Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Israel’s Reaction to Pittsburgh was to send far-Right Education Minister Naftali Bennett to Protect Trump not the Jews

How Israel Tried to Equate the Murder of Jews at The Tree of Life with Opposition to BDS



First a short history lesson. Zionism arose as a reaction to anti-Semitism in the late 19th Century. It was however a separatist reaction which accepted the logic of the anti-Semites' hostility to Jews.  Zionism perfectly understood and accepted that the anti-Semites didn't want the Jews in their midst. Just as today the Zionists want an Israel free of strangers so too did non-Jews in the countries where the Jews lived.  Zionism understood the hatred of non-Jews for the Jewish stranger, that was why Zionism began from an abandonment of the fight against anti-Semitism. In Herzl's words it was 'futile' to fight anti-Semitism. The Jews' real problem was that they were exiled from their real home - Palestine.  That was what Zionism intended to rectify.
Chaim Weizmann, longstanding President of the Zionist Organisation and Israel's first President explained this in his autobiography Trial & Error (pp.90-91). Writing about Sir William Evans Gordon MP for Stepney and the founder of the  anti-Semitic British Brothers League, the pre-cursor of Oswald Moseley's British Union of Fascists, he wrote;

I think our people were rather hard on him.... Whenever the quantity of Jews in a country reaches the saturation point, that country reacts against them... England had reached the point when she could or would absorb so many Jews and no more... The reaction against this cannot be looked upon as anti-Semitism in the ordinary or vulgar sense of that word... Sir William Evans Gordon had no particular anti-Jewish prejudices. He acted, as he thought, according to his best lights and in the most kindly way, in the interests of his country... but in his opinion it was physically impossible for England to make good the wrongs which Russia had inflicted on its Jewish population. ... Also, he was sincerely ready to encourage any settlement of Jews almost anywhere in the British Empire, but he failed to see why the ghettos of London or Leeds or Whitechapel should be made into a branch of ghettos of Warsaw and Pinsk.
In other words anti-immigrant feeling was natural.  It had nothing to do with class or race or politics.  Being a chemist Weizmann used a scientific metaphor. England had reached saturation point and the solvent could absorb so much and no more. This had nothing to do with racism or anti-Semitism 'in the ordinary or vulgar sense of that word.' This was the racist logic that Zionism operated according to.

Zionism was different from all other Jewish reactions to anti-Semitism. Forget the nonsense about the Jews’ 2,000 year dream for the Promised Land – when given the choice Jews would go anywhere but Palestine. Zionism was unique in that it accepted the validity of anti-Semitism. The anti-Semites said Jews did not belong in non-Jewish society and the Zionists agreed. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
The Zionists blamed the Jews themselves for anti-Semitism. It was their ‘homelessness’ that caused anti-Semitism. In the words of A B Yehoshua, the Jewish Diaspora was a “cancer who use other peoples’ countries like hotels.’ [Jewish Chronicle 22.5.89]. In other words Jews outside Israel are aliens. Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism wrote, in The Jewish State (1896) that the Jews
‘naturally move to those places where we are not persecuted and there our presence produces persecution... The unfortunate Jews are now carrying it into England; they have already introduced it into America.’ pp. 14-15)
Anti-Semitism was seen as being caused by the presence of Jews. Following this logic, the Zionists held that it was useless to fight anti-Semitism. Wherever they went it would reoccur.

The Zionists argued that Jews had only obtained a formal equality because ‘in the principal countries where Anti-Semitism prevails it does so as a result of the emancipation of the Jews.’ [p.25] To Max Nordau, Herzl’s Deputy, Emancipation ‘was solely the result of the geometrical mode of thought of French nationalism of the 18th Century.’ [Speech to the First Zionist Congress,(1897) Arthur Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea p.236].
In other words the French Revolution granted equal rights to Jews not because they believed in it but because it was the logical consequence of the introduction of greater democracy and equality. Zionism like the Orthodox opposed Emancipation as opening the gates to assimilation and assimilation of the Jews has always been Zionism's greatest enemy. It is compared today to the Holocaust in that both reduced the number of Jews.
Herzl understood that both the Zionists and the anti-Semites had a common interest – both wanted Jews to leave their countries of birth.
‘The Governments of all countries scourged by Anti-Semitism will be keenly interested in assisting us to obtain the sovereignty we want.’ [p.28, Jewish State]
It was but a short step to the conclusion that “the anti-Semites will be our most dependable friends... our allies.” [Diaries p. 84] Yehoshua, who unusually for a Zionist is honest admitted that
Anti-Zionism is not the product of the non-Jews. On the contrary, the Gentiles have always encouraged Zionism, hoping that it would help rid them of the Jews in their midst. Even today, in a perverse way, a real anti-Semite must be a Zionist.’ [Jewish Chronicle 22.1.82.]
When the Nazis came to power, the Zionist movement was not unhappy about what was happening. When the Nazis promulgated the 1935 Nuremberg Laws, ‘the most murderous legislative instrument known to European history’ [Gerald Reitlinger] the Zionists did not protest. As Rabbi Joachim Prinz, a prominent leader of German Zionism wrote:
‘(The Jews) have been drawn out of the last recesses of christening and mixed marriages. We are not unhappy about it... The theory of assimilation has collapsed.... We want to replace assimilation by something new: the declaration of belonging to the Jewish nation and the Jewish race. A state, built according to the principles of purity of the nation and race can only be honoured and respected by a Jew who declares his belonging to his own kind.’ [Wir Juden, Berlin 1934]
The Zionist Congress, which met in Prague in 1933, didn’t even condemn or criticise the Nazis for their treatment of German Jews. Indeed the Labour Zionist majority rejected the criticism of Hitler that the right-wing Revisionists made. They didn’t protest the situation in Germany because they were determined to take advantage of it.

