Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum

Archive for June, 2007

Avraham Burg and The Question of Zion

Posted by Admin on June 11, 2007

A furore has broken out in Israel following the publication of an interview in Ha’aretz Weekend Magazine with Avraham Burg, in which he repudiated the idea of Israel as a Jewish state.

Burg, who was the former speaker of the Knesset and Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, was interviewed on the eve of the publication of his book “Defeating Hitler”.

His interlocutor, Ari Shavit, observed in a preface to the interview:

I was outraged by the book. I saw it as a turning away of an Israeli colleague from our shared Israeliness. I saw it as a one-dimensional and unempathetic attack on the Israeli experience. Still, the dialogue with Avrum was riveting. We got angry at each other and raised our voices at each other and circled each other warily like two wounded gladiators in the arena. You can’t take away from Avrum what he has. You can’t take away the education or the articulateness or the ability to touch truly painful places. Maybe that’s why he is so infuriating. Friend and predator; brother and deserter.

The following excerpts from the interview underline the extent to which Burg’s views represent a radical departure from the prevailing Israeli consensus:

Avrum Burg, I read your new book, “Defeating Hitler,” as a parting from Zionism. Am I wrong? Are you still a Zionist?

“I am a human being, I am a Jew and I am an Israeli. Zionism was an instrument to move me from the Jewish state of being to the Israeli state of being. I think it was Ben-Gurion who said that the Zionist movement was the scaffolding to build the home, and that after the state’s establishment it should be dismantled.”

So you confirm that you are no longer a Zionist?

“Already at the First Zionist Congress, Herzl’s Zionism was victorious over the Zionism of Ahad Ha’am. I think that the 21st century should be the century of Ahad Ha’am. We have to leave Herzl behind and move to Ahad Ha’am.”

Does this mean that you no longer find the notion of a Jewish state acceptable?

“It can’t work anymore. To define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive. It’s dynamite.”

And a Jewish-democratic state?

“People find this very comfortable. It’s lovely. It’s schmaltzy. It’s nostalgic. It’s retro. It gives a sense of fullness. But ‘Jewish-democratic’ is nitroglycerine.”

We have to change the national anthem?

“The anthem is a symbol. I would be ready to buy into a reality in which everything is fine and only the anthem is screwed-up.”

Do we have to amend the Law of Return?

“We have to open the discussion. The Law of Return is an apologetic law. It is the mirror image of Hitler. I don’t want Hitler to define my identity.”

While many would consider his views to be heretical, Burg’s critique forces us to re-examine our assumptions about what the philosopher, Dr Brian Klug, refers to as the “Gordian knot of seamless identity”, namely the axiom that Israel and the Jewish people are central to each other’s identity.

We welcome your thoughts on these issues.

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A Statement from GJEF

Posted by Admin on June 1, 2007

We have issued the following statement in response to criticism from Rabbi Chaim Jacobs, published in today’s edition of the Jewish Telegraph:

GJEF agree wholeheartedly with Rabbi Jacobs that the blog should not be used for posting offensive comments. As an organisation we take responsibility for removing material that could be construed as inflammatory or is inflammatory, and have removed several comments in the past. However, we do believe that the blog offers an opportunity for members of the community to air their views and opinions about matters of communal interest and we believe that this is a welcome addition to communal life. Everyone is entitled to their opinion – secular or religious, Zionist or non-Zionist. GJEF does not agree with all that is written on the blog.

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