My rabbi, Danny Zemel, comes from Zionist royalty: His grandfather, Rabbi Solomon Goldman, led the Zionist Organization of America in the late 1930s, and presided over the World Zionist Convention in Zurich in 1939. So Zemel’s words carried weight when he told his flock this week on Kol Nidre, the holiest night of the Jewish year, that “the current government of Israel has turned its back on Zionism.”
“My love for Israel has not diminished one iota,” he said, but “this is, to my way of thinking, Israel’s first anti-Zionist government.”
He recounted Israel’s transformation under Benjamin Netanyahu: the rise of ultranationalism tied to religious extremism, the upsurge in settler violence, the overriding of Supreme Court rulings upholding democracy and human rights, a crackdown on dissent, harassment of critics and nonprofits, confiscation of Arab villages and alliances with regimes — in Poland, Hungary and the Philippines — that foment anti-Semitism. The prime minister’s joint declaration in June absolving Poland of Holocaust culpability, which amounted to trading Holocaust denial for good relations, earned a rebuke from Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.
“The current government in Israel has, like Esau, sold its birthright,” Zemel preached.
Similarly anguished sentiments can be heard in synagogues and in Jewish homes throughout America. For 70 years, Israel survived in no small part because of American Jews’ support. Now we watch in horror as Netanyahu, with President Trump’s encouragement, leads Israel on a path to estrangement and destruction. [Continue reading…]