World Jewry feels increasingly endangered, embarrassed by Israel, study finds
25 July, 2015
Jews around the world, especially younger ones, feel increasingly embarrassed and endangered by Israel and its actions, especially after last summer’s massacre in Gaza.
This is a key conclusion from a new report by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), a think tank supported by Israel lobby groups that works with the Israeli government to bolster Jewish support for Israel and Zionism.
The study identifies a “sense of crisis” in many Jewish communities “regarding their relationships with Israel.”
The report, “Jewish Values and Israel’s Use of Force in Armed Conflict: Perspectives from World Jewry,” is based on in-depth discussion groups and surveys in Jewish communities from Australia to South Africa, in Europe and in North and South America.
JPPI is co-chaired by Israel lobby stalwart and former US “peace process” diplomat Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat, a longtime US government official who now serves as the State Department’s “Special Adviser to the Secretary on Holocaust Issues.”
The report asserts that most Jews are still concerned about Israel and care about its future. But it confirms key trends that will be particularly troubling to Israel and its lobby groups around the world.
For one thing, it is becoming harder for Israel to convince Jews that its regular spasms of violence against Palestinians and others are justified.
“Many Jews’ confidence in Israel’s desire for peace with its Palestinian neighbors has eroded, and this erosion also affects their belief in the necessity of using force,” the report states.
Many Jews are more likely to view Israel as responsible for this violence – contrary to Israel’s own claims that it is merely engaging in “self-defense.”
The discussions that fed into the report “called attention to a growing difficulty that many Jews have understanding Israel’s long-term policy – which they see as contributing to, if not actually creating, the need to engage in repeated violent confrontations with its neighbors.”
They also revealed a “rising tendency among Diaspora Jews to regard their ties to Israel as a disruptive factor in their personal and communal lives.”
Among the report’s recommendations is more “effective hasbara (public relations) vis-a-vis the Jewish communities” in an effort to convince them that Israel wants “peace.”
It is notable that this report was compiled by institutions with strong pro-Israel commitments, meaning that non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jewish perspectives were likely underrepresented in the research. Not mentioned in the report, for instance, is the fact that many young Jews are active in the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Yet even so the report found considerable and growing disquiet over Israel.
Jews versus Israel
While both Zionist and anti-Semitic propagandists typically present the interests of Israel, on the one hand, and Jewish communities around the world, on the other, as being identical, the reality is that they are often directly at odds.
Last summer’s Israeli attack on Gaza which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians highlighted these contradictions for many participants in the JPPI study.
“Many – most – Jews still feel close to Israel, are concerned about Israel, want the best for it and to see it succeed,” the report states. “One cannot, however, ignore the many voices testifying to a growing difficulty in accepting the price this closeness entails.”
“Israel’s wars have an immediate and, usually, a negative effect on Diaspora Jewry,” concludes the summary of one of the Brazil discussions.
“Many Jews around the world feel that their lives are directly affected by Israel’s actions,” the report states. “Some feel physically threatened in the wake of Israeli actions, but even those who do not may still feel that Israel’s actions affect them on many levels, from Jewish intra-communal relations to their interaction with the non-Jewish world.”
Particularly troubling has been the Israeli response to attacks that targeted and killed Jews in France, most recently the killings at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January.
“[Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to French Jews to immigrate to Israel put the French Jews in an embarrassing situation,” a study participant in France observed. “They had to explain to their fellow French citizens that they are not ‘Israelis living [in France] on borrowed time.’”
Jews also increasingly resent “the role of Israel ‘ambassadors’ they are forced to play, whether they want to or not.”
A discussion seminar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, noted that “we are all held accountable for Israel’s actions … [There is] no separation between Zionism and Judaism.”
“Whether I want to or not – I become an ambassador of Israel,” said one participant in St. Louis, Missouri.
The self-declared “Jewish state’s” horrifying violence and refusal to seek peace is also making some want to appear less Jewish and, in the words of the report, “lower their Jewish profile.”
Israel is also seen as increasingly divisive even among Jews. “Israel, which seeks to be a unifying force for World Jewry, has become, over the years, a source of tension,” the report states.
