Many moons ago, in a far off land, a young Jewish woman rose to prominence and became the wife of a mighty king. There she stood, in a palace of majesty and security, far removed from the daily experience of her coreligionists. Surrounded by guards, maids, courtiers and servants, it is quite possible that this queen began to feel at one with this new community of hers. But her uncle, wise beyond his years, sent word to her that she should never forget who she was and where she came from because the world would never lose sight of such things. And so this queen heeded her uncle’s warning, and eventually managed to save her people from a great calamity. I, of course, am musing over the story go Purim. As the holiday fast approaches, I find myself reflecting over the messages of this ancient tale. And I believe Mordechai’s warning to Ester howls with relevancy in today’s world.
Our community is diverse in background, culture and tradition. We are argumentative and stubborn, qualities that have surely aided in our survival throughout the ages. But as I look around me, I see more and more Esters amongst us. No, I do not mean the Ester who risked her life to save her people. I speak of the Ester who started to lose her sense of self and assumed that her assimilation would grant her safety from whatever may have befallen her coreligionists. And these modern day Esters have taken a dangerous and malicious turn towards open hostility towards the Jewish community as a whole.
Jeremy Corbyn, the muttering madman in charge of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, attended a seder hosted by the fringe Jewish group Jewdas. Surely a publicity stunt aimed at deflecting accusations of anti-Semitism in his party, Corbyn spoke quite fondly of his encounter with this group. How so? It seems that this group openly hates and despises Israel, and often makes a mockery of religious holidays. When accusations of anti-Semitism have been made, this group downplays it and paints such charges as conspiracy theories. This group proudly hosted a man that has created an environment of hostility for British Jews, and they continue to lambast Israel and excuse anti-Semitism. These Esters side with our tormenters and smile while doing so, assuming that those who hate Jews will give them a pass as a reward for their stances. But when anti-Semites attack Jews in the United Kingdom, they do not ask for political identification or voting records. They attack Jews regardless of sex, age, sect or political agenda. Yet these individuals fail to heed this lesson.
In the aftermath of the first round of border protests in Gaza, a group of Jews took it upon themselves to recite kaddish in London for the Palestinians killed during the incidents. Without an ounce of shame, these Jews mourned the deaths of known Palestinian terrorists. True, civilians were killed in these border encounters, but many of the dead were extremists. Yet this did not matter to this group of Jews. They recited the names of dead Palestinian militants and mourned their passing. This display was utterly offensive and inappropriate, but I doubt they took the Jewish community’s feelings into account when they planned and staged this publicity stunt. And so it happened, Jews openly mourned the deaths of those who want to slaughter Jews. Amazing, but these Esters fail to realize that Islamic fundamentalists want to slaughter all Jews, regardless if they protest Israeli policy or not. Perhaps these activists should read their history books.
The latest example of Esterism occurred not long ago. A group of Jews from IfNotNow visited Representative Rashida Tlaib to stand in solidarity with her. The same Rashida Tlaib who superimposed a Postit with ‘Palestine’ over Israel on a map in her office. The same Rashida Tlaib that recently accused Jews of holding dual loyalties when it comes to Israel. The very same Rashia Tlaib who has posed in photographs with Hezbollah supporters and who has worked with conspiracy theorists that blame Jews for countless ills. And yet these young Jews felt compelled to stand in solidarity with her (Bernie Sanders has likewise decided to stand with Representative Ilhan Omar in the aftermath of accusations of anti-Semitism). What these young Jews fail to realize is that those who hate Israel will always find a way to despise Jews in general. They can don the Palestinian kuffiyeh, they can denounce the occupation, they can call for the end of Israel. But these Jews will always be seen as Jews by those who hate us. How many examples must we provide before these Esters wake up?
It is fine to debate and discuss Isareli policy and action. Debate and discussion are grand traditions in Judaism. But these modern day Esters do not seek debate or discussion. The Jews of Jewdas demonize Israel and openly hate her. Those who held kaddish for the dead terrorists did not offer any visions of peace or dialogue. No, instead they mourned dead extremists who would have gladly killed them simply for being Jewish. Those of IfNotNow thrive on making photo opportunities so they can show that not all Jews side with Israel. But they never bring together moderate Israelis and Palestinians in the hopes of finding actual solutions to the conflict. No, instead they chastise Israel and side with terrorist apologists and Israel haters. I believe these Jews think that if they side with our enemies that they will be considered the ‘good sort of Jew’, the one that betrays their history and community. That is why they are becoming louder and more aggressive in their tactics. But I would advise these Jews to reflect on Mordechai’s timeless words. They can forget who they are, they can pretend to be something else, and they can ignore the Jewish community as a whole. But they will always be Jews, and they are deluding themselves if they think their antics will save them from the wrath of anti-Semites.