Zionism, to use Herzl’s metaphor, was intent on using anti-Semitism much as an engine used steam power. Zionism has always sought to use anti-Semitism for its own advantage. When Netanyahu flew to Paris after the killing of 4 Jews in a kosher supermarket his message was simple; get out: ‘We say to the Jews, to our brothers and sisters, Israel is your home and that of every Jew. Israel is waiting for you with open arms.” Which is exactly the message that the anti-Semites sought.
This was also the message that Avi Gabbay, leader of the Israeli Labour Party, conveyed when, in the wake of Pittsburgh, he called upon American Jews to emigrate to Israel, their ‘real home’. As Michael Koplow observed
it is a bizarre historical twist of fate that the overwhelming majority of non-Jewish Americans recognize that this is our home, while the Jewish head of the largest opposition party in the Knesset does not.
What is the real Israeli attitude to the massacre of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh?  Undoubtedly there are many Israelis who are genuinely shocked by what happened, for example Chemi Shalev’s article attacking Trump’s Complicity and Netanyahu’s Hypocrisy but it is also clear that there are many Zionists who welcome what happened. I am reminded of the reaction of Yossi Eliassi, The Shadow, a neo-Nazi rapper and Likud member, and his supporters, to the death of a Jewish teacher and peace activist in a bus bombing. A Glimpse into the Soul of Israel - the Spirit of Zionism In the words of Shahar Peretz on Facebook,: ‘In short, another terrorist died.’
Eliassi’s reaction to Pittsburgh was to welcome it. In a Facebook post. Eliasi, who I have covered recently, portrayed the massacre as a legitimate response to the Hebrew Immigration Aid Committee’s support for refugees and migrants in the USA. The murderer Robert Bowers “was a man fed up with subversive progressive Jewish leftists injecting their sick agendas” into his country. Eliasi added ‘Jews like you brought the holocaust and now you’re causing antisemitism. Stop bringing in hate money from Soros.” [see Parasites circle the Pittsburgh Massacre, Morning Star, 1.11.18.]
But what The Shadow says openly others say in muted tones. This was explained by Uri Harari nearly 50 years ago in Yediot Aharonot of 9.2.69: Our Responsibility Towards the Jews in the Arab Countries
When we hear of riots, pogroms or hanging [of Jews] we seethe with anger, and justly so…. We try to do everything within our capacity to help the persecuted Jews. Then we ask ourselves, "Where were they all these years?", "Why did they not immigrate into the country [Israel] in time?"…Still later, and deep in our heart there is also a tiny flicker of vicious joy, "Serves them right!"; "We warned them!"; "We told them so!".
It is, of course, not customary for us to talk about it in public, but many of us felt a tiny bit of joy at another’s calamity when we read reports in the papers about the swastika epidemic in Europe in 1960, or about the [pro-Nazi] Takuara movement in Argentina. And even today, we have very mixed feelings when we read of de Gaulle’s anti-Semitic hints or about the intensification of anti-Jewish feelings among black leaders in the United States.
Despite all the anger and the shock and the insult, these phenomena fit into our world view, because Zionism said then, as it says today, that this is the state of affairs, and that such it must be so long as Jews live among Gentile nations….  we sometimes forget the negative aspect of Zionism – its cruel world view… [Zionism] assumes the eternal hatred of the Jew by the Gentile, irrespective of how liberal the Gentile may be.
Protecting Trump and a False Equivalence
Israel’s main concern after the Pittsburgh massacre was not the protection of America’s Jews but a desire to protect those primarily responsible for the massacre, the Trump Administration.  It’s second concern was to draw a false equivalence between Palestinian resistance to Israel’s racist regime, the solidarity movement and BDS and the fascist violence that resulted in the worst massacre of Jews in the history of the United States.
Zionist politicians in the US are using the tragedy of American Jewry in order to attack the BDS movement.  As Josh Nathan-Kazis put it
some Jewish leaders are seizing on the moment to make progress on long-standing policy agendas to pass legislation targeting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.’ After Pittsburgh, Jewish Groups First Fight Is Against BDS — Not White Nationalism
Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. described  it as ‘opportunistic and cynical’  to use the Pittsburgh massacre, ‘to shut down criticism of Israel and activism related to Israel.’ But Zionism is nothing if not cynical.
Naftali Bennett, the far-Right Israeli Education Minister who was sent to the US set out to portray Pittsburgh as caused by anti-Semitism of the left and Right (shades of the Zionist narrative in the Labour Party):
“From Sderot, in Israel, to Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, the hand that fires missiles is the same hand that shoots worshippers. We will fight against the hatred of Jews and anti-Semitism wherever it raises its head, and we will prevail.”
As Bernard Avishai noted in The New Yorker, Bennett
‘personifies one side, the most strident side, of a repressed debate between American Jews and Israelis that the Pittsburgh murders must inevitably surface. What causes anti-Semitism, and can American liberalism—can any liberalism—work against it?’
Avishai is both right and wrong.  Yes Bennett symbolises the growing divide between Israel and American Jewry but the debate is about far more than what causes anti-Semitism. The debate revolves around what it means to be Jewish and whether being Jewish means being a Zionist, a supporter of chauvinism and racism. Whether Jews should continue to align with a ‘Jewish’ State with which the enemies of American Jews, the alt-Right and Breitbart, identify. In Pittsburgh, Naftali Bennett’s Presence Highlights the Debate Between Netanyahu’s Government and American Jews.
Nowhere is this dichotomy better illustrated than by Richard Spencer, the neo-Nazi and self-declared White Zionist founder of the alt-Right. In a series of tweets, Spencer wrote of his admiration for the Jewish Nation State law, which confers the right to national self-determination in Israel to Jewish citizens only and says Israel is 'showing a path forward for Europeans'. White Nationalist Richard Spencer Backs Israel's Contentious Nation-state Law  Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer was even cruder:
One of the big forces in college campuses today is anti-Semitism. And those anti-Semites are usually not neo-Nazis on college campuses. They’re coming from the radical left.”
Only in the minds of Dermer and Bennett can an equal’s sign be drawn between fascist anti-Semitism and support for the Palestinians. But for the Zionists Pittsburgh was too good an opportunity to miss. Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, took the opportunity of Pittsburgh to announce that he would co-sponsor the Israel Anti-Boycott Act.
Likewise Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations used Pittsburgh to push for support for a federal law which would adopt a “standardized” definition of anti-Semitism, laws to oppose BDS (shades of the IHRA).
Nathan-Kazis quotes some leaders within Hoenlein’s own organization as questioning this linkage between fascist violence and BDS: “I personally wouldn’t use the Pittsburgh massacre to justify the passage of anti-boycott legislation, I don’t think connecting the dots is wise or effective.” After Pittsburgh, Jewish Groups’ First Fight Is Against BDS — Not White Nationalism

