July 11, 2007
By Aaron Klein
JERUSALEM – Much has been said here and abroad about controversial statements made in recent weeks by a yarmulke-wearing, prominent international leftist Jewish leader and senior activist of Israel's "peace camp" who called on Israel to cease being a Jewish state and instead model itself after Europe. But I think most people are missing the point.
Avraham Burg, once an important Knesset member in Israel's leftist Labor party, recently published a book, "Defeating Hitler," in which he repeatedly compared various Israeli Jewish policies with that of Nazism.
"To define the state of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive. It's dynamite," said Burg, who once was Israel's Knesset speaker and was considered by some a hopeful for prime minister.
Burg, a scion of one of Israel's founding families, also served as chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, both of which are major Jewish organizations.
Burg said Israel's Law of Return, which allows all Jews seeking sanctuary in Israel to become citizens, is similar to Nazi rule, even though it was created in response to genocidal Nazi crimes. The law helped Jews escape persecution in countries such as Germany, Russia and Yemen.
"The Law of Return is an apologetic law. It is the mirror image of Hitler. I don't want Hitler to define my identity," Burg said.
He compelled Israelis to obtain foreign passports. He said Israel should model itself after the European Union and become a multinational state, and he urged the Israeli government to allow the EU more influence in its affairs.
The leftist Israeli leader said Israel should learn from the assimilation and inter-marriage of Jews in the U.S., where Jewish individuals marrying non-Jews has become a major phenomenon.
Burg criticized what he called Israelis' "closed conception" of religion, which he stated is "orthodox, not humanist and not universal." He said other alternatives to Judaism must be offered.
Burg now is a citizen of France. He retired from Israeli politics and departed Israel in shame after it was disclosed he may have engaged in election corruption and vote tampering while trying to become chairman of the Labor party. He also was accused of illicit business practices.
He is still active as a leader in Israel's peace camp, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state and Israeli evacuations of the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem.
Burg has been condemned by many politicians and commentators here and abroad as a self-hating Jew who is encouraging anti-Semitism. One Knesset member called for Burg to be denied a burial plot in Israel's national cemetery reserved for the country's leaders.
But what many seem to be missing is that Burg's views are not renegade. They are representative of the Israeli left. Burg's reasoning is the same as those petitioning for more EU control of Israel's affairs and for evacuations from Biblical Jewish territories and holy sites. Burg comes from the school of people like Geneva Initiative leader Yossi Beilin, Labor Chairman Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and their ideological godfather and mentor, Shimon Peres, who officially becomes Israeli president later this week.
So many around the world wrongly believe the conflict in Israel is about territory. They think the Israeli left mainly wants to cede land to the Palestinians while the right stands against land giveaways.
In actuality, the main Israeli political battle is between a left that wants Israel to be a secular, European-like state, and the religious right, which sees Israel as a Jewish country defined by national Zionism. It's a battle that will ultimately determine the future of Israel.
Growing up in a Jewish community in the United States, I was fortunate enough not to have experienced the kind of anti-Semitism that permeates places like France and, increasingly, the UK. But European anti-Semitism pales in comparison to its venomous counterparts in Israel. That's right, Israel.
It wasn't until I moved here to open WND's Jerusalem bureau in February 2005 that I fully understood what anti-Semitism is. The hatred many secular, leftist Israelis feel for the religious is so deep I cannot do it justice with words. The secular leftist media routinely demonize the religious. I've seen the way secular Jewish security forces brutally squash legal religious Jewish protests at the direction of leftist politicians. I've borne witness the past few years to the enactment of institutional anti-Semitic laws, such as singling out illegal Jewish construction in strategic territory while ignoring rampant illegal Arab building; or denying Jews the right to pray at or even visit Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount, during most hours of the day.
This great divide extends itself to the streets. Religious and secular cities are mostly separated. Just try talking to a secular leftist Jew in Tel Aviv about religion and God and watch his or her face wither in anger.
But many Israeli leftists politicians and activists are more enterprising than the average leftist Israeli. They disguise their hatred of Judaism with specific political policies . Just like Islamic terrorists who claim their attacks are aimed at ending America's military presence in the Middle East or our support for Israel when the jihadists' real goal is worldwide domination of Islam, leftist Israeli leaders state their aim is to create a Palestinian state when their true intention is the establishment of a secular Israeli country by stabbing at the lifeline of religious Zionism with evacuations of the West Bank – the biblical heartland and center of the religious Zionists movement – and with the division of religious Jerusalem and stationing of foreign troops on Israel's borders.
Already, the religious Jewish communities of the Gaza Strip were uprooted and international forces were deployed along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Burg is not a maverick. He is a leftist politician who knows he has no chance at being re-elected, so he was able to take off his mask and expose his true beliefs and the real nature of Israel's internal war. And he didn't blurt these things out during a spontaneous interview; he detailed his views in a book he said took him three years to compose.
Some believe Burg could have become Israel's prime minister. What if he had achieved Israel's highest office before he let loose his real beliefs? Why isn't anyone asking whether Israel's current prime minister, who seeks to evacuate the Jewish West Bank and sections of Jerusalem, shares Burg's anti-Jewish views? What about Ehud Barak, who as prime minister in 2000 announced at Camp David he was ready to cede the Temple Mount and who offered PLO leader Yasser Arafat a state within rocket range of Israel's population centers? And what about all the Israeli leftist politicians who regularly petition for placing EU or U.N. troops in Gaza or the West Bank?
Sure, some Israeli leftist politicians, including Beilin and some from Olmert's party, condemned Burg, but I believe they did so because they were angry at him for exposing them.
The admitted anti-Jewish Burg once held some of the most prestigious leadership positions in world Jewry. Why isn't anyone questioning whether top leaders of Jewish organizations now share his beliefs ?
Perhaps Burg's revelations about the left help explain why, as I reported, the leaders of the Jewish National Fund, which collects hundreds of millions of dollars in Jewish donor funds for the stated purpose of Jewish settlement, has been ceding Jewish-owned properties to Arabs in key sections of Jerusalem and other Israeli cities designated by the left for evacuation. The JNF, which proudly posts pictures of leftist leader Peres on its newspaper advertisements, has been allowing Arab squatters to live completely illegally on millions of dollars worth of Jewish-owned land purchased for Jewish settlement.
Perhaps Burg's admissions might also help explain why, as I reported, mainstream U.S. Jewish groups, including the leadership of United Jewish Communities, one of the most financially endowed Jewish organizations on the planet, neglected the plight of religious Jewish refugees evacuated from Gaza in 2005 who didn't receive most compensation promised to them by the Israeli government.
The uprooted national religious Gaza Jews still live in terrible conditions in refugee camps and suffer from low employment and a host of other problems. The UJC largely ignored the Gaza Jews while instead funding initiatives with Jewish money to aid Israeli Arabs. The esteemed Jewish organization finally started helping a bit after they were exposed and angry Jewish donors demanded action to help the Jews of Gaza.
So, while many are resoundingly condemning Burg for his anti-Jewish views, I thank him for unmasking the true beliefs of the Israeli left. Perhaps now the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be understood in its proper context.