Israeli Criticism of Zionism and of Israel’s Treatment of the Palestinians:
There are many Israeli critics of Zionism and anti-Zionist Jews in Israel where the conflict with the Palestinians is most apparent. In 1975 journalist Charles Glass estimated that 58 percent of Israel’s Jewish population fell into the antiZionist category. Most of this opposition was of a “leftist” variety. However, Glass also stated that “they represent 50 percent of the only significant debate in the country.”
Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the renowned scholar of Judaism and philosophy and the editor of several volumes of the Encyclopedia Hebraica had the following to say about Zionism and Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians:
The big crisis of the Jewish people is that the overwhelming majority of the Jews genuinely desire to be Jewish but they have no content for their Judaism other than a piece of colored rag attached to the end of a pole and a military uniform. The consciousness and the desire to be Jewish did not vanish, rather they are transformed today into a JudeoNazi mentality.
Gideon Levy, the highly regarded columnist from the Israeli daily Haaretz, has also made a comparison between Germany in the 1930′s and Israel today.
Thus comparing Germany of the 1920s and early ’30s to Israel at the start of the third millennium is not only permissible but imperative for gaining an insight into how barbarous regimes develop, grasping the differences (and there are many profound ones), and discerning the similarities, which ought to worry us.
Another Israeli intellectual Yitzhak Laor in an article, “The soft underbelly and the victim,” published in Haaretz also makes an interesting allusion to the past.
The name of this Israeli ethos is “who are you to tell us?” We are destroying Arab East Jerusalem? Who are you to tell us that it is wrong? We killed masses of Palestinians in Gaza? Who are you to tell us anything? We have maintained a brutal dictatorship in the territories for 42 years longer than any other military occupation of the postWorld War II era? Who are you to tell us? We’re allowed. We’re your victims. The past belongs to us. We will do as we please with it.
Here is what Gideon Levy writes on the prevalence of racism in Israeli society:
Now that we can use the term “racism,” the time has come to admit our society is absolutely racist, that all its components are racist. The legal system, for example, is no less tainted than Petah Tikva’s Morasha school. In many cases there is one law for a Jew and another for an Arab. The Bank of Israel, a state institution no less than the Morasha school, with 900 employees, has always been “clean” of Arab employees except sometimes one or two. Some 70,000 Israeli citizens, all Arab of course, are living in unrecognized villages, without electricity or running water, without an access road and sometimes without a school. Why? Because they are Arabs. Every week at soccer matches we hear racist epithets and chants, the kind teams in Europe are severely penalized for. Here, the referees do not even bother reporting them….
And we have said nothing yet about the attitude toward foreign workers, the occupation (the greatest racist curse) nor about the attitude toward Mizrahim since the founding of the state. The list is long and shameful.
Here are the words of Yael Lotan, another Israeli author and journalist, on the subject of racism and criticism of Israel.
It should be perfectly legitimate to criticize Israel. Giving it uncritical, unqualified support in all its actions, its violations of dozens of UN Security Council resolutions, its policy of assassination and destruction that is a racist position, a position that says “Arabs don’t count, Arabs have no rights, Arabs are vermin and whatever is done to them in Palestine, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon is legitimate. And Islam is the same as Fascism.”
Now that is real antiSemitism.
There was an interesting book review published in Haaretz, on February 29, 2008, written by Tom Segev. It was a review of a book titled, When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? (published by Resling in Hebrew). It is authored by Israeli historian Shlomo Zand (also spelled Sand). Prof. Zand teaches history at Tel Aviv University. The book became a best seller in Israel. Segev writes:
…in one of the most fascinating and challenging books published here in a long time. There never was a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion, and the exile also never happened hence there was no return. Zand rejects most of the stories of nationalidentity formation in the Bible, including the exodus from Egypt and, most satisfactorily, the horrors of the conquest under Joshua. It’s all fiction and myth that served as an excuse for the establishment of the State of Israel, he asserts.
