Note on Bibliography and Related Matters by Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky

Note on Bibliography and Related Matters




written by

Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky



Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel

from Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, 1999.







Serious books describing a social phenomenon usually contain a bibliographical listing or essay, detailing and perhaps briefly discussing the primary and secondary sources consulted by the authors. For some years we have read a significant number of books in English and Hebrew that are concerned with Judaism and the state of Israel. In our book we decided to refer only minimally to those books in English; we relied primarily upon the Israeli Hebrew press, basic Jewish religious (and in a few cases literary) texts and some learned Hebrew articles, published in Israeli journals and magazines. We identified these in our text. Our first reason for doing this is that Hebrew sources are, with few exceptions, the most pertinent in dealing with Jewish fundamentalism in Israel. We are nevertheless aware that the number of books that focus on aspects of or background to our topic, published in English and languages other than Hebrew, is large. We wish to offer an explanation about why we did not cite, and most often ignored, much of this voluminous literature.

We believe that the great majority of the books on Judaism and Israel, published in English especially, falsify their subject matter. The falsification is sometimes a result of explicit lying but is mostly the result of omission of major facts that may create what the authors consider to be an adverse view of their subjects. Many of the books that fit into this category are comparable to much of the literature produced in totalitarian systems, whether religious or secular and whether or not embodied in a state. We do not deny that books on Israel and Judaism published in English have value; they may, and often do, contain correct and valuable information. Books about the USSR under Stalin or his successors written by Stalinists, books about Iran written by followers of Khomeini, books on Christian fundamentalism written by its adherents often contain correct and valuable information. Many other analagous examples exist. What usually makes such books unreliable are not so much the lies but rather the purposeful omissions. Regarding Judaism and Israel, the omissions are more blatant and numerous in books published in English outside of Israel than they are in Israel's Hebrew literature. The omissions pertinent to our subject of Jewish fundamentalism exist for the same apologetic reasons as do the literary omissions in any totalitarian system. The information freely available in Hebrew can and should be used to redress apologia by omissions in English. The coverage in Hebrew of Jewish fundamentalism is more complete and is not riddled with omissions, because, as our book shows, Jewish fundamentalism poses an immediate threat to the beliefs and style of life of a majority of Israeli Jews. Jewish fundamentalism, if it increases in strength, could destroy Israeli democracy; this danger does not exist in the diaspora where Jews, even when supporting the worst aspects of Jewish fundamentalism, benefit from democracy and pluralism. In our view the state of Israel has faults that have been and still are caused by the nature of Zionism and by the open and hidden influences of Jewish fundamentalism. To exchange the present reality of the state of Israel for a Jewish fundamentalist state of either the Haredi or messianic variety would create a far worse situation for Jews, Palestinians and perhaps the entire Middle East. We believe that our book, based primarily upon Hebrew sources, correctly points out this danger for the first time in English.

To document our above comments, we shall present a short list of important issues in Israel and in Jewish history of the diaspora before the modern period, which are relevant for Jewish fundamentalism but are nevertheless omitted from the literature in English about Israel and Judaism. We shall first consider two issues, closely connected to Jewish fundamentalism, that are not specifically mentioned in our book. We shall thereafter present some issues that, although discussed in our book, are not mentioned in the voluminous literature in English. During the Labor Party primaries of the 1999 Israeli election campaigns, accusations appeared in the Hebrew press claiming that fraud in the vote counts occurred in Druze and Arab sectors of the party. The use of such expressions should raise concern. Political parties in the United States and Britain do not specify Jewish, non-Jewish or similar sectors. Readers of the Israeli Hebrew press know that an Arab or Druze, that is, a non-Jew who is an Israeli citizen, even if living in Tel-Aviv or Haifa, cannot belong to the Labor Party branch of her or his neighborhood; that person must belong to one of the two sectors that exist for Druze and Arabs respectively. Jews cannot belong to one of those sectors. Consequently, an Arab living in Tel-Aviv votes in the primaries of the Israeli Labor Party only as a member of the Arab sector and not together with her or his neighbors. Other types of sectors also exist, based upon social structure in the Labor Party. The kibbutzim sector is one example. In these other sectors membership fluctuates according to the natural movements of population, not according to racist criteria. A kibbutz member of the Labor Party who leaves the Kibbutz to settle in Tel-Aviv becomes a member of the party branch of that person's new neighborhood; conversely, a Tel-Aviv member of the Labor Party who joins a kibbutz automatically becomes a member of the kibbutz sector. In contrast, an Arab member of the Labor Party remains an Arab wherever that person lives, confined ethnically or more precisely religiously. Such a proposal for the operation of political parties in the United States or Great Britain would be quickly labeled and condemned correctly as anti-Semitic. Such a proposal would be roundly discussed in the press and in other literature concerned with the United States and/or Great Britain. In the voluminous descriptions in English of Israel, this phenomenon, although known in Israel, is almost never mentioned.

