Anti-Zionist Rabbi Elmer Berger and the ‘foreign nationalism’ of Zionism

Tonight in Brooklyn, there will be a book party/discussion for Jack Ross’s great new book on the anti-Zionist rabbi Elmer Berger, Rabbi Outcast.

Details: 7:30 PM, Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. 53 Prospect Park West (between 1st/2d Streets, Grand Army Plaza subway stop).

Meantime, here is an important section of Berger’s 1957 book, Judaism or Jewish Nationalism? The Alternative to Zionism. Jack typed it up for us because of the debate over the dual loyalty allegations that surround Zionism.

It is difficult to understand how anyone can believe that an organization can be charged with accusing Jews of “double loyalty” as long as it believes, and says: 1) Jews are identified by their Judaism 2) Judaism is a religion 3) Judaism has no built-in nationalism 4) Religion and politics are separate and distinct.

The question of where the ACJ [American Council for Judaism]1) Berger’s organization believes American Jews stand on the question of a “double nationality” was covered in a basic statement that says:

In their long history, Jews have expressed various and sometimes inconsistent ideals and aspirations. One may find them all in Jewish literature. One must select and choose. Those that are consistent with the new American order should be intensified, the others should be dropped. Fortunately, the noblest in Judaism and therefore in the history of Jews can be welded without a seam to the noblest American tradition.

But the welding of the two traditions can come only if the Jew considers himself as an individual, integrated into an American society founded upon individual rights and responsibilities, seeking no special privileges or immunities, asking no special status or favors because he is a Jew or for the Jewish group or as parts of a Jewish community, a Jewish civilization or a Jewish peoplehood.

There are some who fear that we cannot be Americans if we retain our Judaism, and others who fear that we will lose our Judaism if we are fully American. Both fears are baseless, springing from failure to remember the essential nature of Judaism as a religion of universalism adaptable to time and place. The danger is not that we shall lose Judaism but that we shall lose our Americanism by importing the kind of non-religious separatisms that were born in pre-democratic or pre-western theories of Jewish race, nationality or secular community.

Avoidance of what is wrong is thus a positive aspect of seeking that which is right.

It is precisely because we positively seek an American Judaism that we are compelled to oppose Zionism, for Zionism leads to a secular separation as the end result of its basic principle that Jews are a nation.

Exponents of “Jewish” racism or “Jewish” nationalism are necessarily exponents of a Judaism that shrinks form its universal breath to tribal particularisms and emphasizes secular differences.

American life, in its freedom, will tolerate such Judaism and the secular, separate community that follows. But it will wall them off and pass them by. A status of Jews as a separate community with an overriding interest in its own welfare and a Judaism shrunk to fit are inimical to a full and dignified life for Jews in the United States.

They will create unnecessary tension between Jews and their fellow citizens, to the detriment of Jews. They will also – to the detriment of America – deprive America of much that the Judaic part of the Judeo-Christian tradition has to offer American society but which it can impart only if Jews, as individuals, merge into the nation’s life.

We therefore oppose all ideologies and organizations, be they Jewish or non-Jewish, that regard Jews as an identifiable secular minority.

There are, as this statement frankly indicates, more profound and complex considerations.

The first of these is that Zionism is a nationalism. It so describes itself officially. Furthermore, Zionism’s nationalism is designed to embrace all Jews. It is not limited to strengthening the nationalism of Israel, though even if that limitation did exist it would still not justify Zionist control over religious worship, education, philanthropy and public representation of American Jews.

But it is clearly and explicitly stated that Zionism’s organizational and institutional mechanisms are designed “to strengthen and foster Jewish national consciousness.”

Zionism seeks to advance the “Jewish” nationalism of all Jews by claiming all Jews have a common ancestry, common political interests, common national territory, common culture, common language, and a common national religion. By employing these claims, it leads to a secular, national segregation of Jews in the United States.

Accusers of the ACJ would be hard-pressed to deny that Zionism is a foreign nationalism. An abundance of official and authoritative statements prove that the movement is “national” in character. It has been our experience, however, that often when it has documented this fact with authoritative declarations from Zionist sources, the documentation is dismissed as the expression of a “radical”, or as a Zionist who is “not typical”, or with the disclaimer “Rabbi Silver, or Rabbi Miller, or Ben-Gurion cannot speak for me.”

There are, however, two formal, incontrovertible documents which provide substantive proof on a level which cannot be dismissed, discounted, or ignored. These documents are “The Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency for Palestine Law” and the “Covenant” made under the “Status Law” between the Israeli Government and the Jewish Agency.

