“Not by Might, nor by Power”: The Zionist Betrayal of Judaism
By Moshe Menuhin. With a new introduction by Adi Ophir.
Originally published as The Decadence of Judaism in Our Time, Exposition Press, 1965; Forbidden Bookshelf, 2017, ebook $9.99.
Dissidents include individuals who have been victimized and those who have a developed sense of empathy for others’ oppression and trauma.
Acts of dissent range from the minuscule to the enormous and assume countless forms. One can sign a petition, kneel during a national anthem, block a highway, sit in the front of a bus, participate in a strike, march or sit-in, lead an armed revolt, or as in the case of Moshe Menuhin – perhaps Zionism’s first dissident – write a book.
Moshe Menuhin (1893-1983) was born in the city of Gomel (as Moshe Mnuchin), Belarus to a notable orthodox Jewish family. As a young boy of eleven he moved to Palestine where he studied at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem and subsequently was a student in the inaugural class of the first Zionist high school in Tel Aviv – Gymnasia Herzliya. Several of his classmates would become leaders of the Zionist Yeshuv (settlement) and of the new state of Israel, such as Moshe Shertok (aka Moshe Sharett, Israel’s second Prime Minister) and Eliyahu Golomb (leader of the Zionist militia- Haganah). Menuhin moved to the United States in 1913 to pursue higher education at New York University. He was the father of legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin and a committed anti-Zionist throughout his entire life, authoring several books on the topic.
Cover of Moshe Menuhin’s book in 2017 reissue.
Moshe Menuhin’s “Not by Might, nor by Power”: The Zionist betrayal of Judaism is a riveting, thorough, courageous and ruthless indictment of the Zionist project written from an alternative Jewish perspective. In fact, much of this book is rooted in the experiences and observations garnered by Menuhin during his own Aliyah (i.e. immigration) and time in Palestine from 1904-1913.
Now reintroduced to the public in an eBook format by Forbidden Bookshelf, a series of publications aimed at bringing attention to groundbreaking yet underrated and vanished books (edited by Mark Crispin Miller) it contains an introduction by scholar Adi Ophir and a postscript added by Menuhin in 1969.
“Not by Might, nor by Power” is a methodical and chronological (and to a significant extent autobiographical) survey of Jewish nationalism, beginning with its various manifestations throughout biblical and post-biblical history, and including its modern incarnation – Zionism – an offshoot of 19th century European political nationalism.
Menuhin devotes the majority of the book to the presentation of historical information peppered with pertinent quotes from Zionist and other world leaders, which reveal a premeditated and systematic plan for the Jewish colonization of the land known then as Palestine – now Israel – alongside a brutal ethnic cleansing of its indigenous people – the Palestinians.
Not by Might, nor by Power is an act of dissent born of pain, love, outrage, shame and a fundamentally Jewish desire for atonement.
Then he said to me, this is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts (Zechariah 4:6)
Moving to Palestine at the age of eleven, Menuhin was deeply inspired by his beloved Jerusalemite grandfather whom he described as an:
…extremely kind, humane and genuine, honest orthodox Jew … (who) believed in the Shulchan Aruch as much as he believed in ethical and universal peace and love for your fellow man… (he) used to always dwell on the point of repentance…
And in fact, central to Not by Might, nor by Power is a theme of repentance, which paints Menuhin’s disillusioned presentation of the hard facts in a shade of religious virtue.
Menuhin’s account of the birth and rise of Zionism offers much information about its successes, trials and tribulations. It is conveyed via a thinly disguised anger at Zionists and “the military junta of Israel” (most notably Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion) for coopting and manipulating the ethical tenets of Judaism for the purposes of justifying a redemption of a contrived Jewish “nation” at the expense of other peoples. Accordingly, his presentation is unabashedly sympathetic to the Arab natives who are cast as victims of the megalomaniacal ambitions of a people driven by an exclusivist and exploitive settler-colonialist ideology.
Remarkably though, Menuhin lays bare the many crimes committed by Zionists not only towards non-Jews, but also Jews. He carefully chronicles the cynical schemes of Zionist leaders who targeted Jewish critique of the Zionist project.
