Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism - an Excellent Book!


Stories of Personal Transformation: RECLAIMNG JUDAISM From ZIONISM, edited by Carolyn L Karcher has 40 excellent stories of significant and often fascinating Jewish authors - sharing their individual journeys.   The variations of backgrounds and generations helps give us a unique balance of perspectives.

Some quotes from the book:

“In March 1919,on the eve of the post World War I Paris Peace Conference, ‘Julius Kahn, the German-born Jewish congressman from San Francisco, delivered to President Wilson “A Statement to the Peace Conference” endorsed by 299 Jews.  …[T]he document denounced the Zionists for attempting to segregate Jews and to reverse the historical trend toward emancipation.’  Its signers ‘objected to the creation of a distinctly Jewish state in Palestine’ not only because they feared it would jeopardize the status of Jews like themselves in the home countries, but because they found it ‘contrary “to the principles of democracy’ to elevate Jewish immigrants over Palestine’s Muslim and Christian native inhabitants.  They explicitly denied ‘the existence of ethnic ties among Jews’ and ‘asserted their wish not to see Palestine “either now or at any time in the future’ become a Jewish state.’  They petitioned instead for Palestine to be ‘made into an independent , free, and democratic state that would not recognize any distinctions of creed, race, or ethnic descent among its citizens.’ “ (18) (p. xii)

The blindness that Brandeis, Wise, Frankfurter, and their liberal Zionist peers exhibited to the viewpoint of the Palestinians - on whose land European Jewish immigrants aspired to erect a society that excluded Palestinians from its ideal of human brotherhood - even led them to 'advocate ... the transfer of the Arab population [of Palestine] to Iraq or Transjordan or to other unpopulated Arab lands.'  Judis attributes their blindness primarily to the 'imperial mind-set' that both European colonialism and the US ideology of Manifest Destiny had inculcated in American Zionists. "Brandeis and his circle viewed the Zionist settlers as "pioneers", "pilgrims," and "puritans" and the Arabs as "Indians,' Judis points out.  Because the ideology of Manifest Destiny celebrated American settlers' displacement of the continents'  'native inhabitants' as 'a triumph of civilization over savagery,' Brandeis and his fellow Zionists saw the precedent 'as justifying Jews displacing Arabs in Palestine.' (29) (p. xv)

"In sum, the ACJ and the Bund anticipated some of the contributers to this volume in promoting democracy, equal rights, and human solidarity as the combined alternative to Zionism and the ultimate solution to racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry of all kinds." (p. xvi)

"With this I proceed to the next interrelated example.  More than a decade ago, I asked the five-year old daughter of one of my Mizrahi affirmative squatting clients about what she was dreaming of being when she grew up.  Her answer broke my heart.  She said that she did not understand what dreaming was."   (p.65)

"I watched my Israeli cousins trash their mother and her ancestry and reject Mizrahi Jews along with Palestinians. I watched them use Nazi images as they talked about making Palestinians 'pay.' " (p.82)

" 'Ramallah!' he (note Israeli soldier at checkpoint in West Bank) said loudly and with disdain. 'Ramallah is garbage!  Why do you stay in Ramallah?  Next time stay in Jerusalem!'   He waved us through the checkpoint and past the long lines where Palestinians of every age stood in the hot sun." (p.91)

"I share my story because part of the work of decolonization is telling our own stories to disrupt the Zionist hegemonic narrative that has hijacked the history and present experience of Jews." (p.111)

"We helped Bedouin communities rebuild demolished homes in the Jordan Valley, in defiance of the draconian Israeli permit system.  We camped in front of a Palestinian home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, after religious settlers, backed by the IDF, occupied the front of the home and forced the Palestinian family to live in the back.  One night, when we couldn't make it to our tent encampment, the settlers burnt it to the ground." (p.155)

"A network of off-campus  pro-Israel organizations, meanwhile , has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to intimidate students and faculty, pressure administrators, shape media discourse, and lobby government officials in a last-ditch attempt to stifle the rising tide of solidarity." (p.157)

"Seeing queer and poor Jew marginalized within my Jewish institutions, and then later seeing Palestinians targeted in ways that were more extreme but still reminiscent of what I had experienced, broke down the mythology of Zionism, with its simplistic view of good guys and bad guys." (p.177)

"At my core, I believe that American Jewish communal and institutional support of the occupation, systemic racism, and militaristic violence deeply contradict our Jewish values and teachings." (p.206)

"I continue to struggle with many things now, not the least of which is finding words to adequately express the intensity of the experience of getting to know, in some small but profoundly meaningful way, a number of unforgettable and beautiful people in Gaza, and catching a glimpse into the unbelievably harsh reality of their lives." (p.256)

"Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine details the means the Zionists used to take over 78 percent of the land, expel half of its indigenous inhabitants, and destroy half of their villages and towns, in what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe.  First, Pappe reveals the Zionists laid the groundwork for these operations, as early as the 1930's, when the Haganah began collecting systematic files on all Palestinian villages, recording their topography, 'socio-political composition, religious affiliations," leaders, males of fighting age, and men who had participated  in the 1936-39 uprising against the British or who had "allegedly killed Jews.' This information vastly facilitated the ethnic cleansing the Zionists undertook in early December 1947 and 'fuelled ... atrocities... leading to mass executions and torture.' " (p. 350)

"Although subjected, like Palestinians, to forced displacement and he confiscation of their property, Sephardic Jews did not undergo anything comparable to the violence of the Nakba." (p.352)

As the quotes help make clear, this book is a set of 40 separate stories, all powerful, and very, very disturbing.   Many Jews believed in Zionism for much of their lives, until they began realizing the lies and deceptions and manipulations we are subject to.   Palestinians are a very, very gentle and accepting people, given how horrifically they have faced oppression.  We have a lot of work to do!!!

I highly recommend reading this incredible book!



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