The probable reasons for the above omission are most likely the same as those for other similar omissions. The first and most important probable reason is that many Jews and those who sympathize with them wish to avoid comparisons between what rights Jews as a minority in the diaspora demand for themselves and what rights Jews deny to non-Jews in those areas where Jews are a majority and wield the power. We believe that Jewish fundamentalism justifies, explicitly and unconsciously as a believed survival tactic, both the discrimination and its cover-up. As noted in our book, Jewish fundamentalism in Israel influences most of society. Its influence is especially significant in regard to the principles of Israeli state policies, but its hidden and often clear-cut influence upon a majority of Jews in the diaspora is strong. Two additional reasons in our view account for omissions of vital facts in the English discussion of phenomena in Israel that could be disturbing to many people. A hidden, and sometimes not so hidden, assumption made in much of the English literature about Judaism and about Israel as a Jewish state is that Jews are morally superior to all other nations. This is the most important belief of Jewish fundamentalists who condemn almost everything "not Jewish" mostly because it is non-Jewish. Any discussion of the fact that many Jews, when they are able, practice the same kind of discrimination against non-Jews that some non-Jews practice against Jews could be detrimental to the theory of Jewish moral superiority. Although we believe this is part of racist theory, which we oppose, we understand that unfortunately human beings, including Jews, often have xenophobic tendencies influenced by historical circumstances. Thus, Jews can and should be viewed within the same context as other human beings and should in this regard work to eradicate Jewish xenophobia by exposing it in its present and past forms. The second reason emanates from writers who are apologists for and from other advocates of the Israeli political left. The Labor Party is Israel has consistently practiced blatant racism. Likud, the most important party of the Israeli right, has not practiced racism so severely and generally as has the Labor Party. As opposed to the Labor Party situation, Arabs have been, and still are, able to be members of Likud in their own neighborhood branches. The idea that the Israeli right wing is in this particular case better than the Labor Party is abhorrent to the dogmatists of and apologists for the left just as in the 1930s the idea that many practices in Great Britain were better than those of Stalin was abhorrent to fellow travelers. The refuge in both cases was and is a consistent omission of facts that do not fit into the dogma.

A similar case in point is kibbutz membership in Israel. The kibbutz is one of the most admired, especially by leftist apologists, Israeli phenomena. It is a fact, widely known and discussed in Israel, that only Jews can be kibbutz members. Non-Jews who wish to become kibbutz members must not only acquire the approval of the kibbutz members; they must, as a condition of joining, convert to Judaism. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate has established conversion schools for non-Jews who wish to join kibbutzim. One of the conditions for conversion to Judaism of women in this as in other situations is that the female convert must be observed naked in a purification bath by three rabbis. Some of the other conditions for conversion of those non-Jews desirous of joining kibbutzim are lighter than are conditions for other potential converts. The Israeli Hebrew press has often focused upon the degree of difference in conversion procedures and has also mentioned repeatedly that to date not one Palestinian has become a kibbutz member. This specific, clearly influenced by Jewish fundamentalism, is almost always omitted in English language books published about and media coverage of Israel. We need not emphasize the wide discussion that would ensue if a British or American institution allowed Jews to become members only if they converted to Christianity.

