Just recently, following the outbreak of yet another round of violence between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israel, a group of 250 odd Jewish employees of Google signed a letter urging its CEO to recognize “the harm done to Palestinians by Israeli military and gang violence.” Moreover, the signatories “object to the conflation of Israel with the Jewish people,” declare “that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism,” and demand, among other things, “the review of all Alphabet [Google’s mother company] business contracts and corporate donations and the termination of contracts with institutions that support Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, such as the Israeli Defense Forces.” But perhaps the most notable point about this letter is the fact that the signatories identify themselves as Jews and have submitted the letter as such.
We have already seen this phenomenon in the past; it never helps. In February 1953, Ilya Ehrenburg, a Jewish Soviet journalist and historian, wrote a letter to comrade Joseph Stalin. In the letter, Ehrenburg suggested various steps “to combat American and Zionist propaganda.” He stated that the solution “to the Jewish question … is complete assimilation, the merging of people of Jewish origin with the peoples among whom they live.” He also referred to Zionists as “enemies of our Motherland” (USSR). Just weeks later, Ehrenburg, along with all the Jews in the Soviet Union, would have been sent to pre-prepared concentration camps in Birobidzhan, Siberia, had Stalin not miraculously died one day before the beginning of the execution of the plan.
In 1993, applying the same appeasing attitude, then Prime Minister of Israel Shimon Peres signed the Oslo Accord with head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasser Arafat. The two men received the Nobel Peace Prize for their feat, but where did it lead the two sides? Has there been any peace in the region since then?
Now, the Jewish Googlers are applying the same approach, and it will bring them just as much “success.” Playing “holier than thou” over Israel will not win them the sympathy of the world. It will win them its contempt and hatred. Just as establishing the Association of German National Jews to support the rise of the Nazi party to power did not save German Jews from the gas chambers, fawning to antisemitic organizations and movements will not save American Jewry.
The only thing that will help American Jewry, Israeli Jewry, and Jews the world over is to rise above the loathing that clearly pervades the relationships among us. “The prime defense against calamity is love and unity. When there are love, unity, and friendship between each other in Israel, no calamity can come over them,” states the book Maor VaShemesh.
Currently, we are nurturing the opposite of love and unity. Each community cares for its own interests in the narrowest, most self-centered manner. We are completely indifferent to the fate of Jews in other communities. In fact, we prefer to see them gone so that the world’s attention will turn elsewhere from the Jews.
It will not help us. We are in the spotlight because we are held responsible for everything that’s happening in the world, that is, everything that’s wrong with it. It does not matter that we can prove that we are not responsible for anything because in the eyes of the world, we are, and reason does not change people’s views.
The only thing that changes people’s views is feelings. And the only feeling that can change how the world views us is unity — our own unity. If we unite, the world will change how it feels about us. In 1929, faced with growing antisemitism in Germany, Dr. Kurt Fleischer, leader of the Liberals in the Berlin Jewish Community Assembly, stated, “Anti-Semitism is the scourge that God has sent us in order to lead us together and weld us together.” How tragic that his Jewish countryfolk did not act on his insight.
Fleischer’s contemporary, but worlds apart from the Liberal Jew, Rav Kook, who later became the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish settlement in Israel, wrote, “The construction of the world, which is currently crumpled by the dreadful storms of a blood-filled sword, requires the construction of the Israeli nation. The construction of the nation and the revealing of its spirit are one and the same, and it is one with the construction of the world, which is crumbling in anticipation for a force full of unity and sublimity, and all that is in the soul of Israel.”
Indeed, this is our only way out of trouble: to reconnect and create a force full of unity. Assimilation will not help, and neither will fawning or appeasing. Our only hope is our togetherness, since “The prime defense against calamity is love and unity” in the people of Israel.