In a recent piece by Times of Israel writer, Talia Lavin, she promotes David Harris-Gershon’s forthcoming book, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?
Harris-Gershon is a frequent contributor to the left-leaning American political blog Daily Kos – as was I – and to Michael Lerner’s Tikkun Magazine. His wife was injured in a Jihadi attack at Hebrew University in 2002, which left two other people dead. His book is a personal memoir of the soul-searching that he went through following this attack and his efforts to understand what it would take for a young Arab man to commit such violence against perfectly innocent Jewish people sitting in a university cafeteria.
After the couple left Israel in 2003 after spending three years living in Jerusalem, Harris-Gershon began suffering symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, including crippling anxiety attacks. The book delves deeply into his recovery process, including the traditional and innovative forms of therapy he tries.
As a former member of Daily Kos, and as a supporter of Israel, I know Harris-Gershon as someone who specializes in particularly harsh criticism of the Jewish State to a generally non-Jewish western audience. Although I have yet to read his book, I have read Harris-Gershon enough to tell him that, despite his personal trauma and the injury to his wife, neither the Jewish people, nor the State of Israel, are to blame for it.
Harris-Gershon, after much study and soul-searching, concluded that the Jihadi sought to kill him, his wife, and all those around them at Hebrew University in 2002, because the Jewish State of Israel oppresses the innocent Arab population. Harris-Gershon accepts the post-colonial notion that the Jews of the Middle East are engaged in a vicious, imperial, and racist endeavor to persecute and oppress the “indigenous” Arab population. It is precisely because of this colonial and racist endeavor that he feels the need to purchase presents for the children of the terrorist who sought to murder himself and his wife.
I, for one, find this exceedingly sad and it seems clear to me that Talia Lavin, and the Times of Israel, have made an unfortunate mistake in promoting this man’s work. The Jewish people are so often our own worst enemies and this is very definitely one of those cases, as any pro-Israel Jew on Daily Kos – to the extent that there are any left – would readily agree. Even those who strenuously disagree with my politics, and who are familiar with Harris-Gershon’s writings, would acknowledge that the man has a toxic voice; a voice that is poisonous to the Jewish people and to the Jewish State of Israel.
It is the insidious voice of spreading hatred toward Israel, and thus hatred toward the Jewish people, as an alleged matter of social justice and human rights.
Harris-Gershon has the appreciation of Philip Weiss, the editor of the anti-Semitic journal, Mondoweiss. Weiss praises Harris-Gershon for coming out in favor of BDS, the international effort to boycott, divest from, and sanction, the Jewish people of the Middle East. Outside of political Islam in its more violent expressions, the BDS movement is the foremost expression of hostility toward Jews in the world today. It is the foremost expression of the effort to demonize and delegitimize the country of our family and our ancestors.
And, yet, Harris-Gershon favors that movement. He writes:
…as an American Jew invested deeply in Israel’s success and survival — which in turn drives my investment in stopping one of the greatest moral challenges of my generation: the occupation — I have no choice but to formally endorse and embrace BDS.
What Harris-Gershon seems to have figured out, following anti-Israel Jews like Noam Chomsky and Peter Beinart and Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappé, to name just a few, is that there is considerable appeal, and thus a considerable market, within the western left for stories of Jewish / Israel apostasy. It’s a simple moral tale and it runs something like this:
I grew up believing in the virtue of the Jewish State of Israel. The Jewish people, having come through World War II and the Holocaust and the War of Independence, represented a Light Unto the Nations with the State of Israel. But now I see that my dreams and illusions were ill-founded and that, in fact, Israel is a colonial aggressor state and the Palestinians are living under occupation and persecution by my own people. In order to save my Jewish friends and family in Israel, and in order to relieve my guilt-ridden soul, I must denounce that country before the world.
What is perhaps most galling about this delusion among people such as Beinart and Harris-Gershon is that they honestly believe that blaming the Jews for the conflict takes courage. Furthermore, they even believe that blaming the Jews for Arab bigotry and hatred toward Jews is in the venerable and honorable tradition of social justice and human rights.
The irony, of course, is that it is precisely the kind of hatred that Harris-Gershon spreads toward Israel that got his wife injured in the first place. By distorting the truth, and laying all the blame for the conflict at Jewish feet, Harris-Gershon helps assure future Jihadi attacks against the Jewish people. But what I mainly do not understand is why TOI’s Talia Lavin did not, in her piece about the man and his book, alert her readership to the fact that Harris-Gershon supports the BDS?
This was an error of the sort that needs to be acknowledged.
Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.