Rabbi Elhanen Beck is a regular fixture at the annual Al Quds Day March in London where he has been photographed with the organiser, Nazim Ali. The exchange below concerns comments Rabbi Elhanen Beck made in the East London Lines:
“Zionism is a secular movement. Imagine if a group of people came along claiming to be Muslim, but they didn’t follow the Qu’ran, they didn’t pray, they didn’t believe in God. And they said they wanted to lead the Muslim people and speak for the Muslim people of the world. It would not be accepted.”
Me: But there was a such a state and it was accepted by the world: Pakistan. Pakistan would not have come into existence without British colonial assistance. India did not want a sovereign Muslim state carved out of its territory. There was religious opposition to the creation of Pakistan too, senior members of the ulema (Islamic clergy) in India, opposed the idea. Some of your allies, Nazim Ali, for example do not oppose the creation of Pakistan the way he does Israel. To a casual observer that amounts to antisemitism, for Nazim Ali, appears to be holding Jews to a different standard to Muslims: the logic here appears to be that it is acceptable for Muslims to carve out a state out of India with help from Britain (the colonial power during this period) but when Jews undertake a similar enterprise it is dubbed illegal. You seem to be holding Jews to a higher standard than you do Muslims?
Rabbi E Beck: Of course I’m not going to mix into to what Muslims believe, or to pass judgment on other countries. My analogy case may not have been perfect, but my point was still true regarding Jews. It’s a fact that Judaism is not a nationality, but rather a religion. Someone who doesn’t believe in a particular religion cannot be considered a member of that religion. For Jews who don’t believe in Judaism to lead Jews and make a so-called “Jewish state” makes no sense – unless you accept the Zionist transformation of Jews from a religion to a nationality.
Also, there is another difference between a Muslim country and a Jewish country. Jews are not allowed by the Torah to make their own state. Muslims are. So we can understand religious Muslims approving of secular Muslims who make a state, just as we religious Jews would approve of secular Jews building a hospital and giving it a Jewish name, because it’s allowed for Jews to make a hospital. But we definitely disapprove of Jews founding a country, whatever kind of Jews they may be.
It’s not our place to decide what is motivating Nazim Ali or anyone else. Our goal is to clean up the image of our own people and make known to the world who are the real Jews and who are the impostors, who use the name of Judaism to rebel against G-d.
Just for the record, `Asabiyyah (nationalisms) are prohibited to Muslims and the prohibition is rooted in the Prophet’s own battles with the Quraish. There are differing views amongst the Islamic clergy; some oppose nationalist states whilst others are more accepting. For Islamic fundamentalists, their goal is not to create a Palestinian state but to end Zionism. For example, Hizb ut Tahrir have disagreements with Hamas because they believe Hamas confines its activism to Palestine only. `Asabiyyah is a lengthy topic and there is no need to delve into the deeper theological aspects here. Suffice to say that the subject came up because Rabbi Elhanen Beck appeared to be of the opinion that state-building is not a religious taboo for Muslims but the reality is that nation states have long been a contentious subject amongst the Islamic clergy. Even the institution of the Caliphate, long considered the Islamic ideal, was eventually abolished and those who oppose its re-establishment re-iterate that it is not sanctioned by the Qu’ran. In any event, the fact remains that in the modern age, nation states are the norm and religious opinion within Islam conformed to accommodate this reality.
To sum up, the issue here is that if Jews alone are singled out for building a nation state, then it amounts to antisemitism.