In a world filled with floods, mudslides, tornadoes, oil spills, small airplane crashes, non-stop wars, allegations of political corruption from Harlem to Kabul–Israel still remains front page news.
Today, according to Israeli Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the "Turkish flotilla activists fired first." The evidence (as seen on live action video, and based on the non-Israeli ammunition, cartridges, and bullets found on board) backs him up. While Israel investigates its right of self-defense, key American (not Turkish) congressmen are calling for an investigation of the Turkish charity that sponsored the Turkish freedom flotilla "for its possible ties to terrorism," specifically to Al-Qaeda.
Yesterday, The Jewish Press published a small part of a speech I recently delivered in upstate New York at Vacation Village in the Jewish Catskills. I was hosted by my good friends Dr. Morris and Rickie Platt who have been summering there for many years. Chalet-like villas with flowering window-boxes, small gardens, summery trees, sweet breezes, and excellent dinner conversation made the weekend a joy. That—and having an audience which did not heckle or menace me but which warmly appreciated what I came to say.
I took a risk. After describing the dangerous, anti-Israel activism being carried out, not only by Muslim Islamists and western intellectuals but also by Jews—who do so in the name of "ethical" Judaism–I turned to a right-wing Orthodox audience and challenged them to open their hearts to our Jewish brethren, explaining that our refusal or inability to do so was, in Jewish religious terms, even more dangerous that the forces of Amalek. Here is a bit more of my speech.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler's Speech
Shabbat Nachamu, July 24, 2010
Our beloved, miraculous, Jewish state—God's gift to the Jews and through us, to all humanity—is under the most profound, even existential siege. It was assumed that the ceaseless persecution of the Jews in exile would cease once we again had our own sovereign homeland, our own army, navy, and air force.
Now, 62 years later, it is abundantly clear that Israel, the Jewish state, has become the "Jew" of the world: Defamed, demonized, shunned, shamed, accused of countless blood libels, refused the right to defend herself, blamed when she does. Daily, hourly, Israel is cursed in all the world's languages and presumably, in the most distinguished newspapers. Israel is scapegoated for the crimes and sins of the Arab and Muslim world.
Old-style anti-Semitism is still with us, people still believe that the Jews own and run the world and that we also killed Jesus Christ. Now, the "new" anti-Semitism is coming to us from the progressive left, the intelligentsia, the "good" people. It is also coming to us from the Arab and Islamic world, enhanced by the most sophisticated technology, both on the internet, on television, radio, and in films where people can see actors dressed as religious Jews killing non-Jewish infants, or see Israelis massacring Arabs or killing young Palestinian boys such as Mohammed al-Dura.
Today, anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. In 2002, when I first wrote this, my editor was alarmed. "Are you sure you want to say this? Can't we criticize Israel without being called anti-Semites?" I assured him that what I had written was accurate. Clearly, when you criticize only Israel for crimes other countries commit, for crimes that Israel does not even commit; when you criticize and condemn only Israel in every world forum—you are looking at the "new" anti-Semitism, which is the title of my 2003 book.
Zionism does not equal racism–but anti-Zionism does.
I have been challenging anti-Semitism among leftists and feminists since the early 1970s. I first began to document the "new" anti-Semitism in 2000, right after the Palestinians launched the Intifada of that year. At first, I was something of a lone voice. The organized Jewish world either denied or minimized the possible rise of anti-Semitism and the existential threat that Israel might face. As early as 2004, I wrote about the possibility of a Second Holocaust (God forbid!). For standing up for Israel, the Jews, for America, and for the West, I sacrificed my reputation as a politically correct intellectual. I lost many publishing opportunities and most of my former friends and allies.
Why? Because we live at a time when objective truth does not matter anymore, when only Big Lies matter.
For example, Islam is the world's largest practitioner of both religious and gender apartheid. Say this on most campuses, as I have, and you will be jeered, booed, possibly physically menaced, certain demonized afterwards as a "racist" and "Islamophobe."
The politically correct line is that Israel is the "Nazi, Apartheid state." Only Orwell would understand this misuse of language, such reversals of logic, which are meant to confuse and brainwash people. Such brainwashing has worked. Sixty years of Arab League and Saudi monies have accomplished the unbelievable: Israel is not only the "bad guy," it is the "very worst bad guy" in the entire universe.
This is no small victory given the nature of the Arab and Muslims world.
Yes, I am talking about Muslim-on-Muslim crimes, civil wars, both within one's own family, between families, between Sunni and Shiia Muslims, between al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and Muslim civilians, between one Muslim state and another. Think Iran-Iraq; think Iraq-Kuwait; ah—I have a more interesting example.
Let's talk about the Palestinians, a people whom western human rights activists care more than they care about the rights of women, world-wide; they care more about the presumed occupation of a country that does not exist than they care about the occupation of women's lives in this mythical country. Forced veiling, normalized beating of daughters and wives, forced marriage to one's first cousin, polygamy, honor killings are all blamed on "western influences" or blamed on the Israeli so-called "occupation" of Gaza. Yes, I know, Israel pulled out of Gaza but that's merely reality. A brainwashed world population prefers Big Lies instead.
Earlier this year, Israel was blamed in the pages of The Lancet, a British medical journal, for an increase in Palestinian wife-battering in Gaza and on the West Bank. The researchers, including the lead Harvard researcher, did not even consider the role that radical Islamification or the fact that Gaza is ruled by terrorist gangsters might have played in escalating violence towards women. Honor killings were not included in their measures of violence against Palestinian women. Why? Because that cannot be blamed on Israel or on the West. I published a letter challenging this study in the pages of The Lancet. This is a little like swimming upstream backwards against the tide. And we must all do it.
Blame Israel first—that's the mantra. Thus, when Arab countries persecute Palestinians by revoking their citizenship, (as Jordan has recently done, and let's not forget: Jordan massacred more Palestinians in 1970 than Israel has killed in countless wars of self-defense), by not allowing them to work in many professions, (this is true in Lebanon), by making their travel throughout the Arab, Muslim world exceedingly difficult (as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan do)—you almost never read about this in your morning paper. The United Nations does not condemn Arab governments for their mistreatment of Palestinians nor does it condemn Palestinians for torturing, lynching, murdering, or jailing other Palestinians.
When the so-called "peace" flotilla to Gaza, in which armed Turkish assasins, "shahids," were hidden by leftist activists—assasins who attacked the IDF soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara with paintball weapons and who were savagely attacked—these peace activists did not denounce Hamas's repression of intellectual freedom; Hamas's violent attacks on peaceful young Palestinians, the destruction of peaceful co-ed camps, the savage beatings of young "rap" musicians in Gaza; the torture of the so-called "enemies of Islam.
Long ago, the Arab World decided to use the Palestinians as the permanent, festering human wedge against the "Zionist entity." And so they have. And now we have five generations or more of people who once lived in small Arab towns and villages in the region, and in Jaffo, Haifa, and Jerusalem, who receive more money and more attention for their suffering than does any other refugee group in the world, more then ten billion dollars in the last decade. And, by the way, many Palestinians aren't suffering at all. Israel allows in food, medicine, humanitarian supplies but reserves the right to check for military equipment. Many Palestinians drive Mercedes, live in expensive villas, etc.
Israeli soldiers have even been blamed for refusing to rape Arab and Palestinian women—in 2007, a Jewish Israeli researcher at Hebrew University, doctoral candidate Tal Nitzan, claimed this constituted "racism" against Palestinians.
Yes, of course, the Iranian threat, coupled with the world's passivity, is real. But the war of ideas which rages on is equally important. I am alarmed by how many Jews are in the forefront of anti-Israel and pro-Hamas activism. They are our internal enemies—their own worst enemies.
This month, an organization called Jewish Voice for Peace organized a campaign asking TIAA-CREF, one of the world's largest financial services companies, to divest from companies it says "profit from the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem." Caterpillar, Motorola, and Northrop Grumman are just a few of the companies that Jewish Voice for Peace has targeted for divestment. This effort comes on the heels of Jewish Voice for Peace's attempt last year to get TIAA-CREF to divest from Sudan.
Meanwhile, this month, J Street, which bills itself as the "political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans," called upon the U.S. Treasury Department "to launch thorough investigations into whether or not the [American non-profit] organizations funding settlement activities on the West Bank [described in the New York Times] have broken the law."
J Street's President Jeremy Ben Ami, President Obama's new "go-to Jew," had previously been Senior Vice President at Fenton Communications—the very company hired by Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, the wife of the Qatari ruler, to launch a campaign to wreck Israel's reputation. The campaign, known as the "Al Fakhoora Project," has a very visible Web presence that boasts of rallying 10,000 activists "against the blockade on Gaza." Today their goal is to prevent the Jewish state from defending itself by creating a mass of public opinion that sees Israeli self-defense as a war crime.
and calling it "collective punishment."
Meanwhile, many rabbis have been involved in interfaith "dialogue" efforts. Orthodox Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, for instance, the director of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), has been working with the imam of the Ground Zero mosque for a while. In fact, Rabbi Hirschfield is on the Advisory Board of the Cordoba Initiative. He was also involved with Buffalo-based Muzzammil Hassan, the founder of Bridges TV, who turned out to be a serial wife batterer and wife killer. Bridges advertised itself as committed to interfaith dialogue and to the presentation of a positive image of Muslim-Americans. Rabbi Hirschfield also worked together/appeared at the same conference with Imam Abdul Rauf and and former President Jimmy Carter, the author of the infamous book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, at the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions.
Meanwhile, 70 liberal rabbis in Boston have publicly attacked the man who has exposed the Boston mosque's ties to terrorism—and have not challenged those ties. (Boston Islamic Cultural Center).
But, I am equally alarmed by the steady drumbeat of hatred launched against Israel by countless Western academics, journalists, bloggers, activists, and intellectuals. These are powerful external enemies.
Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and former spokesman for the PLO, who also happens to be a friend and former dinner companion of President Obama, has signed an appeal for money to send yet another aid ship to Gaza named "The Audacity of Hope," the title of Obama's second autobiographical book. He has publicly challenged the president, saying that "if the name [of the boat] is a problem for the administration, it can simply insist that Israel lift the siege: end of problem, end of embarrassment."
In 2003 at tribute dinner for Khalidi, Obama said that Khalidi had "challenged [his] thinking" about the Middle East. Khalidi, he said, has provided "consistent reminders…of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around…Rashid's dinner table," but around "this entire world."
There are countless blogs and websites obsessed with Israel and the so-called "Israel lobby," including ones sponsored by "mainstream" organizations, such as Philip Weiss' Mondoweiss (a project of The Nation Institute), Glenn Greenwald's blog on Salon, and especially the ForeignPolicy Magazine blog of Stephen Walt.
As Lee Smith of Tablet magazine has pointed out, "The anti-Israel blogosphere is a dirty little thrill that major U.S. media outfits have mainstreamed for the masses. Whenever anyone writes anything online about Israel, the anti-Israel comments come pouring in: "What is notable about such comments is not that they are original or unusual, but that there are hundreds and thousands of them, each sicker and crazier than the next, appended like a mile-long oil slick to nearly any mainstream news story or opinion piece that mentions Israel."
Israel and the Jews cannot afford to lose. We must win this war of ideas, outwit and outrun the propaganda, of course hold our own militarily, survive as a people— this time, not only as a "remnant."
But Jews can no longer afford to trust their own large Jewish-American and Jewish-European organizations who have, so far, failed the needs of the Jewish people today just as they once failed to rescue European Jewry from the Holocaust. Small, independent, poorly funded groups and individuals have stepped up to the task, on campuses, on the streets, on the internet. The large Jewish organizations are following reluctantly and slowly behind us.
Ah, but this is Shabbos Nachamu. What comfort can my words possibly bring us?
If as religious Jews we are not in touch with reality we are doomed. Like Moses we may not live to enter the Promised Land of this next victory but we must play a role in bringing it about, whether or not we ourselves are still alive when it occurs.
Thus, we must know when things are getting bad for the Jews and not be lulled by false words: "Oh, it's not that bad, Jews have had it worse, don't be an alarmist, you're becoming paranoid." The Jews who left Nazi Europe early on survived. Those who did not, and who could not, perished. Jews are now on the move again. They are leaving France, Sweden, Belgium; they are sha-shtilling all over England.
We are, so far, lucky in America. If our luck holds, this time, we must risk it in order to save the Jews of Israel and the Jews everywhere else in the world. If not us—who? And if not now, when?
But, as religious Jews we have an even greater task. Especially at this time of year, can we open our hearts to all those Jews whom we fear—whom we know—are behaving recklessly, selfishly, self-destructively, can we try to understand, really understand, that they, too, are "b'zelem," that if we cannot find ways of connecting at some level to each other, that our failure to do so may doom us most fatefully? Can we dare overcome our own sense of what's "right" in order to become "shalem," whole, without which "shalom," peace, is not possible?
I am asking us to envision doing something very difficult, very large. We view the actions and ideas of certain other Jews as dangerous to Jewish survival. I myself do. I have just said so. I—we–may be right.
Can I actually sit in a room with J Streeters, or with Women in Black or with every Jew I personally know who has been demonstrating against Israel, signing petitions against Israel, arming the rogues at the United Nations with ammunition against Israel—probably not. I'd walk right out. Moses broke the first set of tablets at just such a moment. But he also begged God to forgive us, his people, God's people, for our sins, for the very sins that drove Moses himself to break the tablets.
We are all in Moses' position now. In Moses' merit, and for God's sake, let us have less "hate" or even dislike for other Jews, even as we strengthen our resolve and gird our loins for battle.