Israel, Zionism And Judaism: Separating A National Identity From A Religious One

“Judaism is a religion and Zionism is a movement. For a lot of people, they don’t have a connection to a Jewish institution or community, so they look at Israel as a Jewish community,” an organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace tells MintPress.
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    RAMALLAH — Dan Cohen didn’t always write about Israeli apartheid or the Palestinian struggle. The Jewish journalist was raised in a community of Zionist-filled ideologies in Arizona, and it wasn’t until just a few years ago that he decided to dedicate his life to challenging the media’s narrative by gathering the truth himself.

    For the past three summers, Cohen has been based in Ramallah, where he types out his stories through the lens of his own Jewish identity and focuses his camera on moments symbolic of what it’s like to live under Israel’s occupation.

    He tweeted a selfie with a group of Palestinian children earlier this year, with the caption: “Selfie with the greatest threat to Israel.” Within 24 hours, he told Mondoweiss at the time, it had been retweeted over 10,000 times.

    Life in Palestine has helped to open Cohen’s eyes to Israel’s inappropriate use of Judaism to justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians — something Cohen wants no part of.

    Speaking to MintPress News over the phone, Cohen discussed the vandalism and the misuse of the Star of David — often used as a kind of national symbol in Israel — that he’s witnessed in various parts of Palestine: “It’s all over the place. Stars of David are etched into homes of Gaza and all over Palestine.”

    Throughout history, the Star of David has represented the shield of David and was used in mosques and churches. Inspired by the wave of nationalism that was spreading across Europe as small statelets were established and declared their own independence, European Jews appropriated the Star of David from a religious symbol to an ethnic one that became an icon of the nationalist ideology of Zionism that would soon create a homeland for European Jews persecuted during the Holocaust.

    While the Star of David features prominently in Israeli life today, putting this nationalist symbol on flags and war machines is a violation of the integrity of the religious symbol, according to many Jewish activists.

    AIPAA group of activists protest outside the Washington Convention Center where American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is holding its annual meeting on March 01, 2015C

    A group of activists protest outside the Washington Convention Center where American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is holding its annual meeting on March 01, 2015

    Moreover, this misuse encourages anti-Semitism, Cohen argued. “Zionists use the Star of David as a symbol of violence against the Palestinians,” he said. “Zionism is the number one cause of anti-Semitism.”

    Cohen dedicated months to reporting on Israel’s bombardment of Gaza during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge and its aftermath. In the 50 days of Israeli offenses, he witnessed Gaza’s bloodbath first-hand and spoke with victims, including Saleem al Qasas, who is shown here counting family members of his who have been killed by Israeli drone strikes.

    Operation Protective Edge resulted in the death of over 2,100 Palestinians including 519 children, according to figures from the United Nations. Overall, civilian deaths represented almost 70 percent of Palestinian fatalities. Whistleblowers from within the military even came out admitting that they were ordered to target children, schools and U.N. shelters in a report published by an Israeli group documenting troop accounts of war. The same accounts exposed a disturbing Israeli military policy of “indiscriminate fire” that killed Palestinians.


    Israel: The birth of apartheid

    Photo shows the Israeli West Bank Barrier, which surrounds much of the occupied territory, as it passes through  Bethlehem Aida refugee camp. The wall and its security checkpoints are a very literal barrier to Palestininan economic growth. (Photo/The Advocacy Project via Flickr)

    Photo shows the Israeli West Bank Barrier, which surrounds much of the occupied territory, as it passes through Bethlehem Aida refugee camp. The wall and its security checkpoints are a very literal barrier to Palestininan economic growth. (Photo/The Advocacy Project via Flickr)

    Dan Cohen also shared his experience with Jewish privilege in Israel as a visiting American Jew. He said, “When I go there, typically Israelis will ask me how long I’ve been there. And they’ll encourage me to join in the project.” “Project” is a term used by Zionist Jews that refers to the creation of a Greater Israel which would lie between the Tigris and Nile rivers and expand from where Israel lies today to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

    Graffiti left in a Palestanian home after it was occupied by Israeli soldiers.

