Public Comment

Commentary: Zionism, Judaism and the Promised Land

By Carl Shames
Tuesday September 26, 2006

I greatly appreciate the forum you have provided for airing viewpoints on a very contentious set of issues, and the effort you made in a recent editorial with regard to anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, difficult problems remain that must be brought to light. Before I go further: My own background is a left-wing, non-Zionist Jew. 

A number of years ago, the majority of nations in the world voted to call Zionism a form of racism. While Jews and Israel accused them all of anti-Semitism, it’s important to understand the thinking here. Zionism is founded on the idea that Jews, pursuant to a covenant with God, have an entitlement to a particular piece of real estate, known in terms of religious eschatology as Zion, or the Promised Land, and in mundane terms as Israel. Greater Israel encompasses much or all of the land also known as Palestine. Unique among nations and peoples of the world, a religious belief has been translated into modern political-economic terms.  

The founding of a Jewish state was based upon two historical experiences of the Jewish people: this alleged covenant with God, and the Holocaust. At the time, it was said that a “people without a land” were being given a “land without people.” It’s not hard to see that, from the point of view of the non-Jewish people already inhabiting this land, there are a few problems here. Firstly, does a claim of a covenant with God have legal status in the modern world? Secondly, if Jews as a people are deserving of a homeland due to the Holocaust, why not carve one out of a choice piece of German real estate? This could have been done legally following the war when Germany was dismembered and occupied, forcing Germans to leave their villages and cities, rather than Palestinians. 

We all know deep in our hearts why this didn’t happen: You don’t ask white people to do this. You’d never say that a certain state of Germany was a “land without people,” even in light of the crimes these very people may have committed. Therefore, the very founding of the state of Israel is based on two notions which have racism at their core: 1) Jews have some sort of covenant with God not enjoyed by others; 2) white, European Jews are more “people” than darker skinned Arabs. Germans, despite their crimes, could never be forced to evacuate their land because they are white. Rather than force Germans to pay the price of the Holocaust, Palestinians were made to pay. When push comes to shove, Israel will invoke these foundations as justification for its existence and policies. 

In other words, Israel, and the great majority of Jews who support it, do not and cannot distinguish between the history and needs of Jews, Zionism and the political state of Israel, and in fact, freely mix the three together. It is nonsensical to speak of a non-Zionist who is a supporter of the state of Israel, since this state is fully an outcome of Zionist ambitions and based on Zionist precepts. (The fact that the United States and Great Britain, in pushing for the founding of Israel, had many other motivations having nothing to do with the well-being of the Jewish people, is another issue altogether). Therefore, asking non-Jews, and in particular Arabs, to distinguish between Jews, Zionism and the policies of the state of Israel, is asking them to have more sophistication and show greater discernment on this issue than many Jews have themselves.  

While there was an outcry about the anti-Semitism of the Arab author of the original controversial commentary in the Daily Planet, nothing was said about the racism inherent in the position of the Jewish author. In addition to what I’ve outlined above, again, a position agreed upon by UN representatives of a majority of the world’s nations, there is the racism inherent in the whole notion of “terrorists.” We all know they’re swarthy, dark-skinned people, unlike reasonable Caucasians who wear suits and uniforms while they commit their mayhem. Reducing and dismissing legitimate aspirations and resistance of occupied and suppressed peoples as “terrorism” is racism pure and simple, being simply an update for earlier appelations such as “savages.” The Jewish author indulged in this quite freely as do most Jews who support the existence of an apartheid state and its aggressive policies. 


Carl Shames is a Berkeley resident. 


Opinions expressed in Daily Planet commentary and letters to the editor are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Daily Planet or its staff.