Scholars and news media people who purport to describe Israel authoritatively have, as previously indicated, systematically ignored by omission critical phenomena, discussed in our book. Some examples of this follow. In Chapter 1 of our book we mentioned that the concept of Jewish blood bound together the Israeli secular right wing and religious Jews. This concept, which deems the blood of a killed or wounded Jew to be infinitely greater in value than the blood of a killed or wounded non-Jew, is of supreme importance in Israeli politics. The Netanyahu government in 1998 refused, even when pushed by the United States government, to release Palestinian prisoners who had killed Jews, whether they were soldiers killed in a clash or civilians murdered in a terrorist attack. The Jewish blood concept was the only possible reason. The same Netanyahu government, as well as some previous Israeli governments, have not objected to freeing Palestinian prisoners who had killed other Palestinians. The Palestinians killed were usually presumed to be agents of the Israeli secret police. The same situation has existed in regard to the Israeli security zone in southern Lebanon and to the South Lebanese Anny. The main reason for creating those entities, which have prevented a cease-fire occurring between Israel and Lebanon, was the Israeli desire, influenced by Jewish fundamentalism, to save "Jewish blood." A majority of Israeli Jews have paid little attention to Lebanese, who have been killed, whether they were members of the South Lebanese Army or simply inhabitants of this zone. Bursts of anguish and even protests, on the other hand, have accompanied almost every Jewish casualty. Israeli protesters demanding that Israel leave Lebanon have mentioned only the Israeli casualties. Usually, only those Israeli Jews who have openly opposed Jewish fundamentalism in all its aspects, such as Israel Shahak, one of the authors of this book, have mentioned the Lebanese casualties. The politically important distinction between Jewish blood and non-Jewish blood is well-known to most Israelis but is ignored by almost all those who write about Israel and its policies.

As also noted in Chapter 1, Rabbi Yoseph, who commands the unquestioned allegiance of ten Shas members of the Knesset, argued in a published article that Israel is not sufficiently strong to destroy Christian churches on its territory and should therefore return some of the occupied territory to the Palestinians. Otherwise, Rabbi Yoseph contended, Jews might be killed in a war that could erupt. We pointed out that most writers who discussed Rabbi Yoseph's alleged dovish leanings falsified by omitting his reasons for advocating concessions. In addition to emphasizing Israeli weakness, Rabbi Yoseph expressed willingness to command the destruction of idolatrous, Christian churches if Israel and the Jews were sufficiently strong to do this without serious damage to Jews. Rabbi Yoseph thus illustrated the fierce and visible hatred of Christianity and Christians so evident among fundamentalist Jews and, to a lesser extent, among many other Israeli Jews of the political right. Although discrimination against and persecution of Jews in Christian countries has helped to persuade some secular Jews to accept this fundamentalist attitude, it is not the sole explanation. Oriental Jewish rabbis, and to a lesser extent their followers who came from Muslim countries wherein they were generally not persecuted by Christians, have expressed more hate of Christianity and its symbols than the fundamentalist European rabbis and their followers who were persecuted by Christians. In dealing with political factors in our book, we did not specify many of the often petty forms of hatred of Christianity that are officially approved. One case in point is that Israeli educational authorities removed the international plus sign from the textbooks of elementary arithmetic used in the first grades of Israeli schools. Allegedly, this plus sign, which is a cross, could religiously corrupt little Jewish children. Instead of the offending cross, the authorities substituted a capital "T." This substitution was made some years after Israel became a state; the influence of Jewish fundamentalism was responsible. If this substitution had been made by the Taliban in Afghanistan, by the Iranian regime or by China during the cultural revolution, it would probably have been discussed at length. In contrast, this easily discoverable fact has been omitted in English-language articles and books concerned with Israeli Jewish society and Judaism. This omission is but one piece of the existent evidence that most books of this genre are unreliable.