These two, formal documents should be cause for reflection on the part of the non-Zionist who talks himself into inactivity on the grounds there is no cause for concern about what Zionism is doing and plans to do in the life of American Jews.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about these documents. They are tightly drawn and they have official status. In the sense that they give to non-Israeli organizations of Jews certain privileges in Israel in exchange for certain services, they can be said to posses the character of a contract.

The “Status Law” was adopted November 24, 1952 by the Israeli Knesset or Parliament. It was followed on July 28, 1954 by the “Covenant” which made this law operative in relation to the Jewish Agency for Palestine, another name for the World Zionist Organization. The Jewish Agency for Palestine is registered as a foreign agent with the United States Department of Justice. All American Zionist organizations of any consequence are affiliates of, and disciplined by, the World Zionist Organization.

The activities which the “Status Law” assigns to, and which are accepted by, the Zionist movement – including American Zionists – leave no doubt about the “Jewish” nationalist character of Zionism. The basic philosophy of the State of Israel toward non-Israeli Jews and the basic philosophy of the Zionist movement, together with some of the agreed upon activities for putting this philosophy into practice, are easily recognizable in the following paragraphs from the “Status Law”:

1) The State of Israel considers itself as the creation of the entire Jewish people and in accordance with its laws its gates are open to every Jew who wishes to immigrate thereto.

2) The World Zionist Organization, since its foundation half a century ago, has stood at the head of the movement of the Jewish people and of its endeavors to fulfill the vision of generations to return to its homeland and with the assistance of other Jewish circles and bodies shouldered the main responsibility for the establishment of the State of Israel.

5) The mission of the Ingathering of the Exiles, being the central task both of the State of Israel and of the Zionist movement in our days, necessitates continued efforts of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, and therefore the State of Israel looks forward to the participation of all Jews and Jewish bodies in the upbuilding of the State and in assisting mass immigration thereto, and recognizes the need for uniting all Jewish communities to this end.

There can remain little doubt that if American Jews surrender to Zionist control they would put themselves at the mercy of a foreign nationalist movement.

In more bombastic language Rabbi Irving Miller admitted that Zionism’s foreign nationalism was an uncomfortable shoe for an American to wear. The speech in which he made the admission was given in Israel – not the United States.

On August 28, 1955, speaking in Jerusalem to a group which included a number of Israelis, Rabbi Miller said – somewhat testily – “do you think it is easy to attack your own Government, to fly the Jewish flag at all meetings, to live in the United States as though you were a citizen of Israel? I sometimes wonder which is easier, to live like this, in America, or to live in Israel.”

A few years ago Zionists themselves produced an even more dramatic demonstration of the questionable American integrity of a major organization of American Jews. The organization was the United Jewish Appeal. Some of America’s leading Zionists, themselves, charged the organization with questionable loyalties. They brought the charge spectacularly and without qualification to the attention of the whole country in a protracted battle in the nation’s newspapers.

Here are the facts, as The New York Times reported them in February 1949. Control of the United Palestine Appeal (now the United Israel Appeal) was at stake. The UPA was the major recipient of United Jewish Appeal funds as it still is today. To the extent local welfare agencies contribute to the UJA, they were, and are, also involved.

The secondary issues were complex. They are not material to the question of “loyalty” – except in one particular. In an effort to settle the dispute, Israeli Zionists from the Jerusalem branch of the Jewish Agency for Palestine came to the United States. Upon the basis of public evidence, they were not only uninvited but unwelcome. Some American Zionists were promptly charged that the meetings which followed were illegal.

Eventually 22 American members resigned their directorships of the UPA. In a statement published in the New York Times February 20, 1949, they claimed the action of the Jewish Agency “jeopardizes UPA status as an American institution and will liquidate its definite privileges as benefits an American institution.”

In reply, the Israeli Jewish Agency people said: “The Jews of America will not be much impressed with the legal red tape used by those who seem to have no regard for the fate of hundreds of thousands of Jews whose well being is involved in the rapid and successful conduct of the Untied Jewish Appeal campaign.

But the decision, either by morals or law is not exclusively one for members of the Zionist Organization of America administration. In the first place, every Jew who contributes money to the United Palestine Appeal wants ti to go to Israel and nowhere else. Therefore the powers of Israel on disposition of the money are of paramount importance.:

None of the people who now, without any proof, accuse the ACJ of charging “dual loyalty” have raised as much as a whisper about the United Jewish Appeal which was accused publicly and specifically by Zionists of having forfeited its American status while still enjoying American privileges. Yet, the condition which evoked the charge still exists.

But having said this, only half the story is told. For it must be added there is a recognized difference between the fact – “double nationality” – and the allegation that the ACJ raises the cry of “dual loyalty”.

