Tony Greenstein | 29 May 2016 | Post Views:

A Response to Rabbi Elli Sarah

Rabbi Elli Sara

Rabbi Elli Sarah is a Liberal rabbi in Brighton and Hove.  Liberal Judaism is supposed to be the most progressive
form of Judaism, however Zionism has dragged it to the Right.  Reform Judaism, of which Liberal Judaism is a variant, wished to update Judaism in
the 19th century in line with modern capitalism.  It was to Orthodoxy what Protestantism was to
Catholicism.  Reform Judaism’s reaction to Zionism
when it first emerged was hostility.  It
rejected outright the idea that the Jews were a separate nation.  That was the view of the anti-Semites and
Reform Judaism wanted nothing to do with those who would reverse the tide of

In one of the more amusing incidents of the social calendar, Rabbi Elli Sarah invited Julie Burchill, the non-Jewish Zionist Islamaphobe into her house and was dissed for it.  Elli Sarah doesn’t see the irony that the Palestinians invited the Jews in their homeland and were expelled by way of gratitude.

Elli Sarah herself achieved a measure of notoriety a few years ago, because
she is an openly lesbian rabbi.  My
father was an Orthodox Rabbi.  If he and
his fellow rabbis had their way Elli Sarah would have gone the way of Lot’s
wife – turned into  a pillar of salt!  But Elli Sarah has, along with many political
gays, moved to the Right. 

Elli Sarah has written an essay entitled ‘WhyAnti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism – but criticising Israel isn’t’   Her essay is a good example of how
people can genuinely believe that what they write is profound and original, even
though it is little more than an echo chamber for the received wisdom of
establishment politicians and their media outlets. 
Clichés and hackneyed phrases are dressed up as original. 

Elli Sarah has no criticism of the Zionist record vs the Nazi state – the above quote from Ben Gurion’s official biography by Shabtai Teveth – the Burning Ground – suggests otherwise.  It would have been better to save half Germany’s Jewish children in Palestine than all of them in England

Elli Sarah’s thesis is that anti-Semitism equals anti-Zionism.  It is a rather common theme.  Abe Foxman of America’s right-wing Anti-Defamation League said, ‘Anti-Zionism 99 percent
of the time is a euphemism for anti-Semitism.’  Elli Sarah is not being new or innovative in her thesis.  All that she is missing from her essay is a description of Jewish anti-Zionists as self-haters’ and

Even today Zionist groups work with anti-Semites

I have a different take.  Anti-Zionism
is never anti-Semitism.  They are polar
opposites.  If anti-Zionism is
anti-Semitic then it isn’t anti-Zionism. 
Anti-Zionists as individuals may, rarely, be anti-Semitic but
anti-Zionism is a political ideology that is as different from anti-Semitism as
chalk from cheese.

Rabbi Sarah has a saying on her website ‘At its heart, Judaism is about… trouble-making.’ Unfortunately this is not true, and
Rabbi Sarah is the best example of why Judaism today is a religion of
conformity, obedience and racist apologetics. 
Judaism has not had had the equivalent of the Catholic’s liberation
theology or even the Protestant Reformation.

When Jewish refugees from the pogroms in Czarist Russia came to these
shores, they were met with open hostility by the Rabbinate.  Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler described the
immigrants as “criminals… mentally or physically afflicted.’ [Geoffrey
Alderman, The Jewish Community in British Politics, p.187, Clarendon Press]

One would have to go back to the prophets to find religious figures prepared
to admonish the false priests and the worshippers of the golden calf.  That is why the Zionist movement is more
happy with the Book of Genocide (Joshua) than the Book of Prophets.

The ability to cloak superficiality in the clothes of profundity is a useful
skill.  It’s how people like Andrew Neil
and David Aaronovitch make a living.  However
it only serves to reinforce peoples’ prejudices whilst turning most people off
politics altogether.  Its trade is in

Ms Sarah’s essay asserts that which it tries to prove.  The theme that anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism
is the constant of every gutter Zionist and rabid nationalist.  The kind of people who march with their blue and white flags
wrapped around them shouting ‘Israel lives’. 
They proclaim their righteous nationalism in Palestinian blood. 

Ms Sarah graciously allow us the right to criticise the policies of Israel (but
not too many of them) but we are forbidden to question where these policies and
practices originate.  We can condemn the sinner
but not the original sin. 

