Trumping the Golan

By recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, President Trump struck a blow against the idiotic principle of “land for peace,” when he tweeted,

After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!

Restoring land to the previous owner, in this case, would work against the possibility of peace, he implied. And of course he’s right.

But doesn’t annexation violate international law? Opinions differ. It’s true that it is illegal under the UN charter to obtain land by attacking or threatening to attack another country. Art. 2, Sect. 4, says,

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

At the same time, the right of all nations, even Jewish ones, to defend themselves is also clear (Art. 51):

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. …

Although the first shots in the 1967 war were fired by Israel, even the US State Department considered it a “clear-cut case of military preemption” [of an imminent attack], which is tantamount to self-defense. Hence Israel’s occupation of the Golan was legal.

In 1981, Israel went a step further and passed a law to applying Israeli law and jurisdiction to the Golan. In response, the UN Security Council passed its Resolution 497, calling the decision “null and void” and “demanding” that Israel continue to treat the area as occupied territory. This resolution was not explicitly passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and so is not considered binding. Israel ignored it.

So what is the status today? The 1981 Golan Law deliberately did not use the word “sovereignty” or its equivalent, and the Foreign Ministry stressed that fact at the time, perhaps worried that the UN would act more strongly against Israel if it did. No other countries recognized a change in the status of the area. In 2016, PM Netanyahu announced that “Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights.”

Although as we’ve seen, the right of self-defense is enshrined in international law, it comes from the most fundamental concept of human rights, what traditionally has been called natural law. No one or no nation is obliged to sit quietly while being attacked. And I think that this principle overrides any other rules or laws. The geostrategic significance of the Golan makes it essential. We are not obligated to voluntarily give up our lives or our nation, and we are not obligated to leave the Golan.

Nevertheless, Israel hasn’t yet officially claimed sovereignty, and probably few if any nations other than the US would recognize it if she did. On the other hand, Israel will not give it up, so it makes no sense to continue pretending that it is not an integral part of the country. Formal annexation, followed by official recognition from the US and maybe a few other countries will have little practical significance today, but it will set the stage for the future.

And one of the future events that we should be trying very hard to make a reality is the demise of the “land for peace” concept. Possibly we are so used to it that we don’t find it exceptional, but consider the history: several aggressor nations attempt to destroy another country, but are soundly defeated. In times past – you don’t have to go farther back than 1945 – their military capabilities would have been destroyed, their assets stripped, and their capitals ravaged. Instead, after 1967 (and again after the Arabs had their second go at Israel in 1973), the international community stepped in, saved the losers from total defeat, forced the winner to retreat, and began a “peace process” to return the situation to the status quo ante that is still going on, 52 years later. And the slogan of that process is “land for peace,” or, in other words, the territory gained by the blood of the victims of aggression is to be given back to the aggressors, in return for an easily broken promise that is impossible to guarantee!

The international community took the side of the aggressors for several reasons. One of them was their possession of much of the world’s energy supply and the efficacy of the Arab oil weapon. Today the situation has changed, with much more oil available in North America, and even natural gas in the hands of Israel. Another important factor was the Cold War, with the Soviet Union and the US lining up behind the Arabs and Israel, respectively. The Cold War has ended, although the rivalry between the US and Russia still exists, albeit in a much more complicated reality.

So why is the “process” still going on? It has to do with the identity of the small state that defeated the aggressors. The small Jewish state. There is a confluence of interests, based on a combination of Muslim opposition to a corner of Dar-al-Islam being ruled by non-Muslims, and European antipathy to their oldest enemy, the Jewish people. Both of these themes – Muslim and European antisemitism – were carefully nurtured by Soviet psychological warfare experts. The concept of the oppressed “Palestinian people” was invented, which worked in both the eastern and western theaters. In the West, Palestinian human rights were stressed, and in the East, Arab/Muslim honor.

