Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Thursday 14 June 2012

Aussie Expert Mendes On The Israel-Bashing Jewish Left

A trio of "Ashamed Jews" in the United States
Philip Mendes is a senior Australian academic who has published widely on the Jewish Left in his own country.  At a Limmud-Oz panel discussion in Melbourne on 11 June he made remarks that succinctly capture the essence of what British novelist Howard Jacobson, in The Finkler Question,  dubs "Ashamed Jews".

Mendes's remarks focused on Australia, yet the issues he raises are relevant to the situation outside Australia, and certainly to Britain.

His insights are enhanced by the fact that he's no rightwinger himself.

I reproduce the remarks below (hat tip: reader Shirlee), cross-posting them from J-Wire.

Says Philip Mendes:

'The great strength of The Finkler Question is that its depiction of what are called "ashamed Jews" so closely matches the reality we all know: There are in Australia and elsewhere a small group of anti-Zionist Jews, who hate Israel, who hate the vast majority of Jews who support Israel, and who often reserve a special venom for the many other Jews on the Left who are not ashamed of Israel.

Personally, I have experienced defamatory letters sent to my university and numerous other public misrepresentations of my views and opinions – nearly all emanating from anti-Zionist Jews (sometimes backed up by "useful idiots" in local non-Zionist organizations such as AJDS [Australian Jewish Democratic Society]) who wish to censor and silence left-wing Jews who think Israel has a right to exist.

This group of anti-Zionist Jews seem to have increased in numbers in the last decade. The question is why?

Some of the obvious factors include the advent of the Internet, which has made it far easier for minority groups to promote their views independent of mainstream media, the increased acceptability on the Left of expressions of ethnic and other forms of minority group identity, and the massive shift within mainstream Jewish organizations to support for a two-state perspective which has opened up major new spaces for Jews of diverse opinions to articulate a range of strategies to promote that outcome.

But most significantly it seems to me that everyone wants to be part of a community. Anti-Zionist Jews are generally excluded from the mainstream Jewish community because the views they hold are considered offensive by the majority who mostly regard them as Uncle Toms. It is, however, perhaps a grey question as to whether they are overtly excluded because the majority are intolerant of their views, or rather they exclude themselves because they are intolerant of any views on Israel other than anti-Zionism.

Many find an alternative home in the Left community. Some are happy with this because their political views have little or nothing to do with their Jewish background. But others still feel a need to express their Jewish identity even if only on political issues. Hence the formation of alternative groups or communities with titles such as Independent Jewish Voices or Jews for Justice for Palestinians. These communities appear to give them a sense of belonging and mutual support that was denied to them in the mainstream Jewish community.

None of this means that a degree of opportunism or expediency is not involved. Some as noted in The Finkler Question only claim a Jewish identity as a convenient means of bashing Israel, and deflecting allegations of antisemitism. The most offensive use of a pseudo-Jewish identity arguably occurs when Jewish anti-Zionists (including some of the most extreme BDS advocates) highlight and exploit the Holocaust survivor background of their parents or family in order to justify their attacks on Israel (see, for example, the flier promoting Avigail Abarbanel’s book). Yet any serious survey of Holocaust survivors and their families would almost certainly find that the vast majority furiously reject these statements, and offer strong support for the State of Israel.

But others to varying degrees genuinely seem to believe that Jewish values or teachings underpin their political beliefs as is evident from the two recent sympathetic (and mostly uncritical) books on Jewish anti-Zionism from Avigail Abarbanel and David Landy.

This attempt to develop a Jewish (as opposed to solely political) anti-Zionist identity poses a number of questions which remain largely unanswered:

1)     What if anything distinguishes their anti-Zionist beliefs from the views of anti-Zionists who aren’t Jewish?
2)     What it is about their Jewish experiences that has lead them to express views diametrically opposed to most Jews on Israel?
3)     How can they apply Jewish social justice teachings exclusively to the Palestinians, and completely ignore the national and human rights of the approximately six million Jews who live in Israel?
4)     Did their anti-Zionism only develop after they joined far Left groups? This is an important question as we know that many Left groups today and historically have compelled Jewish members to conform to an anti-Zionist position.
5)     Can anti-Zionist Jews be viewed in any way whatsoever as promoting Jewish concerns and interests? Do they campaign against forms of antisemitism that are not related to the Middle East conflict? What events if any would lead them to show their solidarity with other Jews.'

