At last, I met my rabbi

Fear of wisdom is one of the notable characteristics of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement. I often find myself flabbergasted by the indignation solidarity enthusiasts direct against creative minds, scholars, thinkers and wisdom in general. But the solidarity movement is consistent, coherent and determined on at least one front- it is united in its battle against ‘anti-Semitism.’ Not surprising, given that the movement has long been dominated by Jewish progressive organisations and funded by liberal Zionists such as George Soros and his Open Society Institute.

As many of us learn to accept that the solidarity movement has been largely reduced into a controlled opposition apparatus, it is reassuring to find out that Palestinians, in general, and Hamas, in particular, are more determined than ever to fight Israel and bring their ongoing plight to an end. In fact, the Palestinians are not alone. More and more solidarity supporters are awakening to the covert transformation in the movement. Increasingly, voices of dissent grasp that the solidarity discourse has taken an unfortunate turn. They detect the problematic Judeo-centrism embedded in Jewish progressive politics. In fact, especially since the Israeli elections, many of us have noticed that while Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies speak openly about the reality of the Jewish state, our imaginary friends at Mondoweiss, JVP and the PSC still prohibit any attempt to discuss the Jewish culture that drives the Jewish state. I hope that one day this clan of peace advocates will come to their senses, but I won’t hold my breath.

For a while I have been arguing that unlike the duplicitous Jewish progressive discourse, it is Jewish orthodoxy’s opposition to Zionism that presents the only Jewish principled, ethical collective stand against Zionism and Israeli evil.

A week ago I met the inspiring Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro in a kosher deli in Manhattan. The meeting was arranged by my dear friend and New York radio host Tom Kiely who joined us. (Please note that a kosher restaurant wasn’t my choice. For almost 20 years I’ve been keeping a very strict diet—I basically, eat ‘everything except kosher.’ This time I had to compromise on Brooklyn pickled cucumbers, and Israeli style instant humus. For the sake of peace, I was willing to compromise my most precious culinary rules.

I was thrilled to find out that Rabbi Shapiro was familiar with my thoughts. He has read ‘The Wandering Who.’ He was fully aware of my criticism of Jewishness. Our thoughts on the situation were pretty much in line. His scholarship was thorough and sincere, his arguments astute and his terminology transparent. This combination is rarely encountered within the institutional solidarity discourse.

Rabbi Shapiro is not happy with Zionism and not just because of the crimes that are committed in his name by those who call themselves Jews. He rightly sees himself and his community as victims of ‘identity theft.’ At a certain stage in recent Jewish history, a group of people (secular assimilated Jews) rebranded themselves as ‘the Jews’ at the expense of those who have been Jews and recognised as such throughout their long history (Torah Jews).

Rabbi Shapiro is an opponent of Zionism. But unlike the banal Diaspora Jewish left that ‘as Jews’ condemn Netanyahu or Israeli policy while overlooking the fact that such disapproval actually affirms Israel’s legitimacy as the Jewish State [1], Rabbi Shapiro protests against Israel’s self-proclaimed mandate to represent the Jews. Instead of falling into the usual secular Jewish ethno-centric exceptionalist trap that is symptomatic to Zionists as well as their so-called ‘anti,’ Rabbi Shapiro defines himself as an American citizen who follows the Jewish faith. He doesn’t claim any privilege when it comes to Israel or any other state. Quite the opposite, he claims no special privileges whatsoever. He opposes Israel not just because it has been plundering Palestine for decades but also because it has robbed the Jews of their true historic home, the Torah.

I pointed out to Rabbi Shapiro that Zionism wasn’t alone. At about the same time that Zionism was trying to uproot the Jew; the Bolsheviks were making final plans to transform the Russian people into a socialist collective and in Turkey, the Ottoman Empire was taken over by a new ideology determined to uproot its culture and heritage in the cause of secularist, nationalist westernisation. As Zionism became more popular amongst Jews in Europe and the West, The Frankfurt School was forging its post Marxist global uprooting doctrine and Wilhelm Reich decided that a sexual revolution could save the working class from their ‘mass reactionary conservatism.’

By the end of the millennium not much was left of the Western Athenian heritage. Suppressed and abused by the tyranny of political correctness policed by identity politics merchants, the Western citizen was reduced into a voiceless subservient consumer. Bolshevism, The Frankfurt School and Wilhelm Reich are considered by a growing number of scholars as ideologies associated with Jewish secular thoughts. Interestingly, a growing numbers of Turkish Scholars are now convinced that the Young Turks and even Kamal Ataturk, were in fact Jewish converts and followers of the false Jewish messiah, Rabbi Sabbatai Zevi.

Rabbi Shapiro wasn’t surprised by my thoughts. He was fully aware of the history and philosophy I expressed. He wasn’t annoyed by my suggestion that the Zionist assault on Torah followers was just one symptom of a far greater Jewish secular ideological transformation. A true scholar, Rabbi Shapiro referred me to some academic comparative studies of the Turkish revolution and the birth of Zionism. My take home message was clear-unlike the Jewish left that is determined to divert any attention from Jewishness, my new favourite fearless rabbi is thrilled by the topic and is willing to engage in any attempt to review Jewish culture, ideology and history.

Unlike the Zionist and ‘anti’ who seem devastated by me turning my back on the Jews and Judaism, Rabbi Shapiro didn’t show any remorse from my drift away. For him, Judaism is a God oriented affair. The Torah and the bond it requires with God are demanding tasks. If you are not willing to believe in The Shem and take on all the commitments involved, don’t be bothered—set yourself free. And in practice, the freest Jew, the one brave enough to look in the mirror, to reflect and criticise, is apparently the most pious one-an orthodox Rabbi. I am relieved, but somehow I knew it all along.

[1] If X is entitled to criticize the Jewish state only because X is Jewish, then X’s criticism itself affirms Israel as the Jewish State.

Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli jazz musician, author and political activist. His new book, “The Wandering Who,” may be ordered from or

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