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The Zionist Betrayal of Jewish Civilization

The Zionist Betrayal of Jewish Civilization

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Published by dramirezg
I have often remarked that there is a foundational paradox within Ashkenazi-European Zionism. At its core Zionism is an attempt to resolve the so-called “Jewish Question” by restoring the Jewish people to its historical homeland in the Middle East. When looked at more carefully, the two formative elements of Zionist identity – Judaism and life in an Asiatic land – are both deeply problematic.
I have often remarked that there is a foundational paradox within Ashkenazi-European Zionism. At its core Zionism is an attempt to resolve the so-called “Jewish Question” by restoring the Jewish people to its historical homeland in the Middle East. When looked at more carefully, the two formative elements of Zionist identity – Judaism and life in an Asiatic land – are both deeply problematic.

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Published by: dramirezg on Nov 01, 2011
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09/03/2012

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The Zionist Betrayal of Jewish Civilization: Amos Oz, Charlie Rose, and AshkenaziHegemony
I have often remarked that there is a foundational paradox within Ashkenazi-EuropeanZionism. At its core Zionism is an attempt to resolve the so-called “Jewish Question” byrestoring the Jewish people to its historical homeland in the Middle East. When looked atmore carefully, the two formative elements of Zionist identity – Judaism and life in anAsiatic land – are both deeply problematic.Back in 1983 the internationally-known Israeli novelist Amos Oz published a non-fictionwork called
 In the Land of Israel
(the English translation was not published until 1993)which sought to examine the troubles of his nation. In a particularly jarring chapter of the book called “The Insult and the Fury,” he visits the town of Beit Shemesh filled withangry Sephardic Jews, Jews native to the region, who confront the Ashkenazi Sabra heroOz and his Kibbutznik ethos with their sense of alienation and resentment at being treatedlike second class citizens in the Jewish state.Oz is taken aback by the deep wells of Sephardi anger and resentment but lets theconfrontation play out.Over time, the anger of the Sephardim in Israel has been sublimated in different wayswhile the acclaim and celebrity of Amos Oz as an Israeli writer of international reputehas increased. The narrative of the Middle Eastern Jews, a narrative of struggle and bitterloss, is now almost completely unknown both inside and outside Israel.On a recent appearance on PBS’ Charlie Rose Show, Oz was presented as an elderstatesman of Israeli letters and an authority on all things Israeli and Zionist. In what hasbecome a standard routine with Mr. Rose, Israelis and Zionist supporters are fawned overas if they are some holy objects of worship. These Israeli pundits, politicians, andcultural figures are spoken to in tones of hushed awe and their pronouncements – as wehave seen in the case of another recent Rose interview with the architect Moshe Safdie –are deemed authoritative.Oz presented a number of views in the discussion that are well-worth recounting andexamining more closely:
Mayflower Zionism
 Oz (born Amos Klausner, the Hebrew name “Oz” means “strength”) recounted to Rosethat his life is more akin to that of the original American colonists than merely one thathas encompassed the events of the mid-20
th
century to the present. He sees himself notsimply as a 72 year old man, but as far older in conceptual-historical terms. Imagine, hetells Rose, that you have met Washington and Lincoln and have lived through the BostonTea Party, the Civil War, and the Great Depression. That is what his life has been like asan Israeli pioneer.
 
