In his book, “What Is Modern Israel?,” Professor Yakov Rabkin of the University of Montreal, an Orthodox Jew, shows that Zionism was conceived as a clear break with Judaism and the Jewish religious tradition. In his view, it must be seen in the context of European ethnic nationalism, colonial expansion and geopolitical interests rather than as an incarnation of Biblical prophecies or a culmination,of Jewish history. The religious idea of a Jewish return to Palestine had nothing to do with the political enterprise of Zionism. “Jewish tradition,” writes Rabkin, “holds that the idea of return must be part of a messianic project rather than the human initiative of migration to the Holy Land…There was little room for Jewish tradition in the Zionism scheme…It is not the physical geography of the Biblical land of Israel which is essential for Jews but the obligation to follow the commandments of the Torah.”
Those who have now embarked upon a campaign to redefine opposition to Zionism or Israel’s occupation policies as “anti-Semitism,” have no legitimate historical basis for doing so. Their purpose in promoting such a view, apparently at the behest of the government of Israel, is simple and transparent: to silence criticism of Israel and its policies. In this, they are failing and their failure is most dramatic among Jews who are increasingly outspoken in their dismay at those who violate Judaism’s moral and ethical values in their name.
While efforts to intimidate free speech with false charges of “anti-Semitism” are growing, this tactic of intimidation is clearly failing. Real problems must be addressed with real discussion and debate. Only those who have something to lose by open debate would use the tactics we have seen deployed by Israel and its most fervent American supporters.