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Jewish Intellectuals Who Have Opposed Zionism and/or Israeli Racism, Injustices, Occupation, Apartheid and/or Ethnic Cleansing

Albert Einstein

Einstein denied any superior rights for Jews, calling for "complete equality" for Palestinians as the "most important aspect" of Jewish policy, saying: "The most important aspect of our policy must be our ever-present, manifest desire to institute complete equality for the Arab citizens living in our midst ... The attitude we adopt toward the Arab minority will provide the real test of our moral standards as a people." Only cooperation with Arabs, led by "educated, spiritually alert" Jewish workers, he wrote, "can create a dignified and safe life." He also said, "What saddens me is less the fact that the Jews are not smart enough to understand this, but rather, that they are not smart enough to want it."

Sigmund Freud

I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust.

Isaac Asimov

Asimov commented on Zionism in I. Asimov, his third autobiographical volume. Asimov mentioned his distress at the capability of the historically oppressed (such as the Jews) to in turn become oppressors if given the chance. Asimov wrote: “Right now, there is an influx of Soviet Jews into Israel. They are fleeing because they expect religious persecution. Yet at the instant their feet touched Israeli soil, they became extreme Israeli nationalists with no pity for the Palestinians. From persecuted to persecutors in the blinking of an eye.”

Sir Edwin Montagu

Montagu was the second British Jew to enter the Cabinet, the inner circle of British government. However, he was strongly opposed to Zionism, which he called "a mischievous political creed, untenable by any patriotic citizen of the United Kingdom." He also opposed the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which he considered to be antisemitic and whose terms he managed to modify. (Montagu was probably responsible for inserting the provision in the Balfour Declaration that said: "Nothing shall be done that may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.") In a memo to the Cabinet, he outlined his accurate understanding of the Balfour Declaration: "...I assume that it means that Mahommedans [Muslims] and Christians are to make way for the Jews and that the Jews should be put in all positions of preference... When the Jews are told that Palestine is their national home, every country will immediately desire to get rid of its Jewish citizens, and you will find a population in Palestine driving out its present inhabitants, taking all the best in the country..."

Martin Buber

The establishment of a Jewish state, the philosopher Martin Buber feared, would mean "premeditated national suicide." He believed strongly that the most important possibility for Zionism was in changing the relationships between people. He wrote powerfully in favor of Arab rights in Palestine. Even in later years, he worked for the establishment of a joint Arab-Jewish state. Professor Shemuel Hugo Bergman said that with Dr. Buber's death, "humanity has lost one of its greatest sons, Jewry has lost its greatest son, and Israel has lost her living conscience."

Ben Ehrenreich

The fate Buber foresaw is upon us: a nation that has lived in a state of war for decades, a quarter-million Arab citizens with second-class status and more than five million Palestinians deprived of the most basic political and human rights. If two decades ago comparisons to the South African apartheid system felt like hyperbole, they now feel charitable. The white South African regime, for all its crimes, never attacked the Bantustans with anything like the destructive power Israel visited on Gaza in December and January, when nearly1,300 Palestinians were killed, one-third of them children.

Hannah Arendt

Arendt in "Zionism Reconsidered," written in 1944 before the creation of the modern state of Israel, predicted the Nakba, unending conflict, Zionist dependence on the American Jewish community that would ultimately conflict with that community, and the contribution of political Zionism to worldwide anti-Semitism. She wrote: "Nationalism is bad enough when it trusts in nothing but the rude force of the nation. A nationalism that necessarily and admittedly depends upon the force of a foreign nation is certainly worse. This is the threatened state of Jewish nationalism and of the proposed Jewish state, surrounded inevitably by Arab states and Arab people. Even a Jewish majority in Palestine–nay even a transfer of all Palestine’s Arabs, which is openly demanded by the revisionists–would not substantially change a situation in which Jews must either ask protection from an outside power against their neighbors or come to a working agreement with their neighbors… The Zionists, if they continue to ignore the Mediterranean people and watch out only for the big faraway powers, will appear only as their tools, the agents of foreign and hostile interests. Jews who know their own history should be aware that such a state of affairs will inevitably lead to a new wave of Jew-hatred; the antisemitism of tomorrow will assert that Jews not only profiteered from the presence of foreign big powers in that region but had actually plotted it and hence are guilty of the consequences… Only folly could dictate a policy which trusts a distant imperial power for protection, while alienating the goodwill of neighbors. What then, one is prompted to ask, will be the future policy of Zionism with respect to big powers, and what program will Zionists have to offer for a solution of the Arab-Jewish conflict?… If a Jewish commonwealth is obtained in the near future–with or without partition–it will be due to the political influence of American Jews… But if the Jewish commonwealth is proclaimed against the will of the Arabs and without the support of the Mediterranean peoples, not only financial help but political support will be necessary for a long time to come. And that may turn out to be very troublesome indeed for Jews in this country [the U.S.], who after all have no power to direct the political destinies of the Near East. It may eventually be far more of a responsibility than today they imagine or tomorrow can make good."

