Category Archives: Israel

Racist Antisemites but pro-Israel

The essay below appeared in Haaretz

Haaretz Opinion

Racist Antisemites, but pro-Israel: The Choice Facing U.S. Orthodox Jews at the Polls

Should American Jews who believe sexual identity is not a mere social construct, that marriage is between man and woman, and abortion should not be a mere “choice,” support politicians who inspire racist and antisemitic murderers?

Avi Shafran

Jun. 7, 2022 12:45 PM

The gunman who killed 10 people in a Buffalo, New York, neighborhood supermarket last month clearly targeted Black people. Not only was the market in a Black neighborhood, but the killer is reported to have shared his racist beliefs in a long-winded manifesto seething with hatred of “non-white” people and immigrants who, in his fevered mind, threaten to supplant ”native-born” Americans.

The document deems Black Americans, along with immigrants, as “replacers” – people who “invade our lands, live on our soil, live on government support and attack and replace our people.”

But the 180-page rant didn’t exactly ignore another minority.

“The Jews are the biggest problem the Western world has ever had,” the manifesto reads. “They must be called out and killed, if they are lucky they will be exiled. We can not show any sympathy towards them again.”

As to why he attacked a target in Buffalo and not Brooklyn, he reassured his readers that “the Jews…can be dealt with in time.”

The toxic brew of hatred, fear and unreason about how “real” Americans (or Europeans) are threatened with being overwhelmed by masses of dark invaders, popularly goes by the name “The Great Replacement.”

And other proponents of the ideology have also expressed themselves violently.

In the ADL’s tally, of the 450 murders committed by political extremists over the past decade in the U.S., Islamist extremists were responsible for about 20 percent, and left-wing extremists for 4 percent. Fully 75 percent were perpetrated by right-wing extremists, many of them explicitly tied to white supremacist movements.

Lest we forget, the Pittsburgh killer of 11 people at a Jewish congregation in 2018 blamed Jews as the “hidden hand” behind a plot to dilute the nation’s white Christian identity.

The killer of Black churchgoers in Charleston in 2015 called on whites to fight both Blacks and Jews.

The marchers in Charlottesville at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally (in)famously chanted “Jews will not replace us!”

White supremacists killed more people than any other type of radical last year.

The “Great Replacement” idea has been embraced and promoted by an assortment of political and media figures. While some find it unreasonable to imagine that the white power ideology’s mainstreaming in the (more) genteel public sphere plays any role in the violence committed under its banner, imagining otherwise is willful blindness.

To be sure, the pols and pundits generally focus on illegal immigration, something that every sovereign nation, of course, has a right and responsibility to control.

Here in the U.S., the pushers of “replacement theory” declare that their objection is to undocumented immigrants voting for Democratic candidates.

But non-citizens cannot vote in federal or state elections, or in any but a handful of local ones. And even were amnesty to be offered to many, or even all, undocumented immigrants, their path to citizenship would take some eight years, plenty of time to be courted by the Republican party (which, as it happens, increased its share of Latino voters in the 2020 election).

And so, the illegal immigration issue is a red herring (or, perhaps, a white one).

What’s more, much of the replacement rhetoric devolves from electoral concerns, justified or not, into less rarefied realms. The voices, though, belong to some of America’s most powerful institutions.

Steve King, while he was still serving as a Republican member of Congress for Iowa, tweeted that “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” He doubled down with the same vile contention on national TV.

Josh Mandel, when he was standing for election as the GOP candidate for a Senate seat for Ohio, bemoaned how immigration is “changing the face of America, figuratively and literally… our culture… our demographics…” adding “our electorate” only at the end. He endorsed Mike Flynn’s rallying cry that the United States should be “one nation under God and one religion under God.”

And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared that leftists were attempting to “drown” out “classic Americans.”

Then there is Tucker Carlson, the Fox News personality who famously said that immigration makes the U.S. “poorer, dirtier and more divided.” He makes sure to verbally renounce political violence, of course, but has long ranted in angry monologues against what he calls the demographic threat posed by immigration. Do his words resonate with people like the Buffalo murderer?

