Zionism on the moon

In Concordia University, Canada, an individual shouted at Jewish students, “go back to Poland, sharmuta:”

How anti-Israel crowds at Concordia University turned violent | National Post

The following article describes the person shouting as a professor, but I could not find a current teaching profile:

In response, I would like to share two anecdotes:

The first anecdote is that when my grandfather was growing up in Poland in the 1920’s, the Christian kids used to bully the Jewish kids with shouts of, “dirty Jew, go to Palestine.”

And the dutiful Jews, who were Polish citizens, obliged—taking on the rejection and the aggressive message that Poland was not in fact their home. As young adults, many Polish Jews went to the British mandate of Palestine. These Jewish Polish immigrants knew a lot about Jew hate—but they did not know that their families were about be murdered in the Holocaust.

My grandfather from Poland, together with 5 of his 9 siblings, went to the British mandate of Palestine with the blessing of his family. His parents and remaining siblings were murdered in the Holocaust. My grandmother from Poland went to Palestine despite the objections of her family, who did not believe in Zionism. She was the only one from her family to immigrate—and thus the only one of her nuclear family who was not murdered in the Holocaust. In 1939, in the early days of World War II, her parents and three siblings were murdered when Polish Jews who lived on the border of East Prussia were shot into mass graves, often to the joy of some of their Christian neighbors (that was before the “development” to gas chambers). My grandmother used to call us, her grandchildren Israel, her memory candles.

The second anecdote has to do with the word sharmuta, which in Arabic means slut or whore.

When I was around 13 years old in Israel, my parents did renovations to expand our apartment. The workers doing the work were from Rafah, in the southern Gaza strip. My parents, like many Israelis, were warm and hospitable to the Palestinian workers, and I myself also chatted with them, especially with the chief worker, the foreman who coordinated their work, and who was friendly toward me.

One day, during the period of the Jewish High Holidays in the fall, while the renovations were ongoing, the foreman came to my family’s home and brought gifts for the holiday, including fruit from his farm and other gifts. We sat down with the workers and had coffee together.

Later that day, my mom and I were at home with the workers while my dad was not home. I went down the hallway, and the next thing I knew was that I was pushed against a wall and that the foreman (who by the way was a married man with children) was hugging me and kissing my neck. Luckily, my mom also happened to come down the hallway. She saw what happened and interrupted it, so the whole thing likely lasted less than a minute.

My mom was sick with worry until my father came back home (this was before the time of mobile phones, so there was no way to get in touch).

After my father came home, he spoke firmly to that person, telling him that he must stay away from me. My father continued to “guard” us while the renovation was ongoing. For a long time after the renovation was over, my parents were worried because they noticed that chief worker sitting in his Peugeot car in the corner of a street that was between my home and my school. My walk to and from school thus became a subject of much concern to my parents, and my father became engaged in watching me from a distance.

In legal terms, what that person did was assault against a person below the age of consent (which is 16 in Israel—and in any case my intention in chatting was to be friendly, not to invite what he did). A call to the police could have ended up with legal consequences to that person. However, my parents did not call the police. My father’s focus was not only to tell the worker to stay away from me but also to explain to me that I should be more culturally sensitive because in the culture of the Gaza strip, a girl who wears sleeveless tops and chats with men is violating moral codes and is therefore perceived as inviting what this worker did.

In the place of the well-meaning talk about cultural sensitivity, perhaps a more pithy explanation would have been that I was perceived as a “sharmuta.”

This incident had no effect on the fact that my family and I remained firmly in the left-wing peace camp for many years to come and, together with countless other Israeli and Jewish people, celebrated any move toward peace and a Palestinian state. I was not encouraged to think about myself as a victim. Rather, my problem was that I was not culturally sensitive enough in the way that I dressed, talked and conducted myself. Our focus was not on condemning the inappropriate actions of the chief worker, which may have possibly been much worse had my parents not intervened—but to “understand” how our own behavior can be better informed and more culturally appropriate.

This was the attitude that persisted in Israel among many people for many decades: if we do our best to understand, if we accept and forgive the offenses that come our way and think about them as minor— the much-longed-for gift of peace will eventually materialize.

