Sara Hirschhorn discovers America

American born and schooled, Dr. Sara Yael Hirschhorn currently lives in Oxford, UK, where she is a low-level academic specialising… no, not in American studies (they are so passé!), but in ‘Israel studies’.  As in ‘the study of Israel’s many sins’.  The State of Israel, that is; not Israel from the story of the Golden Calf.

Dr. Hirschhorn is one of those annoying people who habitually divide mankind into two very distinct categories: ‘liberals’ (a.k.a. ‘progressives’) and ‘the others’. The former category consists of people who largely think like Sara Hirschhorn; ‘the others’ – well, the others are regarded like some sort of cavemen. As an academic with scientific methods and ethics, Dr. Hirschhorn extends that clear-cut division into the realm of ideas, behaviours and policies: they are either ‘liberal’ (i.e. ‘good’ in her estimation) or ‘illiberal’ (‘bad’, ‘evil’, ‘right-wing’, ‘conservative’, or any other contempt-filled, offense-sounding name you can think of). It’s a new form of racism, if you ask me: one that judges people not by the colour of their skin, but by the perceived colour of their thought patterns.

Still, it turns out that splitting the world in this manner is an excellent way to make friends, because self-appointed ‘liberals’ style themselves a kind of elite club. They are tightly bound together – though not so much by mutual empathy, but by disgust with the unenlightened rest of the world.

It’s very difficult to find an exact, agreed and comprehensive definition of what is ‘liberal’ as opposed to ‘illiberal’. After all, the colour of ideas is less obvious than one’s skin complexion. However, the self-proclaimed liberals appear to know the difference, without a moment’s hesitation and beyond the shadow of a doubt.  This reminds me of another American, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.  At pains to define what constitutes ‘hard-core pornography’, he resorted to the by-now famous subterfuge: “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”

Likewise, Dr. Hirschhorn knows ‘illiberal’ when she sees it.  But to see things, one has to look – and her gaze is focused, laser-style, on just one small dot on the world’s map.  I’ve never heard her complain about the treatment of women or gays in the Arab world, in most of Africa and in several non-Arab, but Muslim-majority lands; nor about religious intolerance and supremacism in some of the same places.  Not once did I hear her calling for civil rights in those (many) parts of the world in which dictators rule with iron fists; or even about the many problems that plague democratic Europe and her own homeland – the United States of America.  But I did hear her (many times) raising her voice against that ‘decidedly illiberal’ stance of Israel’s government(s) and of the best part of Israel’s society.  Of course, you may say, she is a lecturer in ‘Israel studies’.  But that’s circular logic, friends: she is – because she chose to be.  Sara Hirschhorn knows ‘illiberal’ when she sees it.  And she sees it in Israel; because that’s where she’s looking and that’s what she wants to see.  She is one of those ‘liberals’ obsessed with finding faults in Middle East’s only liberal democracy.

I’ve been aware of all that for a while now – but wasn’t moved to write a blog about it.  True, the arrogance and elitism of self-styled ‘liberals’ is not just vexing, but harmful.  It has unbalanced the political spectrum in many a democracy, because these ‘head-in-the-clouds progressives’ (whether in USA, in Europe or in Israel) have lost touch not just with the reality, but also with the masses they purport to care about; hence, leaving the middle ground and less-bridled power to the ‘illiberals’.  Too impractical and extreme to function as either leaders or effective parliamentary opposition, the self-defined ‘liberals’ increasingly head towards the fringes of the political discourse.  Still, Dr. Hirschhorn is but one small misplaced (and misguided) pawn in this lame cohort – hence my past reluctance to waste any ink on her paltry ‘academic’ activity.

Until recently, that is.  Because recently, Sara Hirschhorn has penned an article in Ha’aretz (an ‘Israeli’ newspaper read mostly in English – and mostly outside Israel).  In it, Dr. Hirschhorn recounts how she… discovered America.  More precisely, she has discovered something we all knew: that in the Golden Diaspora (i.e., in places like USA and UK, where Jews tend to be financially affluent and overt antisemitism can still be swept under the proverbial carpet), there is a growing segment of alienated Jewish youth.  Oh, wow!  The only surprising thing is that it took Sara (an expert in ‘Israel studies’) so long to make that grandiose discovery.

