Questions about Judaism and Zionism

I wasn’t sure which forum to put this in, but since it has to do with religion and the Middle East, I figured GD was a safe bet.
To the best of my (limited) understanding, Zionism is the idea that the Jewish people should have a homeland that serves, as it were, as a sanctuary for all Jews. So my questions are: Can one be a devout Jew without being a Zionist? For any Jewish folks who might answer my question, to what degree do you feel a connection with Israel? How is your personal faith linked to Zionism? Can one criticize Israel without being anti-semitic? Without being perceived as anti-semitic?

I’m not trying to start an argument, and please attribute any of my errors above to ignorance rather than malice. Thanks.

All answers MHO:

Certainly. Many were at during the 40’s and many are now.

Yes, some connection, I had relatives lost in the Holocaust and it feels good to know that there is a place that will always be a safe haven for Jews should rabid anti-semitism again rise. My personal faith, not really.

Definately, I’m a supporter of Israel and I still criticize the policies. The perception can arise by the way someone choosed to make their argument. Also I think arguing that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist is quickly perceived as anti-semitic.

No offense taken.

This is going to get a lot more informed replies than mine ( I’m only part Jewish if my grandfather’s suspicions about the ‘Black Dutch’ part of our background are correct :wink: ), but just a quick note on a couple of your questions.

#1. Can one be a devout Jew without being a Zionist?

Certainly. In fact some ultra-orthodox are non-Zionist for purely religious reasons. Zionism is not necessarily or even primarily a religious ideology. Many early Zionists were atheists.

#2. Can one criticize Israel without being anti-semitic?

Also certainly. Political disagreement does not necessarily equal racism. However…

#3. Without being perceived as anti-semitic?

Sure. But it does require a little care. The sad fact is that a lot of attacks on Zionism and Israel do come from anti-Semites ( in the popular, not linguistic sense :wink: ). So understandably there is a bit of a siege mentality, or perhaps more simply an underlying suspicion of criticism, among committed Zionists. In fact saying, “I’m not anti-Semitic, but…” is probably the worst intro anybody could ever make. It’s a bit like saying, “Now I have many Gay friends, but…” It puts people instantly onguard, because such clumsy disclaimers are often ( not always of course ) the hallmark of the closet racist. Better to just make your criticisms cogent, clear and precise. Reasonable people should be able to tell if you’re anti-Semitic or not.

If you do get called an anti-Semite by some hothead and you don’t think you are, have a little consideration for the stress people are under and don’t get mad. Just calmly explain why you think they’re mistaken.

  • Tamerlane

Dude, Geraldo Rivera can’t even show a degree of sympathy for Palestinians without getting a few thousand hate mails and death threats to his family. Criticize Israel? You would have to be as crazy as I am to do that.

  1. was already anwered by Tamerlane. I believe there are groups of ultra-religious Jews who believe Israel shouldn’t exist because a prophecy said the messiah was supposed to take part in its creation.

  2. Yes and No.

Criticize Israel’s policies, government etc. all you want. But I think to deny it’s right to exist as a state is a bit anti-semitic.

  1. Absolutely. I think Sweet Willy is just plain wrong here. Bush criticizes their policies all the time, as a matter of fact, I believe he is issuing direct orders now :rolleyes:.

Since I have no personal faith, really, it is not tied to Zionism at all. BUT, a lot of my family (like pretty much all other Jewish families) died in the Holocaust and in pogroms in Russia. My grandparents lived and worked hard in Palestine (pre-Israel) as Zionists, working towards making a nation where all Jews could be safe, and have a homeland. It’s hard not to feel allegiance to a country that you know your grandparents built so you would have a safe future.


As others have said, yes.

A very great degree.

It really isn’t. My faith is in G-d and the Torah; while Zionism is a nice political philosophy, it has almost nothing to do with my faith.

Yes…as long as one is even-handed in his criticism. It is important to be consistent in one’s criticism, and not hold one party to a higher standard of conduct than others. To be more concrete, if one were to criticize Israel’s present response to the suicide bombings, he/she should be ready to either be equally critical about (just an example here) the U.S. anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan or come up with a valid reason why one nation’s response is better than the other’s.

