Common hatred transcends ideological differences

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Jewish history is replete with tragic ironies, where initiatives that at the time seemed a logical way of addressing the “Jewish problem”, have not only failed, but ultimately been instrumental in worsening the situation.
by DAVID SAKS | Oct 22, 2014

Wholeheartedly embracing German nationalism made Jews more, not less hated by their compatriots and it was German nationalism, in an extreme, perverted form, that rose up to destroy them. Likewise Communism, which so many Jews, with quasi-religious fervour, seized upon as the answer to their perennial non-belonging, mutated into something deeply hostile to world Jewry.

The Soviet Union both sought to eradicate Judaism within and, through its implacable proxy war against the Jewish state, without as well. What remains of the hard left - fortunately, now largely bereft of political power - continues to be imbued with anti-Zionism in its most extreme form.

The unlikely alliance that has emerged between leftists and Islamists - the Hitler-Stalin Pact of our time, as some have termed it - is bizarre proof of how a common hatred can transcend the most glaring ideological differences.

In the US, home to the largest concentration of Jews in the history of the Diaspora, Jews have in the main embraced liberalism, adhering almost unquestioningly to a set of values and social attitudes broadly reflective of “broad tent” tolerance and permissiveness, encompassing not just politics but the whole gamut of social behaviour, culture and religion.

But even liberalism - or at least, what passes for it - has turned nasty of late. Israel has nothing to fear from genuine liberalism, where the aim is to arrive at as just and balanced a conclusion as possible and to which end all sides of the issues at hand are scrupulously taken into account. The problem is that it is increasingly being excoriated - to a point veering close to outright demonisation - by those popularly considered to be representative spokespeople for liberal, human rights values, but who, when it comes to Israel, are shamelessly flouting those values.

Impartiality, avoidance of double standards, not accepting uncritically the version of only one side in a conflict before carefully hearing and taking into account that of the other, recognising and empathising with the legitimate needs and concerns of all the disputing parties, not exaggerating the failings of one while understating or disregarding those of the other - all of this is fundamental to any credible judicial process and as such should underpin all bona fide “liberal” commentary on the Israeli-Arab question.

We know too well, however, how little many supposed champions of liberalism - whether individuals like Robert Fisk and John Pilger, or organisations like Human Rights Watch (significantly, started by a Jew, who has since denounced that body for its consistent anti-Israel bias) - actually adhere to these basic norms and practices.

Perhaps the most striking of the above-mentioned “tragic ironies” is how political Zionism, the ideology aimed par excellence at “normalising” the Jewish people (and thereby ending anti-Semitism) is, with the passage of time, having radically the opposite effect. 

The anti-Jewish hostility generated by Zionism was initially confined mainly to the Arab-Islamic world, leading in due course to the mass exodus of Jews from those lands. Then came the Soviet-led campaign - ideological, diplomatic and, through its Arab proxies, military - against the Jewish state, which also gave that regime a further pretext for discriminating against its Jewish citizens.

Even so, the establishment of Israel and its subsequent successes did, for a time, bear out its founders’ hopes of raising the status of Jews throughout the world.

In Western Europe and the Americas (in those days, even its southern, Hispanic portion), Israel was admired and Jews everywhere basked in that admiration.

How dramatically that has all changed, particularly since the beginning of the century, although one could already go back to the Lebanon war and First Intifada of the 1980s to identify the real beginnings of the shift.

Most Jews remain proud of Israel, but it is now an angry, defensive pride as opposed to the “stand tall with heads held up high” pride of our grandparents’ generation. Israel - not just by virtue of its actions, but by its very existence - is undoubtedly the primary source of anti-Semitism in the world today.

 An environment is also being assiduously fostered by its enemies in which the only good Jew is an anti-Zionist Jew, and anyone else is an apologist for colonialism, apartheid and - obscenely enough - genocide.

Somehow, our historical experiences have yet to convince us that no matter how reasonable our actions, we will not be permitted to function as a “normal” nation. None of the alternatives to Jewish separateness - patriotism, Communism, liberalism, Zionism - have succeeded in normalising the position of world Jewry, but instead, in twisted form, have been used by others to accentuate the difference between Jews and the rest of humanity.

None of this will come as a surprise to the Jewish sages imbued with a Torah-oriented understanding of how things work.

Our mission is to embrace our role as “a people who will live apart” rather than to make futile attempts to evade that destiny. This is surely something for all of us to think about this coming weekend, which marks the second “Shabbos Project” in this country and, to the great credit of the South African Jewish community, the first Shabbos Project worldwide.



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