Four years later, in 1948, Arendt accurately predicted what would happen if Israeli Jews were to prove victorious in battle: "And even if the Jews were to win the war, its end would find the unique possibilities and the unique achievements of Zionism in Palestine destroyed. The land that would come into being would be something quite other than the dream of world Jewry, Zionist and non-Zionist. The ‘victorious’ Jews would live surrounded by an entirely hostile Arab population, secluded into ever-threatened borders, absorbed with physical self-defense to a degree that would submerge all other interests and activities. The growth of a Jewish culture would cease to be the concern of the whole people; social experiments would have to be discarded as impractical luxuries; political thought would center around military strategy… And all this would be the fate of a nation that — no matter how many immigrants it could still absorb and how far it extended its boundaries (the whole of Palestine and Transjordan is the insane Revisionist demand)–would still remain a very small people greatly outnumbered by hostile neighbors. Under such circumstances… the Palestinian Jews would degenerate into one of those small warrior tribes about whose possibilities and importance history has amply informed us since the days of Sparta. Their relations with world Jewry would become problematical, since their defense interests might clash at any moment with those of other countries where large number of Jews lived. Palestine Jewry would eventually separate itself from the larger body of world Jewry and in its isolation develop into an entirely new people. Thus it becomes plain that at this moment and under present circumstances a Jewish state can only be erected at the price of the Jewish homeland…

Jacques Derrida

I wish to state right away my solidarity with all those, in this land, who advocate an end to violence, condemn the crimes of terrorism and of the military and police repression, and advocate the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories as well as the recognition of the Palestinians’ right to choose their own representatives to negotiations, now more indispensable than ever.

Israel Shahak

Shahak was a Holocaust survivor who opposed racism and oppression in any form and in any country. After being liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, Shahak and his mother emigrated to Palestine. He went on to have a distinguished career as a professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was repeatedly voted as the most admired teacher by students. Following the 1967 war, Shahak became a leading member of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights and was elected chairman in 1970. He devoted the rest of his life to opposing Israel’s inhumane treatment inflicted upon its Arab citizens and upon Palestinians in the occupied territories. Shahak's obituary in The Guardian of London notes that "Shortly after the 1967 six-day war, he concluded from observation that Israel was not yet a democracy; it was treating the newly occupied Palestinians with shocking brutality. For the next three decades, he spent all his spare time on attempts to change this. He contributed to various small papers, but when this proved to have little impact, he decided to alert journalists, academics and human rights campaigners abroad. From his small, bare West Jerusalem flat poured forth reports with titles such as 'Torture in Israel,' and 'Collective Punishment in the West Bank.' Based exclusively on mainstream Israeli sources, all were painstakingly translated into English." In Jewish History, Jewish Religion, Shahak pointed out that while Islamic fundamentalism is vilified in the West, Jewish fundamentalism goes largely ignored. He also argued that classical Judaism is used to justify Israeli policies which he viewed as xenophobic and similar in nature to the anti-Semitism suffered by Jews in other times and places. Nowhere could this be seen more clearly, in his view, than in Jewish attitudes to the non-Jewish peoples of Israel and the Middle East.

Judith Butler

People who expect enmity to suddenly convert into love are probably using the wrong model. Living with one another can be unhappy, wretched, ambivalent, even full of antagonism, but all of that can play out in the political sphere without recourse to expulsion or genocide. And that is our obligation.

