Sunday, May 24, 2009

Damn Zionists.

I was invited to preach at a very liberal church this morning, and as I entered the building an elderly gentleman walked up to me, glanced at my yarmulke, and asked, “What do you think of those Zionists?”

For a moment I thought he was asking about a sports team, the Nashville Zionists or something, and it took me a moment to realize he was asking me about Israel.

“I’m not sure what you mean,” I said.

“The Zionists. You know you can’t protest against Israel in Israel, you have to come to America to do that. The Zionists are causing all kinds of trouble.”

Obviously this man had his countries confused. Israelis argue about Israel and Zionism all the time. It is in America that challenging the party line of whatever coalition runs Israel at the moment gets one into trouble. I was going to say something like that, but as he elaborated on his point it was clear that he was anti-Israel on principle. Jews were fine with him as long as we were powerless underdogs, but as soon as we have the capacity to fight back against those who would slaughter us, and—even worse—win, we were the bad guys.

I am more liberal then most when it comes to Israel. I am one of the few Jews who found Jimmy Carter’s books on Israel valuable contributions to the debate around Israeli policies and the future of the Jewish State. But there is no sense arguing with people who think Zionism is the root of all the world’s ills. Especially when they are liberals.

Yes there are right-wing nuts who hope to see the end of all Jews, but they have the decency to live in states like Utah and Colorado, but liberal anti-Semites are every where. They take their anti-Semitism as a source of pride. Somehow it is a sign of just how liberal they are that they are willing to see Israel and Israelis bombed into oblivion. According to this man, African Americans, Amer-Indians, gays, lesbians and transgendered people all have a right to self-determination, but not Jews.

“We’d have peace in the world if it wasn’t for the Zionists. What do you think?”

I think, sir, that you are an asshole. But I didn't say that. Instead I said, “It seems to me you have four choices, so just let me know which one you prefer: 1) We should empower jihadists and neo-Nazis to slaughter every last Jew on the planet; 2) The US should supply Iran with nuclear weapons and encourage them to slaughter every Jew in Israel; 3) The US should forcibly remove all Zionists and imprison them in Gitmo; or 4) We should encourage the only true democracy in the Middle East to behave as such—a sort of do as we don’t kind of policy. Your pick.”

“Damn Zionists,” he said as he turned around and walked away.

"Damn liberals," I said, as I did the same.


eashtov said...

Shalom Rav,

Well said!! Here's a recent post by Rabbi Daniel Gordis that frames the issue as well.

In Perspective: For the sake of clarity, a thought experiment May. 14, 2009


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grégoire said...

I join you in cursing those damned Liberals. Of course, I curse the Zionists too, like the fella we just cursed, and like those accursed op-ed writers in Haaretz and the New York Times.

I don't think every anti-Zionist is anti-Israeli. I consider the vast majority of Israelis (Jews and otherwise) to be slaves of a dangerous false consciousness, not unlike the average American Christian.

The answer? It's for Israelis and Palestinians to throw all the bums out, on both sides, and then to build a democratic state, or states, which is/are a good neighbor to others. That doesn't mean disarming or the end of Israel. If anything, it will mean the independence of Israel from foreign interests. These wars don't benefit the average Israeli any more than the current bloodbath in Iraq is beneficial for the average American.

andrea perez said...

For some reason, could it be the prevailing atmosphere of anti-semitism that is growing in the world, we don't get the same reaction from people about other issues from "liberals". It's not posh to celebrate a group that can actually defend itself when needed. And you wonder just what would give a total stranger the chutzbah to walk up to you before services and ask you something like that....

Grégoire said...

"And you wonder just what would give a total stranger the chutzbah to walk up to you before services and ask you something like that...."

Scapegoating is a natural part of insecurity. A person (or people) feel inadequate and so they have to single some fella (or fellas) out to blame for all the world's problems.

I regularly ask how many wives I have or whether I killed folks at Mountain Meadows. Never mind that I'm completely secular and don't believe in the mythological aspect of my tradition. They don't care.

There's a dude in a kippah. Obviously he must have been at Sabra and Shatila, and even if he's Rabbi Rami Shapiro, well, just as good... He must know someone who oppressed someone, or controls the banks and the media, or whatever else the Hebrews are supposedly controlling; so I'll go give him Hell to make myself feel better about the fact that the weather is bad and my retirement account lost half a percent this quarter.

It's just a nonsensical psychological game which probably has roots in our most primitive urges.