Standing Up to Anti-Semitism

On April 22, the Muslim American Society (MAS) uploaded a video on its Philly Facebook page,  filmed at its 6th annual Ummah Day celebrating diversity.  In the video, children are seen singing  and dancing in Arabic to a YouTube song known as the “revolutionaries anthem.”  Four girls are highlighted, fluently reading Arabic scripts advocating violence to regain dominance over the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem:

We will defend the land of divine guidance with out bodies, and we will sacrifice our souls without hesitation … We will chop off their heads, and we will liberate the sorrowful and exalted Al-Aqsa Mosque …We will lead the Army of Allah fulfilling his purpose, and we will subject them to eternal torture …We need force and the Quran … Palestine must be returned to us.

MAS originally dismissed the video as a mere “oversight”, without embarrassment or apology. MAS also claimed that MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute watchdog group that uploaded the video had provided a false translation.  MEMRI stood by its translation which was subsequently confirmed by an Arabic studies professor at Drexel University.  Shortly thereafter, MAS reported that an unidentified person in charge of the event had been dismissed and that the organization reaffirmed its longstanding opposition to anti-Semitism and was forming a commission to assist in sensitivity training, bless their hearts.  MAS recently issued  a third iteration of the event claiming that the girls in the video, supposedly demonstrating Arabic proficiency, didn’t understand the words they were reciting and every volunteer in attendance was too busy and/or didn’t understand Arabic sufficiently to intercede.

The only major Jewish newspaper in Philadelphia, the Jewish Exponent,  published an article about the incident, Kids Invoke Beheadings in ‘Disturbing’ Video at Muslim American Society.” The tone was neutral. The article contained an appropriate response from Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director Nancy Baron-Baer who logically concluded:

The adults who were in the room, both the teachers and the others, needed to recognize that words like those are not are unacceptable in any language and at any time.  It wasn’t the posting of the video that was the wrong thing to do, it was the recitation of the words that shocked the community.

However, logic did not prevail, nor did a proper self-defense.  Instead, the article ended with an infuriating discourse from Rabbi Batya Glazer, head of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia – the same organization that publishes the Jewish Exponent. She proclaimed  MAS’ third alibi was understandable and that the “Muslim community posed no threat  to the Jewish community, and that the real outrage should be with the Palestinian song itself.”  Following that logic for dummies, Ms. Glazer concluded with a repugnant false moral equivalency:

I know there is some skepticism about it, but I think it makes sense.  All of us at some point found ourselves saying Hebrew words that we didn’t understand so well because those words were the words that were put in front of us. This community, it sounds like a terrible mistake… This is not the message the community wanted to teach its children, its not the message this Muslim community wanted greater Philadelphia to know about them….

To compare congregants saying a Hebrew prayer while not knowing the prayer’s English meaning to children wanting to chop off Jewish heads is incomprehensible.  It would certainly appear that while the Muslim community didn’t want their message disseminated, the message is an old one.

We have railed against our brethren who have ignored the policies and alliances that are antithetical to preserving true Jewish culture and safety.  We have gritted our teeth as the BDS movement has taken over on most college campuses and morphed its ugly head into the general population.  We have protested as groups and some leaders of our community, state, and country have consorted with our enemies.  But nothing has changed. A different approach is drastically required

It is axiomatic that, currently,  the only Jews anyone fears are the Israelis.  Israelis aren’t ashamed of their existence and refuse to accept the faux white-privilege guilt foisted upon American Jews.  They don’t fear or hate guns,  cower,  apologize for who they are, and  believe their lives are as valuable as anyone else’s and deserve to be protected.  American Jews must stop focusing on the immutable in the tribe and establish a more aggressive, collaborative approach to fighting anti-Semitism.

In 1968, Rabbi Meir Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in New York.  His mission was to protect Jewish people from anti-Semitism, “by any means necessary.”   His group was founded in response to various cries for help from Jews who felt beleaguered by anti-Semitic attacks in Boston and elsewhere.  Unfortunately, the rabbi and the JDL were quickly defined as far-right radical, terrorist, and criminal.  Its history is a mixed bag.  Kahane and the JDL are credited with accelerating the movement to free Russian Jews, but many of their activities, while protective of Jews, were violent and criminal and led to many deaths.    

We have witnessed the decades-long opprobrium heaped on Israel in her quest for self-defense and survival.  While other nations skate over similar actions, Israel is uniquely singled out for condemnation.  We can expect no less.  The world does not comfortably abide a strong Jewish nation or a proud and strong Jewish person.  But strong and proud we must be.

Fortunately, digital communications, strong advocacy groups, and Israel-supporting popular websites now exist and expose and rage against anti-Semitism.  Their work is vital and appreciated.  But we must do more.  We, as American Jews, must stand stronger.  Not as terrorists or criminals, but in self defense and an attempt to push back the ugly anti-Semitism that has taken root in the United States.

A national Jewish mutual defense organization, distinct from the violent legacy of the JDL, must be created to formulate and implement a united front against anti-Semitism:

1.  Every Jewish adult must learn how to use a gun, safely store it, practice shooting,  and be prepared to use it in self-defense.

2.   Jewish parents must send their children to Karate, Tai Kwan Do, or Krav Maga classes to improve self-confidence and strength.

3.   Jewish lawyers must stablish a Jewish Litigation Advocacy Panel, with a chapter in each state, to file legal actions against anti-Semitic acts in media and textbooks, and in schools, colleges, and the workplace.

4.    Jewish advocates must demand that local, state, and federal political representatives openly denounce anti-Semitic comments and behavior by their colleagues. 

5.    Jewish adults must get involved in local politics to help influence zero tolerance of anti-Semitism, and not vote for any politician who enables or endorses anti-Semitism.

6.   American Jews must expect accusations of being extremist -- and ignore them.

7.   Jewish writers must send letters to the editors of local newspapers and digital websites.

8.   Jewish congregants must change synagogue affiliations and quit Jewish organizations that do not advocate against anti-Semitism or support Israel’s right to defend itself.

9.   Jewish consumers must not patronize any business establishment, celebrity, athlete, college or media that enables anti-Semitism and doesn’t support Israel.

10. Jewish advocates must welcome, embrace, and be thankful for the support provided by their Christian colleagues and friends.

Anti-Semitism has grown to a level unparalleled since the 1930s. It is past time that American Jews rose to the challenge.

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