And thus Israelis endured terror after terror attack with many of them rationalizing that it was really the fault of the occupation or the settlers—even as every Israeli attempt at peace failed, and even as Israel left Gaza unilaterally in 2005, and even as “from the river to the sea” clearly indicates that Israel as  a whole is regarded as a settlement.

And even as many of the people murdered, raped, tortured and taken hostage on October 7 were known by their attackers to be peace activists. This is something that Jews who support Hamas would do well to understand: in the eyes of Hamas, the peace activist Shoshan Haran (see video below) and the most messianic settler are both dirty Jews—all sharmutas, pigs and apes available for murder, rape and torture.

But in my opinion, those who lack self-control and shout “sharmuta,” however traumatizing their actions may be, are not the most problematic. Possibly more pernicious are Jew haters who consistently practice the social cues of politeness and self-control—and who, through academic and other accomplishments, successfully embed themselves in the elite and spew masked Jew hate from positions of security and privilege with demeanors of self-satisfaction and intellectual sophistication rather than disordered rage. Their victims are not only Jews but also, in my opinion, the majority of Muslim individuals and other people who want nothing to do with Jihad. Most people in academic and other elite institutions are not covert Jew haters—but some are, and they can be recognized with the help of Matthew 7:16 “you will know them by their fruit.”

I recently spoke with an Israeli person who is a graduate student in a Canadian university. During an exchange that took place before October 7, a professor reminded that Israeli student, as “enlightened” people often do, that not every criticism of Israel is Jew hate.

But the professor also went one step further than most covert Jew haters typically do and asked the Israeli graduate student if she has given thought to why there is antisemitism—if she has taken the time to reflect on the reasons for antisemitism.

In my opinion, these pseudo-intellectual “questions” are nothing but a covert proud affirmation of Jew hate—and a dangerous low for the academia that in other contexts trains us to not blame the victim.

This question, posed by an educator, makes me crawl inward like a ball. It awakens in me a desperate fantasy that somehow we could build an artificial island in the middle of the ocean where all Jews can go.

But that would not be enough. That artificial island would over time thrive—and soon enough be despised for succeeding against all odds.

So perhaps we should go to outer space—Zionism on the moon?

Will you miss us, Jew Haters? Who will be your punchbag and your free, non-chemical recreational drug when we are on the moon?

Writing in the context of AIDS in the 80’s and early 90’s, when he and his partner Roger were dying of the then-non-treatable illness, Paul Monette clearly saw homophobia as an attack on a person’s need and right to love and be loved:

“Seven years into the calamity, too many gay men have lost the will to love. The enemies of our people—fundamentalists of every stripe, totalitarians left and right—have all been allowed the full range of their twitching bigotry. Though gay men have begun to understand it is something in themselves these upright men so fear, too many of us have internalized their self-hatred as shame. That the flesh and the spirit are one in love is none of the business of the celibate men of God, especially those who believe they rule the province of love. But the mission of the homophobe is more pernicious even than his morality. He wants every one of us to be all alone, never to find the beloved friend.”

This quote is not about Jew hate but it applies to the mission of the Jew hater as well (and coincidentally, Roger had family in Israel who are described affectionally by Monette).

Friends—Jews and non-Jews alike who are not willing to tolerate Jew hate under any mask, Jews and non-Jews whose hearts break at the suffering of the hostages and grieving families, at the ordeal of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Force who are forced to fight a war to prevent a greater war, and at the deaths, injuries and anguish or Gazans who do want to live peacefully with Israel: we must work together to not internalize as shame the hate of people who do not care about the Palestinians but who are trying to use Jew hate as their recreational drug and their punching bag.

Some might think that because Jew hate is a non-chemical drug, it may be taken freely without consequences. But even “a little bit” of this drug erodes the most fundamental needs of any human being—to belong, to feel a positive emotional attachment, to contribute, to love and to be loved.

If we do not call out haters for who they are, Jew hate might soon be the next opioid crisis.

About the Author
Gefen Bar-On Santor teaches English at the University of Ottawa, as well as adult-education literature courses at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre in Ottawa, Canada. She is an enthusiastic believer in life-long learning and in the relevance of fiction to our lives. She also writes at
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