The Western Left, still animated by the ancient strings put in place by Stalin’s experts, didn’t disappoint. European Jew-hatred, undercover since the Holocaust, came out again in the form of anti-Zionism. In America (and even Israel), academics pointlessly employed in scam fake-academic disciplines like Gender Studies found a cause that they could sink their teeth into. A whole religion of anti-Israelism emerged, with every university establishing its church of Palestine solidarity and observing Apartheid Week, passing BDS resolutions, and other manifestations of zeal.

In larger society, governments, politicians, religious and cultural organizations, and of course media, relentlessly pushed ideas like the “two-state solution,” “land for peace,” “disengagement,” and “separation,” concepts which sugar-coated their actual content: forcing Israel – the victorious party, remember – to concede land to her enemies so that the result of the 1967 war could be reversed, and ultimately the state destroyed.

In the US, the most anti-Israel administration ever, headed by Muslim Brotherhood fan Barack Obama came into power, and worked relentlessly to weaken the Jewish state in practical terms and to damage her image throughout the world. For the first time, the US purposely abstained on a significant anti-Israel resolution in the UN, and did its best to enable Israel’s greatest enemy, Iran, to ultimately achieve nuclear weapons. At the same time, it acted to restrain Israel from preemptively destroying Iran’s nuclear project, and provided an influx of cash, which Iran used to bolster its effective conquest of Iraq and Syria.

With the election of Donald Trump, and (ultimately) Trump’s appointment of pro-Israel officials to important positions in his administration, the situation has changed radically. While Israel’s enemies in the Muslim world continue to be hostile – although some of her traditional enemies have dialed back their hostility for pragmatic reasons – the US is finally firmly in Israel’s corner. Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan is just the most recent of a series of actions to recognize the reality in the region: that Israel is here to stay, her capital is Jerusalem, and – most importantly – the paradigm of “land for peace” will no longer be pursued.

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Middle East politics, The UN, US-Israel Relations, War | Leave a comment

J Street uncovers a secret about Netanyahu and Trump

I think my interest in J Street could once have been called “obsessive.” I wrote numerous blog posts a few years ago, pointing out that the supposedly “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization received financing from George Soros, mysterious billionaires in Hong Kong, and people associated with Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab-American Institute. I noted – along with then Ambassador Michael Oren – that it consistently (one could say always) took positions opposed to almost any reasonable interpretation of Israel’s interests. I objected to its guiding principle, which seemed to be that it knew what was good for Israel far better than Israelis did, especially since following its recommendations would negatively impact Israel’s security. I wondered at the close coordination between J Street and the Obama Administration, which tried to anoint it as the voice of American Jewry toward Israel. And more.

Since I moved back to Israel in 2014, I’ve been less concerned with J Street, which is, after all, an American phenomenon. We have plenty of “interesting” politics right here. But recently I became aware of  a new J Street initiative, targeting PM Netanyahu, just before the election:

WASHINGTON, DC — The pro-Israel, pro-peace group J Street launched a new series of videos today highlighting the dangerously similar rhetoric and ideology shared by President Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu. Released as targeted digital ads just a week before the two leaders are expected to meet in Washington, DC on the sidelines of the AIPAC conference, the videos urge pro-Israel Americans who are opposed to Trump to also speak out against Netanyahu’s similar bigotry and anti-democratic tendencies.

“By attacking democratic institutions and targeting vulnerable minorities, Trump and Netanyahu are borrowing from the same far-right playbook — undermining the core values and interests of both the US and Israel,” said J Street’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami. “Patriotic Americans have mobilized impressively against Trump here at home. Those of us who care about Israel’s future need to speak out against Netanyahu’s destructive leadership as well.”

Over the past two years, both the president and the prime minister have incited against vulnerable minorities, attacked the free press and de-legitimized the judiciary and the rule of law. Both face serious investigations into alleged criminal conduct. …

There’s no doubt that liberal and progressive American Jews hate Trump passionately, and there’s no better way to attack Netanyahu among that group than by associating him with their bête noire. The first J Street video is here. It’s very professional and probably didn’t come cheap. The question is, why did J Street spend a considerable sum of money on such a campaign? Americans don’t vote in Israeli elections (although J Street probably wishes they did). Why attack Netanyahu in the USA?