Unlike in Britain where Zionist organisations like the CST and CAA play up every whisper or anti-Semitic tweet, in the United States Bennett did his best to pour cold water on the idea that anti-Semitism was increasing. At a lunch-time discussion he expressed his doubts about whether antisemitism is a problem.

Bennett came to the United States with one purpose above all, to defend the man who, more than any other, had created the hate atmosphere against refugees which led to the Pittsburgh massacre. To Bennett Trump was “a true friend of the State of Israel and to the Jewish people,” and criticized those “using the horrific anti-Semitic massacre to attack President Trump” as “unfair and wrong.” 
For Bennett it may be wrong and unfair to criticise the bigot that goes by the name of Trump but it was open season on the Palestinians for whom no criticism is unfair or wrong.
Naftali Bennett of course had difficulty attacking Trump’s war on refugees. Bennett has been foremost amongst those who have been attacking Israel’s Black African refugees.

Black African refugees in Israel that Naftali Bennett wants to deport

The Israeli government has been trying to deport 40,000 refugees for the crime of not being Jewish and even worse, being Black. As Netanyahu explained these refugees
threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state... This phenomenon is very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity
When Netanyahu negotiated an agreement with the UNHCR which would have meant Israel allowing half the refugees to stay in return for Europe taking the other half, Bennett vetoed it warning that it would “turn Israel into a paradise for infiltrators”. Thus comparing the refugees to Palestine’s expelled Arab refugees (who used to be called 'infiltrators' when trying to return to their lands. In other words the refugees were no better than Palestinians.
However Bennett didn’t go unopposed. At a lunchtime meeting Bennett was confronted by 89-year-old Edward Bleier, a former Warner Bros. President  and Jewish philanthropist, who as Ha’aretz noted ‘gave him the schooling he badly needed.’
“Some of us are older than you are and we recall the pre-war period in America when the Nazis convened in Madison Square Garden and paraded on 96th Street with brown shirts and swastikas. And the rallying cry of the anti-Semites was ‘America First.’ So my hair stands on end when I hear an American president invoke that line,” Bleier told him.  American Jews May Never Forgive Israel for Its Reaction to the Pittsburgh Massacre
Ha’aretz commented that
‘It was a rare moment: An American Jew confronting one of the pack of Israeli officials who saw it as their role to act as Trump’s political armor, shielding him from any responsibility for Pittsburgh.’

See America First, for Charles Lindbergh and Donald Trump

As Allison Kaplan Sommer noted in Ha’aretz and Forward
Never before has the State of Israel so blatantly demonstrated that it will protect its own political interests at the expense of American Jews.
Not only did Israel’s leaders choose Trump over American Jews, but they did so easily, naturally, without hesitation, leaping to the defense of a political leader who is actively and openly fanning the flames of hatred that now has an unprecedented death toll.
That they did this, and did so before the bodies of 11 American Jews –   brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers – were even buried, was experienced as a stab in the back that, even if it does heal one day, will leave a scar.
The image of the president touching down in Pittsburgh against the wishes of the mourners, no national congressional leaders or local politicians agreeing to be seen greeting him, accompanied only by Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer as a political flak jacket will remain an indelible image.
Like Bleier’s memories of the Brownshirts in Madison Square Garden, it may fade but will never be forgotten.
Jonathan Offir noted how Bennett exploited the massacre to demonize Palestinians.
He did not connect the dots between the massacre, anti-Semitism and white nationalism (which is the obvious nature of the attack), but rather between the attacker and Palestinians:  Israeli politicians’ responses to Pittsburgh terror expose Zionism’s reactionary core
likewise Adam Horowitz wrote how
The Israeli government is exploiting the Pittsburgh murders to try to demonize Palestine solidarity’

