SIR – Robert AH Cohen, a British Jew and broadcast journalist, asks some important questions of those who support Zionism, such as Rowe, Adam and Davis, whose letters offer only propaganda and never serious reflection or concern for casualties to the Israeli -Palestinian conflict on both sides.
In spite of its many new allies, Zionism is under enormous pressure from within as more Jews, in Israel and elsewhere, come to question the wisdom of maintaining a Zionist state that consecrates discrimination and fuels violence. Only extremist Zionists deny that the historical record shows the indigenous Arab population of Palestine paid a high price for the triumph of Jewish nationalism.
Zionism was never just an innocent endeavour which Arab hostility and irrational Jew hatred attempted to thwart. Cohen argues, the state of Israel – which constitutionally discriminates against its own non-Jewish citizens; besieges and occupies another people’s land; uses nationalist religious extremists from around the world with no Middle East connections as settler land-grabbers – is not acceptable today.
The opposition to Zionism and to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians draws on basic Judaic principles of justice. Zionism which was a left-wing organisation to begin with is now far-right and is no longer a political project.
Zionism has usurped the three thousand years of Jewish religion, history and culture into one entity or belief system: the Occupation, the Siege of Gaza, the Settlements – all are Judaism. Cohen explains how the defence of an Israeli colonial project of dispossession of Palestinians has now become one of defending Judaism rather than of politics. As Jewish Professor Rabkin of Montreal explains; ‘that shift to the right was inevitable with the influence of the major influx of those from the Russian Empire taking power.’
He points out that there has never been a prime minister in Israel who was either not born in the Russian Empire, or whose parents were. This change of Zionism into a religion, he explains, is why even Rabbis don’t speak out against the atrocities being committed and then excused in the name of their faith.
The 551 Gazan children killed by Israel in their 2014 onslaught; the 200+ Palestinian protesters killed and 1,900+ wounded by Israeli army snipers on the Gaza border in 2018 is what makes Zionism a crime rather than just a political failure for the Jewish people.
Zionism attempts to legitimise and justify such crimes but there are a growing number of Jews who have understood that Zionism has been a ‘mistake’ in Jewish history. Many will stand with Palestinians to mark the anniversary of their Nakba (1948 forced exodus of Palestinians) on May 15th.
Hillel the early Jewish religious leader summarizes the attitude that inspires opposition to Zionism, which has dispossessed, displaced and discriminated against Palestinians: ‘That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah.’
Israel needs to stop being an ideology and start being a nation. A nation for all its citizens, all with equal national, civil and religious rights.