It’s not a simple question and I don’t have a simple answer. Unfortunately, the position papers of J Street’s psychological warfare experts aren’t public. But I have some ideas.

J Street’s primary goal, like that of the numerous other anti-Israel organizations in the US, including the nominally “Jewish” If Not Now and Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as explicitly antisemitic ones like If America Knew, is to create antipathy and distrust for Israel, so that Americans will oppose pro-Israel actions by the US government – for example, the recognition of Israel’s possession of the Golan Heights that is rumored to be on the table now.

In the event of war, they want to prime Americans to believe Palestinian atrocity propaganda against Israel, to make it more difficult for a pro-Israel administration to support Israel, or easier for an anti-Israel one to criticize her or even cut off critical supplies – as Obama did during the 2014 Gaza war.

How does attacking PM Netanyahu accomplish this? The answer has several parts.

First, J Street presents Netanyahu as anti-democratic and dictatorial, as if he is entirely responsible for Israeli policy; so it becomes possible for an American Jew who still feels some loyalty to Israel to separate the country from its Prime Minister, and blame him for supposedly anti-democratic or racist policies, without being forced to make the jump to disliking Israel the nation.

Second, and conversely, Netanyahu has been PM since 2009 and – at least as of today – it is likely that he will receive yet another term. He is Israel in the minds of many Americans. An attack on Netanyahu as racist and anti-minority, and in other ways that particularly resonate in America, also creates negative perceptions of the state of Israel herself.

Third, attitudes in America, as expressed in the media, do have some influence on Israeli elections. There is no doubt that the forces behind J Street would like to see Netanyahu defeated in the coming election. Netanyahu’s political opponents can point to anti-Netanyahu expressions in the US and say, “look, Netanyahu has wrecked our relationship with the US.” J Street’s theme that Netanyahu and Trump are both corrupt, anti-democratic racists will find a fertile field in the progressive media such as NPR and the NY Times that are favored by J Street’s constituency. Because the campaign bashes both Trump and Netanyahu, it will certainly be amplified in those media, which are always ready to take a swipe at Trump.

Fourth, closely associating Trump with Netanyahu minimizes the significance of Trump’s pro-Israel actions like moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, cutting funds to the Palestinian Authority, downgrading the East Jerusalem consulate, and – I devoutly hope – recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.

J Street’s attack on both Trump and Netanyahu is couched in the universalist, anti-nationalistic (and therefore anti-Zionist) language that finds favor with the progressive Left:

The politics of these two leaders is part of a broader global challenge to liberal democracies rooted in respect for civil society and tolerance of ethnic diversity. Now, the world faces a wave of rising right-wing ethnonationalism with anti-democratic tendencies.

The xenophobia and authoritarianism that the two leaders are fanning is anathema to millions of Americans and American Jews. “While Netanyahu, Trump and their allies may get standing ovations at AIPAC, their views and actions couldn’t be more out of touch with most of the American Jewish community,” Ben-Ami said.

This exposes the true agenda behind J Street, which is actually only one piece of a much larger enterprise opposing nationalism and ethnic particularism, favoring open borders and multiculturalism, and proudly trumpeting extreme cultural relativism. If you think that agenda is a positive one for civilization, look at the ongoing destruction of native European societies like Sweden, for example.

Netanyahu – and Israel, an ethnic nation-state – represent the precise opposite of the agenda, and as such have drawn down upon themselves the wrath of J Street and other such groups, which tendentiously accuse them of being “undemocratic,” “authoritarian,” “racist,” and more. But in fact the “ethnonationalism” that J Street so decries stands opposed to a non-ethnic but much more vicious Islamofascism, which is far less democratic, more authoritarian, and viciously bigoted along religious lines.

The “global challenge to liberal democracies” does not come from nationalism, either in Israel or Eastern Europe, or from Americans who support Trump. It comes from Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brotherhood, and so on. Netanyahu has a sense of history, and understands all this. And I think that Trump, for all his flaws, does too.

