By Charnie Guettel
I am speaking here as a non-religious half Jew. In North America there are millions of us. Just as in North America to be black is probably to be part white, to be "Jewish" is often to be part "non-Jewish". Lots of us are progressive, whether socialist or liberal or some kind of left -wing, which we usually get from the Jewish side of our heritage.
My father was raised in Temple Emmanuel in Chicago. The writings of his rabbi, Rabbi Levy, were published under the title "Every Man His Own Torah", but it was his mother, Jenny, who was the social activist. My mother, June, married my Dad, Charlie, for his politics: civil rights, peace, world federalism, sanctuary for refugees, and a multitude of neighbourhood organizations. It was their partnership in their political work which was the substance of their marriage.
In 1950's cold war New Jersey, where I grew up, often the political family, or families, in the neighbourhood, were the Jewish families: the civil rights family, the trade union family, the peace family, the planned parenthood family, the communist family. Thousands of years of living as the oppressed minority had created traditions of cooperating in the neighbourhood and being in the forefront of progressive developments, finding common cause with other immigrant and racial groups. Our emancipation from anti-semitism depended upon unity with the emancipation of others.
Service within the community is a Jewish value, and it is often the women "on the ground" who are the "hands on" organizers. It was no accident that it was women from Jewish homes who went out to political meetings after supper, and it was the daughters of such families who are over represented in the founding of the women's liberation movement.
The Talmudic tradition comes through in left-wing Jewish culture in the very ancient tradition of looking at text as source to begin the process of inquiry, rather than being a system of dogmatic absolutism. The wisdom of the neighbourhood rabbi was this: you asked a question, you took the answer and asked a question based on the insight of the first answer, and then you asked another question. The wisdom of inquiry. Jews are over represented in creating the disciplines of inquiry: sociology, psychology and psychotherapy, science, political science, the arts, revolutionary theory - sources of information for uncovering lies told to people about class society, giving us the material and insights to overcome our oppression, exploitation, wars.
How did it get to a place where in the name of Zionism so many Jews can be deceived into believing that a state can be based on ethnic genetic superiority, white power, when it was the Christian absolutist states that have caused us so much grief?
The original deal of accepting the terms of the formation of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians became increasingly acceptable to many upwardly mobile North American Jewish people who, with other mostly white North Americans, receive the benefits and privileges of the American economy and military rule worldwide. To share in a white culture, Zionist intellectuals help to whiten the culture. To become North American all too often is to accept a myth that we have the right to a prosperity based on exploiting land stolen from our own native people, escape our own marginalized immigrant past, and become increasingly white, and white identified. We have our own national myths which make the shooting of Palestinians as normal as cowboys shooting Indians, since the near destruction of a native population, and the enslavement of another, is the foundation of our white dominated culture. The gated cities of New Jersey, to "guard" whites from blacks, are not so very different from the gated cities of Israel, the gated neighbourhoods of occupied Palestine.
In the first half of my life, I never knew any right-wing Jews. I just can't get used to it. A Jewish person who is racist and defends North American and Israeli imperialism just seems like science fiction to me.
If you tie your wagon to imperialist expansion and divide and conquer policies, you pit one oppressed people against another oppressed people for the benefit of state monopoly capitalists who reap the benefits of the war economy. The world really is lit by the lightning of wars and civil wars fomented by American imperialism. Jewish people who value whiteness and privilege over humanity and social justice pay a price to be in the pocket of imperialism.
Better that we should take apart the lies that have put so many Jewish people, in the name of Zionism, on the wrong side of the good fight.