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Day 4 (Shneer): Is Zionism Still Relevant to the American Jew?

From: David Shneer To: Stefan Kanfer Subject: Pests and bugs? Dear Stefan, I’ve packed the hair gel and water bottles in my checked luggage. But thanks for the advice. You haven’t responded to most of my first letter which lays … Read More

By / December 4, 2006
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

From: David Shneer To: Stefan Kanfer Subject: Pests and bugs?

Dear Stefan,

I’ve packed the hair gel and water bottles in my checked luggage. But thanks for the advice.

You haven’t responded to most of my first letter which lays out what Zionism is (or isn’t) to contemporary American Jewry. Instead you have repeated yourself about the new global threat of Islam.

You view the world, even the world of online written discourse, solely through the lens of violence and, in your words, “combat.” Stefan, what you and I are doing is not combat; this is written debate. We have the privilege of using the pen rather than bombs and missiles. So put away your guns and bullets and start engaging.

I was troubled by your last response. Your arguments are based on a frightening and racist view of the world, especially with such statements as Italy “is overrun with Muslims.” I do not talk about people the way I talk about pests or bugs. And I suspect that most American Jews would agree with me. American Jews cherish both the American freedom of speech that allows you to make such statements, but also the fact that in the U.S. such statements about Jews would probably only be made by neo-Nazis or radical Muslims. It scares me that it has become acceptable to make such statements about any group of people.

I’ll finish my end of our debate by suggesting that the future of American Jews’ relationship to Israel must be frightening for you. Zionism holds less and less weight for younger American Jews who view the world through very different lenses from those of their parents and grandparents . You must be frustrated that they do not see Zionism as the solution to the war on terror. Maybe if you asked them why, you might learn something about the future—and about the present.

As for Billy Rose and his choice to melt the statues down, it makes me very sad that Jews would destroy Jewish culture and Jewish art to defend the Jewish state. (I think the Israeli military can find more creative ways to acquire weapons.) If the story happened as you tell it, I find it incredibly telling that when Ben Gurion asked Rose what to do with the statues, rather than say either, “you’re the head of state, do what you need to do with them” or “the state’s purpose is to preserve the future of Jews, Judaism, and Jewish culture, so if you can spare them, please try to find another source for bullets,” he said to destroy them to make war.

I suspect this may be our different world views at work again. If you and Rose would melt statues for bullets, I presume that during war you would also burn Jewish books to keep warm, and tear down synagogues to use the supplies. Is the destruction of Jewish culture to save the Jewish state what the original Zionists had in mind?

Powerful militaries rise and fall, but Jews, Judaism, and Jewish culture have continued for thousands of years. I wouldn’t melt down the statues, and I’m not sure if Ben Gurion would have either.

B’shalom,

David

Next E-mail: Realism, not racism

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