Following my article in Crikey yesterday about a new survey that indicates many Australian Jews are questioning Zionism and Israel, this letter is published today:
Margaret Bozik writes: Methinks it is Antony Loewenstein that protests too much. There has never been any time in history when 100% of the Jewish community would have described themselves as Zionists and 80% doing so in Australia today is a remarkably high figure especially given the less than glowing media coverage and incredibly complex nature, history and reality of the Middle East today.
From a historical perspective there have always been Jewish detractors of the concept of a Jewish State – from the Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jewish socialists who sought Jewish autonomy within Eastern Europe to assimilated Western European Jews who sought acceptance as German, British or French citizens. Then there are ultra-Orthodox Jews who believe that only the Messiah should re-establish Jewish rule in Israel.
I am willing to bet that a significant portion of the 10 per cent of respondents who did not answer the Zionist question were ultra Orthodox Jews who may be waiting for the Messiah to come but in the meantime are praying to God to keep safe their relatives and friends who are currently living in Israel. They may not call themselves Zionists but they care deeply and personally about the safety of their extended community!
And some respondents who said they were or were not a Zionist may have held identical views but had a completely different understanding of what the word “Zionist” means. Both Lowenstein and representatives of the organized Jewish community agree that there is no clear definition of what a Zionist is.
The survey throws up many fascinating issues about the Australian Jewish community, particularly in regards to the acceptance and participation of those who migrated from the former Soviet Union. But 20% of respondents not specifically identifying as a Zionist is not one of them.