The trap that gets critics of Israel called anti-semitic is when they criticize Israel for actions that other nations have done or exceeded in degree without drawing similar criticism.

Indeed, most of Israel’s “Founding Fathers” (and Mothers) were openly atheistic or agnostic - Ben Gurion, Weitzman, Zhabotinsky, etc. - although they always showed a healthy public respect for religion.

And any criticism of Geraldo is good for me.

Alessan, You understand that Geraldo is not just being criticized, right? He is recieving thousands of hate mails and death threats. Not just against him, but his family. All because he showed the tiniest degree of sympathy. Do you really approve of hate mail and death threats?

The operative word here is the indefinite article “a”. I will explain.

It is important to define our terms. The word “Zionism”, as generally understood, and as used thus far in this thread, refers to the creation or support of a political entity which calls itself “The State Of Israel”. As has been stated by others in this thread, there is no particular Jewish Religious Law to support this political entity (although support of its citizens and residents is another matter). Also, many of those who created and support this State are not religious, maybe not even Jewish.

It is also true that there are some Jews who actually mourn over the creation of this state. They feel that because the State is not fully committed to observance of Jewish law, its existence is counterproductive and an oxymoron.

Counterproductive to what?, one may ask…

This brings us to my main point. The idea that the Land Of Israel (whose borders are similar, but not identical, to those of the State Of Israel) is a Holy Land, and is the Promised Land – i.e., the land which God promised to the Jewish people – IS an important concept in Judaism. Judaism believes that there will be a day when there will be peace on earth, and Jews will again populate that homeland under the leadership of the Messiah.

Some Jews believe that to still be in the future, and some believe that these events are actually hindering that future. These people usually do not use the word “Zionism” to refer to their beliefs in that future. Others believe that the events of the past hundred years are a clear beginning of the Return To The Holy Land and of the Messianic Era, and these beliefs are often referred to as “Religious Zionism”.

To answer some of the OP’s other questions:

I am personally unsure whether about the role of the State Of Israel as part of the Messianic Era Process. So I’m staying on the fence, in hopes that it is a part, and that we will indeed see World Peace In Our Time.

I actually moved to Israel (from New Jersey) many years ago, and lived there for 5 years, but returned to NJ because I was not able to find adequate employment. I loved living there, and would give almost anything to go back. I love being around people who share my interests, and being that my Judaism is my main interest, I love being around so many other Jews. I also love the sense of history: I would often walk down the street and see a small rock, and I’d ask myself, “I wonder which prophet or sage might have stopped to rest on that rock a few thousand years ago?”

As far as criticizing without being (perceived as) anti-Semitic, it is similar to criticizing the American government without being (perceived as) Anti-American. As much as you can, you have to keep the focus on the issues, not the people.

Errr… I don’t think I got around to explaining that part.

My intention was to restate the OP’s question (“Zionism is the idea that the Jewish people should have a homeland”) and to point out the distinction between this particular homeland (i.e., the State Of Israel) and some other homeland (such as a state to be established by the Messiah in the future).

Laurange, You fail to realize that GW is being labeled anti - semitic by members of the jewish community. There are those that contend he is a Nazi for heavens sake. It is not just me, or Geraldo, or GW. Anyone who criticizes Israel is subject to be labeled anti - semitic by Jewish people.

Find it here
It really is sick.

Here is a good one that equates Giuliana with Hitler.

I am not sure that you are seeing reality Luarange. It is nice to think that one can criticize Israel without being persecuted but it is in fact a big hot button that sends alot of people to the realm beyond reason.

But Sweet Willy, he’s not being labelled as such by the letter writer because of his policies on Israel. He’s being labelled as such because of connections his family had to Nazi Germany.

[sub]N.B. I’m not agreeing with the letter writer. I’m merely pointing out the error in Sweet Willy’s logic. His use of this letter as an example that "Anyone who criticizes Israel is subject to be labeled anti - semitic by Jewish people. " is wrong. He should attempt to find other examples.[/sub].

Zev Steinhardt

All right. As I know nothing about Geraldo other than what I have read in this thread, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and ask you for an objective cite, rather than just backing up zev as I really would like to do.