In Chapter 2 we pointed to specific acts of discrimination against and abuse of women perpetrated by Jewish fundamentalists. Seemingly unimpressed by the Israeli Hebrew discussion of and the Israeli Jewish feminist criticism of this discrimination and abuse, writers of English-language books and articles about Israel have rarely mentioned this phenomenon. They have not acknowledged that until modern times most Jewish women were kept illiterate and denied education by command of the rabbis. They and others have condemned abuses of women in Iran and other countries but have refused to specify the even more abusive acts against women in Israel. Jewish feminists have instead celebrated in their writings the few important Jewish women mentioned in the Bible and the one woman mentioned in the Talmud, Bruria, the wife of the second-century AD sage, Rabbi Meir. The diaspora Jewish feminists and other English-language writers have neglected any reference to the disparaging stories about women in talmudic literature; they have also failed to admit that from the time of Bruria until the advent of modern influences upon Jews in western Europe in the seventeenth century not one Jewish woman was sufficiently important to be emphasized as a leading figure in Jewish history. (This can be compared to the numerous women who became leading figures in many areas, including religion, in Western Christendom in the same time period, in spite of Christianity's well-known discrimination against women.) The inescapable conclusion is that English-language sources are unreliable, not only in the study of the Jewish fundamentalist attitude towards women but also in the more general study of the status of women in historical Judaism.

In discussing the topic of Jewish blood in Chapter 2, we quoted both the previously mentioned Rabbi Yoseph and the former chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, both of whom ordered pious Jews not to accept blood donations from non-Jews unless their lives were at risk. These two eminent rabbis, as well as others inside and outside of Israel who agree with this view did not invent this opinion. This and other similar opinions, existent from the beginning of blood transfusions, are based upon a talmudic prohibition that does not allow a non-Jewish nurse to breast feed a Jewish child. The cited reason for this prohibition is that the milk from a non-Jewish woman would have an adverse effect upon a Jewish child. In Chapter 2 we quoted the discussion of the Jewish blood topic that was published in 1995 not only in Israel's most widely read daily Hebrew newspaper but in other Hebrew newspapers as well. We can assume that readers of this book who are not literate in Hebrew and who were not previously told about such discussion in the Hebrew press would be unaware of this prohibition of pious Jews accepting blood transfusions from non-Jews and sometimes even from secular Jews. This prohibition is not to be found in English-language articles or books about Judaism or Israeli Jewish society. (Some fundamentalist Jews may discuss this topic among themselves, but they limit that discussion to their own groupings and do not write about it for publication in English.) It would be absurd to suggest that in the last years of the twentieth century scholars, writers and others from around the world would not discuss and attack an analogous edict, issued by highest ranking Christian Church leaders, prohibiting Christians from accepting blood transfusions from Jews. The prohibition is not a secret; it has been openly discussed in the Israeli Hebrew press. This is yet another example of distortion by omission, which makes English-language coverage of various aspects of Israeli Jewish society unreliable.

In Chapter 3 we briefly discussed how followers of Rabbis Yoseph and Shach attempted to use magic against one another. This occurred after the struggle between these two leading rabbis became intense. The political significance here transcended the Yoseph-Shach disputation; the alleged use of magic is part of the deep division between Israel A and Israel B, which are defined previously in both our text and glossary. Members of Israel B, following some historic Jewish customs, believe in magic and witchcraft; they often practice it themselves or follow directives supposedly derived from it by rabbis and cabbalists. (Books in Hebrew detailing instructions for spells and witchcraft recipes have been best sellers in Israel for many years.) Individuals who are reputed to achieve success by use of magic frequently obtain political power in Israel. Most Israeli political pundits are agreed that one of the important reasons for Netanyahu's victory in the 1996 election was the exclusive blessing he received during the campaign from the cabbalist Rabbi Kaduri, and the firm refusals of many Jewish magicians and cabbalists to bless Peres. (Only the Hassidic Belzer rabbi said that he was neutral regarding Peres.) Rabbi Kaduri has remained to date a widely reported, highly visible Hollywood type star in the Israeli Hebrew press. He was at the center of media attention when he descended below the surface of the sea in Eilat in a device, usually used to allow tourists to see underwater sea life, and supposedly instituted spells in order to avert an earthquake that was predicted by scientists. He claimed to have diverted the earthquake from Jews to non-Jews. Many Israeli Jews believed this claim, because the predicted earthquake was light in Eilat but was much more severe in upper Egypt.

