Is Zionism the New Christianity?

Commenting on the last month’s “progressive Jewish” debate, Yakov Rabkin, author of Enemy Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism, writes in the Baltimore Sun:

Divisions about Israel and Zionism are so acute that they may split Jews as irremediably as did the advent of Christianity two millennia ago. Christianity, which embodies a Greek reading of the Torah, eventually broke away from Judaism. Like Christianity, Zionism, reflecting a nationalist, romantic reading of the Torah and Jewish history, has come to fascinate many Jews.
It remains to be seen whether the fracture between those who hold fast to Jewish moral tradition and the converts to Jewish nationalism may one day be mended.

Read on…

9 thoughts on “Is Zionism the New Christianity?

  1. Wow, Yakov comes across as rather pompous and is quite prone to hyperbloe. “The fracture between those who hold fast to Jewish moral tradition and the converst to Jewish nationalism”? And anti-Zionists contend that Zionists are dogmatic!

  2. right, there are a number of issues with the essay. His reading of what is “essential” to judaism is a fallacious as a zionist reading. That is, to claim that any political ideology is the essence of Judaism does little justice to the theological and political diversity that has existed within Judaism.
    What is fascinating about the article is the bit Mobius focused on, that Zionism may constitute a rupture in Jewish identity akin to the policing of heresy around christianity in the first century. For an excellent take on this, see D Boyarin’s Borderlines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity.. Of course, because Rabkin posits an essential Judaism, rather than understanding Judaism to be the expression of social power, he presumes that if/when the split comes, it will be Judaism and Zionism. Given the weight that Zionism currently has, it seems to me that if the split comes zionism will be able to bear the mantel “Judaism” and those who are not zionists, either for religious or political reasons, will be cut out of the fold. While Zionists may not care about lopping off a segment of Jews, I know that I care about having my Jewish identity taken from me.

  3. Chorus of Apes writes I know that I care about having my Jewish identity taken from me.
    Don’t speak for me, please. I care deeply about both of these things. Of course, if you mean that you follow halacha no matter what people call you and simulatneously believe that Judasm and Israel must come to terms with the current disaster, then well, that’s another can of fish, or however that c saying goes.

  4. who is speaking for who, here? and I don’t think that jewish identity necessarily equals following halacha, in this conversation.
    CoA- Judaism as expression of social power? I’ve never heard that one before, care to explain?

  5. It’s not Judaism vs. Zionism, it’s whether a version of Jewish nationalism is making a concerted effort to define ‘Judaism’ itself as inherently Zionist, to the exclusion of other interpretations.
    If so, then Jewish anti-Zionists will become, by default, anti-Semites…. AJC and ADL are saying as much nowadays….

  6. Before the State of Israel came into existence, it might have been a possible to believe that the difficulties outweighed the good; 60 years later, if you object to the State, you are an antiSemite, even if you are Jewish.

  7. “If so, then Jewish anti-Zionists will become, by default, anti-Semites…. AJC and ADL are saying as much nowadays….”
    No, they are not saying that. They are saying a lot of messed up things but this is not one of them. They will argue that Jewish anti-zionists often abet antisemites but David Hirsh of Engage says that this can happen as well…not that it always does but it can.

  8. A few things.
    KRG, I used the first person for that part of the post because I am, davka, not speaking for you. I’m not sure what you meant with the halacha bit. Where did that come from?
    Just to clarify, what I am saying is that I have a strong Jewish identity and practice (not halacha as such) and I do not support Zionism. There is currently cultural battle going on as to the boundaries of Jewishness. Does it include those who reject the principles and outcome of zionism? The BS from AJC is an attempt to police the boundaries. As we have learned, one of the most effective ways to cut someone out from the Jewish Community is brand them an anti-semite or a self-hating Jew. Just as I am not interested in speaking for you, I am sick of people speaking for me. Let me define my own Jewish communities, and stop claiming one unified community we must all be a part of.
    Rebecca M. The basic idea is that any cultural category is fought over by the diverse views of those who seek to inhabit it. The “winner” is the one who can martial social power. To take a historical example. At one point lots of groups (saducees, pharasees, etc) were fighting over what the “real” judaism was. The issues where largely about purity and the calendar. In the end, largely because of a major historical event (the destruction of the temple) one group “won” and got to call what they do “Judaism” and thus we have rabbinic Judaism. In the end, they were able to enforce their vision of judaism because of their access to social power. Likewise, now we have zionist and non-zionist Jews, each trying to craft a Judaism that follows their way. Due to a historical event (the holocaust and the establishment of the state of Israel) one group (the zionists) have social power on their side. They have the state apparatus, the “right” to call folks anti-semities (because of their understanding of the lessons of the holocaust), and the emotional pull that all ethnic nationalism has (jingoism gets people riled up a lot better than appeals to equality).
    Finally, Jew Guevara, right on, and “incorrect” I fear you are incorrect. You post is yet another example of the boundary policing I am arguing against. You don’t even know me, and you are calling me an anti-semite because I believe that the same liberal political theory which demands a separation of church and state demands a separation of ethnicity and state (thus, Israel cannot exist as a liberal democracy, as is made eminently clear by its own practices). I would say that 60 years later, it is CLEAR that liberal democracy (meaning universal suffrage and a neutral public square) cannot work in a zionist state. If holding this political philosophy makes me an anti-semite, and thus beyond the pale of the Jewish community, as you insist, then Rabkin is correct, and there will be a break between Jews who accept Zionism and Jews who reject it. I love Judaism to much to give up my place at the table, sorry folks. I’m gonna fight this with all I got.

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