Zionism And Judaism
In the summer of 1982 there began a great savagery that caused the whole world to cry out in protest. The Israeli Army entered Lebanon in a sudden attack, and moved forward destroying every target that appeared before it. The Israelis surrounded the refugee camps, where Palestinians lived who had fled the Israeli occupation years before, and for two days used Lebanese Christian militias to slaughter innocent civilians. Within a few days, thousands of innocent people had been massacred.
This terrible Israeli terrorism outraged the whole world. The interesting thing, however, is that some of the protests came from Jews, even Israeli Jews. Professor Benjamin Cohen of Tel Aviv University penned a statement on June 6, 1982, saying:
I am writing to you while listening to a transistor that has just announced that "we" are in the process of "realizing our objectives" in Lebanon: to insure "peace" for the residents of Galilee. These lies worthy of Goebbels make me mad. It is clear that this savage war, more barbaric than any of those preceding it, has nothing to do with the attempt in London or the security of Galilee ... Jews, sons of Abraham ... Jews, victims themselves of so much cruelty, how can they become so cruel? ... The greatest success of Zionism is the "dejudaisation" of the Jews.1
Benjamin Cohen was not the only Israeli to oppose the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. Many Jewish intellectuals living in Israel condemned the savagery carried out by their own state.
This attitude was not restricted to the occupation of Lebanon. Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, its insistence on its policy of occupation, and its links with the semi-fascist administrations in the former racist regime in South Africa had been criticized for many years by many prominent intellectuals in Israel. This Jewish criticism was aimed not just at the policies of Israel, but also at Zionism, its official ideology.
This situation is the expression of a very important truth: Israel's policy of occupation and state terrorism from 1967 up to the present stems from the ideology of Zionism, and many Jews in the world are opposed to it.
For Muslims, therefore, the concept that should be criticized is not Judaism or the Jewish race, but Zionism. In the same way that an anti-Nazi can have no hatred for the German people, so he can have none for the Jewish race because he opposes Zionism.
The Racist Roots of Zionism
After the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem in 70 AD, they began to spread to different parts of the world. During this period of the "diaspora," which lasted up to the 19th century, the vast majority of Jews saw themselves as a religious group. Over time, most Jews adopted the religion of the countries they lived in. Hebrew was left as a sacred language used in prayers and religious texts. Jews in Germany began to speak German, and those in Britain, English. When certain social restrictions on Jews in European countries were lifted in the 19th century, Jews began to assimilate with the societies they were living in. Most Jews saw themselves as a "religious community," not as a "race" or "nation." They described themselves as "Jewish Germans," "Jewish Britons," or "Jewish Americans."
As we know, however, there was a huge rise in racism in the 19th century. Racist ideas, influenced in particular by Darwin's theory of evolution, grew enormously and found many supporters in Western societies. Zionism was the effect this racist storm had among the Jews.
The Jews who propagated the idea of Zionism were people with very weak religious beliefs. They saw Judaism as the name of a race, not as a community of belief. They suggested that the Jews were a separate race from European nations, that it was impossible for them to live together and that it was essential they establish their own homeland. They did not rely on religious thinking when deciding where that homeland should be. Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, once thought of Uganda, and this became known as the "Uganda Plan." The Zionists later decided on Palestine. The reason for this was Palestine was regarded as "the Jews' historic homeland" rather than for any religious significance it had for them.
The Zionists made great efforts to get other Jews to accept these non-religious ideas. The World Zionist Organization that was set up undertook vast propaganda work in almost all countries with Jewish populations, and began to suggest that Jews could not live peacefully with other nations and that they were a separate "race," for which reason they had to go and settle in Palestine. Most Jewish communities ignored these calls.
In this way, Zionism entered world politics as a racist ideology which maintained that Jews should not live with other nations. First of all, this mistaken idea created grave problems for and pressure on Jews living in the diaspora. Then for Muslims in the Middle East, it brought the Israeli policy of occupation and annexation, together with bloodshed, death, poverty and terror.
Many Jews today criticize the ideology of Zionism. Rabbi Hirsch, one of the foremost Jewish men of religion, said, "Zionism wants to define the Jewish people as a national entity ... which is a heresy."2
The famous French Muslim thinker Roger Garaudy wrote this on the subject:
The worst enemy of the prophetic Jewish faith is the nationalist, racist and colonialist logic of tribal Zionism, born of the nationalism, racism and colonialism of 19th century Europe. This logic, which inspired all the colonialisms of the West and all its wars of one nationalism against another, is a suicidal logic. There is no future or security for Israel and no peace in the Middle East unless Israel becomes "dezionized" and returns to the faith of Abraham, which is the spiritual, fraternal and common heritage of the three revealed religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.3
For this reason, therefore, we must distinguish between Judaism and Zionism. Not every Jew in the world is a Zionist. True Zionists are a minority in the Jewish world. Moreover, there are a great many Jews who oppose Zionism's crimes against humanity, who want Israel to withdraw at once from all the territory it has occupied, and say that instead of being a racist "Jewish state" Israel should be a free state where all races and communities can live together in equality.
While Muslims rightfully oppose Israel and Zionism, they must also bear these truths in mind, and remember that it is not the Jews who are the problem, but Zionism.