The Jewish Press, May 19, 2004
JEWS ON THE PRECIPICE
by Phyllis Chesler
Some say that we are re-living the 1930's. I disagree. Today, the danger to Jews is far graver and more complex than it was in the pagan or medieval-Christian world, or during World War Two. Today, anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli, and anti-American propaganda has gone global. It is visually masterful, technologically sophisticated, and available around the clock, especially in Arabic. Jews and Zionists can be "seen" holding a meeting of the (fake) Elders of Zion, (falsely) demanding that Jesus be tortured and crucified, committing (fake) massacres in Jenin, and stabbing non-Jewish children to death for their blood.
Old-fashioned Czarist-, Nazi-, and Stalinist-era anti-Semitic stereotypes (the Jews control the media and the banks and seek world domination), have been added to the pre-existing Islamic views of Jews as subhuman infidels. The mix is a hot brew of relentless hatred.
Jew-haters are creating a situation in which -- dare I say it? Yes, I must say it -- another mass murder -- perhaps even a Holocaust-like mass murder of Jews might be possible. Indeed, in my view, it has already begun, certainly not in America, and not yet in Europe -- but in Israel. Today, Jews who live in the Jewish state -- a nation that was initially envisioned as the solution to the ceaseless persecution of the Jews -- are far more endangered than those who live in the Diaspora. Worse: The existence of the Jewish state is now being used to justify verbal and physical attacks against Diaspora Jews around the world and on campuses throughout the Western world. For example, "Zionism" is an increasingly dirty word on campuses. I am also told that among American teenagers, the word "Jew" is increasingly being used pejoratively.
Israel has served as the laboratory, or groundzero, in the terrorist war against the West. It is where the Islamofascists have perfected their experiments, their grisly, spectacular, and well-choreographed mass murders and their ingenious use of hijacked planes.
In my recent book, The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It, I was among the first to characterize the new anti-Semitism as an alliance between Islamofascist terrorists and "politically correct" western intellectuals. Both groups have remained morally blind to the slaughter of innocent civilians in Israel and America. Worse, they have blamed that slaughter on Israeli and American policy. In their frenzy to scapegoat Israel for all human suffering, these new anti-Semites have joined the United Nations, international human rights groups, and the media in failing to condemn the most horrendous human rights abuses in the world, including genocide.
Reality Turned Upside-Down
The propaganda war against Israel and against Jews is staggering, both visually and linguistically. It is often vulgar and blatant but it is also subtle, earnest, persuasive. One is forced to confront Big Lies at every level, socially, professionally, among scholars and in the media.
Today, Israel is the world's punching-bag symbol for "Colonial, Apartheid, Oppressor." Although Arafat began his terrorist campaign against Israel in 1964 when the "offending" settlements were Tel Aviv and Haifa, his terrorism against Israel is justified because of the offending Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Let me quote from ex-PLO terrorist Walid Shoebat, who has since converted to Christianity and is now pro-Israel. In an interview in the Jerusalem Post, Shoebat suggested the unthinkable: "The true occupation is of the minds of Palestinians, of teaching them hatred for Jews. That is the real occupation."
Let me expand upon that. The true occupation also includes the utter Palestinianization and highjacking of the western media and the western academic world into believing that black is white, day is night, that the Palestinian Authority can do no wrong, and Israel can do no right.
Say this on many campuses in North America or Europe and you will be mocked, scorned, intimidated, bullied, raged at, perhaps even physically endangered. And not by illiterate, impoverished, formerly colonized people but by well-heeled tenured faculty and bright doctoral students -- some of whom will soon run for public office.
"Politically correct" Americans, including some Jews, have joined Islamists in embracing the Palestinians as the most oppressed and most Noble of Savages whose misery, in their view, has been caused solely by a cabal of Zionists, Orthodox Jews, and Christian Republican conservatives.
This unholy alliance of politically correct progressives and Islamists has presented the long-suffering Palestinians and their corrupt and murderous leadership as secular versions of Jesus crucified. Newspaper cartoonists have literally portrayed Arafat as Jesus. They have also romanticized Arafat, bin Laden, and their human bombs as Che Guevara- and Nelson Mandela-like "freedom fighters."
Bizarrely, tragically, these new anti-Semites have decided that Israel is the "greatest oppressor of all time," and is "worse than the Nazis" -- surely a new form of Holocaust denial. They also characterize Israel as an "apartheid" state (which it is not). In fact, Islam is the largest practitioner of apartheid in the world, both in terms of religion and gender; Israel once again is the scapegoat for this.
Today, Israelis are being slaughtered not only because they happen to live in a nation engaged in a local war with a neighboring nation but because Israel is a Jewish nation that has been under almost perpetual siege since its birth in 1948. Twenty-one thousand Israelis have lost their lives in wars of self-defense and in acts of terrorism against the Jewish state since 1948.
Since the fall of 2000, Israelis have endured the equivalent of 9/11 almost every other week. I cannot imagine the level of post-traumatic stress symptomatology Israelis must be suffering -- they, who have lived through so many unchosen wars of self-defense and whose parents and grandparents endured Hitler's Final Solution, the Gulag, Cossack pogroms, and persecution and exile from Arab and Muslim lands.
The Israeli Toll in American Terms
As I've noted, the slow-bleed of Israelis from 1948-2000 has been barely noted among western intellectuals. "Everybody dies, other people also suffer. Enough with the Jews!" Jewish blood does not register with them -- or, rather, Jews are supposed to die; they are not shocked when it happens. In an attempt to awaken such hard-hearted intellectuals, some of whom are, sadly, Jews, I decided to convert the Israeli reality into American terms.
