Those who judge are not impartial
Alan KrinskyEver since the flotilla affair, I have been haunted, re-haunted, by the demonization of Israel, by the outrage so deeply felt and so freely expressed against Israel. Haunted by my powerlessness to end it, to overturn the absurd claims identifying Israel as the arch villain of the world, the poster child of human rights abusers, the worst of the worst in a world filled with so many examples of brutality. Haunted by my inability to persuade Elvis Costello to recant and play his music in Israel, to persuade the backers, especially the Jewish backers, of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to abort their misguided campaign.
And, of course, none of this is new. Every few months, it seems, some other pretext sets Israel as the object of demonization, and we experience a nightmare repeating itself.
I recently stumbled across a small, but explosive, volume in a used bookstore. The book’s author is the playwright David Mamet and its title is The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews.
Mamet offers something of an answer to what haunts me. And his answer is at once sad and sobering: The world always has and always will hate the Jews.
The playwright pulls no punches. There is no polite disclaimer that not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. Clearly, the demonization of Israel is. And I would suggest we not mistake demonization for criticism, and not let those engaged in demonization to claim the mantle of reasonable critics.
Mamet describes a striking image, showing how the depiction of Israeli soldiers and of Jews generally has become another blood libel, only this time the Jews are pictured as spilling blood for gratuitous pleasure instead of using the blood to make matzah.
The “basic humanity” of Israelis is denied. They do not defend themselves but rather “delight in” retaliation and reprisals. The playwright finds such characterizations of Israeli soldiers and their motives more disturbing than the misreporting of facts.
But what of the fact that criticism of Israel is so widespread? Mamet responds: “The indictments of Israel, in her life-and-death struggle, are unanswerable, as they are based upon a false assumption: That the uninvolved are somehow impartial.
“Can so many non-Jews be wrong?’ you ask, and I would suggest that you consider the Shoah, the rape victim, the schoolchildren killed at Columbine. Is it reasonable to ask of the victims of Columbine, ‘What did they and their parents do to bring this about?’
“Then you may not ask it of the Israeli bombing victims, and of their race and nation.”
What Mamet is demonstrating is that the worldwide denunciation of Israel, at the U.N., on college campuses, and elsewhere, is not evidence that Israel is a criminal nation. The judges are far from impartial. As Mamet reminds us, the world hates the Jews.
As someone trained in history, it is difficult for me to accept this notion, though it is not foreign from a theological perspective. Whatever the reason, however, it does seem to have been true century after century.
In brief, the world tolerated the Jews for a few decades, in the wake of the Shoah – Mamet sees this as an anomaly – but we now have a return to the dehumanization and demonization of the Jews. The flotilla affair has widely been characterized as bad public relations for Israel. As Mamet sharply states in a four-year-old Huffington Post essay, “The Jews are not the victims of bad public relations. They are the victims of anti-Semitism.”
Can the demonization of Israel be stopped? Mamet might view the task as impossible, but perhaps we ought, nevertheless, to try to end this haunting: To demonstrate again and again that criticism and demonization are not the same, and that the Jews and non-Jews pushing the BDS effort are engaged in the latter, not the former. That, though not perfect, Israel has not transformed Gaza into the worst place on earth, that Israel, unlike its neighbors, maintains a healthy democracy. That if Hamas were to have its way, Israel would cease to exist and its Jewish inhabitants would be massacred or driven out, made “Judenrein” one way or another, as most of the Arab nations have been.
And we need, I need, to repeat this message elsewhere, where there might not be as many readers who already agree with me.