Hebrew University Political Science professor Ira Sharkansky evaluates the latest happenings in Israel.
Fri,Dec 13,2013 10 Tevet 5774
There has been a flurry of items coming to my in-box describing the latest under the heading of anti-Semitism. It is, alas, a very long story, going back at least to the beginning of the Common Era. For those who aren't familiar with Jewish ways of recording the dates of the goyim, that's the year 0. The current wave grows out of the post-World War II and post-Holocaust era, when Christians renounced what they had been preaching for two millennia, and Muslims quickly picked up what Christians discarded after Israel's War of Independence.
Now we are in a period when--thanks largely to the Holocaust--the good people of the world are committed to protecting the weak. Palestinians have seized the opportunity to promote a narrative in which they have suffered at the hands of Israel, failing to mention they own contributions to what began long ago and continues. Their story glorifies "martyrs" who have died while bombing buses, schools, and coffee shops. It is a narrative that in some versions distinguishes Jews from Israelis, which allows self-designated humanists, including Jews, to claim the high ground of speaking for the down-trodden and damning Israel even while asserting the values expressed by the Hebrew Prophets and denying that they have a problem with Jews.
Pope Francis, like his predecessors, has reiterated the Church's debt to the Jews, and denounced anti-Semitism. He has met with President Peres, and expressed support for the peace process. Yet there are doubts in some quarters about his sentiments, and those of other other senior Church personnel about Israel.
"one of the grave dangers in the Vatican’s dialogue with Judaism is the Church’s attempt to drive a wedge between the ‘good’ and docile Jews of the Diaspora and the ‘bad’ and arrogant Jews of Israel, . . . Pope Francis has never addressed the Israelis in his messages, nor has he openly defended the Jewish State since he was elected by the College of Cardinals. It seems that there is no room for stubborn, faithful Zionists in the pope’s lenient smile. In his speeches, Jewish national aspirations are ignored, if not denigrated.”
". . . a letter the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops distributed recently in conjunction with the Catholic University of America . . . condemned the expansion of Israeli settlements. The letter argued that settlement expansion “is a primary source of human rights violations for Palestinians,” suggesting that Palestinians living in Israel are living under “a prolonged military occupation” by Israeli Jews."
The following excerpt summarizes the frustration of a Muslim who craves for recognition of his people, and concludes that westerners only care about them in the context of being able to attack the Jews.
" . . we Muslims make the mistake of thinking Europeans really care about [us], especially the Palestinians. We are wrong: Europeans simply hate the Jews more than they hate and fear us. The bitter truth is that the Europeans usually intervene in a crisis only if it gives them the opportunity for Jew-bashing. When hundreds of thousands, even millions, of Muslims are slaughtered – by other Muslims, such as the massacre in Syria and the recent upsurge of violence in Darfur – the apathetic European leadership does not lift a finger. At the same time, the European Union is obsessed with its need to condemn, sanction and boycott the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. It does not even mention Syria, with its hundred thousand civilians murdered by the government and its millions of refugees, or the atrocities being committed in the Arab-Muslim world, the rapes of women and children, the beheadings and the wanton cruelty and murder, to say nothing of exploitation, discrimination, slavery and other crimes against humanity."
Ian Lustick is a Jewish-American academic who has been criticizing Israeli policy for several decades, and has now taken on the mantra of the two-state solution. He published his commentary in the New York Times, which is as Jewish a newspaper as can be found outside of Israel in terms of its ownership, professional staff, and readership, Lustick has provoked Jewish responses of high negative intensity, but he should escape any designation as an anti-Semite. He ridicules Palestinians, western diplomats, and the entire peace process industry as well as the Israeli leadership for foolishly following what is impossible to achieve.
Yet if he is not anti-Semitic, he remains shrill in his opposition to what Israel has been doing. What makes the two-state solution most impossible in his view is Israeli land-grabbing going back to the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War. If Lustick's description of Israel is not anti-Semitic, it is certainly not friendly. And neither do his projections appear to be achievable, if indeed they represent serious thoughts and not his flippant dismissal of reality.
"In such a radically new environment, secular Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank could ally with Tel Aviv’s post-Zionists, non-Jewish Russian-speaking immigrants, foreign workers and global-village Israeli entrepreneurs. Anti-nationalist ultra-Orthodox Jews might find common cause with Muslim traditionalists. Untethered to statist Zionism in a rapidly changing Middle East, Israelis whose families came from Arab countries might find new reasons to think of themselves not as “Eastern,” but as Arab. Masses of downtrodden and exploited Muslim and Arab refugees, in Gaza, the West Bank and in Israel itself could see democracy, not Islam, as the solution for translating what they have (numbers) into what they want (rights and resources). Israeli Jews committed above all to settling throughout the greater Land of Israel may find arrangements based on a confederation, or a regional formula more attractive than narrow Israeli nationalism."
Lustick prides himself in adhering to similar views of Israeli activity over the entire three or four decades of his career. What he does not take into account is that Israel has become considerably wealthier and militarily stronger over that period, even while it has suffered at the focus of however we label the current era of anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism/pro-Palestinianism.
It might also be appropriate to say that Israel is now better connected politically than when Lustick began to oppose its policy. To be sure, the European Union, the United States, and many prominent figures who hold high positions, or who once held them, have defined everything from Ramat Eshkol eastward as illegal, but their failure to implement anything draconian reflects, in part, the persuasive capacity of Israeli officials, and the recognition that Palestinians have contributed to whatever is wrong in the Middle East. (Waiting implementations is the EU's posture about funding institutions over the 1967 border.)
My own professional memories go back to the time when, graduating from high school, those of my cadre wanting to enroll in one of the more attractive colleges or universities had to cope with Jewish quotas. There was nothing official or open, but Jew-spotters in admissions offices used the criteria of name and home town. A Goldstein from Long Island was obvious. A Jew whose family had gentrified its name and located in Wyoming--if sufficiently strong academically--would make it through the screen without taking the place of another Jew.
Once my cadre graduated, those wanting a career in industry or finance would face additional hurdles in some of the best-known banks and industrial firms. Within a decade, all that began to crumble. In some places where entering classes had been no more than 10 percent Jewish, the figures jumped to 30 percent. Institutions and corporations that had screened out Jews found themselves with Jewish Presidents.
Meanwhile, Israel was developing as a place without Jewish quotas. Its economic performance, including the ranking of all its universities in the top few hundred of the world and its best two or three in the top 100, plus the success of its scientists and engineers owes something to the lack of constraints against individual Jews in Israel, or in the western countries where Israelis go for post-graduate education, to collaborate with professional colleagues, or to raise money in order to develop their projects.
Yet there remains a pall over all of this, expressed by westerners, including Jews, signing on to the Palestinian BDS project (boycott, disvestment, sanctions). Academics who are left of center in Israeli politics and express themselves forcefully in behalf of Arab rights have been shut out of opportunities to publish in professional journals or present papers at conferences.
There remain opportunities. Israelis have to learn where not to send their material, and those who suffer the most may be individuals denied Israeli inputs to their own work.
In Jewish eyes, we have always been at the center of the world. We wrote that God chose us as His people. Many non-Jews continue to read those passages, and accept them as belief or as reasons for animosity.
Jews, and Israel appear in more than our share of media reports and commentary, as measured in comparison to our meager population. Some of the coverage is good.. Some is unpleasant. The attention used to be part of being Jewish. Now it is more clearly part of being Israeli.