Rabbi Eric Yoffie: “I Prefer to Live With Jews”

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is the outgoing President of the Union for Reform Judaism, arguably the most important Reform Jewish leader in the country. In a recent blog post for the Jerusalem Post, he made the following point in defense of a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine:

I care about humankind, but I love my own group a bit more. I am more comfortable with them. I care more about them, just as I care more about my family than other families. Without a two-state solution, Israel will not longer be a state for my group; it will be a bi-national state without a clear Jewish identity. That is not the kind of place where I, or most Israeli Jews, will want to live.

So there you are. This is where the rubber hits the road. Is the best case we can make for liberal Zionism: that when push comes to shove, Jews prefer to live with Jews?

I think we all owe a very real debt to Rabbi Yoffie. In trying to make a dramatic pedagogical point, he has just shone a very bright light on the dark underbelly of this entire project.

This is abject tribalism, pure and simple. And if it truly is the essence of liberal Zionism, then count me out.


41 Comments on “Rabbi Eric Yoffie: “I Prefer to Live With Jews””

  1. This is really breathtaking. To state the obvious: I’m correct that Rabbi Yoffe lives in the United States, no? So he’s not paying the price in violence and the coarsening of society that takes place to preserve the tribalism he enjoys from a distance.

  2. Monica says:

    That’s like saying I only want to live in a country with white people since that way we can keep our white identity…oh wait, people DO say that and are correctly labelled narrow-minded racists!! Why isn’t the same label applied to those who want a Jewish-only state?? Will it get to the point in Israel where they start creating Jewish-only restaurants, have seperate water fountains for non-Jews, and only let Jews sit in the front of the bus?? I’m just glad to know that not all Jewish people believe in a Zionism that promotes bias, discrimination and racism.

  3. Brant,
    Sounds like he’s trying to find an acceptable – and really namby pamby – justification for what we all know is simply a practical reality. Without a two-state solution it will only be a matter of years before there will not be a majority ‘Jewish’ state.

  4. Miriam says:

    Amen, Rabbi. I hope people recognize the courage of a Rabbi to say enough of liberal Zionism. Liberal isn’t liberal if it’s at the expense of another group’s right to exist.

  5. Seth says:

    Honestly, I am a little shocked by your surprise. The challenge is that when modern Zionism was created the idea of living only among Jews had a real life or death ring to it. (“I want to live among Jews because the non-Jews want to kill me.”) And nowadays the same idea comes across as obnoxious : (“I want to live among Jews because I find non-Jews distasteful.”)

    The challenge is that with every year in which the pogroms and the Holocaust becomes more of a historical legend and less of a living reality the need for a Jewish state becomes less and less apparent.

    But with that said, I think it’ll become clear that the solution truly in the best interests of the Jewish people is actually a bi-national state. A true Jewish state will never be at peace with its neighbors. A bi-national state has a chance of actually integrating into the Middle East and bringing true security to its Jewish citizens.

  6. Lesley W. says:

    While I agree with pretty much everything posted here, I would make one additional observation: nobody likes being in the minority all the time. As an African American in the US, I have two choices: either self-segregate, (and then have to put up with well-meaning whites who ask, “Why don’t you people _participate_ more?”) or else live in an integrated community with the knowledge that my daughter and I will always be outsiders to a degree. I have chosen the latter, but it isn’t always pleasant. However, I have never assumed that I have the _right_ to be in the majority in my own country.

    This is not a uniquely Jewish/Israeli dilemma: I have heard anglos in Texas and California complain that increased Asian and Mexican immigration makes them feel like a minority group, _and they don’t like it_ So yes, while the impetus to form a majority Jewish state arose from valid fears of annihilation, that’s not the only reason. Brant, I think I remember you observing in a sermon once that it’s kind of cool to celebrate shabbat in a place where EVERYONE is celebrating it, where being Jewish feels normative and not the exception.

    As an African American, I empathize; sometimes I would like to feel “normal” too. But I don’t think that justifies creating a separate African American state for little ol’ me. Ideally, we should all (Jews, gentiles, Palestinians ,whites, blacks,Asians, ) get comfortable with NOT needing to be in the majority to feel comfortable in our own country.

