Imagine if, in the midst of these horrendous suicide bombings, prominent Arab-Americans sat on television and celebrated the bombings, sometimes in language even more intense than the nihilist leadership of Hamas? ‘Tis hard to imagine, because it probably would not happen. Indeed, if it were to happen, the heads of Arab-American associations and publications would probably roundly condemn the statements. Suicide bombings, after all, do nothing to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinians (or, as many more people realize, the Israelis who live under Sharon’s junta.)
Yet, in what seems to be one of the most shameful moments in Jewish history, prominent “intellectuals” and journalists in our community are only all to glad to lend their support, not to the Israeli people who are victimized by suicide attacks that Sharon intentionally provokes, but to the Sharon junta–which incidently recently introduced that old favorite, neo-liberalism. Palestinian towns are refered to as “nests” of terrorism. The ubiquitous “the” is always placed before “Palestinians” in conversation, quantifying and qualifying a whole people as deserving of collective punishment. And sometimes the most animus is reserved for us Jews who aren’t “with the program.”
I have never considered myself instinctively anti-Israel any more than I am anti-American or anti-Papua New Guinean, for that matter. I don’t believe that nation-states are the arbiters of behaviour, therefore I believe it is a ruse to start using such language. As Noam Chomsky pointed out years back, it would be laughable to start referring to “anti-Italianism” in Italy. In fact, with the Berlusconi government in power, it is actually quite pro-Italian to oppose the Itaian state. Likewise, it is very Pro-Israel, in a tangible way, to advocate an end to the occupation, a just solution to the refugees, a two-state solution that is federated so that within a few decades and dissipation of religous extremism, the border will dissipate, and justice for the extremists in both Hamas and Likud.
But I am digressing here. As I was saying , I’ve never considered myself instinctively anti-Israel. I do consider myself somewhat religous- Jewish and this is what informs my opposition to Israel at this point. Because I have correlated opposition to Israeli policies with both the secular and theological morality Judaism, I have been singled out for extra threats, intimidation and otherwise McCarthyite treatment from the self-apponted guardians of Zion. An innocuous column in a Montreal newspaper at the dawn of the Sept. 2000 intifada brought open death threats and other perversions from self-asppointed sayanim. My point at the time was that on Yom Kippur, Jews should atone for not speaking out against “the series of actions that have led up to the intifada.” On Yom Kippur itself–the holiest day of the Jewish year–I was accosted walking out of Synagogue with the old canard of “self-hating Jew.” I had not even taken off my tallit.
Fast forward 18 months, many periods of calm, followed by Israeli assassinations which are inevitably followed by suicide-bombings. I had come to be very angry–even angrier than usual–at the Sharon government. As one friend of mine in Israel had said, he was an Israeli Pinochet. In other words, not only had he increased oppression and provocation of Palestinians, but he had imposed “austerity” and neo-liberal economic policies that are cutting away at the perhaps one good legacy that Israel has at this point, its robust social democracy. After Sharon re-invaded the Palestinian territories after the horrendous–and predictable Passover bombing, I started to take more action.
My plan was–and is- the last frontier of Israel-Palestine–the Jewish Community. As a proud Jew and a writer, I feel an obligation to explain to my community that we are all implicated in Sharon’s perversions, which go directly against Jewish values. I nearly convinced Montreal Hillel to publicly criticize Sharon. I know for a fact that the spokespeople who wanted to do so were told to keep their mouths shut. It reminded me of the February 2002 issue of the Jerusalem Report, in which Israel’s PR chief talks of how Israel would use “student organizations” in North America to control the debate. It is highly sad when organizations like Hillel that have been a part of the Jewish struggle for equality and self-determination whore themselves.
As well as writing a few pieces meant to galvanize Jewish opposition, here at Counterpunch, I wrote one piece (also featured at Counterpunch) that was quite moderate and concilliatory–for the Canadian Jewish News, a high circulation weekly community newspaper. This was, to me, an important coup, since the CJN has been dominated by the most right-wing, horribly racist libels against Palestinians as well as Jews who, again, are not part of the program. Among the features in the last few months were ressurections of the discredited Joan Peters “time immemorial” theory, the old “Palestinians don’t exist” bullshit, and always, always, always excuses for Israel’s actions that seem straight out of Pravda. As well, it was used to discredit the Canadian labor union CUPE directly before its strike in Toronto (Cupe had made a statement criticizing Sharon as well as Arafat.) Many CUPE members feel that the attempt to drive a wedge between the labor movement and th!e historically pro-unoin Jewish community, was guided not by Jewish, but by management interests.
After publishing a piece that refuted the notion that “the left is Anti-Semitic,” I became even more of a target. I wil say that I don’t take these bullies and terrorists seriously (humorously, the CJN published my piece directly opposite one of the wildest conspiracy theories I have ever read, about the “dangerous allure of…….NGOs!”!) Yet when I have ten e-mails and even snail-mail letters a day, theatening vengeance, telling me that God will punish me and other such bullshit, it becomes a little disconcerting. Not surprisingly, these libels ended up on the letters column of the Canadian Jewish News. All of them are still online, and many of them are quite unbelievable and Talibanic in their irrational zeal. Replying with reason has allowed me to introduce ideas normally off-limits to the Jewish community. To most people, calling for an end to war and occupation is more reasonable than calling for the “transfer of those who suck evil from their mo!ther’s breast milk.”
So my egotistical response to the letters was to reply to them, and argue their merits, which to the CJN’s credit, they have allowed me to do. However, what really disturbs me is the amount of incitement, which often can be traced straight to current Israeli Hasbarah policy. I am not speaking of those at publications like the New Republic, the intellectual collaborators with Sharon’s policies. I am speaking of those who are manipulated by the Peretzes and others of this world, the working-class Jewish community, some of whom are survivors. Old men and women are being manipulated to believe that they are in danger, and that Arabs are out to get them. Young men and women are told to use “any means neccessary” including threats and intimidation (spying on Palestinian human rights advocates, threatening to expose others’ petty criminal records) to “support Israel.”
Thus it has become de rigeur in public and private, in my beloved community, to go against Jewish values in thoughts, words and actions. The Reform Temple that I was raised in (before Reform became overtly Zionist) has hosted prominent Anti-Arab scholars, but refused to support the Refuseniks, despite overwhelming Jewish grassroots support. The Rabbi who I once thought was a holy man has publicly and explicitly endorsed collective punishment. Jews rightfully get up in arms, as noted, when the odd Islamic cleric endorses Jew-hatred. What is to be said then, when the Jewish clerics themselves–with some notable exceptions–endorse Arab-hatred?
Jordy Cummings can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org