Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Dr Israel Shahak: The Weight of Three Thousand Years

In a recent column in the INDEPENDENT, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, recalls a memory of her friend, Hugh Blaschko, a Berlin Jew who escaped Nazi Germany for England.

"He escaped to Britain in the late 1930s to become a world-class scientist. Israel would bring out the worst in his people, he always said, and I argued with him. Survivors of the Holocaust, I believed, were on the side of the angels. "No, my dear," he would respond, "the Jewish state will make us nationalists, and will one day make us racialists." I am glad he is not alive to see his prophetic words turned flesh," Yasmin concludes.

Who else but racists would treat any other human the way the Israelis treat Palestinians, Lebanese and other non-Jews? Since the creation of the state of Israel all we have seen is the nationalist chauvinism and racism of which Blaschko warned. Thousands of innocents, predominantly Palestinians, have died and continue to die while slowly the outside world begins to wake up and ask, do Israelis consider Arab lives to be inferior to theirs?

In his book, The Weight of 3000 Years, Professor Israel Shahak, himself a holocaust survivor and unremitting critic of Judaism, explains the origins of this terrible truth. Yes, according to the Talmudic law that Orthodox Jews practise the life of a Gentile (non-Jew) is as of nothing compared to that of a Jew. And this hoary old teaching remains a fundamental cornerstone of Judaism, right up to the present day, even though it sometimes comes into conflict with Israeli secular law. It is written into the military manuals used to train Israeli soldiers and preached by rabbis to their communities. There is one law for Jews and another for Gentiles.

In her article, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown refers to Rabbi Goldberg who writes in his book, The Divided Self, "since 1967, [Israel] has been a Herrenvolk democracy, a term used to describe South Africa under apartheid, in which one group of subjects, the Israeli citizens, enjoys full rights while a disenfranchised group, the Palestinians, enjoys none of any significance."

She goes onto use the word apartheid to describe Israel's arrogant behaviour. But according to Professor Shahak, she is wrong: Jewish chauvinism is worse than apartheid because, in the territorial sense of the word, Jewish separatism makes no allowance for the Gentile in its midst. There are just Jews, the chosen children of God and there's the rest of us beast-like heathens. Every day, an Orthodox Jew begins his prayers by thanking God for not having been born a Gentile.

This black-and-white ideology has, to date, been little understood by non-Jews, particularly of the Liberal kind who unthinkingly assume that Israelis think no different to other races where the respect for the sanctity of life is taken for granted as a given norm. That has proven, at best, to be wishful thinking. Singularly lacking the universalism of other religions such as Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, Judaism is a religion and culture that thrives on exclusivism, separatism and intolerance. For centuries, the darker side of Judaism lay well-hidden, protected by its teachers whose first purpose was to defend Judaism from the persecution of others. It could be argued that it is this self-interest that led to the layers of deceit and concealment found in the laws of the Talmud, that it was necessary to hide the true meanings from the hostility of Gentiles. But on closer examination it becomes difficult to see where self-interest takes over from ideological exclusivism.

To use a modern-day analogy, it could be argued that contemporary Israelis feel surrounded by hostile people and cultures very different to their own and it is this fear that has made them into such an aggressive, warlike culture; that the new chauvinism for Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) grew out of this fear born out of the desperate vulnerability of the holocaust victims: never again!

Well yes, take several thousand Europeans and plant them on someone else's land in the Middle East and you've got an instant recipe for trouble. A sense of vulnerability is the least of your concerns when you come into direct physical collision with an indigenous (Palestinian) population wondering what the hell all these Europeans are after, invading their homes and treating them with such inhuman abuse. Is it that difficult to see where hospitality ended to be replaced with a burning hate?

The story of the enforced colonization of Palestine by European aliens is only part of the story. A significant part but by no means the whole story. And, at a time well past the eleventh hour, when the Middle East's tinder-box fires begin to rage again and the world lurches towards another great conflagration, it behooves us all to spend some time to find out how in heaven's name a "chosen people" could have collectively become a spectre of the Apocalypse.

Professor Shahak's book provides vital reading-material for anyone, Jew and non-Jew alike, who wishes to understand how the sins of the fathers (and mothers) keep visiting themselves on the children.

THE WEIGHT OF 3000 YEARS, Download PDF here

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