Ilan Pappé

The Zionist goal from the very beginning was to have as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians in it as possible ... Before choosing the title for my book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, I thought a lot because I knew the connotations, I realised that for too many people it would be too radical. I remember even my publisher had reservations about it. But then I checked the American State Department website about ethnic cleansing and the description of what ethnic cleansing is, and it fitted so well with what was and is going on in Palestine. This description does not only describe an act of expulsion but also its legal implications, which is in this specific case, is a crime against humanity. It also says very clearly that the only way to compensate for ethnic cleansing is to ask the people who were expelled whether they want to return or not.

Erich Fried

Due to his encounters with Nazism and anti-Semitism Erich Fried became an outspoken voice in the West German anti-Vietnam war movement. His experiences with racism and fascism led him to take up verbal cudgels against Zionism and to support the Palestinians, who, like himself, had been driven from their native land into exile. In his poem "Hear, O Israel!" he asks his fellow Jews: "When we were the oppressed, I was one with you, but how can we remain one now that you have become the oppressor?"

Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm, an eminent scholar and author, argued that Palestinian Arabs had a much more legitimate claim to ownership of the land than the Jews: "The claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse."

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka was very critical of Zionism. According to Philip Weiss, “Kafka was against political Zionism because he understood it would transform the Jewish presence in society. It would make Jews the administrators of a nation rather than inhabitants of one. I think he anticipated that Jewish nationalism would call on the worst aspects of Jewish society.”

Richard Falk

Richard Falk is the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and the author of more than 50 books on war, human rights and international law. In a statement issued by the UN, “Gaza: Silence Is Not An Option,” he called Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories “a crime against humanity.” Falk also has compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi treatment of the Jews and has said, “I think the Palestinians stand out as the most victimized people in the world.”

Uri Avnery

Avnery wrote that after an Israeli military victory, “What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet. In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.”

Noam Chomsky

There is good reason to believe that he [Uri Avnery] is right. Israel is deliberately turning itself into one of the most hated countries in the world, and is also losing the allegiance of the population of the West, including younger American Jews, who are unlikely to tolerate its persistent shocking crimes for long. Decades ago, I wrote that those who call themselves “supporters of Israel” are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction. Regrettably, that judgment looks more and more plausible. Meanwhile we are quietly observing a rare event in history, what the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling called “politicide,” the murder of a nation — at our hands.

Norman Finkelstein

Professor Norman Finkelstein is the son of Holocaust survivors. He has called Israel a "lunatic state" for murdering peace activists. He has also asked very difficult questions about Israel and U.S. support of Israel: "I have to ask a simple question: which leader of another American ally has appointed a man who favors genocide and ethnic cleansing as the deputy speaker of the legislature? Which other democracy has legitimate political parties in the governing coalition calling for permanent occupation of a neighboring state – and deliberate social engineering to create a new demographic ethnic reality in that conquered land? Putin’s Russia has not sunk that low. And we are not merely talking about a hypothetical situation. The grotesque death toll from Gaza is a distillation of this mindset – revealing at best a chilling contempt for Arab life and at worst, with the shelling of schools and shelters, a policy of indiscriminate hatred and revenge. Yes, killing women and children in shelters is about as low as you can get in wartime. As the State Department, in a rare moment of public candor, noted, it is appalling and disgraceful. To see in front of one’s nose is a constant struggle. But I see evil in front of noses here – and evil that is gaining strength because of willful American blindness."

Tony Judt

Israel continues to mock its American patron, building illegal settlements in cynical disregard of the “road map.” The President of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line: “It’s all Arafat’s fault.” ... Anyone who supposes that [ethnic cleansing] is unthinkable above all for a Jewish state has not been watching the steady accretion of settlements and land seizures in the West Bank over the past quarter-century, or listening to generals and politicians on the Israeli right, some of them currently in government. The middle ground of Israeli politics today is occupied by the Likud. Its major component is the late Menachem Begin’s Herut Party. Herut is the successor to Vladimir Jabotinsky’s interwar Revisionist Zionists, whose uncompromising indifference to legal and territorial niceties once attracted from left-leaning Zionists the epithet “fascist.” When one hears Israel’s deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, proudly insist that his country has not excluded the option of assassinating the elected president of the Palestinian Authority, it is clear that the label fits better than ever. Political murder is what fascists do.

