If you are an Israeli, do you feel smug that the neurotic politics of political correctness and victimology that lately are so prevalent in the USA are rare in Israel? Are you pleased to think that most Israelis are not obsessed with race the way Americans are?
If so, you will be sorry to hear that the folks that hijacked the Women of Wall and other internal Israeli controversies in order to depict Israel as undemocratic or worse have decided to bring the socio-political pathology of the US to our country.
The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), created and primarily funded by the American Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has proudly announced the establishment of a “Racism Crisis Center” in Israel.
Did you know there was a crisis of racism here? I didn’t, and in fact it seems to me that racially-based conflict is much lower here than in the US and many other places.
You may be shocked by that statement. Isn’t Israel the conflict capital of the world? Yes and no.
Yes, the Palestinian Arabs led by Hamas and Fatah want to kill us and take our land. But this is ideologically and religiously-based racism on the Arab side. it’s remarkable how well Jewish Israelis get along with the Arabs that they come into contact with who do not espouse this ideology.
Of course there are exceptions. And one can say that given the violent expressions of hatred by the Palestinian Arabs, it is surprising that there aren’t more. There are issues of resource allocation to Arab municipalities, but there are also reasons for this having to do with their own municipal governance. In some areas – higher education, for example – Arab citizens arguably get preferential treatment. And of course Muslims are not required to do military service (they are permitted to volunteer). How many countries in the world can maintain a population that is 20% Muslim without violent civil conflict? Probably only Israel.
And yes, it is true that the police have behaved improperly toward Ethiopian immigrants. But unlike the persistent black underclass in the US, the Ethiopian Jews – who were brought to Israel to save them from famine and persecution rather than as slaves – have been undergoing the usual processes of acculturation of immigrants, and each generation is economically better off and has members in higher and higher status positions. Discrimination against them because of skin color exists to some extent, but is getting rarer every day. There is not and never has been anything that remotely resembles the discrimination against blacks in either the North or South of the US.
Other immigrants, like Mizrachim and Russians, have had and in some cases are still having problems integrating into the society. But these are normal immigrant problems which will be solved by the passage of time, not examples of endemic racism. These groups are well-represented in the Knesset and government, and more and more getting their share of the economic and social status pie.
Nevertheless, the director of IRAC, Anat Hoffman, thinks there is a crisis that needs to solved – by the introduction to Israel of the hierarchy of victimization that has so greatly increased the divisions in American society. In an email to supporters, she writes,
The Racism Crisis Center is modeled after the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Alabama. Like the SPLC, IRAC will use litigation to protect the rights of minorities in Israel by elevating the voices of victims of racism and discrimination.
The Racism Crisis Center will provide support in cases of discrimination, hate speech, and hate crimes against minority populations, and collect data on the growing phenomenon of racism in Israel. The center provides support to victims of all backgrounds: Arab, Ethiopian Jews, Russian Jews, Mizrahi Jews, asylum seekers and migrant workers, and provides services in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Amharic and English.
Perhaps Hoffman is not aware of the criticism that has been leveled against the SPLC for its bias – it seems to see “hate groups” only on the right – its inflation of the number of “hate groups,” its use of lawsuits for intimidation of impecunious opponents, or for its shameless pursuit of cash. Or perhaps she is aware, and she sees all of these things as worth emulating.
One wonders if she will create a list of “hate groups” like that of the SPLC, and if it will include Hamas, Fatah, the Islamic Movement, and similar organizations? Will it list MK Haneen Zouabi as an extremist? Ayman Odeh?
The website of the “crisis center” provides an emergency hotline telephone number and an online form for reporting “hate crimes” and other incidents of racism. In addition to making it possible for someone to blacken the reputation of any individual or group instantaneously, it will provide a rich source for incidents that can be used by IRAC to impress its overseas donors, to produce “documentation” of its charge that Israel is being inundated by a “tide of bigotry” (Hoffman’s phrase), and maybe even – as is the case with the SPLC in the US – to be used to shut down right-wing voices. Will the Israeli branch of PayPal close the accounts of right-wing groups like Im Tirtzu as happened to the Jihad Watch website in the US?
Israel’s social problems can’t be solved by trying to fit them into a conceptual scheme that was developed in a different society in a different environment with totally different problems – and which failed miserably there, arguably making social divisions and conflicts worse. Non-Americans often look at the US with wonderment, unable to understand the obsession with race, the accusations of racism flying in all directions, the “litigizing” of every imaginable dispute, “intersectionality” and the creation of a hierarchy of victimization, and the excesses of political correctness. And this is precisely what Anat Hoffman and her bosses at the URJ want to introduce to Israel!
The URJ’s interests are not necessarily aligned with those of the Jewish state. It has consistently sided with the Left on the issue of the “peace process,” in spite of a total lack of understanding of the security situation here. It is closely associated with the Democratic Party in the US, and indeed couldn’t even bring itself to oppose Obama’s Iran deal. Many Reform rabbis are members of J Street, the phony “pro-Israel” organization that is supported by George Soros and even elements associated with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The head of the URJ, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, was a member of J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet and a board member of the New Israel Fund before taking over the URJ. These are not the people we need to help save Israel from herself, either in our dealings with the Palestinians or our own social issues.
Despite her American education and connections, Anat Hoffman was born in Israel and lived most of her life here, so she should know better. But apparently she is being paid not to.