Her article is titled ‘Liberal Zionists, we lost the kids’ (rather than the more honest ‘Liberal Zionists, we led the kids astray’).  It goes on to diagnose that

“Diaspora Jewish teens’ radical dissociation from Israel is not about the settlements or the occupation. They’re ashamed to be associated with Zionism.”

No s**t, Sara!  Err… could you please wait here until I climb to the roof and yell a huge ‘I toooold you so’, at the top of my (admittedly far from impressive) lungs?

Using the ‘anecdotal evidence’ of a recent session she led with 14 to 18-year old Jewish Oxfordians, Dr. Hirschhorn’s article goes on to describe a complete emotional detachment of the ‘sophisticated pluralistic’ Jewish kids from Israel and Zionism. Which leads her to wail:

“My conclusion?  ‘Ashamnu’ [we are guilty].  We must atone, for we have failed an entire generation.”

Not that Sara sees the reality as it is, even in this 12th hour.  She still entertains the illusion that, while showing signs of “radical dissociation from Israel”, these kids will still remain good Jews:

“they’re conversant in the rituals, festivals, and traditions of Judaism. All had visited Israel at least once (over 80% of British teens have done so) and many had relatives there.  All in all, it would be fair to characterize them as a Jewishly engaged, and well-educated in both secular and religious knowledge…”

The problem is that being “conversant in the rituals, festivals, and traditions of Judaism” means very little.  Being a Jew is not about “religious knowledge” (or any knowledge), nor is it necessarily about ritual.  It’s about Jewish feeling.  Which is sorely missing in these kids, raised to feel British (though usually not ‘English’!) and ‘fit in’ (read: assimilate) in their ‘multicultural society’.  60%, perhaps 70% of them will marry out – which means that only a fraction of their children will be raised Jewish; and even many of those with Jewish partners will grow estranged to the point where they can only be described in honesty as ‘of Jewish descent’.

These kids have typically been born in safety and affluence.  They have been sheltered not just from expressions of overt antisemitism, but also from the knowledge that antisemitism exists.  Even before becoming exposed to Sara and her ‘liberal’ ilk, they have been fed (in school if not in their families) a diet of ‘political correctness’ designed to engineer Utopia – but in reality stifling independent thought.  Sure, they might have flown to Israel for a few days, to visit an uncle; but nobody cared to explain the conflict to them – after all why expose such sweet kids to something as gross as ethnic and religious strife?  But they did learn about the conflict, of course; from the media – and from the ‘liberals’.

So why is Sara Hirschhorn surprised that these assimilated kids

“don’t feel that there is anything special or desirable about the world’s one State for the Jews.”?

But beyond the expression of ‘surprise’ (whether feigned or genuine), what is annoying is that she continues to direct her learned discourse to that elite club of ‘liberal Zionists’; who are, I dare say, neither – except in their own estimation.  And who are among the main culprits, the main ‘architects’ of the disastrous state of affairs she describes.

For years now, Sara Hirschhorn, Yachad, New Israel Fund and their ilk have kept busy bashing Israel’s ‘illiberal’ behaviour; they made a hobby of it and sometimes a profession.  For years, they have denigrated the Jewish state only a notch less than has the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  They have invited ‘personalities’ from the dark fringes of Israel’s extra-parliamentary far-left to ‘explain’ (read: propagandise) to largely ignorant, inexperienced kids about Israel’s outlandish crimes: occupation, settlements, discrimination… you know the list.  Not a word of praise have they uttered for the Jewish state’s many achievements: for the vibrant culture, for the technology genius, for the obstinate attachment to freedom and democracy, even in the face of berserk hatred and violence.  How self-righteously they magnified every flaw and how thoroughly they ignored all merit!  Frantically they piled opprobrium, as if Israel was the world’s most ‘illiberal’ nation.