Joe Klein

I have now been called antisemitic and intellectually unstable and a whole bunch of other silly things by the folks over at the Commentary blog. They want Time Magazine to fire or silence me. This is happening because I said something that is palpably true, but unspoken in polite society: There is a small group of Jewish neoconservatives who unsuccessfully tried to get Benjamin Netanyahu to attack Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, and then successfully helped provide the intellectual rationale for George Bush to do it in 2003. Their motivations involve a confused conflation of what they think are Israel’s best interests with those of the United States. They are now leading the charge for war with Iran.

Roger Cohen

Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran “its sophistication and culture” than all the inflammatory rhetoric. That may be because I’m a Jew and have seldom been treated with such consistent warmth as in Iran. Or perhaps I was impressed that the fury over Gaza, trumpeted on posters and Iranian TV, never spilled over into insults or violence toward Jews. Or perhaps it’s because I’m convinced the “Mad Mullah” caricature of Iran and likening of any compromise with it to Munich 1938 — a position popular in some American Jewish circles — is misleading and dangerous.

Gabriel Kolko

The result of the creation of a state called Israel was abysmal ... There is simply no rational reason that justifies the state’s creation. The outcome is a small state with a military ethos that pervades all aspects of Israel’s culture, its politics and, above all, its response to the existence of Arabs in its midst and at its borders. From its inception, the ideology of the early Zionists — of Labor Zionism as well as the rightist Revisionism that Vladimir Jabotinsky produced — embodied a commitment to violence, erroneously called self-defense, and a virtual hysteria. 

Henry Siegman

Israel’s relentless drive to establish “facts on the ground” in the occupied West Bank, a drive that continues in violation of even the limited settlement freeze to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed himself, seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that “achievement,” one that successive Israeli governments have long sought in order to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution, Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world. The inevitability of such a transformation has been held out not by “Israel bashers” but by the country’s own leaders. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon referred to that danger, as did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who warned that Israel could not escape turning into an apartheid state if it did not relinquish “almost all the territories, if not all,” including the Arab parts of East Jerusalem.

Elmer Berger

Throughout his adult life Rabbi Elmer Berger’s definition of Judaism did not vary. In the introduction to his book A Partisan History of Judaism he wrote: “There are those who see Judaism as ‘the religion of the Jewish People.’ This book will not please them. For it indicates, unmistakably, that the origins of Judaism were not in ‘the Jewish people’ and that the best and finest of Judaism today transcends the Jewish people.” At the end of this same book, Elmer Berger succinctly gave his definition: “Judaism is to do justice and to have mercy and to walk humbly with God; and all the rest is commentary and of secondary importance.” It was from this perspective that Elmer Berger carefully and specifically documented his case against Zionism and against the oppressive character of the Zionist state. He called upon the state of Israel to de-Zionize, i.e. to cease being an exclusivist Jewish state granting by law rights and privileges to Jews not granted to non-Jews. He beseeched the state of Israel to develop as a truly democratic state, to be just and merciful to all people and thus to walk humbly with God.

Arthur Hays Sulzberger

Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times from 1935-1961, claimed that Zionism was to blame for some of the Jewish deaths in the Holocaust. He alleged in a 1946 speech that the refugee crisis during the war had been “a manageable, social and economic problem” until “the clamor for statehood introduced an insoluble political element” into the issue. “It is my judgment that thousands dead might now be alive” if “the Zionists” had put “less emphasis on statehood,” Sulzberger asserted. While this claim may seem outrageous, letters and statements by Zionist leaders such as Chaim Weizmann and Golda Meir do make it seem that the overriding goal of a Jewish state made individual lives secondary. For instance, Golda Meir instructed that only healthy Jews should be allowed to emigrate to Palestine, at a time when many Holocaust survivors were far from healthy.

Lessing J. Rosenwald ()

In 1944, Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism and chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Company, equated the Zionist ideal of Jewish statehood with "the concept of a racial state -- the Hitlerian concept." 