Israel’s extreme right-wing policies in other areas also run against the progressive politics many Jews profess. Many, the report states, are “dissatisfied with ‘civil rights’ issues, especially those related to minorities” including Palestinian citizens of Israel, foreign workers and the Ethiopian Jewish community.
The JPPI report makes several recommendations aimed at boosting Israel’s propaganda efforts among Jews, particularly with respect to the “image” of the Israeli army.
“The IDF’s image as a moral army is a vital asset to Israel vis-à-vis the Jewish community, one that should be cultivated and preserved,” the report states. “It is crucial to refrain from making statements or conveying messages that undermine this image.”
The report calls for better “preparation” by Israeli army officers who engage in propaganda efforts in Jewish communities to “specifically address the Jewish viewpoint, rather than being confined to general hasbara messages.”
Nowhere does the report recommend that the Israeli army actually end its occupation and well-documented criminal violence against Palestinians. The report does not call for Israeli leaders or soldiers to be held accountable for the war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank evidence of which is amply documented in the recently published independent UN inquiry.
Youth checking out
A key point in the JPPI study is that all the trends that the authors find alarming are even more pronounced among Jews aged under 30.
“The opinion that Israel has a problem with the younger generation of Diaspora Jews was pervasive,” the report states.
It notes, for instance, anxiety about “declining enrollment in the Taglit-Birthright and Masa Israel programs, and concerns that this could be attributed to the Gaza war.”
These are programs, funded by the Israeli government and pro-Israel foundations, that bring Jewish youths on free trips to Israel in an effort to inculcate or strengthen Zionist commitments.
Concern about the attitudes of the young is driven by one “obvious” reason, the report states: “This is the generation whose attitude (and the attitude of the Jewish leadership that will come from it) will define the status of Israel-Diaspora relations in the future.”
If the trends noted in the JPPI report continue – and there’s no reason to think they won’t – then the alienation of Jews around the world from Israel is only certain to grow.
U.S.A lawmakers forced to pledge of allegiance to Israel
Why zionism is antisemitism
by Sam Kriss
25 July, 2015
Nearly one year ago, the Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin was captured by Hamas fighters in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, in the middle of Operation Protective Edge. He was taken a few minutes into a ceasefire declared unilaterally by Israel, without any participation from any Palestinian groups: under the terms Israel had negotiated with itself, its soldiers were still permitted to search for so-called ‘terror tunnels’ during the ceasefire, and this is what Goldin had been doing. His capture triggered something called the ‘Hannibal Directive': a secret policy that requires Israeli forces to do anything possible to prevent its soldiers being captured (and then becoming the object of a media crusade, to be released in a costly prisoner swap), even if it means putting the soldier’s life at risk. The IDF insists that this does not mean it will intentionally try to kill captured soldiers, but the world learned exactly what the Hannibal Directive looks like in Rafah. Almost immediately, the town was blanketed in indiscriminate air and artillery strikes. A brigade commander on the ground was recorded yelling into his field radio: ‘Stop the shooting! You’re shooting like retards! You’ll kill one another!’ He didn’t seem to understand that that was the point. Hadar Goldin’s body was never found, but it’s assumed that he died in the bombardment. So did 190 Palestinians.
The Israeli army claims that it operates on a principle of the utmost respect for human life, and does everything possible to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. If, for the sake of argument, we take them at their word here, the picture it reveals is horrifying: Israel loves and cherishes the Palestinians, it will do anything to protect them, but at the same time it’s willing to sacrifice hundreds of Palestinian lives in the hopes of killing just one Jew.
Imagine if any other country operated like this. There’s a word for this kind of behaviour: it’s antisemitism.