 “The murderous rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue had absolutely nothing to do with the struggle for Palestinian rights. And anyone who is telling you there is is shamelessly trying to use the murder of 11 innocent people to further their own racist agenda to dehumanize Palestinians and justify their ongoing oppression by the state of Israel.”
Rachel Shabi
In Britain it was left to the Guardian, ever eager to plough the furrow of fake ‘left’ anti-Semitism to echo Bennett and Trump’s message that ‘both sides’ – fascists and anti-fascists are to blame. Rachel Shabi, the ‘progressive’ face of Zionism lectured that After Pittsburgh, the left must face down all forms of racism. ‘Words can be deadly.’
Shabi wrote with all the sincerity of a fox trying to gain entrance to a chicken coop. ‘With 11 Jewish people killed at a synagogue, leftists had better ensure theirs don’t ring hollow’ which is, in itself, an example of how hollow and shallow the Guardian has become. Presumably it was all those leftists railing against the refugee caravan that first inspired Robert Bowers? Shabi lost no time revealing her real agenda:
‘right now, on social media, some of the response to Jewish people discussing the horrors of Pittsburgh is: what about Palestine? Even when Jews are killed for being Jews, they are, for some leftists, taking up too much attention, and deflecting from a greater cause for which they are collectively responsible.
It is as if idiot @rachshabi was oblivious to that which was underneath her nose, the visit of Naftali Bennett and his efforts to defend Trump in the name of Israel. It is a good example of how in its campaign against the left, the Guardian fails to grasp the most elementary facts that writers in Ha'aretz and Forward had no difficulty understanding. Shabi is a testament to the decline in the Guardian’s neo-liberal standards of journalism.
Compare Shabi’s hackneyed rhetoric to that of Rabbi Brant Rosen:

if we are to truly respond to this resurgence [of Anti-Semitism and White Nationalism], we must take pains to analyze anti-Semitism for what it is and what it is not. This is particularly important in the face of Israeli politicians and Israel advocacy organizations that are currently muddling the definition of anti-Semitism for cynical political gain. After Pittsburgh, We Can No Longer Cry Wolf on “Campus Anti-Semitism”

It is a sad commentary on British journalism that Shabi is taken seriously as a journalist and the Guardian is taken seriously as a newspaper. Instead of her reflex defence of Israel and Netanyahu, Shabi should read Dana Millbank’s Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody and Trump’s America is not a safe place for Jews in the Washington Post explaining Trump’s anti-Semitism. It means:
Ø Ø Telling Jewish Republicans they wouldn’t support him “because I don’t want your money.”
Ø Ø Tweeting an image from an anti-Semitic message board with a Star of David atop a pile of cash.
Ø Ø Saying “I don’t have a message” for supporters who threatened anti-Semitic violence against a Jewish journalist, and Melania Trump saying the writer “provoked” the threats.
Ø Ø Branding his campaign with the “America First” slogan of the anti-Semitic pre-war movement.
Ø Ø Alleging that “blood suckers” and “a global power structure” including “international banks” are secretly plotting against ordinary Americans.
Ø Ø And, when urged by the Anti-Defamation League to stop using traditionally anti-Semitic tropes, repeats the tropes in an ad with images of prominent Jews, including George Soros.
Ø Ø Once in office, in addition to making common cause with the Nazis of Charlottesville, Trump stocked his administration with Stephen K. Bannon and other figures of the nationalist “alt-right;” hesitated to condemn the rise of anti-Semitic threats and vandalism; issued a Holocaust remembrance statement without mention of Jews; lamented the attempts to silence Alex Jones, who peddles anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; and, declaring himself a “nationalist,” increased verbal attacks on “globalists,” particularly Soros.
But expecting anything substantive or serious on anti-Semitism and Israel in the Guardian these days would be like asking the Sun for an article on the malevolent influence of Murdoch.
Below are a series of articles on the reaction of American Jewry to Israel's attempt to exploit the massacre at Pittsburgh. Also included is an article in the New York Times, of all papers, on the growing cleavage between American Jewry and Israel.  It is dawning on increasing numbers of American Jews that the interests of the diaspora and the 'Jewish' state diverge.  To Israel the diaspora is a source of ready funds and political support. To Jews outside Israel, the Israeli state is a source of much of the anti-semitism they experience since Israel carries out its massacres and atrocities in the name of all Jews.


Tony Greenstein
Allison Kaplan Sommer, Forward 4.11.18.
Over the past week, American Jews expected comfort and support. Instead, Israeli government officials offered carefully honed political talking points, choosing Trump over them

Naftali Bennett speaks during a vigil, to remember the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, Pittsburgh, October 28, 2018. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
One stunning encounter that took place during Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to the United States last week encapsulated the distance between Israeli officialdom and American Jews reeling after the worst attack on their community in the country’s history. 