Posted in American Jews, American politics, Islam, Israeli Politics | 1 Comment

Does Ofer Cassif belong in the Knesset?

You shall do no injustice in judgment: you shall not be partial to the poor, nor show favoritism to the great; but you shall judge your neighbor in righteousness. – Lev. 19:15

From Israel’s Basic Law: The Knesset,

  1. A candidates’ list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the objects or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:
  2. negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;
  3. incitement to racism;
  4. support of armed struggle, by a hostile state or a terrorist organization, against the State of Israel.

a1. For the purposes of this section, a candidate that was at a hostile state unlawfully within the seven years preceding the date for submitting the candidates’ list, is deemed a person whose actions express support of armed struggle against the State of Israel, as long as he has not proven otherwise.

b. The decision of the Central Elections Committee that a candidate is prevented from participating in the elections requires the affirmation of the Supreme Court of Israel.  …

The Elections Committee ruled on several petitions prior to the upcoming election. It rejected a petition against the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party which accused its members of anti-Arab racism, and it disqualified the Balad-Ra’am party, a joint list composed of the Balad (land) party and several other Arab parties. It also ruled against the candidacy of Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the mostly Arab Hadash (Communist) party.

To nobody’s surprise, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the committee. It decided to disqualify Michael Ben Ari of Otzma Yehudit, and to reinstate Balad-Ra’am and Cassif.

The Supreme Court has always been loath to allow the disqualification of candidates, and has always reversed such decisions, with only a few exceptions. In 1988, Meir Kahane’s Kach party was disqualified for racism (as well as its successor, Kahane Chai in 1992), and in 1965 a far-left Arab party was ruled out for negating the State of Israel. On several other occasions, the Election Committee tried to disqualify various Arab or right-wing Jewish parties, but it was always overruled.

I’m not going to discuss the case of Michael Ben Ari in detail. He has certainly made anti-Arab statements, as Arabs often make anti-Jewish ones. But I believe the concept of “racism” is vague and unclear, especially in the context of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs (and I would have said the same about Meir Kahane, whose ideas Ben Ari embraces), and it’s unfortunate that it is included in the law.

I am also going to leave aside the case of the Arab parties, which do their best to skirt the letter of the law while at the same time vying with each other to present themselves to the Arab public as the most anti-Zionist. Balad, in my opinion, has crossed very far over the line, including having members of the Knesset who engaged in criminally subversive activities (and have even been imprisoned for it).

But I do want to talk about the Jewish communist, Ofer Cassif.

Cassif is a teacher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who also lectures at several other Israeli colleges and universities. He enjoys insulting his political enemies:

Cassif, who was one of the first Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve in the territories, in 1987, gained fame thanks to a number of provocative statements. The best known is his branding of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked as “neo-Nazi scum.” On another occasion, he characterized Jews who visit the Temple Mount as “cancer with metastases that have to be eradicated.”

On his alternate Facebook page, launched after repeated blockages of his original account by a blitz of posts from right-wing activists, he asserted that Culture Minister Miri Regev is “repulsive gutter contamination,” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an “arch-murderer” and that the new Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, is a “war criminal.”

His insults may rise to the level of incitement to violence, which warrants criminal prosecution.

An anti-Zionist, he considers Zionism a “racist” and “colonialist” movement. He compares Israel to Nazi Germany on a regular basis, and accuses it of genocide and ethnic cleansing. “Israel commits murder on a daily basis,” he says. He favors the “return” of Palestinian Arab “refugees” – that is, those approximately 5 million Arabs recognized by the UN as descendants of those who lived in the area that became Israel for at least 2 years prior to 1948, and fled before and during the war – to “their homes” in what is today Israel, even if it means that Jews will have to leave. He favors the division of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan into two states, one a Palestinian Arab state (which would be Jew-free), and the other a “state of all its citizens,” with a right of return for millions of Arabs.

He is not opposed to the existence of the state called Israel, but he is opposed to its character as the nation-state of the Jewish people. He would annul the Law of Return for Jews, but favors such a law for Arabs, whom he sees as the true “natives” of the place, the ones whose homeland it is. He would change the national anthem, the flag, and other symbols, “to belong to all the state’s residents.” Chances are it wouldn’t continue to be called “Israel” for long.

