Richard Landes: Anti-Zionism: 21st Century Avatar of the Longest Hatred
The supersessionism among progressives rests on a morally sadistic ‘secular’ replacement narrative: Israel has replaced the Nazis while the Palestinians have replaced the Holocaust-era Jews. As pleasing an historical irony as such moral inversions may seem to Nobel Prize winners, it would be dangerous to mistake it for the reality on the ground, where Israel does everything it can to avoid behaving like Nazis, while some of its enemies openly admire Nazis.
This replacement narrative offers not only freedom from Holocaust guilt; it also offers moral elevation, the chance to tower over Israel and judge her harshly. ‘Israel has lost all moral high ground,’ pronounced UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen in response to the Jenin ‘massacre,’ when in fact, he was looking at the lowest score for civilian casualty ratios in the history of urban warfare. Deep moral disorientation ensues: a mainstream news commentator claims that the picture of 12-year-old Muhammad al Durah, caught in a crossfire, ‘symbolically replaces, erases the image of the boy in the Warsaw Ghetto.’
From these heights, European moral superpowers like Sweden, and individuals like Jostein Gaarder, sit in judgment on Israel, despising these sovereign Jews, feeding their supersessionist fantasies at the price of becoming untethered from reality. It is a small step to transforming Holocaust Commemorations into platforms for attacking Israel as the new genocidal force on the planet.
The megaphone effect
‘Leftist’ anti-Zionism has allowed internet-empowered Jihadis to spread their memes and icons of hatred the world over. Activist journalists, post-colonial scholars, feminists, ASHamed Jews, NGO activists, all reaffirm and reinforce the narrative: Blame Israel; exculpate the Palestinian ‘resistance’; conversely do not exculpate Israel and do not blame Jihadi extremism. Indeed, the more sincere the Western anti-Zionism, the better is the cover under which the hatreds spread. Progressives introduce the campus to virulent ‘human-rights’ anti-Zionism and mobilise the ensuing indignation to make Israel an international pariah.
It is common wisdom on today’s global progressive left to consider anti-Zionism as unrelated to anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia as the new anti-Semitism. The evidence presented at the Bloomington conference suggested that this is a serious misreading. In the 21st century anti–Zionism plays, mutatis mutandis, the role that anti-Semitism played in early 20th century Europe. The papers delivered at Bloomington made clear that in this current climate, being a vocal anti-Zionist, laboring to see the global humiliation or elimination of Israel, means you put wind in the sails of real-live exterminationist Jew-haters, with people who harbor paranoid, genocidal fantasies. When Leftists chant ‘We are all Hezbollah, Now!’ or ‘Muqtada al Sadr – Anti-Imperialist Solidarity!’ they encourage and empower the real 21st century avatars of the Nazi delirium, namely the triumphalist Jihadis.
It wouldn’t be the DNC convention without an anti-Israel theme. And, in tune with the theme, it’s thinly disguised as positivity.
The Democratic convention audience erupted in cheers Thursday night when the Rev. William Barber II urged them to love Jews and Palestinians equally.
“When we love the Jewish child and the Palestinian child … we are reviving the heart of our democracy,” said Barber, who is also the president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.
“Jesus, a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew, called us to preach good news to the poor, the broken and the bruised and all those who are made to feel unaccepted,” he said.
Barber denied the historical existence of Israel in typical PLO propaganda fashion. Jesus was not a Palestinian. He was a Judean.
Palestine was a Roman colonialist term and the term Palestine has no reference and no relevance to the current Muslim settlers and colonialists who call themselves “Palestinians”. (h/t dabney)
The Republican Jewish Coalition released an ad Friday charging that the Democratic Party of today is hardly the one of old when it comes to support for Israel.
Citing the Washington Free Beacon report that Rep. Hank Johnson (D., Ga.), a Hillary Clinton superdelegate, called Jewish settlers “termites” before an anti-Israeli group, the narrator said “anti-Israeli Democrats are on full display at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.” Johnson offered up a half-hearted apology for the comment, calling it a “poor choice of words.”
