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‘Un-Jews’: Famed Jewish Refusenik Who Spent 9 Years In Soviet Prisons Blasts American Leftist Jews

"Israel has become the ball and chain that endangers their standing as good progressives.”
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The internationally famous refusenik and human rights activist Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in Soviet Russian prisons, including a prison camp in the Siberian gulag, slammed leftist American Jews who have swallowed the anti-Israel rhetoric of Palestinian supporters that denies the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, calling them “Un-Jews” and saying bitingly, “Israel has become the ball and chain that endangers their standing as good progressives.”

In a powerful essay, Sharansky, joined by Gil Troy, a historian from McGill University, blistered the leftist Jews in Tablet Magazine. He started by noting that after Israel was attacked by Hamas missiles from Gaza in May, “the criticism from some voices within the American Jewish community seemed not only more intense but categorical, escalating very quickly from what Israel did to what Israel is.”

Sharansky and Troy continued, “… at a time when 85% of American Jews also say that it’s ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for them to ‘stand up for the marginalized or oppressed,’ it is no wonder that for many American Jews, especially those in public spaces, Israel has become the ball and chain that endangers their standing as good progressives. It is also no surprise that this threat to their cherished identities as ‘progressives’ is met by a corresponding fury that leaves no room for reasoned argument about specific Israeli policies or actions.”

The authors then delineated how Israel-haters work:

The anti-Zionists know exactly what they are doing, and what they are undoing. They are trying to disentangle Judaism from Jewish nationalism, the sense of Jewish peoplehood, while undoing decades of identity-building. In repudiating Israel and Zionism, hundreds of Jewish Google employees rejected what they call “the conflation of Israel with the Jewish people.” The voices of inflamed Jewish opponents of Israel and Zionism are in turn amplified by a militant progressive superstructure that now has an ideological lock on the discourse in American academia, publishing, media, and the professions that formerly respected American Jewry’s Zionism-accented, peoplehood-centered constructions of Jewish identity.

Then, the authors named the Jews who capitulate to the Israel-haters’ agenda:

We call these critics “un-Jews” because they believe the only way to fulfill the Jewish mission of saving the world with Jewish values is to undo the ways most actual Jews do Jewishness. They are not ex-Jews or non-Jews, because many of them are and remain deeply involved Jewishly, despite their harsh dissent. Many un-Jews are active in forms of Jewish leadership, running Jewish studies departments, speaking from rabbinic pulpits, hosting Shabbat dinners. For many of these un-Jews, the public and communal staging of their anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist beliefs appears to be the badge of a superior form of Judaism, stripped of its unsavory and unethical “ethnocentric” and “colonialist” baggage.

The authors then traced the history of Jews who have betrayed their people, all the way back to the time of the ancient Greek and Roman times, before asserting, “Today’s un-Jews remain as engaged with parts of their Jewish heritage, as appalled by other parts, and as anxious for acceptance, as their predecessors. … Today’s social justice warriors make war on Israel the same way that the Soviet communists made war on Jewish peoplehood and its institutions.”

The authors concluded, “Ultimately, a broad, welcoming dialogue is important. But those who are set on denying the essence of Jewish peoplehood are rarely interested in the kind of respectful, mutual exchange that builds us all up. Rather, they are bent on destroying the most powerful force that has kept us together as a people through the ages—and without which they, too, will paradoxically wither away.”

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