Here are 15 unrelated points that I want to make. I think that it is important that we see as many angles as possible in this complex matter. All parts stand on their own so you don’t need to read the whole in one go.
I would like to invite you, instead of focusing on what you disagree with, to first look for some of the things you agree with, then move to a few points that you almost agree with and ask yourself if I might have a point. And lastly, even consider the most outlandish ideas that I bring. I don’t try to convince anyone; rather, I only to give some food for thought for people on the left, right and center. Maybe, as a longtime anti-racist with many Kahane friends, I have something to contribute.
Be More Honest
The first thing I dislike in the present discussions is the omission by both sides of things that they think would weaken their position that they then hide in order to look more presentable.
I have many times heard Kahane followers hide in English what they really said in Hebrew, to sound more reasonable and palatable to outsiders.
And now their firmest opponents showcase their commitment against racism and are suddenly quiet about the homophobia that runs high on the extreme right.
You can say a lot about Rabbi Kahane but he was not a liar or a fake.
Don’t Trash Other Whites
The biggest mistake anti-racist can make is to fingerprint other whites who “are racist.” Just playing anti-racism hero by smashing other whites.
In fact, a fair reason why others are still racist is because the anti-racists have done such a poor job, so far. You don’t go like “these people are not OK.” Rather, everyone is OK (only racist hold that some people are not OK).
All white people should be welcomed to join our fight against racism. Anti-racism doesn’t mean, trying to feel good by opposing other whites. It means, trying to win over as many whites as we can until we may uproot racism completely.
So, to portray other whites as monsters is just a trick to wash your hands of racism by blaming it on others, the bad ones and then you should belong to the good ones and feel good about yourself – instead of intensifying cleaning up your own racism. No deal.
Never let a racist remark slip. First priority, we need to stop it.
Stop Hanging Out With Whites Only
White Jews are very much into anti-racism and good for us.
But if we’re also leftwingers, we must pay attention to go further than a theoretical political stand. We must make non-white friends. Being politically correct in our heads is not enough.
We must take anti-racism very seriously because it kills by the millions but we also need to not hold that racism is inherent in whites. There are no racist children. That doesn’t exonerate us — that rather obligates and shames us. If racism is learned, it can be unlearned and we must.
Kahane is not Kahanism
In many movements, often the “followers” do not authentically represent the one they claim to follow. Next generations tend to cut their own path through the jungle.
If only the Kookniks would be as broadly thinking as Rabbi Kook did.
The Midrash already says that Moses didn’t recognize his legacy in Rabbi Akiva’s teachings, even from him teaching “Laws according to Moses.”
Kahanism has taken its own course. Don’t blame Kahane.
Get Some Backbone
The first thing that I recognize in Rabbi Meir Kahane is not racism — if he had any — see further down. In any case, he was far more pro-Jewish than anti-Arab.
No, what he most prominently seemed was being sick and tired of the cowardly un-proud Jew, who was always scared to open his mouth, would always think what the powerful Goyim around him would do in return if he’d make them angry.
If I’d summarize it in one slogan, I’d be: Stop trying to please the Goyim. Or: Have some pride. (There was a time that one wrong word by one Jew could endanger all the Jews in a country. That’s how Ashkenazi Jews got so critical — for survival. But that’s obsolete now.) There are many leftwing Jews who could use some high dose of this pride medicine for their wellbeing.
I partly disagree with Kahane because making Jews look bad is still the worst sin there is in Judaism (and this is a law from way before the Diaspora survival strategy) and the proper Jewish road traveled is the middle road — extremism is just too simple. But I understand his un-nuanced stand to get his point across.
His Torah lessons are in that sense also unbalanced. Pick-and-choose Judaism is not Judaism. But I appreciate why he wrote like that.
As Maimonides writes, when one grew crooked to one side, one first needs to over-bend in the other direction to eventually end up in the middle. We should all incorporate more of Kahane’s lessons.
