Like Many Who Came Before Them, Today’s Jewish Anti-Zionists Want to Rid Judaism of Its Particularity

June 17, 2021 | Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy
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Last month, while Hamas was launching thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, the City University of New York’s Jewish Law Students’ Association decided it needed to do something. So it put out a statement affirming “a Palestinian right to return, a free and just Palestine from the river to the sea, and an end to the ongoing nakba”—in other words, calling for the annihilation of the state of Israel. Such Jewish animosity toward the Jewish state is of course not limited to this particular student group. Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy observe:

The anti-Zionists know exactly what they are doing, and what they are undoing. They are trying to disentangle Judaism from Jewish nationalism, the sense of Jewish peoplehood. . . . In repudiating Israel and Zionism, hundreds of Jewish Google employees rejected what they call “the conflation of Israel with the Jewish people.” The voices of inflamed Jewish opponents of Israel and Zionism are in turn amplified by a militant progressive superstructure that now has an ideological lock on the discourse in American academia, publishing, media, and the professions that formerly respected American Jewry’s Zionism-accented, peoplehood-centered constructions of Jewish identity.

We call these critics “un-Jews” because they believe the only way to fulfill the Jewish mission of saving the world with Jewish values is to undo the ways most actual Jews [relate to] Jewishness. . . . In launching this attempt, these anti-Zionists join a long history of such un-Jews.

One of the Roman generals who helped raze Jerusalem and destroy the Second Temple may have been the first un-Jew. Tiberius Julius Alexander, the nephew of the leading Jewish philosopher Philo, “did not remain in his ancestral customs,” in the words of the ancient historian Josephus, a Jewish general who himself joined the Roman cause. Then, as now, those annoying Jews insisted on keeping their ghetto, their ethnonationalist state, if you will, and rejected the symbols of Rome’s more worldly multicultural empire.

Historians ultimately don’t know that much about Tiberius. What we do know is that despite his Jewish roots, he was anxious to help the world become civilized like Rome—and he unleashed the Roman legions against Alexandria’s Jews when he was prefect of Egypt from 66 to 69 CE. All this was warming up for his greatest crime against his people, serving as Titus’ second in command in 70 CE when the siege of Jerusalem plunged his own people into exile for nearly 2,000 years.

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