Critics of anti-Zionism generally have a responsibility to acknowledge and recognize this difference. If they then wish to challenge the anti-Zionist caustion about “dual nationality”, they may do so. But they may not, at least with integrity and respect for the decencies of honorable debate, evade teh challenge and the necessity for proving Zionism is not a foreign nationalism, by smearing the issue with the charge that the ACJ charges Jews with “dual loyalty.”

Dual nationality is a legal concept recognized in international law. It is the situation that obtains when two or more sovereignties claim an individual as citizen or subject. It is a stuatus imposed on the individual from without and is completely non-volitional on the individual’s part. Dual loyalty is something completely different. It is the voluntary allegiance which an individual gives to more than one nation.

The ACJ itself, unlike its accusers, has constantly kept the distinction in mind. Not only has it never used the phrase “dual loyalty”, but whenever Zionists have publicly put these words into an ACJ spokesman’s moth, the ACJ has taken the trouble to correct the damage such a public hue and cry might produce.

One thing the record shows then is that while no one can produce a single shred of proof the ACJ has ever charged “dual loyalty”, Zionists themselves are pre-occupied with the problem. They constantly raise it. They themselves know whether or not within the framework of “dual nationality” to which they have subjected themselves and to which they would subject all non-Israeli Jews, the volitional question of “dual loyalty” enters.

In this connection, certain other objective factors should also be considered by Americans who are attempting to decide whether or not they will support or passively accept Zionism as a dominant factor in their lives and institutions.

Zionism is self-confessed to be dedicated to “the strengthening of the State of Israel.” It is in the very nature of sovereign states to have different interests and objectives. Consequently they pursue differing policies and methods of realizing their own self-interest. This is one of the very purposes of sovereignty.

This sovereignty of each of the national entities involved – in this situation, Israel and the Untied States – makes it improper for the citizens or government of one to intervene in the affairs of the people or government of the other. No one can say where, or how, or under what circumstances “dual nationality” may assume the dimensions of a conflict of national loyalties. The admitted national character of Zionism always holds this potential danger.

It is also a fact of international life and law that some nations never relinquish their national claims to people whose origins are in such nations. If a person comes to the Untied States from one of these nations he must renounce his former citizenship in order to obtain American citizenship. This is good enough for the United States. But sometimes the country of origin does not recognize the renunciation. Should such person owe any national obligation, such as military service, he might find himself liable for it if here were ever to return to his ancestral country.

Zionism has now put American Jews – because they are Jews – in this situation in relation to Israel. Zionism is even more demanding and aggressive in its exploitation of “double nationality” than a general situation such as has been just described. For Zionism operates a whole complex of machinery in the United States to exact of American Jews national obligations to Israel.

The UJA fundraising, the bond sales, the enlistments of American national organizations to fight Israel’s diplomatic quarrels with the United States Government, the exploitation of the synagogues and religious schools of American Jews as agencies to bring Israeli culture to American children are all well-integrated parts of this “double nationality” mechanism of Zionism in operation.

For those who accept the Zionist premise that before Israel existed Jews were a “homeless nationality” the combination of Israel and Zionism now provides a full answer. They have a “national home.” They share the national character of that home and are beneficiaries of a double national status, if they are American citizens.

But for any who believe they are Jews by religion – not nationality – the whole proposition is fallacious and potentially dangerous. Any foreign nationalism, such as Zionism, which controls charities, houses of worship, schools, and community centers all over the country poses a greater threat of a “conflict of loyalties” than a foreign nation without so elaborate a system of interference in, and control over, the lives of citizens of another country.

Who is to say to the Zionist manipulators of the organizational life of American Jews, “This is enough. Beyond this foreign nationalist penetration of our institutions a conflict of loyalties develops?” Who is to decide if an organized Zionist campaign against the Department of State is a difference of opinion among Americans or a conflict of loyalties?

If Israel is a state with national designs on none but its own citizens, the ACJ position is no disservice to Israel. But if Israel is a State believing that it came into existence precisely for the purpose of giving all Jews a “double nationality”, American Jews have a right to know this and to judge the actions of organizations to which they belong in the light of this fact.

The activities which the Zionist movement performs in America for Israel and the Israeli legislation cited here are proof that American Jews are confronted by more than romanticized oratory and easily dismissed propaganda. These would be serious enough.

At the very least they would convey to our fellow countrymen the idea that Jews wanted to be regarded as possessors of a second nationality.

But the tangible existence of a legal structure in international affairs which is predicated upon the assumption of such a common “Jewish” nationality ought to lead American Jews to look beyond the hysterical attacks to the substance of the question raised.


Jack Ross in Brooklyn tonite– on Elmer Berger and the ‘foreign nationalism’ of Zionism
Jan 26, 2012 12:46 pm | Philip Weiss


1) Berger later headed also AJAZ, American Jews Against Zionism.

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