There is an authoritarian virus spreading through the Jewish world. It’s present in the politics of Israel, it’s present in the politics of supporting Israel, and it’s present in every other aspect of Jewish life. It would have us reject the conversions and marriages of any Jew that was not performed by an orthodox rabbi. It would have those of us Jews not privileged enough to believe in God 150% die for the Israeli army while they get paid exemptions to study Torah. It would have us believe that settlers in Arab Majority land are pioneers and heroes instead of fanatics. And in a stunning reversal of feminist triumphs, it would have women slave away at work while the men do nothing all day but study Torah. It’s also present in all of the people who accommodate those who believe this way as though it were merely a charming quirk of people who are fundamentally on our side. It is present in the Orthodox community, it’s present in any secular or non-orthodox Jew who still believes in ‘Greater Israel,’ it’s present in anyone who believes that Muslim life is cheap, it’s present in anyone who believes that assimilation is the greatest evil to beset the Jewish community, it’s present in any Jew who believes that there can ever be either peace or security without negotiation, it’s present in any Jew naïve enough to believe that Israeli security is simply something we Jews can ‘take’ by ourselves if no one in the truer world gives us the right to it.
It grows stronger with every passing election and debate, and has ever less regard for the decencies of human interaction and the necessities of geostrategic thinking. It rewards bellicosity and stupidity, it regards all change as a threat. It allows the worst elements of Israeli society to feed on the body politic, and increasingly allows the worst elements of American society to do the same. It grows as we speak to allow the worst elements of fanaticism as unchecked a rein among Jews as it currently has among Christians. It refuses to acknowledge that the world has changed since 1967, and would like to keep Israel and the Jewish religion precisely as it once was when the evidence of an overwhelming change in both is all around us.
To counter all this as it’s so often countered, with the proposition that we shouldn’t feel any pressing need to change anything about Jewish society because, as so many Jewish conservatives allege in debate ad nauseum, the problems of modern Islam dwarf the problems of modern Judaism, is abject stupidity. Those who have not seen until last week’s events in New Zealand that White Nationalism has every bit the potential for mass murder as Radical Islam are as blind as Isaac, and a hundred times less righteous. You weren’t just naive if you didn’t see it; you were willfully, manipulatively naive. The signs were always there, just as the signs were there in the 30’s that the Nazis would be every bit as violent as the Communists, and in the Baroque era that Counter-reformation Catholics would be every bit as antisemitic as the Lutherans.
And so, I will conclude with my own slight re-translation of that figure beloved of so many right-wingers once said in the Gospel According to Matthew:
“…And if thy right wing offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”