Another example of the popularity in Israel of magic was evident in the circumstances surrounding the 1999 trial in the District Court ofJerusalem of a major Shas Party politician, Aryeh Der'i. Der'i was convicted and sentenced for taking bribes in spite of tens of amulets hung on his body and blessed by the most outstanding cabbalists, who additionally engaged in other magic ceremonies on Der'i's behalf. At the same time of this trial a scientific congress on the use of magic and witchcraft in Judaism was held in Jerusalem. Tom Segev, a columnist for Haaretz and one of Israel's best known authors, wrote that the use of magic by Jews was nothing new in Judaism. In his March 26, 1999, Hebrew-language Haaretz article, Segev transcribed a magical recipe found in a book, composed in talmudic times (AD 200-500) but still popular in the Diaspora in the eighteenth century. This recipe, which was devised to confuse a judge and cause him to acquit unjustly a person who used magic, called for the following: "Slaughter a lion cub with a copper knife. Gather its blood; tear out its heart and put the blood into it. Then, write the names of angels on the cub's face, and wipe the names with three year-old wine. Mix the wine with the blood. Next, take three heaps of perfume (names omitted). After purifying yourself, stand before the planet Venus at night with the perfume and the blood, which must be put on fire." This act would supposedly compel the bewitched judge to acquit. Segev reported that the Israeli scientists participating in this Congress believed magic to be "an inseparable part of Judaism—used in past intrigues involving rabbis." To support this view, Segev quoted a saying in the Palestinian Talmud attributing the large number of High Priests during the Second Temple period to the fact that High Priests often killed one another by using witchcraft. This opinion expressed in the Palestinian Talmud is probably incorrect; the large number of High Priests during this period should most likely be attributed to bribery and other political actions of secular (mostly Jewish) authorities of time connected with making appointments. This opinion, which is not quoted in English-language writings on Judaism, nevertheless indicates the wide use of witchcraft by Jews' attempting to kill one another in this time period. The typical picture, presented in English-language works, of the pious Jews of the third period of Jewish history is on balance invalid. The picture of the pious Jew of talmudic times, standing at night before a planet and attempting to perform magic rites, is more accurate and can help us understand the reality of Israeli Jewish society better than the fictional description offered by apologists. The use of magic in everyday life is also common in certain Jewish neighborhoods of New York, London, Paris and other cities.

In spite of its obvious political importance and social significance, this aspect of Judaism in modern times remains as widely unreported in English, and thus as unknown to those who do not read Hebrew, as the past use of magic and witchcraft. In all known societies some individuals have indulged, and still do indulge, in magic. The misguided attempt to hide this past and present tendency, which is widespread in Israel, has infested the English-language histories of the Jews. The substitution of apologetics for historical fact renders these history texts at least unreliable and perhaps unfit for study.

In Chapters 4 and 5 we dealt with the religious Jewish settlers in territories occupied by Israel since 1967 and with Gush Emunim, the movement that produced the settlers. Despite the attention given to the issues of Israeli settlements in the territories, English-language coverage has almost totally neglected the two major considerations, without which proper understanding of this overall topic is impossible. The first consideration is that the urge to settle has been theologically motivated and is a manifestation of Jewish fundamentalism. In discussions of the obligations that people must obey in countries ruled or influenced by Muslim fundamentalists the religious reasons are highlighted. In most English-language discussions of Jewish religious settlements, however, the religious reasons are usually either totally missing or are replaced with biblical quotations, uttered by the settlers. In our text we showed that the real motivating factors for the religious settlers, some of whom have moved to improbable sites, have minimal connections to the Bible. The real reasons emanate instead from a special idea of Jewish fundamentalism. This idea asserts that the messiah will arrive soon and postulates that the world is already in the messianic age.

