Did Putin pull the trigger in Pittsburgh?

America is under (cognitive) attack, almost certainly by Russia. The threat is very real and has already done a great deal of damage. Americans have almost certainly already died as a result, and the eleven Jewish victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre could be the latest.

The liberal media likes to suggest that Russia has “intervened in US elections” to benefit Donald Trump. Conservatives tend to say that the whole thing is a story made up by liberals. Both are likely wrong.

But something else is going on, and has been for decades, something more dangerous than trying to influence an election (even Obama did that to Israel). There is a serious effort being made by Russian actors to influence the social and political atmosphere in the US. I have seen no evidence that the intent is primarily, or even at all, to elect a particular candidate or party. Rather, the objective of the campaign is to destabilize the country by encouraging extremism of both the Right and the Left, to exacerbate racial, religious, and class conflict, to stoke anger, increase polarization, encourage violence, and ultimately bring about the virtual or actual secession of segments of the population from the USA.

In other words, to make the country fly apart.

The Russians are the world’s experts in cognitive warfare. The Soviets deployed it against the US starting in the 1930s, but their recent weaponization of social media has served to make it a hundred or a thousand times more effective. Eric Frank Russell’s 1957 science fiction novel “Wasp,” which I described here, written long before social media was a gleam in anyone’s eye, explains how it works.

Let me quote a recent Reuters report describing the campaign against the US being waged today. I have deleted some references to alleged intervention into elections, which make it harder to see the overall pattern:

One clear sign of the continued Russian commitment to disrupting American political life came out in charges unsealed last month against a Russian woman who serves as an accountant at a St. Petersburg company known as the Internet Research Agency. …

The indictment said the Internet Research Agency used fake social media accounts to post on both sides of politically charged issues including race, gun control and immigration. The instructions were detailed, down to how to mock particular politicians during a specific news cycle. …

If the goals of spreading divisive content have remained the same, the methods have evolved in multiple ways, researchers say. For one, there has been less reliance on pure fiction. People have been sensitized to look for completely false stories, and Facebook has been using outside fact-checkers to at least slow their spread on its pages. …

Instead, Russian accounts have been amplifying stories and internet “memes” that initially came from the U.S. far left or far right. Such postings seem more authentic, are harder to identify as foreign, and are easier to produce than made-up stories. …

“They are baiting Americans to drive more polarizing and vitriolic content” … [emphasis mine]

One of their objectives is to widen the black/white divide. Blacks are sent the message that they are oppressed, and whites that blacks unfairly get special treatment. There is some truth in both of these contentions – there always is, in good propaganda – but the nature of the messaging is to create anger, indignation, and alienation on both sides.

Almost any controversy can provide an opportunity to fan the flames of anger and hatred. Automated Russian social media “bots” even targeted the debate about vaccinating children against disease.

Jew-hatred is another area that has received a great deal of attention by social media bots. One study indicated that almost 30% of antisemitic tweets in the past year came from bots. Were they Russian-operated? It’s not known for sure, but Russia has been using Jew-hatred as part of its cognitive warfare arsenal since The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was promulgated as a tool to discredit the Bolsheviks around the turn of the 20th century.

Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh terrorist, was furious about what he believed was a Jewish conspiracy to bring illegal immigrants into the US. His last social media post on Gab (a Twitter alternative that catered to racists, Jew-haters and similar types who would be likely to have their real Twitter accounts shut down) mentioned HIAS, a Jewish organization that aids the resettlement of immigrants in the US. Another congregation that met in the Tree of Life synagogue building had hosted a HIAS event a few weeks prior to the attack. In a sense, the meme about a Jewish plot to dispossess the white race by flooding the country with immigrants provided the ideological impetus for the mass murder.

