By now, millions of words have been written about President Trump’s appalling failure of moral leadership following the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Race is America’s original sin. When it comes to the KKK, other White Supremacist Groups and neo-Nazis there can be no equivocation. We in America look to our President in times like this. The President failed. His stumbling back and forth about who was at fault and how there were “good people” on both sides robbed him of the moral leadership so necessary to govern. To paraphrase one political commentator, “good people don’t hang out with Nazis”.
Trump is an enigma. A public figure for decades, since beginning his Presidential campaign he has exhibited qualities that few, if any, previously associated with him. While certain words always have been used to describe him – egotistical, womanizer, showboat – racist, bigot and anti-Semite never were among them. Given his performance last week, however, one truly has to wonder.
The President clearly failed the nation at a time of national stress. Of that there can be no doubt and no justification. As American Jews, however, we also have to be troubled by the racism and anti-Semitism of those on the other side of that melee in Charlottesville. The far left and far right don’t agree on much, but they both hate the Jews.
The far right comes right out and says it. Marchers on the streets in Virginia shouted slogans such as “the Jews will not replace us”. The far left is more subtle, but in some ways more insidious. They couch their anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism. They are not against “Jews”. They are against evil “Zionists”.
We Jews know code words when we hear them. We’ve heard them for 2000 years. It’s curious how those “anti-Zionists” don’t take stands against other countries who, unlike Israel, truly do rob others of nationhood that are no threat to their own national existence. Those who oppress Tibetans or Kurds are not singled out. It’s always just Israel.
To me, being opposed to the racists and Nazis in Charlottesville certainly is a prerequisite to being a good person. That however, is not enough. Lots of really bad people fought the Nazis. It wasn’t just soldiers from the British Commonwealth, Americans, Free French and Partisans.
My concern now is that we will take the importance of the struggle against the Racist Right and have it blind us to the danger from the Racist Left. The Racist Right is worse. It has no redeeming value. The Racist Left often starts with principles that we share. However, as if following a script dictated by some metaphysical playwright, it usually takes things too far. In the end, both groups end up in a similar place. Guess who gets singled out for special treatment
Many of the groups that opposed the Nazi rally in Charlottesville publically accuse Israel of being an “Apartheid State.” Nearly every week one of these groups parades outside Philadelphia City Hall shouting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” . And of course, Israel constantly is accused of committing “genocide” against the Palestinians.
We Jews understand genocide. If the dream espoused by many of these anti-Nazi groups were fulfilled and if Israel really were driven into the sea, what do our Jewish moralists who justify those groups think will happen?
Now, more than ever, we need straight talk and moral clarity. Unfortunately, many of our Jewish organizations fail t provide this. An example is T’Ruah, The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. This was one of the organizations whose members proudly joined the “Care Bears” in Charlottesville. It’s good that they did so. When publishing its position paper on BDS, however, T’ruah could only write that it is “…troubled by the BDS movement’s rejection of Israel’s right to exist…:” “Troubled”? BDS members espouse a movement that calls for the destruction of the one Jewish State. They know full well the resulting genocide of our people that will follow. T’Ruah may be “troubled”. We should be outraged.
Any group that supports BDS should be opposed by us. To support BDS, you need an exclusionary view of history in which only the State of the Jews is held to unique standards to which it always will be found lacking. That’s the very definition of anti-Semitism. Any Jewish group that fails to condemn organizations that specifically endorse BDS is a group to whom human rights for our own people is less important than human rights for others.
I never will accept that. If Tikkun Olam really means something, it means fixing the world for us as well. Our human rights are just as important as that of anyone else. In the wake of Charlottesville, it’s time all of our Jewish organizations stood up and said so.