Israel, “The Start-up Nation,” has become such a successful capitalist country that many people may have forgotten its socialist roots. Besides the kibbutzim and moshavim — collective farms that once dotted the country — Israel is a modern welfare state very similar to those in Europe and Scandinavia.
With her own roots in Labor Zionism since adolescence, Golda Meir was a devout Socialist throughout life. Her biographer, Elinor Burkett, says, “For years, she had been the Socialist International’s biggest star.”
Golda was Israel’s Prime Minister during the 1973 Yom Kippur War which Israel won despite terrible odds. The war began with a surprise attack by Syrian and Egyptian armies who greatly outnumbered Israeli forces and had access to superior weapons and supplies. Despite the enormous peril to Israel, Golda’s Socialist friends deserted her. During the war, they refused to sell parts or weapons to Israel or allow American planes bringing them to refuel at their airfields.
After the war, Meir called a special meeting of the Socialist International. She said, “I just want to understand… what socialism is really about today. Here you are, all of you. Not one inch of your territory was put at our disposal for refueling the planes that saved us from destruction…You know us…We are all old comrades, long-standing friends…”
She was met with silence from 21 Socialist leaders, including 9 prime ministers who could have provided life-saving assistance during the war.
Jewish activists, many of whom founded and spearheaded today’s feminist movement, can put a similar question to their colleagues. When anti-Semitism surfaces in the anti-Trump movement or the feminist movement or the Black Lives Matter movement, why have activists been silent? Israel is not just the world’s only Jewish state, it is the only democracy in the Middle East. It is a place where women-Arab and Israeli-and all people enjoy full equality under the law. Why is Israel singled out to be unjustly and falsely maligned while the world’s most egregiously brutal states are ignored?
Happily, Jewish feminists are beginning to awaken to this inequity and to challenge women like Linda Sarsour, one of the leaders of the Women’s March on Washington. Sarsour insists “feminism and Zionism (support for a Jewish state in Israel) are incompatible.” She claims, “Nothing is creepier than Zionism.” Sarsour refers to “Palestine…[as]the beating heart of this new feminist movement.” She promoted a woman, Rasmea Yousef Odeh, who is a convicted murder of two, as a feminist heroine.
In her article, “A Test for the Anti-Trump Movement: Do Jews have to make common cause with people who want to kill them?,” writer Bari Weiss points out that Odeh’s presence delegitimizes the anti-Trump movement. She adds, ” But there is a deeper, darker point here beyond strategy: It concerns the alarming cheapness of Jewish blood. A movement that has so much to say about the value of black lives, of transgender lives, of women’s lives, of Latino lives, of Muslim lives, of the lives of the disabled and the poor and the weak, but becomes mealy-mouthed and contingent about the lives of Jews when those Jews happen to live in the land of Israel should make any person of conscience question the sincerity of that movement.”
Anti-Trump coalitions are seeing discomfiting statements included in some of their member’s mission statements. For example, a platform in the Movement for Black Lives Matter (M4BLM) falsely refers to Israel as a genocidal and apartheid state. In addition to being simply and demonstrably untrue, these comments from the Black community are painful to American Jews who joined Blacks in founding the NAACP in 1909. While supporting many of the group’s other objectives, the Anti-Defamation League recently took a position against “… anti-Israel sentiments that are not factually based and unrelated to the challenges facing communities of color in the US.” Why are Jews and Israel targets of African American racism?
When asked this question, the Rev. David Billings, an anti-racist trainer and author, suggested that as American Jews have assimilated and achieved success, they had essentially lost their former status as an oppressed minority and were now included in the ranks of “white” oppressors. In other words, Jews are the new WASPs!
This flip from oppressed to oppressor is related to the theory of intersectionality currently in vogue in academic and progressive circles. Intersectionality, which could have been devised by Lewis Carroll, divides people into victims and oppressors. “… Intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society—such as racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and belief-based bigotry—do not act independently of each other [they] interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the ‘intersection’ of multiple forms of discrimination.”
Anti-Semitism, the world’s oldest form of ethnic hatred, is notably absent from the roster of righteous “isms” worthy of defense by progressives.
Instead, anti-Semitism masquerades as anti-Zionist “criticism.” What marks this criticism as anti-Semitic is its inherent double standard. The world’s only Jewish country is singled out with bogus accusations while abuses occurring elsewhere, including Palestine,actual violations of human rights (stoning adulteresses, beheading homosexuals, child marriage, incest, genital mutilation, honor killings etc.) are ignored.
Before the Women’s March in Washington, the National Council of Jewish Women asked for assurances from its leaders that denunciations of Israel would not be part of the March. However, the “Palestine” banner was raised in speeches by both Angela Davis and Linda Sarsour. Upon hearing these women speak, several Jewish women, who had been activists in the civil rights and feminist movements for decades experienced sadness and dismay. One woman said, “All these years I’ve been standing up and fighting for minority rights. I’ve been on dozens of marches, been to Washington dozens of times. But when I heard those leaders at the Women’s March talking about ‘freeing’ Palestine, it broke my heart. I was standing in a huge crowd but I looked around and I felt alone.”
She was having her “Golda” moment.
Progressives, African Americans, anti-Trumpers — anyone who cares about fundamental human rights for all people — cannot build a movement on lies that segregate one people. Anti-Semitism must be called out for the bigotry it is.
And by the way, isn’t it time for the progressive community to protest the horrible persecution of Christians in Africa and the Middle East?
Footnotes provided upon request