This isn’t a facetious point: there’s something very strange about the way the official mouthpieces of the zionist project behave towards the figure of the Jew as such. There’s a constantly repeated line, that anti-zionism is just a veiled form of antisemitism – but if you look at it closely, it becomes something highly unpleasant: if an insult to Israel is an insult to all Jews, then it follows that we’re all united, borg-like, behind the Jewish state, and that we’re all complicit in whatever it does. If this position were articulated by a Gentile, we’d rightfully accuse them of antisemitism. But this is how Israel expects us to behave. Why do they get away with it? Netanyahu describes himself as the leader of the Jewish people, empowered to speak on my behalf. The Jewish people have been around far longer than Benjamin Netanyahu, or the State of Israel for that matter. I never asked for him. Whenever Jews are attacked somewhere else in the world, some Israeli minister commands us all to flee to historic Palestine and shelter under his nuclear umbrella: the dream of state zionism is of a Europe without any Jews. Did they dream it themselves?
What does it mean to be a Jew? Over the centuries, Jews in every corner of the world have led any number of different modes of life; there’s very little to unite the Jewish experience beyond the Tanakh (some Jewish communities split before the composition of the Talmud) and the fact of being in exile. From Sinai to Babylon to Persia to Brooklyn, we’ve spent far more of our history pining after the Land of Israel than actually living in it. Throughout, this loss has been felt as a critical gap between how things are and how things ought to be, a recognition that things have gone wrong; this is why Jewish thought has always tended towards the Utopian. This is why Jews practice circumcision: there’s something missing. This is why the Torah begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, beit, a square missing one of its sides. This is why Kabbalah envisages a God that isn’t almighty and all-powerful, but fractured, broken and weak, a God that must be repaired. This is why Jews are commanded to dedicate themselves to tikkum olam, the healing of the earth. Throughout Jewish history, there’s been the vision of a better world, a Messianic return to Zion: it’s what animated Jesus Christ, Baruch Spinoza, and Karl Marx. For almost all of this period, the idea that the Messianic gap could be closed by simply sending thousands of armed men to the Levant to boot out the existing inhabitants and set up a Jewish state would have not just been premature, but ridiculous.
At the same time, Jewish thought – in Europe at least – has consistently veered towards universalism: the resolution of differences and the global confraternity of all humankind. (Again, see Christ, Spinoza, and Marx.) In the Tanakh, the Jews are forever backsliding; they’re perversely eager to worship any old object as long as it’s not the God of their forefathers. The idea of a separate Jewish identity in Europe has always been more of a European fixation than a Jewish one. For Europe, its Jews were a constitutive other; Christendom could define itself (and unite itself) as that which was not Saracen, not Indian, and not Jewish. (The situation was slightly different in the United States, in which the role of the internal other was largely imposed on the Black population.) European Jews served an important sacrificial function, acting as a collective pharmakos: in times of crisis, they would be exiled or massacred, a mass catharsis restoring the metaphysical separation between within and without. This is why, despite the fervent Christian hope for a grand conversion of the Jews, actual Jewish converts were treated with such suspicion: Conversos and their descendants were a primary target of the Spanish Inquisition; secular, integrated Jews were often the first to be slaughtered in the Nazi genocides. Behind the violence there’s a desperate thirst for identity: the antisemite needs to Jew to constitute himself; Europe is not Europe without its Jews.
Jews have lived on every continent, for hundreds of years, but zionism arose in 19th-century Europe. This is because zionism is not, in terms of its ideological content, a particularly Jewish project, but a European one. This was a period when national groups within the great multi-ethnic empires – Russia, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman caliphate – were increasingly agitating for self-determination along strict ethnic lines, while at the same time other European states were brutally capturing and colonising areas of land elsewhere on the globe. Early zionism, with its demand for a Jewish national homeland outside of Europe, wasn’t much more than a combination of these two tendencies. Zionism was simultaneously a hypostatisation of Jewish difference, and assimilation by other means. The Jews would finally become just like any other respectable European people: we would colonise like them, ethnically cleanse like them, and set up a perfect imitation of the despotic European ethnic state in the Middle East. This is how we got to where we are today, with Jews messing around with tank battalions, repressive state infrastructures, the systematic dispossession of a colonised population, and other such fundamentally goyische inventions.
