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Virtual Talmud


Bi-Nationalism, a Smoke Screen for Anti-Semitism

posted by Virtual Talmud

There are serious flaws in the argument Rabbi Stern is making on whether liberal Jews are anti-Semites if they argue that Israel should cease to be a Jewish State and become a binational state. Buber and Einstein were mostly writing before there was a Jewish State. Einstein himself later was invited to become Israel’s first president, and indeed supported the Jewish State. Today we live in a world in which not a peep of protest is made about the fact that Saudi Arabia bars Jews from living in that country and Syria and even Jordan refuse citizenship to Jews. We live in a world in which little is done to protest Muslim-on-Muslim genocide in Darfur, yet Arab boycotts of companies doing business with Israel is on the rise, as is the number of European countries boycotting Israeli products.

I am in favor of open debate. Israel itself, as the only democracy in the Middle East, has very open debate. Its newspapers include criticism of government policies and practices.

There is an unfortunate tendency of some in the organized Jewish community to equate well-meaning criticism with anti-Zionism. Columnist Thomas Friedman for many years was castigated as too critical of Israel, though he is a staunch supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State. It is easy to want to circle the wagons when Israel is constantly under siege. However, there have always been other, more liberal arms of the Jewish community, like New Israel Fund and Rabbis for Human Rights, which have found a way to balance criticism with loyalty to the Jewish State.

There is also a growing and unfortunate tendency among many on the left to blame Israeli policies for the recurring cycle of violence, rather than focusing on the intransigence of Arab world, in general, and the Palestinian leadership in particular. The truth is more nuanced: that Israel’s leadership through the years made mistakes in the face of Arab intransigence and terrorism designed to destroy Israel.

Is someone who intentionally or unintentionally supports the agenda of anti-Semites an anti-Semite? Should we hold people responsible for the positions they take and the intended or unintended consequences of such positions?

When Jewish intellectuals confuse their right to criticize specific policies of current or past Israeli governments with questioning the legitimacy of having a Jewish State, that is when they cross the line of legitimate debate and cross over into anti-Semitism, and thereby serve the purposes of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Israel today serves as the political personification of the Jew on the current world stage. If anyone doubts that anti-Zionism is only the most recent mutation of anti-Semitism, just review the rise in Arab-immigrant violence against Jews throughout Europe and the appropriation of the Nazis’ anti-Semitic language and images in Arab anti-Israel propaganda. Arguments for a bi-national state today–an Israel in which Palestinians and Jews share power, rather than having separate states–are just another weapon in the arsenal of those who want to destroy the Jewish State, and ultimately Jewish corporate identity. Jews who support such a position are aiding those who are the self-defined enemies of the Jewish People, and thus, even when active members of the Jewish community themselves, sadly serve the cause of anti-Semitism.

– Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman



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Matt Vile

posted February 7, 2007 at 7:36 pm


Whenever somebody, Jewish or not, rails against Jewish extremism, the Zionists go crazy. It’s amazing how proposing Israel start tolerating gentiles can bring up the claims of anti-Semitism. Thank God for good Jews who stand up to the Zionist racists.



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Tom

posted February 7, 2007 at 8:11 pm


Rabbi Grossman writes: I am in favor of open debate. Israel itself, as the only democracy in the Middle East, has very open debate. What about Turkey? And if GWB is seeing things clearly, what about Iraq?



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Deir Yassin

posted February 7, 2007 at 8:47 pm


What does one call someone who takes a person from his home, deprives them of their belongings, and then sends them to a camp? The eupemism during the Shoah was “deportation” for what you are describing. What is it under Al-Nakba? Why should Palestinians leave their homes where they have lived for centuries? Do you know about Deir Yassin? How can one say “Never Again” with the blood of Deir Yassin on Israeli hands? Rabbi, you need to learn about Al-Nakba and the deportation of the 750,000!