That moment came for Bennett during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations, after he winged his way to the United States to attend the funerals of the victims of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.
After paying his respects, Bennett was quickly off to New York to make the rounds of the studios and conference rooms of major Jewish organizations to take full advantage of his unexpected trip to North America to raise his profile – after all, he makes no secret of his aspirations to the prime ministership.
From the moment he landed on U.S. soil, Bennett in his discussion with council members insistently defended President Donald Trump against accusations that the poisonous xenophobic tone and outlandish conspiracy theories he peddles bore any connection to the massacre in Pittsburgh. Bennett paired this with an equally problematic message that the threat of anti-Semitism in America was overblown.
 “This is not in any sense Germany of the ’30s, it doesn’t resemble that in any possible way,” Bennett declared confidently, according to a report in the Jewish Insider.
He was confronted by 89-year-old Edward Bleier, a former Warner Bros. president, media pioneer and Jewish philanthropist who, disgusted by Bennett's obversation, gave him the schooling he badly needed. He noted that the Israeli minister is poorly educated when it comes to the Jews of the Diaspora, their history and sensitivities.
“Some of us are older than you are and we recall the pre-war period in America when the Nazis convened in Madison Square Garden and paraded on 96th Street with brown shirts and swastikas. And the rallying cry of the anti-Semites was ‘America First.’ So my hair stands on end when I hear an American president invoke that line,” Bleier told him.
Naftali Bennett’s Fox interview, October 31, 2018. Fox News
It was a rare moment: An American Jew confronting one of the pack of Israeli officials who saw it as their role to act as Trump’s political armor, shielding him from any responsibility for Pittsburgh.
Most grieving American Jews were polite and deferential to Bennett and the parade of other Israeli officials whose remarks inspired headlines like “Israel Defends Trump Amid Synagogue Shooting Criticism,”  
The fury, resentment and disgust of American Jews toward Israel’s representatives only came pouring out afterward, in private conversations and across social media.
In the opinion pages and comment sections of Jewish outlets, commentators like former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro opined that Israelis had one job while America was “sitting shivah” – to listen, not lecture them on how they should feel or who they should blame, and certainly not on the eve of critical U.S. elections.
Shapiro recalled how, as ambassador, he was always careful not to bring politics into houses of mourning. And yet, long before this Shabbat, when we marked seven days since the murderous Pittsburgh attack – a symbolic shivah – American Jews got an earful from their Israeli brethren as to which political leaders they should or shouldn’t blame.   
It is something they have always made an effort not to do when the shoe is on the other foot. In their countless “solidarity missions” over the years when Israel was feeling attacked, broken and vulnerable, American-Jewish leaders always held back from telling Israel what to do as it mourned and buried its dead, after the all-too-frequent wars and terror attacks.
Whenever Diaspora Jews have dared step out of line, speak out, disagree or point out missteps by their Israeli counterparts, they are always scolded and shut down.
The typical reaction to such chutzpah is: “How can anyone who hasn’t lived in Israel, hasn’t served in the IDF or sent their children to serve, who hasn’t huddled in a shelter as missiles have fallen, seen friends and neighbors die in terror attacks, possibly understand what Israelis are going through?”
Daring to voice a partisan opinion on what is happening while parachuting in for a photo opportunity is seen as unacceptably audacious by people who, while they may be fellow Jews, have no skin – or blood – in the game.
Over the past week, when American Jews expected comfort and support, Israeli government officials instead offered carefully honed political talking points: It is “unfair” to assign responsibility to the president, they lectured. Trump is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. He has Jewish family members, therefore any implication that he is either anti-Semitic himself or encourages anti-Semitism with his populist “America First” rhetoric is outrageous.
Special U.S. midterms coverage with Allison Kaplan Sommer // Part 1: What we can expectHaaretz
These arguments were inevitabley followed up by the “both sides” defense: That Farrakhan-style anti-Semitism is equally as bad and dangerous as white supremacist Soros-bashing xenophobia.
The relationship between Israel and the overwhelmingly liberal non-Orthodox American-Jewish population has been no picnic in recent years. Memorable low points in the relationship: The crisis over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing Congress in order to lobby against the Iran deal, over the objections of the Obama White House; and the furious reaction by liberal non-Orthodox streams after what they viewed as betrayal over the Western Wall deal.
But until this moment, nothing has left American Jews feeling that they are being physically abandoned by their Israeli brothers. Never before has the State of Israel so blatantly demonstrated that it will protect its own political interests at the expense of American Jews.
Not only did Israel’s leaders choose Trump over American Jews, but they did so easily, naturally, without hesitation, leaping to the defense of a political leader who is actively and openly fanning the flames of hatred that now has an unprecedented death toll.
That they did this, and did so before the bodies of 11 American Jews –   brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers – were even buried, was experienced as a stab in the back that, even if it does heal one day, will leave a scar.
The image of the president touching down in Pittsburgh against the wishes of the mourners, no national congressional leaders or local politicians agreeing to be seen greeting him, accompanied only by Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer as a political flak jacket will remain an indelible image.
Like Bleier’s memories of the Brownshirts in Madison Square Garden, it may fade but will never be forgotten.