While Democrats waved the Palestinian flag at the convention, the Israeli flag was burned outside the arena while onlookers chanted in support of the intifada. The Clinton campaign condemned the burning.
However, the ad featured other activists around the convention in Philadelphia speaking out against Israel, including one woman who said the U.S. was acting like a “terrorist” by giving money to Israel and another making the oft-repeated slur against Israel as an “apartheid” state.
Secretary of State John Kerry used this slur in 2014, remarking his concern that Israel could become an apartheid state if a two-state solution was not reached soon.
“Radical Democrats. Stridently anti-Israel,” the narrator said. “Sadly, this isn’t the old Democratic Party. It’s today’s Democratic Party.”
Alan Dershowitz: An advocate for genocide against Jewish ‘babies’ and ‘old ladies’
The president of Black Lawyers for Justice, Malik Zulu Shabazz, has called for genocide against the Jews of Israel: “Kill every goddamn Zionist in Israel! Goddamn little babies, goddamn old ladies? Blow up Zionist supermarkets.”
Nor has he limited his hateful vitriol to Zionists. He had blamed Jews for blowing up the World Trade Center: “They got their people out.” He has accused the Jews of “[k]illing Christ,” and said that “God condemns you.” He has said that “Jews” set up the death of Martin Luther King Jr. He blames “[t]he Jewish rabbis” and “the Talmud” for “the African holocaust.” He has said that “the European Jews have America under control, lock stock and barrel, the media, foreign policy.” He introduced a fellow anti-Semite named Khalid Abdul Muhammad, a man “who make the Jews pee in their pants.” He has railed against “the white, Jewish, Zionist onslaught” and has demanded that “[a]ll Jewish people and all white people… stop pushing your Holocaust down my throat.” He has led a Hitler-like question and answer chant at Howard University in which he asked the assembled crowd, who committed crimes against the Black people? Who controls the Federal Reserve? Hollywood and other institutions? After each question, he elicited the response: “Jews! Jews!” He has demanded that Jews and Zionists be “shut down” and have “no right to open [their] mouth anywhere on the planet.”
This bigoted inciter of genocide is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia, despite having been disciplined by that bar for numerous acts of unprofessional conduct, including “failing to provide competent representation” to clients, “failing to safe-keep his client’s property” and “knowingly assisting another to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.”
In a recent article titled, “Amid Push to Curb Police Abuse, Some Act on Fringe,” The New York Times quoted Shabazz’s call to kill all Zionists in Israel, including their “old ladies” and “little babies,” but the reporters failed to properly identify Shabazz.
The Berlin-based Amadeu Antonio Foundation, an organization devoted to combating anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia, wrote a detailed expert opinion in 2015 on the HAWK seminar.
According to the report’s findings, which was authored by Jan Riebe, the seminar is not about “ the social situation of young people in the Palestinian territories. It serves to demonize Israel. “
Riebe said the seminar aims to convey that Israel could be construed in the same way as National Socialism, as well as the former apartheid regime in South Africa. Riebe wrote the course material propagates “old and new anti-Semitic resentments” and a historical picture that is hostile to Israel. He described the syllabus material as “non-academic.”
The Associate Dean of the Los Angeles-based human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, told the Post on Thursday: “Genocidal Jew-hatred and racist ideology were incubated, validated, and promoted by German universities from the earliest days of the Third Reich.”
Cooper added, “In 2016, this despicable, extreme anti-Semitism and anti-Israel canard masquerading as a ‘course’ should be denounced by leaders of German academic and Medical circles.
Further, no German taxpayer funds should be used to promote the blood libel.”
The complaints of Seidler, the German Jewish academic who refused to teach the seminar, were rebuffed by Christa Paulini, the dean of the social work department, in 2015. Paulini told Seidler that she reacted in a ”personally sensitive” way to the seminar material.
