Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Grand Illusion of Jewish Ethnicity

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Grand Illusion of Jewish Ethnicity

Article excerpt

The Grand Illusion of Jewish Ethnicity

By Dr. Alfred M. Lilienthal

A provocative article by Dr. James Zogby, "The Two Anti-Semitisms," published as a pamphlet by Americans for Middle East Understanding, aroused both my interest and ire. I found myself in general agreement with the thrust of the piece by Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, DC, that anti-Semitism has been a weapon that has been directed against both Arabs and Jews. But I have to register a vigorous, strong dissent over his use of Jews and Israelis interchangeably and his defining Jews as a "separate national entity."

The Israelis indeed are a separate national entity. But the Jews most definitely are not, belonging as they do to 155 national entities. Mind you, it is not only Arabs who have rejected Zionism with its claim of Jewish nationhood. There were once many Christians as well as Jews--and still are some today--who refused to accept the Zionist concept of the ethnicity of the Jews.

I have devoted more than 50 years of my life toward maintaining vigilantly that Judaism is not Zionism, Zionism is not Judaism, and that to be anti-Zionist is in no way to be anti-Semitic. And at the same time, I have never ceased struggling--in writings, lectures, and television-radio appearances for more than a half-century, across the country and abroad, and against unimaginable odds--for a full, just and meaningful peace in the Middle East. Israel's flag has at no time become mine.

I was at the White House on Sept. 13, 1993, but I did not in any way interpret the Rabin-Arafat handshake as an acceptance of the Jews as a separate national entity with its base in Israel. In fact, while a lasting settlement has for long been possible among Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis, the principal obstacle blocking peace invariably has been the Israeli assertion of abnormal Jewish nationalism in contrast to normal Israeli nationalism--and Israel's implementation of that concept.

Such a concept of extra-territorial nationalism, indeed, makes the charge of dual loyalty, often invoked against Jews, more than a mere shibboleth. It turns it into a stark reality!

If Israel is held to be the Jewish state, then six million Jews in the United States, as well as an additional three million Jews living in some other 155 countries besides Israel, can indeed justifiably be charged with dual loyalty stemming from their dual identification as Jews with the Jewish state and as citizens of the nations in which they live. The "anti-Semitic" charge of dual loyalties, as defenders of Israel and Zionism invariably have labeled it, thus becomes very much a justified reality and possible nightmare.

Israelis indeed are a separate national entity. But Jews most definitely are not.

One must not forget that the concept of dual loyalties does not necessarily involve the conscious process of choice: It is very rare to be faced with a choice between this action in the interest of the United States and that action in the interest of Israel, and I choose that. Far more common is the unconscious choosing of that without the slightest consideration whatsoever being given to this.

The more the state of Israel is identified as "the Jewsih state" rather than as "the Israeli state," as it ought to be, the more it is able both to influence national elections within the United States and to influence, even dictate, the entire course of U.S.-Middle East foreign policy. At the same time, "the Jewish state" concept could lead to vast complications in the lives of diaspora Jews, particularly those in the United States with their large number and tremendous affluence. …

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