Israeli politicians’ responses to Pittsburgh terror expose Zionism’s reactionary core

Jonathan Offir
In the wake of the Pittsburgh white-supremacist’s terror attack on a synagogue, Israeli labor leader Avi Gabbay calledupon the Jews of the United States to immigrate more and more to Israel, because this is their home.”
This was an echo of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who in the wake of the 2015 Paris terror shootings, messagedall the Jews of France”, indeed “all the Jews of Europe”: “the state of Israel is your home”.
This is hardly the first time that the opposition leader Gabbay echoes Netanyahu so precisely and in such similar contexts. Last year, he approvingly cited Netanyahu’s words: “The left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish”. Gabbay was aware of the historical and racist context of Netanyahu’s original statement, which was caught on hot mic in 1997 (Netanyahu also said that the left “think that our security can be placed in the hands of Arabs”) – and Gabbay explicitly credited Netanayhu.
Gabbay’s statements on Pittsburgh were regarded as “tone-deaf” by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), and even centrist lawmaker (and former Israeli Ambassador to US) Michael Oren felt a need to damage-control Gabbay’s words for being too nationalist:
“Avi Gabbay said things that should not be said because he simply does not understand. Through his words he adds insult to injury. The call to U.S. Jewry, especially after last night [massacre in Pittsburgh], deeply hurts their feelings and reduces their desire for Aliyah [emigration to Israel]. Gabbay does not understand anything about Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora.”
Michael Oren is an expert on saying things that should not be said. Earlier this year, he found ultimate proof that Ahed Tamimi’s family was not a “real family”, posting as evidence two photos of the family that he said were different when they were actually the same photo in a mirrored pairing:
‘A boy of 12 takes a photo with a cast on the right arm, the next day with a cast on left arm. You tell me if it’s not funded and directed? The Tamimi family is part of the “Pallywood” industry, which sends children to confront IDF soldiers in order to cause PR damage to Israel, for money’.
So if Michael Oren tells you you’ve gone too far, then you may really be in too deep.
Offensive statements “correcting” American Jews for their supposed naiveté and liberalism seem to regularly come from the Israeli Zionist left, as for example when former left leader Isaac Herzog (now head of Jewish Agency) called intermarriage, especially amongst US Jews, a “plague” this summer.
The calls to emigrate to Israel in the wake of anti-Semitic violence abroad appear to be intrinsic to Zionist thinking, and the whole notion of ‘assimilation’, be it through inter-marriage or otherwise, is regularly frowned upon (if not worse) by Zionists, who see this as weakness, since their solution is an exclusivist, isolationist one.
Zvia Greeenfield, a prominent leftist former Meretz lawmaker, wrote in Haaretz this week:
“The American Jewish minority still faces the question that has preoccupied the Diaspora since the French Revolution and the departure from the ghetto: Is it better for Jews to maintain a separate identity or to assimilate into local society? Recognizing that on the broader level (although perhaps not on an individual level) assimilation as a solution is an illusion that would sooner or later come to a violent end was what motivated Theodor Herzl to offer the Zionist solution – Jewish self-sovereignty. But the large American Jewish minority did not choose Herzl’s proposal, and today most of it chooses to assimilate into society at large and assume everything will be fine”.
Greenfield extolls the Zionist solution:
“In Israel, the country itself, with its difficult dilemmas and great successes, is the grand vision of the new Judaism. It provides the answer to the question of why it’s worth remaining Jews, and what it means to be a Jew in the post-halakhic era. Those who reject this answer remain with a question that has no resolution other than assimilation”.
That’s an Israeli leftist talking! Greenfield has recently also written in Haaretz on why Israel should treat Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Bin Salman with “kids gloves”, even if he dissolved Jamal Kashoggi’s body in acid, because “Mohammed”, as she calls him, will bring peace.
This type of Israeli-Zionist condescending attitude appears to be a growing menace for many American Jews. Writing in The New Yorker, Bernard Avishai surveys other Israeli responses to the massacre, in his piece titled “In Pittsburgh, Naftali Bennett’s Presence Highlights the Debate Between Netanyahu’s Government and American Jews”. Covering the message by Education and Diaspora Minister Bennett, including his cryptic statement that “Jewish blood is not free,” Avishai writes:
“Bennett was no doubt sincere in his empathy and his outrage. But Bennett—the public figure, not the designated mourner—personifies one side, the most strident side, of a repressed debate between American Jews and Israelis that the Pittsburgh murders must inevitably surface. What causes anti-Semitism, and can American liberalism—can any liberalism—work against it?”
Bennett also exploited the massacre to demonize Palestinians. He did not connect the dots between the massacre, anti-Semitism and white nationalism (which is the obvious nature of the attack), but rather between the attacker and Palestinians:
“From Sderot, in Israel, to Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, the hand that fires missiles is the same hand that shoots worshippers. We will fight against the hatred of Jews and anti-Semitism wherever it raises its head, and we will prevail.”
As Adam Horowitz wrote on this site, the “Israeli government is exploiting the Pittsburgh murders to try to demonize Palestine solidarity”:
“The murderous rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue had absolutely nothing to do with the struggle for Palestinian rights. And anyone who is telling you there is is shamelessly trying to use the murder of 11 innocent people to further their own racist agenda to dehumanize Palestinians and justify their ongoing oppression by the state of Israel.”
Bennett had predictably brought up the Holocaust, in his ‘educating’ message to the American Jewish community:
“Nearly eighty years since Kristallnacht, when the Jews of Europe perished in the flames of their houses of worship, one thing is clear: anti-Semitism, Jew-hating, is not a distant memory”.
Bernard Avishai, considering it a statement lacking tact, noted the inherent condescension:
‘Bennett’s supposition that members of his audience thought of anti-Semitism as a “piece of history”—that they were in need of his corrective—suggests only how he’s underestimated them’…
Avishai notes how Nancy Bernstein, co-chair of the liberal-Zionist J Street Pittsburgh, said that Bennett’s appearance was a “blight” on otherwise moving proceedings.
So there’s even a dismay, also from Zionists themselves, about the way other Zionists exploit anti-Semitism in order to bolster their Zionist anti-Palestinian message. And about how other Zionists, particularly Israeli ones, use anti-Semitism to unfurl their better-knowing arrogance and obnoxious chauvinism of “we told you so.” Yet these critics (such as Avishai and Bernstein) still remain Zionists.
Although this arrogance comes from both right and left, many are still in the impression that there is an inclusivist Zionism, one that is truly liberal. But the very essence of Zionism is an isolationist one. Its very core is driving out of the “others” to make way for “us”, as Israeli historian Benny Morris notes:
Transfer was inevitable and inbuilt in Zionism – because it sought to transform a land which was ‘Arab’ into a Jewish state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of Arab population”.
Adherents of this ideology are hardly the ones to provide an answer to violence resulting from racist-exclusivist extremists.
When Israeli leaders and pundits, from right and left, are supposedly “tactless” in their statements on anti-Semitism, it is not because they are making aberrant mistakes. They are simply making Freudian slips which result from the exclusivist-nationalist vein of Zionism, which relies upon anti-Semitism to bolster its message of “we told you so”. When that happens, there is often attempt to damage-control by other Zionists, who do not want these comments to damage the liberal image of Israel too much. After all, those naïve and erring diaspora Jews should be treated with some respect…
But in the end, this is what Zionism is about. It is a reaction to real liberalism, suggesting nationalist isolation as the only solution. And nationalist isolation is exactly what the Pittsburgh shooter was about.  


