Daniel Boyarin is far from the typical Orthodox Jew.
A professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Boyarin is a renowned Talmudic scholar and Shabbat-observant Orthodox Jew.
But he’s also an ardent advocate for the LGBT community and an outspoken critic of Israel.
Despite the Zionist ideals of his youth, today Boyarin is a self-declared anti-Zionist and proud supporter of the BDS movement.
Boyarin lived in Israel for years, but since returning to the US in 1990 he has refused to speak with Israeli media outlets. This week, Channel 10 managed to secure the first ever interview with Boyarin by an Israeli news organization.
When asked about the ongoing wave of Arab terrorism in Israel and whether he understood that in Israel he would be targeted for violent attacks, the professor claimed he had more to fear from “assassination attempts by right-wingers” angered over the interview.
Boyarin has been a leading advocate of the academic boycott of Israel, targeting Israeli universities, including the Hebrew University and Bar Ilan University, where he taught prior to his conversion to anti-Zionism.
Speaking to Jweekly, a San Francisco-area Jewish paper, Boyarin described his transformation from left-leaning Zionist to a die-hard anti-Israel activist, citing the First Intifada as the turning point.
“When I heard [then Minister of Defense] Yitzhak Rabin say ‘break their arms and legs’ [speaking about Arab demonstrators], I thought ‘There’s something wrong here.’ And when I talked to people about it, who told me it’s necessary to break the arms and legs of young teenage boys to support this project [the State of Israel], then I felt that this project is rotten.”
But unlike the mainstream Israeli left, Boyarin’s disillusionment led him to a total rejection of Zionism – and the existence of Israel.
“The more I studied and looked at the discourse, the more I really came to believe it was not a question of right-wing Zionist versus left-wing Zionist. I realized that there is a fundamental flaw at the heart of the enterprise.”
Today Boyarin sees Israel per se as illegitimate; a foolish decision and an illegal occupation – even inside the Green Line.
“I think Israel was a mistake, a big mistake,” he told Channel 10. “People in a desperate situation do foolish things.”
“It's [Israel] all occupied in my opinion.”
In the past Boyarin compared Israel to Apartheid-ridden South Africa. In 2006 he called Israel an apartheid state, condemning it for the “destruction of human rights and democracy”, which he claimed “is at least as severe as that of the South Africans.”
During his recent Channel 10 interview, however, Boyarin made direct comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany.
“I would say that the actions of the government and some segments of [Israeli] society are very similar to the Nazis,” Boyarin said.
In a contribution to the anthology “Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Boyarin argued that Israel had “killed” Judaism, and notably refused to refer to the biblical cities of Hevron and Beit El by their original, Hebrew names.
“It has been said by many Christians that Christianity died at Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor. I fear — G-d forbid — that my Judaism may be dying at Nablus [Shechem], Daheishe, Beteen [Beit El] and al-Khalil [Hevron].”