Reform Jews with unwound Torah.
Reform Jews with unwound Torah. PR photo
Jonathan Tobin in a recent article opens by expressing concern about recent terrorist attacks in Israel and wondering if this latest spate of attacks might rightly be called an intifada. He asks, “How many deadly terrorist attacks must take place inside of Israel before it starts being called another intifada?”

He then shifts gears and launches an extended reflection on anti-Zionism among Reform Jews in the USA, and twice mentions Reform temple Tzedek Chicago which recently announced its anti-Zionist position. He contrasts the “universalism” of the views of many anti-Zionist Jews with, presumably, the particularism of having an expressly Jewish state.

To this writer, drawing out the lines of argument between Jewish Zionists and Jewish Anti-Zionists is an egregious waste of time. What could be more universal than owning and occupying a land designated as belonging to the Jewish people by the Creator of the Earth and all that dwells therein, as well as the universe in which we live?

Tobin forgets this fundamental reality when he says, “But the Holocaust proved the need for a Jewish state, and rather than undermine Jewish rights, Israel’s creation made all Jews stand up taller while also inspiring most Americans to greater respect for their Jewish neighbors.” In other words, by not citing that the universal claim of Israel is greater than a universality that includes the entire Arab world as the Jewish anti-Zionists seem to think, he is aligning the existence of the Jewish state as merely recompense for the suffering and annihilation of the Shoah.

He contrasts the violence being perpetrated against Israelis with the “virtue signaling” of Reform places of worship like Tzedek Chicago. By describing the position of Tzedek as “virtue signaling,” this writer believe he fails to call a spade a spade and see their position for what it truly is: a betrayal of the Jewish people. The violence that their position implicitly supports shows how obsessive and unrealistic this and other Reform temples are.

Tzedek Chicago is in denial about its Jewish heritage, and about the Islamic obsession with destruction of Israel. The issues surrounding Israel’s relation with the Islamic world are not in the main policy issues, but are historical and, yes, theological. It is not because of simple misunderstanding or denial of socio-political on-the-ground facts that Tzedek Chicago takes sides with many Arab positions, but because that congregation and other like-minded groups are undergoing a psychotic break with reality.

Scout Bratt, Tzedek’s president, said in a statement announcing the decision. “While we knew individual members would have their own personal opinions, we ultimately treated this as a communal decision, not an ideological litmus test.” He said this approvingly after the congregation’s passage of a statement decrying the creation of Israel as an “injustice against the Palestinian people—an injustice that continues to this day.” The idea that Israel is occupying someone else’s land is an evil, anti-Semitic lie. For this writer, unwavering support for the State of Israel should be an ideological litmus test for all Jews in the USA and around the world.

Mr.Tobin’s article about Reform hostility towards Israel also noted that the recent Arab attacks are a type of intifada. But intifada is itself not a unique expression of Arab hatred, but an extension of Quranic jihad. Intifada is using local political realities to manifest a Quranic dogma regarding Islamic obligations to kill the infidel (which is always described as “self-defense”). What we see in recent terrorist attacks in Israel is an extension of a long history of Islamic hatred against non-Islamics and particularly Jews, going all the way back to Muhammad’s era when he fought the Jews at Banu Quarayza.

For many Muslims, not all, that seventh century conflict and victory for Muhammad became a model for what Muslims should wish for regarding all Jews.

For many Muslims, the abolition by the Allies of the Caliphate based in Turkey after WWI and then the re-creation of Israel in 1948 are combined as an updated, out-pictured version of the Crusades which the Muslim man in the street remembers as if it were yesterday, and thinks about automatically when he thinks of Western Civilization since 1095 AD. An Egyptian engineer working in a grocery store near my home brought up the Crusades in a conversation with me, and spoke of them with fire in his eyes as if they had happened yesterday. I was amazed at the fervor of his anger. As a former history teacher, part of me rather liked his strong involvement with the past, but his volatile, lively hatred seemed disproportionate, unhealthy, and dangerous.

Although the Jews living in the Holy Land at the time of the Crusades tended to side with the Muslims against the Crusaders, that detail tends to be forgotten and an updated version of the Crusades whereby Israeli Jews siding with the infidels of Western Europe has replaced the 11th and 12th century Crusades paradigm.

In summary, intifada is an extension of jihad, and it is the moral duty of every person on the planet – including Reform Jews – to strongly oppose violent actions against civilians, even Jewish ones, despite the philosophical niceties they claim to uphold which question the legitimacy of Zionism. Beyond that, questioning the existence of Israel in favor of Islamic claims to that land is to question and oppose the destiny and history of the Jewish people.

Those in the Reform Movement like Tzedek Chicago should not be debated, but should be repudiated at a personal and organizational level. It is especially ironic that the movement of which they are members demands recognition in the Jewish state.