I began to consider my response to Elli Sarah after having written a tribute
to one of the most remarkable Jewish women in the past half century, the late
Hedi Epstein, who died last Thursday aged 91. 
Hedi was on the Kindertransport that took nearly 10,000 Jewish children out
of Nazi Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to London in 1938-39.  Her parents and most of her family died in
Auschwitz.  At the time the Zionist
Organisation opposed the Kindertransport. 
David Ben-Gurion, the then Chairman of the ZO wrote that:

“If Jews will have to choose between the refugees, saving
Jews from concentration camps and assisting a national homeland in Palestine,
mercy will have the upper hand and the whole energy of the people will be
channelled into saving Jews from various countries. Zionism will be struck off
the agenda not only in world public opinion, in Britain and the United States,
but elsewhere in Jewish public opinion. If we allow a separation between the
refugee problem and the Palestinian problem, we are risking the existence of

(Ari Bober (ed.), The Other
Israel, p.171 quoted in Lenni Brenner Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, see also official biography of Ben Gurion ‘The Burning Ground 1886-1948’ Shabtai Teveth, p. 855)

Elli Sarah doesn’t have a clue why Ben Gurion wrote this or if she does she won’t be letting on because it would mean admitting that on the even of the holocaust the Zionist moving was desperately trying to prevent German Jews reaching any other refuge than Palestine, which the British had all but closed to new immigration.  The Zionist response to the Evian Conference which Roosevelt had called in 1938, on the even of war, was one of unmitigated hostility.  In the fairy tale history that is now painted of that period the idea that, as Ben Gurion said, it would be better for the refugees to die than go anywhere other than Palestine is not one that is admitted to.

Hedy Epstein who has just died.  A holocaust survivor who escaped on the kindertransport, Hedi was a Jewish saint – according to Rabbi Elli Sarah she was also anti-Semitic.  If the Zionist movement had had its way, she too would have died at Auschwitz rather 

Hedi Epstein became, like a number of holocaust survivors a Jewish
anti-Zionist.  In her case this was
because of the massacre of some two thousand Palestinians in 1982 in the Sabra
and Chatilla refugee camps.  The
massacres were carried out by Israel’s allies, the Lebanese Phalangist militia.  Israel had invaded Lebanon in 1982, killing some 20,000 people.  The PLO fighters had evacuated the camps
shortly beforehand and they contained mostly old people, women and
children.  Israeli troops lit up the
night sky as the Phalangists went about their work, which included
disembowelling and cutting off the breasts of women and castrating young boys.  The Phalange were named after Franco’s
fascist Falange, and the alliance had been pioneered by the Israeli Labour

According to Elli Sarah ‘there
is no historical evidence that Hitler
supported Zionism.  If we take ‘Hitler’ to mean the Nazi State then there is a lot of evidence – see Lucy Dawidowicz’s ‘War Against the Jews’ above.’  Heydrich, the ‘engineer of the final solution’ (Reitlinger) was explicitly pro-Zionist

Hedy Epstein was arrested at Fergusson Missouri aged 90 protesting the racist
murder of a Black teenager, Michael Brown. 
According to Elli Sarah, Hedi Epstein was an anti-Semite.  Indeed not only Hedi Epstein.  In 1938 the anti-Zionist Bund gained 17 out
of the 20 Jewish Council seats in Warsaw and 61% of the Jewish vote in Poland.  It formed together with the Polish Socialist
Party the ruling bloc in Warsaw and Poland’s major cities.  The Zionists gained precisely 1 seat in
Warsaw.  According to Rabbi Sarah, the
vast majority of Polish Jewry, 90% of whom were exterminated, were also

The equation
of Nazism with Zionism’
is anti-Semitic.  Presumably Hannah Arendt (above) was anti-Semitic too?

Far from anti-Zionists being anti-Semitic it is Elli Sarah who comes closest
to this.  She has contempt for the Jews
who died in the holocaust even though she is happy to use them as the alibi for
a state that is modelled on the same principles as the European fascist
countries, Nazi Germany included.  Hannah
Arendt pointed out, in her book ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ how ironic it was that
the Nazis Nuremberg Laws were denounced during the Eichmann trial when in
Israel too it was impossible for a Jew and a non-Jew to marry.

From ‘War Against the Jews’ the Zionists were not to be treated with the strictness that the non-Zionist Jews merited

Elli Sarah’s essay is completely divorced from the reality of Israel today.  A demonstration of thousand Jews in Tel
Aviv 3 weeks ago supported the soldier who executed a severely wounded Palestinian
in the head.  Some 60% of Israeli Jews supported his action.  The demonstration was held
under a banner ‘Kill them all’ and the chant went up ‘Death to the Arabs’.  One Jewish journalist, David Sheen, who was though to be from the human rights organisation Bt’selem, was beaten up.  Because human rights NGO’s have been targeted by the Netanyahu coalition.  Indeed one banner said ‘My loyalty is my honour’
the slogan of the SS!

Just 8% of Israelis define themselves as leftists.  We have as Israel’s new Defence Minister a
man, Avigdor Lieberman, who has spoken of beheading Israeli Arabs and drowning
thousands of Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea.  His Deputy Eli Dahan describes Palestinians
as beasts and remarked that ‘“A Jew always has a much higher soul than agentile, even if he is a homosexual.” I guess that his concession on gays is some

Nor are Dahan and Lieberman unusual. 
According to Pew’s Israel’s Religiously Divided Society  a plurality of Israeli Jewish voters want to expel Arabs and 79% believe Jews should
receive preferential treatment.  Israel
is an apartheid society.  It is a state,
not of its own citizens – Jewish and non-Jewish – but of all Jews, wherever they

Why should Elli Sarah and me have the right to ‘return’ to a country we have
no attachment to when Palestinian refugees, who were expelled in 1947-8 have no
such right?  Why should Jews have the
right to lease 93% of Israeli land when Arabs have no such right?  Does the fact that a book, Borderlife, was banned
by Israel’s Education Ministry from high school English syllabuses because it
depicted a relationship between Jewish and Arab teenagers and thus threatened
Jewish ‘national identity’ not have eery echoes of the 1930’s?  Does not the refusal to admit refugees, because
of Israel’s Jewish ‘national identiy’ not give her pause for thought?  Or do examples of Israel’s racism cause Elli
Sarah’s brain to go on vacation?

Borderlife  was banned for the same
reasons that the Nazi Nuremberg Laws banned miscegenation, an ugly word that
was first used in relation to the Deep South of America, i.e. sexual relations
between Jew and non-Jew.  The Israeli
government funds an openly fascist organisation Lehava which campaigns against
mixed Jewish-Arab relationships and whose leader Benzi Gopstein openly callsfor the burning of mosques and churches.

If British Jews were treated in the same way as the Palestinians Ms Sarah
would be the first to shout ‘anti-Semitism’
Elli Sarah knows that she can’t defend the indefensible.  She therefore resorts to the same defence
that supporters of apartheid South Africa use: 
‘why don’t you protest the Black
African states
Their human rights record is worse than ours.’  The answer then and now is that Apartheid is a
particularly unique evil.

The suggestion
that we single out Israel amongst all the other countries for reasons of
‘anti-Semitism’ is risible.  Israel is
‘singled out’ because it singles itself out.  It says it is the
Middle East’s only democracy.  It
receives the highest US aid of any country in the world.  Motions condemning its settlement activities
are routinely vetoed by the USA in the UN Security Council.  Israel receives favoured nation trading
status in the EU.  It even competes in the Eurovision despite being in the Middle East.  Israel likes to
portray itself as a western country but its chorus of apologists complain when
we hold it to its self-proclaimed standards.

Israel is a democracy for Jews and a Jewish state for Palestinians.  Its democracy is but skin deep.  It has rigorous military censorship, administrative
detention (internment without trial), it holds secret trials where even the
name of the defendant cannot be mentioned, it uses torture regularly against
Palestinian detainees (and recently when Jewish terrorists were tortured there was a
mighty uproar).  It maintains two legal systems in the West Bank (military
courts for Palestinians and civil courts for Jews) which is as good a definition
of apartheid as it gets.

If the ‘Jewish’ state was Jewish in the same way Britain is Christian, i.e.
a constitutional adornment, then there could be little complaint.  If Israel was simply a place of refuge for
Jews suffering persecution, that too would be acceptable.  However Israel isn’t even that.  When the only post-war neo-Nazi government
came to power, under the military junta in Argentina (1976-83), when up to 12% [3,000]
of those who disappeared [i.e. died under torture] were Jewish, Israel turned its back.  As the late Yossi Sarid MK of the left-Zionist
Meretz observed, ‘‘the government of Israel never once lifted a finger and
co-operated with the Argentine murderers because of their interest in arms
deals….In Argentina, Israel sold even the Jews for the price of its immediate
“Yes, I Accuse,” Ha’aretz, 31 August 1989.

I suspect Elli Sarah has never read Jacobo Timmerman’s book ‘Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number’ of his experiences in prison in Argentina.  He was a prominent editor and a left-Zionist (or at least he was until he went to live in Israel!).