    Lesley W.

  7. l m rosen says:

    Hey Rabbi B

    Could you expand on your response to Rabbi Yoffe’s comment?

    LM Rosen

    • Hi Dad!

      I think Miriam’s comment above expands well on what I’m trying to say: “Liberal isn’t liberal if it’s at the expense of another group’s right to exist.” As you know, I’ve been trying for a while now to reconcile liberal values such as tolerance, inclusivity, pluralism, etc, with Zionism, which really is, at the end of the day, an ideology that privileges one ethnic group over another. Yoffie’s very frank comments make this tension all the more obvious to me.

  8. Elaine Meyrial says:

    Rabbi Yoffie’s astounding hypocrisy of supporting Israeli public policy that privileges Jewish citizens over nonJewish citizens while he lives a safe distance away from the inevitable conflict that such a policy will engender reminds me of Aaron David Miller’s speech to a group of Jewish-American leaders a few years ago.

    Miller asked his audience to moderate their hardline demands that the Israeli government not compromise with Palestinians since American Jews didn’t have to live with the consequences: retaliation in the form of suicide bombers and attacks on civilians.

    Yoffie wouldn’t want to live in an Israel that isn’t a Jewish state, but, somehow, he manages to tolerate living in a secular United States!

  9. There are two kinds of people:

    A.
    Those who, wherever they may be, like to live among others who are more than less like themselves.

    B.
    Those who, wherever they may be, like to live among others who are less than more like themselves.

    Is there something “dark” about one or the other of these choices?

    • Mark,

      No I don’t believe there is anything inherently dark about either of these choices. The problem (as Lesley well states it above) is when people think it is their “right” to live with people who are more than less like themselves.

      It wasn’t right in the Jim Crow South – why do we consider it OK when it comes to Israel?

  10. i_like_ike52 says:

    I, as a proud tribalist-Zionist find this whole discussion rather bizarre. The vast majority of people in the world love their country and culture and have no desire to see them trampelled on, even if they are tolerant of having minority groups live among them. Preference for people of your own culture and values is natural, just like people put their own family above others.
    Some points
    (1) I vehemently reject the idea that Israel is “Racist”. Drawing distinctions between people is NOT “racism”. For example Puerto Ricans are US citizens but have no vote for President nor representation in Congress. Residents of Washington DC only got the vote for President in 1960 but still have no representation in Congress. Yes, Israel does give some preferences to Jews in certain areas but this is NO DIFFERENT than the affirmative action that the majority blacks in South Africa give themselves at the expense of the whites, both of which are done in order to compensate for oppression and discrimination faced by both in the past. To compare Israel to “Jim Crow” is preposterous.
    As I have pointed out, the Palestinian Authority and the other Arab states in the Middle East give preferntial status to Arab culture and language and to the Muslim religion. If Israel is “racist”, then so are the Palestinans, and so is Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc, etc.
    (2) Seth and Eric Yoffie both miss an important point in pointing out the desire of Jews to have expression in a nation-state context. It is not only a shared memory of antisemitsm (I will address this more fully later) nor a “racist desire to live among one’s own kind” (is that indeed “racist”?) but because Jews ARE BEARERS OF A UNIQUE CULTURE AND RELIGIOUS SYSTEM. Those who have studied Judaism in depth are well aware that this system has a very definite national – public component. This includes Shabbat and holidays in which there are restrictions in one’s activities, special food requirements, a unique language, committments to public activities such as prayer in synagogue, etc. During the 2000 years of the EXILE these aspects of Judaism were severly curtailed due to outside pressure from the non-Jewish environment. It is not necessary to look to antisemitism for the cause of these difficulties, it can be dfficult outside Israel to find employment if one is Sabbath observant or it can be difficult wfinding time off around the Jewish holidays. A Jew who is religiously observant may find it difficult to obtain kosher food outside Israel. It can be expensive and difficult to provide for Jewish education for one’s children outside Israel. The feeling among Israeli Jews of the importance of preserving Jewish culture, religion and values explains a fact that non-Orthodox Jews outside of Israel don’t understand…why the secular majority in Israel accepts the existence of the official Orthodox Chief Rabbinate which controls personal status in the country. In addition, Israel has kept the Hebrew language alive for people far beyond the small, scholarly elite that it was restricted to for such a long time.