Harry Fletcher, who has been a key aide in Jeremy Corbyn’s office for the last year, has blasted the leader’s team for their failings on anti-Semitism. Fletcher tells the Jewish Chronicle that Corbyn has a “reluctance” to speak with the Jewish community, suggests there could be a “deliberate refusal to engage with Jewish issues”, and says Jez has a “deep-seated problem” with Israel. Fletcher also made a barely veiled dig at a certain key member of Jezza’s team:
“there’s certainly a view held by some people within his office that the state of Israel should never have been created. It’s very difficult, if that’s what you believe, to accept any dialogue.”
As you can see in the video above, Seumas Milne is on the record saying the founding of Israel is a crime. Well Corbynistas, is Harry Fletcher a Zionist stooge too?
Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination for president at the close of the party’s convention on Thursday, becoming the first woman nominee of a major political party. She blasted Republican rival Donald Trump for fear-mongering, pledged to keep Israel safe and vowed to be a president for “all Americans,” whether they voted for her or not.
Clinton said she accepted the nomination with “humility, determination and boundless confidence in America’s promise.
“Keeping our nation safe and honoring the people who do that work will be my highest priority,” she maintained. “For the struggling, the striving and the successful. For those who vote for me and those who don’t. For all Americans.”
She also underlined the “milestone” in becoming the first female nominee.
“When any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone,” she continued. “When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”
The Democratic nominee said she was “proud” of the Iranian nuclear deal clinched between world powers and the Islamic Republic last year, and urged continued US support for Israel’s security.
“I’m proud that we put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot — now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel’s security,” she stated.
A Democratic lawmaker scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday evening has come out against U.S. funding for critical Israeli security needs, sparking criticism about her commitment to joint U.S.-Israeli efforts to fight terrorists.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.), a House Armed Services Committee member and Hillary Clinton ally, told observers that U.S. funding for Israel’s missile defense systems is not the “best solution.”
Duckworth’s criticism of longstanding U.S. funding for Israeli security needs drew criticism from pro-Israel congressional advocates who have sought for years to ensure the Jewish state can defend against attacks by rogue terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
The comments come as criticism of Israel has emerged as a centerpiece of the Democratic convention. One lawmaker compared Jewish Israeli settlers to “termites” earlier this week, and protesters on the streets of Philadelphia have burned the Israeli flag.
“Oftentimes the best path to a security is peace,” Duckworth said at an event sponsored by J Street, a Middle East advocacy group known for its criticism of Israel. “Sometimes the best solution is not more weapons; sometimes the best solution is actually entering negotiations and find a way to work together in peace.”
The following video took place outside the DNC. In it, an Israel supporter exchanges words with an anti-Zionist-not-antisemite.
The Israel supporter mocks the idea that Jews own the world, something the anti-Zionist-not-antisemite really believes.
Watch as the anti-Zionist-not-antisemite lets the mask slip, before the video shows the Neturei Karta nuts attacking Israel, with the same anti-Zionist-not-antisemite standing in front of them sprouting his Jew hatred. They seem fine with his presence and words, while he no doubt does not mind these Jews on his side since he can them claim some his best friends are Jewish.
Indeed, the kind of anti-Israel vitriol spewed on the internet and chanted at rallies is unmistakably defamatory. And though extreme right-wingers are guilty of it, it is the Left that has given it a cloak of legitimacy and intellectual respectability.
This marriage made in hell is producing the satanic progeny that, if not kept in check, will destroy the very fabric of the free society that has enabled it to rear its ugly head and thrive.
“Antisemitism is a kind of barometer to Jews and to nations, both of what is wrong — because it is often a symptom of major pathologies in a given society — and a warning signal of catastrophes to come,” Wistrich said.