Is the world ready for another Great Schism?
Credit Melinda Beck

Jan. 4, 2019
The events of the past year brought American and Israeli Jews ever closer to a breaking point. President Trump, beloved in Israel and decidedly unloved by a majority of American Jews, moved the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, with the fiery evangelical pastors John Hagee and Robert Jeffress consecrating the ceremony.
In October, after the murder of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, President Trump went to that city to pay his respects. Members of the Jewish community there, in near silent mourning, came out to protest Mr. Trump’s arrival, declaring that he was not welcome until he gave a national address to renounce the rise of white nationalism and its attendant bigotry.
The only public official to greet the president at the Tree of Life was Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.
At a Hanukkah celebration at the White House last month, the president raised eyebrows and age-old insinuations of dual loyalties when he told American Jews at the gathering that his vice president had great affection for “your country,” Israel.
Yossi Klein Halevi, the American-born Israeli author, has framed this moment starkly: Israeli Jews believe deeply that President Trump recognizes their existential threats. In scuttling the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, which many Israelis saw as imperiling their security, in moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in basically doing whatever the government of Benjamin Netanyahu asks, they see a president of the United States acting to save their lives.
American Jews, in contrast, see President Trump as their existential threat, a leader who they believe has stoked nationalist bigotry, stirred anti-Semitism and, time and time again, failed to renounce the violent hatred swirling around his political movement. The F.B.I. reports that hate crimes in the United States jumped 17 percent in 2017, with a 37 percent spike in crimes against Jews and Jewish institutions.
When neither side sees the other as caring for its basic well-being, “that is a gulf that cannot be bridged,” Michael Siegel, the head rabbi at Chicago’s Conservative Anshe Emet Synagogue, told me recently. He is an ardent Zionist.
To be sure, a vocal minority of Jews in Israel remain queasy about the American president, just as a vocal minority of Jews in the United States strongly support him. But more than 75 percent of American Jews voted for the Democrats in the midterm elections; 69 percent of Israelis voiced confidence in Mr. Trump, up from 49 percent who had confidence in Barack Obama in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. Israel is also one of the few developed countries where opinion about the United States has improved since Mr. Trump took office.
Part of the distance between Jews in the United States and Israeli Jews may come from the stance that Israel’s leader is taking on the world stage. Mr. Netanyahu has embraced the increasingly authoritarian Hungarian leader Victor Orban, who ran a blatantly anti-Semitic re-election campaign. He has aligned himself with ultranationalists like Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and a Polish government that passed a law making it a crime to suggest the Poles had any responsibility for the Holocaust.
The Israeli prime minister was one of the very few world leaders who reportedly ran interference for the Trump administration after the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and urged President Trump to maintain his alliance with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Mr. Netanyahu’s son Yair was temporarily kicked off Facebook for writing that he would “prefer” that “all the Muslims leave the land of Israel.”
Last month, with multiple corruption investigations closing in on him and his conservative coalition fracturing, Mr. Netanyahu called for a snap election in April, hoping to fortify his political standing.
If past is prologue, his election campaign will again challenge American Jewry’s values. As his 2015 campaign came to a close, Mr. Netanyahu darkly warned his supporters that “the right-wing government is in danger — Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves,” adding with a Trumpian flourish that left-wing organizations “are bringing them in buses.”
Israeli politicians — and citizens — are increasingly dismissive of the views of American Jews anyway. Evangelical Christians, ardently pro-Israel, give Jerusalem a power base in Washington that is larger and stronger than the American Jewish population. And with Orthodox American Jews aligned with evangelicals, that coalition has at least an interfaith veneer — even without Conservative and Reform Jews, the bulk of American Jewry.
The divide between American Jews and Israeli Jews goes beyond politics. A recent law tried to reinstate the Chief Rabbinate as the only authority that can legally convert non-Orthodox Jews in Israel. Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, after the slaughter in Pittsburgh, refused to refer to the Conservative Tree of Life as a synagogue at all, calling it “a place with a profound Jewish flavor.”