We began Chapter 4 by asserting that messianic ideology, as a radical part of Jewish fundamentalism, is based upon the differences and opposition between Jews and non-Jews rather than simply between Jews and Arabs (or Muslims). Writers of English-language books, articles and book reviews have rarely mentioned this basic tenet, the major exceptions being those writers who have composed the invalid, out-of-context, virulent and poisonous anti-Semitic literature. The published reviews of Yehoshafat Harkabi's book, Israel's Fateful Hour, provide a good illustration of this point. The original Hebrew edition of this book was first published in Israel; the English edition was published thereafter in the United States in 1988. Harkabi's book received wide attention in the United States because of its analysis of Israeli politics in the 1980s and its emphasis upon differences between the Labor Party and Likud in foreign politics. In one crucial chapter, from which we quoted and paraphrased in our text, Harkabi analyzed some major issues of Jewish fundamentalism and stressed the importance of messianic ideology within that context. Harkabi's book was extensively reviewed in American publications, but only one reviewer in a small circulation progressive publication referred to this crucial chapter. The other reviewers in American publications avoided any mention of this chapter and/or its substance. Reviewers in Israel emphasized this chapter in their comments. The difference in reviewing between the United States and Israel is telling.

In maintaining that differences and opposition exist between Jews and non-Jews, messianic ideology continues to be the primary motivating factor for Gush Emunim and its major supporter, the National Religious Party. Those who have written about Israeli Jewish society and about Judaism but have avoided mention of this have distorted understanding. The significance here is most striking when the broad support, both direct and indirect, for Gush Emunim is considered. About one-half of Israel's Jewish population supports Gush Emunim. The support, especially monetary, from Jews in the diaspora is also of great importance. Many Orthodox and other Jews as well in New York City and elsewhere have been and are encouraged to assist Gush Emunim by what they read in the largest circulation American Jewish weekly newspaper, the Jewish Press. Published in Brooklyn, the Jewish Press has been and continues to be an editorial advocate of Gush Emunim, often presenting op-ed articles written by leading Gush Emunim spokesmen. New York City and New York State politicians regularly seek backing of the Jewish Press during electoral campaigns. Not only have Jewish Press editorial writers advocated messianic ideology; they have also expressed admiration of Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin. The New York Times, which is read and probably influences many American Jews, has published in-depth analyses of Christian and Muslim fundamentalism but has refrained from presenting similar articles describing Jewish fundamentalism or even advocacies printed in the Jewish Press. Even so-called liberal American periodicals, such as the Nation and the New York Review of Books, which have published editorial comments and articles upholding and advocating Palestinian rights, have neglected to present analyses of Jewish fundamentalism in their own country. Readers of these and most other periodicals in the United States, and in other countries as well, would not know, unless they read books and articles published in Hebrew in Israel, that Gush Emunim's goal is to build a "sacred society" whose nuclei are the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. It is insufficient, if not folly, to advocate Palestinian rights without understanding and referring to the principal cause of the denial of those rights: Jewish fundamentalism in general and the messianic variety in particular.

The Goldstein massacre, discussed in Chapter 6, was inadequately covered in the English press. That Israeli Jewish society was divided in its attitude towards the massacre was evident in the Hebrew but not in the English press and literature. Before the massacre, Goldstein's refusal as a doctor on religious grounds to treat non-Jewish patients, including soldiers serving with him in the army, was, although mentioned briefly, treated lightly in the English coverage. Goldstein clearly derived his views from fundamentalist interpretations of sacred Hebrew texts. The English coverage indicated that he merely followed the teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahane, a whipping boy of the American press. In reality, Goldstein's views were more broadly based and centered in Jewish fundamentalism. Having immigrated to Israel as an adult, Goldstein, prior to his arrival in Israel, had been influenced by the "Lubovitcher Rebbe" and his influential disciple, Rabbi Ginsburgh. His attitude, moreover, was condoned by important, Israeli politicians and the Minister of Defense. Articles in the Hebrew press, to which we referred in our text, discussed these points in depth; the English coverage avoided mention of much of this.

