The Right to Elaborate
In London, in what I often define as my ‘self-imposed exile’, I grasped that Israel and Zionism were just parts of the wider Jewish problem.
Israel is the Jewish state, at least this is what it claims to be. Israel is largely supported by world Jewry institutionally, financially and spiritually. Zionism and Israel have become the symbolic identifiers of the contemporary Jew. And yet, in spite of Israel being the Jewish State, in spite of its vast support by Jewish lobbies around the world, hardly any commentator is courageous enough to wonder what the word Jew stands for. This question, it seems, is still taboo within Western discourse.
In this book I will try to untangle the knot. I will present a harsh criticism of Jewish politics and identity. Yet, it is crucial to mention at this early stage that there will be not a single reference to Jews as ethnicity or race. In my writing, I differentiate between Jews (the people), Judaism (the religion), and Jewish-ness (the ideology). This book doesn’t deal with Jews as a people or ethnicity. If anything, my studies of the issue suggest that Jews do not form any kind of racial continuum. In short, those who are searching for blood or race-related interpretation of Zionism will have to look for it in someone else’s work.
In my work, I also refrain from criticising Judaism, the religion. Instead I confront different interpretations of the Judaic code. I deal with Jewish Ideology, Jewish identity politics, and the Jewish political discourse. I ask what being a Jew entails. I am searching for the metaphysical, spiritual and socio-political connotations.
I launch my journey raising a relatively simple question. Who are the Jews? Or alternatively what do people mean when they call themselves Jews?
As far as self-perception is concerned, those who call themselves Jews could be divided into three main categories:
- Those who follow Judaism.
- . Those who regard themselves as human beings that happen to be of Jewish origin.
- Those who put their Jewish-ness over and above all of their other traits. The first two categories may denote a harmless and innocent group of people.
We tend to assume that religious people are generally inspired by their beliefs and are expected to abide by some sort of a higher spiritual and ethical value system. Accordingly, Judaism can be grasped as an ethical belief system3. Judaism was the symbolic identifier of the Jews for at least two millennia. It is pretty lucid and coherent. In spite of the fact that currently more and more crimes are committed in the name of the Torah, Judaism as a world religion can be vindicated by suggesting that Jewish nationalist messianism is merely an interpretation.
The second category is also pretty innocent. One cannot choose one’s origin. Ethical minds would agree that people must be respected and treated equally, regardless of their origin or their racial and ethnic background.
The third category is problematic. Its definition may sound inflammatory to some. And yet, bizarrely enough, it was the formulation given on the eve of the 20 century by Chaim Weizmann, a prominent early Zionist figure and later the first Israeli President: ‘There are no English, French, German or American Jews, but only Jews living in England, France, Germany or America.’ In just a few words, Weizmann managed to categorically define the essence of Jewish-ness. It is basically a ‘primary quality’. You may be a Jew who dwells in England, a Jew who plays the violin or even a Jew against Zionism, but above all else you are a Jew. And this is exactly the idea conveyed by the third category.
It is about viewing Jewish-ness as the key element and the fundamental characteristic of one’s being. Any other quality is secondary. This is exactly the message the early Zionists were interested in promulgating. For Weizmann, Jewish-ness was a unique quality that stopped the Jew from assimilating or disappearing into the crowd. The Jew would always remain an alien.
This line of thinking was apparent in most early Zionist writings. Jabotinsky took it even further. He was adamant that assimilation was impossible due to biological conditioning. Here is what he had to say about the German Jew: ‘A Jew brought up among Germans may assume German customs, German words. He may be wholly imbued with that German fluid but the nucleus of his spiritual structure will always remain Jewish, because his blood, his body, his physical racial type are Jewish.’ (Vladimir Jabotinsky, ‘A Letter on Autonomy’, 1904).
These racist ideas predate Nazism. Jabotinsky wasn’t alone, even the Jewish Marxist Ber Borochov, who refers the Jewish condition to historical and material circumstances, suggested a remedy that was particular to Jewish people, i.e. Jewish Nationalism. An ideology in which Jews would practice some proletarian activity, namely production, yet maintain their national and cultural symptoms.
Borochov sets Jews apart from the international proletarian revolution. Why does he do this? Because Jews are uniquely Jewish or at least the Zionists tend to believe they are.
The Zionist is first and foremost a Jew. He can’t be just an ordinary British citizen who happens to be of a Jewish descent. He is rather a Jew who dwells in Britain. He is a Jew who speaks English, he is a Jew who receives his health services from the NHS, he is a Jew who happens to drive on the left side of the road. Though he is British by birth he is also the ‘ultimate other’ by choice.
This third category of Jew doesn’t have to move to Palestine. Dwelling in Zion is merely one possibility offered by the Zionist philosophy. In order to become a proper Zionist you don’t have to wander. Sometimes it is actually better if you stay exactly where you are.
Let us read what Victor Ostrovsky, a deserter ex-Mossad agent, is telling us about Jewish brotherhood. ‘The next day Ran S. delivered a lecture on the sayanim , a unique and important part of the Mossad’s operation. Sayanim (assistants) – must be 100 percent Jewish. They live abroad, and though they are not Israeli citizens, many are reached through their relatives in Israel. An Israeli with a relative in England, for example, might be asked to write a letter telling the person bearing the letter that he represents an organization whose main goal is to help save Jewish people in the Diaspora. Could the British relative help in any way? .. There are thousands of sayanim around the world. In London alone, there are about 2,000 who are active, and another 5,000 on the list. They fulfill many different roles. A car sayan , for example, running a rental agency, could help the Mossad rent a car without having to complete the usual documentation. An apartment sayan would find accommodation without raising suspicions, a bank sayan could get you money if you needed it in the middle of the night, a doctor sayan would treat a bullet wound without reporting it to the police, and so on. The idea is to have a pool of people available when needed who can provide services but will keep quiet about them out of loyalty to the cause. They are paid only costs.’4
Sayanim belong to the third category. They are people who regard themselves primarily as Jews. The sayan is a person who would betray the nation of which he is a citizen out of devotion to a notion of a clannish brotherhood.
