Sunday, August 08, 2021

Of Useful Idiots and Jewish Antisemites

Peter Beinart (TOI)
It’s complicated. Antisemitism can be very hard to pinpoint. It is more than a matter of ‘I know it when I see it.’ That is mostly true when it is blatantly obvious. This is the case with neo Nazis or White Supremacist's. What is not always so obvious is when it is cast in terms of anti Zionism. Or when one’s sense of social justice comes into conflict with Jewish values.

 Much of antisemitism today is cast in terms of anti Zionism as a means of avoiding that accusation. Most of the time we can see right through that. But sometimes it’s really hard to know. Which is why it’s so complicated.

Sometimes one can make that distinction by the way anti Zionism is articulated. If for example when criticizing Israel the word Jews is used instead of Israelis, I think that exposes their true motives. Another ‘tell’ might be the articulating a goal of dismantling the Jewish state altogether -  in favor of some sort of secular democracy consisting of Jews and Palestinians that will be governed by majority rule.

That might sound fair but may be the most subtle form of antisemitism. Denying the right of the Jewish people to govern themselves will once again make us vulnerable to the whims of nations that govern over us. And we know how that ended about 70 years ago.  And this doesn’t even take into account the biblical basis for our claim to the land.

Rabbi Y.Y. Rubinstein has added another facet in defining who is considered an antisemite. One that is all too often overlooked because of the people guilty of it.  Jews. Yes, there is such a a thing as a Jewish antisemite.

Unfortunately this is becoming more of an issue these days. Why that is the case  is not rocket science. Pew research has made it abundantly obvious that most Jews in this country could not care less about their Judaism. That over 70% non orthodox Jews are intermarrying is a clear indicator of this. As is the fact that the vast majority of non Orthodox Jews have practically no Jewish education. 

This makes the idea of a Jewish state completely foreign to their mostly humanistic perspective. Who needs a Jewish state? Let’s all just get along as human beings without regard to the archaic ideas of a ancient book that is as irrelevant today as cassette tape recorder. They believe that pople are suffering because of religion because of its very nature – being prejudiced against non believers.

It’s not that these Jews are evil. It’s just that they are ignorant. This was most recently evidenced by Ben Greenfield and Jerry Cohen, founders of the ice cream company that bears their names. They have come out in full support if their former company’s boycott of Israel – not allowing their product to be sold anywhere in Israel beyond their 67 borders including the old city (East Jerusalem). 

 Are they antisemites? Not intentionally. But by virtue of their ignorance, I think you might be able to say they are unintentional antisemites.

What makes this even more painful to me is when an observant Jew is guilty of this kind of thinking. Because they ought to know better. And yet, not unexpectedly, Peter Beinart (who I believe is observant) has come out in support of Ben and Jerry’s. Which is in line with his advocacy of dismantling the Jewish State as we know it in favor of a bi-national democracy.

This all comes about because of good intentions. He sees a people (Palestinians) suffering under the ‘thumb of Jewish occupation’ and it hurts him. His views on this issue come from a good place. He wants to alleviate human suffering nd in the case of Palestinians, he sees us being responsible for it.  And completely dismisses any argument favoring a Jewish state as an inhumane solution to this problem

 Y.Y. Jacobson sees these people as useful idiots. I have to agree. 

A useful idiot is someone that buys into the argument of his opponents. They see the other side as more legitimate and join them in attacking the mainstream view. The opposition ees such people as useful idiots who will be abandoned like a hot potato once their mission is accomplished.  Which it this case is the destruction if Israel. 

Just because your heart is in the right place about desiring to alleviate the pain of others, does not make their solution right. I am not going to argue here about why he is so wrong. I have explained my views on why Israel should remain a Jewish state many times.  But if you are an Orthodox Jew and/or have relatives that were slaughtered in the Holocaust you already know why. 

There is no worse enemy to the Jewish people than a Jewish antisemite. That he means well is irrelevant. The antisemites of the world embrace such fools claiming that it shows that they are not really antisemites at all. Just anti Israel or anti liberal. I recall former Klansman David Duke claiming he had some Jews supporting for his candidacy for political office. Yes there were some Jews that were ‘useful idiots’ because they liked his conservative approach to government – if you can believe that! 

Not far behind the ‘Peter Bienarts’ of the world is an extremist group of observant Jews calling themselves Neturei Karta. These followers of the Satmar’s  rejection of the Jewish State go the extra mile and have done some truly outrageous things. Like praising Iran’s fanatic religious leaders for their view on Israel. They have also attended pro Palestinian – anti Israel rallies 

I want to be clear.  Jewish secular humanists (even observant ones like Beinart) believe they have the moral high ground. Their humanitarian concerns are legitimate. Their concerns come from a good place – alleviating human suffering.  They are not necessary evil.  Just woefully misguided. Making them unintentional Jewish antisemites and useful idiots. 

The same cannot be said for Neturei Karta. Humanitarian conrcerns have nothing to do with their antisemitism. What motivates them is a distorted view of how to respond to the existence of a Jewish state which they believe should not exist at this point in time. That may be one legitimate view of a Jewish State in our day. But that is not what makes them useful idiots. It is in how they deal with it that does. Making them the worst kind of Jewish antisemites and the most useful idiots of all.