January 18, 2020

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Take your Zionism Seriously


As my readers probably know, I don’t see a lot of difference between antisemitism and misoziony.* The difference is that the former focuses irrational hatred on the Jewish people as a group or as individuals, and the latter targets the state that is the concrete expression of their peoplehood.

Sometimes misoziony is called “the new antisemitism.” While Jew hatred never went away, it became unacceptable in polite discourse or institutional policy in Western countries shortly after WWII. But like the alien in the movie of the same name, it could not be constrained, and burst from the collective chest of Western society in the form of vicious and pathological hatred of Israel.

No, they don’t hate Jews, they insist. They are only “criticizing Israel” for allegedly denying the Palestinians their human rights. But they can’t explain why they only criticize Israel in a world where most humans do not have “human rights,” nor why their “criticism” morphs into incoherent hatred, often using memes that are familiar from historic antisemitism; nor why nothing less than the elimination of the world’s only Jewish state would be enough to satisfy them.

But now apparently the wheel has come full circle, and the ceaseless demonization of Israel is being turned around and used to justify the old-fashioned persecution of Jews, even Jews that do not live in Israel and have nothing to do with her besides being Jewish.

Last week a Jewish writer named Richard Zimler told the Guardian that two organizations in the UK that had previously hosted events with him promoting his books would not do so again because he was Jewish. Zimler has no direct connection to Israel, although his latest book is about events that happened in the Holy Land – some 2,000 years ago. His other books are set in Portugal and Poland.

Apparently the organizations, in Zimler’s words, “feared a backlash – protests by their members and others – if they extended an invitation to a Jewish writer.” He believes that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, plus the antisemitism of a significant part of the Labour Party are responsible for making Jewish writers like himself radioactive.

This is the sort of treatment that one associates with 1930s Germany, or the Arab world after 1948. But it is happening today, in the democratic UK. It is the way that a minority prepared to be sufficiently unpleasant, even violent, can coerce a neutral majority to cooperate in the persecution of a targeted group.

The situation in America is not exactly the same, but it is not entirely different, either. American Jews are caught between armed and murderous neo-Nazis, a “progressive” Left which is becoming progressively more anti-Jewish (especially on campuses), and a growing Muslim population which is seeded with Imams who preach violence against Jews.

During the 19th century, the insecurity of European Jews and the realization that the emancipation of Jews from various restrictions would not bring about their full acceptance into society or even protect them from pogroms, gave impetus to the Zionist movement. One premise of Zionism was that only in their own state would it be possible to provide security for the Jewish people (as well as enable their cultural and spiritual development). The truth of this is no longer debatable. It was clearly and horribly demonstrated before, during, and immediately after WWII.

Today, national and local authorities in the diaspora have not been especially effective in protecting Jews, although in most countries the governments are at least nominally opposed to antisemitism. That may change in the UK, if Jeremy Corbyn should come to power (although he will express formulaic opposition to antisemitism, his actions clearly belie his words).

No, of course I am not predicting a genocide. Not in Britain. But Jews could be marginalized, forced out of  important positions in culture and politics, punished economically. Many of them would find it in their best interests to leave. It’s happened over and over, throughout the world.

One hundred years ago, there were tens of thousands of Jews in Arab countries, millions in the former Russian Empire, flourishing Jewish populations in Germany, France, and England, and of course several million in the USA. Today there are practically zero in the Muslim world, and only vestigial populations in Russia and Eastern Europe. The few that are left in Germany keep a low profile due to antisemitism from Muslim migrants, and many French Jews have already fled for the same reason. The roughly 280,000 Jews of the UK have mostly held firm, but many are on the edge of their chairs as a result of the Corbyn phenomenon.

The number of Jews in the US has declined for the first time since 2000 (due to assimilation and low birthrate), both absolutely and as a percentage of the population, and the center of both Jewish population and culture has moved to Israel. Jews are still doing well in the US, but the writing is on the wall.

Zionism is a rational response to antisemitism and the best way to guarantee the survival of the Jewish people and their language, religion, and culture. Of course it is impossible for every Jew in the diaspora to pick up and go to Israel, for numerous reasons. But it is possible for every Jew to support the Jewish state, and also to prepare themselves – study Hebrew, and the history, geography, and politics of the state – for the possibility that one day they or their children will live in Israel.

There are many things a Jew living in the diaspora can do to fight antisemitism, like organizing for self-defense, that will make a difference to their situation. But there is only one way to secure the future of the Jewish people. Jabotinsky’s Betar youth groups in Eastern Europe took military training, but they also strove to get themselves and others to Eretz Yisrael.

Are you a Zionist? Then, like Betar, take your Zionism seriously.

* Misoziony (pronounced mis-OZ-yuh-nee) is extreme and irrational hatred of Israel.

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