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“The disregard of Judaism as it really is …”

Below is a reply to Margo Schulter’s most recent comment on “JVP Misses the Mark in Seattle“. I had planned to just leave what follows as another comment but it grew into something long enough to warrant its own post.

In light of the ongoing bloodletting in Palestine, I am less interested in the subject of Judaism, in its relation to Zionism, as it purportedly was/might have been than I am in Judaism as it is. By way of analogy, I know there were Christian opponents of the Crusades and yet the institutional Western church and, arguably, a majority of Western Christians backed them. More importantly, they happened regardless of whatever laudable, though ineffectual, resistance was mounted by opponents.

No person of integrity today excuses the Crusades or absolves Western Christianity of them on the grounds of a failed opposition to them. Honest Christians who adhere to the example and teachings of the Prince of Peace grapple with the shameful legacy of the Crusades as a challenge but moreover a reality that in some sense lives on today in the world and the church writ large. Honest Jews who reject war and chauvinism must do the same with regard to Judaism and Zionism and stop trying to deflect scrutiny and criticism of Judaism as it is.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read The Decadence of Judaism in Our Time and I don’t own copy with which to refresh my memory but I know Moshe Menuhin quoted Moses Hess from 1862: “It is a fact that the Jewish religion is above all Jewish nationalism … One must be a Jew first and a human being second.” My recollection was that Menuhin’s point was to lament this reality as reflective of mainstream Judaism and not to take issue with Hess for speaking the truth. My reading is that Menuhin didn’t quote Hess to posit this truth as eternal or essential but as one to be challenged and rendered untrue.

I’ll close with another truth-telling Israeli Jew writing in the vein of Menuhin. In Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Israel Shahak writes:

… close analysis of Israeli grand strategies and actual principles of foreign policy … makes it clear that it is “Jewish ideology,” more than any other factor, which determines actual Israeli policies. The disregard of Judaism as it really is and of “Jewish ideology” makes those policies incomprehensible to foreign observers who usually know nothing about Judaism except crude apologetics.

The existence of an important component of Israeli policy, which is based on “Jewish ideology,” makes its analysis politically imperative. This ideology is, in turn based on the attitudes of historic Judaism to non-Jews, … Those attitudes necessarily influence many Jews, consciously or unconsciously. Our task here is to discuss historic Judaism in real terms.


In addition to Israeli policies it may be surmised that the “Jewish ideology” influences also a significant part, maybe a majority, of the diaspora Jews. While the actual implementation of Jewish ideology depends on Israel being strong, this in turn depends to a considerable extent on the support which diaspora Jews, particularly US Jews, give to Israel. The image of the diaspora Jews and their attitudes to non-Jews, is quite different from the attitudes of classical Judaism, as described above. This discrepancy is most obvious in English-speaking countries, where the greatest falsifications of Judaism regularly occur.


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