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August 5, 2016 2:04 am

Jewish Historian Renounces Zionism, But at Least She’s Honest

avatar by Rafael Medoff /

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Historian Hasia Diner. Photo: Facebook.

Historian Hasia Diner. Photo: Facebook. – American Jewish historian Hasia Diner is facing widespread criticism over her public renunciation of Israel and Zionism.

I say: Thanks, Hasia, for your honesty.

If Diner acts on her principles, the consequences will not be insignificant. For example, she will no longer be able to accept speaking engagements at the vast majority of synagogues in the United States, since these are vocally pro-Israel.

Ironically, among the synagogues she would not visit is Chicago’s North Suburban Synagogue Beth El (its mission statement declares: “We are committed to supporting Israel”), where there is a children’s school named after the same Paul S. and Sylva Steinberg who underwrite Diner’s own position at NYU.

I do not know exactly how the Steinbergs feel about Israel, although their decision to sponsor a school that is part of a pro-Israel synagogue may provide some indication. But there’s no doubt how the sponsors of Diner’s Goldstein-Goren Center feel about Israel: the Cukier, Goldstein-Goren Foundation was established by three European Jews whose lives were saved by the very same Zionism that Hasia Diner abhors, and who made their fortune – the fortune that supports that center at NYU – in the state of Israel that Prof. Diner now boycotts.

Mordechai (Max) Cukier and his family – including his son in law Avram “Dolphi” Goldstein and Dolphi’s young son Alex – fled from Romania in the midst of the raging Holocaust. Those were the years when, as Chaim Weizmann famously remarked, the world was “divided into places where Jews cannot live and places where they cannot enter.”

One of the very few places where they could go was Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel in Hebrew), which was known as British Mandatory Palestine at the time. Of course, the 1939 British White Paper severely limited Jewish immigration. But for those who qualified for British visas – or who were smuggled into the country by Zionist activists – their haven was made possible by the Zionist movement. During the previous three decades, Zionist pioneers drained swamps and built cities, developing a thriving Jewish community that grew from barely 50,000 to more than 500,000 people.

Zionism was no “naive delusion” for the Cukier, Goldstein-Goren family. It sheltered them from the Nazis, and provided a community where they could rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Max and Dolphi built an enormously successful international textile business based in Israel. They also established a charitable foundation that became a significant source of support for Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beersheba, and whose current supported projects are primarily located in Israel, according to its website. Dolphi’s son Alex has served as president of the foundation and president of the American Associates of Ben-Gurion University. I wonder how Diner felt about attending the BGU ceremony last year at which he was awarded an honorary degree.

Who will be most affected by Diner’s confession of her true feelings about Israel? Parents of Jewish college students, and donors to the Goldstein Goren Center at NYU.

The spread of anti-Israel boycott activity on campuses has become a major source of anxiety within the American Jewish community, especially among parents of college students. Before parents plunk down $48,000 each year for tuition to NYU, they have a right to know if the professors who will be teaching their sons and daughters are pro-Israel, anti-Israel or somewhere in between.

Diner now says she discarded her old Zionist sentiments in 2010. However, she did not publicly disclose her views until last week. Which means that for the past six years, parents of potential students had no way of knowing her real views – and thus no way to make an informed decision on whether to send their children to be taught by her.

The same is true for members of the Jewish community who donate to the Goldstein-Goren Center. According to its website, part of the Center’s mission under Diner is “to train the next generation of scholars” of Jewish history. Can she convince donors that her views on Israel play no role in her training of young Jewish historians? Or, will donors feel uneasy about entrusting that training to someone who is so hostile to the Jewish state that she will not even purchase a container of Israeli-made hummus?

Thank you, Hasia Diner, for being frank about your feelings, and thereby giving parents and donors the ability to make a genuinely informed choice.

Dr. Medoff is the author or editor of 16 books about Jewish history, including The Historical Dictionary of Zionism [with Chaim I. Waxman].

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • Does Prof. Diner know Muslims are recording the names and addresses of Jew at NYU/

    What do you think they’re doing that for? To send New Year’s cards or to attack them.

    The FBI should be immediately notified and take actions to stop whatever the Arabs are plaanning.

    It’s a shame that the Jews act so weak instead of being strong.