The meme is a continuation of a theme that may be as old as Jew-hatred itself: the Jew is seen as “mongrelizing” whatever racial or ethnic group the Jew-hater belongs to. Sometimes, as in Nazi Germany, it was the Jew himself that wanted to “pollute” the “pure” German race, and so laws needed to be passed to forbid intercourse between Jews and “Aryans.” During the civil rights movement in America, “Jewish agitators” were accused of supporting integration because it would inevitably lead to interracial sex and marriage, which would be a tragedy for “Southern white womanhood.” Today the alien elements are Hispanics from Central and South America, or Muslims from the Middle East or Africa, but the idea is the same. And its power to evoke violence is apparently undiminished from 1964, when it impelled Klan members in Neshoba County, Mississippi, to brutally murder civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner (the latter two, of course, being Jewish).

The idea of racial pollution did not need to be introduced by a Russian bot, but Bowers and likeminded friends spent a lot of time bouncing ideas like this off one another on social media, which has been turned into an echo chamber for extremists of all kinds – to a great extent by careful prodding from the cognitive warfare experts based at the Russian Internet Research Agency or similar institutions.

While Bowers ultimately bears responsibility for his act and may receive a well-deserved death sentence, there is a sense in which the eleven Jews who were murdered in Pittsburgh were casualties of cognitive warfare directed at the US by a foreign enemy.

Unfortunately for Bowers, “the bots made me do it” is not recognized as a legitimate excuse in federal court.

Posted in American Jews, American society, Information war, Jew Hatred, Terrorism | 2 Comments

Are Jew-haters possessed?

The Pittsburgh synagogue massacre happened a week ago, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I am not sure why – I live in Israel and we’ve had worse massacres. I have friends who lost children in suicide bombings. My son was first on the scene of a bus that was bombed. It’s always horrifying, whether there are one, ten or thirty victims.

I once lived in that Squirrel Hill neighborhood, but it was for a short time many years ago and I barely remember it. I think the main thing that causes my emotional response is that it was a small Conservative shul with mostly older members, like the one I went to for 25 years in Fresno. I know those people – the guy that comes early on Shabbat to open up and lead services, the one that greets people at the door, even the 97-year old woman. The average age of the Pittsburgh victims was over 80 years.

Imagine the hate that must be in the murderer, that made him open fire at such people. Who hates like that? Maybe Samir Kuntar, who bashed the brains out of a four-year old Jewish child with his rifle butt. Maybe some of the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

I have always been fascinated (not in a pleasant way) by extremes of hate, especially toward Jews. That is not to suggest that black slavery or the various genocides are not also horrifying, but they are different phenomena with different motivations and manifestations. I think it’s more illuminating to look at the details of each case than to try to generalize about multiple forms of inhumanity. Indeed, I find the standard liberal response to atrocities like Pittsburgh, which always must include mentioning racism, “Islamophobia,” and multiple forms of gender-related bias, offensive. It pretends that Jews are basically treated like everyone else (because who isn’t the victim of some kind of prejudice?) and that all we have to do to end it is to convince everyone that all humans are siblings. “Hate is not welcome here,” say the signs.

But it’s not the same. There is no hatred that is at the same time as pervasive (in both time and space), as intense, and as murderous as Jew-hatred. There is no other hatred that flourishes even where its targets can’t be found, or which transmogrifies itself to stay in existence despite variations in social, political, or religious environments. Yes, there was a nasty Armenian genocide which happened at a particular time and place, but there have been countless massacres, expulsions, pogroms, terror attacks, one almost-total genocide, and several wars motivated by genocidal intent over all of recorded Jewish history and everywhere that Jews lived. Jew-hatred initially took (and still takes, in some contexts) a religious form, then a national/political/economic one, and ultimately the murderous and inescapable racial configuration of the Nazis.

The form of Jewish nationalism known as Zionism developed during the 19th century as a result of the refusal of Western European nations to allow Jews to integrate into their societies by maintaining legal and social restrictions on their educational and occupational opportunities, and the continued vicious physical and economic persecution of Jews in the Russian Empire. It was a combination of the hope that in a state of our own we could be a normal people, which would result in our being treated like any other nationality; and the despair that the quality of our existence in the diaspora would never be acceptable. But the diabolical force of Jew-hatred was cleverer than the Zionists, and as the center of gravity of the Jewish people shifted from the diaspora to the State of Israel, our state also became the focus of Jew-hatred.