    (3) Regarding antisemitism and those who think it is the prime reason for the Jews support for Zionism, it is not merely some historical footnote that is rapidly being forgotten as Seth implies. The sociological structure of Israel society is very different than that of American Jewry. Israeli family structure is much stronger and vibrant than that of American Jewry. This manifests itself in much closer ties between the generations and a much higher birthrate (Israel is the only country in the world where the Jewish population is growing). Thus, the historical memory of what happened to the Jewish people in the first half of the 20th century, both in the Jewish communities of Europe AND in the Muslim Middle East in addition to east Africa (Ethiopia) is far, far sharper and alive in Israel than it is among American Jews. Add to that the struggle and sacrifices made to create and maintain Israel in the face of the unremitting Arab violence that has been going on for almost 100 years in an organized fashion. To go to an Israeli, even a Leftist who supports the ‘peace process’ who has fought in several wars and has lost friends and relatives to wars and Arab terrorism and to say to him that he is a ‘racist’ according to some bizarre “progressive” ideology because he fought for his country and wants it to continue in its Zionist form, is not only insensitive, but outright insulting, especially since this racist charge is NOT made by “progressives” to other peoples and nations who are actually racist and repressive. Add to this the genteel antisemitism of so-called “liberals” in places like Europe or New Zealand who are trying to ban kosher slaughter, or ban brit milah (circumcision) supposedly on “humanitarian” grounds, and we see the ugly head of antisemitism is still with us, so the assumption that it is a thing of the past is woefully uninformed and lacking historical conciousness.

    As you saw at the beginning of my comments, I am not afraid of being called a tribalist or any other epithets so-called “progressives” want to throw at people like us. I do not accept the post-Modernist “progressive” value system, neither do most people in the world so it is time for those who do to open their minds and try to see things the way other people do and not get lost in a miasma of ideological blindness.

    • Eric Selinger says:

      People are proud of so many interesting things!

      I’d have much more respect for Yoffie’s position if he made aliyah now, or had years ago. To live in the US but preserve Israel as a Jewish state for his possible future comfort, like some sort of glorified retirement community, is very uninspiring to me, and I can’t imagine it’s terribly impressive to many actual Israelis, either!

  11. Rich K. says:

    If you disregard or disparage Rabbi Yoffie’s expression of his desire to live among people like himself (never mind for the moment that he lives in the U.S.–not in Israel), you perilously disregard or disparage an important mandate of history. People of shared history, shared culture, shared language and shared folkways & mores want to live together. It’s that simple. President Wilson said as much in his message to the victors of WWI who were busily carving up the geographic spoils of war back in the early 20th century and in the process creating very unnatural and illogical configurations in places like Europe, the MIddle East and Africa. National self-determination is a powerful force. The last 100 years are replete with examples of artificially created bi-nations and multi-nations violently splitting up into their ethnically, nationally and linguistically purer selves. After the U.S., the list of truly multi-ethnic nation-states in the world is very short indeed. Our pluralistic society just doesn’t work everywhere across the globe. (It might not be working so wonderfully here, either. But that’s a topic for another blog.)

    Have you thought about Tibet lately? Nice country. Nice people. Long and complicated history with China. Now being settled by waves of Han Chinese immigrants encouraged and subsidized by the government in Beijing in an attempt to dominate (and erase?) Tibetan culture. The Tibetans have my sympathy and support. Free Tibet! Free Palestine!

    • Eric Selinger says:

      You put your finger on something here, Rich, when you say that “People of shared history, shared culture, shared language and shared folkways & mores want to live together.” I don’t believe that I do, in fact, share as much history, culture, language, folkways, or mores with Israeli Jews as I do, not just with American Jews, but with the Americans I know more generally. (Haven’t lived everywhere in this country, but I’ve lived in a lot of places, always surrounded by folks of about the same social class and education level.) I think the split will widen for most of us here in the US as the years go by. Perhaps Yoffie feels differently–but I find his remarks distasteful and ugly, as my Jewish American parents raised me to respond to such confessions.