    Graffiti left in a Palestanian home after it was occupied by Israeli soldiers.

    Encouraged to share the goal of discovering the meaning of their shared religious identity via Israel, some young Jews begin to participate in the Zionist movement and support the occupation of Palestine as a result of feeling connected to the state.

    Yet Jewish activists and journalists like Cohen are joining forces to tackle the widespread  misconception that all Jews support the Zionist state of Israel, which not only oppresses the Palestinians, but endangers Jews along the way.

    Leading the charge to break these misconceptions are Jewish organizations which challenge Zionism, like Jewish Voice for Peace. Ilana Rossoff, Midwest Regional Organizer for JVP, told MintPress, “Judaism is a religion and Zionism is a movement. For a lot of people, they don’t have a connection to a Jewish institution or community, so they look at Israel as a Jewish community.”

    Rossoff also said that while Israel takes the place of a Jewish community for many people, it is in turn perpetuating violent nationalism. “This is not the real practice of Judaism, this is just a political movement built on stolen land and depriving others of human rights. I can’t let this be done in my name. I have a right to be here and not agree with Israel,” she said.

    In a 2010 interview with the Electronic Intifada, Gideon Levy, an Israeli columnist at Haaretz, explains Israel’s misguided policies and struggles inflicted on Palestinians living under Israeli occupation:

    “Zionism has many meanings. For sure, the common concept of Zionism includes the occupation, includes the perception that Jews have more rights in Palestine than anyone else, that the Jewish people are the chosen people, that there can’t be equality between Jews and Arabs, Jews and Palestinians. All those beliefs which are very basic in current Zionism, I can’t share them. In this sense, I can define myself as an anti-Zionist.”

    Soldiers carved Stars of David into homes in Shujaiya, Gaza Strip.

    Soldiers carved Stars of David into homes in Shujaiya, Gaza Strip.

    Israel uses laws and customs to discriminate against Palestinians. This is apparent in a number of ways, including the unequal justice system, education, housing, standards of living, and access to water and roads. The state maintains a racially discriminatory system via travel restrictions, curfews, denying children access to schools, and checkpoints. Through this extreme colonization, Palestinians are continuously denied fundamental rights and freedoms.

    Indeed, the last 67 years have been marked by the displacement and ethnic cleansing of 90 percent of the native Palestinian population from the Holy Land. Palestinians make up the largest refugee population in the world with an estimated 6.5 million displaced since the creation of Israel.

    Miko Peled, an Israeli activist, author and son of one of the original army generals of the state of Israel, writes: “In 1948 the Jewish militia became the Israeli army, but between the end of 1947 and the beginning of 1949 they destroyed close to 500 towns and villages and exiled close to 800,000 Palestinians who to this day are not permitted to return.”

    “For the past 64 years ethnic cleansing of Palestine is what drives the Zionist policies towards Palestinians. All Zionist governments and all Zionist political parties left, right and center support the ethnic cleansing,” Peled explained in an entry on his website in December 2011.

    Once a place where Muslims, Jews and Christians all lived under the same law of the land, the transformation of historic Palestine into a Jewish-only is marked by a system of apartheid and segregation that sought religious and ethnic privilege to Jewish people over the rights of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

    Preceding Israel’s declaration of independence is Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), a day on which an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled to neighboring nations to seek refuge after armed Zionist militias bombarded Palestinian neighborhoods, killing thousands of people. As those militias gained traction and took control of various Palestinian cities, hundreds of homes were destroyed as a result of this new militarized occupation that was propped up by Great Britain and the United States.


    ‘Judaism isn’t Zionism’

    Facing an identity crisis from within, many Jews are now beginning to question the ideology of Zionism — the same ideology that founded the Jewish state 67 years ago. This nationalist philosophy that created an apartheid state based on Jewish privilege, is central to questions on Israel’s right to exist at the cost of ethnically cleansing another population.

