ProMosaik interviews Prof. Rabkin about “What is Israel?”

Hi all,
In the following I would like to introduce you to
the main ideas expressed by Prof. Yakov Rabkin in his book “What is Israel”.
We asked him about the opposition between Judaism
and Zionism, about Western support to Israel, about the objectives of Christian
Zionism. Zionism is a national movement which has nothing to do with authentic
Judaism and Jewish ethics. Christian Zionism also pursues a different objective
from real Judaism and forces Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The West
strategically supports Israel as a colonialist force opposed to Islam in the
Middle East.
A pessimistic vision… I would say no…. I consider
it a realistic vision of the status quo in the Middle East. The Middle East
will change… and we all hope it will be a multicultural and multi-religious
world of peace and tolerance. The question for us is not if, but how.

Thank you so much for reading and sharing this
important interview.
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi
ProMosaik e.V.
ProMosaik e.V.:
Dear Yakov, on page 9 of your book you say that
Israel has a lot of support from Western nations. How can we make Western nations
understand that Zionism and Israel have been denounced most bitterly by Jews
committed to Jewish religion?
Prof. Yakov Rabkin:
People in Western nations are not really
interested in what is good for religious Jews. To the extent they are concerned,
it is about the injustice done to the Palestinians. And they may be less
defensive in proposing solutions if they become aware that Zionism has been rejected
by the vast majority of prominent rabbis as a rebellion against Jewish
continuity. These rabbis can surely not be accused of being antisemitic.
ProMosaik e.V.:
How did Zionism profit from the Shoa and from Anti-Semitism?
How can we explain this to Germans today?
Prof. Yakov Rabkin:
Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, once
wrote in his diary that Anti-Semites would be « our allies and
friends ». In this respect, he turned out to be a true visionary. Most
Jews who chose to live in Israel did so out of real or imaginary Anti-Semitism.
This is why many Zionists see peaceful and serene Jewish communities as a
danger « to the survival of the Nation ». The Nazi genocide provided
the Zionists with the ultimate proof of the rightness of their cause. But
before the genocide Nazi authorities cooperated with the Zionists and treated
them as « favoured children » compared to the way they treated the
rest of Jewish communities in Germany. Germany’s Zionists were also exceptional
in that they officially welcomed Hitler’s rise to power. A prominent Zionist
Joachim Prinz published a book Wir, Jüden
in 1934 extolling and sharing the values of national rebirth.  Today this is worth remembering.
The Zionists and the Germans learned very
different lessons from the Nazi genocide. The Zionists learned that only arms
determine human history. « We were weak. Now, we have to be strong. »
Conversely, most German learned to beware of charismatic dictators, racism and policies
of discrimination.  
Many Germans mean well but they confuse Jews, who suffered in the
Holocaust because of their ethnicity, with the state of Israel, conceived as “a
state for the Jews”. Israel’s dominant ideology is predicated on the
impossibility of a Jew to be fully accepted in any country except Israel. It is
quite clear that many Jews do not share this belief. This is why, when given a
chance, most Jews, including quite a few Israelis, prefer peaceful pluralistic
democracies to the perennially threatened Israel. For example, hundreds of
thousands of ex-Soviet Jews chose to move to Germany and other Western
countries in the late 20th century, and Berlin has become the major
centre of Israeli expatriates in Europe.
ProMosaik e.V.:
At school, we learnt to love Jewish culture and
tradition also because of what happened to Jews in the second world war… I
loved Anne Frank for example… How can we maintain this deep respect towards
Jewish tradition and religion, Jewish philosophers, psychologists, and authors,
etc. and remain a non-Jewish anti-Zionist like me for example and explain
people that we are not Anti-Semitic?
Prof. Yakov Rabkin:
The burden of proof must be on those who accuse
others of Anti-Semitism.
ProMosaik e.V.:
How can we explain Messianism in Judaism to the Christian
Zionists, in America and elsewhere, to make them understand that the means
Israel use to “defend” and “affirm” itself are opposed to Judaism?
Prof. Yakov Rabkin:
Christian Zionists support Israel for their own
reasons that have nothing to do with loyalty to Judaism. Most of them believe
that it is important to concentrate Jews in Israel in order to speed the Second
coming of Christ. According to this scenario, Jews would have to accept Jesus
as Messiah or perish in the Apocalypse. As you can see, this view is opposed to
ProMosaik e.V.:
Do you think that the support of Israel by the
West has also other reasons like neo-imperialism and militarism which have
nothing to do with religion?
Prof. Yakov Rabkin:
The Zionist project, well before some Jews
rallied to it in the end of the 19th century, was organically linked
to imperial interests in the Middle East. The idea of “ingathering of Hebrews
in Palestine” by political means was publicly encouraged by politicians close
to Queen Victoria in the 1850s. They aimed at creating a friendly bridgehead
near the Suez Canal. From the very beginning of official Zionism, its leaders
such as Herzl and, Weizmann, all of them atheists, relied on strategic
interests of different powers to promote their project. In 1948 Stalin’s Soviet
Union recognized the State of Israel as a means to expel Britain from the
Middle East. Today, many in the West see Israel as a bulwark against “the
threat of Islam”. Interest may change but their nature is political and
strategic that, indeed, have nothing to do with religion.