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ANTISEMITISM

לא תעמד על דם רעך אני יהוה
You should not stand around when your neighbor's life is in danger, I AM ADONAI!
לא תשנא את אחיך בלבבך
Do not hate your neighbor in your heart! LEVITICUS 19: 16b-17

Anti-Semitism: A Practical Manual

On truth and abuse of antisemitism & the little racist in each of us
By Israeli writer, Uri Avnery

A Hungarian Joke: During the June 1967 war, a Hungarian meets his friend. "Why do you look so happy?" he asks. "I heard that the Israelis shot down six Soviet-made MiGs today," his friend replies.

The next day, the friend looks even more jubilant. "The Israelis downed another eight MiGs," he announces.

On the third day, the friend is crestfallen. "What happened? Didn't the Israelis down any MiGs today?" the man asks. "They did," the friend answers, "But today someone told me that the Israelis are Jews!"

This is the whole story in a nutshell.

The Anti-Semite hates the Jews because they are Jews, irrespective of their actions. Jews may be hated because they are rich and ostentatious or because they are poor and live in squalor. Because they played a major role in the Bolshevik revolution or because some of them became incredibly rich after the collapse of the Communist regime. Because they
crucified Jesus or because they infected Western culture with the "Christian morality of compassion". Because they have no fatherland or because they created the State of Israel.

That is in the nature of all kinds of racism and chauvinism: One hates someone for being a Jew, Arab, woman, black, Indian, Muslim, Hindu. His or her personal attributes, actions, achievements are unimportant. If he or she belongs to the abhorred race, religion or gender, they will be hated.

The answers to all questions relating to anti-Semitism follow from this basic fact. For example:

Is everybody who criticizes Israel an anti-Semite?

Absolutely not. Somebody who criticizes Israel for certain of our actions cannot be accused of anti-Semitism for that. But somebody who hates Israel because it is a Jewish state, like the Hungarian in the joke, is an anti-Semite. It is not always easy to distinguish between the two kinds, because shrewd anti-Semites pose as bona fide critics of Israel's actions. But presenting all critics of Israel as anti-Semites is wrong and counter-productive, it damages the fight against anti-Semitism.

Many deeply moral persons, the cream of humanity, criticize our behavior in the occupied territories. It is stupid to accuse them of anti-Semitism.

Can a person be an anti-Zionist without being an anti-Semite?

Absolutely yes. Zionism is a political creed and must be treated like any other. One can be anti-Communist without being anti-Chinese, anti-Capitalist without being anti-American, anti-Globalist, anti-Anything. Yet, again, it is not always easy to draw the line, because real anti-Semites often pretend just to be "anti-Zionists". They should not be helped by erasing the distinction.

Can a person be an anti-Semite and a Zionist?

Indeed, yes. The founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, already tried to enlist the support of notorious Russian anti-Semites, promising them to take the Jews off their hands. Before World War II, the Zionist underground organization IZL established military training camps in Poland under the auspices of the anti-Semitic generals, who also wanted to get rid of the Jews. Nowadays, the Zionist extreme Right receives and welcomes massive support from the American fundamentalist evangelists, whom the majority of American Jews, according to a poll published (recently), consider profoundly anti-Semitic. Their theology prophesies that on the eve of the second coming of Christ, all Jews must convert to Christianity or be exterminated.

Can a Jew be anti-Semitic?

That sounds like an oxymoron. But history has known some instances of Jews who became ferocious Jew-haters. The Spanish Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada, was of Jewish descent. Karl Marx wrote some very nasty things about the Jews, as did Otto Weininger, an important Jewish writer in fin-de-siecle Vienna. Herzl, his contemporary and fellow-Viennese, wrote in his diaries some very uncomplimentary remarks about the Jews.

If a person criticizes Israel more than other countries which do the same, is he an anti-Semite?

Not necessarily. True, there should be one and the same moral standard for all countries and all human beings. Russian actions in Chechnya are not better than ours in Nablus, and may be worse. The trouble is that the Jews are pictured and picture themselves (and indeed were) a "nation of victims". Therefore, the world is shocked that yesterday's victims are today's victimizers. A higher moral standard is required from us than from other peoples. And rightly so.

Has Europe become anti-Semitic again?

Not really. The number of anti-Semites in Europe has not grown, perhaps it has even fallen. What has increased is the volume of criticism of Israel's behavior towards the Palestinians, who appear as "the victims of the victims".

