The heresy of Jewish Zionism

If we seek solace in the prisons of the distant past
Security in human systems we’re told will always always last
Emotions are the sail and blind faith is the mast
Without a breath of real freedom we’re getting nowhere fast

If God is dead and an actor plays his part
His words of fear will find their way to a place in your heart
Without the voice of reason every faith is its own curse
Without freedom from the past things can only get worse
(Sting, History will teach us nothing)

“In an article published in the Washington Post of 3 October 1978, Rabbi Hirsch (of Jerusalem) is reported to have declared: ‘The 12th principle of our faith, I believe, is that the Messiah will gather the Jewish exiled who are dispersed throughout the nations of the world. Zionism is diametrically opposed to Judaism. Zionism wishes to define the Jewish people as a nationalistic entity. The Zionists say, in effect, ‘Look here, God. We do not like exile. Take us back, and if you don’t, we’ll just roll up our sleeves and take ourselves back.’ ‘The Rabbi continues: ‘This, of course, is heresy. The Jewish people are charged by Divine oath not to force themselves back to the Holy Land against the wishes of those residing there.'” (Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, quoted in Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict by Jews for Justice in the Middle East.)  [1]

This view -that Zionism contradicts the teachings of Judaism- is held by a sizeable number of non-Zionist Jewish groups, such as Neturei-Karta, Satmar, Jews not Zionists, etc. As Neturei-Karta put it, “the founders of Zionism were all atheists who denied the Torah. All the Torah Sages of that time opposed them and opposed Zionism, saying that Zionism would lead only to destruction.” The message such groups try to deliver is that Zionism is a political movement championed by atheists or secular Jews for the political purpose of colonizing Palestine and is not, never was, an enterprise mandated by God Himself. In fact, the so-called “father of Zionism,” Theodore Herzl, confessed in his diaries that he is an agnostic [2].

The political-colonialist nature of Zionism is best illustrated by its definition in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary [3]: “Among the Jews, a theory, plan, or movement for colonizing their own race in Palestine, the land of Zion, or, if that is impracticable, elsewhere, either for religious or nationalizing purposes; — called also Zion movement.”

There are secular reasons why the elders of Zion and their imperial supporters encouraged Jewish settlement in Palestine. I believe, the then superpowers supported the Zionist enterprise because, simply, it was the imperialist thing to do at the time. European anti-Semitism played a significant role in all this, especially in motivating European Jews to flee persecution to Palestine, but it was quite fashionable back then to colonize others, and Zionists, as a distinct political entity, were active players in this dark episode. Zionists invoked the spiritual significance of the biblical “Promised Land” to advance their agenda.

You would expect an institution founded on the literal interpretation of the biblical scriptures to be a devout entity that adheres to the word of God verbatim. Imagine then a Jewish state governed by halacha –that would be the Jewish version of Taliban’s Afghanistan. Notwithstanding it’s ethno-centrism, Israel is a secular modern state, and even its notorious Zionist leader, Ariel Sharon himself, is not affiliated with a Jewish orthodox party or is known to be particularly religious. Yet, this irreligious, modern and supposedly democratic political state claims it is the incarnation of a supernatural narrative.

They say, repeat something long enough, and it becomes a reality. World Jewry corroborate this saw when it comes to Palestine. Consider the founding myths of modern Israel –a land without a people, etc. The myth of the “Promised Land” is no different. Hardly a day goes by without a religious Zionist preaching, perhaps with genuine conviction, that Palestine is God’s Promised Land to Jews. In this demagogy, political-Zionism becomes a righteous creed; and, the argument that Jews have no right to impose their religious beliefs on Palestinians, while valid, fails to impress the most enlightened religious Zionist. Let us then assume that the Bible is the true word of God, and see if the Zionist interpretation -that God gave Palestine to Jews unreservedly- holds any water.

Firstly, according to the Torah, God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his “seeds” after him, i.e., to Abraham and his sons Isaac and Ishmael and their descendents. For example, Genesis 17: 7-10 (KJV) God speaks to Abraham:

“And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee…”

Under this biblical clause, therefore, to be covered by the covenant, a Jew must be a direct descendent of Isaac/Jacob (the promise is for “seeds,” i.e. actual descendents, not mere followers). In practice, it requires methodological DNA analysis to establish this genealogy. Converts are inadmissible candidates under this category.

Arabs, being descendents of Ishmael, are automatically covered by this promise. Though God later reiterates the covenant with Isaac and Jacob, nowhere does He exclude Ishmael or his progeny. The claim by some Zionists that Ishmael should be excluded from the covenant because he was, unlike Isaac (son of Sarah), a son of a concubine (Hagar) is baseless (and inappropriately supremacist). Genesis 16: 3 (KJV) explicitly says that Sarah gave Hagar to her husband Abraham “to be his wife.”

Secondly, the divine promise was fulfilled, and the descendents of Jacob dwelt the land of Canaan and they remained there and assimilated with the inhabitants. Mind you, Abraham himself died without actually realizing that divine promise -but his seeds supposedly did. In Hebrews 11:13, for example, God says referring to Abraham “these all died in faith not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off…” Acts 7: 3-5: “..and He (God) gave him (Abraham) no inheritance in it (Canaan), no, not so much as to set his foot upon; yet He promised that He would give it to him for a possession, and to his seeds after him….”

In other words, not just because it says somewhere in the Bible that God will do something, He will actually do it as He said he would. Commonsense suggests that words of the bible should not, at least sometimes, be taken literal.

That Zionism contradicts the teachings of Judaism because “The Jewish people are charged by Divine oath not to force themselves back to the Holy Land against the wishes of those residing there,” as Rabbi Hirsch suggested is one interpretation of the scriptures, though literal, is more benevolent than the Zionist one. For the instinctual, it is hard to imagine that a loving God would mandate a colonialist agenda. The idea itself defies the definition of a peaceful religion, if not logic. As a friend recently pointed out to me, if Jews are so eager to follow the Old Testament meticulously, why do they ignore the backbone of Jewish teachings, the Ten Commandments that dictate “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal” when it comes to Palestine? Isn’t this unequivocal heresy?


[1] For complete text, see

[2] “I do not obey a religious impulse…I am an agnostic.” (p. 54) Th. Herzl: “Diaries. Ed. Victor Gollancz, 1958.

[3] Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, é 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

Mr. Baha Abushaqra is a Media Activist with Palestine Media Watch.