This Sunday night, May 15 from 10-11 PM, Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro of True Torah Jews will be hosting a radio show on New York's 770 WABC. The theme of the program will be the question, asked so often in today's political world: "So you're against Zionism - does that make you an anti-Semite?"
The latest manifestation of this debate is the controversy swirling around the suspension of former mayor of London Ken Livingstone from the UK's Labour Party. Labour faced calls to suspend Livingstone after he was accused of anti-Semitism and making offensive comments about Hitler supporting Zionism.
During a BBC interview, Livingstone said Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews” and claimed there was a “well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic”.
Livingstone later backed up his statement about Hitler using Lenni Brenner's 1983 historical work Zionism in the Age of Dictators.
Livingstone has refused to apologise, saying that those who criticise Israel should not be confused with anti-Semites.
“Frankly, there’s been an attempt to smear [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn and his associates as anti-Semitic from the moment he became leader. The simple fact is we have the right to criticize what is one of the most brutal regimes going in the way it treats the Palestinians,” he said.
Challenged about his comments on BBC News, Livingstone said people should not confuse criticising the government of Israel with being anti-Semitic. He said you would not find anyone in the Labour party saying anything anti-Semitic without being expelled recently.
To add to the confusion, UK's chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis published an op-ed in the London Daily Telegraph responding to Livingstone and claiming that one cannot separate Judaism from Zionism. "Zionism is a belief in the right to Jewish self-determination in a land that has been at the centre of the Jewish world for more than 3,000 years. One can no more separate it from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.”
Indeed, the Holy Land has always been at the centre of the Jewish world, and is the focus of many of our prayers. But Rabbi Mirvis neglects to mention that there is no Jewish text stating that Jews have an inherent right to self-determination. The self-determination we enjoyed in ancient times was a G-d-given privilege, which we believe G-d took from us due to our sins. Ever since G-d exiled us from our land 2000 years ago, He expressly forbade us to have our own country.
What is the real Torah position on all of the above? Is Zionism really part of Judaism? Are Zionism's critics really motivated by anti-Semitism?
Tune in this Sunday night and listen to Rabbi Shapiro and his guest, Lenni Brenner, an expert Holocaust historian and author of the book cited by Livingstone. Learn a few facts that Zionists don't want the world to know.