This dangerous shift in Jewish identity would not be possible without some kind of violence. Early zionism was fixated on the idea of a ‘New Jew': while Jews in the diaspora were sedentary, spiritual, intellectual, and the objects of state violence, the New Jew would be an active, tanned, muscular agricultural fascist, the subject of state violence, a creature virtually indistinguishable from the porcine Gentile peasants who had so brutally suppressed the Jews over the centuries. The birth of this figure required the erasure of all Jewish history up until its creation. The past would be prologue, a brief coda between the Kingdom and the State of Israel, expressible only as that period in which the Jews allowed themselves to suffer. Diaspora could only ever mean suffering; the Jew in exile – in other words, the Jew as such – became an object of near-pathological loathing. Every antisemitic slander was repeated: the Jews really were weak, ugly, etiolated, usurious; the goal of zionism was to put a spade in one hand, a rifle in the other, and turn them into something else. With bullets and bloodshed they would get rid of the cringing Jews of the past: it was an article of faith among those zionist pioneers that, before long, all Jews would become the New Jew.
Of course, this was impossible. The problem was that, alone among the European settler-colonial projects, the Jewish state was a colony without a metropole. Unlike any other imperialist outpost of the 19th century, it didn’t have any mother country to support its wars against the natives. And when the zionist project first emerged, the attitude of a great many Jewish populations – especially those Jews already living in Palestine – was one of total hostility. Zionism had to effect a dual colonialism: it had to seize, with violence, the land of Palestine, while also seizing the Jewish diaspora. It goes without saying that there can be no equivalence between the two: the Palestinians have suffered immensely, from bombs and missiles to house demolitions to the everyday indignities of living under occupation, while the diaspora Jews have been given free holidays. But the colonisation of the diaspora Jews has been total. Despite the fact that many Jews outside Israel are deeply ambivalent about the entire project, every major mainstream Jewish body is explicitly zionist. In Britain, every Jewish youth movement tries to instil zionist values, every Jewish newspaper assumes a zionist readership, every university Jsoc agitates against the boycott movement. The Board of Deputies of British Jews coughs up the Israeli line on any given issue, the synagogues plant JNF pine trees to poison the soil of Palestinian farmers to mark barmitzvahs. The idea that any facet of organised Jewish life might be entirely indifferent to the State of Israel is now absurd. Israel spends millions providing young Jews from around the world with subsidised Birthright tours of the country, to emphasise the deep and organic connection between the Jewish people and the Holy Land. But if this connection really were so deep and so organic, why would this vast ideological operation even be necessary?
The Israeli state doesn’t regard diaspora Jewry as its progenitor, or as a community in which it is embedded; it sees us as a colonised population under its command. Our leaders are its hostages. Our institutions are its instruments. It imposes its taxes: we have to give to the JNF, volunteer in its army or on its kibbutzim, sign its petitions, share its propaganda. We have to dive gleefully into the supermarkets and fill our trolleys with houmous to break the boycott. We have to suffer, out here in the desert, trapped with a strange people, so that it can have its reason to exist. We are unable to speak, and so the state of Israel will speak for us: it knows what we want better than we do ourselves, and what we want is war. Jews in the English-speaking world are commanded to buy holiday homes in Eilat; Jews in Continental Europe are commanded to pack up their belongings, abandon their homes and identities, and become Israelis. (The Hebrew word for migration to Israel, aliyah, has echoes of the German Aufheben: to go up, but also to cancel out.) When Jews refuse to submit, when we break ranks to speak out against Israeli atrocities or the mad, antiquated idea of zionism, there’s the terror of a slave revolt; the fury that rises against an anti-zionist Jew is far more terrible than that which faces any ordinary Gentile antisemite. Israel barfs the history and diversity of the Jewish people in the face of the world, all sparkles and tapestries, but when we’re alone together it grabs us close by the lapels and hisses through bloodstained teeth: know your place.
If being a Jew isn’t just about kvetching and chicken soup, if it means living with the ambivalence of otherness and the hope for Utopian justice, then Israel is not a Jewish state. The idea of a Jewish state is, once stated, already contradictory and meaningless. In practice, it’s a monster. A state that tries to erase Jewish history, Jewish subjectivity, and Jewish life is not something that has anything to do with any Judaism I recognise. There’s a word for this kind of behaviour. It’s antisemitism.