As well, if you could give me another example of such a person who has spoken out and who has been labelled anti-semitic by a majority of Jews, not just a couple of whackos.

Sorry for hijacking, burundi, I think your OP (and the answers so far) are really interesting!

Sweet Willy said:



And don’t give me some BS with one fringe group saying it. You can find a fringe group out there saying anything.


Gee, Will, do you believe everything you read on the internet? Mr. Icke can be immediately writen off as a whack-job based solely on this little theory.

I mean, of course George W. Bush is connected with the Nazis, he’s a freakin’ reptilian overlord. :rolleyes:


Yep, that David Icke guy is GREAT cite, Sweet Willy!
How about this little nugget from his website at

On the question of whether it’s possible to be a devout Jew without being a Zionist, I would like to amend the prior answers. Yes, it is possible – that’s what everyone has said already. I’d like to add: but it is extremely rare. There are a very few small sects of ultra-orthodox Jews who believe that the state of Israel should not be established until the Messiah comes. They are devout Jews, but not Zionists. I would be surprised if there are as many as a hundred such individuals. This is an extremely small minority.

But that’s the wrong question. The question really should be the inverse: “Is it possible to be anti-Zionist without being anti-Jewish.”

The answer to that is no, not to any practical extent. Arab (and other racists’) propaganda often tries to pretend that there is a massive difference between being a Jew and being a Zionist (that is, supporter of the state of Israel.) They don’t want to be labelled as “anti-Jewish”, so they pretend that being “anti-Zionist” is different. In fact, there is no discernible difference.

And I will echo: certainly one can be critical of Israel’s policies without being anti-Zionist or anti-Jewish. Many Jews are critical of Israel’s policies. Israel has free speech. So, just as it is possible to be critical of specific policies of the U.S. government without being anti-American, it is possible to be critical of Israel’s policies without being anti-Israel.

The basic principle of Zionism is the right of the Jews to a homeland in Israel. Nothing more, nothing less. As I say, it is extremely rare to find a Jew who does not believe in that right.

C K Dexter Haven: Interesting. I have to admit I was a bit surprised by the stated number, so I poked around a bit and found that seems to be some distinction drawn ( at least in some quarters ) between “anti-Zionist” Jews and “non-Zionist Jews”. Example ( taken from here: )

“Yeshivish” ( colloquially, [sometimes perjoratively, sometimes affectionate] “black hat” or “black” ) suggests an Orthodox outlook in which the focus of life is Torah study, as is done in Lithuanian-style Yeshivos. Secular culture is either tolerated or criticized for its corrupting influences. This group tends to be “non-Zionist” in the sense that they love Israel and its holiness ( many spend years in Israel for Torah study ), but are unenthusiastic about secular Zionism and Israeli secular culture. Agudath Israel tends to represent this group.

I also found similar comments about a ( so-called ) hawkish, right-wing, religious group called Habad in Israel.

Also, ran across this:

A valid opinion piece do you think ( granted its obvious bias )? Or inaccurate in your opinion?

And ( sorry to keep baraging you with links :slight_smile: ):

Where in part of this convocation address at Hebrew Union College, this speaker says: “The anti-Zionist and non-Zionist Orthodoxy, who were regarded as marginal and meaningless in 1948, have become one of the most dynamic and fastest growing segments of contemporary Judaism” ( He then goes on to briefly mention how their “anti-Zionism” appears to have largely morphed into the “secular non-Zionism” mentioned above ).

So I guess my main question for you is what distinguishes “secular Zionism” from “non-secular Zionism”? Do you personally buy into any such distinction? And what is the important difference between “anti-Zionism” and “non-Zionism” ( if you accept such a distinction )? Is this a distinction that you would consider peculiar to/internal to Judaic culture? Or could the term “non-Zionist” and “anti-Zionist” be applied as a separate label to non-Jews and make sense?

Thanks :slight_smile: .

  • Tamerlane

Small correction

Ah, on closer examination I see that Habad is more or less synonomous with the Lubavitcher movement, so I probably shouldn’t have labeled them as a purely Israeli group.

  • Tamerlane

Another interesting one, that actually clears up a question or two I had ( unasked ) about this transitioning from “anti-Zionist” to “non-Zionist”.

  • Tamerlane