“How, precisely, is diversity our strength?” fumed Mr. Carlson in a much-shared 2018 segment.

“Why is diversity said to be our greatest strength?” wrote the Buffalo shooter.

Many of us American Jews see the anti-Israel screeds of the progressive “Squad” in Congress as incendiary, as encouraging violence against Jews.

We’re not wrong about that. But it’s time we Jews realized, too, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, conservative and liberal alike, that Replacement Theory dressed up as judicious immigration concerns is just as dangerous, and, in light of the ADL stats, arguably more so.

At her first public appearance, at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the newly minted U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, Professor Deborah Lipstadt, decried the canard “that Jews were behind an attempt to destroy white America,” which she said has “been adopted and adapted by racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists in Europe and beyond.”

There was a time – it seems so long ago now – when Jews in the U.S. were largely united in supporting Israel and upholding democratic ideals; and recognized the importance of immigrants, like ourselves, to the American melting pot. And it was pretty clear which candidates deserved our votes.

It was a time when Orthodox Jews in particular, but other Jews as well, spoke in unison about the importance of traditional family values and the role of morality in forging social policy. And knew which candidates could be counted on to responsibly further our goals. It was a time when we felt that America’s fundamental democratic institutions, including the nation’s electoral system, deserved to be respected by all citizens, and that minorities and immigrants deserved protection and respect from both the populace and the electorate.

Today, though, as a celebrated bard has maintained, things have changed. And the changes leave much, if not most, of American Jewry conflicted. Or, at least they should.

Should Israel supporters cast votes for candidates who stand up unapologetically for Israel’s security, even if those aspirants to public office promote delusions like “Replacement Theory”? Should those of us who believe that sexual identity is not a mere social construct, that marriage is the union of a man and woman (defined biologically) and that abortion should not be a mere “choice,” support politicians who feel the same but, wittingly or not, help inspire racist and antisemitic murderers?

It’s a Sophie’s choice, and I don’t profess to know how best to make it.

But it’s a reality that must be faced. And lives – Black, Asian, Hispanic and Jewish alike, are more than theoretically at stake.

Rabbi Avi Shafran writes widely in Jewish and general media. Twitter: @RabbiAviShafran

RNS Article about the Jerusalem Day Parade

RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

The Jewish way to celebrate Jerusalem Day

We are enjoined by our Jewish faith not to goad or incite other peoples or religions. 

June 1, 2022

By Avi Shafran

 (RNS) — Residents of Israel and Gaza dodged a bullet on Sunday (May 29) — in fact a slew of bullets, and bombs and missiles.

Sunday was “Jerusalem Day,” an annual celebration that commemorates Israel’s capture of the Holy City during the 1967 Six-Day War. As in past years, it included a parade through the Holy City’s Arab Quarter, which this year had drawn fierce threats of terroristic attacks from Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that governs Gaza, which, had they been carried out, would have incurred retaliation from Israel.

Thankfully, the group proved to be only grumbling. As usual, some local clashes between marchers and Arab Quarter residents broke out but no large-scale violence erupted.

All the same, the parade was, as it always has been, misguided, dangerous and decidedly un-Jewish.

I am a Haredi Jew (often, and distastefully to me, referred to as “ultra” Orthodox), and I rejoice in the fact that Jerusalem is in Jewish hands. I rejoice that the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, where the ancient Jewish temples stood and toward which Jews worldwide have faced in prayer over millennia, is today accessible to all.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, under Ottoman rule and then the British mandate, Jewish worshippers at the wall risked assaults, and animal dung was regularly dumped there.

Between 1948 and 1967, when the city was under Jordanian control, half of the Old City’s 58 synagogues were demolished and the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was plundered and its tombstones used as paving stones.

Jews, needless to say, were denied access to the Western Wall.

