no one knew, and still, to this day no one knows what the occupation looks like.


It was the summer before eighth grade at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, a Jewish summer camp affiliated with the Conservative Movement. I was 12 years old. Each camper was handed a copy of Mitchell Bard’s Myths and Facts, long considered a foundational hasbara textbook, and we were told that the author would be coming to speak to us.

Most campers ignored the book and didn’t pay much attention to Bard’s presentation. One particularly precocious camper, who actually read through the book, took the time to highlight misleading arguments and logical inconsistencies, and challenged the author during his lecture. Bard made light of the critiques and brushed them aside, insisting that every accusation against Israel was rooted in anti-Semitism, and that there was no way human rights violations had anything to do with Palestinian discontent.

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Crusaders and Zionists

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(image: Christianity Today)

By Uri Avnery / Antiwar.com
September 2, 2017


“When you were writing your book, did you ever think about the similarities between the Crusaders and the modern Zionists?” [the author inquired.]
“Actually, I hardly thought about anything else. I wanted to subtitle the book ‘A Guidebook For the Zionist About How Not To Do It,’ but my Jewish friends advised me to abstain from doing so.”
— British Historian Seven Runciman


A few days ago I found myself in Caesarea, sitting in a restaurant and looking out over the sea. The sunbeams were dancing on the little waves, the mysterious ruins of the ancient town arrayed behind me. It was hot, but not too hot, and I was thinking about the crusaders.

Caesarea was built by King Herod some 2000 years ago and named after his Roman master, Augustus Caesar. It once again became an important town under the Crusaders, who fortified it. These fortifications are what now makes the place a tourist attraction.

For some years in my life I was obsessed with the Crusaders. It started during the 1948 “War of Independence,” when I chanced to read a book about the crusaders and found that they had occupied the same locations opposite the Gaza strip which my battalion was occupying. It took the crusaders several decades to conquer the strip, which at the time extended to Ashkelon. Today it is still there in Muslim hands.

After the war, I read everything I could about these Crusaders. The more I read, the more fascinated I became. So much so, that I did something I have never done before or after: I wrote a letter to the author of the most authoritative book about the period, the British historian Steven Runciman.

To my surprise, I received a handwritten reply by return of post, inviting me to come and see him when I happened to be in London. I happened to be in London a few weeks later and called him up. He insisted I come over immediately.

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The Zionist Tango: Why I Prefer Ayelet Shaked

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Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, March 2017. (photo: Eliyahu Hershkovitz)

Why the racist honesty of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is preferable to the fake views of the Israeli left.

By Gideon Levy / Haaretz
Sseptember 3, 2017

[Ed. note: This is the last of a quartet of articles that appeared recently in Haaretz. We are posting them in succession and recommend that they be read in order.]


With [Shaked], what you see is what you get — racism. In its actions and deeds, the Zionist left has done everything to implement Shaked’s views, only in polished words and without acknowledgement. The Zionist left is embarrassed by things Shaked and her colleagues are not ashamed of. That doesn’t make the left any more moral or just. It has merely been quasi-Shaked in its actions.


Ravit Hecht attributes a “fragrance of true love” for my “honest, brave princess,” Justice Minister Shaked, in her op-ed “When Gideon Levy fell in love with Ayelet Shaked.” Hecht knows my taste in women is slightly different than that, and that, despite what she writes, I don’t know how to dance the tango. But my appreciation for Shaked and her ilk is that they do not deceive: they openly acknowledge their nationalism and racism.

They don’t hide their belief that the Palestinians are an inferior people, indigenous inhabitants who will never gain the rights Jews have in the Land of Israel-Palestine; that no Palestinian state will ever be established here; that Israel will ultimately annex all of the occupied territories, as it already has done in practice; that the Jews are the Chosen People; that Zionism is in contradiction to human rights and superior to them; that dispossession is redemption; that biblical property rights are eternal; that there is no Palestinian people and no occupation; and that the current reality will last forever.

Many of these views are also held among the Zionist left, Hecht’s ideological camp. The only difference is that the Zionist left has never admitted it. It envelops its views in the glittering wrapping paper of peace talks, separation and hollow rhetoric about two states, words it has never really meant and has done precious little to realize.

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When Gideon Levy Fell in Love With Ayelet Shaked

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Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks with fellow Habayit Hayehudi party member Bezalel Smotrich, March 2017. (photo: Olivier Fitoussi)

Gideon Levy prefers hard-line rightists to the left because they tell the truth; that is, they sincerely express dangerous sentiments popular among the people.

By Ravit Hecht / Haaretz
September 1, 2017

[Ed. note: This is the third of a quartet of articles that appeared recently in Haaretz. We are posting them in succession and recommend that they be read in order.]


There are still a few seekers of justice in Israel who believe in the basic Zionist principle of Jews’ right to a national homeland in Israel while deeply abhorring Shaked’s statement. Neither she nor Gideon Levy will make them disappear.


In his piece the other day, Gideon Levy thanked Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked for telling the truth; Shaked had said Zionism would no longer bow to the Supreme Court. The minister is thus continuing her incitement campaign against the court, a campaign that is flourishing throughout the right wing.

A fragrance of true love exudes from Levy’s text to his honest, brave princess. His op-ed conveys a message of admiration among radicals who tell it straight on their way to wreaking havoc.

And havoc has been wreaked. What a riot. Apocalypse now. The court is being aggressively worn down, and soon the media will finally be tamed and fall silent. Racism is soaring to new heights with the leadership’s encouragement and corruption runs rampant, with no need for camouflage, for the simple reason that nobody is ashamed anymore.

