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Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich   Letter 05   29-Sep-1997   Yesterday's Ukrainians, Today's Palestinians
Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich
"The State of Israel now fulfils towards the oppressed peasants of many countries not only in the Middle East but also far beyond it a role not unlike that of the Jews in pre-1795 Poland: that of a bailiff to the imperial oppressor." Israel Shahak


September 29, 1997

Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich
29 Shchekavytska Street
Kiev 254071
Ukraine


Dear Rabbi Bleich:

While we are still on the subject of Israel Shahak's Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Pluto Press, London and Boulder Colorado, 1994, there is still another question that I would like to solicit your opinion on.

That question is whether it is possible that a people can carry with them an ideology which repeatedly places them in the same relation to others, even over the course of centuries?  Specifically, the possibility that I am referring to is that because they have kept their ideology largely intact, Jews today are playing the same role with respect to Palestinians that they played with respect to Ukrainians some three hundred years earlier that is, during the time of Khmelnytsky.  And of course I refer also to the ancillary possibility that a Palestinian Khmelnytsky will appear to lead his people out of their oppression.  Here is what Israel Shahak has to say on the matter:

The maxim that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it applies to those Jews who refuse to come to terms with the Jewish past: they have become its slaves and are repeating it in zionist and Israeli policies.  The State of Israel now fulfils towards the oppressed peasants of many countries not only in the Middle East but also far beyond it a role not unlike that of the Jews in pre-1795 Poland: that of a bailiff to the imperial oppressor.  It is characteristic and instructive that Israel's major role in arming the forces of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, and those of Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and the rest has not given rise to any wide public debate in Israel or among organised Jewish communities in the diaspora.  Even the narrower question of expediency whether the selling of weapons to a dictatorial butcher of freedom fighters and peasants is in the long term interest of Jews is seldom asked.  Even more significant is the large part taken in this business by religious Jews, and the total silence of their rabbis (who are very vocal in inciting hatred against Arabs).  It seems that Israel and zionism are a throw-back to the role of classical Judaism writ large, on a global scale, and under more dangerous circumstances.  (pp. 74-75)

And so in light of Israel Shahak's interpretation above, my two questions to you now are perhaps ones that as a religious leader who is intimately acquainted with both Ukraine and Israel you are uniquely qualified to answer:

(1) Is it fair to consider today's Palestinians as yesterday's Ukrainians, and yesterday's Ukrainians as today's Palestinians?

(2) Is there reason to believe that the classical pattern, which Jews are even today following in Israel and in other places, will not also be repeated upon any rebirth of Judaism in Ukraine?


Yours truly,


Lubomyr Prytulak



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