    It wasn’t until Cohen grew up that he realized “Judaism isn’t Zionism and I don’t have to support the killing of Palestinians and displacing people in order to be a Jew.”

    To combat Israeli apartheid as well as the Israeli occupation of historic Palestine, a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has been brewing. Initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005 and supported by Nelson Mandela, the BDS movement is a non-violent human rights movement aimed at crippling the state of Israel by economic means to force it to comply with international law and respect the rights of Palestinians.

    Millions of anti-apartheid activists around the world have called for companies, universities, and citizens to divest from Israel, stop buying Israeli-made products, and sanction Israel’s economy that is responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as well as hijacking the Jewish faith. The nonviolent movement is certainly having an impact: It could cost the Israeli economy as much as $4.7 billion a year.

    Editor’s note: Jewish Voice For Peace does not oppose Zionism, rather the organization challenges Zionism. This article has been updated to reflect this. 

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    • Omar Alansari-Kreger

      What happens when fanatical jingoism combines together with religious extremism? The combination of both depicts the characteristic nature of Zionism. A minority of people are afforded the right of return based on the
      merit of their ancient lineage to the land. If legislators of international law afforded that same provision to stateless conclaves of people around the world imagine how different the geo-political dynamics of the globe would be! In that case, the foundation of Israel would be part of its vast myriad in this hypothetical world. Is that ample justification to usurp and uproot the inhabitants of a land centuries after the contested fact in question? Those that are well versed with religious monotheism understand that toward the End Times a conclave of Jews will sovereignly reestablish themselves in the Holy Land. They will exist as a geo-political pariah and will transform into a regional superpower. That describes a machination that was predicted centuries ago which has long come to pass not even one hundred years after the nakba!

      An embellishment made toward Zionism is not an embellishment made toward the central tenants of the Jewish faith. The Judaism of Israel makes just as much sense as the Islamism of Qaddafi’s Libya; doctrinally, both are diametrically opposed to each other, but when religiosity is sidestepped for purposes of political advantageousness we lose sight of the original orthodoxy of the religious matter in question. Why does a minority of people require a homeland when for centuries they’ve influentially coexisted across a wide myriad of
      civilizations since the imposition of the first Jewish Diaspora at the hands of the Romans? Apart from the periodic inquisitions against Jews and all Non-Christian minorities in continental Europe, Jews held influential positions
      within the powerhouses of Europe. The personality of the famous German jurist of secular international law, Lassa Oppenheim and Leon Trotsky of the Soviet Union are two great examples of influential Jewry over modern civilizational affairs; albeit, some historians have disputed the legitimacy of Trotsky’s Jewish origins, a great deal of which have been his apologists.

      Nonetheless, those two personalities weren’t exactly observant Jews and employed their Judaic identity as an accolade to their cultural heredity. That is the same reason why the idea of the Jewish National Identity gets so murky. Zionism has always been a political movement and its ideological origins should confirm such a reality; Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, identified himself as an atheist and pursued the ideal of
      the Jewish Diaspora as a question of nationality as opposed to one of religiosity. Doesn’t the ideological genesis of Zionism serve as a fair reflection of Israel’s current geo-political attitude? I argue that we’ve just described the traditional geo-political experience with Israel that has seen compromisers compromise with the uncompromising. With that in mind we should consider the following: would moderate Zionists consider uniting into the sovereign
      fold of a merger state which would bring Israelis and Palestinians together?

      The stimulus for that resolution can only be achieved through affirmative moderate action which would extinguish proclivities for extremism on all sides of the geo-political spectrum.

    • Mark Walter Evans

      The article is true and accurate – up to a point. This sentence, however, is not exactly accurate: “As those militias gained traction and took control of various Palestinian cities, hundreds of homes were destroyed as a result of this new militarized occupation that was propped up by Great Britain and the United States.”