The “canary in the coal mine” metaphor could not be more apt today. It is worthy of note in this context that American flags were torched alongside Israeli ones at the DNC in Philadelphia this week.
In 2007, Wistrich explained that, for historical reasons, “antisemitism has been much less of a political force in the US than in Europe.” America, he asserted, “is exceptional; it’s an immigrant society in which there’s no established state religion.”
Though acknowledging that the US had periods of “outspoken antisemitism in the 1930s and 1940s,” he said things “improved dramatically in the 1960s — the beginning of the Golden Age of American Jewry.”
Are we witnessing the tarnishing or even demise of that age? Let us hope, for the world’s sake, that the answer is no.
Restrictions on Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard’s movement should be rescinded in order to allow him to reintegrate into American society, Washington Institute for Near East Policy counselor Dennis Ross wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama last week.
Ross, who was an adviser to Obama, came out against Pollard’s parole conditions, which require him to remain in his New York home from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., be monitored by a heavy GPS wrist-device on Shabbat and holidays, and submit his computers to monitoring, which has prevented him from being employed.
Among the reasons cited by the US parole commission for the restrictions are that Pollard still poses a security risk, 31 years after his November 1985 arrest, because he could still remember documents he saw back then. Ross mocked that possibility.
“If after 31 years, he is still considered an intelligence risk, then there is something profoundly wrong with the way we conduct and operationalize our intelligence,” Ross wrote.
Ross stressed that Pollard committed a crime and he had no sympathy for what he did. He noted that in the four administrations in which he served, Pollard’s case was reviewed and the intelligence community opposed his release.
On July 18 Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed publicly told a group affiliated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that his city would continue to allow the Atlanta Police Department (APD) to be trained by the Israel Police in spite of the group’s demands to cease the training relationship due to their treatment of the Palestinians.
The decision by Reed comes amid nationwide protests and counter protests over police treatment of minority groups. Despite this heated environment, criminal justice experts and organizers behind US police exchange programs with Israel believe that these claims by BLM groups are unsubstantiated, and that it is vital to maintain cooperation with countries like Israel at a time when police officers face dealing with an increasing number of terrorism incidents.
“I happen to believe that the Israeli police department has some of the best counter-terrorism techniques in the world and it benefits our police department from that long-standing relationship,” Reed said after the ALTisReady group demanded a “termination to APD’s involvement in the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program that trains our officers in Apartheid Israel.”
ALTisReady is only one example of a BLM activist group criticizing US police departments for getting training by Israeli police officers over the unsubstantiated claim that US police departments would learn how to kill black youth in the same way Israeli police officers kill Palestinians.
A major British Jewish student group blasted the head of the country’s largest student union for falsely claiming to have backtracked on what they consider an offensive decision, the UK’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday, just as an incriminating video in which she is featured surfaced.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) called out National Union of Students (NUS) President Malia Bouattia for alleging that Jews will, in fact, be able to select a representative to a prominent anti-racism committee — after she had voted against their being able to do so.
In a newly surfaced video which was filmed earlier this year, Bouattia is seen praising anti-Israel activists in Gaza and voicing her commitment to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
According to reporting by Heat Street on Thursday, Bouattia was addressing the Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI), which is “tied to anti-Israel figures who have supported violent struggle” against the Jewish state.
In the minute-long video, Bouattia says she “draws strength from their resistance” and is working hard in her role at NUS to “extend solidarity by passing BDS policy in our unions.”
The publisher of Israel’s leading liberal newspaper responded to the question of whether his country is “evil” by declaring, “the answer is definitely (and sadly) a resounding yes.”
Amos Schocken, the longtime publisher of Haaretz, Israel’s leading liberal daily and a popular news source for international journalists, diplomats, and anti-Israel activists, made the statement on Twitter. Schocken said he makes the judgment based on “Israel’s treatment of the refuge seekers,” a reference to waves of illegal immigration from Africa that were stopped by the construction of a fence along Israel’s border with Egypt.
