A Dangerous Confusion

Yakov Rabkin
August 2004

Letter to Los Angeles Times, August 2004


A Dangerous Confusion

Professor Dershowitz’ article « Presbyterians’ Shameful Boycott » (August 4, 2004) refers to Jews as victims of Palestinian violence. This belittles the success of Zionism to breed a new, muscular Israeli, proud, intrepid and assertive. Zionists have disdained the meek Jew whom the tradition of Judaism expects “to be bashful, compassionate and charitable.” It is the New Israeli, not the old Jew, who built up the army and chased potential enemies from the land. It is the New Israeli, not the old Jew, who has stubbornly weathered decades of conflict that ensued from his daring moves.

It is about time the Los Angeles Times and other media learn to distinguish the New Israeli, whom we usually see in uniform on our TV screens, from the old Jew, a neighbour whom we see among us engaged in work or en route to the synagogue. One should not identify any Jew with the Zionists who have been proud to leave him and his values behind. He has no part in the conflict in the Middle East. Unless Professor Dershowitz wants to foment anti-Semitism in this country, he should not import the conflict to North America by confusing Zionism with Judaism. While the president of Harvard University, Professor Dershowitz’ current employer, may consider the boycott of companies supplying Israel’s military as “actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect, if not in their intent,” it is imprecise and unjust to lump anti-Semitism with opposition to Zionism. After all, it was the founder of Zionism Theodor Herzl who wrote in his diary “the anti-Semites will become our most loyal friends, the anti-Semite nations will become our allies.” We should keep in mind these words of the prophet of Zionism.

Yakov M Rabkin

Professor of History

University of Montreal

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A Dangerous Confusion