Thursday night, I did what every Jew in Israel and the United States should do from time to time. I sat in a room and listened to 90 minutes of anti-Israel propaganda. Why? Because there really are two sides to every conflict, Palestinians have legitimately been screwed by Israel and the rest of the world, and we Jews owe it to them to listen to their narratives. Some of them truly have been dehumanized and abused by our Jewish brothers and sisters.
OK. I did it, and I said it. Now, can I please add that I am sick and tired of the anti-Jewish lobby? I am sick and tired of hearing Palestinians say that they “don’t want dialogue, they want action.” I am sick and tired of hearing about how the Israelis are, above all else, oppressors and the Palestinians are, above all else, victims. And I am REALLY sick and tired of hearing incessant Israel-criticism with no corresponding Palestinian-criticism coming from Jews. Indeed, the Thursday night event I attended was led by a Jewish filmmaker whose proposed solution seemed to be to boycott Israeli products, wait for the older generation of Jews to die out and get replaced by younger and more progressive Jews, and refrain from making any suggestions to Palestinians since it is allegedly not our place as Jews to tell our victims what to do.
There’s nothing quite like seeing a Q&A session in which a Jewish speaker, after leading a one-sided anti-Israel church service, entertains comments from gentiles (in this case, progressive Presbyterians) who compare the Nakba to the Holocaust … and offers not one bit of an objection. Yup. For a guy like me who loves Kubrick and Hitchcock, that kind of horror show can’t be beat.
Or maybe it can. Have you seen the reports this week of the Anti-Defamation League’s survey of world opinion on Jews? You can find it by clicking on “the survey” in this link: http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/14/world/anti-semitism-global-survey/ It seems that anti-Semitism is alive and well – and the numbers of adult anti-Semites have now hit the 10-digit level. By “anti-Semitism,” I’m not referring to the opposition to Israel or Zionism. I’m talking about garden variety distaste for Jews as such. According to the survey, more than 90% of the adults in Palestine and Iraq suffer from it, 88% of the Yemenites, 81% of the Jordanians, 75% of the Egyptians, 69% of the Greeks, 61% of the Malaysians, 45% of the Poles, 41% of the Hungarians and the Columbians, 37% of the French, 30% of the Russians … and 0.2% of the Laotians. Anyone know of any job opportunities in Laos? Maybe that’s where we should hold the next Olympics.
To define an anti-Semite, the survey made 11 statements and required that the respondent answer “probably true” with respect to 6 of them. The statements were: (1) Jews have too much power in the business world, (2) Jews have too much power in international financial markets, (3) Jew’s don’t care about anyone but their own kind, (4) People hate Jews because of the ways Jews behave, (5) Jews have too much control over global affairs, (6) Jews have too much control over the global media, (7) Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars, (8) Jews think they are better than other people, (9) Jews are more loyal to Israel than to [this country/the countries they live in], (10) Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust, and (11) Jews have too much control over the United States Government. Personally, I would answer none of those questions in the affirmative. But I have heard people who in my mind aren’t truly anti-Semites make the last two statements. Still, even if you give the respondents the benefit of every doubt and then some, is there really any question that anyone who would respond affirmatively to six of those statements qualifies as an anti-Semite? And is it not disturbing that 74% of the respondents in the North Africa/Middle East region, 34% of Eastern Europe and 24% of Western Europe qualify? Methinks that a lot of this Zionism-hatred that is all the rage these days in those areas is rooted largely in the hatred of Jews, rather than Zionism per se.
Do you want some more facts and figures? In our most populous continent (Asia), only 44% of the adult respondents have heard of the Holocaust and of that 44%, 41% say it was a myth or an exaggeration. Indeed, less than one out of four Asians affirmatively responded that the Holocaust “has been described fairly by history.”
The ADL survey examined the attitudes of 102 countries, and here in the US the percentage of anti-Semites was only 9 – which ranked us tied for 7th (or 95th, depending on your perspective). That is why we Americans tend not to appreciate how much anti-Semitism is alive and well in this world. And that could explain why one-sided diatribes against Israel are all the rage among certain corners of the American left, including even among leftist Jews – they truly don’t appreciate that the Palestinians aren’t the only group in the Middle East fighting a war based on justice and the need for self-determination.
Personally, my own combination of Judaism and Zionism impels me to argue passionately for Palestinian rights, including their own claim to self-determination in a land that is not dominated by a foreign occupier. But damned if I’m going to sit back and nod while people equate Zionism with racism and/or deny that Zionism has even the slightest connection to anti-Semitism. And when I hear that trope from Jews, I just keep thinking about Patty Hearst and the Stockholm Syndrome (i.e., the all-too-common phenomenon epitomized by hostages, like Patty Hearst when she was kidnapped in 1974, who come to identify with their captors). In this case, it’s not the Palestinians who are the captors of the Jewish left. It’s that the rest of the world has beaten down the Jewish people for millennia, continues in large part to resent the Jews, and the state of Israel is thankfully our primary refuge to put an end to that insanity … but so many members of the Jewish left who truly are not in their bones anti-Semitic have joined the vanguard of the largely anti-Semitic chorus that is calling for an end to any Middle Eastern state that self-identifies as “Jewish.”
For Jews to feel free to criticize Israeli policies (like the Settlements) and call for reconciliation with our Palestinian cousins is beautiful and necessary. But for them to engage in such criticism without pointing out that they too belong to a people of victims who are fully deserving of their own state is, quite frankly, hard for me to stomach. Many anti-Zionist Jews, no less than Patty Hearst, have fallen prey to their captors – only in this case they’ve been “captured” by the anti-Semites who have slaughtered, ghettoized, dehumanized and despised our people and whose descendants now think that we have too much power and are uppity and racist insofar as we demand the very thing that they have in so many of the countries listed above: a state for one’s own people.
The truth is, though, that this story will have a happy ending for the philo-Semite – or at least a happier ending than for our Palestinian cousins who are being misled into dreaming about a solution that isn’t likely to come any time soon. The Stockholm Syndrome might be here to stay, but so too is the Jewish State. Those who support the boycott-Israel movement or otherwise wish to see the demise of Zionism may indeed live long enough to see the last Holocaust survivor depart from this earth, but those survivors will be replaced by other Zionists who shall keep the dream alive. You see, it is a terrible thing for Jews to wash away Palestinian history (which is why I showed up on Thursday to sincerely and compassionately learn more about it). But it is every bit as terrible for the hard-left to wash away Jewish history. And once you steep yourself in Jewish history, it’s hard to be a passionate anti-Zionist…. unless, of course, your hero is the young Patty Hearst.