Israel’s Reaction to Pittsburgh is to Defend Trumps Administration and those who have made Anti-Semitism Respectable
Israel’s Reaction to Pittsburgh is to Defend Trumps Administration and those who have made Anti-Semitism Respectable
How Israel Tried to Equate the
Murder of Jews at The Tree of Life with Support for the Palestinians and Opposition to BDS
First a short history lesson. Zionism arose as a reaction to anti-Semitism
in the late 19th Century. From the start it was different from all
other Jewish reactions (forget the nonsense about the Jews’ 2,000 year dream
for the Promised Land – when given the choice Jews would go anywhere but
Palestine). Unlike most Jews, Zionist groups accepted the anti-Semites claims. The anti-Semites said Jews did not belong in non-Jewish society
and the Zionists agreed. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship
between Zionism and Anti-Semitism.
To Zionist novellist A B Yehoshua there is no value in the Jewish diaspora – a traditional but rarely stated now Zionist axiom
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)
In other words anti-Semitism is caused by the presence of Jews. Following this logic, the Zionists held that it was useless to fight
anti-Semitism. 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.
Herzl understood that both the Zionists and the anti-Semites had a common
interest – both wanted Jews to leave their countries of birth and go to
‘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 open and
honest admitted that
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 Nuremburg 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 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 as a form of 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
This was 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: which is their real home. As Michael Koplow observed
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 The Shadow, a neo-Nazi rapper and Likud member, Yossi Eliassi and
his supporters, to the death of a Jewish teacher and peace activist in a bus
Glimpse into the Soul of Israel – the Spirit of Zionism In the words
Peretz on Facebook,: ‘In short, another
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
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
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.”
‘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
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 and 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.
Neo-Nazi founder of the alt-Right,, Richard Spencer
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
Nationalist Richard Spencer Backs Israel’s Contentious Nation-state Law Israeli ambassador
Ron Dermer was even cruder:
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.”
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. Last Friday, Senator Cory Booker a New
Jersey Democrat, announced that he would co-sponsor the Israel Anti-Boycott
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).
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
Bennett came to the US to defend Trump and Israel not console the Jews of Pittsburgh
came to the United States with one purpose above all, to defend the man who,
more than any other, had incited the hate 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.” It may be wrong and unfair to criticise the bigot that goes by the name of Trump but its open season on the Palestinians for whom no criticism is unfair or wrong.
African refugees in Israel
Naftali Bennett would of course have difficulty in attacking Trump’s war
on refugees. Bennett has been foremost amongst those who have been attacking Israel’s
Black African refugees.
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, it was Bennett who vetoed it warning
that it would “turn
Israel into a paradise for infiltrators”. Thus comparing
the refugees to Palestine’s expelled Arab refugees. In other words the refugees
were no better than Palestinians.
Bennett’s defence of Trump didn’t go down well
However Bennet 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
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
The Tree of Life Synagogue Where 11 Jews were Murdered
‘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
before has the State of Israel so blatantly demonstrated that it will protect
its own political interests at the expense of American Jews.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
The Guardian’s ‘liberal’ Zionist Rachel Shabi – her talent is in making the trite and trivial seem important
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
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 standards of journalism
and its neo-liberalism.
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”
Ø Tweeting an image from an anti-Semitic message board with a Star
of David atop a pile of cash.
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 Branding his
campaign with the “America First” slogan of the anti-Semitic pre-war movement.
Ø Alleging that “blood suckers” and “a global
power structure” including “international banks” are secretly plotting against
Ø And, when urged by the Anti-Defamation League to stop using
traditionally anti-Semitic tropes, repeating the tropes in an ad with images of
prominent Jews, including George Soros.
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 on the media.
Just days after the deadliest anti-Semitic massacre
in U.S. history, American Jewish establishment groups got one step closer to
achieving one of their longstanding policy goals: Passage of a bill that would
criminalize some boycotts of Israel.
The alleged murderer in the Pittsburgh killings,
Robert Bowers, posted on social media about his hatred for the progressive
Jewish refugee aid group HIAS. His social media postings appeared to mirror
white supremacist beliefs about non-white immigrants to the U.S., and do not
seem to mention Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all.
Yet 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, and harsh critics of Israel on
American college campuses. Others object to this strategy.
“An effort to now use this massacre to move
legislation on the Hill that literally has nothing to do with the kind of
anti-Semitism that was at play in this massacre, but is about trying to shut
down criticism of Israel and activism related to Israel, seems opportunistic
and cynical,” said Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East
Those focusing on Israel in the aftermath of the
Pittsburgh shooting are following the lead of Israeli officials, who
immediately afterward sought to draw a link between left-wing criticism of
their government’s policies and the anti-Semitic shooting.
say that this is because of one person, it only comes on one side, is to not
understand the history of anti-Semitism or the reality of anti-Semitism,”
Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer said on MSNBC the day after the massacre. “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
On Friday, Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New
Jersey, announced that he would sign on as a co-sponsor of the Israel
Anti-Boycott Act, a controversial piece of legislation as popular among
pro-Israel groups as it is unpopular among civil libertarians.
the alarming rise in anti-Semitism in the United States and across the world in
recent years manifest itself in many deeply concerning ways,” Booker said in a
Booker’s office did not respond to a question about
whether Jewish leaders had asked the senator to support the anti-boycott law in
the wake of the Pittsburgh massacre. But days earlier, one of the most powerful
American Jewish officials said that the Jewish community should use the
Pittsburgh massacre to demand passage of the anti-boycott bill, along with
another bill that would allow certain federal agencies to define some criticism
of Israel as anti-Semitism.
