Our interview with Prof. Rabkin published on MintPress
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Yakov M. Rabkin is a professor of history at the Université de Montréal, author and public intellectual. His book “A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism” was nominated for best French to English translation for “an important and timely work” at the 2006 Governor General’s Awards. It has also been listed as one of the three best books of the year by Japan’s leading daily Asahi Shimbun in 2010. This book is currently available in twelve languages. –Wikipedia
Milena Rampoldi: My organization, ProMosaik e.V., is of the
opinion that there is an opposition between Jewish religious 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?
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.”
MR: Which important Israel-critical forces do you see in
your Jewish fellows, which can help to return to real Jewishthics in
YR: 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.
MR: How do you think that the Jewish diaspora can help to solve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict?
YR: 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.”
MR: What would you like to say to the citizens of Gaza after the 50-days war of this summer?
YR: I admire their stamina and valiance in the face
of overwhelming military power acting with total impunity. I also
express sympathy with all those who lost relatives and friends.
MR: If you have to describe Jewish religion in 5 words, what would you say are the main principles of Judaism?
YR: The above mentioned phrase by Hillel.
MR: Can you tell us a bit about Jews in Canada?
YR: 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.