Imagine: all that on top of the ‘multicultural education’ British kids get in school – an ‘education’ designed to brainwash them out of identity and culture.  Add to that the ‘liberal’ media’s relentless assault on Israel’s humanity, let alone legitimacy.

From her ivory tower, Sara Hirschhorn herself has been droning away about ‘the settler movement’ – at the very time our kids were told that Jews ‘colonised Palestine’.

She has been preaching about ‘Israeli ultra-nationalism’ – when our kids have been brainwashed into believing that nationalism is nothing but a polite word for fascism.  No wonder that the kids felt that

“it just wasn’t PC to have your own sovereign entity anymore, especially if motivated by the symbols and values of Jewish particularism…”

Pray tell me, Sara, what did you think?  Did you really believe that you could bash Israel day-in and day-out; that you could relentlessly ‘expose’ her failings – with no comparison, no context and no point of reference; that you could add your voice to that of Israel’s many enemies, while proclaiming your ‘liberal Zionism’.  Did you really think that you could do all that, but still expect the kids to be proud of Israel?  To feel for her?  Did you really think that you could wax lyrical about ‘multiculturalism’, while expecting them to remain Jews?  Did you, Sara?  How stupid!

Take a good look at yourselves, self-styled ‘liberals’!  You have not just failed a generation – you have failed your own ideals.  You managed to define ‘liberal’ in a way that can really be translated as ‘amorphous’ and ‘devoid of identity’.  You managed to create a contradiction between ‘progressive’ and ‘Jewish’ – forcing your hapless audience to make a choice between the two.  Your unhealthy and (truth be told) very illiberal obsession with bashing the Jewish state – above and beyond all others – for real and imaginary faults has not just failed the kids; it unwittingly supplied ammunition and encouragement to regressive forces creeping out of a dark past.

Belatedly, Sara Hirschhorn has now decided to advise her ‘liberal’ friends that

“Above all, we can’t only catalogue the (many) shortcomings — we must constantly and convincingly express what still makes us proud — in spite of it all — in the State of Israel today.  If we can’t do that in a selfie, a tweet, a Facebook post, an op-ed or a face-to-face discussion, we must take a hard look at how we have not only failed ourselves, but our future.”

Well, I hope they listen; but I won’t hold my breath.  I scoured Sara Hirschhorn’s own Twitter account, searching for an expression of “what still makes us proud […] in the State of Israel today”.  I found none.  What I did find made me nauseous.

'Proud of Israel'? From Sara Hirschhorn's recent Twitter feed. {screen capture}

‘Proud of Israel’? From Sara Hirschhorn’s recent Twitter feed. {screen capture}

There’s nothing wrong with contrition, when it is genuine; but is it?

Still, it’s good that Dr. Hirschhorn – in a Yom Kippur article – writes:

“We must atone, for we have failed an entire generation.”

But there’s a reason why Yom Kippur is usually translated as the Day of Atonement – not the Day of Contrition.  Here’s a lesson in Judaism 101, Dr. Hirschhorn: contrition on Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and God.  For sins against another person (let alone against an entire generation), it is not sufficient to show contrition to God and certainly not to one’s own friends.  The sinner has to right the wrong committed, first.  Perhaps you should try doing that – before the next Yom Kippur.  Good luck!

'Proud of Israel'? Sara Hirschhorn's Twitter cover photo shows 'The Wall' with a Hebrew inscription translating as 'Everything is (not) fine'.
‘Proud of Israel’? Sara Hirschhorn’s Twitter cover photo shows ‘The Wall’ with a Hebrew inscription translating as ‘Everything is (not) fine’.
About the Author
Noru served in the IDF as a regular soldier and reservist. Currently a management consultant, in his spare time he engages in pro-Israel advocacy, especially in interfaith environments. He presented in front of Church of England and Quaker audiences and provides support to Methodist Friends of Israel. Noru is the Editor-in-Chief of 'Politically-incorrect Politics' (www.Pol-inc-Pol.com). Translated into Polish, his articles are also published by the Polish portal 'Listy z naszego sadu.'
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