Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Step in the Right Direction

One of the most disturbing phenomena of recent years is the virulent anti Semitism that has taken hold in academia. Many leftist professors, some of them Palestinian, some of them even Jewish, have come out with disgusting condemnations of the State of Israel’s policies.

This is the ‘blame Israel first’ type crowd that makes J-Street look like the Likud. They see only the Palestinian side of the issue. As such they characterize Israel as an ‘Apartheid State’ whose oppressive occupation tactics and treatment of Palestinians is compared to what the Nazis did to the Jews in the 3rd Reich!

They completely ignore Israel’s right to self preservation and its right to protect its people. They completely ignore the history of Arab hatred of the Jews that has increased as Israel’s population and successes have increased. They completely ignore the over 60 year (and running) history of promises by Israel’s neighbors to annihilate it. They completely ignore the rejection by Palestinian ‘moderates’ of an earnest attempt by the Israeli government at peace that would have addressed almost all Palestinian grievances. It was a rejection that ended up in a violent ‘2nd Intifada’. All they see is the Israeli as the Nazi!

Of course they will all deny that they are anti Semitic, They will use the new euphemism for that: Anti Zionist. And they will bolster that claim by pointing to Jews like Michael Lerner, Noam Chomsky, and Norman Finkelstein, and who share that opinion.

This has resulted in a generation of ill informed Jewish youth who go to these universities and become indoctrinated into thinking the same way. Add to this group some prominent Jewish entertainment industry people - some of whom are award winners - and you have a prescription for disaster. Not only for the Jewish State but for the Jewish people.

If this view is seen as becoming a predominant Jewish one - American policies toward Israel could in theory change and endanger its very existence. It wouldn’t take that much to disrupt the delicate edge Israel has over its enemies. There are so many ways that could happen. Israel has few friends in the world and it needs all the support it can get. Whether it be military, financial, or moral.

Which brings me to an article in the New York Times. This article is indicative that perhaps the pendulum is swinging back from the extreme left to the center. It appears that The City University of New York (CUNY) has withdrawn or shelved its offer to confer an honorary degree upon Jewish Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner (pictured above). The reason stated by one of the university’s trustees is as follows:

Mr. Wiesenfeld described viewpoints and comments, which he ascribed to Mr. Kushner, that he had found on the Web site of Norman Finkelstein, a political scientist and critic of Israel.

Mr. Wiesenfeld, an investment adviser and onetime aide to former Gov. George E. Pataki and former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, said that Mr. Kushner had tied the founding of Israel to a policy of ethnic cleansing, criticized the Israel Defense Forces and supported a boycott of Israel.

“I think it’s up to all of us to look at fairness and consider these things,” Mr. Wiesenfeld said. “Especially when the State of Israel, which is our sole democratic ally in the area, sits in the neighborhood which is almost universally dominated by administrations which are almost universally misogynist, antigay, anti-Christian.”

Of course Mr. Kushner rejected the notion that he is anti Israel and denies some of the accusations. He says he never supported a boycott and supports Israel’s right to exist. But to me that rings kind of hollow in light of quotes I’ve seen from him saying the Jewish people would be better off had Israel not been created.

In a vote of 11 to 1 Mr. Kushner’s name was removed from the slate of honorees. In light of the fact that since 1961 no honoree has ever been tabled - that speaks volumes about the integrity of this board. I salute their decision.

Meanwhile Mr. Kushner says he is ‘sickened and shocked’ by this. I say, ‘Good’! Let him be sickened and shocked by it - and try to understand why his views are so reprehensible.

This is not to say that Palestinians aren’t suffering. Only an idiot or a fool would deny that. Nor is it fair to say that Israel is entirely blameless. I’m sure there are things they could have done better. But to place the blame of their suffering solely on Israel and ignore the context is to ignore the true reason for their suffering. Doing so in effect makes you an anti Semite in my view. That Mr. Kushner is otherwise a Jew does not mitigate this fact. There are plenty of Jewish anti Semites in the world.

Not that he is actually a Jewish anti Semite. He claims to be a proud Jew. I’ve seen interviews of him where he said that and gave positive examples of what it means to him to be Jewish. But you can’t really be a proud Jew if you blame only Jews for the problems of Palestinians – seeing Palestinians themselves as blameless victims.

Israel’s very existence is on the line with every decision it makes. They take no joy in Palestinian suffering. One can criticize Israel. That is not the problem. Sometimes they deserve it. But if a country is constantly – throughout its existence - threatened with annihilation by its neighbors it must take precautions to protect itself.

In this case it causes hardships to portions of its indigenous population. But what is Israel supposed to do? Lessening their vigilance over security issues in order to lighten the load of Palestinians could be deadly. Mr. Kushner would do well to think long and hard about his positions with respect to the Jewish State and reconsider them. Israel has enough enemies. It doesn’t need any more. Especially Jewish ones.