This information and arguments have been around for a long time but it is interesting to see them published in one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers and presented in a best seller written by an Israeli historian. Segev summarizes the arguments in Zand’s book as referencing many existing studies on groups that converted to Judaism, “some of which were written in Israel but shunted out of the central discourse.” According to Segev the book describes the Jewish kingdom of Himyar in the southern Arabian Peninsula, the Jewish Berbers in North Africa, Jews in Spain that arose from the Arab conquest, and Europeanborn individuals who had also become Jews. Zand also discusses the large Jewish Khazar Kingdom in the Caucasus. Segev writes,
We find, then, that the members of a variety of peoples and races, blond and black, brown and yellow, became Jews in large numbers. According to Zand, the Zionist need to devise for them a shared ethnicity and historical continuity produced a long series of inventions and fictions, along with an invocation of racist theses. Some were concocted in the minds of those who conceived the Zionist movement, while others were offered as the findings of genetic studies conducted in Israel.
It is somewhat ironic that issues and subjects that relate to the Palestinians and Zionism that are virtually taboo in North America are openly discussed in Israel. These same subjects are much more openly discussed in Europe and in the rest of the World.
The journalist Gideon Levy wrote the following commentary on Zionism and the Israeli Left in the Israeli daily Haaretz. Can you ever imagine seeing a similar opinion piece in the mainstream North American media? Levy wrote:
And what is Zionism nowadays? An archaic and outdated concept born in a different reality, a vague and delusive concept marking the difference between the permitted and the proscribed. Does Zionism mean settlement in the territories? Occupation? The legitimization of every act of violence and injustice? The left stammered. Any statement critical of Zionism, even the Zionism of the occupation, was considered a taboo that the left did not dare break. The right grabbed a monopoly on Zionism, leaving the left with its selfrighteousness.
A Jewish and democratic state? The Zionist left said yes automatically, fudging the difference between the two and not daring to give either priority. Legitimization for every war? The Zionist left stammered again yes to the beginning and no to the continuation, or something like that. Solving the refugee problem and the right of return? Acknowledgment of the wrongdoing of 1948? Unmentionable. This left has now, rightly, reached the end of its road.
One of the most prominent Israeli critics is Avi Shlaim. He is professor of international relations at Oxford University. Shlaim is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and many other books. Shlaim has commented on the character of the debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in North America,
On the other side of the Atlantic, on the other hand, the public debate on the subject of Israel is much more fierce and partisan, leaving relatively little space for the dignity of difference. The passion with which many prominent American Jews defend Israel betrays an atavistic attitude of “my country, right or wrong.”
In an article published in the International Herald Tribune the Oxford professor addressed the question, “Is Zionism today the real enemy of the Jews?” His answer was Yes:
Sharon’s government is waging a savage war against the Palestinian people. Its policies include the confiscation of land; the demolition of houses; the uprooting of trees; curfews, roadblocks and 736 checkpoints that inflict horrendous hardships; the systematic abuse of Palestinian human rights; and the building of the illegal wall on the West Bank, a wall that is as much about landgrabbing as it is about security.
It is this brand of cruel Zionism that is the real enemy of what remains of liberal Israel and of the Jews outside Israel. It is the enemy because it fuels the flames of virulent and sometimes violent antiSemitism. Israel’s policies are the cause; hatred of Israel and antiSemitism are the consequences . . .
Israel’s image today is negative not because it is a Jewish state but because it habitually transgresses the norms of acceptable international behavior. Indeed, Israel is increasingly perceived as a rogue state, as an international pariah, and as a threat to world peace.
This perception of Israel is a major factor in the recent resurgence of antiSemitism in Europe and in the rest of the world. In this sense, Zionism today is the real enemy of the Jews. It is a tragedy that a state that was built as a haven for the Jewish people after the Holocaust is now one of the least safe places on earth for Jews to live in. Israel ought to withdraw from the occupied territories not as a favor to the Palestinians but as a favor to itself and to world Jewry for, as Karl Marx noted, “a people that oppresses another cannot itself remain free.”
After Israel launched its attack on Gaza on December 27, 2009 Shlaim published the following statement criticizing Israel’s actions.
The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration’s complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.. . .
This brief review of Israel’s record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.