Cassif opposes terrorism against civilians, but calls attacks on Israeli soldiers by Palestinian Arabs legitimate “guerrilla warfare.” When an interviewer asked him if “today’s Hamas commanders who are carrying out attacks on soldiers will be heroes of the future Palestinian state,” his answer was “of course.”

At the Supreme Court hearing, several justices questioned him about this. His lawyer – Hassan Jabareen, the director of Adalah, an NGO concerned with the rights of Arabs in Israel – said “that Kassif was explaining the academic debate about whether attacking soldiers is terrorism or part of armed conflict between two warring sides, but that on a personal level, Kassif opposes all violence.” His statements, however, were not in the context of an academic debate, but rather an interview with Ha’aretz.

Does Cassif meet the criteria for disqualification? It seems incontrovertible. He explicitly opposes the Jewish nature of the state, and the implications of his support of a right of return for Arab “refugees” cannot be imagined as anything but a call for the “negation of the existence” of the state. He supports terrorism directed at soldiers in the territories, which certainly counts as “armed struggle” by an enemy of the state. And yet, the Supreme Court – by a majority of 8 to 1 – does not feel that there is sufficient evidence to keep him out of the Knesset!

I see these events as a manifestation of the Oslo Syndrome, the Jewish internalization of our antisemitic enemies’ representation of our nature and our motives. In particular, left-leaning Israelis act as though the moral high ground is held by the Palestinian Arabs, that – even though objective historical accounts show that our narrative of the founding of the state is far closer to reality than that of the Arabs – we are guilty, guilty of the horrible nakba, almost as bad as the Holocaust, and that in fact we are today’s Nazis. In order to expiate their feelings of guilt, syndrome sufferers like the judges of the Supreme Court bend over backwards to give the Arabs more than true justice demands. At the same time, the harshest treatment is reserved for Jews.

Our legal system, and especially the Supreme Court, applies a double standard to Jews and Arabs. Precisely as is forbidden in the Torah, our judges lean toward those that they (wrongly) believe to be oppressed.

Posted in Israeli Arabs, Israeli Politics | 1 Comment

Bibi and Rotem

Thanks to Rotem Sela, an Israeli actress, model, and TV personality, we can learn a lesson about Zionism, nationalism, racism, and the Israeli and American Jewish Left.

Here is what happened: Miri Regev, Likud loyalist and Minister of Culture and Sport, noted that if Netanyahu’s main opponent, Benny Gantz, were to form a government, he would have to include anti-Zionist Arab parties in his coalition. Sela, on her Instagram page (because that is how actresses, models, and TV personalities communicate), said, in part (Hebrew link, my translation):

My God, there are also Arab citizens in this country! When the hell will someone in this government broadcast to the public that Israel is a state of all of its citizens? Every person was born equal. Even Arabs, God save us, are people.

PM Netanyahu responded as follows (also my translation):

Rotem my dear, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the Nation-State Law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – and only them. As you wrote, there is no problem with Arab citizens of Israel – they have equal rights with everyone…

In Israel, the reaction to Sela’s comment was predictable – anger on the Right and agreement on the Left (and yes, Gal Gadot expressed her support for her friend Sela in a relatively non-political way).

The usual suspects in America, J Street, If Not Now, the New Israel Fund, the Israel Policy Forum, and others, were on it like one of those Israeli hopping spiders on a cockroach. “Racist,” “undemocratic,” “cynical,” “morally repugnant,” and on and on. If Not Now referred to “racism” not once but twice in their statement.

I wouldn’t have called Sela “my dear,” but Netanyahu’s response was otherwise entirely correct. Even without the Nation-State Law, Israel has never been a “state of all its citizens” as Sela, who is supposed to be well-educated, asserted. Like Japan and numerous other countries, but unlike the US, Israel is a nation-state, a state in which – or by which – a particular people or culture expresses its right of self-determination.

