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Zionism: Anti-Zionism Among Jews

Poster in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem

Jews who criticize or oppose Zionism are usually from fringe Orthodox sects and maintain that Israel can only be regained miraculously. They view the present state as a blasphemous human attempt to usurp God’s role, and many seek to dismantle the secular State of Israel. However, unlike many gentile anti­-Zionists, Jewish anti-Zionists usually firmly believe in the Jewish right to the Land of Israel, but only at the future time of redemption. The best-known group of the Jewish religious anti-­Zionists is the Neturei Karta.

Two common religious grounds are typically given for anti-­Zionism. One is that today’s Zionism is a secular Zionism, packed with non-Jewish influences, and lacking key features like Mashiach and the rebuilt Temple. Adherents to this position are more on the non-­Zionist, rather than anti-­Zionist, side. The other reason is that the Talmud (Meseches Kesuvos, 111a), as part of a discussion of certain Torah verses mentioning oaths, states that when Israel went into the second exile, there were three vows between Heaven and Earth:

  1. Israel would not “go up like a wall” [conquer Eretz Yisrael by massive force].
  2. God made Israel swear that they would not rebel against the nations of the world [would obey the governments in exile].
  3. God made the non­-Jews swear not to oppress Israel “too much” [translation of phrase yoter midai].

Groups accepting these positions are more on the anti­-Zionist side.

The religious counter­reply to the above is that secular Zionism is a preliminary stage of religious Zionism and that the vows no longer apply since the Gentiles violated their part (by such actions as Roman persecutions, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Nazi Holocaust). The Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the United Nations partition vote of 1947 are also regarded as having given permission to the Jews to reestablish the state by the non-Jewish rulers of the area. Once this permission was granted it could not be revoked. It should also be noted that the oaths cited above are only mentioned as a side point in one place in a discussion in the Gemara and as the viewpoint of an individual. Many people feel that they do not apply in any case.

Some Religious Zionist Jews see the formation of the secular state as accelerating the process of redemption, with themselves playing a major role in doing God’s will by serving the state, whose creation is often seen as miraculous.

So-called “non­-Zionist” Jews are pleased that Israel exists from a practical standpoint as a haven for oppressed Jews and as a land imbued with holiness well suited for Torah study. But they do not generally assign religious significance to the formation of the modern state and often decry aspects of its secular culture.

Source: Shamash.

Photo: Mitchell Bard.