In Chapter 7 we showed how well-documented features of Jewish fundamentalism during the past 800 years, the third and longest period of Jewish history, have influenced and continue to influence contemporary Jews in the state of Israel and in the diaspora as well. Both the popular and more scholarly and renowned, standard Jewish histories, written in English, omit most of these features. The historic features of Jewish fundamentalism were manifest in the Rabin assassination and in the reactions to it. Because of omission, distortion and lack of criticism of Jewish fundamentalism, the English-language coverage could not and did not put the Rabin assassination in the correct context and thus was misleading.

Important issues are involved here, all of which are omitted in the standard Jewish histories. The first of these, well-known to serious students of the third period of Jewish history and especially to those who have knowledge of Jewish religious law and Orthodoxy, is that, before being affected by outside modern influences, Jewish society was not tolerant. On the contrary, autonomous Jewish authorities persecuted deviants, perhaps more than did Christian and Muslim authorities in their respective religions and certainly more than did pagan, Buddhist and Hindu authorities. The intolerant attitudes and activities, enshrined in the sacred texts of Jewish fundamentalism in all its varieties, influenced the behavior and politics of Jews, especially when they had autonomous power. To oppose the current dangers posed by Jewish fundamentalism, it is first necessary to expose its historical basis. As we have repeatedly stated, most writers of books on Judaism in English have not done this. Influenced by their heritage, many Jews have unfortunately either remained indifferent to the oppression of Palestinians in and by the State of Israel or have at times criticized acts of oppression as posing possible danger to Jews. Some of these individuals, for example, condemn the use of torture as being unconditionally inhumane when used by states other than Israel, but they argue pragmatically that its use by Israeli authorities is not in Israel's best interest because of worldwide public opinion. Many of these same people in the United States are zealous in advocating and fighting for the separation of religion and state in their own country, but they react differently in regard to Israel. They do not criticize, indeed they most often support, the Israeli Ministry of Religion, which is almost always controlled by Jewish religious parties influenced by Jewish fundamentalism, for allotting only 2 per cent of its budget to non-Jews when nearly 20 per cent of Israel's citizenry consists of Muslims and Christians. Both in Israel and in the diaspora the relatively few Jews who have attempted to defend non-Jews against discrimination and oppression by Jews have been those who have been influenced by modern theories of justice. The fact that the majority of Jews do not protest against, but actually support, Jewish discrimination against non-Jews, especially in the Jewish state, indicates, at least to some extent, the conscious and unconscious influence of Jewish fundamentalism. We believe that attempts to hide historical reality in Judaism and Jewish societies were wrong when Jews were discriminated against and persecuted in most countries. By the end of the twentieth century, when Jews have achieved greater power in many societies than any minority group of comparable numbers and when a Jewish state with nuclear weapons is protected by the United States, falsification by omission of Jewish history is purely adverse and totally unacceptable. The nearly total absence of discussion of the above intolerant aspects of the Jewish past and present in English-language books caused us to dispense with a traditional bibliographical listing or essay.

The issue of Jewish normalcy and the exceptions to it require examination. Jews in many instances oppressed their own people as other people did. During the same time period, for example, that rabbis ordered the hands of Jewish offenders to be cut, Spanish judges, as well as judges in most Christian and Muslim courts, did likewise. Rabbis ordered Jewish offenders put into stocks in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth just as non-Jewish authorities used the stock as a feature of regular punishment throughout Europe and in the American colonies. The systematic killing of informers, enjoined by eminent rabbis as a religious duty, has no parallel in other societies. Killing of informers has nevertheless occurred and still occurs in other societies and, as is the case in Sicilian society, is often well known. Scholarly historical works, historical novels and the classical literature in general of many countries and societies depict the sometimes-employed punishment of killing informers. In contrary fashion, the major Jewish historians who have written about the third period of Jewish history, for example, Salo W. Baron, Simon Dubnow and Yitzhak Baer, have omitted such references in their works. Other highly regarded Jewish historians who have focused upon the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Christian Spain and Germany have done likewise. Numerous Israeli scholars, who have written in Hebrew and from whom we quoted and paraphrased in our text, have in contrast displayed more honesty in their scholarship by including examples of the systematic killing by Jews of Jewish informers. Consequently, those readers who are not literate in Hebrew (or have not been told in detail about books in Hebrew about Jewish history) must have distorted perceptions of this aspect of Jewish history. This reflection solidified our resolve not to include a traditional bibliographical listing or essay.