In her attempt to prove ‘anti-Semitism’ Elli Sarah focuses on
Naz Shah’s facetious joke about transplanting Israel to the United States.  In fact the map she used came from the Jewish
Virtual Library!  The remark came about
during Israel’s attack on Gaza when over two thousand people, including 551
‘terrorist’ children were murdered.  Perhaps
Ms Sarah has forgotten the chant of the Israeli mob ‘There’s No School In Gaza,There Are No More Kids Left’  This at a time when Israelis moved armchairs and a coffee machine to a hill
overlooking Gaza so they could enjoy the bombing.

The hypocrisy of these holocaust mongers is best demonstrated by the fact that they pick up on Naz Shah’s reference to the ‘transportation costs’ of moving Israel to the United States (note that it is automatically assumed that it is only the Jews of Israel who are involved).  ‘Transportation’ symbolises death trains to Auschwitz.  It is as if Jews never use the word transport, still less trains for fear that they might be carted off to an extermination camp!  What utter hypocritical rubbish.  Unfortunately Naz Shah was intimidated, like the defendants in Stalin’s purge trials, into admitting her guilt.

Elli Sarah speaks about the Holocaust survivors who found refuge in
Israel.  In fact most of them wanted to
go to the United States not Israel but their path was blocked by the opposition
of the Zionist movement in the USA.  They
have become the alibi for the Israeli state but Israel’s use of the holocaust
as a propaganda weapon is in stark contrast to their treatment in Israel.  As Ha’aretz (6.2.13) noted,Israel Is
Waiting for Its Holocaust Survivors to Die’
as it then won’t have to pay them
the meagre benefits they receive.

Ms Sarah refers to the kibbutz movement as an ‘ideal way of living as
a Jew’
.   She omits to mention that they were institutions
founded on land from which the Arab peasants had been evicted and of which only
Jews could be members.  In other words they were racially exclusive clubs, stockade and watchtower settlements.

Elli Sarah states that there is no historical evidence that Hitler supported
Zionism.  In fact there is a lot of evidence
that the Nazis favoured the Zionist movement over and above all other Jewish groups
before and even after 1941.  There is the
Kasztner trial in Israel when survivors of the Hungarian holocaust accused the Jewish
Agency and its representative Kasztner of collaborating in the round-up and
entrainment of the Jews.  The verdict of
the Jerusalem District Court  brought the
second Israeli government of Moshe Sharrett down in 1955.

Zionism was a movement of settler colonialism not self-determination as Elli Sarah maintains – above is from the founder of Political Zionism Theodor Herz, making overtures to mass murder and white settler leader Cecil Rhodes

Elli Sarah describes Zionism as ‘a movement for the self-determination of
the Jewish people, in response to virulent anti-Semitism.’.  
In fact the founders of Zionism were clear that their model was that of Cecil Rhodes, the settler leader after whom Rhodesia was named, not Garibaldi or the leaders of the French Revolution.  Zionism was indeed a response to anti-Semitism but
one that accepted the anti-Semitic framework that Jews did not belong in the
societies they lived in.  Ms Sara to accepts the thesis of the anti-Semites when she says that Jews had been ‘living a marginal existence in other peoples’ lands for most
of our 4000 year history.’

Herzl’s fruitless approach to Cecil Rhodes, whom the Zionists much admired

This isn’t so.  Elli Sarah and I live in Britain as full
citizens.  It is as much our country as
anyone else’s.  Only anti-Semites and Zionist
proclaim otherwise.  When Ms Sarah
proclaims that ‘One of the main objectives of the early Zionists was the
‘normalisation’ of the Jewish people.’
She is accepting the anti-Semitic trope
that Jews were abnormal.  It is somewhat
ironic that Rabbi Sarah then goes on to accuse others of ‘anti-Semitism’!

On June 4th Brighton will see an attempted march by a
fascist and anti-Semitic group of neo-Nazis. 
Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been busy helping to organise the
counter-mobilisation, as we did in 2012 when the March for England was halted
in its tracks.  EDL/MFE – We Won the Day 
Once thing is for certain.  Elli Sarah and all the rest of the Zionist claque will play no part in opposing the real neo-Nazis who will try and march in the streets of Brighton. Zionism never has opposed anti-Semitism.  It is far more interesting in painting the opponents of anti-Semitism as anti-Semitic.  Zionists have no interest in
opposing anti-Semitism except where defence of the State of Israel is
concerned.  That is the lie at the heart
of Rabbi Elli Sarah’s thesis.

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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