Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely is in hot water over ‘disparaging‘ remarks she made about US Jewry. Whether or not there is any truth to her comments, Hotovely broke the unspoken rule of diaspora politics – Israeli politicians cannot criticise the Diaspora, but the Diaspora can freely criticise Israel.
The only surprise about these type of events, is that people are surprised by them. The truth is that each time this happens, it shakes the roots of a fake paradigm. Those connected to the issues feel such discomfort precisely because it sheds light into corners that must never be spoken about.
This is not a piece trying to analyse the complexities of today’s Israel-Diaspora relationship. It is not my place to tell other Jews what they should feel. As always my approach is the wider historical perspective. As someone who uses history to analyse the present, I often feel people deal with today as the ‘permanent’, when in reality, we are forever standing on shifting sands. It is the ‘permanence’ I seek to address.
Diaspora – parent or child
Most nations have some sort of an ex-pat community living in other countries, with families holding onto identity for a generation or two before fully integrating into their new host society. None have a Diaspora like the Jews. The Diaspora is unique in that it spawned the mother state, rather than the other way around. Yet clearly, there is absurdity here, because historical Israel also gave birth to the Diaspora. Which leaves us asking the question – just who is the parent, and who is the child?
In reality Israel is the parent, who is mistakenly treated by the Diaspora as the child. Israel is a ship that over the past 100 years, pulled up the anchor, left port, and sailed into the horizon. Just as many anti-Israel activists suggest Israel is full of Europeans from Poland (as if 1948 Europe was left with enough Jews to populate a nation), this errant idea, of the ‘European’ nature of Israel, also exists in the Diaspora. Israel is a nation in the Middle East, of the Middle East.
Those Jews in the Diaspora who were there before the Holocaust, or still around in 1948 to see Israel’s birth, know the harsh reality of the world we live in. Those old enough to remember 1967, are aware of the fragility that Israel once knew. But for those born into a post-cold war environment, where religions of globalization and multiculturalism took the place of the fear of a ‘four-minute-warning’, Israel’s domination of its own neighborhood, is all they have ever known. They have only ever seen Israel as invincible. These people remain blissfully unaware that the Western comfort and wall-breaking idealism that they enjoy, is the false ‘permanent’ of their own world vision.
The underlying assumption in Diaspora Jewry is that Israel and the Diaspora can happily cohabitate on the same planet. There is no reason on earth to believe this is true. The Diaspora is a result of the dispersal. The Diaspora existed because Israel didn’t – and now Israel is on the map. 1948 saw an event that would forever be etched as a milestone onto any retelling of the Jewish timeline.
What occurred was of more import than the ideological differences that saw both Christianity and Islam split into warring factions. Yet Judaism is not just another religion, we are also a people, which is why our orthodoxy and reform, regardless of the arguments, can all exist under one big umbrella marked ‘Jew’.
If Israel was at peace, if it were Switzerland, then the Diaspora could go about finding its own way. Making its own path, into whatever post-creation-of-Israel existence that imaginary universe would have plotted for it. But Israel is not at peace. It is, as it has always been, engaged in a bitter conflict, that brings it face to face with ethical issues, that the current ‘permanence’ of the West doesn’t have to cope with.
So whilst the vast majority in the Diaspora recognise Israel’s right to defend itself, many have trouble accepting the cost of that necessity. This split, between our world and theirs, creates an ethical imbalance. Israel is ours, we possess it and own it. It lives in our world, and yet it dares to behave as if it lives in another. We treat it as the wayward child, when in fact it remains the parent. This flaw in Diaspora thinking, underpinned by a difference between ‘Israel as ideal’, and ‘Israel as reality’, is at the heart of a very difficult and complex relationship.
So if the underlying assumption is built on a false premise, that of ‘permanence’, what is the future of the Diaspora? And this question nobody can yet answer. If Israel were to know peace, then the central conflict would shift from within the Diaspora (how dare Israel embarrass me in front of my friends?) to Jews in Israel (now we have peace, what kind of nation do we want Israel to be?). In such a scenario, tensions would lessen, and the strain on Jews in the Diaspora would evaporate. Unchallenged, Diaspora identity could continue slowly drifting.