The question of whether Israel is an evil country was raised by Schocken’s paper, in an article headlined, “Is Israel An Evil Country?” Schocken’s statement on Twitter was made in response to several Israeli reporters who criticized the article.
Schocken raised eyebrows in 2013 when he praised Palestinians who had just murdered a four-year-old Israeli girl by throwing rocks at the car she was riding in. “Sometimes, you have to fight violence with violence,” he commented.
Thomas Erdbrink is the New York Times Bureau Chief in Iran. A Dutch citizen, he has lived in Iran for more than 10 years, and the Times affectionately describes him as “our man in Tehran.” However, the paper should urgently rethink that nickname now that Mr. Erdbrink is using his status to promote anti-Israel extremism on mainstream Dutch TV.
This year, Erdbrink received the honor of hosting Zomergasten (Summer Guests) — one of the most prominent Dutch TV series. It’s a feel-good format show of six episodes that features a famous guest on each.
But after the program already confirmed the Dutch prime minister and four other well-known celebrities as this year’s guests, Mr. Erdbrink shockingly announced that he wanted to invite Lebanese-Belgian extremist (and self-declared Hezbollah member) Dyab Abou Jahjah to be the first guest on the show this Sunday.
Abou Jahjah founded an organization that was convicted of Holocaust denial; he called the 9/11 attacks “sweet revenge;” and he’s said Europe made “the cult of the Holocaust and Jew-worshiping its alternative religion.” He is banned in the UK, and deemed so radical that even Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was forced to denounce any connection to him late last year.
National Public Radio’s Emily Harris closed a three-year stint reporting from Jerusalem on Israeli-Arab news in a discussion with “All Things Considered” host Kelly McEvers July 26, 2016. Maybe NPR didn’t give Harris enough airtime. In any case, the result, “Middle East: Reflecting on Three Years in Jerusalem,” was deeply superficial. And, as with so much of the network’s coverage and commentary on Israel-related topics, misleading.
In response, one CAMERA member e-mailed the following letter to NPR journalists and Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen. The text of the letter as sent appears below in roman type, ex post facto additions by CAMERA staff in italics:
Dear All Things Considered:
Tuesday’s program had Emily Harris wrapping up her three years in Jerusalem, and her overall view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As always, there is the refusal to even hint at the elephant in the room. Not once did she mention the real core issue in the conflict—namely Palestinian refusal to accept a permanent Israel of any size and behind any boundaries.
A 50-year-old Connecticut man has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he made threats against Jews and synagogues on an internet forum for heavy metal music fans.
Prosecutors say Kendall Sullivan posted messages on Metalthrone.net in May, June and this month threatening to “slaughter” Jews and “burn their Synagogue to the ground.”
Investigators say they got a search warrant for Sullivan’s Stamford home and found more than two dozen firearms, gun parts, high-capacity magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Patricia Ferrick, the agent in charge of the FBI’s New Haven division, says she believes authorities may have thwarted “a horrific hate crime.”
CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, complained to the ministry about the teacher earlier this week, according to a report Thursday in the group’s newsletter.
It did not name the female teacher in question but said she teaches at the prestigious Janson-de-Sailly school, a post high-school preparatory course, and that she invited the course’s students to follow her Facebook page.
The CRIF report was based on original reporting by the Le Canard Enchainé, a satirical weekly, which, alongside cartoons and satirical articles, also features investigative journalism items and news.
On the teacher’s Facebook page, she wrote, according to Le Canard Enchainé, against “the American Jewish lobby” that she said supports Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. She also wrote that French President Francois Hollande “is a Jew who benefited from his belonging to that community to ascend in politics and who now denies this,” pretending to have a ‘Catholic’ father on Wikipedia. Hollande “is Jewish and denies it. Backpedaling will begin all over, now that it is less beneficial for Jewry,” the teacher also wrote, according to the CRIF newsletter.
