Anti-Zionist Jews

Since the Hebrews wandered Sinai, we were warned not to undervalue our strength. Twelve spies entered Canaan on a reconnaissance mission as a prelude to invading Canaan. Ten returned saying “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” (Numbers 13:33). For their perfidy, God condemned the entire people to wander the Sinai wilderness for more than three additional decades. Accordingly, the Torah’s lesson is to exercise our power as a people. Yet, some Jews, specifically anti-Zionists, advocate a different narrative.

The Jewish people battled their way into the Promised Land and established a kingdom. Devastating invasions by Assyria, Babylon, and Rome squelched Jewish identity as a strong people. The world again regarded Jewish strength only briefly after the Six-Day War in 1967. Currently, young anti-Zionists assail Jewish power to protect and pursue those who would kill us.

As a backlash against Israel’s response in Gaza to Hamas’ murderous raid, anti-Zionism is increasing in the Jewish community. In reaction to Israel’s military actions, many Jews assumed a new identity. They support the boycott, divestment, and sanction movement to constrain Israel and joined protests decrying Israel’s actions in Gaza. They wrapped themselves in a cloak of moral superiority. We can debate whether or not Israel as a nation has overly expanded upon the Zionist dream.  But the anti-Zionists ignore the other moral values that speak to security and survival.

Jews are the perennially beleaguered people. Without a nation, we had no civil rights. Without participation in the majority religion, we had no religious rights. Regarded as sub-human, we had no human rights. Only a Jewish state truly reverses 2,000 years of persecution.

As Jews we cherish life. The Torah teaches us to care for our neighbors and even strangers. Yet, those are not the only values we uphold. My colleague, Rabbi Reuben Modek, a self-described former “lefty” wrote that in our “zeal for peace and justice, we have neglected to take seriously other core Jewish values” [such as] . . . “the preservation of life, my own life, my family’s life, and my country’s, would be one of them. Another is to “preempt the one who sets out to kill you by killing him/her first. (Sanhedrin 72a)”. Modek urges that the Jewish people must preserve and protect Israel and preempt attacks.

I share the longing for peace between Israel and its neighbors. I condemn extreme violence and mourn the loss of all lives. Yet, we should not be like “grasshoppers”, small and jumpy in the face of enemies. Jews and Israelis have finally achieved human rights and civil rights, not to be yielded to a violent adversary. If succesful in their advocacy, the Jews who value the rights of others to the detriment of our people, might condemn all of us to displacement and wandering in this world.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame