The cult of atheist Zionism posing as Judaism
By Rich Siegel
This essay was first published in Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists. (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012)
January 1, 2012
I consider myself a cult survivor. I was raised in the cult of Atheist-Zionism-Posing-as-Judaism. I stated this to a few select friends several years ago, and they thought it was funny. The statement brought with it a pregnant pause, as though a punch line was going to follow, as though I were telling a joke. No punch line. I'm serious. More recently, subsequent to Israel's 2006 Lebanon war and the massacre in Gaza of 2008-2009, I find that I can say this and it is taken seriously. People know that something is very seriously wrong with Israel, and with the culture that supports Israel. They may not understand it, but they're more open than they were.
My family's involvement with Zionism goes back to its beginnings. It includes a grandfather who fought with the Jewish Legion to "liberate" Palestine from the Turks in WWI, great-great-grandparents who went to Jerusalem for their retirement in the 1920's, the best buddy of an uncle who smuggled arms from Czechoslovakia to Jewish terrorist groups in Palestine in the lead-up to the 1948 war, grandparents who were officers in their local B'nai Brith1 chapter, and a cousin who was involved in "Operation Mural"2. He currently represents Jewish/Zionist NGOs at the United Nations office in Geneva. His wife writes Muslim-bashing books under a pseudonym.
During my childhood, Zionism and Israel were held up on a pedestal. They were central to our existence, our identity, our raison d'Ítre. They were our sub-cultural equivalent of "Mom and apple pie". I grew up convinced that they were perfect and beyond reproach. There was simply nothing in my environment to indicate otherwise. Finding out that I had been lied to all my life, and that I had been supporting something that I would never have supported had I been told anything resembling the truth, has been absolutely shattering.
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