I support Palestinian rights, and I’m fed up with the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories

'I will not be asked to choose between Judaism and justice'

I’ve had it.

For too long, I’ve tried to rationalize my way around the concatenation of Palestinian advocacy with some of the rankest anti-Jewish stereotyping this side of the Ku Klux Klan.

No more.

I support Palestinian national and civil rights. I deplore Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory as the appalling complex of crimes it is.

But I’ve read one too many — no, dozens too many — social media postings from “advocates” for Palestinians that read like pages torn from an old copy of Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Voices from the margins? Maybe so. The inevitable detritus that finds its way into any movement? — Yes, I’ve told myself that too.

But you know what really hurts? That instead of being hustled back to the fetid grottoes they crawled out of, these bigots are mostly ignored — or worse, even welcomed into what some putative progressives call a “discussion” about the true nature of Jews and Judaism.

And I’m sick of it.

Let me be clear. I’m an observant Jew, and I’m proud of the moral aspirations at the core of Jewish religious tradition. It’s because of that tradition that I refuse to tolerate the evils perpetrated by Israel — a regime that slanders me daily by calling itself a Jewish state.

And for exactly the same reason, I will not tolerate attacks on my religious life just because they come wrapped in a Palestinian flag. I will not “discuss” whether all Jews are racists who seek “world domination”; whether Israel is just the most visible fruit of “Jewish power”; whether the Talmud consists entirely of “tools and techniques” for lording it over “the Goyim”; or whether “Jewish ideology” is behind every Israeli crime. And yes, I’ve seen each of these positions expounded in online exchanges where the ostensible subject was Palestinian rights.

I’d love to say such sentiments get buried under a mountain of indignant denials. Alas, that’s not what is happening. Just as America’s intensifying assault against the Muslim world lent a veneer of respectability to Sam Harris-style Islamophobia, the Palestine liberation movement — low on morale and impoverished of leadership — is slowly, but unmistakably, cultivating a rotten streak of anti-Semitism.

I can’t not know this. I have personally been ejected from an apartment leased by a Palestinian-run “Public and Government Service” organization in East Jerusalem after the officers discovered I was Jewish. (I had gone there to observe and report critically on Israel’s occupation, a fact well known to them.) I have been bracketed with IDF shock troops by online posters who claimed a practicing Jew cannot be genuinely “anti-Zionist.” A recent column of mine received a comment to the effect that I have only partly liberated myself from Judaism, and would have to do better.

It’s not just that these things happened — after all, there are crazies everywhere. What’s upsetting is that the offenders clearly thought they had nothing to fear, that the expression of bigotry against Jews wasn’t going to matter to anyone whose disapproval could affect them.

And they were right.

When, not long ago, a woman declared on something called “Friends of Al Aqsa” that “the state of Israel is the real root of all the violence in the world” (yes, “all the violence in the world”), most of the responses that tumbled in were larded with shopworn anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. To quote a few: “them and the USA government (jews) are the terrorists of the world”; ISRAEL ZIONIST & ROTHSCHILD BANKS & THE PUPPET USA PRESIDENT RUN THE WORLD”; the Rothschilds and George Soros “govern” us all; and so on. Someone even dragged in the JFK assassination.

Here are a few more typical examples, every one from someone sporting pro-Palestinian credentials:

  • “Israel will never be defeated unless international Jewry is defeated.”
  • “[W]e are now demanding an exposure of the SUPREMACY and RACISM within Jewish IDEOLOGY.”
  • “Zionism is just a political move by the upper echelon of Jews that allowed Goyim to assist them in the plot of world economic domination.”

And again, the really galling thing is that this passes pretty much without comment. If the “progressives” running the relevant sites resent this dreck, they’re not showing it.

Mind you, the same is not true of the organized BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign in support of Palestinian rights; that movement’s leadership bends over backwards to exclude anything that smells of bigotry.

But excluding it from the organized movement doesn’t make it go away. The haters just look for another home, and unfortunately they don’t have to look far. And the ugly snowball of Judaism-hating mixed with Palestinian activism keeps rolling downhill, getting bigger and bigger.

Who’s to blame for this?

A lot of people are.

There are the Israeli leaders who defend a system of official racism as the concomitant of a “Jewish state.”

There are the Orthodox rabbis, like the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who conflate Judaism with Zionism, and thus — by converting legitimate criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism — make anti-Semitism respectable.

There are the rank and file Orthodox Jews who have read me out of the community for calling Israeli apartheid and brutality by their right names, thus affirming — in the common view — that Judaism can only be a species of ethnic supremacism.

There are the “radical” intellectuals who talk a blue streak about the wrongs of Palestinians, but shrug their shoulders when Jews or Judaism are mentioned.

There are the well-meaning campaigners for Palestinian rights who say, “This is about politics, not religion” — thus abandoning the subject to the professional haters, who are only too happy to bridge the gap.

And there are the stupid, self-aggrandizing loudmouths who seem to think reducing Israeli crimes to the fruit of a Jewish conspiracy is the way to revive a faltering movement — not noticing (or not caring) that by linking Zionism and Judaism they are actually playing into the hands of Israel’s propagandists.

I have had my fill of all of you.

Do not sully my religious tradition by making of it something it isn’t and was never meant to be: an enemy of human rights, Palestinian or otherwise.

And don’t expect me to be silent if you do.

I will not be asked to choose between Judaism and justice. If any of you expect me to make that choice — expect trouble.

About the Author
Michael Lesher is an author, lawyer and Orthodox Jew who lives in Passaic, NJ. His most recent book is Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities (McFarland & Co., 2014).
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