THE JEWISH PEOPLE'S FIFTH COLUMN
By Avi Davis
The panel discussion in the Los Angeles auditorium was so weightless it could have been held on the moon. There was, I'll admit, a certain otherworldly atmosphere to the gathering, a disconnect that made me feel as if I had stepped through a time warp. Antiquated slogans, such as " give peace a chance" "no war is morally justifiable" and " compromises for peace" reverberated through the hall making me eerily uncertain whether I was sitting at a forum for peace in the Middle East or at an anti-Vietnam War rally circa 1968.
While the speakers and attendees at the town hall meeting, a joint program of the Hillel Council at UCLA and the Progressive Jewish Alliance, gave the outward appearance of objectivity, I was unconvinced. As I listened closer I began to recognize a disturbing undertone. Among the proposals for peace, were few words of condemnation for Palestinian terrorists but plenty of accusatory reproaches to Israel. Little effort was made to pass moral judgment on Palestinian rejection of the Barak proposals in the summer of 2000, while Israeli intransigence was carefully chronicled. Within the standard peace rhetoric there appeared to be a presumption that Israel's battle for survival could and should be detached from the United States' global war on terror.
I walked away from the event certain that I had just witnessed the demonstration of a phenomenon. Only sixty years after the Holocaust, there are, apparently, Jews who see Israel as a liability in their lives and are unwilling to defend it at a time of its greatest peril. How to explain it? Many pass it off it as emblematic of the diversity that is proclaimed the great hallmark of Jewish tradition. But that is a cheap excuse. More persuasive is the notion that adopting far left-wing positions places one firmly in the intellectual, academic and celebrity mainstream. To be a contrarian is a badge of honor in our politically correct world and a ticket to social acceptance.
Chaim Seidler-Feller may be the exemplar par excellence of the art of social climbing masquerading as ideological purity. Although possessing rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University, the UCLA Hillel Director today describes himself as " post- denominational" - a meaningless but convenient designation that allows him to float ideologically between causes. But any accusations of intellectual fuzziness seems not to have not tainted his mystique. He has, in fact, become the cynosure for Los Angeles liberal-left causes, an organizer of conferences involving groups who spew the most venomous anti-Semitic and anti- Zionist rhetoric and an adamantine critic of all right wing governments whether Israeli or American. For taking such popular leftist stances he has been rewarded with the elan of social recognition. But such self-absorption carries a heavy price. How do UCLA's Jewish students, assaulted daily with a previously unknown rash of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, understand a supposed mentor who is so equivocal in his support for the Jewish state? The answer is that they either spurn him as unreliable or , as is more common, sink into confusion about their own levels of commitment to both Israel and Judaism.
Seidler-Feller, however, is a tiny fish in a big pond when compared to the piranha of Jewish liberal avatars, Michael Lerner. The editor of a far left wing magazine Tikkun, Lerner has been an icon in the Berkeley/San Francisco milieu for decades, presiding as a latter day saint to thousands of disaffected radicals. He obtained a brief moment of fame in 1993 when Bill and Hillary Clinton lent his political manifesto, the Politics of Compassion their imprimatur, opening doors to the media. Although he soon lost favor with the Clintons (who were ridiculed for embracing such an intellectual light weight), he has since parlayed his national celebrity into campaigns to lambaste Israel anywhere he can find an audience, while doing almost nothing to decry continuing Palestinian terrorism.
When I hear these men and women justify their condemnation of Israel as an outgrowth of their Jewish humanism, I am reminded of the infamous Judenraten of the Holocaust. The Judenrat was a council appointed by the Nazis to execute their orders in Jewish towns and villages in the Russian hinterland. This usually involved selections and deportations to death camps. There were many who refused to obey the Nazi orders and chose suicide rather than obedience. Others fled. But there were some, either by convincing themselves that their actions would save Jews, inflated by a sense of self-importance or seeking to ingratiate themselves with their oppressors for personal benefit, who complied. They became both witting and unwitting accomplices to murder. Ironically, these Judenrat members rarely survived those they deported. Within months they would follow on the same trains.
But the reign of these apostles of liberalism may soon be coming to a close. Other wannabes now shake their perch. Stanley Cohen, a tousle- haired American attorney in a turtleneck who bears a striking resemblance to a young Abe Hoffman was interviewed last week on CNN sitting next to his client, a Hamas terrorist. Watching this troubling reenactment of a Woody Allen sketch, I couldn't help wondering whether this same man would have felt just as comfortable representing Heinrich Himmler 60 years ago. Adam Shapiro, a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, won his 15 minutes of fame when he was interviewed as a Jewish survivor from the raid on Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah. His condemnations of his own people lent credence to the belief that Jews are sometimes their own worst enemies.
As I left the hall I thought I heard the rumble of those trains. In a plaintive voice Seidler-Feller dissembled " suicide bombings have only appeared in the last two years," ignoring the fact that they have, in fact, plagued Israel for the entire nine years of the Oslo Process. My heart sank. Cognitive dissonance, political immaturity or just plain old narcissism; call it what you want. It all amounts to the same thing - a desperate desire for attention and a need to be loved that is pooled into a justification for the murder of Jews.
Avi Davis is the senior fellow of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies and a senior editorial columnist for Jewsweek.com