Gershon Baskin

Being Jewish


Gershon Baskin. Photo: Otmar Steinbicker

Being Jewish and part of the Jewish people has been a central part of my consciousness and identity for as long as I can remember. Religion has never been the central core of my Jewish identity, peoplehood has been. My Judaism has never been defined by antisemitism. Allowing such a definition dignifies and perhaps even legitimizes antisemitism.

The Holocaust is not the single most important thing that has happened to the Jewish people in modern times, the establishment of the State of Israel is. Israel was not established because of the Holocaust and not even as a response to it. Zionism was the national liberation movement of the Jewish people and Israel is the state of the Jews, not a Jewish state.

Having not been born in the State of Israel, I came home to Israel, because this is where my roots are and I believe this is where my future is – as part of the Jewish people. But as much as I feel home in Israel and there is no place on earth where I call home except here, the State of Israel has pushed me further away from the Jewish religion and gives me an increasing sense of alienation from the religious rituals and customs of Judaism.

My secular Jewish identity has an ideology. My ideology comes with a cradle of history, culture and language that is forever expanding, expressed with exuberance and creativeness that easily completes with any other society in the modern world. The rebirth of the Hebrew language – an unprecedented phenomenon – in our ancient homeland has created a library of new classics that our Jewish identity has shaped and that shape our identity.

In more recent times, our language is actively interacting with our sister language, Arabic, the language not only of our neighbors but also of some of our greatest scholars, such as the Rambam, enriching our culture and yes, our identity.

It is not the so-called Left which has forgotten what it means to be a Jew, it is the right-wing religious ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalists who are redefining Judaism as belonging to a particular political camp, or supporting a particular prime minister, or by believing that parts of the Land of Israel were liberated by divine design and not occupied in a war fought by our army in self defense.

The State of Israel has alienated me from religious Judaism by sanctifying stones and not human life and humanitarian values. Judaism in the State of Israel is claimed by a monopolistic orthodoxy one of the leaders of which, a rabbi and the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, standing in front of secular Jews at the last Haaretz Peace Conference, said: “I am willing to sit and talk to Israel’s worst enemies, but I will not sit with Conservative or Reform Jews.” Is that what being Jewish means? How can it be Jewish to deny equal rights for all Jews in the State of Israel? How can it be Jewish for Israel to be the only democratic country in the world where Reform or a Conservative rabbis cannot performs rites of passage? Jewish law doesn’t even demand that a rabbi perform a wedding ceremony, so denying the rights of non-Orthodox Jews can be defined as being Jewish? I am Jewish. I was born Jewish. I have been raised Jewish. I married a Jewish woman and have raised three Jewish children. I now have a Jewish granddaughter living in the first Hebrew city, Tel Aviv. I immigrated to the homeland of the Jewish people and believe that I have worked every single day of my 39 years in Israel to make the Jewish homeland a better place.

By the way, I am also an atheist.

I am also very Jewish and there is nothing that anyone can do that will convince me that the criminal in prison for theft or violence or rape who wears a kippa and prays three times a day, and keeps the Shabbat according to Jewish law and fasts on Yom Kippur and doesn’t eat hametz on Passover is more Jewish than I am.

I don’t pray. I don’t go to synagogue.

I don’t fast on Yom Kippur.

I keep the Shabbat according to my own rules and I only eat matza on the eve of Passover and yes, I am very Jewish.

I am very Jewish and I am very connected to the Land of Israel and the State of Israel. I am Jewish and I feel attachment to all of the Land of Israel – also to Judea and Samaria. I am Jewish and I live in Jerusalem and there is no place on earth I would rather live. Our Jewish history was in Judea and Samaria, but our future is not there. If Judea and Samaria were not also the home of almost three million Palestinian Arabs the situation might be different. But because we want Israel to be the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people, Judea and Samaria cannot remain under Israeli sovereignty.

I believe that the state of the Jewish people must be a democratic state. The lessons of our history and the values that we have imparted to the world are built on a foundation of human rights, human dignity, compassion and equality. The State of Israel cannot be the nation-state of the Jewish people when half of the population under its sovereignty are not Jewish and do not want to be Jewish, or part of the nationstate of the Jewish people. The most un-Jewish thing I can think of is forcing the Palestinian Arabs of Judea and Samaria out of the land where they were born or confiscating their property.

I accuse! I accuse those who believe that in the name of Judaism and the Jewish people they can deny millions of people their human and political rights because they are non-Jews or because they don’t recognize the legitimacy of Zionism.

Those who continue to march Israel forward into a non-democratic binational reality have forgotten what it means to be Jewish. I accuse those who deny modern and liberal expressions of Judaism as no longer being Jewish or being part of the Jewish people of forgetting what it means to be Jewish.

Gershon Baskin ist Autor des Aachener Friedensmagazins Seine Beiträge finden Sie hier

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Beiträge von Gershon Baskin

Being Jewish

Public diplomacy

Gabbay on the road to defeat

Gaza’s geo-strategic remaking

The Americans are Coming, Again!

The next Palestinian generation

The house of God


The Zionist Left – Israel’s only hope

To be a free people

The Day after Independence Day

Prisoners, strikes and rights

The inevitability of peace

From Washington to Jerusalem

Eight pieces of advice to Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt

Becoming a real, effective democracy requires a real, effective opposition

Only two states – nothing else

The fatal Israeli-Gaza mistake (2)

The fatal Israeli-Gaza mistakes

The wisdom to limit our rights

Where to, Israel?

Get out of our lives already!

The authority of the Authority


The state of denial

Settlements, annexation and the death of Zionism

It’s not just the economy

Encountering peace?

Building a shared society

Excuse me for asking

Secret back channels


The Left is right

A moment of opportunity

The worst negotiations, the best negotiations

Palestinian suffering makes no sense for Israel

Creating a compelling vision for peace

It is also in our hands

There is no partner


The partnership challenge

A new intifada?

After Abbas

A bad agreement is better than no agreement

Israel’s strategic choices regarding Gaza


Jerusalem of peace, Jerusalem of war

The Gaza challenge

Is Hamas prepared to end this war with a long-term ceasefire?

Some thoughts this morning

Regional forum for security and stability – Gaza first

After a long phone conversation with a Hamas leader in Gaza

Don’t destroy Gaza, build it!

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace (part 3 of 3)

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace (part 2 of 3)

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace


My Conversation With Hamas

Keine Fortsetzung des Unilateralismus!

Diesen Weg müssen wir einschlagen!


Eine Ein-Staat-Realität ist nicht durchführbar

Mord an der Chance für Ruhe

Das Ende des Raketenbeschusses aus Gaza

Es gibt einen Ausweg

Atomwaffen raus aus dem Arsenal

Was Abbas Israel sagen sollte

Ist mein zionistischer Traum gestorben?