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Israel’s Minister of Truth

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Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at an Israel Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv, August 29, 2017. (photo: David Bachar)

Israel Justice Minister Shaked said the truth loud and clear: Zionism contradicts human rights, and thus is indeed an ultranationalist, colonialist and racist movement.

By Gideon Levy / Haaretz
September 1, 2017

[Ed. note: This is the second of a quartet of articles that appeared recently in Haaretz. We are posting them in succession and recommend that they be read in order.]


Shaked prefers Zionism to human rights, the ultimate universal justice. She believes that we have a different kind of justice, superior to universal justice. Zionism above all. . . . Now that Shaked has exposed Zionism  . . . we can finally think about Zionism more freely. We can admit that the Jews’ right to a state contradicted the Palestinians’ right to their land, and that righteous Zionism gave birth to a terrible national wrong that has never been righted.


Thank you, Ayelet Shaked, for telling the truth. Thank you for speaking honestly. The justice minister has proved once again that Israel’s extreme right is better than the deceivers of the center-left: It speaks honestly.

If in 1975, Chaim Herzog dramatically tore up a copy of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, equating Zionism with racism, the justice minister has now admitted the truthfulness of the resolution (which was later revoked). Shaked said, loud and clear: Zionism contradicts human rights, and thus is indeed an ultranationalist, colonialist and perhaps even racist movement, as proponents of justice worldwide maintain.

Shaked prefers Zionism to human rights, the ultimate universal justice. She believes that we have a different kind of justice, superior to universal justice. Zionism above all. It’s been said before, in other languages and other nationalist movements.

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Israeli Supreme Court Puts Too Much Emphasis on Human Rights

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Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, right, with Supreme Court President Miriam Naor on August 28, 2017. (photo: David Bachar)

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked slams the Supreme court, saying it places too much emphasis on individual rights, neglecting Zionism and the will of the Jewish Majority.

By Revital Hovel / Haaretz
August 29, 2017

[Ed. note: This is the first of a quartet of articles that appeared recently in Haaretz. We are posting them in succession and recommend that they be read in order.]


“Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way that divorces them from history . . . disconnected from context, from our national tasks, from our identity, from our history, from our Zionist challenges.”
— Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked


Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked criticized the Supreme Court on Tuesday, claiming that the justice system gives insufficient consideration to Zionism and the country’s Jewish majority.

Speaking at a conference of the Israel Bar Association in Tel Aviv, Shaked said that Zionism and “national challenges have become a legal blind spot” that carry no decisive weight in comparison to questions of individual rights. She added that the court’s rulings do not consider the matter of demography and the Jewish majority “as values that should be taken into consideration.”

Shaked’s comments come the day after the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, ruled that asylum seekers may be deported to Rwanda and Uganda but may not be jailed for more than two months if they refuse to go.

“Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way that divorces them from the history of the Knesset and the history of legislation that we all know,” Shaked told her audience, which included Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Military Advocate General Sharon Afek.

Shaked’s speech was momentarily interrupted when some of the lawyers in the audience yelled that Israeli was an apartheid state.

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Zionism is Nationalism, Not Judaism

Gwen Macsai, Andy White and Rabbi Brant Rosen at Bookends and Beginnings, Evanston, IL, August 10. (photo: Liz Rose)

How Rabbi Rosen, and the author, shifted from insider to outsider.

By Liz Rose / Mondoweiss
August 17, 2017


I remember sitting in [Rabbi Rosen’s] office at [Jewish Reconstructionist Synagogue], feeling nauseous, scared that what I was learning about — indeed, that Israel is in fact Palestine and was taken from Palestinians — would cause me to question everything else about my life. So much of my identity had been formed around my love for Israel. I couldn’t talk to my family about this. I worried that students from the school where I taught Hebrew, and their parents, were in the building and could somehow hear our conversation, even though the door to his office was closed.


This summer, I’ve been going through crates of old albums in my parent’s basement. Some of the records have triggered more memories than others. A few remind me of college, like Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell. I remember making out with a guy in my dorm room, in 1988, to the song, “You Took the Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night).” I also found Joan Armatrading’s Show Some Emotion, which I also remember playing after the Meat Loaf guy dumped me. Others, like Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits, remind me of the summers I spent at Habonim Dror, the Zionist summer camp modeled after a kibbutz that I attended in the 1980’s. Often we’d listen to “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” or “America,” or “The Boxer,” while cleaning bathrooms or making breakfast or building a bonfire.

I had forgotten about an obscure record that I found next to my Simon and Garfunkel albums, The Parvarim sing Simon and Garfunkel in Hebrew. The Parvarim were an Israeli duo, Yossi Hurie and Nisim Menachem. They started their career in the 1950’s, primarily singing Ladino ballads and Shabbat songs, but were most famous for their Simon and Garfunkel covers from the 1970’s. The music sounds remarkably like Simon and Garfunkel, only in Hebrew. The album was helpful to me when I was studying Hebrew, and, later, when I taught Hebrew at a public high school. I played the album the other day, and was startled by the memories it stirred in me of when I was a Zionist — mostly feelings of loss — particularly when I played “Sounds of Silence,” and “America.”

Later that evening, August 10, I attended Rabbi Brant Rosen’s book launch for the second edition of his 2012 book, Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi’s Path to Palestinian Solidarity, released this year. Rosen used to be a Zionist, too, and we’ve often talked about the process we’ve both gone through to undo the Zionist upbringing we both had. Rosen, who was the Rabbi at the Jewish Reconstructionist Synagogue (JRC) in Evanston, Illinois, from 1998–2014, was one of the first Jews I approached when I began to question what I had learned and believed growing up about Zionism and Israel.

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