Many other Israelis also protested the Israeli assault on Gaza. For example there is a letter from 22 prominent Israelis who published an appeal in The Guardian. They wrote:
We, as Israeli citizens, raise our voices to call on EU leaders: use sanctions against Israel’s brutal policies and join the active protests of Bolivia and Venezuela. We appeal to the citizens of Europe: please attend to the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation’s call, supported by more than 540 Israeli citizens (http://www.freegaza.org/en/home/): boycott Israeli goods and Israeli institutions; follow resolutions such as those made by the cities of Athens, Birmingham and Cambridge (US). This is the only road left. Help us all, please!”
Judge Richard Goldstone’s UN Commission of Inquiry which investigated the December 27, 2008 Israeli attack on Gaza and the Palestinian response made a number of findings that were critical of both Israel and Hamas. As reported in the New York Times, when, “Asked about accusations that he was antiIsrael,” Judge Goldstone acknowledged he was Jewish and said, “It is grossly wrong to label a mission or to label a report critical of Israel as being antiIsrael.” While the UN Commission of Inquiry was widely attacked in Israel there were a number of Israelis who supported its critical findings.
One of the most outspoken and courageous Israeli journalists is Amira Hass. Since 2000, Amira Hass has been the only Jewish Israeli reporter living in Occupied Palestine – formerly in Gaza City, and now based out of Ramallah. She is a correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz.[i]
There are many Israeli academics and intellectuals who are extremely critical of Zionism and of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. To quote a study published by a group affiliated with the Israel Academia Monitor:
…The opinions and claims of Israel academics against Jews, Zionism and Israel are discussed and analyzed in this study. It is estimated that some 20 to 25% of people who teach the Humanities and Social Sciences in Israel’s universities and colleges have expressed extreme antiZionist positions, largely, though not exclusively, in regard to Israel’s policies and actions visàvis the Arab Palestinians . . . 
The fact is that many Israelis academics and activists have voiced strong criticism of Zionism and Israeli state policy toward the Palestinians.
Occupation Magazine which is published by a group of anti-Occupation Israelis has an archive of over 36,000 articles, many written by anti-occupation Israelis and Jews from around the world. It also provides links to dozens of Israeli human rights organizations, many not listed in this article. These Israeli human rights organizations include B’Tselem, Machsom Watch, Rabbis for Human Rights, and The Israeli Public Committee Against Torture, Yesh Gvul, the movement for soldiers of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories and Refusniks, young Israelis who refuse to serve in the Israeli military. For a collection of Israeli opposition to Zionism and opposition to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians one can review The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent, edited by Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin. It contains articles very critical of Israel’s policies, written by 27 prominent Israelis. The Forward was written by a prominent Israeli author and journalist Tom Segev.
The list of writers in The Other Israel include Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel’s General Security Service or Shin Bet; Yigal Bonner professor at Tel Aviv University; author David Grossman; Aviv Lavie Haaretz media reporter; attorney Shamai Leibowitz; Ishai Menuchin, a major in the Israeli Defense Forces Reserves and head of Yesh Gvul (the Israelis organization of selective refusal); Dr. Yigal Shocat former Surgeon General for the Israeli Airforce; Gila Svirsky chair of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories; and Sergio Yahni co-director of the Alternative Information Centre, among others already cited in this article.
There is a growing concern amongst some Israelis that there is a growing rift between diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews. Professor Yehezkel Dror, the founding president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI), “offered a somber take on relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry” and pointed “the finger of blame at Israel’s leadership for the growing rift between the two.” Professor Dror stated that, “There is no ignoring the fact . . . that at the heart of the rift between Israel and Jewish communities abroad lies the notion that Diaspora youth have a negative views of Israel politically, nationally and socially.” 
Gideon Levy in an interview with Mario Vargas Llosa, the prizewinning Peruvian writer and a laureate of the prestigious Jerusalem Prize, published in Haaretz quoted the distinguished author saying that “only the dissidents will save the State of Israel.”