      Whatever the United States might have done to prop up the Zionists in 1948 – and, to be sure, lots of “arms” flowed out of the Port of New York to the Ports of Tel Aviv and Haifa – it is not accurate to say that Great Britain “propped up” the Zionist march to Victory in 1947 and 1948; far from it.

      In point of fact, we must look at the historical details that concern the “Arab Legion” – which was a British Colonial Army of ten thousand troops, commanded by Sir John Glubb of H.M.R.A., and completely staffed by British Army Officers. This Army crossed the Allenby Bridge on May 15, 1948, the day after David ben Gurion & Co. declared the Independence of the state of Israel, and invested Jerusalem from the east.

      The “Arab Legion” had tanks; and were a formidable force. They occupied Jerusalem, and Sir John Glubb set up his headquarters there. They moved west, down the Jaffa Road, to Tel Aviv. There was a big battle at Latrun, in which the forces of the nascent Israeli State fought it out with the Arab Legion, and there were many casualties.

      So… Whatever the Geo-political aims of the British Foreign Office Whitehall were with regards to assisting the development of the nascent “Zionist State” were, in 1946-1948, they certainly seemed (italics) to be favoring the Arabs in the Region, and ended up handicapping the Zionists, and the “growth” of their State… Probably because of considerations about Oil.

      — Just to make everything as clear as mud, now that Israel and the U.K. are “allies” in NATO, this little bit of history is not comfortable to either the Israelis or the Brits. Yet it is so…

    • TerranceKKaminski

      ^^^^^^Lates Quality performance mintpressnews… <**** Find Here

    • Largo Gan

      Egocentric Jewish Anti-Semitism – This overlaps somewhat with the Soros brand, but it’s not a response to history of any kind. It’s often personal. Sometimes it comes from a sense of rejection. Their lifestyle clashed with a community. They resent their parents.

      Other times it’s as senseless as any other form of hatred. Left-wingers of Jewish descent are indoctrinated to hate their own people. It’s a subset of the white privilege school. Even when they aren’t, their politics lead them to do it anyway. If you have no special feeling for Israel and you take a college course on the Middle East, you’re likely to come out hating Israel and then Jews for being so greedy and provincial. And like Soros, you’ll feel that your Anti-Semitism makes you a better person.

      What it isn’t however is self-hatred.

      The term self-hatred is often a misnomer especially today. Jewish Anti-Semites of the non-neurotic kind rarely hate themselves. They hate others. They like themselves quite a lot.

    • Largo Gan

      Self-Hatred – On the one hand there are a variety of neurotic responses to persecution. There is the personal response. Like the fat kid who begins preemptively making fat jokes, there are neurotic Jewish Anti-Semites who respond to Anti-Semitism by becoming Anti-Semitic.

      Some of these are classical mental cases. Others identify with the ‘superior group’ by despising Jews. You can see in the twisted saga of the Soros clan. It may not be accurate to call them neurotic. They’re wannabe Nazis. Soros isn’t crazy. He isn’t notably neurotic. There’s nothing of Norman Finkelstein about him. His sense of superiority is rooted in despising Jews. And he gets that from his parents.

      It’s not a unique phenomenon. There was a segment of 19th and 20th century European Jewry that saw itself as superior because of its distaste for the Jews. Their spiritual descendants today boast of having no connection to the Jewish people while ranting about Israel. They’ve simply swapped out aspiring to membership in one elite group for another through Anti-Semitism.

    • Largo Gan

      By adopted persecution, I mean the tendency both historically and in recent years of certain segments of the Jewish community to internalize the accusations foisted upon them and blame themselves for the evils of the world. What often happens is, in an effort to achieve ostensible peace with one’s adversaries, one essentially agrees with everything the adversary says, and works with the adversary to rid Jewish society of its alleged evils to obtain an idyllic utopian society of brotherhood.