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Mitch

posted February 7, 2007 at 9:13 pm


Shame on beliefnet for even asking the question “Do liberal Jews fuel anti-Semitism?” This sounds exactly like the hogwash Karl Rove and his ilk have pouring out of the White House for more than six years now. “Liberals give aid and comfort to the enemy.” In case you missed it, last November, U.S. voters announced that they weren’t buying it any more. Imagine the outcry had they spun out any of the following variations: Do Orthodox Jews fuel anti-Semitism? Do blacks receiving AFDC fuel racism? Does the Cuban middle class fuel anti-Hispanic sentiment? Do working mothers fuel misogyny? Shape up, beliefnet.



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Kristi

posted February 7, 2007 at 10:47 pm


Every antisemite I have encountered has had some sort of terrible experience with extemist Orthodox Jews. Also, I didn’t see evidence of any liberal Jews attending Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial conference in Iran. However, there were pictures all over the internet of extreme ultra-Orthodox Jews at the conference to support Ahmadinejad’s cause. They were shaking hands, hugging, and even kissing the very same man who has vowed to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth.” What sort of message does that send?



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daniel croft

posted February 8, 2007 at 1:46 am


i do not understand why the vast majority of jews in america are liberal in their political views. don’t they support isreal and being jewish, should not they accept G-D and his commandments as priority number one?



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diana

posted February 8, 2007 at 3:21 am


Just because someone is dressed in payes and black coat and hat doesn’t make them ultra Orthodox. Anyone who went to a rally to participate in denying the Holocaust happened is not Jewish–or they are suffering from self hatred. Those masqueraders don’t belong to the tribe, and anyone who believes that they do needs to seriously reexamine themselves. Anyone can dress like a Jew, it takes soul to live up to the part.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 8, 2007 at 4:02 am


Being liberal does not mean that one does not adhere to the principles of the mitzvot. As much as folks would like to paint this issue as “black and white”, it isn’t. Judaism has strong ethical principles which Jews should strive to uphold. It isn’t easy. But, we must try. It is wise to remember that extremism comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and religions. It is also good to remember that “Every _______ that I encounter has…..” is not very logical reasoning nor is “liberal Jews fuel anti-Semitism.” Both are fallacies. Perhaps, someone would ask, “What is a fallacy?” Curious? Research here: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/



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Scott

posted February 8, 2007 at 4:23 am


Daniel, Jews are liberal because they know that the Xtians that mean them the most harm are Conservative. Whatever they stand for, we will stand against.



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Dante Medici

posted February 8, 2007 at 6:38 am


Rather than the question “Do liberal Jews fuel anti-Semitism,” perhaps more relevant questions would be “Do Jewish settlers fuel anti-Semitism” and “Do Israeli policies fuel anti-Semitism.”



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mobius

posted February 8, 2007 at 10:26 am


When Jewish intellectuals confuse their right to criticize specific policies of current or past Israeli governments with questioning the legitimacy of having a Jewish State, that is when they cross the line of legitimate debate and cross over into anti-Semitism, and thereby serve the purposes of the enemies of the Jewish people. most. idiotic. statement. ever. questioning whether or not having an exclusively jewish state (which diminishes the rights of non-jews in order to maintain demographic superiority) is a good idea, and one conducive to jewish survival, is not an antisemitic question. it’s a rather pro-jewish question. is systematically disposessing palestinians going to help us survive or is it going to get us killed? trying to prevent us from getting killed is pro-jewish. doing things which jeopardize our survival is anti-jewish. currently, the state of israel is engaged in activities which jeopardize the jewish people’s survival, while claiming to be insuring our survival. yet, all you need to do is live here in israel to know that every day, we get less and less safe, and that our neighbors grow more and more emboldened. and yet to question whether what he have going right now — that’s antisemitic? you’re antisemitic for supporting policies which endanger jewish lives and for condemning your fellow jews for saying, “this isn’t working!” i think you’re an antisemite for supporting a jewish nationalism which has bankrupted jewish values and which has thusly robbed us of the very essence of judaism which we are fighting to preserve and keep alive. how ’bout that? thank you for being one more reason that i loathe reform judaism.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 8, 2007 at 11:45 am