Already only Orthodox Jewish weddings are legal in Israel. Reform Jews have been roughed up when praying at the Western Wall. Promises to Jewish women that the Israeli rabbinate would become more inclusive have largely led to disappointment. Last summer, the group Women of the Wall was warned that if it did not remain confined to the small, barricaded area within the “women’s section,” its members would be barred from praying there altogether.
And the stalemate over Palestinian rights and autonomy has become nearly impossible to dismiss as some temporary roadblock, awaiting perhaps a new government in Jerusalem or a new leadership of the Palestinian Authority.
The two-state solution is increasingly feeling like a cruel joke. American Jews’ rabbis and lay leaders counsel them to be vigilant against any other solution, such as granting Palestinians full rights in a greater Israel, because those solutions would dilute or destroy Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. Be patient, American Jews are told. Peace talks are coming. The Palestinians will have their state.
In the meantime, the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel grows stronger on American campuses, and new voices are emerging in the Democratic Party, such as Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who are willing to speak openly about Palestinian rights and autonomy where other lawmakers have declined to do so.
Of course, American Jews, like Israeli Jews, are not a monolith. Within the American Jewish population, there is a significant generational split on Israel that goes beyond ideology. Older American Jews, more viscerally aware of the Holocaust and connected to the living history of the Jewish state, are generally willing to look past Israeli government actions that challenge their values. Or they embrace those actions. Younger American Jews do not typically remember Israel as the David against regional Goliaths. They see a bully, armed and indifferent, 45 years past the Yom Kippur War, the last conflict that threatened Israel’s existence.
American Jewry has been going its own way for 150 years, a drift that has created something of a new religion, or at least a new branch of one of the world’s most ancient faiths.
In a historical stroke with resonance today, American Jewish leaders gathered in Pittsburgh in 1885 to produce what is known as the Pittsburgh Platform, a new theology for an American Judaism, less focused on a Messianic return to the land of Israel and more on fixing a broken world, the concept of Tikkun Olam. Jews, the rabbi behind the platform urged, must achieve God’s purpose by “living and working in and with the world.”
For a faith that for thousands of years was insular and self-contained, its people often in mandated ghettos, praying for the Messiah to return them to the Promised Land, this was a radical notion. But for most American Jews, it is now accepted as a tenet of their religion: building a better, more equal, more tolerant world now, where they live.
Last summer, when a Conservative rabbi in Haifa was hauled in for questioning by the Israeli police after he officiated at a non-Orthodox wedding, it was too much for Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the umbrella organization of the Conservative movement in North America.
“I do not believe we can talk about a ‘gap’ between Israel and the Diaspora,” Rabbi Wernick wrote in a letter to the Israeli government. “It is now a ‘canyon.’”
My rabbi in Washington, Daniel Zemel, quoted the Israeli Yaniv Sagee during Kol Nidre, the Yom Kippur evening service, this fall: “For the first time in my life, I feel a genuine threat to my life in Israel. This is not an external threat. It is an internal threat from nationalists and racists.”
Rabbi Zemel implored his congregation to act before it is too late, to save Israel from itself.
But Israelis want nothing of the sort. American Jews don’t serve in the Israeli military, don’t pay Israeli taxes and don’t live under the threat of Hamas rocket bombardments. And many American Jews would not heed Rabbi Zemel’s call.
Zionism divided American Jewry for much of the latter 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Those divisions remained in the early decades of the Jewish state, fading only with the triumph of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and the peril of the Yom Kippur War.
Now many American Jews, especially young American Jews, would say, Israel is Israel’s problem. We have our own.
There are roughly 6.5 million Jews in Israel. There are roughly 5.7 million Jews in America. Increasingly, they see the world in starkly different ways.
The Great Schism is upon us.
Correction: January 4, 2019
An earlier version of this article misattributed a quotation. It was the Israeli Yaniv Sagee, not Rabbi Daniel Zemel, who said: “For the first time in my life, I feel a genuine threat to my life in Israel. This is not an external threat. It is an internal threat from nationalists and racists.”
Correction: January 14, 2019
An earlier version of this article imprecisely described a finding of a recent Pew Research Center survey. It is the percentage of Israelis who expressed confidence in the American president that rose to 69 percent, not the percentage of Israelis with a favorable view of the United States under President Trump.
Jonathan Weisman is a veteran Washington journalist, deputy Washington editor at The Times and author of the novel “No. 4 Imperial Lane” and the nonfiction book “(((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump.”

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