On the Holocaust, she wrote: “The Shoah was designed and organized by Jews.”
James Schamus remembers the block he faced while writing the screenplay for Ang Lee’s 1994 film “Eat Drink Man Woman.” Creating the right voices for the film’s Taiwanese characters was not going well “and Ang Lee was getting very nervous.”
In a desperate effort to turn the script around, Schamus, who is Jewish, decided he would “just make them all Jewish in my mind,” changing the names to Jewish ones during the writing and then changing them back to Chinese names afterward. The technique succeeded; the result was a modern cinematic classic.
That capacity to bridge cultural differences while working within one’s own idiom is evident in “Indignation,” Schamus’ adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2008 novel. The film traces the effects of subtle institutional anti-Semitism on a “nice Jewish boy” and stellar student from New Jersey attending a conservative, Christian-influenced college in the Midwest in 1951. In his directorial debut, the veteran screenwriter and producer (“The Ice Storm,” “Brokeback Mountain”) manages to remain empathetic to all his characters, even the most seemingly anti-Semitic one.
“Indignation,” which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January, arrives in theaters July 29.
Roth’s novel is set toward the end of the Korean War. Marcus Messner, 19, a bright Jewish kid from Newark, flees his neurotically controlling father, a kosher butcher, by transferring from a local college to the fictional Winesburg College in Ohio. (Despite not being explicitly autobiographical, “Indignation” draws from Roth’s parallel experience transferring as a sophomore to Bucknell College in Pennsylvania from the Newark campus of Rutgers University.)
Though serious and studious, Marcus finds himself in a strange land. Obligated with other students to attend chapel regularly, he is newly constrained and cornered by completely different forces than those that forced him out of Newark.
Hunched on a bench near the gate to the Auschwitz death camp site in Poland, Pope Francis prayed silently on Friday in tribute to 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, gassed there by Nazi occupiers during World War Two.
Marking the third day of his trip to Poland for an international gathering of Catholic youth, Francis spent a few minutes speaking quietly and exchanging gifts with about 12 Auschwitz survivors, including a 101-year-old woman.
One of the male survivors gave the pope a picture of himself surrounded by other inmates in a bunk, and asked Francis to sign it. The sombre-looking pope kissed each survivor.
The Argentine-born pontiff, 79, made no statement as he proceeded to walk through the barely-lit corridors of the drab, brick building of Auschwitz Block 11 which had housed prisoners selected for special punishment.
Before his trip, Francis said he had decided that silence in prayer was the best way to pay tribute to those who died.
With aides using small flashlights to light his way, Francis visited the underground cell where Franciscan monk Maksymilian Kolbe was killed after offering his life to save a Polish man whom camp handlers had picked to die of starvation.
In Auschwitz’s commemorative book, Francis wrote in Spanish: “Lord, have mercy on your people. Lord, forgiveness for so much cruelty”.
Pope Francis walked alone through the notorious wrought-iron “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work makes you free”) gates at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Friday, at the start of a historic visit to the former Nazi death camp.
His head bowed, the pope prayed in silent contemplation before meeting Holocaust survivors in front of the infamous Auschwitz Death Wall, where inmates, chiefly Polish resistance fighters, were executed. He shook survivors’ hands, kissed them on the cheeks and stroked the heads of some.
Among those he met was Helena Dunicz Niwinska, a 101-year-old woman who played the violin in the Auschwitz orchestra, as well as survivors who worked at the camp hospital or who were there as children.
One woman kissed his hand. He also took time to exchange a few words with the survivors, although what they said was not audible.
Some of the survivors made Francis offerings that were linked to their suffering. One held a copy of a black-and-white picture, indicating he was in it.
On the eve of Pope Francis’s visit to Auschwitz, a US rabbi has called on him to remove a Catholic church from the premises of the Nazi death camp.
