Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Spokesman for Justice: A Tribute to Rabbi Elmer Berger

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Spokesman for Justice: A Tribute to Rabbi Elmer Berger

Article excerpt

A Spokesman For Justice: A Tribute to Rabbi Elmer Berger

Why, I asked one of the earliest and most vocal of the anti-Zionists, Rabbi Elmer Berger, do so many American Jews give their total support, including tax-free dollars, to Israel, yet prefer to stay in the United States?

I put the question to Dr. Berger soon after our initial meeting. The year was 1981. I had gone to a Middle East conference in a downtown Washington, DC hotel. After hearing Elmer Berger was in the audience, I sought him out. Tall, distinguished, with graying hair, he gave me a friendly smile: "Let's go for a coffee, where we can talk." Once we found a quiet corner in a cafe, Dr. Berger began:

"Most American Jews don't want to leave America. They have no intention of seeking `normality' by expatriating themselves to live in a `Jewish state.' But in reality, it is a Zionist state and Zionism itself is an anomaly, a movement not to save souls but to seize land and gain power."

Then the rabbi, who was born in 1908 and served congregations in Michigan, explained that a half-century ago he became convinced that "Zionism was deleterious to Jews and to the long-range interests of the United States." Through his own personal activities, for two decades through the American Council for Judaism, and later through the American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism, Rabbi Berger has impressed a multitude with the sincerity of his conviction, his personal courage and the depth of his commitment.

Dr. Berger has long reminded his co-religionists that they, after the Palestinians, "are the second greatest victims of Zionism." As for American Jews giving their allegiance and dollars to Zionism, he observed they were subsidizing an operation which has as its ultimate objective "the expatriation of the contributors themselves." American dollars are not going to support an Israeli "democracy," said Dr. Berger. "Israel's highest courts have said `The state of Israel was established and recognized as the state of the Jews. This is the sovereign state of the Jewish people.' This being the case, those for whom the state was created would qualify as first-class citizens and non-Jews would be relegated to another, lesser category.

"The Zionists did not draft a constitution for their new Jewish-Zionist state," he continued. "Rather, they passed `Basic Laws' that protect and elevate those of one religion and denigrate those of other faiths. The first of these basic laws states that any Jew, at any time, has the right to immigrate to Israel. This right is given only to Jews.

"The second of the basic laws provides that any Jewish immigrant automatically acquires Israeli citizenship. This is automatically given only to Jews. A third law states that it is the central task of the Zionist state to bring all Jews to the Zionist state. A state that regards the immigration of Jews as its `central task' cannot at the same time allocate its services and resources on a completely equal basis among its citizens who do not qualify as part of `the Jewish people.'"

"Basic Laws"

These "Basic Laws" mean, Dr. Berger said, that Zionism constitutes "an ethnocentered, exclusivist, aggressive ideology." Yet, Zionists largely have been successful in selling the American public on the idea that it is a "benevolent, liberating, progressive movement."

Because this view has been so successfully presented, few dare speak the truth about Zionism, said Dr. Berger, adding that "while Israel does indeed practice widespread and cruel discrimination against a large segment of people, the U. …

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