The culture of the diaspora Jew

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By SAMUEL KILSZTAJN*

Modern political Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel as a Jewish state have always been controversial, both among secular Jews and in religious circles.

Before the Holocaust, Jews of European origin (Ashkenazim), who spoke Yiddish, represented 90% of Jews in the world (today they represent 80%), the rest were Sephardim e mizrahim. The Jews Ashkenazim, during the diaspora, they developed a humanist, internationalist and pacifist culture, which can be seen in the vibrant Yiddish literature generated between the last decades of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

In Western culture, Jewish pacifism was considered synonymous with weakness and little virility. These Jews, who always took a stand against the disastrous wars between European countries, were victims of pogroms, submitted to being slaves of the Third Reich and walked peacefully to the slaughterhouse. However, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that the mildness of the Jews, used as scapegoats, in the face of injustice and violence was the true mark of the greatness of the Jewish people.

The Palestine Partition Plan was approved by the United Nations in 1947 as an alternative to the settlement of surviving Jews who were housed in refugee camps in Europe. For the member countries of the United Nations, it was more convenient to create a Jewish State in Palestine than to authorize the immigration of these surviving Jews to their respective countries.

In the formation of the State of Israel, by striving to overcome the passivity with which the Jews faced the pogroms and the Holocaust, the Israelis decided to bury Yiddish, the ancient mother tongue of the Jews. Ashkenazim, and declare the sacred language, Hebrew, as the official language. In Israel, the humanist, internationalist and pacifist tradition of diaspora Jews, along with their language, Yiddish, was banned.

It was necessary to create the new Jew, the nationalist and virile Jew, capable of expelling 80% of the Palestinians from the territory that became Israel, to guarantee a Jewish majority in the country; and militarily subjugate the 20% of Palestinians who were allowed to remain in Israel, as well as refugees and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Jews of Israel are called sabras (cactus fruits, Indian figs), thick and prickly on the outside and, as they like to believe, soft and sweet on the inside.

In the 1950s, tens of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors who had immigrated to Israel since 1948, not adapting to the culture of the new Israeli Jewry, decided to abandon the Promised Land. Thousands of Israelis, by fate, arrived in Brazilian lands, an immigration that was very uncomfortable for Brazilian Zionist Jews.

It aliyah In reverse, to this day, there is no record in the history of Jewish immigration by the Israeli Confederation of Brazil – CONIB.

Yiddish, a language with a magical, authentic cultural richness, full of colors, aromas and flavors, has always been a stateless language. The homeland of the Jews of the Diaspora was the book, the Torah, and his only weapon has always been the pen. In the 1950s, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion formally banned the appointment of officers with Yiddish surnames to the military and diplomatic corps, forcing the replacement of Yiddish surnames with Hebrew surnames.

In Israel, speaking Yiddish on the streets was frowned upon, almost a misdemeanor. Poet Menke Katz, after being sent to prison in Israel for speaking Yiddish to his son on the street, packed his bags once again and returned to the United States.

But the Jews in the United States, who had always been considered peaceful, tolerant and unmanly in the aggressive and competitive American society, decided to praise the “heroic” Israelis, betray the culture of the Diaspora Jew and embrace the culture of the new Zionist Jew, virile fighter, tough and armed to the teeth. Pankay Mishra, in article posted on the website the earth is round, analyzes the commitment of both Zionists and Hindu nationalists to replace their previous experiences of humiliation with a heroic culture.

Israel began a military offensive in Gaza after October 7, 2023. NATO hypocritically strives for a ceasefire while the war continues in Gaza, with the Palestinian people being exterminated, and life in Israel continues its normal course , commerce, restaurants and bars open, adults going to work and children attending schools. This war is a farce, it is a massacre.

In 1982, the United Nations, by 123 votes in favor, none against and 22 abstentions, condemned the massacre of Sabra and Shatila declaring it an act of genocide. Israel's Supreme Court found the Defense Minister responsible for the massacre and recommended his dismissal. Would it be possible to imagine, as a reaction to the Sabra and Shatila massacre, a Palestinian offensive on Tel Aviv that would leave it in rubble, as the Gaza Strip is today? Imagine the extermination of thousands of Israeli men, women and children in proportion to the current deaths perpetrated by the Israeli army in Gaza? For NATO member countries, the mere imagination of a Palestinian offensive on the scale of the Israeli offensive is more demeaning than the effective military offensive underway in Gaza.

In 2016, the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) released a Practical Definition of Antisemitism, which includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, for example, by asserting that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist enterprise.” Several NATO member countries have adhered to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, replacing Judaism with Zionism and striving to silence dissenting voices in support of the Palestinian cause, persecuting teachers, researchers and academics, canceling lectures, exhibitions, events, concerts, disinviting people to receive prizes, etc.

In 2020, several Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals expressed their concerns about the IHRA definition of antisemitism. In August 2023, the century-old North American Jewish organization The Workers Circle broke with other Jewish organizations in the United States for disagreeing with the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. In March 2024, the governor of the State of São Paulo saw fit to adhere to the IHRA Practical Definition of Antisemitism.

Modern political Zionism was born at the end of the 1897th century, but was not very significant until the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany. A significant part of European Jews adhered to socialist ideas; and a significant portion immigrated to the United States. The Bund, the General Union of Jewish Workers in Lithuania, Poland and Russia, founded in XNUMX within the Tsarist Empire, constituted an expressive movement in favor of democracy and socialism.

The Bund was internationalist and openly anti-Zionist. Between 1881 (start of pogroms in the Russian Empire) and 1914 (start of World War I), three million Jews left Eastern Europe, two million of whom immigrated to the United States. Jerusalem, for the vast majority of Jews, remained the Heavenly, spiritual, messianic Jerusalem, the paradise, the Promised Land to which, during the Passover, every year, they said they wanted to go “next year”, l'shana haba'ah b'Yerushalayim.

Modern political Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel as a Jewish state have always been controversial, both among secular Jews and in religious circles. For Judaism, unanimity is considered stupid and is condemned.

*Samuel Kilsztajn is a full professor of political economy at PUC-SP. Author, among other books, of yiddish amz.run/7C8V.


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