The letter sent from Rabbi Avi Weiss, national president of AMCHA-Coalition for Jewish Concerns, was first reported by The Algemeiner on Wednesday.
Francis arrived in Poland on Wednesday to participate in the church’s World Youth Day. He is scheduled to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau on Friday.
Weiss’s letter protesting the presence of the Parish Church of Brzezinka on the grounds of Auschwitz was sent to the pope through New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
In the letter, Weiss says the presence of the church at the former death camp site is a “clear violation” of a 1987 agreement between Roman Catholic cardinals and Jewish leaders, which he says “stipulates in clear language that ‘there will be no permanent Catholic place of worship on the site of the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.’”
Pope Francis paid a somber visit in silence to the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau on Friday where he heard harrowing accounts from survivors and rescuers, in a private meeting organized by Poland’s chief rabbi.
Former prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland were embraced by the Argentine pontiff Friday as he visited the concentration camp to pray for the 1.1 million people, most of them Jewish, who were murdered at the site during World War II.
Francis entered the camp on foot, walking slowly in his white robes beneath the notorious gate at Auschwitz that bears the cynical words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work sets you free).
Among the 11 survivors he met briefly was a woman in her mid-90s who helped deliver babies born to Auschwitz women; another, 101, played the violin in an orchestra the death camp.
Francis moved on to nearby Birkenau, a sprawling complex where people were murdered in factory-like fashion in its gas chambers. There he greeted 25 Holocaust rescuers, including a woman who as a child helped her mother smuggle in bread in their handbags to Jews forced by Nazi occupiers to stay in Warsaw’s ghetto.
Altogether, it was a deeply contemplative and private visit of nearly two hours that Francis passed in total silence, except for a few words he exchanged with the survivors and rescuers.
Since I wrote my first blog for The Times of Israel, many have wondered how a Muslim like me came to be a Zionist. Like many Muslims, I started out being very anti-Israel. A few years ago, I would have fully supported BDS, Students for Justice in Palestine, and even the Intifada. I saw Israel as evil. All I heard about Israel was bad – Israel was an apartheid state, Israel was slaughtering children left and right, Israel had no right to exist. Zionism was racism. My undergraduate university taught us that Hamas was an “interest group,” not a terrorist group. Everyone that I knew hated Israel. That is, until last year, when I learned the truth.
In 2015, I became more devout and dedicated to my Muslim faith. I started praying every day and strived to live by the principles of Islam. So imagine my surprise when one day I woke up with an urgent yearning in my chest to learn about Judaism. In what I can only describe as the Will of God, I was drawn to the Jewish faith. My relatives are Jewish, and I grew up with many Jewish friends, but it was not until then that I finally opened my heart to Judaism.
I began to research Judaism and talk to my Jewish friends and family. I learned that my aunt and uncle met in Israel, after my aunt’s family fled Russia due to anti-Semitism. I learned that many of my friends had been shaped by their Jewish identity. A rabbi gave me a book of Hasidic prayers, and I was shocked to see the similarities with my own Muslim prayers. I began to realize that so much of the person I had grown up to be was because of Jewish role models. But I was still anti-Israel, because I avoided honest research about Israel. I thought that I already understood the situation. I could not have been more wrong.
It is by accident that I started to learn about Israel. It occurred in my senior year of university. I decided to gain access to the Kosher Kitchen at the university’s Hillel because most Kosher food is Halal. Instead, I accidentally signed up to join the Hillel Israel Committee. I did not have the heart to tell the Israel Fellow “no,” so I went to meetings, begrudgingly at first. As time went on, I realized that most of what I had learned about Israel was anti-Semitic propaganda. Israel was a country just struggling to keep her people safe. It was not an Evil Oppressor like I had been told all my life. The Hillel became a place where I could be happy and safe, and an environment in which I could grow in my understanding of Israel and Judaism. I attended Shabbat dinners each Friday before my evening mosque services. I started planning events and programming with the Israel Committee.
We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.