Almost all of my life in America I lived among non-Jews, and I experienced a varying amount of anti-Jewish feeling. When I lived in an ethnic neighborhood of Long Island, it seems to have depended on what church someone went to. In Central California, many people had never met a Jew before, and while nobody asked me about horns, sometimes they seemed to come close. I was used to hearing the expression “Jew him down,” and a good friend actually tried gluing a nickel to the sidewalk (I wasn’t fooled and told him to pick it up). One of my best friends was a Mennonite, and his church – and politics – were strongly anti-Zionist. He asked me once what I thought, he listened, and we agreed not to discuss it.

His church once hosted a vicious Holocaust denier – I went to the event and wrote about it here. Never in my waking life did I feel more in the presence of the darkest evil than on that day. I won’t forget it.

I called the mimetic institution of Jew-hatred “diabolical.” It’s often compared to a virus because of the way it spreads and mutates, but I prefer the analogy of diabolical possession because of the way it twists its victims and causes them to commit acts of unspeakable evil. Who would have thought that the Pittsburgh shooter was capable of gunning down a 97-year old woman?

Paradoxically, the effect of this demonic affliction is to make the possessed attribute a demonic nature to Jews. The great historian Bernard Lewis made a very illuminating remark in a short essay from 2006 that is one of the best things I’ve read about Jew hatred. He said that there are two distinguishing characteristics  that set Jew hatred apart from ordinary antipathy to the Other: one is holding Jews to a higher standard than anyone else, and the other is the “accusation of cosmic, satanic evil” to Jews or their state. The double standard sometimes appears in other forms of prejudice, but the attribution of diabolical evil is unique.

Lewis argues that this follows from the root of Jew-hatred itself, the accusation of guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus. Interestingly, he notes that although Jews were looked down upon and oppressed to a greater or lesser degree in the Muslim world, the attribution of demonic evil was not found among Muslims until it was imported from Europe, beginning in the 19th century, and then promulgated wholesale in the Middle East by the Nazis. Today, of course, the traditional memes of Jews and Israel being the root of evil in the world are as popular among Muslims as Christians, and have been absorbed by Israel’s antagonists in its unending conflict with its neighbors.

Lewis goes on to say that the behavior of the international community, especially as embodied by the United Nations, has done a great deal to validate the most extreme anti-Jewish acts of the Arab world, including ethnic cleansing of Jews in the parts of Palestine that came under Arab control, and of their own Jewish populations after 1948. The UN, in a word, never said “boo” about any of this, while expending great resources to aid Arab refugees (or more correctly, to aid the Arab states in exploiting Arab refugees as a weapon against Israel).

While it’s hard to see an institution as possessed by demons, the shameless acquiescence to demonic anti-Israel narratives by developed nations that should know better makes one wonder about the leadership of those nations. Perhaps their cabinets should include a Minister of Exorcism that could intervene in the most egregious cases?

Posted in American society, Jew Hatred, Zionism | 3 Comments

How Israel could prevail in today’s asymmetric conflict

Much is made of the idea of asymmetric warfare, in which the side that is weaker in a traditional military sense manages to inflict harm on its enemy by the use of simple weapons and tactics involving small units, hit and run attacks, human waves, and often complete disregard for the traditional law of armed combat – human shields, attacks on civilians, and child soldiers may be employed. In addition, it may be accompanied by advanced cognitive and psychological warfare, including subversion of media, faking enemy atrocities, and propaganda techniques far more sophisticated than the methods of kinetic warfare at their disposal.

