Vol. 11, Issue No. 31/2004
Israel Shahak "Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years"
In his most illuminating and disturbing book, Professor Shahak takes the lid off previously hidden Orthodox Jewish beliefs and practices. He explains how these beliefs are at the heart of the Zionist adventure and constitute a major influence upon Israeli government policies and actions. We are made aware of the paradox of a largely secular state basing its raison d'etre and future direction upon biblical text.
Frightening, too, is the near-total control of most Jewish organizations now in the hands of Zionists; it is now almost impossible for a Jew to openly disassociate him or herself from, let alone be critical of, the state of Israel or the aims of Zionism. Whereas the critical gentile must be an 'anti-Semite' so must the critical Jew be 'self-hating'. Whatever your point of view on the situation in Israel, whatever your religion or philosophical perspective, however deeply you hold your convictions, you cannot fail to be challenged by this marvelous book.
The depth of Orthodox Jewish antipathy toward the gentile, and especially toward Christianity (and Jesus) will come as an unsettling surprise to the many millions of American evangelical Christians who uncritically accept a fawning admiration of all things Israeli repeatedly displayed by the TV evangelists.
Shahak, who came to Israel in 1945 after surviving the German concentration camp in Belsen during the Holocaust, contends that the potential for Israel's right-wing Jewish religious movements to seize power represents a threat to the peace of Israel and to the Zionist movement. He maintains that Israel as a Jewish state constitutes a danger not only to itself and its inhabitants, but to all Jews and to all other people and states in the Middle East. He was raised as an Orthodox Jew, but condemns what he sees as discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel. He thinks that the real test facing both Israeli and diaspora Jews is the test of their self-criticism, which must include the critique of the Jewish past. Additionally he insists that the religion, in its classical and talmudic form, is "poisoning minds and hearts."
Dr. Israel Shahak deserves a literary prize and a commendation from the international community in his painstaking effort to examine the complicated and often confusing history of the world's oldest monotheistic faith. His courage in presenting a highly informative and scholarly work in a country where many of his fellow Israeli citizens consider him a "self-hating Jew" -- shows the determination of an individual to present sometimes unpleasant facts without fear of potential consequences for himself. Shahak's book needs to be read by religious scholars and students to help them shatter the myths that are often parroted as facts in mainstream media and culture.
Unfortunately he is no longer with us to continue his work in disseminating knowledge and information in areas considered too sensitive to challenge or question because of the overwhelming influence of special interest groups. Shahak's book should be an eye opener to many and serve as a useful guide to do further research for those who have unquestionably accepted facts relating to the concept of a "Lord's Chosen People".