  12. evanstonjew says:

    I don’t favor a Jewish state in the sense of an undemocratic state or unequal treatment of minorities. I would be happy with a minimal, neutral state, along the lines of Nozick’s anarchism, with each community taking care of its own welfare net. I have no intention of moving to Israel. I don’t want to live only with Jews or whites, which is why I live in Evanston.
    But I don’t want a repeat of the experiences of the Jews on the West Side and then on or the South Side, where black immigration from the south so overwhelmed the stability of the community they were forced to leave. I experienced this as a child in NY, where poor Jews who really didn’t want to leave, couldn’t stay. I don’t want this to happen in Evanston, I don’t want this to happen in Israel. I don’t care how many states there are. I care about democracy, and I care about a livable environment. If you have a better solution than 2 states, fine by me.

  13. Lesley W. says:

    To i_like_ike52:

    Wow. So much to comment on. How does showing respect and empathy for minority groups in one’s country equate to seeing your own culture “trampled” on?

    And after thousands of years of diaspora, are we really afraid that Jewish culture is going to disappear just because Israel recognizes that it’s actually a pluralistic society? Jewish culture hasn’t done too badly here in the U.S. after all, and we’re, what, 4% of the population? And I hope, I really hope that you don’t mean to imply that Jews are the ONLY people with “a unique culture and religious system”. Quakers, Buddhists, Mormons, Mennonites…all chugging away quite nicely in our pluralistic U.S., despite the onerous burden of supporting religious schools and having to ask for weird days off.

    I’m not even going to touch the dig at American Jewish family life.

    I have no desire to be “tolerated” in any country. Has anyone used that term since the 19th century? Really? You might as well say, “Well, I GUESS we can put up with your loathsome kind if we absolutely have to”.

    What I hope for, and what I imagine non-Jewish Israelis hope for (along with basic water and energy rights, and unrestricted travel and trade), is to live in a country that values and respects my culture, that teaches the history and contributions of my ancestors in schools, that never suggests or implies that I am not a “real” citizen because I don’t belong to the majority culture. And you’re right: most Middle Eastern countries have a long way to go before achieving this, (as does the United States) but we’re not aiming for the lowest common denominator here.

    I agree that simply preferring to live among people who share your values and culture is not racist. However, insisting that you have the _right_ to do so at the expense of the rights of others probably is. Self segregation is fine as long as it doesn’t deprive anyone else of resources, safety, property, or self-determination.

  14. Lesley W. says:

    Sorry, just have to respond to “EvanstonJew”. I know this whole loss of the Jewish South side thing is very painful to y’all, but please keep some perspective. A big part of the reason we “overwhelmed” your community was that we were not allowed to move gradually into many urban neighborhoods due to restrictive covenants and racially tinged lending policies. Then came the “blockbusting” period, when unscrupulous realtors exploited white fears of a neighborhood going bad. A tragedy all around, but put the blame where it belongs. The “loss” of those neighborhoods was the result of racial paranoia, NOT of pluralism.

  15. Sam Smith says:

    The shock! The horror! “Tribalism” – i.e. ethnic nationalism, which is exactly the basis of the proposed Palestinian state and most other countries in the world – is the “dark underbelly” of Israel.
    And this coming from Mr. Rosen, who lives in Chicago. Glass houses, stones, etc. Enough said.

  16. Elizabeth Bishop-Martin says:

    Has the world gone nuts? Why should we separate ourselves from the “other?” A peaceful world can only happen if we learn to live with each other, not in our own little tribal enclaves.

  17. Elizabeth Bishop-Martin says:

    Addendum: Rabbi Eric Yoffie lives in the United States? Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?

  18. A Guest says:

    So, Rabbi Rosen, why don’t you openly state what you mean: you have come to oppose Zionism because you believe Zionism has become incompatible with notions of basic human rights. Get it out in the open, so people know where you stand.

    • Dear Guest,

      I have shared my views repeatedly on this subject and I don’t think it’s really much of a secret at this point. I believe a Jewish state cannot help but privilege Jews over non-Jewish inhabitants of the land. This has resulted in numerous violations of their civil and human rights. That is where I stand.