In Oz’s formulation, being an older Israeli is something akin – and Meron Benvenisti hasbeen saying this in recent years as well – to being part of the Mayflower generation of American history. In this context, Israel is compared to the United States as a new nationstarting out from scratch.The problem with the Mayflower analogy is that Israel is not a new nation, but theproduct of centuries of Jewish existence. It is predicated upon a rich and varied Diasporalife which stretches back to the end of Jewish national-territorial existence in the wake of the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE.But Israelis like Amos Oz often forget that Jewish history continued after the tragedy of 70.In a mad embrace of atavism, Israel sees itself in quasi-magical terms as the resurrectionof an ancient nation that was cut off at the knees, only to be magically resurrected in1948. In this context, it is not the rabbinical tradition which in its Talmudic formulationbecame normative in the Jewish Diaspora that encapsulates the current Israeli reality, butthe more ancient and less defined identity of the age of the Hebrew Bible and the Jewishcommonwealth(s). Such a benighted view was embodied in Israel’s most importantstatesman David Ben-Gurion who typified the new ethos and relentlessly imposed it oncitizens of the state.Mayflower Zionism as a myth of origins is a handy way of eviscerating centuries of Jewish life in the Diaspora and marking it as essentially bereft of meaning and substance.Israeli Jews have embarked on a new phase of Jewish history which is not beholden tothe Diaspora past. Israelis can thus create themselves out of whole cloth rather than beforced to connect directly to what preceded them historically.
Hebrew as a “Volcanic” Eruption
Oz was excited to relate in the interview that the Hebrew language over the past centuryhas been completely re-invented. As if Hebrew too had no history and no culturalstanding over the course of centuries, Israelis have re-formed the language to suit theirIndo-European proclivities.The current variant of Hebrew in Israel has changed not simply the auditory element of how the language is pronounced, but has dealt with lexical matters, syntax, grammar, andpoetic values in ways that bypass the vast literature of the Jewish past.Critical to any understanding of the Jewish literary heritage is an engagement with therabbinic tradition as well as the neo-secular movements that emerged in the SephardicWest and in the Middle East under the aegis of Arabic poetics.Israel, having dispensed with the Diaspora Jewish past, has formulated a Hebrew thateffectively functions as a Western language and not a Semitic one.
 
When Oz asserts that Hebrew is now in a state of volcanic eruption, what he means isthat, similar to the way in which Jewish history has been erased and re-formed underZionist thought, so too has the Hebrew language found a new freedom from the rubric of the past.It is something quite simple to prove given the almost complete absence of pre-ZionistHebrew literature – most specifically that of the Sephardic heritage which did not limitliterary expression to rabbinics – in the Israeli marketplace.
A “Lost” Jewish Civilization
Missing in this new Israeli-Zionist Jewish culture are brilliant literary prose texts like
Judah Alharizi
’s
Sefer Tahkemoni
(composed in Spain around 1218) and
Immanuel of Rome
’s
Mahberot
(late 13
th
-early 14
th
century); the groundbreaking poetry of 
JudahHalevi
(c. 1075-1141),
Solomon ibn Gabirol
(c. 1021-1058), and
Samuel Hanagid
(c.993-1056), the most prominent of the many rabbi-poets of Spain, France, and Italy;important historical works such as
Abraham ibn Daud
’s
Sefer ha-Qabbalah
(1161),
Abraham Zacuto
’s
Sefer Yuhasin
(1504),
Solomon ibn Verga
’s
Shebet Yehudah
 (early 16
th
century), and
Joseph ha-Kohen
’s
Emeq ha-Bakha
(mid-16
th
century);philosophical classics like
Abraham bar Hiyya
’s
Hegyon ha-Nefesh ha-Azubah
(early12
th
century),
Meditation of the Sad Soul
, which is a Jewish work akin to
Boethius’
 Latin classic
The Consolation of Philosophy
(c. 524), and
Don Santob de Carrion
’s
 Proverbios Morales
(c. 1355), a Spanish-language poetic treatise in the venerabletradition of Jewish Wisdom literature re-cast in the lexicon of Andalusian-SephardicReligious Humanism; ethical-moral literary classics like
Moses Cordovero
’s
TomerDeborah
(mid-16
th
century) and
Moses Hayyim Luzzato
’s
Mesillat Yesharim
(1738);and important rhetorical and linguistic achievements such as
Moses ibn Ezra
’s
Kitab al-Muhadara w-al-Mudhakara
(11
th
-12
th
century), a book on Hebrew poetics, and
Jonahibn Jannah
’s (c. 990-1050) seminal studies of Hebrew grammar and lexicography whichwere written in the Arabic language, but became a central part of Hebrew culture in theMiddle Ages.The vast production of the Andalusian, Provencal, and Italian Jewish poets alone couldfill dozens upon dozens of volumes (An excellent single volume anthology of theSephardic school, the only one of its kind currently available, has been published inEnglish translation by Peter Cole in his comprehensive
 Dream of the Poem: HebrewPoetry in Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492
. It is important to note that the Hebreworiginals of the poems remain relatively inaccessible to all but the most devoted studentof this tradition, collected in out-of-print and hard-to-find academic editions).We can point in regard to this massive stockpile of Hebrew poetry the colossalachievement of 
Solomon ibn Gabirol
, one of the most original and innovative poets of the Andalusian-Sephardic school whose epic poem
Keter Malkhut
,
The Royal Crown
,is one of the most astounding accomplishments of the Hebrew literary heritage.

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