Although asymmetric warfare can be a way for culture with a low level of technology to defeat (or at least seriously wound) an enemy with better technology or a stronger army, sometimes even a relatively advanced country can use it to their advantage. So Iran, a country on the verge of reaching the pinnacle of military technology, nuclear weapons, effectively deploys its asymmetric proxy, Hezbollah, around the world, in order to support Iranian political goals by means of terrorism. And of course Hezbollah directly confronts Israel on behalf of Iran.

I divide Israel’s enemies into hard and soft enemies. The hard ones, like Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PLO, employ all forms of asymmetric warfare, especially including terrorism, but also such low-tech weapons as large numbers of inaccurate rockets, incendiary balloons and kites, attack tunnels, and so on. At the same time, they use friendly and/or easily duped media as part of a continuing cognitive, diplomatic, and legal battle against the Jewish state.

The soft enemies, primarily the European Union countries, support the hard ones while maintaining enough distance to deny responsibility for wars or terrorism; but they take part enthusiastically in the cognitive, diplomatic, and legal battles against Israel.

What is often ignored by those discussing the asymmetric warfare that characterizes the multi-front, alternately hot and cold, never-ending war against the Jewish state, is that not only are the means of fighting asymmetric, so are the goals of the combatants.

Historically, the aims of warring combatants are diverse. They include such motivations as obtaining booty and slaves, conquering territory, getting access to natural resources or trade routes, building an empire and collecting tribute, religious or ideological conflict, and simple self-defense.

I don’t think that any reasonable person can deny that Israel’s motives are 100 percent self-defense. There is no enemy territory that Israel wants to conquer, no resources or booty she wants, and certainly no desire to create an empire. Her opponents are another story.

The motive of her Muslim enemies can be expressed in one word: jihad. In general all of them believe that they are obliged to fight to regain land lost by Islam, and in particular to one of the historic enemies of Mohammad, the Jews. In the case of Iran, there is also the long-term goal of creating an empire, a Shiite caliphate, and Israel – in addition to being that abomination, a sovereign Jewish state in the Muslim Middle East – is seen as an outpost of the West, an agent of the US, and an obstacle to the establishment of the caliphate.

Jihad has historically been very destructive to the conquered non-Muslim populations. For one thing, there is the so-called win-win proposition that motivates Muslims to engage in jihad. They are told that if they defeat their enemies, they can take whatever they want from the civilian population, including valuables and women, who are raped and enslaved (most of the male population is killed). The behavior of Islamic State fighters has followed this pattern in the present day. Judging by the behavior of PLO, Hezbollah, and Hamas terrorists so far, there is no reason to believe they would not act similarly if they had the opportunity.

The asymmetry of goals in turn produces an asymmetry of means, with Israel tending to defensive strategies (e.g., Iron Dome and other antimissile systems, barriers, non-lethal crowd control means, bombing empty installations, and so on), while her Muslim enemies emphasize offensive operations – terrorism, invasion, rocket barrages, and so on.

Israel also employs defensive strategies because she is deterred from more aggressive ones by the coordinated international diplomatic and legal campaign waged by both her hard and soft enemies. As a result of the reliance on (imperfect) defensive measures, Israeli morale is damaged by the appearance that she is content to partly ward off the blows of the enemy without striking back. Her enemies, on the other hand, are encouraged by her apparent weakness.

My contention is that a primarily defensive posture – even if Israel’s objective is self-defense – is inadequate to deter asymmetric attacks. Her enemies respond by escalating the attacks of proxy forces, while keeping them below the level that will force Israel to change to an offensive posture. The result is an escalating war of attrition, of which the attacking forces have complete control. In the meantime, the morale of Israelis is damaged, that of the attackers boosted, and the attacking proxy forces, supplied by Iran, have time to stockpile weapons and improve fortifications, develop tactics, and generally prepare for the final war on multiple fronts.

At that stage, Israel’s enemies hope that her lack of strategic depth, combined with a large number of simultaneous attacks, will allow for a successful invasion of Israeli territory by numerous militia forces from the north, south and east. In such a case, Israel will have difficulty in deploying its powerful air force and artillery, leading to (they hope) a complete collapse or at least a cease-fire that will leave Israel critically wounded.

