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Israeli Criticism of Zionism and of Israel's Treatment of the Palestinians: The Academics and Activists

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There are many Israeli critics of Zionism and anti-Zionist Jews in Israel where the conflict with the Palestinians is most apparent.[1] In 1975 journalist Charles Glass estimated that 58 percent of Israel's Jewish population fell into the antiZionist category. Most of this opposition was of a "leftist" variety. However, Glass also stated that "they represent 50 percent of the only significant debate in the country."[2]

Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the renowned scholar of Judaism and philosophy and the editor of several volumes of the Encyclopedia Hebraica had the following to say about Zionism and Israel's policies toward the Palestinians:

The big crisis of the Jewish people is that the overwhelming majority of the Jews genuinely desire to be Jewish but they have no content for their Judaism other than a piece of colored rag attached to the end of a pole and a military uniform. The consciousness and the desire to be Jewish did not vanish, rather they are transformed today into a JudeoNazi mentality.[3]

Gideon Levy, the highly regarded columnist from the Israeli daily Haaretz, has also made a comparison between Germany in the 1930's and Israel today.

Thus comparing Germany of the 1920s and early '30s to Israel at the start of the third millennium is not only permissible but imperative for gaining an insight into how barbarous regimes develop, grasping the differences (and there are many profound ones), and discerning the similarities, which ought to worry us.[4]

Another Israeli intellectual Yitzhak Laor in an article, "The soft underbelly and the victim," published in Haaretz also makes an interesting allusion to the past.

The name of this Israeli ethos is "who are you to tell us?" We are destroying Arab East Jerusalem? Who are you to tell us that it is wrong? We killed masses of Palestinians in Gaza? Who are you to tell us anything? We have maintained a brutal dictatorship in the territories for 42 years longer than any other military occupation of the postWorld War II era? Who are you to tell us? We're allowed. We're your victims. The past belongs to us. We will do as we please with it.[5]

Here is what Gideon Levy writes on the prevalence of racism in Israeli society:

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Now that we can use the term "racism," the time has come to admit our society is absolutely racist, that all its components are racist. The legal system, for example, is no less tainted than Petah Tikva's Morasha school. In many cases there is one law for a Jew and another for an Arab. The Bank of Israel, a state institution no less than the Morasha school, with 900 employees, has always been "clean" of Arab employees except sometimes one or two. Some 70,000 Israeli citizens, all Arab of course, are living in unrecognized villages, without electricity or running water, without an access road and sometimes without a school. Why? Because they are Arabs. Every week at soccer matches we hear racist epithets and chants, the kind teams in Europe are severely penalized for. Here, the referees do not even bother reporting them....

And we have said nothing yet about the attitude toward foreign workers, the occupation (the greatest racist curse) nor about the attitude toward Mizrahim since the founding of the state. The list is long and shameful.[6]

Here are the words of Yael Lotan, another Israeli author and journalist, on the subject of racism and criticism of Israel.

It should be perfectly legitimate to criticize Israel. Giving it uncritical, unqualified support in all its actions, its violations of dozens of UN Security Council resolutions, its policy of assassination and destruction that is a racist position, a position that says "Arabs don't count, Arabs have no rights, Arabs are vermin and whatever is done to them in Palestine, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon is legitimate. And Islam is the same as Fascism."

Now that is real antiSemitism.[7]

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There was an interesting book review published in Haaretz, on February 29, 2008, written by Tom Segev. It was a review of a book titled, When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? (published by Resling in Hebrew). It is authored by Israeli historian Shlomo Zand (also spelled Sand). Prof. Zand teaches history at Tel Aviv University. The book became a best seller in Israel.[8] Segev writes: one of the most fascinating and challenging books published here in a long time. There never was a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion, and the exile also never happened hence there was no return. Zand rejects most of the stories of nationalidentity formation in the Bible, including the exodus from Egypt and, most satisfactorily, the horrors of the conquest under Joshua. It's all fiction and myth that served as an excuse for the establishment of the State of Israel, he asserts.[9]

This information and arguments have been around for a long time but it is interesting to see them published in one of Israel's leading daily newspapers and presented in a best seller written by an Israeli historian.[10] Segev summarizes the arguments in Zand's book as referencing many existing studies on groups that converted to Judaism, "some of which were written in Israel but shunted out of the central discourse." According to Segev the book describes the Jewish kingdom of Himyar in the southern Arabian Peninsula, the Jewish Berbers in North Africa, Jews in Spain that arose from the Arab conquest, and Europeanborn individuals who had also become Jews. Zand also discusses the large Jewish Khazar Kingdom in the Caucasus. Segev writes,

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EDWARD C. CORRIGAN SHORT BIO Edward C. Corrigan holds a B.A. in History and a Master's Degree in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario. Ed also has a Law Degree from the University of Windsor and was called to the Bar of the (more...)

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Israeli Criticism of Zionism and of Israel's Treatment of the Palestinians: The Academics and Activists

Is It Anti-Semitic to Defend Palestinian Human Rights?

Israeli Criticism of Zionism and of Israel's Treatment of the Palestinians: The Politicians


"The Goldstone Report and the debate in Israel," by Edward C. Corrigan


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