      • Richard Kahn says:

        You haven’t said that repeatedly. You have been evasive in the past. This is the first time that you have ever admitted to being an anti-Zionist. When I asked you about it in May 2010, you said:
        “I’ve never said or written anywhere that I don’t believe Israel should exist. I’ve made it clear that I oppose Israel’s oppression of Palestinians – and yes, I’ve raised questions about Israel’s founding that contradict the official Zionist narrative. Whether or not this makes me “anti-Zionist” I’ll leave for others to decide.”
        Now you’re saying that Israel shouldn’t exist. Thank you for finally admitting it.

      • Richard,

        I’m gratified that you follow my posts closely enough that you are able to pull out a year-old quote so easily! But you are cherry-picking. I have said repeatedly that there are unbridgeable contradictions between Israel’s ethnic nationalism and democracy.

        Here just are two samples:

        http://rabbibrant.com/2010/02/24/tel-aviv-stick-to-your-own-kind-stay-with-your-own-kind/

        I’m not asking these questions to “bash Israel.” I’m genuinely concerned by certain realities that seem intrinsic to ethnocracies. If we truly do cherish values inherent to American civil democracy, how do we react to news such as this? Do we simply put these values on the shelf out of our desire for a Jewish state? Or can we understand these kinds of measures in a way that is consonant with our most essential civic beliefs (beliefs, by the way that have been quite kind to the American Jewish community)?

        http://rabbibrant.com/2009/02/10/avigdor-lieberman-and-the-contradictions-of-ethnic-nationalism/

        I don’t say this easily: I’m not sure this is a nut that Israel will ever fully be able to crack. It is indeed notable that Israel has repeatedly tried and failed to create a constitution that legally guarantees equality for all citizens of this exclusively Jewish state. In the meantime, Israel’s Arab citizens suffer from what we Americans would consider significant institutional discrimination with only limited recourse to the rule of law.

        So as a nice liberal American Jew fully prepared to voice my outrage at Lieberman’s likely Tuesday morning success, here are some questions I feel compelled to ponder:

        – As proud citizens and beneficiaries of a secular multi-cultural nation, are we ready to face the deeper implications of Israel’s ethnic nationalism?

        – Will it ever truly be possible, in a country defined as exclusively Jewish, for its Arab citizens to be considered as anything but second class citizens (or at worst, traitors)?

        – If it does indeed come down to a choice between a Jewish or a democratic state, which will we ultimately support?

  19. Elaine Meyrial says:

    Sam Smith:

    Historic Palestine once had Jewish, Christian and Muslim Palestinians living together until European Zionists decided to carve out a Jewish state in the heart of the Arab world. One would hope that the future state of Palestine can recover and learn from that mistake: religion and governance are better left separated.

    • Richard Kahn says:

      Exactly. Nothing violent ever happened in Palestine before the Zionists showed up. . .

      Also, you might want to send Europe the memo that religion and governance should be separated. The American model of separation of church and state is not the only way.

      • Eric Selinger says:

        I’m not sure that European history is particularly inspiring when it comes to religion and governance. The American model isn’t the only way–but can you show me a better one?

      • Richard Kahn says:

        Do you think the French way is better than the American way?

  20. Jourdren says:

    My only and real family on this planet is humanity.

    René Jourdren

    • dan says:

      Jourden, I’m sure your own children (if you are a parent) feel reassured that you wouldn’t do anything special for them that you wouldn’t do for any other (anonymous) child on the planet. Such as putting a roof over their heads or feeding them, for example.

      • i_like_ike52 says:

        People who would say that ‘they love humanity’, would be asked by Dennis Prager “but do you love the guy there who just took the parking place you had your eye on?”.

  21. Susan Klonsky says:

    My first reaction upon reading Rabbi Yoffie’s comment was to wonder where he sent his own children to school. Backward and a bit stunning coming from the leader of the Reform movement.

