Jeffrey Cahn

Israel’s Fifth Column: The Treason of Liberal Jews

Embed from Getty Images

It’s tragic, but it makes sense that virtually the entire world has turned against Israel. What doesn’t make sense is that liberal American Jews have also.

All This Makes Sense

It certainly makes sense that Gaza invaded Israel. The Gazan government is run by the Hamas party — elected to power by Gazan citizen’s — with a clearly stated ideology that calls for the destruction of Israel and murder of Jews, as do the governments of Lebanon, Iran, Sudan and an array of non-state Islamic terrorist groups.

It also makes sense that the West Bank Palestinians are rioting against Israel. They are brothers in arms with the Gazans (literally and figuratively, they are the same people), albeit under slightly less failed leadership, and they have an uneasy coexistence with Israel that is fragile at best and easily radicalized.

Makes sense that (so called ) moderate Arabs (e.g. in countries like Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco…) are rioting against Israel. Even those countries with peace treaties with Israel share a similar cultural heritage as the Palestinians, and their countries’ shared history of pan-Arab nationalism and rejection of Israel has used the plight of the Palestinians as a strategic thorn in Israel’s side for the last 75 years.

It makes sense that the entire western world, in spite of the largest slaughter of Jews in the world since the European Holocaust, is already turning against Israel and Jews. Easily explained by decades of propaganda against Israel, blatant antisemitism, and a tradition of constant criticism of Israeli policies — which, however abhorrent they may in fact be, pale in comparison to the totalitarian regimes of Israel’s enemies, who are given carte blanche by those professing to care about human rights.

Makes sense that any and all people, groups, movements and nations who consider themselves “underdogs” or “oppressed” in any way are against Israel. Propaganda in the form of the false simplistic narrative of “Israel vs Palestinians” instead of the more complex but accurate narratives of “Israel vs Arab nationalism” and “Israel vs Muslim fundamentalism”, has turned Israel into a hated “Goliath.” The meteoric rise of social media has enabled the intersectionality of these oppressed groups, when convenient, to band together against the establishment — in this case, Israel.  And the legacy of the workers communist movements of the mid 1900’s, originally funded by those at war with the West, have left their influence on the labor and social justice movements to oppose those in power at all costs. Not a word about the global terror of Jihadi Islam, or Iran? Not when it doesn’t serve their anti-establishment objectives.

Makes sense that the young intellectuals on college campuses and many professors are against Israel. There has been a concerted campaign to influence key positions in universities via enormous funding from Arab countries over the last 50 years. Combined with the natural desire of young adults to rebel against the establishment, and the social media driven propaganda easily fed to college students who don’t know better but relish the camaraderie, the “Palestinian Cause” has become the cause celeb for campus rage.

All this, however terrible, tragic, unfair, misguided, devious and dangerous it may be, makes sense. Predictable even. Jews have always, and will always, face this kind of outright and subtle antisemitism which holds us to standards none others must uphold, and blames us exclusively for evils that we seldom control alone, if at all.

This Does Not Make Sense

Embed from Getty Images

Demonstration on Columbia University Campus, November 15, 2023.

But what doesn’t make sense in this latest turn of the antisemetic wheel is the position of the America’s Liberal Jews. We may have been caught sleeping by thinking that, like the Germans thought, we have sufficiently integrated into American society to avoid being targeted. We may have been caught sleeping by thinking that our emphasis on Tikkun Olam — helping fight for social, political and environmental justice for all people and for compassionate universalist values — would ingratiate us to those for whom we have fought. But haven’t we now woken up? Isn’t it clear that most of our supposed friends and allies were nowhere to be found the morning after the world’s worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust?

So what’s confusing now is that America’s liberal Jews, including so many of my colleagues, friends and family, are, in spite of all this, actively aiding and abetting our enemies by swallowing and regurgitating the propaganda. Isn’t it clear how our good hearts and universal values are being used against us? Do we think that the forces of anti-semitism will turn a blind eye to Jews that align with them? By supporting these anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, antisemitic movements, Jews are giving aid to an enemy bent on destroying these same Jews!

The Danger is Real and Present

No matter how long Israel can stem the tide of world public opinion, there will come a time like has come in every conflict that Israel finds itself in — when, uniquely to Israel, America and the world will exert enough pressure to prevent Israel from pursuing decisive victory over its enemies. But this time, will it actually be Jews that will cast the deciding votes to influence congress to stop supporting Israel? Will it be our beautiful, holy Rabbis and Cantors encouraging their congregants to sign petitions demanding boycott, divestiture and sanction, or action “by any means necessary”? If we keep repeating the tropes of our enemies, and the thinly veiled anti-semitism disguised as “legitimate criticism of Zionist Israel”, then we truly represent a 5th column that will aid in destroying us from within.

Who Will Speak When They Come for Us?

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out,” famously wrote German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller in 1946, “Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the unionists, and I did not speak out…And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Will they write about American Jewry: “First they came for the Israelis, and we did not speak out — because we were not Israeli. Then they came for the American Jews, but there was no one left to speak out for us.”

Will they?

About the Author
Jeff is the Executive Director of the New York-based multi-site synagogue, Romemu. He has also held senior positions at Young Judaea and UJA Federation of New York. Jeff’s first career was in high tech, founding the internet company, Netpulse, and working for AT&T, Intel and the Israeli Telecom company, Telrad. Jeff has a BS degree from Cornell and a Masters degree from Stanford University.
Related Topics
Related Posts