  • Student

    I had her as a Professor and she seemed nice, she barely mentioned Israel in class…that being said, I do think that the anti-Israel movement is growing stronger and stronger at NYU. Its Jewish population is massive but they lack proper unity.

  • Sad. She condemns her entire people, its history and struggle for survival in this cruel world. A struggle undertaken by Jews who wanted to be Jews, with courage and against all odds. Our Jewish People are truly a heroic people who have accomplished a huge amount and contributed immensely to this selfish, unforgiving world.
    They say, “the shoemaker needs shoes” and this so-called historian, Hasia Diner, is definitely devoid of respect for her people and dificient in the history and knowledge of what it means to be a Jew or a Zionist—they are one and the same.
    It appears that her ego and selfishness have overtaken her talent. The irony will be that history will relegate her to the dustbin of failures who failed to appreciate the beauty and achievement of her own people and how they had been harassed and tormented by the Palestinians for at least one hundred years including the Palestinian collaboration with the Nazis in the Holocaust.
    A true Jewish Historian would research and write about that and how the Palestinians of today continue the hate and violence of their fathers, and perforce deserve no accommodation from their victims, the Jews.
    Who is Hasia Diner to decide on her own that Israel should not be a Jewish State? Did she inquire of the Jewish People who desperately need a Jewish State as has been shown time and again? No, of course not. And, what kind of integrity does she have to decide in 2010 that she is against a Jewish State but fails to reveal that to the administration that employs her and continues to teach Jewish History to her unsuspecting students?
    The great personal integrity and pride she discovered in 2010 is a sham.
    She is nothing but a hypocrite and a fraud, taking money and honors by defrauding her Jewish sponsors. She ought to be dismissed.

  • Dally Kane

    And thank you for highlighting these supposed Jewish educators. They’re obviously in the wrong field.

  • stevenl

    A “honest” Jew hater!

  • Medoff offers his typically perceptive and well-informed analysis. one would hope that Diner’s candor about her idiotic and hateful views would result in more moral choices by Jewish philanthropists but, if one reviews a catalog of donors to the most fanatical groups & organizations, one, regrettably, finds many Jews.

    About Diner:
    Diner condemns the “horrible” Zionists for “robbing us (“us”? who exactly?) of these many cultures,” i.e. Jews who found a refuge in Israel. huh? on what planet is Diner living? is she a complete fool?

    in Diner’s perverse view, the Jews would be better off in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Germany, Hungary, France, Great Britain, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, etc., etc. has Diner caught the news in the last 20 or 30 or 40 years or has she been on holiday from the news, from the world, from reality?

    And, if it were up to Diner, the Jews would have remained in Europe 70 and 80 years ago. Diner stands condemned by her own idiocy.

    and, while we’re on the subject: where does this obtuse fool live? presumably somewhere in New York, right? what gives her the right to live on land of the Native Americans? Jews in Israel have a title deed in the Bible that is thousands of years old, pre-dating the Muslim conquest by a couple of thousand years. what rights does Diner have? or, does she cut herself a big, fat, dispensation because she’s…smart or wise? not really…self-aware? no…virtuous…no evidence of that, either…full of insight…not that…full of unwarranted self-regard and oblivious to history…now, there you have something.

  • Jay Lavine

    When people say they are “pro-” or “anti-” something, then they are not being objective and even-handed. If your cause is just, then you have nothing to fear from even-handedness, which is a good characteristic for everyone to manifest. The problem, of course, in many of today’s institutions of higher learning is that they have faculty who are not even-handed but rather are biased against Israel.

    As an aside, a question that must be asked is, “What is the nature of Jewish studies departments?” Do they consist of people who like Judaism as a religion and as a way of life? I would say not necessarily, no more so than biologists, who study life, are people who like animals and truly respect their lives. What do biologists do with animals? They kill them and dissect them. Now ask yourself what some Jewish studies faculty members do with Judaism. This is a generalization, of course, and doesn’t apply to all, but I still think there’s some truth to it.

    Getting back to Israel, though, it would behoove those who support Israel, as most people do, to nevertheless listen to other narratives and see whether there is at least an element of truth in any of them. Sometimes it’s important to stop speaking, to listen, and to go about determining the facts and the correct path in an impartial way. This is the Jewish way, and that is what distinguishes Jews from both the left-wing and right-wing ideologues, who seek self-validation though realization of their ideological goals in a consequentialist manner.