Judge Richard Goldstone

Pursuing justice in this case [the charge of war crimes committed by the Israeli Defense Force] is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law. Western governments in particular face a challenge because they have pushed for accountability in places like Darfur, but now must do the same with Israel, an ally and a democratic state. Failing to pursue justice for serious violations during the fighting will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy. As a service to the hundreds of civilians who needlessly died and for the equal application of international justice, the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account.

Other Jewish critics of Zionism and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians include renowned author Philip Roth, acclaimed poet Adrianne Rich, actor Ed Asner, actress Rosanne Barr, Sidney Hook, Jeff Halper, I. F. Stone, Paul Wellstone, Maxine Rodinson, Moshe Menuhin, Yehudi Menuhin, Alfred Lilienthal, Roger Cohen, Professor Don Peretz, journalist Eric Rouleau, Harvard Professor Sara Roy, Professor Jennifer Loewenstein, former South African government mnister Ronnie Kasrils, Professor Saul Landau, Professor Zachery Lochman, Professor Joel Beinin, Professor Ian Lustick, Professor Edward Herman, writer Stephen Lendman, Anthony Loewenstein, Professor Steven Zunes, Stanley Heller, Danny Schechter, Lenni Brenner, Jeff Blankfort, author and journalist Alain Gresh, Professor Cheryl Rubenberg, Professor Michael Selzer, Professor David Fromkin, Howard Zinn, author Seymour M. Hersh, Bob Simon, Senior CBS Foreign Correspondent Barry Lando, Democracy Now radio host Amy Goodman, media critic Norman Solomon, writer Bennett Muraskin, Professor Lawrence Davidson, Jerome M. Segal, Professor Mark Levine, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Rabbi Brant Rosen, Jewish Voice for Peace activist Sydney Levy, Mark Braverman, author Phylis Bennis, journalist and editor David Finkel, Professor Mark Ellis, Joel Fischer, Professor Noel Ignatiev, Professor Bill Robinson, Allan C. Brownfeld editor of the American Council for Judaism Issues magazine, New York University Professor Bertrell Ollman, Dr. Gideon Polya, activist and writer Ralph Schoenman, writer Mike Marquisee, Swedish activists Snorre Lindquist and Lasse Wilhelmson, New York Times journalist Anthony Lewis, journalist Robert Scheer, journalist and blogger Philip Weiss, journalist Adam Horowitz, blogger Richard Silverstein, activist and writer Tim Wise, Professor Eric Alterman, Tsela Barr, Judith Laitman, Haley Michaels Pollack, Michelle Goldberg, activist and writer Adrienne Weller, Dan Leiberman editor of Alternative Insight, Dr. Marc Sapir, Hannah Mermelstein, Anna Baltzser, Professor Sharon Weill, Professor Randall Kuhn, author Ben Ehrenreich, Dr. Norton Mezvinsky, Dr. Joel Kovel and many other leading Jewish activists, intellectuals and religious figures.

Jewish and Israeli Peace and Humanitarian Organizations that have Opposed Israel's Racism, Apartheid and/or Ethnic Cleansing

Breaking the Silence (Israeli soldiers tell the truth about the Occupation)
Rabbis for Human Rights
Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions
Jewish Voice for Peace
American Jews for a Just Peace
Gush Shalom
Jews Against the Occupation
and many others ...

Nobel Peace Laureates Who have Opposed Israel's Racism, Apartheid and/or Ethnic Cleansing

Desmond Tutu
Nelson Mandela
Jimmy Carter
Adolfo Peres Esquivel
Jody Williams
Mairead Maguire
Rigoberta Menchú
Betty Williams

Christian Churches and Organizations that have Opposed Israel's Racism, Apartheid and/or Ethnic Cleansing

Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network
Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Quaker Palestine Israel Network
United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network

Other Individuals and Organizations that have Opposed Israel's Racism, Apartheid and/or Ethnic Cleansing

Amnesty International
Mohandas Gandhi
Vanessa Redgrave (she sold a house to raise money to film a documentary about the plight of the Palestinians)
Roger Waters
Brian Eno
Boots Riley
Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple)
Michael Ondaatje
Edward Said
Rashid Khalidi
David Palumbo-Liu
Mira Nair
Mike Leigh
Ken Loach
John Pilger

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