-- Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom
“We condemn all acts of violence against Jewish institutions”
-- Mohammed El-Masri, Head of the Canadian Islamic Congress
“Muslims have too much power in Canada”
-- Frank Diamant, B’nai Brith
One year ago, I was of the attitude that Anti-Jewish action was not a big deal, something of which, as per the great Counterpunch essay by Michael Neumann, “far less scary than Icy Roads.” At this point, I feel differently. In the face of the attacks on the twin towers in Sept 2001, an environment was created that gestated a unique and horrifying form of Islamophobia that in many ways, parodied old-fashioned “protocols” type anti-Semitism. The likes of Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson suckered many people, and Bernard Lewis again became a front-of-the-bookstore special. With the actions of Israel going against all commonly understood notions of human values -- even Jewish values , and the perception that most adult Jews support the state of Israel, whether true or not, indeed has created an environment in which Anti-Jewish sentiment can and will flourish.
The other day I was talking to a fellow member of the local Jewish anti-occupation group, who was starting to waffle in the face of genuinely horrifying attacks on Jewish institutions in Canada. I stated that it stood to reason that first of all, these attacks cannot be interpreted as anything beyond hate crimes, along with the bombing of an Islamic Centre, which received far less coverage even in liberal sectors of the Canadian Press. My friend’s grandmother, after all, had a Swastika sprayed on her house.
I also explained that logically, given the fact that many humans form prejudices in times of chaos, that Israel’s behaviour will lead to increased Anti-Jewish activity in North America and Europe. Indeed, if not for a belief in justice for Palestine, more Jews need to speak out as Jews against Sharon’s depravities, if only to alter the perception that Jews stand behind an assassin. Just as we found it strange when so many Catholics covered up for pederasty, the general public finds it strange when the collective perception of “the Jew” is either William Kristol or Dore Gold.
Fair-weather progressives, lubricated by the Zionist sympathies of Jewish public figures like Al Franken and Eric Alterman, now act as apologists for Sharon, even when one year back they were celebrating the “Road Map.” Still in favor of something known as the “peace process,” they nevertheless support Sharon using Mafia tactics. They will say that I am “The Jews for Anti-Semitism.” Far be that from the case. I am blaming some Jews -- namely Likudniks, those who don’t really think or act like Jews -- for creating an environment in which twisted individuals gain more of a case for their prejudice. One does not after all blame Al Qaida for the concentration camp at Guantanamo. One blames whoever -- probably Bill Luti -- who came up with the idea. But it would not have gotten off the ground without Bin Laden, of whom there is probably less support among Muslims as there seems to be support for Sharon among Jews.
Years back, after my first exposure to the works of Edward Said, regarding how Palestinians were represented, my thoughts turned not only to my stalwart support of the Palestinian struggle but to struggle against the misrepresentation and misappropriation of Jewish culture and ethics by the community leadership in North America and the government of Israel. I can understand how the immediate Post-Shoah generation did not develop any critical understanding of Israel, given the historical proximity to the Shoah itself. I cannot however understand how in 2004, with all of the information that we have, how so many Jews -- from the horrifying new persona of Benny Morris to your average former leftist who “doesn’t like Sharon” but is afraid of “The Arabs” -- choose to misrepresent our people, both in terms of perception and reception. One cannot but find it humorously beautiful that I was introduced to the primary currents of twentieth century Jewish philosophy -- the Frankfurt School etc. by the man who Danny Pipes called “the terrorist professor.”
As Lenni Brenner pointed out, most North American and European Jews are secular, and belong to Reform Temples. Reform has been losing members in recent years -- I attribute this to its uncritical adoption of Zionism, something quite new. Reform Judaism was a Deistic, progressive movement that actually adopted an entirely new philosophy at the beginning of the 19th century. It grew hand in hand with religious/utopian socialism, as well as the Fraternal Orders that were so influential at the time. Specifically different from the tribal cant of pre-enlightenment, pre-emancipation Judaism was its removal of messianism from Jewish theology. One cannot but be alarmed at the wholesale manipulation of Reform Judaism from Jewish Unitarianism to a weekly meeting club of the Zionist movement.
Even twenty years ago, it was not this way. Rabbi Dow Marmur, if he ever spoke about politics, it was Apartheid in South Africa, where he grew up and Israel’s alarming support for it, as well as anti-Jewish sentiment in the Soviet Union. Currently, there is a female Rabbi at my former Temple, who has been threatened with job loss if she speaks at all about her involvement in Rabbis for Human Rights. Meanwhile the current Chief Rabbi at the most powerful Synagogue in Canada is close friends with David Frum and regularly uses the bima at what was once Emma Goldman’s place of worship, to extol the virtues of ethnic cleansing. As I wrote two years ago, Jews have every right to be angry at Muslim Clerics who repeat Anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, as long as they are equally opposed to their own clerics spreading the “Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.”
Against the backdrop of all of this, most Jews simply abandon their heritage as opposed to fight within their communities to re-appropriate a great tradition from those that would use the shield of Judah to kill civilians from helicopters, kill nonviolent activists, build a Wall that is bankrupting the country that they claim to care so much about etc. They may be opposed as human beings to what Israel is doing, but having abandoned Judaism -- not the religion but the cultural emblem -- they do not have the credibility that if they were to identify as Jews and specifically say that Israel is acting non-Jewish. It is the least we can do, whatever we believe now, to be, as-per Sartre, “a Jew for the sake of Anti-Semitism.” In other words, to show the world that we are not all Sharonistas, we re-appropriate a prophetic tradition, from Maimonedes to Adorno to Paul Buhle and Noam Chomsky, from those who want to make the world think Judaism is Israel. As we do so, our message will be far more attractive to young Jews who may or may not get brainwashed by Zionism. Another Judaism is Possible.
Meanwhile, Israel is acting with more and more impunity, killing one Hamas leader after another (in a style of the States, who created and is now at war with Al Qaida, Israel actually created Hamas) having been given a “Green light” by Christian Zionist President Bush to maim, kill and steal with impunity, bragging about a “slam dunk” in the Israeli press. As Uri Avnery says, “This is a laboratory for the virus of Anti-Semitism.” Sharon doesn’t care, in fact he likes Diasporic Anti-Semitism -- it encourages Zionism. The tactic of suicide bombings emboldens Sharon. Europe can only say so much before the Israeli and Jewish press start to talk about willing executioners, etc, China and India are too busy doing business with the Zionist state, as is Pakistan some say. The only people who can stop Israel are us Jews, who simply say to follow the commandment, “Love Thy Neighbour.”
Jordy Cummings is a writer and poet living in Toronto, Canada. He is co-editor of the weblog Pure Polemics. He written extensively for Counterpunch, Fellowship of Reconciliation (Quaker Peace journal) and Canadian Jewish News among other publications. He is on the board of Toronto Jewish Youth Against Occupation. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
Other Articles by Jordy Cummings