For millennia Jews have prayed daily for their people’s return to the Promised Land and its spiritual center, Jerusalem. When the armies of three countries tried to remove Jews from the region for the second time in the Six-Day War, and were vanquished, we cried in joy.

Even having returned to our ancestral land, we are required to be sensitive to other faiths and peoples. We pray daily for the return of the central temple to the site where it originally stood. But that return, according to the Jewish religious tradition, is in God’s hands, not ours. Until the messiah arrives to usher in a new era of history — when, in Isaiah’s words, “a wolf and a lamb shall graze together” and global peace will reign — we are enjoined to not goad or incite other peoples or religions.

And so a baldly nationalistic march — especially through the Arab Quarter of the Old City — was no way to mark the happy fact that Jerusalem and the Western Wall are today open to people of all faiths. It was, simply put, a provocation.

The day before the march, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, one of the most revered leaders of the Haredi community, reportedly asked Haredi members of the Israeli Parliament if they truly “don’t understand that (the march) is unnecessary and dangerous.”

He also decried Jews’ visiting the Temple Mount itself, which, in 1967, Israel put under the administrative control of the Jordan-based Islamic trust known as the Waqf. Since then only Islamic worship has been permitted on the Mount, in order to preserve and promote peace.

At the time, Israel reasoned that to alter the religious character of the place, where the Dome of the Rock shrine — one of the holiest places in Islam — and the Al-Aqsa Mosque stand, would be a gross affront to the Muslim world. It was a decision born not of weakness but of wisdom, even if the peace it meant to foster remains an elusive entity.

Peace has been elusive for many reasons, including Arab states’ rejection, for many years, of Israel’s legitimacy. But there has been much progress in that area of late. Today, the main obstacles to peace are groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which are sworn to murder Israelis and destroy their country, and those Palestinians in the Israel-occupied West Bank who swoon to these groups’ hateful siren call.

But Israel only pushes peace further out of reach when it indulges Jewish nationalists by allowing incendiary actions that insult the feelings of Israel’s Arab residents and of all who sympathize with them. Like the Jerusalem Day parade.

Some will point to the scuffles that broke out as celebrants made their way into the narrow streets of the Muslim Quarter, arguing that both sides threw invective and glass bottles at each other, requiring the intervention of Israeli police. The march itself, however, even if it had proceeded peacefully, was an unnecessary invitation for resentment.

And to what end? To assert Israeli sovereignty in the face of Arabs? That may reflect a militant nationalistic stance. But not a Jewish one.

Before the next Jerusalem Day, Israel should examine the true meaning of the event, which is to express our gratitude for being able to live and worship freely in Jerusalem. A truly Jewish Jerusalem Day would foster heartfelt gatherings in places where no one will be angered or affronted. Next year Israel should redirect its citizens’ feelings from provocative demonstrations to a Jewish celebration of a city whose name is rooted in the Hebrew word shalom, “peace.”

(Rabbi Avi Shafran, who serves as director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, writes widely in Jewish and general media. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

Comical Comparison

Have you read about how Ukrainians in Russia have planted bombs in public places, how they terrorize and murder Russian civilians, jumping unsuspecting Muscovites and viciously stabbing them? How they preach hatred for all Russians? How they declare their wish to push them all into the Arctic Ocean?

No? Well, that’s probably because, needless to say, nothing of the sort is remotely true.

And not all Molotov Cocktails are alike.

To read what I mean, please click here.

Blood in the Snow

Culture is a powerful thing. And Palestinian culture seems to embrace, or at least have an unhealthy tolerance for, violence.

Not only against Israelis or Jews but within Palestinian society as well.
To read what I mean, click here.

Help Preserve the Kotel’s Kedusha

The push to balkanize the Kotel Maaravi is, as its proponents readily admit, intended as a step toward legitimizing American-style “Jewish religious pluralism” in Israel. That would be a disaster, not only because of the notion’s inherent falsehood — that there are different “Judaisms” — but demographically too, since non-halachic “conversions,” “divorces” and the like have wreaked havoc on the unity of American Jewry.