  22. Hello.

    “I care about humankind, but I love my own group a bit more. I am more comfortable with them. I care more about them, just as I care more about my family than other families. …”

    I have heard similar views from others time and again. Here is one which remains peerless from the late Baruch Kimmerling, Prof. of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was a favorite of the left, liberal, and reform minded Western folks, both Jewish and non-Jewish and he echoed the same sentiment thusly: “A person needs a state and land, and this is my land, my homeland, despite the fact that I was not born here. … What can I do? A person is closer to his own friends, tribe, and people. ”

    Below is fuller excerpt from his token concession to the natives (incidentally, Kimmerling never replied to my riposte even though I had emailed him…):

    “As a Jew, an atheist and a Zionist, I have two memorial days in my country, Israel. One for the Holocaust and one for soldiers who fell in wars. I also have one day of celebration, the anniversary of the day Israel declared its statehood. [...] Independence Day is a holiday for me, but also an opportunity for intense self-introspection. A person needs a state and land, and this is my land, my homeland, despite the fact that I was not born here. I am proud of the unprecedented accomplishments of this country, and feel personally responsible for its failures, foolishness, injustice, evil, and its oppression of its citizens and residents (Jewish, Arab, and others) as well as of those who are defined and defined themselves as her enemies. I know that my holiday, a day of joy and pride for me, is a day of mourning and tragedy for some of Israel’s citizens and, more so, for members of the Palestinian people everywhere. I know that as long as we, all Jews everywhere, do not acknowledge this, we will not be able to live here in safety, every man and woman under their vine and under their fig tree. Happy holidays, Israel.” (My Holiday, Their Tragedy, 2002.)

    “The transformation of the Holocaust into a solely Jewish tragedy, as opposed to a universal event, only weakens its significance and its legitimacy, tarnishing us and the memory of the victims. Likewise, its unnecessary overuse by Jews in Israel and the rest of the world, particularly political bodies, has made the Holocaust banal. Above all, a provocative and dangerous approach has bought a place in our hearts: that Jews, as the victims of the Holocaust, are permitted to treat goyim however they want. Forceful and condescending, “anti-gentile-ism” is identical to criminal anti-Semitism. … What can I do? A person is closer to his own friends, tribe, and people. Along with that, however, I cannot forget or refrain from mourning the victims of this bloody conflict and feel deep empathy with those who have suffered and still suffer as a result of the fatal encounter between Jews and Arabs in this land. I hope that the day will come when we will commemorate together and mourn together, Jews and Arabs alike, for all of the victims of the conflict. Only then will we be able to live together in this place in safety. … I know that as long as we, all Jews everywhere, do not acknowledge this, we will not be able to live here in safety, every man and woman under their vine and under their fig tree.” (Ibid.)

    In my view, the two-state mantra has always, and only, been the same as the binational state mantra, a Hegelian Dialectic, with the full intent of only, and only, having a Jews only state in Palestine all along. These mantras are the controlled dissent; the collection agents for the gullible goyem — all shades, worldwide.

    This statement of fact only becomes self-evident when it is meticulously deconstructed… until then it remains a potent weapon of mass deception.

    This deception is directly rooted in the very wording of the Balfour Declaration which is deconstructed here: print-humanbeingsfirst.blogspot.com/2011/07/response-to-alan-hart-by-zahir-ebrahim.html .

    The deconstruction of left-liberal Zionism is here: humanbeingsfirst.blogspot.com/2007/03/endless-red-herrings.html

    And one thing I finally figured out after being engaged with this issue for over three decades; ever since I came to the United States and started engaging in conversations with Jewish friends at college, co-workers, professors, authors, historians, and discovered that they often harbored different flavors of Zionism to effectively the same purpose whether they were religious, secular, liberal, conservative, atheist, left, right, orthodox, — didn’t seem to matter; and what I discovered to be the most stark is how they each, from their respective posititions, so magically managed to justify their claims to another’s land!

    If they were atheists like Leo Strauss, they killed god off after he had issued them land-grants on another’s soil:

    “in the age of atheism, the Jewish people can no longer base its existence on God but only on itself alone, on its labor, on its land, and on its state.”

