A Kippah, Cigars, and anti-Zionism in France

The age-old of question of whether or not anti-Zionism should be equated with anti-Semitism in modern times reared its ugly head for me yesterday during my 24 hour, 3-flight journey back to the Holy Land. While at the airport in France, I went to the duty free shop to pick up a gift of cigars for a friend and ended up shmoozing with the sales associate who seemed to be quite educated, multilingual and able to hold a very intellectually stimulating conversation. Given my state of super-over-exhaustion, I wasn’t sure that participating in a conversation of this ilk was in my best interest, but how could I pass up the opportunity to practice for my hopefully future career of standing up for Israel in one public forum or another? Since I was wearing my Kippah along with a rubber bracelet which says “Aliyah: Live the dream” and “Im tirtzu ein zu agadah” (Herzl’s famous quote) (Credit NBN), the conversation charged directly for the above stated dilemma.

The associate, Jacque (name changed for privacy purposes), told me that while he is Buddhist and most of his friends are Muslim, he doesn’t have anything against Jews, but Zionism is a different story. He is not opposed to a Jewish state, but is not sure what that state should look like, or which powers it should hold. The conversation lasted almost an hour, and as is expected, there was no bottom line. Unless of course you consider two people trying to explain why they think the way they think and supposedly being able to “hear the other side’s story” while sticking to their own bottom line.

I have debated with myself, along with many others, what the purpose and/or benefit of these conversations is, if there is any at all. While I try my hardest not to be naive, I do believe that people like Jacque are prime targets for making a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name). However, that would prove to be quite difficult in this situation.

One of the first questions Jacque asked was whether or not Jews are required to live spread out around the world according to the Torah, and integrate into society. I told him that there is an important principle of being an or lagoyim, a light unto the nations. This can be done from Israel or abroad. It is a requirement for us to be model citizens, display the ideals of a nuclear family, and exude examples of morality despite immoral surroundings. He was still a little stuck on his preconceived notion of Jews not living together.

Jacque referenced stories he had heard, read, and seen on Youtube, while I shared stories not only from the media, but personal experiences as well. At times it was definitely hard to keep my cool. Israel is something that is dearer to me than most other things in this world. Jacque did not seem to have any mal intent, but the underlying tone of Zionism = Nazism was definitely getting to me. People like Jacque around the world, especially the Western “educated” world, are fed stories by the media of Israel’s evil wrongdoings and the pure innocence of the Palestinians. The AFP (Associated French Press) head of Israeli correspondence openly admitted at a panel I attended at the end of 2011 at Bar-Ilan Univeristy, that the AFP has a strong interest in making the Palestinian out to be the damsel in distress or the underdog, and Israeli out to be the evil oppressor, always.

While some like Jacque may be able to differentiate and keep their focus of anger aimed solely towards Israeli policy and not at the individual Jew, many do not. In a somewhat justified manner, they associate the Jews with the Jewish homeland.

Unfortunately, not surprisingly, one of the unfortunate sources of validation for Jacque’s anti-Zionist school of thought is a group of Jews – the Neturei Kartah. This group of “ultra-Orthodox” Jews in my opinion defies the essence of even the most lenient form of Orthodoxy and Judaism in general by being one of the foremost validations and catalysts for anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, especially through their collaboration with Ahmadinejad and others like him. Jacque did not say that if the Nazis hated the Jews then there must be good reason. He did not say that if radical Muslims hate Israel and Jews then there must be some good reason. He said, “If the Neturei Kartah, who are Jews, are so opposed to the Jewish state of Israel, then maybe they’re right.” I tried explaining that in the Gemara (Talmud) there is more than one opinion and that the issue is unclear according to many. Aside from the issue of waiting for the Moshiach (Messiah) to come, which focuses mainly on the Bitachon (faith) aspect of our relationship with God, there is also an issue of Hishtadlut (effort, human input), which includes us doing our part to welcome the Moshiach as soon as possible. The land of Israel has an inborn Jewish identity according to the British, the UN, the Quran, and most importantly – OUR tradition dating back over two thousand years.

One of the most important lessons I took from this conversation is being reassured of the fact that we have always been our own worst enemy, and likely always will be. The unexposed Buddhist living in France surrounded by Muslims, enlightened only by French media, finds respite in knowing that Jews feel the same as he does. If only we get our ducks in a row and quit the self-hating hate breeding media campaigns. Israel like all other countries has its flaws. The Jews have their own points of contention and infighting as all nations and groups do, but that doesn’t mean we should hate each other.

The time has come for people born into the Jewish faith to stop hugging animals such as Ahmadinejad in public forums and realize that when he’s done using them to reel the likes of Jacque in close, he will come after them just the same. Most anti-Zionists don’t stop with Israeli policy and their disapproval. As I have witnessed in protests around the world, people now call for a second Holocaust and ironically mourn the death of Hitler while supposedly calling for equality and freedom for all. All doesn’t include the Jews, definitely not patriotic Jews.

A Belgian who expresses feelings of Belgian patriotism is not a racist or supremacist. An American who celebrates July 4th, is not deemed a hate filled warmonger. He/she is not instantly associated with drones dropping bombs over Pakistan and boots marching through the mountain passes in Afghanistan in search of the Al Qaeda terrorist, or maybe in truth, oil. The Frenchman who refuses to speak English to the helpless tourist in search of the Louvre is not a racist, just rude. He is not associated with French willingness to support an initiative against Syria. Yet, for some reason, all Jews and especially Zionistic ones, are associated with any and all seemingly negative policies or acts supposedly committed by Israel in the form they are usually skewed by the media.

With all of the “acceptance” in the world today, a strong sense of xenophobia has managed to sneak onto the bandwagon. The Jew is the one left running behind trying to catch up. Even the Jews who are apologetic and shameful of our land will one day hopefully wake up to realize that they are just pawns. The anti-Zionists and anti-Semites are just using them for now. When the world focus changes to a different plight, like mass murder in Syria and Africa, human and drug trafficking throughout the Far East and the whole world, child soldiers, world hunger, or any other serious issue, these Jews will find themselves completely isolated. When the world views them as what they truly are, Jews, they will have nowhere to run. Hitler did see not beards, black hats, head coverings, different types of Kippot, opinions of gay marriage, he saw one thing – Jews.

It is sad that sometimes we need to go back to tragedy to learn positivity. History always has the potential of repeating itself. The victim of old is setting itself up once again. Jews are assimilating and intermarrying so as not to be different, just as they did in pre-war Germany. Jews are powerful and rich, just as they were in Germany. The similarities are endless. Time to wake up.

I’m calling for one thing and one thing only. I am calling on all Jews to look back to their roots and learn that when the final judgment day arrives, the only people to count on are your family. However, when you try isolating and convicting your own family members, why should they have your back?

In this new year, may we all be blessed to see the coming of Moshiach, because we earned it, not because we needed it. May we all learn to reconcile our differences, especially with those who are supposed to be closest to us and become the family God intended us to be.

Wishing you all a chag sameach and a relaxing, safe and peaceful Sukkot.

About the Author
Chaim Seligman is a Law student at Bar-Ilan University, President of the BIU Model UN Society and works in the University’s External Relations Department; Originally from Florida, Chaim now lives in the Merkaz and enjoys life as a student in the Jewish Homeland; Chaim’s true passions are Israel and the Jewish Nation’s eternal success.