The USA was defined by its founding fathers to be a state of all its citizens (although it took some time before it was ready to accept all of its legal inhabitants as citizens with full rights). Israel, on the other hand, was created to be “the state of the Jewish people,” while at the same time it endeavored to provide equal rights to all of its citizens. One way to understand this is to say that there are “civil rights” – the right to vote and hold office, education and employment, and so on, and “national rights,” which include the symbols, languages, and religions of the state, and – particularly important in the case of Israel – the objectives of encouraging immigration from the national diaspora and maintaining a national majority.

The nation-state law explicitly affirms the intention of the founders that national rights in the State of Israel belong to the Jewish people, and to nobody else. It does not limit the civil rights of national minorities. Rotem Sela doesn’t seem to understand this distinction. Netanyahu does, which may be one of the reasons he is PM and she is a fashion model.

This is nothing new, and it is neither racist, undemocratic, fascist, or morally repugnant. Nationalism and nation-states are out of fashion today, particularly in Europe, whose European Union is a (failing) attempt to replace those things with a universal government, and among the American Left, which is in the grip of the pathological ideology of “intersectionalism” (this will require a dedicated post).

There is a reason that Israel’s founding fathers defined it as the nation-state of the Jewish people and not something else, and that is the Zionist understanding that only in a majority Jewish state with Jewish symbols, culture, institutions, government, police, military, and so on can Jews be guaranteed a normal life and freedom from oppression without giving up their Jewishness.

This was the conclusion drawn by the early Zionists, from on the historical experiences of their people. It was further confirmed by the Holocaust, and the mass expulsions of Jews from Muslim countries following 1948. Today it is being confirmed yet again by the worldwide resurgence of antisemitism, even in places like the US and the UK where it had been thought to be dead. And it should also be clear that even without anti-Jewish violence, in places where Jews are a minority, they will be silently swallowed up by assimilation.

The definition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people has both symbolic and highly practical consequences. It justifies the use of Jewish symbolism in the flag, the national anthem, the symbol of the state, and so forth. It justifies the decision to observe Jewish holidays as national holidays, and to use the Hebrew language. But most important, the Law of Return for Jews (and no one else) is grounded in the understanding that Israel is the state of the Jewish people. It is the most concrete expression of national rights possible.

This isn’t “racism” (although by current American standards, who knows what that means?). It is nationalism, in particular Jewish nationalism, or in short, Zionism.

If Israel were to be redefined as a state of all its citizens, as the extreme Left and many Arab citizens want (and Rotem Sela appears to believe has already happened), what would be the justification for a Law of Return for Jews? Why shouldn’t there be one for Arabs? Why should Israel act as a place of refuge for persecuted Jews such as the Jews of Ethiopia, or even European Jews fleeing antisemitism? Why would it be important to have our capital in Jerusalem?

Israeli critics of the Nation-State Law (including Benny Gantz) have said that they would like to add a statement to it guaranteeing “equality” to all citizens of Israel. This is a bad idea. Equal civil rights for all are guaranteed by other basic laws. The Nation-State Law is the only one that specifically deals with national rights, and adding a statement about equality to it could be interpreted as diluting its force. It would be like the recent action of the American Congress, which diluted-to-death a resolution about antisemitism by making it a catch-all statement against every kind of bigotry. Even the antisemites were then able to vote for it.

The reactions of J Street, et al., illustrate that they are not only critical of Israel’s actions, but that they are critical of the most basic foundation of the Jewish state, the Zionist idea itself.

Thank you for helping clarify that, Rotem.

Posted in American Jews, Israeli Politics, Zionism | Leave a comment

Ilhan imbibed antisemitism with her mother’s milk

Social changes that used to take decades now happen in months, and trends that took years now appear in weeks. This is the upside or the downside, as you prefer, of mass communication technology, especially social media. So anyone who thinks that their place in the world is guaranteed today may be unpleasantly surprised when they wake up tomorrow and find that what they thought were firm foundations are already washing away.