The way to overcome this threat is to force the confrontation to take a different form. One way to do this would be to take control of the developing war of attrition ourselves by taking the offensive, escalating disproportionate responses to asymmetric proxy provocations, with an objective of ending  the fighting ability of the proxies. At the same time, visible preparations should be made to use our most powerful weapons directly against the source of the aggression, Iran. Then Iran could be put on notice not to interfere.

There is no doubt that stepped-up attacks on Hamas and Hezbollah, which will necessarily cause civilian casualties in Gaza and Lebanon, will be met with a massive propaganda, diplomatic, and legal attack orchestrated by our European soft enemies. This is where our American ally, which still has great leverage in Europe, could step in.

But we’d better act fast, before Iran goes nuclear – and while we still have a friend in the White House.

Posted in Iran, Islam, US-Israel Relations, War | 2 Comments

Thoughts after a mass murder of Jews

I lived in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood for a few months when I was in grad school. It was a nice, safe, relatively friendly neighborhood.

Now it will be known as the site of the worst mass murder of Jews in US history.

Eleven are dead and numerous others wounded, including four responding police officers. The terrorist, Robert Bowers, as shown by this archive of social media posts, is apparently an obsessed Jew-hater, a Holocaust denier and a Nazi admirer. He appears to have become inflamed by the idea that liberal Jews were supporting uncontrolled immigration into the US (he mentions both Hispanics and Muslims), in particular the “migrant caravan” that is presently making its way through Mexico. Interestingly, Bowers criticized Donald Trump for being “a globalist, not a nationalist,” said that Trump was surrounded by Jews, and that he did not vote for him.

His decision to act seems to have been triggered by an event held in Pittsburgh by the HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), an organization that once brought Jewish refugees out of Europe, but now works to resettle refugees from Syria, Central America, and even Africans in Tel Aviv.

There have been various, mostly predictable, popular responses to this atrocious act. Many, if not most, miss the point. So here is what I think:

This is nothing new. Synagogues and other Jewish institutions around the world and in the US are attacked all the time. Attacks in the US have been carried out by both neo-Nazi and Islamic extremists, and their number has been increasing along with polarization and anger in the country.

Bowers was “ideologically insane.” One common theme among extreme right-wing conspiracy theorists is that Jews, especially George Soros, are trying to destroy the “white race” in America by introducing non-white immigrants. They will then take over (although they are already in charge by means of controlling politicians, even Trump), or they will somehow make a lot of money out of the collapse of the nation. Bowers seems to have believed some version of this. Social media seems to feed this kind of insanity, which often erupts into violence.

It’s not Trump’s fault. Yes, the extreme right is more likely to support Trump than his opponents, and there were anti-Jewish elements involved in Trump’s campaign. That doesn’t mean that Trump encourages or approves of anti-Jewish violence. And there are Jew-haters galore on the other side.

It’s not the liberal Jews’ fault. Yes, liberal and progressive Jews often take positions that infuriate the Right, like favoring increased immigration, especially from Muslim countries. But it’s their prerogative to take whatever positions they like without being murdered.

It is not a problem of generalized “hatred.” It is a very specific kind of hatred; it is the particular hatred of Jews that has existed for thousands of years, that constantly reprises old themes and creates new ones, but which never goes away. Increasing expressions of Jew-hatred in the US are a result of constant anti-Jewish incitement in social media. Rick Jacobs wants to universalize the disaster. He stands in a pool of Jewish blood and talks about anti-black racism and “Islamophobia.” This is pathological. Jews were murdered because they were Jews and he virtue-signals about how he cares for all humanity!

Love is not the answer. Jew-haters are not going to be impressed by posturing that “we don’t need armed guards to pray.” The more that liberal Jews resist security measures on the grounds that they would be “giving the [terrorists, neo-Nazis] what they want,” the softer and more attractive targets they become. Ignoring the threat is not courageous; it is burying your head in the sand, a form of cowardice.