But this is not reality. If, as seems likely, Israel is continually required to act, from a position of domination, to ensure the safety and security for its own citizens, then an ever-increasing amount of strain will be applied on those who just do not understand the history of the conflict, or the underlying necessity of Israel’s actions. More and more Jews, will suffer cognitive dissonance, and alienate themselves as the easy option – ‘that embarrassing family member – is no friend of mine!’
For as long as Diaspora Jews believe in the false ‘permanence’ of their own security, for as long as Israel provides the necessary Jewish target for antisemites to attack, and for as long as Israel’s security situation causes outbreaks of sporadic violence, the amount of anti-Zionist Jews will increase. This a probability, mainly because of the way Diaspora Jewry has internally dealt with the conflict.
Israel is central to Jewish Identity
Israel is a central part of our Jewish identity. To see raw evidence of this you only need to look at the friction between elements of Jewish Society in the Diaspora and Israel. Many Jews do not keep kosher or work on Shabbat, some do not fast on Yom Kippur. As you cross the spectrum more of the inherently Jewish identifiers are discarded, some Jews even question the circumcision. That some Jews do not support Israel is hardly a surprise. Just as with any part of our identity, we need to safeguard the practice by educating our children properly.
This year, another anti-Zionist Jew has been named as a candidate for President of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) in the UK. Last year such a challenger was defeated, this year a similar fate will probably await Annie Cohen. Eventually, the earthquake may come. If it does – it will be our own fault.
Imagine beginning every religious blessing with an apology, teaching our children we have ethical conditions opposing the very ceremony we are about to undertake. How would this play out in religious adherence in our youth? This is exactly the way many in the Diaspora begin any discussion over Israel – with an explicit disassociation or apology for the State’s actions. This is especially true of Jewish community leaders.
The UK has it worse
I often see activists criticising the less than solid support given Israel by many Jewish leaders. It is true in other Diaspora communities, but worse in the UK. Jewish organisations in the UK are a unique case, built on historical discomfort. Seventy-one years ago, Jews were fighting the British and the British were fighting the Jews. You think that British Jewish organisations don’t handle it well when Israel goes to war today? Can you imagine? Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Jewish Chronicle offices, or Board of Deputies, as the British shipped Jews off to camps on Cyprus, or the Irgun attacked the British Palestine HQ.
The Jewish press, the Jewish organisations, lived through the 30 years of British diplomatic back-footing, and even the ultimate betrayal with the 1939 White Paper. They did it all whilst remaining at the very same time, loyal British subjects. Walking that tightrope is in the very DNA of our Jewish community in the UK. It is embedded into the organisational culture of our community leadership. They are an explicit product of a very difficult situation. Today they begin almost every discussion about Israel with an apology.
I went to many Balfour celebrations, I hardly saw anyone from the community leadership at any of them. The only exception was the Zionist Federation (ZF). Given their mention in Balfour’s 1917 letter, it would be far harder for them to step aside. Having said that, they too must walk the diplomatic walk that is an exclusive by-product of the British Mandate.
The Diaspora community cannot expect to survive the creation of Israel without properly educating its young. Zionism without an apology.
You can be religious and not Zionist, you can be Zionist but not religious, but in a world where you keep neither religion, nor carry the blue-and-white identity bracelet, then what is left? A theoretical value-based system that has no adhesive to keep it together. Such a community has but generations before it dissipates into wider society.
Israel is a nation to be proud of. A nation that is navigating very difficult waters. It has a history we need to learn for ourselves and teach our children. A truth that supports Israel, is currently being rewritten with hate and lies. Israel is the Jewish homeland and a vital part of our identity. You are tagged – pass it on. If you want there to be a vibrant Jewish Diaspora 100 years from now, you had better start playing.
Help support my research
I fight antisemitism and the revisionist narrative that demonises Israel. This research does make a difference. I was recently named as one of the J100 (‘top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life’) by The Algemeiner. I am fully independent, and your support makes much of what I do possible.
Please if you can, consider making a donation. Either a single amount or if you can a small monthly contribution. We need to be there to expose the lies and we need to research the facts to tell the truth. Even producing just one of these pieces does take days, sometimes weeks, and whilst I do what I can, there are serious constraints that impact on what is possible. Your assistance can and does make a difference. Every contribution is greatly appreciated.
Keep up to date, subscribe to the blog by using the link on the page. Follow the FB page for this blog: and follow me on Twitter.
41 thoughts on “A Jewish life outside of Israel – on matters Diaspora”
Israel is not a wayward child. It’s the family drunk who’s got his hands on the Ferrari.
You want Zionism without an apology, why are you living in the UK?
Israel isn’t wayward at all, or at least no more than any other democratic state is wayward. And where I live has nothing to do with anything.
Has everything to do with it. You chose to leave Israel if I understand your bio correctly. So who are you exactly to criticise those of us who do not regard Israel as the be all and end all of jewishness?
You’ve made your move; you voted with your feet.
All this blog post is is an attempt to assuage your feelings of guilt.
Do you honestly believe these lame attempts at trolling will work on me?
This exchange reminds me of the old joke to the effect that a Zionist is a Jew that raises money to send some other Jews to Israel. Jokes aside I don’t see what where David chooses to live at a particular time of his life has to do with his arguments here.
I evidently have. You are just trying to assuage your feelings of guilt that you aren’t in Israel. What was it the late great Yitzhak Rabin called yordim? Nafolet shel nemoushot?
Why do I have to live in Israel if I am a Zionist.
I love Israel and I love the UK and its history, laws, language and culture and most of its people.
There are many people in this country who hate the UK but still remain to reap the rewards this country has to offer. Do you say the same about them, or it just Zionist Jews at whom you address your opprobrium
Regard this as one uptick.
What Hotolevy said needed saying, mainly because of changes within the American Jewish community.
Now it has been aired out loud that there is a problem, it can hopefully now be looked at instead of being ignored.
Look how long it took for Israel to realise how dangerous Bds was, and the change since Israel put some effort into rectifying the problem
I humbly disagree.
It appears to me that Jews in the Diaspora are choosing between being a Torah observant Jew or being something else.
As the “something else” grows, so does their distance from the Jewish State of Israel grow.
In Israel, the non observant Israeli Jews have the merit of Living in the Land of Israel.
I read a poll not too long ago that said something like the majority – about 80%, of ALL Israeli Jews believe that G-d gave the Land of Israel to the Jews.
As Jews in the Diaspora assimilate or simply fall away from Torah and Jewish Law, of course a Jewish State will become less important.
However, the Torah observant population is one of the most dynamic and growing populations in the world. Whether the are in the Diaspora or in galus in the secular Jewish State of Israel – they; we, will all continue to support and love Israel in whatever way is possible.
The Torah ultras might be prolific but are the most welfare dependent section of the World’s Jews and not just because of their big families where eventually poverty will cause flight as in the 19th and 20th centuries. When they work out how to acquire enough secular education to support themselves they might draw less flak and cause less flak and so recupperate the lost sheep who do not see much point in OCD ritual and the displacement activity of avoiding the World. Don’t make trouble is too slick. Trouble will come anyway and in my family those with professions and skills survived the century. Meanwhile Tzippi Ha Tovely in her splendidly DUGRI Israel manner said some full and frank truths which might make some people think even as our Theodore Benjamin did. First and foremost stop the sort of anti-science “education” that denies geology and evolution. God created and Moses did not have our instruments and data. The revision of factual knowledge of the material World does not detract from the moral and social lessons of the Bible.
Gary Mond said something very profound at the wonderful Melanie Phillips meeting last night. Contrasting the strength of Christian Zionism in the UK with the weakness of Jewish Zionism, he asked how many more years will pass before the minority of Jews are Zionists and the minority of Zionists are Jews. Yes it’s education but it’s also education in the family, as we all know.
That will be a return to the natural order of things. Zionism was a minority sport for Jews till the 30s.
Eventually, the Jewish centre will rightfully be seen as Israel. Spread in the wider family of nations, you will have pockets of Orthodox Jews, small communities of ex-pats, and minority groups who will claim various elements of Jewish heritage. That is a return to the natural order of things. 2000 years in the making. I seriously think the premise of the Diaspora living side by side with Israel is flawed, and would require serious community investment (not financial) to sustain itself. Something I do not necessarily see as forthcoming. As for pre-Holocaust Jewry, why you somehow think that how badly everyone read the 1930’s is somehow evidence in your favour is beyond me…
Before the war the Zionists were a minority. If people had stayed and fought, like the Bund, perhaps the situation would not have been so terrible. But the Zionists did a runner.
I think that this is what the footie commentators would call an open goal. I’ll leave the tap-in to you David.
I was too busy staring open mouthed at the comment to slide it in. It is surely too flaky and twisted to be a legitimate attempt at making a point.
You are forgetting the 38000 volunteers from Eretz Israel who joined the British army especially to fight against the Nazis. That is about 7.5% of all the Jews of the Yishuv back then. So as you can see, not only did the Zionists not run away from the war, they actually flocked to fight in it.
As for someone being a “yored” or not – back in the 60s and 70s people did use this term in a derogatory way, but as Israel’s population grew from 2 million, and then 3 million to nearly 9 million now, the coming and going of people is now looked on in the same way as in other countries- as someone’s private business, no more and no less. So saying”yored” now would only show you to be totally not-up-to-date (and also not very young).
And to David- thank you for standing up for Israel, wherever you are!
So, no answer then.
I thought your question was too ridiculous to respond to, but you are clearly begging for an answer.
Firstly, ‘before the war’ – could be what 1910, 1924, 1936? For a movement that only really started in the late 1890’s, it gained traction and quickly. We don’t know when minority support for Zionism turned to majority support, but by the 1930’s, people suggesting a minority of Jews were not Zionists are engaged in an unsupportable propaganda exercise.
As for your rather sickening point. A couple of things. ‘Zionists’ did not do a runner, Jews did. One of the absurdities of the Jew hating campaign is that they turn Jews desperately fleeing Hitler into ‘monsters’. Do you know where your attitude to these Jewish refugees places you on the political map? Let’s see. Syrian refugees flee war, try to get into Europe, and all you do is call them names and suggest they should stay and be slaughtered. Oh yes, that’s right, you are a hard-core, racist, right wing fascist.
Then there is your absurd point, that had the few hundred thousand Jewish civilians that were lucky enough to escape the Extermination camps, stayed, then it would have made a difference. The might of the British, Soviet and American armies were to take seven years to defeat Hitler, but your Jewish civilians, would have stopped him. In reality the only thing that would have happened is that instead of 6 million, we’d be talking about 6.5 million. Perhaps your fetish thinks this is a good thing.
To reinforce this, let us look at the Bundists, who were almost entirely exterminated in the war. Mainly civilians who didn’t fight at all. Along with them burnt the Bundist idea and ended the argument forever. Zionism was right, not the Bundists, and Israel is there to make sure that right wing fascists such as yourself, rather than just pile innocent civilians onto trains, have to take on the IDF first. Go ahead – try your luck.
That’s always been the answer of the far right of the Zionist spectrum. Dictate to Jews outside Israel what they should do or not do.
And yet here you are, a yored, living it up in the UK. No doubt the suitcases are packed just in case. We’ll leave soon… When we have kids…. When the kids finish school…. University…. Get a job…. Move out…. When we retire.
You say Zionism got going in the 1890s. Actually it was the 1880s with the First Aliya (and the Aleh Be’Tamar of the Teymanim, but you know…)
Unsupportable propaganda exercise you say. I see. So the Bundists – who at least put up a fight in their home countries – who entered the polish government (Poland had the largest numbers of Jews in Europe) were just some illusion? Was there a Zionist party in the polish parliament as a counter balance?
I could go on, but I wouldn’t want to take time away from your bag packing.
Yawn. I said ‘the movement only really started’. I see you are one of those who doesn’t honestly respond, but rather tries to score empty points on the back of misrepresentation. Nothing new here.
Yes, it is an unsupportable propaganda exercise to claim that before the war the majority of Jews were not Zionists.
What happened to the Bundists?
What happened to the Bundists? You answered that yourself. But at least they stood and fought. The Zionists, however, meh…
Before the war, the majority of European and American Jews really weren’t Zionists.
Anyway, do you agree with Rabin זצ”ל about what he called yordim?
You are a fruitcake. The Jews that left before 1939 were Jews not Zionists, they got out simply because they could. We have no way of knowing the breakdown of the political ideology of those that left. Are you suggesting you know all those on the St Louis were Zionists? It would be odd to suggest this were the case. The vast majority of Jews who stayed behind were Jews who were ensnared by Hitler *AFTER* the gates were shut. Again, you cannot know the political ideology of those trapped.
Following the outbreak of war, there was only one possible destination for those illegally trying to flee – Palestine. Once more, we cannot know the political ideology. So here you engage in demonisation – by suggesting any Jew fleeing the gas chambers was a Zionist too scared to fight.
Poland was the centre of the Labour Bund. The Bundists stayed because they could not get out. So everyone Jewish was in that little mix, Bundists, Zionists and ‘neither’.
For example (wiki for all sources)-
Which rather bursts your vile smelling bubble doesn’t it. To further deflate it, we can see what happened after the war. The Bundists (the very few that were left) attempted to stay in Poland. When the Pogroms started, they did what they would have done if the Nazis had left their doors open –
and what happened? Pogroms
“In 1948 around 400 Bund members illegally left Poland”.
Hmm. 1948. I wonder where they ended up?
I see you are avoiding the Rabin question, yored. Makes you feel uncomfortable, I suspect.
עוד נפולת של נמושות telling us what to say about the country he abandoned.
so having entirely skewered every historical and political point you have made, having highlighted you are spouting fascist right wing ideology, having dealt with your false accusations about Zionists running, and having shed light on the sickening , twisted and fraudulent message behind your entire WW2 tale, you want me to talk about why I live where I live?
Scene opens in a dimly lit Gym, at the centre of which stands an old school boxing ring surrounded on all sides by a passionate and vocal audience in attendance to watch the headline event. In the blue and white corner the incumbent Dave “The Zionator” Collier. In the murky and heavily camouflaged corner the Challenger ” The Keyboard Kid”. After 3 rounds the challenger has flapped, flailed and flounced around the ring, head down, arms wheeling like windmill sails. Despite a furious barrage he has failed to land a single punch. The restless crowd grow impatient as the incumbent picks off the ill prepared challenger at will as it becomes clear that he is in way over his head. As a last resort the over matched opponent attempts a low blow and is met with boos and jeers from the cheap seats as the referee finally and mercifully steps in to stop the fight.
In your mind, yored, you think you skewered. So don’t Get All high and mighty.
All you are, basically, is an apologist for a 19th century European nationalism offshoot that is based on the religious and ethnic supremacy of one group.
You really need to look in the mirror when you call someone a fascist.
and so you resort to empty name calling tactics. It is done with the realisation you are way out of your depth, aware of your own inadequacies and in the vain hope we can all become equals just throwing insults at each other. An attempt to bring me way, way down to your level. It’s just a yawn-fest. As Ian pointed out – the fight has been stopped. The next time you need another history lesson, let me know.
Is this the same Mad Mel that travelled to Athens with Douglas ” things have to be made harder for Muslims all round ” Murray in an attempt to persuade the authorities to forbid the building of a mosque in that city.
I was sixteen in 1948 when Israel was created. I was immediately filled with love and pride. At last we had a safe haven in times of trouble, a safe haven that hadn’t existed in the past. I am happy to live in the Diaspora. That doesn’t make me less of a Jew.
So basically Israel is a place to run away to.
oh lookie, one of the concepts of the Zionist state. well done Dick.
So it’s no longer the Jewish state? Anyway, your relative just made it clear it’s a bolt hole.
it is not just a ‘bolt hole’, but clearly, part of the idea of a Zionist state, was to be a ‘bolt hole’ should Jews suffer persecution abroad. We know what happens when Jews have nowhere to go, people start searching for other solutions. Why do you have a problem with this?
David, I’m sure that like everyone else you have spotted the delicious irony of your latest sock puppet; delivering pretend opinions on bravery whilst hiding like a big girl behind the anonymity of some preposterous troll tag ! I’m sure that the pretend hearts of pretend Mr and Mrs Mullet senior are swelling with pretend pride. What a wimp !
The parent/child analogy is helpful insofar as the parent is expected to lead by example. In this case Israel, as the parent, could do more. Like the diasporan communities our elected leaders tread a daily tightrope, on one side of which is strong self determination and actions in our national interest and on the other is a need to appease an unpredictable and fragmented international community . In this respect we have a skewed sense of self awareness. We demand to be treated like any other mature sovereign state and liberal democracy whilst also tiptoeing on egg-shells as if we were some probationary project that can have it’s privileges withdrawn at the slightest transgression. We cannot have it both ways and as long as we persist with our inward looking self obsessions we will fail to inspire the diasporan communities and encourage them to strip away their own insecurities and take a clearer view of the power of the Jewish State.
your playing with words is a bit beyond logic,
today there are a number of different battles going on between Israel and the Arabs; and these battles are being fought across the planet.
therefore Zionists living in the ‘galut’ or’diaspora’ are as important as Zionists living in Israel in fighting this new type of propoganda war waged by Israels enemies under the cloak of human rights, all the while distorting human rights to serve their narrative
insulting Zionists as ‘yoredim’ today is on par with Jews in the diaspora being accused of ‘dual loyalty’ by Jew haters
everyone makes choices, some for personal reasons and others forced to by necessity
I read Beyond the Great Divide but, I seldom comment as I appreciated, somewhere about 25 years ago, in what were Newsgroups at the time, that Flame Wars were mildly interesting to watch but not in which to participate.
But – I signed on for responses for this one so, I deserve what I get….
Y’all are vehemently discussing History and your take on it. Great.
The only historical reason that Jews exist in This World is because they tried to keep the Torah principles of their particular time and place alive and real.
We admittedly had a great deal of help from non Jews who required us to remain separate and be hated and despised.
But – isn’t that what G-d tells us in our 3,000 year old Torah?
If we do NOT obey G-d’s Laws, then the Land of Israel will spit us out.
If we do NOT make ourselves a separate People devoted to G-d’s Torah, then the Nations of the world will separate us.
Your recalling the brief modern history of Zionism and Bundism and Aliyah and all the other good things is interesting; I’m enjoying the back and forth, but this is all a blip in the History of the Jews.
Discussing pre War Zionism and who survived is nothing compared to pre War Torah observant Jews and what survived from that Devastation.
Everyone; and I pretty mean Everyone, including Torah observant Jews, “KNEW” that the Torah observant world was going to cease to exist in their near future. It was being annihilated in America and the Holocaust put the finishing touches on the previous Haskalah in Europe.
There were literally less than one hundred Gedolim; Great Rabbis, of every stripe and mesorah who rebuilt Torah observance in This World after the War.
And, unlike the rest of world Jewry who have, indeed, been abandoning the Torah in droves, “Orthodox Judaism” is the most dynamic and fastest growing segment of Jews on the planet.
There are more Jews Learning Torah today, than at any time in the last 2,000 years….
Just food for thought.
David – We are very similar animals. We both love history, but more importantly it is what we learn from history. My conclusions are this;
There are fundamentally three types of Jew.
The first is the Zionist. One is born a Zionist, or not. My brother is frum, but has no passion for Eretz Yisroel. However, we both grew up with the same parents.
The second is the A-political Jew. I deem these Jews as the majority where local affairs and Saturday’s football results are more important than the ME.
The third is the anti-Zionist. Here is the argument for nurture or nature. I have two cousins who are sisters. My eldest cousin is a devout Zionist. Her younger sister is an anti-Zionist. Some Jews are born without the spiritual connection to Eretz Yisroel. This is nature, not nurture.
Conclusion. Being a Jew is an accident of birth. Being a Zionist is the soul of that Jew who tunes in to the spirituality of Eretz Yisroel.
I believe it is as simple as that.
Your thoughts please?
I get it, but I am very much a man who works on the ‘nurturing’ principle. I believe in a colourless world, you could take the white, the black, the Jew, the Muslim, the Indian and the Chinese baby, switch parents around, and each family would bring up a perfect white, black, Jew, Muslim, Indian or Chinese child – as if no switching had taken place at all. Give me the baby of the Hamas leader – I am almost as certain he’d grow up a healthy Zionist Jew as if it were my own child. For how this impacts Zionism, I will use the Barnard family. Daddy Barnard was a Rabbi and a pillar of the US Zionist community – two of his daughters are well known anti-Zionist activists working with two different charities. One here, one in the states. If you ask me, had daddy not been a Zionist, but rather something else, the two girls would not be anti-Zionists, but rather anti-whatever else daddy stands for. Whatever happened in that family is (my guess) about the relationship between the father and his girls. In others- where one child is in and one out – it is also about the multiple relationship dynamic. Black sheep are nothing new.
Comments are closed.