Israel Shahak’s vision can perhaps best be found in his books, Jewish History, Jewish Religion (Pluto Press, 1994) and Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (Pluto Press, 1994) written with Norton Mezvinsky. (See Mezvinsky’s remembrance of Israel Shahak in the Aug./Sept. issue of the Washington Report, p. 11.)
In Jewish History, Jewish Religion, Shahak points out that while Islamic fundamentalism is vilified in the West, Jewish fundamentalism goes largely ignored. He argues that classical Judaism is used to justify Israeli policies which he views as xenophobic and similar in nature to the anti-Semitism suffered by Jews in other times and places. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly, in his view, than in Jewish attitudes to the non-Jewish peoples of Israel and the Middle East.
Shahak draws on the Talmud and rabbinical laws, and points to the fact that today’s extremism finds its sources in classical texts which, if they are not properly understood, will lead to religious warfare, harmful to men and women of all religious beliefs.
This book, Shahak wrote, “is, in a way, a continuation of my political activities as an Israeli Jew. Those activities began in 1965-66 with a protest which caused a considerable scandal at that time: I had personally witnessed an ultra-religious Jew refuse to allow his phone to be used on the Sabbath in order to call an ambulance for a non-Jew, who happened to have collapsed in his Jerusalem neighborhood. Instead of simply publishing the incident in the press, I asked for a meeting with the members of the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem, which is composed of rabbis nominated by the State of Israel. I asked them whether such behavior was consistent with their interpretation of the Jewish religion. They answered that the Jew in question had behaved correctly, indeed piously, and backed their statement by referring to a passage in an authoritative compendium of Talmudic laws, written in this country. I reported the incident in the main Hebrew daily, Ha’aretz, whose publication of the story caused a media scandal.”
The Talmudic World View
In the end, Shahak reported, “Neither the Israeli, nor the diaspora, rabbinical authorities ever reversed their ruling that Jews should not violate the Sabbath in order to save the life of a Gentile…It became apparent to me, as, drawing on knowledge acquired in my youth, I began to study the Talmudic laws governing the relations between Jews and non-Jews, that neither Zionism, including its seemingly secular part, nor Israeli politics since the inception of the State of Israel, nor particularly the policies of the Jewish supporters of Israel in the diaspora, could be understood unless the deeper influence of those laws, and the world view which they both create and express is taken into account.”
The Hatanya—the fundamental book of the Habbad movement, which is one of the most important branches of Hasidism—declares that all non-Jews are totally Satanic creatures “in whom there is nothing absolutely good.” Even a non-Jewish embryo is said to be qualitatively different from a Jewish one. The very existence of a non-Jew is “inessential,” whereas all of creation was created solely for the sake of the Jews.
Israel, like America, has lost its way and is on a path to self-destruction. A destruction that will not be pretty. A destruction that will quite possiblly, drag the world into American and Israeli made mushroom clouds.
The good Americans--and Israelis-- need to come forward and take back their governments from the self-appointed demagogues, crazies and war mongers that have taken over America and Israel. Taken over by neocons, Likudniks and war profiteers that only have their narrow, self interest in mind.
If both America and Israel are democratic states, they need to start acting like one and not the theocracies that they have become.
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