The Racists Who Are Not
It should be stressed that most of the ultra-rightwing Israeli Jews that I know are not racist in the sense that the dictionary defines it. (To call them Nazis is so much baseless hatred (for which the Temple stays destroyed) that it is beyond our discussion.)
They gladly have friends and marry Jews from any ethnic background.
Most Jewish Israelis would never marry a Gentile but the “intermarriage” between Ashkenazic and Mizrachic Jews has gone so far that these communities in Israel cannot be told apart anymore.
Rabbi Kahane once asked a Jewish secular journalist, would you approve of your daughter marrying a Goy? He said, no. Then Kahane said: Then, you are a racist because you are not religious. I don’t want my children to intermarry because I believe that we are commanded to marry Jews. But you have no basis for your opinion but your dislike. Between us, you are the racist.
I believe that sentiments that Jews may have against Arabs in general are more nationalism than racism. Or a reaction to Jew hatred (see below).
Still, when you only see a person of a certain group as a representative of that group and not firstly as an individual fellow human, you are the one whom you dehumanized. And such bigotry is despicable and must be fought every minute of the day.
I believe that what is called racism here is sometimes something else. When a woman hates all men, is she a sexist? A reverse sexist? No. Not at all. She will have good reasons to hate men. Instead of blaming her, try to fight sexism more. When young Jews are fed up with Gentiles, don’t blame the victim. Fight anti-Semitism harder.
How would you feel if you grew up surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who hate you so much that they want to murder you all and who inflicted wars on your country and terrorism on your people with no end in sight? And grown-ups around you will not even let you say that you hate them. But they can hate us?
Learn to Argue Against Racism
My main arguments against racism to my Kahane friends has been for decades: You talk about Arabs as if they have no Free Will. But if they are inherently evil, as it seems from your words, it follows that they are innocent. But I don’t think that you believe that. Your anger against Arabs gives that away. But if they have a choice, stop talking about Arabs as if they are less human than you.
This way I have won many arguments but never transformed one of them into an anti-racist.
Many of the older Kahaneniks whom I know come from the US. They are white and brought their racism with them that they learned in the Goldene Medine against blacks.
Honestly, as a Dutch person, I have trouble to relate to so much deep racial hatred. It looks so stupid and mean — how can you believe any of that? And then, as a Jew who knows what is oppression. And as a religious Jew who knows the value of fairness and truth.
This racism upon making aliyah is then planted on all Arabs. It’s a disgrace.
Most US Jews are actively anti-racist. Just know, Israeli Jews even more so. So, instead of demonizing our ultra-right, intensify anti-racism in the US and show more humbleness. In comparison, we’re doing fine, thank you. (Don’t blame us for believing what you read in Haaretz.)
Israel is Special
Outside of Israel, many cannot imagine that most Jews and most Muslims in Israel don’t want to live in the same quarters. But that has nothing to do with hatred and much with our religious obligations not to intermarry.
Most bus drivers in Israel are Arabs. Most Jews have no problem with that. Many Jews and Arabs work together, shop together, lie sick or treat patients in hospitals where peace between Arabs and Jews doesn’t need any process. (If you’re a racist, you have a hard time in the Israeli health industry.)
Many Jews in the West Bank have excellent relationships with neighboring Arabs. The city of Ephrata for decades now, has a city-wide project for this peaceful living apart together relationship.
Israeli Hatred for Arabs
In fact, I see three groups of Israeli Jews who hate Arabs, each for their own “reasons”:
- Jews from Arab countries and their (grand)children. They suffered a lot under them. This is not racism. They’re Arab Jews/Jewish Arabs themselves. They hate the anti-Jewish bias, not all Arabs.
- Young Jews who grew up here whose lives are threatened by Arabs (not all Arabs, but that nuance gets easily lost) on a daily basis all their lives. Would you call German Jews in 1930 Germany racists for hating the German Gentiles?