Thus, from 9/29/2000 to 5/12/04, 961 Israelis were murdered by terrorists. This represents 0.015% of the Israeli Jewish, Christian, and Muslim population of six million, four hundred thousand. Based on an American population of approximately 293 million, the Israeli civilian death count is the equivalent of 44, 005 Americans killed by terrorists on our own soil, in pizza parlors, on buses, at Passover sedorim, in our beds.
In addition, between 9/29/2000 and 5/12/04, a total of 6,344 Israelis were wounded by terrorists, often seriously, and for life. This represents .099% of the Israeli population. In American terms, this is the equivalent of approximately 290,000 Americans wounded by terrorists.
Every Israeli personally knows someone -- a parent, a child, a spouse, a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend -- who has been killed. Every Israeli personally knows someone who has been wounded for life. Ads for hospital beds and orthopedic devices regularly appear in mainstream newspapers, not in medical journals.
And yet, our "best and brightest" suggest that the Jews are "paranoid" about anti-Semitism, "alarmist," "neurotic," that Hitler killed millions of people who were not Jews ("Why do the Jews go on and on only about themselves as if they are the only victims?"), that the Israelis are now perpetuating a "Holocaust" upon the Palestinians, (another way of saying that "Hitler should have finished the Jews off"), that Israel is a "colonial" state that should be abolished -- exterminated -- and that this suggestion, which is being made by many progressives and intellectuals, does not necessarily amount to Jew-hatred.
Even Orwell might weep at this.
Meanwhile, as some Jewish American organizations launch major fundraising drives pegged to these latest alarming trends, their leaders hasten to reassure us that Jews in America are relatively safe; that Israel has a strong military, including a nuclear strike capacity. All true.
But if Israel (G-d forbid) ceases to exist, if America is fatefully weakened by the terrorist threat against it -- who are we? If the Jews of Israel, Europe, and South America remain at peril -- what then? Is it "okay" that we're "okay" in America?
Hillel asked three questions, not just one. Let me remind us of these questions: "If I'm not for myself, who will be for me?" "When I am only for myself, what am I?" "And, if not now, when?"
Many Jewish progressives gloss over Hillel's first question and focus only on his last two questions. Some Jews are often the first to demonize the Jewish state and the Jewish religion in their zeal to institute social justice as if doing so is a substitute for G-d.
Yes, of course Israel has made mistakes; what nation hasn't? But nothing -- I repeat, nothing -- that Israel has done deserves the savage, obsessive, demonization and terrorism against it. The Israel Defense Forces have behaved with exquisite moral restraint given the enormous provocation against the Jewish state. They have not been congratulated for this but rather condemned.
Call to Action
As I have documented in my book about the new anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism is today's new anti-Semitism.
So, what must we do? We must stand up to The Big Lies. We must take back the campuses. We must forge an alliance with Christian and Republican Americans to fight the war against terrorism and for a safe Israel. And yes, of course, the Israeli government and Jewish organizations and individuals must continue talking with Arab and world leaders.
But my most radical suggestion is a gathering of the twelve tribes. This must be undertaken in the same spirit in which Theodor Herzl convened the first World Zionist Congress. So many Jews who hold passionate and opposing views have simply stopped listening and talking to each other. The silence is more awful than arguments. Many Jews no longer act as if they believe the 'Other' has been created in G-d's image. We must come together in order to strategize about our very survival.
Let me suggest that we consult the Torah for some perspective and guidance. What does the Torah teach us about anti-Semitism?
Early on, we see that G-d accepts Abel's offering but rejects Cain's. Despite G-d's intervention, the heartbroken and enraged Cain kills his brother Abel, whose offering was "chosen" by G-d.
Yaakov favored Yosef -- and Yosef's older half-brothers envied, resented, and hated him. Yosef, the absolute apple of his father's eye, the precocious dream-interpreter, the young peacock who struts about in his coat of many colors -- oh how his brothers want him out of the way. Some want to kill him but they settle for selling him into slavery. Divine destiny will have Yosef both rescuing his people from famine and forgiving his brothers.
What happens when one is chosen, not only by one's biological father but by G-d, one's heavenly parent?
One breaks the hearts of all those who have not been chosen and such heartbreak often leads to envy and resentment. Oddly enough, despite the considerable hardship and danger, many people still want to be "the chosen one."
While Jews do not cause Jew-hatred -- nor does Israeli policy -- we must also quietly consider that our chosenness (or at least our perceived chosenness) does seem to have certain consequences. We are the first People of the Book and are, psychologically and theologically, the Mothers and Fathers of all those who have followed in our monotheistic footsteps. In addition, our Jewish ideas about G-d, mitzvot, justice, ethics, mercy, have indeed gotten us into trouble with all those who wish to worship idols, engage in child sacrifice, and to murder, rape, slander, and steal. The glory of being "chosen" is also a dangerous and difficult burden.
The sages say that Jerusalem is the source of the world's peace and light. When the source of peace is not at peace, the world is sorely troubled too.
May the Israel Defense Forces and the American military endure and prevail. May civilians -- both here and in Israel -- be kept safe from terrorist attacks. May G-d protect and look over us.
Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D, is Emerita Professor of Psychology and the author of twelve books including "The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It." She may be reached at her website: