May 6, 2010
The Mainstreaming of Anti-SemitismBy Lauri B. Regan
In a recent Shabbat sermon, the senior rabbi at one of Baltimore's largest congregations explained why, whether he liked it or not, he felt compelled to talk about Israel. He suggested that due to the voluminous number of e-mails he received discussing an article written by Ed Koch and a sermon delivered by local rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, he felt compelled to discuss the topic on everyone's mind.
The opening remarks of the sermon reminded me of Obama's recent statement that "... whether we like it or not, America remains a military superpower." And while Americans have come to expect Obama's ridiculous apologies for America's exceptional nature, American Jews do not and should not accept this attitude from anyone -- least of all our rabbis. Our history and faith dictate, and our survival depends upon, our leaders -- our rabbis -- celebrating Israel's greatness and the success of the Jewish people.
The rabbi discussed a recent poll in which Israel joined Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea at the bottom of a list of 28 nations viewed favorably in the world. From there, rather than discuss what American Jews could do to help improve world perception of Israel, the rabbi politicized the two-state solution by characterizing it as an internal Israeli policy debate rather than what it is -- a fight for Israel's survival. Though there was no coherent message being conveyed, the rabbi used two words to describe Israel that said more than anything else in the speech -- "occupying state."
The clear message was that Israel is occupying land on which Jewish people are not entitled to live. After the service, I told the rabbi that I was offended by his description of Israel as an occupying entity -- a description reserved for use by anti-Semites. I suggested that, especially in light of recent rifts in U.S.-Israel relations and the virulent growth of anti-Semitism globally, rabbis need to choose their words wisely. He responded, "Oh, I see, you're from the far right."
The rabbi then stated that he would use another term if I could suggest something appropriate to describe what Israel was doing. I looked at him inquisitively and asked how Israel could be occupying land that God gave to the Jewish people thousands of years ago. And with his next question, the rabbi took the conversation to a new low for Jews and Christians the world over: "How do you know that? Just because the Bible says so?"
Rabbis whose views are driven by political ideology rather than faith-based spirituality enable leaders like National Security Advisor Jim Jones to feel comfortable making a pathetic joke about those greedy Jews. It is because of congregants who sit in the pews of liberal shuls and do not understand the issues, who agree with the liberal "blame the Jews" mantra, or who are too apathetic to speak up that Jones has not been forced to resign.
Imagine the reaction of the African-American community if Jones had begun a speech with a joke about black people that feeds into negative stereotypes about that race. And that's exactly what Jones' joke was -- racist -- but when it comes to the Jews, the only response is perhaps a whisper, but mostly silence.
The dichotomy between the American Latino response to an Arizona law addressing illegal immigration and the American Jewish response to the numerous anti-Israel policies emanating from the White House, including Obama's outrageous reaction to legal construction in Jerusalem, is also telling. While Latinos quickly unite, plan mass protests, and have the support of the liberal establishment, who threaten to boycott Arizona; Jews across the country debate and point fingers at each other about who is right and who is wrong, yet have no one but themselves to stand up for the Jewish homeland.
It is time for American Jews to stand up and speak out. Enough of the debate about whether there is a gray area on which we can all agree. Anti-Semitism is a black-and-white issue. Hitler was evil. Ahmadinejad is evil. Period. And if American Jews do not wake up to the reality that there really is a right and a wrong, and stop talking about two sides to every issue, they will find themselves reliving a second Holocaust.
In reaction to my response to the rabbi's sermon, a relative labeled me an extremist. If a fellow Jew labels me extreme for questioning a rabbi who openly pronounces that Jews should not look to the Bible for guidance on matters pertaining to the Promised Land because it apparently does not fit with his own ideology, then Jews the world over have a serious problem. If I am considered a right-wing lunatic because I believe that God gave the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham, then Israel has a problem. Perhaps they should consider that if more American Jews had been "extremists" in the early 1930s, the Holocaust may have been avoided, or at least have ended sooner.
Great Britain is expelling Israeli representatives while the U.S. is sending its first ambassador to Syria in five years. The president and his minions accuse Israel of being responsible for the death of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and fan the fires of ever-growing anti-Semitism worldwide. And self-hating Jews like Richard Goldstone, who have set Israel up as the scapegoat on the international stage, have the support of Obama, the Europeans, the Arab League, and the U.N.
Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria have their missiles aimed at Israel and set on standby, and the Palestinians, to whom the world wants to cede parts of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, educate their children to kill the Jews. At the same time, Obama intends to force a two-state solution on tiny Israel, all the while claiming that Israel has not proven its interest in peace and ignoring the reality of Palestinian rejectionism. Hamas and Hezbollah have been completely rearmed since previous conflicts with Israel, scud missiles are being shipped to Syria, the Islamic fanatics in Iran are building nuclear weapons, and the president has not approved a single major weapons request by Israel since taking office.
It is clear not only that Obama has no intention of helping Israel militarily, but also that members of his administration have made outright threats of armed action against our ally. When questioned about Obama's Mideast advisor Brzezinski, who believes that the U.S. should shoot down Israeli war planes if they fly over Iraqi airspace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, simply responded, "I just wouldn't get into the speculation of what might happen and who might do what."
Here at home, American Jews have become complacent and apathetic. They are unmoved by the protests of anti-Semites screaming "Go back to the ovens" and "Nuke Israel." They have no interest in J Street's desire to divide the Old City of Jerusalem and its protests about Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren speaking at Brandeis University's commencement, nor in rabbis who claim that Jewish people do not have a Biblical and historical right to Israel.
This past week, anti-Semitic attacks have been directed at middle-school-age children in my hometown just outside New York City. Sixth-graders are checking out a website called "I Hate Jews," and Holocaust-deniers speak openly at the high school level.
This country desperately needs leadership that will bring people together, not feed into the biases that will tear it apart. American Jews bought into Obama's rhetoric hook, line, and sinker, and they were sold a bill of goods. But many of them do not realize it because they have rabbis, driven by liberal ideology, who stand on their bully pulpits preaching from the Torah of Liberalism.
It is one thing to claim to be a Zionist. But actions speak louder than words, and when 57% of American Jews still support Obama (and 55% support his handling of Israel), their Zionist declarations may make them feel good, but they have about as much weight as the empty promises made by their Messiah.
American Jews need to educate themselves to understand the history of the land of Israel. They must educate their children to be proud of their Jewish heritage. Only then will they move away from labels, differentiate good from evil, and feel comfortable confronting anti-Semitism. Israel's survival may very well depend on it.