A Litmus Test?

ARTHUR WASKOW ("Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Anti-Occupation," May-June 2003) red-baits one group that has been successful in organizing huge anti-war demonstrations. He argues that those people who do not speak out in favor of a Jewish state of Israel, which has a "special relationship with the Jewish people," are necessarily anti-Israel and, by implication, anti-Semitic. The same goes for anyone who does not favor a two-state solution. One wonders what he thinks of Israelis who advocate a single, secular, democratic state with the Palestinians.

As a Jew, I find Waskow's argument spurious and his implication dangerously flawed. Waskow applies a specific litmus test to activists. No one who is unwilling to accept the Zionist project of creating a Jewish state may be allowed into the movement. They are, at the least, subject to the suspicion of being anti-Semitic. Waskow insists that people in the movement pledge allegiance to the idea that Israel is a Jewish state, for the Jewish people, and furthermore insists that Israel actually does, or should, represent the Jewish people and the Jewish religion.

But, of course, Israel represents neither the Jewish people nor the Jewish religion. It is time to stop preaching that it does, for it is exactly this myth that has led to a new form of anti-Semitism. Having internalized this mantra, when people get angry at Israel, they quite naturally get angry at Jews. Why would we expect otherwise?

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2003
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