Okay? Why was I suddenly reminded of last week’s Torah portion? I am thinking about the complaints that the people relayed to Moses. Was Moses anti-Semitic for leading the Israelites out of Egypt? After all, the Israelites thought that Moses endangered their lives. Right? I am stunned. Rabbi Grossman is not part of the Reform movement! She is part of the Conservative movement. I may or may not agree with the rabbis here, but I sure do agree that they have a right to express how they view situations and give their opinions. Everyone should have that right, but no one should have to put up with name-calling because folks disagree with a view. {That’s one issue I have with the discussion. It focuses on name-calling–”if you do ________ regardless of the fact you are a Jew, you are an anti-Semite.” That’s name-calling!} And I am also very disappointed with any individual taking the debate to a personal level. I would suggest that folks look at the “BeliefNet Rules of Conduct.”



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a. lefkowitz

posted February 8, 2007 at 1:58 pm


I don’t know if liberals aree anti semetic, but my hunch is that they are anti america, they are anti semetic. I do however believe that liberal jews are the cause of anti semitism. When Jews keeptheir oun diversity their is more acceptance, when jews want tobe like everyone else with their “glassy” mall stares, then antisemitism rears its ugly head.



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Simcha Eliahu

posted February 8, 2007 at 4:13 pm


American Jews tend to be liberals because we personify the tolerance that we desire in return. It goes back to the Golden Rule. We like our rights and beliefs repsected and must respect the rights and beliefs of others in exchange. Claiming Israel as a strictly Jewish state is no different than Nazis claiming Germany as a strictly Aryan state in my book. We all bleed the same blood and grieve the same losses. We need to LISTEN to each other and reconcile our differences. Can we pretend it is 2007 and not the setting from Exodus?



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Brett Gerstein

posted February 8, 2007 at 4:13 pm


Rabbi Grossman, Thank you for mentioning the work of the New Israel Fund (NIF)in a positive light. We at NIF believe that promoting social justice and equal rights for all Israelis directly improves Israel s legitimate security concerns. We encourage you to visit our website at http://www.nif.org to learn more about the positive impact we are having on Israeli society.



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Howard Katz

posted February 8, 2007 at 4:25 pm


A few points in this otherwise unpleasant little debate: 1) The AJC smearing of progressive Jews goes well beyond those who reject Israel as a Jewish state – it also includes many who accept it, but are highly critical of its’ policies. Noam Chomsky has advocated(and was indeed one of the first to advocate) a two state solution for decades;Richard Cohen,liberal journalist; Michael Lerner, who is regularly slandered for his opinions, even though he vocally supports Israel’s existence;Jimmy Carter as “Anti-Semite”, etc. The real point is NOT to “defend” Israel; it is to squash opposition to, primarily, Israeli/American aggressive policies in the Middle East. 2) There’s a bit of confusion about “Zionism”, which in this discussion is being conflated with “acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state”. In the context of political reality of 2007, these are not the same; one can – even enthusiastically – accept Israel as a Jewish state(I do; Michael Lerner does; Noam Chomsky does, reluctantly). Zionism, however, is, at this point, a political ideolgy which goes well beyond this – it means the subordination of one’s loyalties to the (supposed)”well-being” of Israel, no matter what the other effects might be(world wars and nukes included). (This “well-being” of course, is almost always defined in right-wing terms).It is “Zionism” in this sense – not acceptance and support of Israel as a Jewish state – that is demanded by the mainstream leaders of American Jewry, Rabbi Grossman notwithstanding. Further muddying the waters, of course, is the conflation of “Zionism” in this sense with a foundational sense of “Jewish identity”, which allows the aforesaid Jewish leaders to conflate opposition to Israeli policies and/or a lack of the requisite “loyalty” with “Anti-Semitism”, Jewish self-hatred, etc. 3) There are many positive aspects to Israel, among them its’ free press, which would not, FOR A SECOND, tolerate – or even take seriously -the sort of monolithic nonsense spouted by American Jewish leaders. True, the settlers and the Orthodox nationalists get a large amount of press – but so do Uri Avnery and the peace camp, something that we could learn from here.