What is more, the Kotel has always served as a unifier of Jews, whatever their backgrounds or beliefs — probably the only place on earth where so many different kinds of Jews pray side by side.

If you wish to register your chagrin at the plan to partition the Kotel, you can do so easily by visiting:

www.OneKosel.org

There is no charge for doing so, and, by sending the letter (or one of your own crafting), you can help show that a good part of “American Jewry” wants the status quo at the Kosel to be retained.

Tizku limitzvos.

Loud Loutishness: Decibels Aren’t Arguments

Anyone with the unfortunate habit of listening to talk shows may have noticed the inverse relationship between loudness and logic.  Or as Leonardo da Vinci is said to have said, “Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.”

It’s true in daily life too. Some people seem to imagine that decibels are arguments, that screaming angrily is a good-enough stand-in for persuasion — even for facts.

Last week, across the big pond to the east, the Israeli ambassador to Great Britain, Tzipi Hotovely, after speaking and taking questions at the renowned London School of Economics, was set upon by a screaming crowd of Arab and Muslim students. Egged on by social media to “smash her car window,” members of the mob loudly shouted slogans, curses, “shame on you” and other rational arguments.

Security officers and bodyguards bundled the ambassador into a car while police clashed with the shouting mob. 

(British Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted that she was “disgusted by the treatment of the Israeli Ambassador.” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Nadhim Zahawi, Secretary of State for Education, expressed similar reactions.)

The mob’s screaming was a stark contrast to the sort of reasoned give-and-take that had just taken place inside the building. And further evidence of the loudness/logic inverse relationship.

Because the screamers, at least the smarter ones, likely know, deep down, that Israel does not, as they chant, target civilians when responding to Hamas terror attacks or seek to oppress its Arab citizens. So all that’s left to “make their case” is yelling.

But beneath the baseless charges of baby killing and subjugation lies a broader, equally baseless charge made by many anti-Israel “activists” (if slander can be described as activism).

That larger untruth is the very “Palestinian narrative,” the contention that the Jewish return to Eretz Yisrael was a colonial venture, the displacement of a native population by foreign usurpers.

It makes for a great shout, and shouted it is, at rallies and protests around the world, often encapsulated as “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free!” (Translation: “Kill or expel Jews from the land.”)

And shouting is the only way to promote the narrative, the only means of allowing it to obscure the facts of history.

To be sure, Arabs have lived in Eretz Yisrael for centuries, but the land has never been Judenrein. Jews were a presence in the land since Yehoshua’s time, even after the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdash and the expulsion of most of Klal Yisrael from their land. 

And, of course, millions upon millions of Jews have, over the centuries since 70 C.E., prayed thrice daily for divine mercy to allow them to return — return — to their land — their land.

What’s more, the Arab presence in 1948 Palestine was anything but indigenous. Many who call themselves native “Palestinians” are in truth descended from successive waves of people who came to the area from other places. 

Like Egypt, the source of successive waves of immigrants at the end of the 18th century, fleeing famine and government oppression at home.

The 19th century saw Arab immigration to Eretz Yisrael from Algeria and what is now Jordan. Bosnian Muslims, too, came in significant numbers.

Later on, after Jews began returning to the land, opportunities drew even more Arab immigrants. As Britain’s Peel Report noted in 1937, “The Arab population shows a remarkable increase ….. partly due to the import of Jewish capital into Palestine and other factors associated with the growth of the [Jewish] National Home…” 

So, when Israel declared its statehood in 1948, there was a sizable Arab population in Eretz Yisrael. And the desires and aspirations of that population and its descendants in the land should not be ignored. But many, if not most, were not native to the land. And the forebears of Jews, if millennia matter, were.

Arabs residing in the country or the West Bank or Gaza could realize their hopes for better lives, if only they acknowledged those truths. Then, good-faith, civil discussion could ensue.

It is an unlikely development, I admit, but one thing is certain: Shouting is no replacement for talking.

© 2021 Ami Magazine