So it is with American Jews who, if they pay attention, might notice that in a matter of weeks the taboos against suggesting that they dominate American foreign policy with their “benjamins,” that they are more loyal to Israel than the US, or even that they have malign powers that allow them to “hypnotize the world,” have disappeared. They might see their trusted Democratic allies in the Congress, even the Jewish ones, scuttling away from punishing or even rebuking Rep. Ilhan Omar, to vote for a resolution that, by criticizing every imaginable kind of bigotry, ends up saying nothing. Even Omar, the original perpetrator of the antisemitic slander, proudly voted for it! Even for the US Congress, it was a remarkably craven display.

As has happened already in the UK, the “Overton Window” – the range of acceptable discourse – suddenly started sliding in the anti-Jewish direction at warp speed. Now it’s possible to say things explicitly and publicly that until recently could only be hinted at in private. Interestingly, the new freedom to “criticize” Jews applies to antisemites on both the Left and the Right.

Ilhan Omar’s motivations are not transparent to me. Clearly, in part she is playing to her base – both in her district (heavily Democratic and containing about 27,600 Somali-Americans) and among the more radical elements of the national Left. But there is an additional possibility. Throughout the Muslim world the conspiratorial view that sinister Jews pull strings behind the scenes is generally accepted. Perhaps her “different experience in the use of words” as Nancy Pelosi put it, is simply an expression of the culture she grew up in.

It doesn’t matter. What’s important here is the reaction of most of her Democratic colleagues, who did not grow up in Somalia, but who saw no percentage in opposing the conversion of a meaningful rebuke into a toothless condemnation of every incident of bigotry from the Dreyfus Affair, through the WWII incarceration of Japanese-Americans and the anti-Catholic slurs against JFK, to the (actually rather scarce) attacks on Muslims following 9/11. Indeed the resolution contained almost as much verbiage relating to “Islamophobia” as it did to antisemitism (and see Douglas Murray’s take on this false equivalence). It’s also notable that several of the declared Democratic presidential candidates came to Omar’s defense.

While there have always been antisemites in the US, even in high places, the acquiescence by so many important people to out-front, contemptuous Jew-hatred like Omar’s is new to the present generation of Americans. Speaker Nancy Pelosi would never have made remarks like Omar’s herself, and her first impulse was to call them “deeply offensive.” But once she understood that much of her party – especially younger Democrats – was on the same page as Omar, she went along. Most of them, at least the older ones, know better. But they see the writing on the wall.

This has been brewing for some time. There was the ugly, overt Jew-hatred on display in the Occupy movement. There was the 2012 Democratic convention when a vote on a platform plank calling for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had to be manipulated in order to approve the plank. There was President Obama’s disrespect and multiple attempts to sandbag PM Netanyahu, including interfering in our 2015 election, anti-Jewish overtones in the campaign for the Iran deal, and Obama’s parting gift, US abstention on an anti-Israel UN Security Council resolution (text here).

I am not saying that American Jews should run for the exits. After all, this particular outbreak was primarily about Israel. You and your benjamins were only collateral damage. Those of you – almost half of all liberal Democrats, according to a recent Gallup poll – who sympathize more with Palestinians than Israelis, can relax. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and AOC will not be coming to your door with pitchforks any time soon. Those Jews who say things like “I find much to criticize in Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s a fascist, and settlements are an obstacle to peace; but ‘Jews to the gas’ goes too far” are still not beyond the pale.

But if the experience of Jews in the UK – and indeed, the experience of visibly Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn – is an indication, I advise you not to relax too much.

Allison Kaplan Sommer claims in Ha’aretz that in Israel “nobody knows or cares” about Omar and her words. And with the exception of a few American-Israelis she may be right. In Israel it’s understood that – to use an expression that has been much in the news here in a completely different context – people like Omar “imbibe antisemitism with their mothers’ milk.”

Jews are a people historically targeted by bigotry almost everywhere, often violently. I see the fact that they are living their lives relatively unmolested in many countries today as exceptional rather than normal. Little by little, this is changing. Maybe more rapidly than you expect.

Posted in American Jews, American politics, American society, Jew Hatred | 2 Comments