    • Largo Gan

      Hamas:‎ We bring our kids up “on love of Jihad and Martyrdom-death” Source: Facebook page of Hamas’ Ministry of ‎Interior‎, Apr. 10, 2015

    • Largo Gan

      This week, the Palestinian Authority is asking FIFA to suspend Israel’s participation in FIFA sports

      activities. It is ironic that the PA is making such an aggressive request, when in fact it is the PA and

      Fatah who routinely disrespect the basic values of international sportsmanship, and the spirit upon

      which Olympic sports are founded.

      The Palestinian Authority’s abuse of sports is a concrete example of how the PA chooses to further

      entrench the conflict rather than work to resolve it. The Palestinian Authority uses sports to send

      the message that murdering Israeli civilians is honorable and heroic, that all of Israel is “Palestine,”

      and that peace building or “normalization” with Israel is prohibited and even criminal.

      Jibril Rajoub, Head of the PA Olympic Committee, has organized and is promoting the request to

      FIFA. He is also one of the driving forces behind this abuse of sports and continues to promote

      terror himself. Even the terrorists responsible for the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes in the Munich

      Olympics in 1972 continue to be glorified by the PA and Fatah.

    • Largo Gan

      The Palestinian Authority has successfully cemented Martyrdom-death for Allah – Shahada – as an ideal that Palestinians should strive for. In addition, it has convinced Palestinians that dying for “Palestine” gives them the high status of Martyr for Allah.

      On one program about a Palestinian youth who was “martyred,” the PA TV narrator stated that “Palestine” is a mother who “when she conceives, says to the baby in her uterus: ‘You were created only to be free or to die as a Martyr.'” [Official PA TV, June 8, 2015] (See video below)

      A host on another PA TV program questioned Palestinian mothers’ expressions of joy about their sons’ “Martyrdom,” saying that the world sees the Palestinian woman as someone “devoid of maternal feelings who makes sounds of joy when her son dies as a Martyr.” Palestinian women’s rights activist Amal Al-A’araj answered that mothers are willing to sacrifice a son because “Palestine is one, the sons are many. I can give birth to 10 or 12, and I know people with 15, 16, and more, but Palestine is one.”

    • Largo Gan

      Killer of 67 Israeli civilians honored

      by independent Palestinian TV Ma’an

      Ma’an visits home of bomb maker,

      “heroic prisoner Abdallah Barghouti”

      Barghouti’s father:

      “I ask every Palestinian…

      to follow in the footsteps of Abdallah Barghouti

      for Palestine and Jerusalem”

      Attacks Barghouti prepared bombs for included:

      Sbarro restaurant -15 killed

      Sheffield Club – 15 killed

      Moment Café – 11 killed

      Triple attack at Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall – 11 killed

      Hebrew University – 9 killed

      Bus 4 in Tel Aviv – 6 killed

    • Largo Gan

      McQuillan explains the dynamics: “One of the most common effects of trauma is a psychological mechanism called displacement.” Quoting psychologist Judith Herman, she writes

      “(The abused child) tends to displace her anger from the dangerous source and to discharge it unfairly on those who did not provoke it.” Thus, good-hearted liberal Jews are not angry at the Palestinians for their violent, hate-filled actions — they are angry at Jewish settlers. They project their anger onto “bad Jews” — the Orthodox, Likud supporters, settlers — to bolster a sense of their own goodness, and the potential goodness of the abuser.

    • peacelover2345

      Is it part of the corporate bylaws of mintpressnews to constantly feature anti-Israel articles, no matter how biased? The editors must have a quota of a minimum number of anti-Israel articles in order to earn performance pay bonuses. And they are extremely tolerant to allow obvious, flagrant and demented Jew haters like Robert Munro the freedom to endlessly spout their putrid venom, no matter how objectionable their words may be. Most other sites would delete such evil material. What other purpose is intended for the function ” Flag as inappropriate”?