    But if they still made pretenses at being god’s chosen peoples despite having killed god off, then like Golda Meir and David Ben Gurion, they respectively asserted:

    “This country exists as the fulfillment of a promise made by God Himself. It would be ridiculous to ask it to account for its legitimacy.” (Golda Meir)

    “If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” (David Ben Gurion)

    It took me many years to finally be able to sum it all up thusly:

    “Be it left-wing Zionism or right-wing Zionism, be it diplomatic Zionism or fighting Zionism, be it political Zionism, synthetic Zionism, military Zionism, friendly Zionism, tough-Zionism, gentle-Zionism, hard Zionism, soft Zionism, nihilist Zionism, spiritual Zionism, Labor Zionism, Likud Zionism, pre-Jewish State Zionism, or post-Jewish State Zionism, all remain expressions of tactics for translating motivational Zionism into empirical Zionism.” (Zahir Ebrahim, Pamphlet: How To Return to Palestine)

    I invite critique of this conclusion. Perhaps it is hasty…

    Thank you.

    Zahir Ebrahim
    Project Humanbeingsfirst.org
    comment for Shalom Rav — A Blog by Rabbi Brant Rosen –Article: Rabbi Eric Yoffie: “I Prefer to Live With Jews”

    http://rabbibrant.com/2011/09/20/rabbi-eric-yoffie-i-prefer-to-live-with-jews/

  23. Joshua Rose says:

    Rabbi,

    Thanks for blogging.

    I think your comments on Rabbi Yoffie’s recent statement on Israel are unfair because they don’t specifically explore the question in any depth.

    What I heard in his comment was that there is a special joy in living amongst a people with whom you share a history, a language, a religious tradition, ideas, and culture. Who would dispute this?

    Isn’t that why we’re rabbis? As a rabbi don’t you spend most of your time with Jews? Don’t we think it’s important that our children learn Judaism along other Jews?

    God forbid we ever let this lead to the thought that Jews are inherently better, or that it lead us to want to separate from people of other beliefs or backgrounds. But in claiming that he wants the Jewish state to remain Jewish for this reason, is he really saying something so novel or so terrible?

    Most human beings on the planet now, and for most of human history, have lived among people like themselves. Neither prejudice, injustice, nor violence need follow from the human desire to do this. In fact, isn’t that why the Palestinian people want their own state? And isn’t that why we support them in that?

    Thanks, g’mar chatimah tovah,

    Rabbi Josh Rose,
    Boulder CO

    • Josh,

      Thanks for commenting. To be clear: I’m not disputing that, as you put it, “there is a special joy” to live amongst people of your own culture and history. And yes, as a rabbi, I do indeed spend much of my time among Jews. But this wasn’t the point of my post. The point of my post was take exception when Yoffie’s cites this “special joy” to justify inherently political claims.

      You say that this thought shouldn’t lead Israel to want to separate from peoples with other beliefs and backgrounds, but in fact, that is precisely what is happening. Israel has built a long wall to separate itself from West Bank Palestinians – and within the West Bank, there are separate roads, separate utilities, and separate laws for Jews and non-Jews. Within Israel there are increasing numbers of towns that have “admissions committees” that are used to bar Arabs from moving in. I would claim that these kinds of measures are only the natural outcome of basing a nation exclusively on ethnic identity.

      I would assume one of the reasons you and I cherish living in the United States is for the exact opposite reason: we enjoy and celebrate living in a civic democracy where our national identity is not restricted to one specific group and where diversity is viewed as a strength rather than a weakness.

      Finally, I strongly disagree with your claim that the reason Palestinians want their own state is because they want to live with their own kind. I have many Palestinian friends and I have met many more – and I am secure in saying none of them would agree with this. I’d say they want to live in a state where they can enjoy civil and human rights, where they do not live under occupation, where their history is not denied them, and where they can finally live a normal and dignified life.

      Thanks again for writing, Josh, and Shanah Tovah,

  24. Kim Phillips says:

    The only thing Rabbi Yoffie’s comments prove is that Rabbi Yoffie prefers to live with Jews. Most American Jews don’t, or they would.

  25. Lawrence says:

    As a “liberal Reform Jew”, I am deeply ashamed and saddened by Rabbi Yoffie’s coments. Israel is a Herrenvolk State dominated by the Ultra Orthodox and right wing Likudniks ; if Rabbi Yoffie wants to live there. God bless him. I sure don’t.


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