- White immigrants from racist countries (I just mentioned them) and their (grand)children.
You would cry too if it happened to you.
Blaming the Jews – the Old Story
Much of the endless harping on the plight of these poor Palestinian Arabs is unfortunately done not from sympathy for them (because such solidarity would be great) but in carelessness and out of sheer hatred for the Jews.
This must foremost make everyone forget that the Jews are the underdog in the Middle East. You can’t say that women in safe houses are sexists for making a distinction between men and women. Jews have one small place they call home and you can’t call them racists for not embracing all Arabs around them who in great numbers want them dead.
The Zionist movement started trying to make a bi-national State. There were no Arab leaders who wanted that. Israeli Jews still do their best to make a distinction between Israeli Arabs who got to know us and Arabs from outside who never knew Jews except from demonizing stories given to them with their mothers’ milk (a popular expression, lately).
Don’t Push Our Kids to Intermarry
Some of the Kahaneniks are very active against Jews marrying Muslims.
I believe that racism actually promotes these intermarriages. If you teach children that Arabs are monsters (and Arabs learn at home that Jews are monsters) and then they meet each other, they may find the other very nice and fall in love — don’t blame them.
If you really want to prevent intermarriage, you need to teach your kids that non-Jews are also wonderful people but we are forbidden to marry them. That cannot fail.
Don’t Push Our Kids to Kahanism
One of the subconscious mantras of leftwing Israelis seems to be that it is natural that Jews are hated.
If you promote that kind of thinking, you actually feed the main thought behind Kahane’s philosophy.
If you think that Jews should be OK with being hated, murdered, scared and cautious, you push young idealistic Jews with any measure of backbone towards Kahanism.
You want fewer Kahane followers? Show some backbone, some pride, stop bending over backward to people who hate us. And stop making such an effort of proving that you’re OK compared to the rightwingers.
Stop Being Naive But Don’t be Cynical
Many oppression-aware leftwingers have empathy for every oppressed group on earth until they hear of Jews. Even when they are Jewish themselves, they suddenly have no tears to shed for the terror that other Jews live under. They can only feel close to Gentile victims.
They rather demonize their own and maintain pipedreams that if we love all 200,000,000 Arabs around us enough, they will love us too.
They are so racist because they don’t take seriously any of the voices of those that say they want to kill us all. The only thing that prevents Jews and Arabs from living peacefully next to each other is unrestrained anti-Semitism. (And stop pretending that Arabs are more anti-Jewish than Christians.)
The Land is big enough. Jews don’t want to live in the valleys (G^d forbid, it’s dangerous) and Arabs don’t want to live on mountain tops (way too hot).
Jewish Disunity Is the Main Enemy
Kahane followers have cultivated the idea that any Jew who dislikes them is in fact not a real Jew but a spiritual descendent of the Mixed Multitudes that Moses took with us into the desert.
I don’t think that that is Judaism. It’s a trick to not have to recognize your opponents as your fellows, whom you must love and try to be friends with.
Still, I understand how they developed that. Especially given that many of them went to jail for their opinions without ever seeing a judge.
I still remember how Rabin said that he didn’t care about the settlers because they were only 2% of the electorate.
Still, if that was not OK, dislike from the opposite camp is neither.
Many Jews can even love our enemies — something to be proud of; but they must learn pride and self-love.
In any case, we need to unite. Not by blurring the distinctions between us but by trying to learn from each other. We all have something to contribute.
It is not true that you can best legitimize your extreme positions by trashing your opponents. That’s true if you want to only feel good about yourself and your own. Real credibility asks that you respect people who think differently from you and try to bridge the gap by stating for starters that you have more in common than what divides you. That will also make you gain the most followers. Stop trashing others while claiming to work for everyone’s good.
There will always be people who, in the name of universal or particular love, will proclaim hatred for some or all of the above texts. I prefer the road of dignity and respect. Eventually, the haters will join too.