At a meeting called by the Conference of Presidents
of Major American Jewish Organizations last Tuesday, the group’s executive vice
chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, said that in the wake of Pittsburgh, Jewish leaders
should support the passage of a federal law to adopt a “standardized”
definition of anti-Semitism, laws to oppose the BDS movement, and efforts to
counter anti-Semitism on college campuses. He appeared to be talking about the
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. The Presidents
Conference has long supported the Israel Anti-Boycott Act; its member
organizations are key forces behind the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.
be no fence-sitting and no obfuscation, no exceptions and no excuses,” Hoenlein
said, according to a statement put out by the Presidents Conference. “It is
time to hold everyone to account for what they do or what they fail to do.”
Hoenlein did not respond to multiple queries from
the Forward about his statements at the meeting, which was closed to the press.
Some, including leaders within Hoenlein’s own
organization, have questioned linking the massacre to the anti-boycott bill. “I
personally wouldn’t use the Pittsburgh massacre to justify the passage of
anti-boycott legislation,” said the leader of one member organization of the
Presidents Conference, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of
the issue. “I think we need to fight anti-Semitism on both ends of the
ideological spectrum, but that’s a different kind of anti-Semitism that
requires a very different approach. I don’t think connecting the dots is wise
It’s not clear whether there is any connection
between Hoenlein’s call for action on the legislation and Booker’s
announcement. William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and
director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America,
said that his organization and its partners have long been in touch with Booker
on the issue.
pleased he is joining this bipartisan effort to ensure the world knows that
America believes boycotts of Israel are treif,” or not kosher, Daroff said.
The anti-boycott bill, which Booker said Friday he
would support, was first introduced in March 2017, and was quickly condemned by
the American Civil
Liberties Union.. The bill, in its
original form, created criminal penalties for complying with boycotts imposed
by international organizations. The sponsors introduced a new, softer version
of the bill earlier this year. The ACLU reiterated its opposition to the new
version this summer.
The second bill that Hoenlein appears to have
alluded to, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, is a similarly controversial piece
of legislation that would instruct the U.S. Department of Education to consider
a definition of anti-Semitism that includes “judg[ing] Israel by a double standard”
when investigating federal discrimination claims.
Promoting that definition of anti-Semitism, which
is already officially in use by the U.S. State Department, has been a long-term
goal of some Jewish establishment groups — even though Kenneth Stern, the
anti-Semitism expert who drafted that definition of anti-Semitism, has said he opposes the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act because
it misuses the definition he wrote.
Others besides Hoenlein have pushed the bill’s
passage in the days since the attack. A pro-Israel “talking points brief”
distributed by a group called The Focus Project, which is sponsored by a
coalition of pro-Israel organizations, suggested as a talking point last
Tuesday that “Congress must update civil rights protections so Jews are covered
based on ethnicity,” an apparent reference to the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.
The ACLU has also strongly opposed the Anti-Semitism
Awareness Act, with its leader saying in May that “the proposed bill risks
chilling constitutionally protected speech by incorrectly equating criticism of
Israel with anti-Semitism.”
entirely about shutting down criticism of Israel and activism,” Friedman said
of the bill.
Daroff, for his part, defended the connection
between the Pittsburgh massacre and the two pieces of legislation. “What the
murders in Pittsburgh do is illustrate the need for swift governmental action
to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism,” Daroff said. “To say the only sort of
anti-Semitism we need to be on the lookout for, or the only anti-Semitism
that’s relevant to talk about in the wake of Pittsburgh mass, is one that works
identically like that form of anti-Semitism, I think is shortsighted.”
Kaplan Sommer, was somewhat more blunt. She described how American Jews expected comfort and support but Israeli government
officials ‘offered carefully honed political talking points, choosing Trump
The first insult was to send Naftali Bennett to the United States at
all. In an Israeli government of
racists, Naftali Bennett manages to stand head and shoulders above nearly all
his compatriots. ‘I’ve
killed many Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that,”
He is the Israeli version of Robert Bowers.
Kaplan-Sommer described how ‘from the moment he landed on U.S. soil,
Bennett … 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.’ He also argued that the threat
of anti-Semitism in America ‘was overblown’.
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
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
“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.
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
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
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
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.
In the wake
of the Pittsburgh white-supremacist’s terror attack on a synagogue, Israeli
labor leader Avi Gabbay called
“upon 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
“all the Jews of France”, indeed “all the Jews of Europe”: “the state of Israel
is your home”.
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.
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:
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.”
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
‘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’.
Michael Oren tells you you’ve gone too far, then you may really be in too deep.
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.
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,
Greeenfield, a prominent leftist former Meretz lawmaker, wrote in
Haaretz this week:
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”.
extolls the Zionist solution:
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”.
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.
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:
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?”
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
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.”
Horowitz wrote on
this site, the “Israeli government is exploiting the Pittsburgh murders to try
to demonize Palestine solidarity”:
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.”
predictably brought up the Holocaust, in his ‘educating’ message to the
American Jewish community:
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”.
Avishai, considering it a statement lacking tact, noted the inherent
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
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.
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
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:
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”.
of this ideology are hardly the ones to provide an answer to violence resulting
from racist-exclusivist extremists.
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.