The situation in some suburbs of Paris, which is often cited as an example of the rise of anti-Semitism, is a quite different affair. When North African Muslims clash with North African Jews, they are transferring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to European soil. It is also a continuation of the feud between Arabs and Jews that started in Algeria when the Jews supported the French regime and Muslims considered them collaborators of the hated colonialists.

Then why did most Europeans state in a recent poll that Israel endangers world peace more than any other country?

That has a simple explanation: Europeans see on television every day what our soldiers are doing in the occupied Palestinian territories. This confrontation is covered more than any other conflict on earth (with the possible exception of Iraq, for the time being), because Israel is more "interesting", considering the long history of the Jews in Europe and because Israel is closer to the Western media than Muslim or African countries. The Palestinian resistance, which Israelis call "terrorism", seems to many Europeans very much like the French resistance to the German occupation.

What about the anti-Semitic manifestations in the Arab world?

No doubt, typically anti-Semitic indications have crept lately into Arab discourse. Suffice it to mention that the infamous "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" have been published in Arabic. That is a typically European import. The Protocols were invented by the secret police of Czarist Russia.

Whatever inanities may be voiced by certain "experts", there never was any widespread Muslim anti-Semitism, such as existed in Christian Europe. In the course of his fight for power, the prophet Muhammad fought against neighboring Jewish tribes, and therefore there are some negative passages about the Jews in the Kor'an. But they cannot be compared to the anti-Jewish passages in the New Testament story about the crucifixion of Christ that have poisoned the Christian world and caused endless suffering. Muslim Spain was a paradise for the Jews, and there has never been a Jewish Holocaust in the Muslim world. Even pogroms were extremely rare.

Muhammad decreed that the "Peoples of the Book" (Jews and Christians) be treated tolerantly, subject to conditions that were incomparably more liberal than those in contemporary Europe. The Muslims never imposed their religion by force on Jews and Christians, as shown by the fact that almost all the Jews expelled from Catholic Spain settled in the Muslim countries and flourished there. After centuries of Muslim rule, Greeks and Serbs remained thoroughly Christian.

When peace is established between Israel and the Arab world, the poisonous fruits of anti-Semitism will most probably disappear from the Arab world (as will the poisonous fruits of Arab-hating in our society.)

Aren't the utterances of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir bin Muhammad, about the Jews controlling the world, anti-Semitic?

Yes and no. They certainly illustrate the difficulty of pinning anti-Semitism down. From a factual point of view, the man was right when he asserted that the Jews have a far bigger influence than their percentage of the world's population alone would warrant. It is true that the Jews have a large influence on the policy of the United States, the only super-power, as well as on the American and international media. One does not need the phony "Protocols" in order to face this fact and analyse its causes. But the sounds make the music, and Mahathir's music does indeed sound anti-Semitic.

So should we ignore anti-Semitism?

Definitely not. Racism is a kind of virus that exists in every nation and in every human being. Jean-Paul Sartre said that we are all racists, the difference being that some of us realize this and fight against it, while others succumb to the evil. In ordinary times, there is a small minority of blatant racists in every country, but in times of crisis their number can multiply rapidly. This is a perpetual danger, and every people must fight against the racists in their midst.

We Israelis are like all other peoples. Each of us can find a small racist within himself, if he searches hard enough. We have in our country fanatical Arab-haters, and the historic confrontation that dominates our lives increases their power and influence. It is our duty to fight them, and leave it to the Europeans and Arabs to deal with their own racists.

There is no New Anti-Semitism
by Rabbi Michael Lerner

The N.Y. Times reported on January 31 (2007) about the most recent attempt by the American Jewish Community to conflate intense criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. In a neat little example of slippery slope, the report on "Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism" written by Alvin H. Rosenfeld moves from exposing the actual anti-Semitism of those who deny Israel's right to exist—and hence deny to the Jewish people the same right to national self-determination that they grant to every other people on the planet (the anti-war group International Answer is a good example of that, though Rosenfeld doesn't cite them)—to those who powerfully and consistently attack Israel's policies toward Palestinians, see Israel as racist the way that it treats Israeli-Arabs (or even Sephardic Jews), or who analogize Israel's policies to those of apartheid as instituted by South Africa.

The Anti-Defamation League sponsored a conference on this same topic in San Francisco on Jan.28, conspicuously failing to invite Tikkun, Jewish Voices for Peace and Brit Tzedeck ve Shalom, the three major Jewish voices critiquing Israeli policy yet also strong supporters of Israel's security.

