Disappearing the Jews

On any scale of importance, the absurdity that the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures somehow ignored the fact that Jews, most of them running from antisemitic Eastern Europe, created the industry ex nihilo in the face of still more antisemitism in America, is insignificant.

Naturally, in these diverse and inclusive days it is supremely important to emphasize the role played by non-whites (and downplay that of non-BIPOC), so that Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki gets more play than – get ready – Walt Disney, who was not Jewish, thus demonstrating that the discrimination was merely racism and historical negationism and not primarily antisemitism.

Nevertheless, leaving out the Jews, not only the famous studio moguls that built Hollywood, but the actors, directors, and technical people that were so much a part of it, is like writing a history of the auto industry without Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloan. It seems ridiculous to anyone who knows anything at all about the subject. And since the movie industry has declined into woke idiocy (it is possible that there will never again be a good American movie), maybe the memories of Jack Warner and the rest are best served by leaving them out of it.

But when my wife mentioned this to me this morning, I immediately thought of a similar project of historical negationism, one that is even more absurd, but on a much grander scale: the attempt to write the Jews out of the history of the Land of Israel.

How is that possible? The combination of written documentation and archaeological evidence for the existence of a Jewish culture in the Holy Land, back to at least 1200 BCE (and much longer if you credit biblical accounts), is overwhelming. And yet, Palestinian Authority officials and media tell us that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, that Jesus was a “Palestinian” – indeed, even that he was the first Islamic  martyr – and so on. The PA engaged in excavations in the Temple Mount, in violation of agreements that such actions require archaeological supervision, and discarded large quantities of debris containing artifacts of the Jewish presence there in ancient times. They and their supporters get the UN to declare Jewish holy sites “Palestinian.”

The statement that “Jesus was a Palestinian” is particularly ridiculous, since there the Romans hadn’t renamed Judea “Syria Palaestina” (Philistine Syria) until their vicious suppression of the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE; and all contemporary accounts indicate that Jesus was a Jew. The argument seems to run like this: Jesus was persecuted by Jews, [today’s] Palestinians are persecuted by Jews, and therefore Jesus must be a Palestinian. No more perfect combination of false premises and invalid logic can be found, but this nonsense is repeated not only by Palestinians, but retweeted by members of the US Congress.

The BDS movement is yet another example. If Israel can’t be part of anything, from academics to sports to literature, then the message is that it is not real. The State of Israel is treated as an imposter state. “You are not a real country,” I’ve been told on social media. We are accused of “stealing Palestinian culture,” including food and music. This is an example of the psychological phenomenon of projection, since this is precisely what the “Palestinian people” are attempting to do to the Jews. And it flies in the face of reality. Jews from the Middle Eastern exile eat Middle Eastern food and like Middle Eastern music. Should a former resident of Morocco eat gefilte fish?

This is a kind of magical thinking that is especially beloved by Palestinians. They seem to think that if they make maps on which Israel does not appear, and destroy evidence of Jewish provenance in the Land of Israel, they can make us disappear (to be fair, they also take more practical steps to make us disappear, such as murdering Jews whenever possible).

But Palestinians and Hollywood museum directors aren’t the only ones who try to wish the Jews away. The theological stream called “supersessionism” or “replacement theology,” which holds that a “new covenant” supersedes the old one between Hashem and the Jewish people has been a feature of Catholicism since St. Paul, and has often served as a justification for the persecution of Jews. True, in 1965, Pope Paul VI made the Nostra Aetate declaration. But that did not repudiate the doctrine, only in effect asserting that Jews should not suffer as a result of it. More extreme versions of this view exist, like some of the “Black Hebrew Israelite” groups who believe that they are the “real” Jews and that traditional Jews are imposters.

In all the above cases, the common element is that the claims fly in the face of reality. They are not just distortions, they are pants-on-fire whoppers. But that doesn’t matter – just like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the more unlikely a claim is, the more powerful it is if people believe it, and by repeating (and retweeting) these lies enough, it is possible to make people believe them.

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