Life is Belief & Struggle - Ahmed Shawqi

Friday, February 27, 2015

Galut vs Jews

Ryan Bellarose, a writer at Israellycool, asks an interesting question in a post called ‘History Lesson’.

 I see these same problems now with young Jewish people in North America. Aside from a few, they have not been properly taught their own history, and they have been sold a false narrative. Instead of being proud at surviving almost ridiculous odds, and achieving something no other displaced indigenous people has ever accomplished, they feel shame at their people’s success. 
 How messed up is that? They come from a people who, today, number maybe 14 million worldwide, yet whose contributions to the world far outweigh their mere numbers, yet they feel ashamed? They come from a nation that survived two thousand years of exile, only to emerge triumphant to retake their ancestral lands from the hands of their colonizers. Yet they are made to feel like they have done something wrong and must apologize? No.

We need to ask: how did we allow the twisting of the quintessential bully story? 

To answer Ryan, one needs an understanding of Jewish history and the make-up of North American Jews.  North America is host to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel. If we were to examine the Jewish community in North American, the largest single group of Jews is self-identified as ‘secular or culturally’ Jewish. The second largest group, after those self-identifying ‘secular’ Jews, comes from the ranks of ‘Reform Judaism’. I suspect the vast majority of those ‘secular’ Jews also draw their roots from the Reform movement, but I digress.

Reform Judaism was born in Germany in the 19th century. I am not going to go over all the ins and outs of the Reform movement, since this history bores me senseless (and I would rather curl up with my bio of Rav Kook) but suffice to say that Reform Judaism rejected a number of core Jewish beliefs. Among those beliefs rejected by the early Reform movement was a belief in the coming messiah to redeem the Jewish people and re-establish our state in our ancestral homeland or the re-building of our Temple in Jerusalem. Reform Judaism rejected idea that any Jew was dwelling in exile. To Reform Jews, there simply was no Galut.  Jews were full citizens of those societies in which they were dwelling, and the only meaningful Jewish mission was to address universal issues of social justice faced by both Jews and non-Jews of those societies. 

It was imperative to the early Reform Jewish thinkers that Judaism became merely a religion, just like any other religion.Nazi Germany killed off most of the ‘Reform’ Jews of Europe, and after the Shoah, Reform Judaism ceased to be a significant religious stream of interest outside North America. The devastation laid to waste in the Shoah did cause a serious ‘rethink’ by Reform Jewish philosophers towards ‘Zionism’ (the movement for self-deter mination for the Jewish people) for a time, but the kind of ‘Zionism’ the North American Reform Jewish community was prepared to support could not have a religious nationalist component; hence, their contempt towards the Dati Leumi movement. Concepts based on ‘indigenous rights’ for the Jewish people in their historic homeland conflicted with the founding characteristics of Reform Judaism. 

This is why so many so-called progressive Jewish organizations like J Street, B'Tselem or Rabbis for Human Rights often appear to be so ‘anti-Jewish’ in nature and drawn the bulk of their Jewish membership from the Reform community. That is not to say, all Reform or Reform influenced Jews are ignorant of their history and/or refuse to recognize themselves as members of Kol Yisrael, but as North American Reform Judaism moves closer and closer to being a general religion based on humanitarian, rather than, Jewish values, well, they risk being our lost tribe rather than a members of our tribe. 

To complicate matters further, political progressive liberals, put enormous pressure on secular and reform Jews to actively disassociate and divorce themselves from the community of Kol Yisrael. Elliot Abrams touches on this in a recent article on this very theme highlighting the Obama Administration’s manufactured outrage over everything ‘Israeli’.

The third Obama administration reason for building up this crisis is also deadly serious: it is to use the current tension to harm Israel’s support in the United States permanently. All opinion polls in the last several years show a partisan edge in support: overall support for Israel is steady and high, but its composition is changing. More and more Republicans support Israel, and the gap between Democratic and Republican support levels is growing. President Obama acts as if he sees this as a terrific development, one that should be enlarged as much as possible before he leaves office. That way he would leave behind not just an Iran deal, but weakened support for Israel on Iran and everything else.  Support for Israel would become less of a bipartisan matter and more a divisive issue between the two parties. It is not hard to envision Obama in retirement joining Jimmy Carter as a frequent critic of Israel, pushing the Democratic party to move away from its decades of very strong support for the Jewish state.

Perhaps this manufactured crisis will diminish after Netanyahu’s speech, where he is likely to say things that many Democrats still agree with. Perhaps it will diminish if Iran rejects any deal, even on the terms the Obama administration is offering. Perhaps Netanyahu will lose his election and a new Labor Party-led government will appear in Jerusalem. But more likely, the remaining 23 months of the Obama administration will be months of continuing tension between Israel and the United States. That is because the administration desires that tension and views it as productive. The problem is not Netanyahu’s speech, which right or wrong to deliver should be a minor and passing factor in bilateral relations. The real issues are deeper and far more serious. This president has fostered a crisis in relations because it advances his own political and policy goals. That is what his subordinates and many Democrats in Congress are trying very hard, and with real success, to obfuscate.

Jewish history is long and diverse. We have seen this type of Jew before. They are not self-hating Jews, but Hellenistic Jews, robed in modern garb. To modern Hellenistic Jews, the greatest threat to their existence comes not from murderous intentions of  Anti-Semites and Assimilationists, but to the fidelity shown by the Jewish people to the covenant of our Torah in our land.

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