Meanwhile, the media has been abuzz with stories of Jews denouncing former President Jimmy Carter for his book Palestine: Peace or Apartheid. The same charges of anti-Semitism that have consistently been launched against anyone who criticizes Israeli policy is now being launched against the one American leader who managed to create a lasting (albeit cold) peace between Israel and a major Arab state (Egypt). Instead of seriously engaging with the issues raised (e.g. to what extent are Israel's current policies similar to those of apartehid and to what extent are they not?) the Jewish establishment and media responds by attacking the people who raise these or any other critiques--shifting the discourse to the legitimacy of the messenger and thus avoiding the substance of the criticisms. Knowing this, many people become fearful that they too will be labeled "anti-Semitic" if they question the wisdom of Israeli policies or if they seek to organize politically to challenge those policies.

Yet there is nothing "new" about this or about this alleged anti-Semitism that these mainstream Jewish voices seek to reveal. From the moment I started Tikkun Magazine twenty years ago as "the liberal alternative to Commentary and the voices of Jewish conservatism and spiritual deadness in the organized Jewish community" our magazine has been attacked in much of the organized Jewish community as "self-hating Jews" (though our editorial advisory board contains some of the most creative Jewish theologians, rabbis, Israeli peace activist and committed fighters for social justice). The reason? We believe that Israeli policy toward Palestinians, manifested most dramatically in the Occupation of the West Bank for what will soon be forty years and in the refusal of Israel to take any moral responsibility for its part in the creation of the Arab refugee problem, is immoral, irrational, self-destructive, a violation of the highest values of the Jewish people, and a serious impediment to world peace.

What the Jewish establishment organizations have done is to make invisible the strong roots in Judaism for a different kind of policy. The most frequently repeated injunction in Torah are variations of the following command: "Do not oppress the stranger (the 'other'). Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Instead, the Jewish establishment has turned Judaism into a cheer-leading religion for a particular national state that has a lot of Jews, but has seriously lost site of the Jewish values which early Zionists hoped would find realization there.

The impact of the silencing of debate about Israeli policy on Jewish life has been devastating. We at Tikkun are constantly encountering young Jews who say that they can no longer identify with their Jewishness, because they have been told that their own intuitive revulsion at watching the Israeli settlers with IDF support violate the human rights of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank or their own questioning of Israel's right to occupy the West Bank are proof that they are "self-hating Jews." The Jewish world is driving away its own young.

But the most destructive impact of this new Jewish Political Correctness is on American foreign policy debates. We at Tikkun have been involved in trying to create a liberal alternative to AIPAC and the other Israel-can-do-no-wrong voices in American politics. When we talk to Congressional representatives who are liberal or even extremely progressive on every other issue, they tell us privately that they are afraid to speak out about the way Israeli policies are destructive to the best interests of the United States or the best interests of world peace—lest they too be labeled anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. If it can happen to Jimmy Carter, some of them told me recently, a man with impeccable moral credentials, then no one is really politically safe.

When this bubble of repression of dialogue explodes into open resentment at the way Jewish Political correctness has been imposed, it may really yield a "new" anti-Semitism. To prevent that, the voices of dissent on Israeli policy must be given the same national exposure in the media and American politics that the voices of the Jewish establishment have been given.
We hope that the creation of our INTERFAITH Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP at www.spiritualprogressives.org) can provide a safe context for this kind of discussion among the many Christians, Muslims, Unitarians, Hindus, Buddhists and secular-but-not-religious people who share some of the criticisms of Israel and who will eventually try to challenge the kind of anti-Semitism that might be released against Jews once the resentment about Jewish Political Correctness on Israel does explode. Even better if we could succeed in creating a powerful alternative to AIPAC. Unfortunately, that path is not so easy. When we approached some of the Israel peace groups to form an alliance with us to build the alternative to AIPAC we found that the hold of the Jewish Establishment was so powerful that it had managed to seep into the brains of people in organizations like Americans for Peace Now (NOT the Israeli group Peace Now which has been very courageous), Brit Tzedeck ve'Shalom and the Israel Policy Forum or the Religious Action Center of the Reform movement--and as a result these peace voices are continually fearful that they will be "discredited" if they align with each other and with us to create this alternative to AIPAC. Meanwhile, while they look over their right shoulders fearfully, the very people that they fear will "discredit" them for aligning with each other and with us are ALREADY discrediting them as much as they possibly can.


Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun (www.tikkun.org), author of the 2006 NY Times best-seller The Left Hand of God (Harper San Francisco), and national chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (www.spiritualprogressives.org). RabbiLerner@tikkun.org

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