An armed presence is a deterrent. Perhaps one guy sitting in the back of the synagogue with a pistol would not always prevent such a tragedy, but it would greatly increase the odds of doing so. Serious security measures are not, as is sometimes suggested, a sign of fear – rather, as in Israel, a sign that an institution will not accept the “right” of the terrorist to shut it down.

Israel’s experience as the Jew Among Nations shows that a strong, disproportionate response to violent anti-Jewish attacks tends to deter future attacks. When the response is weak – as in today’s response to the provocations from Gaza – the attacks become more frequent and more ambitious.

My recommendations to American Jews and Jewish institutions are these:

Face reality. We live in an increasingly anti-Jewish world. They hate us on the macro and micro levels, from the Right and from the Left. The Golden Age of American Jewry is coming to an end. History teaches us that the condition of Jews in non-Jewish societies is usually precarious. America since 1945 has been an exception.

Take steps to protect yourselves. You can’t walk into a synagogue in Europe without meeting an armed guard and open doors are not left unattended. Unobtrusive security measures are possible, but the visible ones also serve as a deterrent. Don’t expect the authorities to protect you. Yes, you pay taxes and it is their job. No, they are not capable of providing day-in day-out protection. You will have to work with them and supplement what they can provide. This is a lesson the state of Israel learned early: it’s your life – nobody cares as much about it as you do.

Remember who you are. You are members of the Jewish people, not citizens of the world. You have a homeland, the State of Israel. Israel doesn’t need your money, but she needs you to ensure that your nation supports her in international forums and helps maintain military superiority against her enemies. Contrary to what her enemies say, Israel is the temporal center of power of the Jewish people, and her existence deters rather than encourages worldwide acts of Jew-hatred. If Israel should be lost, the Jewish people everywhere will be lost.

The expression “wake-up call” is overused but I think it is appropriate here. This horrific murder should stand as a warning to American Jews, many of whom have felt insulated, safe in a way that Jews have never been safe anywhere prior to the post-WWII period in America. One useful thing that Robert Bowers may have done is send a message to these comfortable Jews: welcome to Jewish history.

Posted in American Jews, Jew Hatred, Terrorism | 5 Comments

Jews, come home

Author Naomi Ragen urges Diaspora Jews to “come home” to Israel, and describes her own feelings of the almost miraculous condition of being a Jew in the Jewish homeland:

I was walking down Prophets Street (Rehov Hanevi’im) in Jerusalem, thinking how lucky I was to be living my life in a place that has such a street. I was thinking how short life is, and how we live in such an incredibly special era, a time when miracles and prophecies are unfolding before our astonished eyes. You have only to read the Torah to see all that God predicted would happen to the Jewish people has happened and to realize that the time we are living in is when the good things that were promised are now coming true.

I too understand the feeling of experiencing the miraculous, even when I’m only in the somewhat decrepit shuk in Rehovot.

It’s not connected to religion, although it’s easier to observe the commandments in Israel where you are not always wondering where to find kosher food, and where people understand what Shabbat means, whether or not they keep it themselves.

From a religious point of view, the connection between the Jewish people and their land is obvious. The Torah is in large part a story about the relationship between, Hashem, the Jewish people, and the land of Israel. For secular people, especially those living in those parts of the diaspora where Jew-hatred is currently held at bay, it may not be evident. Some feel the connection and some don’t.

I have a good friend, who came to Israel from America close to 40 years ago. He is not observant. He will tell you that he is an atheist. We don’t talk about politics much, but I suspect he is significantly to the left of me. But he has a connection to the Jewish people, and for better or worse this is his home. He could have earned a good living in America or Europe, but he chose to be here. He feels the magic of living in a Jewish state, even if he wouldn’t express it like Ragen does. And he isn’t the only one that feels this way. The socialist kibbutzniks that played such a great role in the early days of the state also claimed to be atheists, but they loved the land of Israel and made great sacrifices for it.