Cross-posted from here


  1. First order of business is to stop calling these people Jews. They are not Jews. They are people with Jewish ancestry. They are no more Jewish than my second generation American children are Russian. The founder of Reform Judaism was a Jew. His son (or grandson?) Felix Mendelssohn, was not a Jew. Benjamin Disraeli father was a Jew, but Benjamin was not. John Kerry's maternal grandmother was a Jew, while perhaps he was halachically a Jew, in fact he was not a Jew. I know a 3rd generation Baptist minister named Elliot Rosenberg. He is not a Jew. And so on. Just because your grandparents were Jews and you were reared with zero Jewish education, culture, identity, religion or anything else does not make you Jew, just for the benefit of being able to call yourself a Jew. Otherwise I should walk around "As an Engineer" - or "As a brain surgeon". Why not, there's engineers and brain surgeons in my family, doesn't that fall to me too?

    1. There's an Israel-basher in my locality who long ago became an active member of another religion but describes herself as a Jew (as indeed she is halachically)for the purpose of bashing Israel. I know of another who is married to a Muslim gentleman, and is a fervent activist in the anti-Israel cause. But equally, one of the worst Israel-bashers of all is a nice young man who attended Sunday School with my son...


    3. Thanks, Rita - missed that one!

  2. Ii Leibler on a related theme

    1. Mr. Leibler says in this article:

      "...Yet any objective review of Jewish history demonstrates that “self-hatred” was always an important element motivating Jews who turned against their own people and far predates the existence of Israel...

      I would say that "self-hatred" does not stop with the Jews, nor at the borders of Israel. The whole "West" seems to indulge in an orgy of "self-hatred" for everything that was our culture/religion/philosophy/enlightment. With our near suicidal "tolerance" we seem to facilitate the task of those who share our hatred for us.

  3. Daphne,

    Thanks for sharing this excellent piece. The Left/Anti-Zionist nexus was a dominant theme among the BDS promoters at our food coop.

    One of the leading BDS advocates made a point of mentioning that she is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor in every letter she wrote to the Coop's newspaper.

    Of course, we defeated BDS, as sanity did win out.


    1. Philip Mendes also wrote this article recently, which has had a hostile reception from some commenters, one or two of whom suggested he's a "self-hating Jew". He is very far from being that; I know him personally - nice guy and a good 'un, whatever one makes of this article

  4. Personally I have found that self-hating Jews tend to love themselves to pieces, being so much smarter, empathic and moral than the rest of us garden-variety Jews. I prefer the Howard Jacobson label of ashamed Jews as in "when I see what Israel does to the Palestinians, I am ashamed to be a Jew". However, my favourite is still as-a-Jew because no matter how estranged from the Jewish community they might be, when they publicly excoriate Israel it is 'always as-a-Jew'.

    They seem to be popping up everywhere. Is that they are actually so many or because the media and the Israel Haters love them so much? Ironic, isn't it? A media-conscious, articulate, attractive as-a-Jew can make a good living from it while as-a Muslims (so rare, so scared or so ignored?) need 24 hr police protection.

    It's not a new phenomenon. Is anyone old enough to remember J.A.Z.A (Jews Against Zionism and Antisemitism) from the Sydney scene in the 1970s? If my recollections are correct they had a membership of about 24, most of whom were not Jewish by Halacha, community membership or education. Still they did generate quite a bit of publicity and are the forefathers of the current batch of as-a-Jews.

  5. You are delusional if you think that Israel will get away with crimes against Humanity, Daphne. You can point the finger at the Palestinians, Hamas...other people...even the rest of the world...but you will ALWAYS have three fingers pointing back at yourself ! Sooner or later you will have to face your denial of what Israel actually is - a Terrorist, land-stealing state, that by its actions has turned the world against it. This has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, though, I can see you are intent on hiding behind that illusion...


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