Judith R. Robinson
Judith R. Robinson

Strength!

Hello Readers,

Watched a video on Duke/UNC Conference on the conflict in Gaza held March 22-24, 2019. Anti-Israel rhetoric devolved into open antisemitism. Among other offenses was a antisemitic performance by Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar. Duke has finally dealt with a complaint about this filed with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

It is particularly upsetting to me that our Jewish college kids are subject to this awful harassing on a regular basis. Terrible, correct? Bashing Israel is becoming a very common phenomenon, and not only on college campuses. We are seeing an increase in antisemitism and anti-Zionism in the wake of the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But what’s being done about it? Are the Jewish organizations and/or the majority of American Jews doing anything?

From the perspective of senior-citizenship I continue to try to understand the mindset of American Jews. I admit to being puzzled–no more than puzzled, by my peers, friends and family. Puzzled and distressed is more accurate.

Our former president, Donald Trump, was a catalyst for divisiveness, no question about it. Not only the American Left, but an enormous portion of American media went bonkers over his election as well as every subsequent move he made. He engendered enmity, was easily baited. He was essentially not a politician, did not play politics well. But practically speaking, his actions on behalf of Israel were remarkable and the fact that they were unappreciated by American Jews is equally remarkable, in my view. We know the facts, but for the record:

He moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem. This was promised and never done by Obama, GW Bush, and Clinton.

He secured the Golan Heights for Israel.

He created the Abraham Accords, the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab Emirates.

None of this mattered when it came to the 2020 election. Trump received 30.5% of the Jewish vote cast. That means that 69.5% of American Jewish voters did not vote for him. What he did for the Jewish homeland, his dedication to his own Jewish grandchildren and family counted for very little, clearly. Why? Brainwashing? Stupidity? Personal distaste? Or something else?

Friends, it pains me to think this, and to say this, but for for many of my fellow American Jews, strength, boldness, courage in both personal and public life is not a comfortable position. Please understand I say this not to criticize, but to recognize. The simple truth is that our tragic history has led us to deal with life from a position of accommodation, of not making waves, of subjugating ourselves in ways to not incur attention, let alone trouble. Centuries of struggle for survival has taught us to deal from a position of public near-invisibility within the culture of our host country–to not make waves. This is simply a version of fear–largely unconscious, but very, very real. So real it permeates attitudes, organizations, behavior. I get it: We wish to be unnoticed as Jews. It’s a whole lot safer, or so we imagine, right?

For many of us, a strong Israel, acting defensively but with boldness on the world stage is an embarrassment. Few Jewish organizations will admit this, but it is true. The exception is ZOA, and the exceptional Jewish American organization leader is Mort Klein. After noting that Black Lives Matter has called Israel an apartheid country committing genocide against the Palestinian people, there actually was a real effort to expel Klein and the ZOA from the Conference of Major Jewish Organizations. Thankfully, this did not happen.

So friends, this unacknowledged, mostly unconscious cowardice is a source of great distress to me. Among other observations, this reluctance to remain steadfast with Israel when things get rough reminds me of the lead up to the Holocaust—this terrible tendency to not look Jew-hatred in the face and to stand strong against it.
A tragic warning: Stop dealing from a position of fearful accommodation. Grow some spine! Those who forget the lessons of history are bound to repeat them.

About the Author
Judith R. Robinson is a visual artist, an editor, teacher, fiction writer and poet. She has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and anthologies. She has taught and conducted workshops for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Winchester- Thurston School and Allegheny Community College. She currently teaches poetry for Osher at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.
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