But for some diaspora Jews, the Jewish homeland is not their homeland. There is something missing. It’s easy to find examples. Simone Zimmerman, the Jewish woman who leads the organization called “If Not Now,” accepts the Palestinian narrative of the conflict, calls Israel immoral and corrupt, and seemingly fails to notice the murderous behavior of Israel’s enemies. Jewish historian Hasia Diner feels “a sense of repulsion when [she enters] a synagogue in front of which the congregation has planted a sign reading, “We Stand With Israel.”

Zimmerman and Diner are strongly influenced by their progressive political perspective, but why did they choose it? And why did they choose to emphasize its anti-Israel aspects? I believe that it is impossible to adopt an ideology that is so one-sided, that so strongly condemns both the actions and the motives of a people, when you see yourself as a member of it. And they don’t, despite their public identification as Jews.

I greatly prefer someone like Adam Shapiro, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, the pro-Palestinian group that sent Rachel Corrie to her death under an IDF bulldozer. Shapiro believes that being Jewish is simply a matter of religion, and since he has no connection to Judaism, he is not a Jew. Hitler would have disagreed, but at least Shapiro is honest.

Zimmerman and Diner claim that they are acting in accordance with Jewish ethical principles. They are referring to the system of universalist ethics that underlies the social activism that has replaced ritual as Jewish observance for many liberal Jews. While it is certainly legitimate to practice a Judaism that emphasizes the prophetic tradition and deemphasizes ritual, it seems to me that when your ethical system elevates other groups over the Jewish people, then it can no longer be called a Jewish ethics.

And some diaspora Jews really do place the Jewish people at the bottom of their ladder of ethical priorities. Zimmerman says that “Jewish liberation is inextricably tied to the liberation of all people,” a statement which is clearly false. Is there a connection between the Jewish people and the persecuted Rohingya people of Myanmar, a country that has about 20 Jewish residents?

What she means is that in her eyes, the Jewish people are no more important than the Rohingya. Of course I agree with her that a Jewish life and a Rohingya life are equally valuable. But I care less about what happens to the Rohingya than the Jewish people, and I would expect them to feel the same about us. In any event, Zimmerman is a hypocrite: her activism is aimed primarily at opposing the state of the Jewish people, and she devotes little if any energy to helping the Rohingya.

For every Jew that supports the cause of the enemies of the Jewish people there are probably ten that are indifferent. Some just don’t think about it, some deny their Jewishness to escape antisemitism, and for some, the idea of being a part of a people that transcends politics doesn’t resonate, or is even abhorrent.

I think there is something – a spark or a gene, depending on the kind of language you prefer – that no matter where a Jew may be on the spectrum of observance, can act as a channel to the Jewish people and their homeland. You have it or you don’t. You are connected or you aren’t. And in the diaspora many people with Jewish parents, even synagogue members, simply aren’t. They are the ones who see Israel as “just another country.”

Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt thinks that there are six inherent moral foundations that serve as the basis for our decisions about right and wrong, and good and evil: care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty. Cultures and individuals differ in their relative responses to these six triggers. For example, in affluent, educated Western circles, care is very important: morality is primarily about not hurting anybody. In more traditional groups issues of loyalty, authority, and sanctity take precedence.

Haidt thinks that part of the difference in attitudes of liberals and conservatives can be explained by the idea that liberals greatly emphasize the first two, care and fairness, while conservatives place more equal weight on all six. The feeling that one belongs to a people fits in the category of loyalty, which possibly explains why liberals find the universalist ethics of Reform Judaism attractive.

Naomi Ragen speaks in religious language, and she is politically conservative. But there are countless diaspora Jews who don’t fit into those categories but who still feel their connection with their people, their land, and their state.

If you feel that connection, then you should come home too.

Posted in Israeli Society, Zionism | Comments Off on Jews, come home