Dr. Rampoldi of ProMosaik e.V. interviews Prof. Yakov Rabkin of the University of Montreal

Dear readers,

we are so happy to publish the interview with Prof. Rabkin. We have already published the German version of an article by Prof. Rabkin about the Jewish opposition to Zionism. So we are very glad to collaborate with him.

Here you can read our questions and the answers he gave us.

Thanks a lot in advance for your kind feedback.

Watch this about his book about the history of Jewish opposition to Zionism:

Kind regards

Sarah Meyer
Editorial Team of ProMosaik e.V.

Dr. phil. Milena Rampooldi:
ProMosaik e.V. is of the opinion that there is an
opposition between Jewish religion and ethical values, and the State of
Israel. How do you see this and which are the principal aspects of opposition
between the Jewish ethics and the State of Israel, as it is at the moment?
Prof. Yakov Rabkin:
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. Yet, Zionism’s original revolutionary
intolerance does not allow this pressure to be relieved through strategic
adjustments: it maintains Zionist orthodoxy at a time when Israeli society, the
embodiment of Zionism, has long shed its revolutionary nature and embraced bourgeois
values and consumerism. A hard core of devoted settlers, mostly drawn from the
National Religious circles, retain some of the revolutionary zeal and the
culture of self-sacrifice, even though they have also absorbed many of the
bourgeois values they often strenuously decry.
Zionism was a revolution. Like any revolution, it
produced counter-revolutionaries, Jews who opposed Zionism encompassed a whole
gamut: from Rabbi S.R. Hirsch in Germany to Hasidim in Eastern Europe, and from
Moroccan Jewish notables to American Reform Jews.  The opposition to Zionism and to Israel’s
treatment of Palestinians draws on basic Judaic principles of justice as well
as on the prudence in issues related to Messiah and Redemption. Hillel’s
classic principle 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<>”  In spite of the emergence of a powerful and
prosperous modern Zionist state, opposition to Zionism has refused to vanish.
This reflects in the title of the Hebrew version of my book, which was
published in Israel in Spring 2014: Jewish Opposition to Zionism: a Continuous
Struggle (
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi:
Which important Israel-critical forces do you see in
your Jewish fellows, which can help to return to real Jewish ethics in Israel
Prof. Yakov Rabkin:
Even though most Israelis have moved from left to right
in their political attitudes, quite a few continue to oppose militarism and
injustice. A few days before the launch of my book in Israel, over half a
million Orthodox Jews demonstrated in Jerusalem against conscription into, as
some of them put it, “the Zionist army”. The State of Israel, which
was established as a rebellion against Jewish tradition, has never been
governed in accordance with Jewish ethics, and it would be unreasonable to
expect it would any time soon.
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi:
How do you think that the Jewish diaspora can help to
solve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict?
Prof. Yakov Rabkin:
The political impact of Diaspora Jews on Israeli policies
is infinitesimal. It is a serious error, if not altogether an antisemitic
delusion, to see Israel as a representative of Jews or Judaism. The best
Diaspora Jews can do is to emphasize the fact that Israel does not act on their
behalf. It is very important because Israel derives its legitimacy from the
claim that it is “the Jewish state”.

Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi: 
What would you like to say to the citizens of Gaza
after the 50-days war of this summer?
Prof. Yakov Rabkin:
I admire their stamina and valiance in the face of the
overwhelming military power acting with total impunity. I also express sympathy
with all those who lost relatives and friends.
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi: 
If you have to describe Jewish religion in 5 words,
what would you say are the main principles of Judaism?
Prof. Yakov Rabkin: 
The above mentioned phrase by Hillel.
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi:
Can you tell us a bit about Jews in Canada?
Prof. Yakov Rabkin:
It is the fourth largest community in the world, composed
mainly of Ashkenazi Jews. Montreal has a significant Sephardic population,
mostly stemming from North Africa. On the average, Jews are better educated and
have a slightly higher income than other Canadians. There exists a solid
network of community institutions helping the less fortunate, both Jewish and
non-Jewish poor.