Daniel Landes

A Twisted Ideology Reveals Itself

A Zaka volunteer stands in front of a refrigerator truck, serving as a temporary mortuary for victims of Hamas' October 7 attack, at the Military Rabbinate's headquarters in Ramle, October 13, 2023. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The shock of Hamas’ extreme homicide of children, burning of Holocaust survivors, beheadings of babies, and public rape parades jars well-established theologies and political ideologies of center, right, and left. This jolting also forces open some particularly ugly political sources of Jew hatred.

Transparency: I myself have taken enough left-wing positions to be criticized by the right; but, correctly, no one on the left has thought of me as a true leftist – I can’t be, for I am a Halakhic Jew.

An organization I have paid no attention to, Jewish Voice for Peace, is to the point. Yes, I should have taken seriously its self-definition as a rallying cry for anti-Zionist and anti-Israel sentiments as serious and thorough. They are the tip of the iceberg of the phenomenon of Jewish left-wing self-loathing. Here in Israel, at least, there are many committed members of the left who don’t fit the following description at all.

Reading their reaction to the October 7 Shoah, one clearly sees the mechanism of self-protection against the threat to the moral validity to their ideological position. The threat is quite clear: either Hamas represents freedom-loving Gazans (and all Palestinians for that matter) or it does not. If Hamas is not representative and is merely some strange outlier, JVP should say so clearly. Indeed, it must thoroughly repudiate them, be revulsed by them, and repel their pernicious governance in Gaza and influence on Palestine and other Islamists. Nonetheless, at least for the time being, JVP cannot embrace their hideous evil acts.

What to do? In a cowardly, shadowy magician’s performance, the Executive Director of JVP just has Hamas disappear. In her Boston Review editorial of October 13, Stefanie Fox actually doesn’t mention Hamas at all. Yes, people were killed, but the planning (extensive), means of execution (literally), allies (Iran), and goal (annihilation) find no place in her screed. Hamas is not mentioned by name, nor even by reference, for even she, at this moment, cannot defend the indefensible. And neither she nor JVP in their public messaging can find the courage to even gently criticize or disagree with Hamas, not even on paper.

And then, for the illusionist’s encore, the Jews killed by rockets and in one-on-one “encounters” (Martin Buber could never imagine an I-it so monstrous!) are also made to vanish. The JVP won’t mention their Jewish names, the names of entire Jewish families burned up, won’t publish their pictures, won’t partake in surviving friends’ and families’ agonies. In Fox’s article, she gives what happened to the Jews a sentence and a half, total. Other JVP pieces don’t and won’t give much more.

We need to call out this particular Jewish leftist fear of losing their left-wing credentials and friendships (read: fiendships). Do they fear physical attack, being accused of middle class and commonplace morality, or loss of academic promotion? I suspect that the answer is yes on enough accounts. The ignoring of Hamas itself might be a defensive move, but I’m sure that the actual Hamas would not take it as a compliment. They would just as soon shove a live hand grenade up into the buttocks of anyone who would ignore their very real existence and reason for existing. Hamas doesn’t agree that they have been forced into anything – they claim the agency to murder and commit mayhem – and worse.

Nevertheless, an ideological jarring cannot be rectified with obscuring reality alone. To reset itself, it needs an ideological justification for its very operation. So, conveniently, Fox does it. After a sentence and a half, she has exhausted her “grief” and pins the fault on Israel and the USA who “weaponize these deaths”. Note: not “murders” but the abstract, emotionally removed “deaths”. At this point, for such Jewish self-haters, the rest becomes a simple and well-practiced exercise: the direct accusation that the Jews caused their own deaths. That the Jews are to blame. Thus, calm is reestablished, and the jarring jolting loss of ideological stability is mechanically and predictably restored. We know whom to blame.

“Jewish Voice for Peace”? If you can’t name and mourn the victims, then you are not Jewish. If you refuse to name the perpetrators – Hamas – then you are No Voice for Any Peace.

As Jews still standing, we must mourn the dead, comfort those alive, attempt to rescue those kidnapped into hellish captivity, destroy Hamas, seek mercy for innocent Palestinians, and avoid the dangerous self-justifying nonsense of barren and twisted ideologies. We have our own voice.

About the Author
Rabbi Daniel Landes is founder and director of Yashrut, building civil discourse through a theology of integrity, justice, and tolerance. Yashrut includes a semikhah initiative as well as programs for rabbinic leaders.
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