While in its early days, Zionism presents itself as an attempt to bring the world Jewry to Zion, in the last three decades it has become clear to the Zionist leadership that Israel would actually benefit from world Jewry, and especially the Jewish elite, staying exactly where they are. Paul Wolfowitz5, Rahm Emmanuel6, Lord Levy7 and David Aaronovitch8 have proved far more effective for the Zionist cause by staying where they are.
Zionism, a Global Network
Zionism is not a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine, as some scholars suggest. Zionism is actually a global movement that is fuelled by a unique tribal solidarity of third category members. To be a Zionist means to accept that, more than anything else, one is primarily a Jew. Ostrovsky continues: ‘You have at your disposal a non-risk recruitment system that actually gives you a pool of millions of Jewish people to tap from outside your own borders. It’s much easier to operate with what is available on the spot, and sayanim offer incredible practical support everywhere.’9
What we see here is an extraordinary degree of solidarity. But Jews are far from being a single race, so if it isn’t racial solidarity per se , what is it that leads the sayan to run the risk of years of imprisonment? What did Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard10 have in mind when he betrayed his country? What do those alleged 2,000 sayanim in London have in mind when they betray their Queen or their neighbour? What did Paul Wolfowitz have in mind when he set the strategy for his country to demolish the last pockets of Arab resistance to Israel?
I regard Ostrovsky’s testimony as a reliable report. As we know, the Israeli government used every possible means to stop the publication of his books.
In a radio interview Joseph Lapid, at the time a senior Israeli columnist, opened his heart and told the world what he thought of Ostrovsky: ‘Ostrovsky is the most treacherous Jew in modern Jewish history. And he has no right to live, except if he’s prepared to return to Israel and stand trial.’11
Valerie Pringle, the journalist on the other side of the line, asked Lapid: ‘Do you feel it’s a responsible statement to say what you’ve said?’
Lapid: ‘Oh yes, I fully believe in that. And unfortunately the Mossad cannot do it because we cannot endanger our relations with Canada. But I hope there will be a decent Jew in Canada who does it for us.’
Pringle: ‘You hope this. You could live with his blood on your hands?’
Lapid: ‘Oh no. It’s to..only it will not be his blood on my hands. It will be justice to a man who does the most horrible thing that any Jew can think of, and that is that he’s selling out the Jewish state and the Jewish people for money to our enemies. There is absolutely nothing worse that a human being, if he can be called a human being, can do’.
Lapid, later a member of Sharon’s cabinet, makes it very clear: to be a Jew is a deep commitment that goes far beyond any legal or moral order. Clearly, for Lapid, Jewish-ness is not a spiritual or religious stand, it is a political commitment. It is a worldview that applies to every last Jew on this planet. As he says: the Mossad can’t really kill Ostrovsky, thus it is down to a ‘decent Jew in Canada’ to do the job.
An Israeli journalist and later an Israeli Minister of Law is here expressing the most outrageous of views. He encourages a fellow Jew to commit a murder in the name of Jewish brotherhood. In short, not only does Lapid affirm Ostrovsky’s report about the world of sayanim , he also confirms Weizmann’s view that, from a Zionist point of view, there are no Canadian Jews but only Jews who live in Canada. However, he also states that a Jew who lives in Canada would act as an assassin, serving what he regards as the Jewish cause. In Zionist eyes Jewish-ness is an international network operation.
In his book, Ostrovsky refers to it as racial solidarity; I call it third category brotherhood and Weizmann calls it Zionism. But it all means the same thing. It is all about commitment, one that pulls more and more Jews into an obscure, dangerous and unethical fellowship. Apparently, Zionism is not about Israel. Israel is just a volatile territorial asset, violently maintained by a mission force composed of Hebrew-speaking, third category Jews. In fact, there is no geographical centre to the Zionist endeavor. It is hard to determine where Zionist decisions are made. Is it in Jerusalem? In the Knesset, in the Israeli PM office, in the Mossad, or maybe in the ADL12 offices in America? It could be in Bernie Madoff’s13 office or somewhere else in Wall Street.
It is of course possible that there is no decision-making process at all. It is more than likely that ‘Jews’ do not have a centre or headquarters. It is more than likely that they aren’t aware of their particular role within the entire system, the way an organ is not aware of its role within the complexity of the organism.14 No single operator within the collective is fully familiar with the collective’s operative mode but is only aware of his or her personal and limited role, function or duties within it. This is probably the Zionist movement’s greatest strength. It transformed the Jewish tribal mode into a collective functioning system.
Looking at Zionism as an organismus would lead to a major shift in our perspective of current world affairs. The Palestinians, for instance, aren’t just the victims of the Israeli occupation, they are actually the victims of a unique global political identity, namely the third category people who transformed the Holy Land into a Jewish bunker. The Iraqis are better seen as the victims of those third category infiltrators within British and American administrations, who succeed in transforming the American and British armies into a Zionist mission force. The Muslim world should be seen as subject to the third category attempt to make ‘moral interventionism’ ideology into the new Western expansionist Bible. Americans and Brits and, to a certain extent, the West are all subject to a financial turmoil known as the ‘credit crunch’. It could be seen as a Zio-punch