If I had seen that poster in my youth, it would have felt like a punch to the gut. Objectively, I should still be sickened. But the world has changed a lot since I was young and naively swaddled in the belief that anti-Semitism had finally been vanquished.
It’s back and it’s back with a vengeance. Hitler only wanted to rid Europe of its Jews. When he died, his dream died, too. The new genocidal dreams are global and today’s would-be Hitlers are plentiful. When one dies, 100 more are recruited. This time around, a sizable number of our Jewish intelligentsia think the way that hate is framed in modern times — as Israel cleansing, rather than racial cleansing — is kind of cool. And it is my youthful naiveté that has been vanquished.
So my reaction to the poster had a surprising 2016 vibe to it: nostalgia. I liked the poster’s quaint transparency. Wow, a guy who hates Jews blows right past all the Israel “apartheid” and “colonization” nonsense and just cuts to the chase like in the old days. It’s refreshing in a way.
Mostly I appreciate that he’s not a Jewish intellectual pitching his hatred of other Jews as moral superiority. I appreciate that he doesn’t consider himself the reincarnation of the prophet Amos calling for justice to roll down like a mighty stream — for Palestinians, that is, not for his own people. That white supremacist holds terrible views, but at least he’s not disguising his anti-Semitism as righteous indignation on behalf of “the wretched of the Earth.” Like, for example, Michael Neumann.
Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., who claims that Jews bear a special responsibility to speak out against Israel. In a 2003 blog post, he wrote: “(My aim is to) help the Palestinians (and) I am not interested in the truth, or justice, or understanding, or anything else, except so far as it serves that purpose.… If an effective strategy means that some truths about the Jews don’t come to light, I don’t care. If an effective strategy means encouraging reasonable anti-Semitism, or reasonable hostility to Jews, I also don’t care. If it means encouraging vicious racist anti-Semitism, or the destruction of the state of Israel, I still don’t care.”
Or like Nitzan Tal. Tal’s Hebrew University sociology department MA thesis was entitled Controlled Occupation: The Lack of Military Rape in the Israeli Palestinian Conflict. The abstract of the paper states that “the absence of directed military rape constitutes an alternative way of realizing the same political goals (usually achieved by directed military rape).” In other words, Israel’s military not raping Palestinian women is an act of racism. As the young people say on Twitter: I.Can’t.Even…
Malevolent Jews like Neuman and Tal form a disproportionate wedge of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) pie. They certainly do not represent the traditional strain of vigorous debate that used to characterize Jewish life. No, the vitriol, the irrationality, the delirium of anti-Zionist loathing spewing from this bloc of Jewish progressive academics seems to me to be something — well, not exactly new, but more ferocious, more structured and better funded than at any other time in Jewish history. Most importantly, these single-minded activists have unprecedented access as authority figures to masses of vulnerable minds in an environment virtually cleansed of pro-Israel voices at the tenured level.
One can be critical of Israel without being an enemy to Israel, that goes without saying. I myself have written a number of critical columns on the Haredim situation in Israel. But anti-Zionist Jews who actively support the BDS movement are, ipso facto, enemies of the Jewish people. Aimed at Israeli universities, BDS is itself a form of scholarly apartheid. Since attachment to the Jewish homeland is the linchpin of Jewish identity, the only logical explanation for the tenacity of the BDS movement’s attempts to wrest the land in which Jews are the indigenous people from their own people’s grasp, is that they believe that Jews are inherently evil and, unlike every other ethnically indigenous people, undeserving of a homeland.
In the 12th century, the great Jewish scholar Maimonides defined a Jewish apostate, in part, as: “One who separates himself from the community … shows himself indifferent when (his people) are in distress … and goes his own way, as if he were one of the gentiles and did not belong to the Jewish people.”
If only Jews against Jews did in fact go their own way — attacking Israel as unhyphenated Canadians — I would respect their choice. Where the canker gnaws is their appropriation of Jewish tropes of human rights to ingratiate themselves with our enemies, bellowing “not in my name” and lending a bogus Jewish “kashrut” stamp to Palestinian activists.
From my perspective, Jews who align themselves as Jews with Islamists in general, and Palestinian Islamists in particular, have succumbed to a cultural disorder. I call this disorder “pathological altruism,” the extreme end of liberalism where Robert Frost’s definition of a liberal as “someone too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel” turns into a sickness. And this sickness is not just prevalent at the margins. We recently saw pathological altruist and viciously anti-Zionist Max Blumenthal honoured with a podium by PEN Canada. I interviewed the group’s program director, who believes that Blumenthal is mainstream.
It is a mistake to accord these pathological altruists dignity as social-justice warriors, or even over-enthusiastic progressives, because when we do that, when we treat them only, say, as Jews promoting a message with which we disagree, we are conferring normalcy and legitimacy on cultural fifth columns. Sorry, but that’s not tolerance; that’s cultural suicide.
Ask a hardline BDS Jew what Israel could possibly do to meet BDS standards for a morality pure enough to call off the boycott, and still maintain its national security, and she will not be able to answer you. BDS Jews are unappeasable, because they want Israel not to be there altogether. They remind me of families from the Middle East and South Asia who feel their daughter has shamed them by her impurity, and believe the only way to redress their family’s honour is through her sacrifice. The BDS crowd’s disgust with Israel is that visceral.
And I refuse to call their revulsion of Israel a form of self-hatred, because I think our tribe’s most visible haters — like Naomi Klein, Max Blumenthal, Ilan Pappé and Judith Butler (a hardline BDS who recently received an honorary doctorate under the aegis of a Jewish chancellor from McGill University) — are brimming over with self-love and unearned self-esteem. They think they’re the new prophets. But the old prophets only demanded that Jews live up to the demands placed on them by Judaism, not the demands placed on them by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and The New York Times.
As scholar and ardent Zionist Ruth Wisse writes: “History will ask only one question of our generation … did you secure the state of Israel? Woe to a (North) American Jewry that does not ensure a rousing reply in the affirmative.”
Adapted from a speech delivered by Barbara Kay at the Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto on Tuesday.