Theodor Herzl told the Second World Zionist Congress in Basel in 1898: “Campaigning against Zion in the Jewish communities cannot be tolerated any longer. It is an abnormal and untenable situation. We must put an end to it … The authority of the community, its means and the persons it has at its command must never be used against the concept of peoplehood. Therefore, I believe, I speak for you too, distinguished Congress members, when I propose capturing the Jewish communities as one of our next targets.” (Page 90)
Actually, Dr. Herzl thought very little of his followers. “I have only an army of schnorrers. I stand at the head of a mass of youths, beggars, and jackasses”, he entered in his diary. (Page 92)
What’s more, Menuhin portrays Zionist leaders as obsessed with their goal – Jewish colonization of Palestine – while committing acts of aggression that resulted in tragic consequences for Jewish communities outside Palestine. In turn, these tragedies served the Zionist nationalistic narrative of the importance of Palestine as a Jewish national refuge against persecution. For example, his remarks on the effects of Israeli aggression toward Egypt in 1956 (aka Suez Crisis, Sinai War, Tripartite Aggression) on the Egyptian Jewish community:
From time immemorial, the Jewish community in Egypt, one of the oldest in Jewish history, had prospered and lived in brotherly peace with their Arab fellow citizens. This happy lot of Jews was irresponsibly sacrificed as a burnt offering on the altar of aggressive “Jewish” political nationalism. Fifty thousand innocent Jews who lived an independent, ideal, happy and respectable life as equal citizens in Egypt, whether under Farouk or Nasser, became beggars overnight, exiled from their homeland, the first casualty in a war that was not of their making or interest. (Page 306)
By demonstrating that Zionist crimes target Jewish communities as well as Arab ones, Menuhin avoids the trap of critique for the purpose of reform, i.e. transforming Zionism into a friendlier system of oppression, and indicts it as an un-Jewish aberration that should be wholly opposed. As such, Menuhin cleverly attacks the Zionist project from within.
Prophecy and propaganda
… Prophetic Judaism is my religion. The essence of Prophetic Judaism – universal and ethical Judaism – is: Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not covet … Love thy fellow-man as thyself … What thou dost not like to be done to thee, do not do to thy fellow-man … Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit … In the place where the repentant stands, even the completely righteous man cannot stand.
A Jew who practices, or at least tries hard to practice the above noble teachings, is my fellow Jew. (Page 770)
Traces of Menuhin’s love for the teachings of his grandfather are interspersed throughout the book as romantic notions of a “real” Judaism – a righteous, universalist one that stands in opposition to Zionism’s nationalistic version and is presented as an alternative to it.
Following his grandfather’s death, however, Menuhin was encouraged to attend Gymnasia Herzliya, the first Zionist high school in the newly-established Hebrew city of Tel Aviv. There, he experienced and rejoiced in a liberal curriculum and a mixed-sex environment, which he saw as unfortunately intermingled with unremitting Zionist propaganda aimed at ingraining a hatred of Arabs and the necessity to drive them out from the promised “Jewish homeland”.
All through the years of our studies at the Gymnasia, we daily imbibed an endless harangue about our sacred obligations towards Amaynooh, Artzaynooh, Moladtaynooh (our nation, our country, our fatherland). (Pages 104-105)
But the propaganda apparatus did not manage to indoctrinate him with its mantras and prejudices, a failure which made him uniquely privy to- and capable of- questioning, assessing, documenting and publishing its mechanisms and crimes.
We must particularly and thoroughly understand how a small but militant group from among the persecuted and bedeviled East European Jews cleverly managed to captivate the unsophisticated West European and American Jews, who were on the road to becoming fully integrated nationals of their adopted or native countries… behind a cloak of simulated philanthropy and innocuous-sounding “togetherness”.” (Pages 61-62)
In Not by Might, nor by Power, Menuhin dissects the crimes and fallacies inherent within Zionism and obliterates its propagandized selling points, while maintaining his love for his version of Jewish identity.
Though Not by Might, nor by Power was published in the mid-sixties, its important insights are as relevant today as they were the day they were printed. Predating the Israeli “new historians” of the 1980s, it is a mystery why Menuhin’s scholarship is not prominently celebrated as a pioneering work in the canons of Jewish and Zionist history.
Menuhin represents a number of prominent Jews, such as Ahad Ha’am and Judah L. Magnes, who favored spiritual as opposed to nationalistic Zionism and were outspoken critics of Zionism’s exclusivist and oppressive practices.
Unfortunately, instead of constructively embracing the critique Menuhin offered as an opportunity to self-reflect and grow, he was vilified as a “self-hating Jew”, a common pejorative used to this day to describe anti-Zionist Jews. In fact, as a result of his scapegoating, the original publisher of Not by Might, nor by Power refused to promote the first edition or print a second one, in spite of high demand post the six-day war in 1967.
But as Moshe Menuhin proves time and again throughout the book, his motivations are precisely the opposite of those attributed to him by his denouncers, i.e. love – not hate, empathy and inclusion – not antipathy and exclusion. His vision of Judaism is one that opposes xenophobic nationalism of dispensationalist entitlement, superiority and dominance.
Israeli society, and by extension the bulk of Jews, are still in deep denial of Zionism’s bloody history, its fallacies, hypocrisies and manipulations, which unless confronted will never be resolved. “Not by Might, nor by Power”: The Zionist betrayal of Judaism can serve as a vehicle to promote understanding, growth and atonement through accountability – essential ingredients in the quest for both justice and healing, and fundamental aspects of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
This piece first appeared in Mondoweiss.