I have just returned from Berlin where I participated in a conference: Antisemitism In Europe Cross Front Antisemitism, Conspiracy Theories, Calls for Boycotts, Islamism, the Extreme Right and the Left Berlin, 12-13 December 2015. My own presentation topic was called, “The Knife Intifada, Antisemitism and World Media”
During the Q & A session I was particularly struck by the arguments of one individual. He is the same individual, with who a little earlier I struck up, let’s say, a conversationship, due to the fact that we were both of Hungarian background and Jewish; I was raised with Hungarian as my native language and he was from Hungary, now residing in Berlin and a Professor of Law, in one of the Berlin universities. He is a human rights attorney. What he espoused was a complete condemnation of the State of Israel as a suppressant of the Arab minorities and a violator of human rights. I was somewhat startled by his vehement arguments regarding the social and humanitarian evils wrought by Israel and it seemed to me as an antisemitic rant. But he was quick to explain that by asserting that he is Jewish, how could he be antisemitic?
During the course of the debate, I asked him why he does not examine the human rights violations by Hamas in Gaza, or, for that matter in any of the nearby territories? His explanation was, “look I specialize in the Israel and Palestinian conflict, and I am well known in human rights law circles”. And that is when shock, as well as a very nauseous feeling simultaneously struck me. Why did this Jew choose to specialize in Israeli injustice? He is not even Israeli born, which has been the mantra for some of our far left flung ideologues. He has no ties to Israel, except to condemn her in the public and in the courtroom, and appears to be the righteous defender of the innocents, but the crimes (by Israelis) are so egregious that they cannot be compared to any other crime. And, he is a Jew? I cannot explain any of this, even when resorting to Freudian explanations, but it does ring very familiar. The familiarity is with the left leaning and ultraliberal forces that target Israel for their campaigns. Aren’t there enough wrongs to go around? Why do these people focus on their own country and their own people? Somehow it makes me, a Reform Jew, think again, that maybe the rabbinate is right in giving a vey narrow interpretation of who may be considered a Jew: creating a narrow interpretation sure limits the prospects of the wingnuts.
Overall, I found a pleasantly surprising recognition among the participants, of the asymmetry when comparing Islamist terrorism in the Western world and terrorism against Israel; on the other there it became apparent academic overreach when explanations were sought. Psychologising inevitably leads one down the same road as Secretary Kerry, who a few weeks ago offered that Islamist terrorism while reprehensible is understandable. It is really the Western academicians and politicians who need the explanation. The explanation being that these acts are not suicidal cop-out by the disaffected, but that martyrdom is an exalted achievement in the Islamist’s world. Yes, the “us and them” is a reality in such a world.
What is rather new, and currently the most effective motivational factor is “incitement” The current crop of terrorist in Palestinian territories is existentially different from Islamist terrorists in most parts of the world, where secrecy and avoiding detection is a cornerstone of success. In the territories we find a younger set of participants who utilize media to excite and incite one another. You may recall the flash-mob phenomena, popular just a few years ago. Well, these events closely resemble it and throw in the element of incitement and the legitimacy of Jihad, martyrdom and freedom and we end up in Hebron, or any other flashpoint. And, as far as social media-Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube being most utilized-the calls to action, to terrorize, kill and maim are easily answered. Let’s face it Facebook has become Hatebook. Finally, to really understand incitement, let’s look at the broader aspects of its ramifications: it begins by joining a cadre of idealist Islamist-not necessarily disaffected and troubled-and then carrying out a series of violent exercises, such as throwing rocks, burning tires, and in general, destroying property that becomes available as they trudge the path toward really meaningful terrorism. And when that moment finally arrives-be it murdering with knife or maiming with a motor vehicle-the results are paid off in dividends. The one so brave and fortunate to achieve martyrdom becomes a popular hero; he is publicly praised by political leaders, streets are named after him (or her), and the family they leave, may look forward to vast sums of monetary compensation. So you see, this is a rousing success story.
Having tried to explain some of this, in a rather brief and simplistic matter, we have to turn our attention to our own actions. And to a degree, this becomes problematic. We are having our own conflicts within Judaism, on how to address these problems. When segments of world Jewry, and even Israel society are questioning the validity and effectiveness of Israel policies, they may be right to raise questions but dead wrong to condemn our government as Zionist aggressors. This is a problem that has developed over time. Professor Alvin Rosenfeld in 2007 penned, for the JCP, an article, “Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism” that addresses the controversies threatening Jewish society and world Jewry on the whole. I suggest we take it out now and read it.
And finally, when it coms to these Jewish Jew haters, let me borrow from the Muslim man in the British rail station, and say, you ain’t no Jew, bro.