Other critical voices from Israel’s academia and activists circles include the late Professor Israel Shahak former Chair of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights; the late Baruch Kimmerling, Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; retired Anthropology professor Jeff Halper now head of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Tel Aviv University professor Gary Sussman; Felica Langer, a well known human rights lawyer who left Israel and now resides in Germany; Michael Warschawski, co-founder of the Alternative Information Center; Eitan Bronstein Chair of Zochrot, which means “Remember,” and works to remind Israelis about the Nakba or Palestinian catastrophe; the late linguist and journalist Tanya Reinhart, Professor of theoretical linguistics and Media and Cultural Studies at Tel Aviv University and at the University of Utrecht; the late Victoria Buch professor at Hebrew University; Avi Kleinberg, professor of History at Tel Aviv University; Dr. Yossi Dahan, Chair of the Adva Centre, manager of the Human Rights Division at the Academic College of Law in Ramat Gan, and an editor of Ha’Oketz; author Gershom Gorenberg; Sammy Smooha a sociologist who served as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Haifa; Yossi Swartz professor at the Tel Aviv University Law School; Allegra Pacheco, an Israeli human rights attorney, noted for prosecuting the first Israeli torture trial; Rabbi Arik Ascherman, head of Rabbis for Human Rights;  Hannah Mermelstein, cofounder and codirector of Birthright Unplugged; Carlo Strenger, professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University; Oren Yiftachel, Geography professor Ben-Gurion University; New Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe, presently the Chair of the History Department at the University of Essex in England, and formerly of history department of the University of Haifa in Israel; world renown author Jacobo Timerman; Neve Gordon Chair of the Political Science Department at Ben-Gurion University; Avraham Oz, associate professor of theater at the University of Haifa; Dror Etkes, who headed Peace Now’s Settlements Watch Project for five years and now heads the Land Advocacy Project of Yesh Din, a group working against violation of Palestinians’ rights by settlers; Erik Schechter, the former military correspondent for The Jerusalem Post; Yosefa Loshitzky, Professor of Film, Media and Cultural Studies at the University of East London; Yacov Ben Efrat of Challenge Magazine; Amos Oz, who Steven Plaut describes as “arguably Israel’s bestknown writer;” and another famous Israeli writer with an international reputation, A.B. Yehoshua; Tikva Honig-Parnass, editor of Between the Lines; author and journalist Amnon Kapeliouk; Oren Ben-Dor, professor of Legal and Political Philosophy at the School of Law, University of Southampton, UK; Gilad Atzmon, author of two books and numerous articles, and also one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe; prolific writer Israel Shamir; Amia Lieblich, professor of Psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of numerous books on the psychology of Israeli society including Tin Soldiers on Jerusalem Beach; Haaretz columnist Nehema Shtrasler; IsraeliAmerican human rights lawyer Sari Bashi; Adam Atsan an IsraeliAmerican who is involved in Kesher Enoshi: Progressives For Activism in Israel; author Akiva Orr; David Newman, professor of political geography at BenGurion University and editor of the International journal, Geopolitics; author Susan Nathan; author and journalist Yael Lotan; Israeli Television correspondent Yigal Laviv; professor of political science at Tel Aviv university Ze’ev Maoz; Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken; Haaretz editor Danny Rubinstein; and Yitzhak Laor, one of Israel’s most distinguished poets, novelists and a longtime editor and writer for the daily newspaper Haaretz, who also edits an independent journal of literature and political thought, Mita’am; Adi Opir professor of philosophy at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University and also a fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute; Akiva Eldar, Israeli journalist and author, currently chief political columnist and editorial writer for Haaretz; journalist Meron Rapoport; an orthodox Jewish studies professor who writes under the nom de plume of Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber and runs the Magnes Zionist blog; B. Michael one of Israel’s most respected journalists who until recently with writing for Yedioth Aharonoth; Ran HaCohen professor at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Comparative Literature and a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth; journalist Shraga Elam; Hillel Cohen Research Fellow at the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Haaretz journalist and editorial Board member Avirama Golan; Shai Lahav Editor of the art and culture supplement to Ma’ariv, the country’s most rightwing newspaper; journalist and former IDF conscript Seth Freeman; Yehouda Shenhav professor at Tel Aviv University and the editor of Theory Criticism, an Israeli journal in the area of critical theory and cultural studies; Eyal Sivan, one of Israel’s leading film makers; Elana Maryles Sztokman, author, educator, writer, researcher and regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post; Adam Keller journalist and a founder of The Other Israel; and Gideon Spiro, a former Israeli Sergeant and journalist; Israeli Professor Ada Yonath 2009 Nobel Prize winner for chemistry; to name only a few of the many Israelis who are anti-Zionist, non-Zionist or extremely critical of Zionism and Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.