    • Robert Munro

      “Judaism is a religion and Zionism is a movement.”…………..LIE

      Overy the last 3000+ years, the Jews have been banished from countries more than 100 times. They claim it is because they are “different” and are “persecuted”. Which, in a way, is true……….

      Jews refuse to accept the cultural and legal norms of the society in which they find themselves. A huge percentage of Jews live by treachery, corruption, perversion and barbarity. In EVERY banishment where I was able to find an account NOT WRITTEN BY JEWS, there is a back-history of Jewish crime leading up to the banishment.

      Many of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were dictated by the Rothschild Bankster Cartel. Those terms allowed the banks of that cartel to, effectively, rape Germany. When Hitler began his rise, bodies of starved Germans were being collected for mass burial because there were no jobs, there was no money…………..Germany had been destroyed by Jewish owned banks. The Rothschilds made the rise of a Hitler and the consequent attempted genocide of the culture of the Rothschild banksters INEVITABLE.

      Just as the banksters and their accomplices sat safely in London and New York, while millions of Jewish sheeple died for the crimes of their leaders 75 years ago, the money changers that Jesus is said to have driven from the temple steps, days before his death, blackmailed Pilate into executing Jesus (Matthew 27).

      Just weeks after the announcement by John Kennedy, that he would abolish the Federal Reserve and put monetary control back into the hands of the government, Kennedy was assassinated……….and the assassin was then killed by a Jewish bar owner to insure that Oswald was never able to be seriously interrogated.

      The “holy” books of Judaism and their modern religious and cultural leaders teach Jews that they are a “chosen” master-race. The behavior of the Jewish leadership and a large portion of the Jewish people bear out this delusion that they are, in some way, “superior”.

      There are, obviously, many Jews who are opposed to Zionism and Israel for their own reasons. Their arguments seem focused around points of “Jewish law” and they have little to say about the crimes of their bankster and Zionist cousins.

      Quotations from the Jewish Torah and Talmud……………..

      Sanhedrin 58b. “If a heathen (Gentile) hits a Jew, the Gentile must be killed. Hitting a Jew is the same as hitting God.”

      Sanhedrin 57a . “A Jew need not pay a Gentile the wages owed him for work.”

      Baba Kamma 37b. “If an ox of an Israelite gores an ox of a Canaanite there is no liability; but if an ox of a Canaanite gores an ox of an Israelite…the payment is to be in full.”

      Sanhedrin 57a . “When a Jew murders a Gentile, there will be no death penalty. What a Jew steals from a Gentile he may keep.”

      Baba Kamma 37b. “Gentiles are outside the protection of the law and God has exposed their money to Israel.”

      “Jews are human beings, but the nations of the world are not human beings but beasts…” -Saba Mecia 114, 6

      “To communicate anything with a Goy about our relation would be equal to the killing of all Jews, for if the Goyim knew what we teach about them, they would kill us openly.” (found in both Jewish Torah and Talmud)

      Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, head of the Kever Yossev Yeshiva (school of Talmud) in Nablus
      “The blood of the Jewish people is loved by the Lord; it is therefore redder and their life is preferable.”
      “The killing, by a Jew of a non-Jew, is considered essentially a good deed, and Jews should therefore have no compunction about it.”

      Ovadia Yosef, late Chief Rabbi of Israel and “spiritual” leader/advisor to various Israeli Prime Ministers,
      including Netanyahu (2001 & repeated in 2010, both “sermons” on YouTube):
      “Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world – only to serve the People of Israel.”

    • Joe Catron

      “Jewish organizations which oppose Zionism, like Jewish Voice for Peace”

      Sadly, that’s untrue. JVP’s policy actually equates Zionism with opposition to it:

      “… a JVP group may join in coalition with pro-Zionist or anti-Zionist groups. JVP groups may not participate in a coalition whose demands or slogans are pro- or anti-Zionist.”