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1ski

posted February 8, 2007 at 4:31 pm


sorry, i take back the swipe at the reform movement; old school conservatives piss me off too.



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Hali

posted February 8, 2007 at 5:10 pm


How about we REALLY recognize the Israelis’ right to self-determination, including what kind of state they eventually wind up with–bi-national or otherwise? Israel has been around long enough now that its citizens have adopted their own particular culture, attitudes, and shared experiences that are unique to them and can’t necessarily be extrapolated to the global Jewish community. I think that they will absolutely succeed in preserving the ISRAELI character of Israel, and that is what really matters.



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Marian Neudel

posted February 8, 2007 at 5:23 pm


Binational states don’t have a very good track record, and these days non-Muslims in the Middle East need all the protection they can get, in ANY country where they live. So on purely practical grounds, I think binationality is a bad idea. Does that mean anybody who proposes it is an anti-semite? Not necessarily. Maybe just inadequately grounded in history.



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Scott

posted February 8, 2007 at 9:04 pm


I am amazed at some of the responses here. The only explanation I can see is that there are several non-Jews pretending to be Jews here.



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jethro

posted February 8, 2007 at 9:07 pm


Scott Perhaps. But it is more likely that they are Jews who feel strongly that Zionism is a bad idea or that Israel’s actions are reprehensible. Go figure.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 8, 2007 at 9:51 pm


I thought the saying went “two Jews, three opinions.” I do not see where anyone has claimed to be a Jew or not to be a Jew. I agree with the next post up! Shalom, Geulah bat Avraham Avinu v’Sarah Imeinu



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 8, 2007 at 9:52 pm


Uh, that the post by Rabbi Joshua Waxman. And I agree we need to be more careful with the term “anti-Semite.”



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Kristi

posted February 8, 2007 at 11:11 pm


I came across something surprising and uplifting the other day. I was reading an Arabic newspaper, and the headline said “Are the Jews kinder to the Palestinians than the Arabs?” The article went on to state that all things considered, Israel seems to have a better track record with treating the Palestinians as fellow human beings than their Arab neighbors, who keep them in permanent refugee status. There should be more kindness, not exclusion. Personally, I agree with Israel’s right to exist, but I don’t think that being a Jew should be a condition for citizenship. p.s. I realize that my previous statement that “every antisemite I have encountered has had a bad experience with an extremist Orthodox Jew” sounds a little, well, extreme. Sorry! I was not knocking Orthodox Jews in particular, but extremism in general. I was also referring only to my personal experience. When I find antisemites, I try to understand why they feel the way they do, so I listen without passing judgement. Invariably, there is a painful story that comes out where they felt exluded, insulted, or treated as less of a person because of who they were not. Unfortunately, the story has always involved, well, the most exclusionary sects of Judaism. There’s no other way to put it. We Jews have often been treated as outsiders. We should remember how this feels, and not do the same to others. This is not assimilation. It’s simple human kindness.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 9, 2007 at 2:37 am


Kristi! Thank you! I agree with you. After all, it is taught that acts of loving-kindness are greater than acts of tzedakah, and an individual whose deeds are full of loving-kindness does not need merit of his or her fathers and mothers.



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jethro

posted February 9, 2007 at 4:42 pm


Kristi being Jewish is not a requirement of being a citizen of the State of Israel–there are, I believe, 1.5 million Arab citizens who have rights and vote. I am not saying that Israel is perfect in regards to her Arab minority, but it certainly does not restrict citizenship to Jews only. I think you need to be very careful with your other argument. It sounds like you are justifying some antisemitism because someone had a bad experience with a Jew. Hatred, of any form, is wrong, even if a Jew is being a jerk, or an African American, or a Muslim…. Of course Jews need to remember the stranger in our midst. But balancing that with a thorny and probably insolveable security problem is not easy. Given the need to protect her citizens from suicide bombers and rockets, certain warm and fuzzy Israeli openess is undoubtedly going to be sacrificed.



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