The distortions, largely by omission, in the English-language histories of the third period of Jewish history are greater and more severe than are those of the first and second periods. The reason for this is obvious. Because Judaism and Jewish history are so important for the history and theology of Christianity until and shortly after the time of Jesus, Christian historians and biblical scholars, often critical in their writings, dealt with Jewish history and Israelite society during the first two periods. The better Jewish historians of those two periods have felt obligated to follow trends established in scholarship in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; they have engaged in critical discussion, even while complaining about what they regarded as hostile tendencies of Christians who wrote about Jewish history. Few Christian or Muslim scholars have been or are interested in Jewish history between AD 70 and modern times, the third period. Apologetic writing of Jewish history is not unique. Most national histories include apologetic writings. The writing in English by Jews of Jewish history has remained far more retarded than have the writings of other national histories. A comparison that illustrates this point is the difference between the development of historical writing by American historians of United States history and the lack of development in the writing of Jewish history, especially of the third period. In recent decades standard United States history textbooks have included numerous negative features, previously omitted, of past discrimination and oppression of African Americans, Native Americans, women and other disadvantaged minority groups. As previously reiterated, most books in English of Jewish history, especially of the third period, continue to omit negative features of discrimination and oppression of both Jews and non-Jews by Jews. The harmful effects of these omissions remain.

We are finally troubled by the near unanimity in standard English-language Jewish histories regarding issues involving "Jewish interest." Whereas the Israeli new historians of the 1980s and 1990s have sparked fruitful debate about basic issues not only of the past century in regard to Palestine but of the entire course of Jewish history, previous historians who wrote in English have omitted facts and disputations over interpretations of sensitive items. Having already detailed much of this in our bibliographical note, we, in attempting to illustrate our point, shall here present only one additional example. The famous scholar Gershom Scholem, early in his career raised an important intellectual issue about the nature of Judaism; soon thereafter he, together with numerous other scholars, dropped it. This issue then became virtually unknown to people who did not know Hebrew. In his first book in English about Jewish mysticism, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, based upon a previous set of lectures delivered in New York City, first published in 1941 and reprinted many times, Scholem questioned whether Jews who believed in Cabbala had preserved the belief in monotheism that had been previously so characteristic of Judaism. In his seventh lecture towards the end of section five of the book, Scholem, after describing the process, which according to the Lurianic Cabbala takes place by Jewish initiative within God, wrote: "To reconcile this process with the monotheistic doctrine, which was dear to the Kabbalists as it was to every Jew, became the task of the theorists of Kabbalistic theosoply. Although they applied themselves bravely to it, it cannot be said that they were completely successful." These two convoluted sentences implied that the most popular form of Cabbala, still believed by many Jews in Israel and in the diaspora, is not monotheistic. Actually, Scholem refrained from mentioning that many Jewish opponents of Cabbala, before it became dominant around 1550 and during the Jewish Enlightenment, asked the same question more clearly and expressed more sharply their opposition to the predominant Lurianic form on the ground that it denied monotheism. Since then, scholars who have written in English about Judaism, including Scholem himself in later books, have not, with few exceptions, questioned whether Judaism in all its forms and all times was monotheistic and/or whether many pious Jews were believers in monotheism. (Raphael Patai was one exception. In Chapters 5 to 8 of his book, The Hebrew Goddess, published in 1967, Patai raised this question. Israel Shahak, another exception, did likewise in his more recent book, Jewish History, Jewish Religion.) The scholars who have written in English about Judaism have, again with few exceptions, not considered in their books the even more important question of whether Judaism throughout its entire history has had fixed tenets.

We are aware that the books we have not put into a bibliography contain useful data. We nevertheless believe that these books are guilty of purposeful omission resulting in grave distortion and do not necessarily deserve to be listed in a bibliography. These books anyway can be easily found in other bibliographies. We append this note in lieu of a traditional bibliography in protest against what too often happens in Jewish studies outside Israel.








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