Benjamin Netanyahu’s current diplomatic mission to Africa demonstrates Israel’s determination to renew ties with some of its most natural allies. It was in Africa that the Jewish people were first enslaved, and it was in Africa that they were first freed. That ancient legacy of slavery— coupled with years of marginalization and oppression through ghettos, expulsions, forced conversions, pogroms, and finally the Holocaust—created a natural bond between black and Jewish communities, whose narratives are inextricably linked.
But today’s generation of black American activists—whose efforts are now heavily funneled through the Black Lives Matter movement—tend to identify with the Palestinian, as opposed to the Israeli, narrative. They should be identifying with both.
Ever since an arson attack apparently perpetrated by Jewish extremists killed three members of a Palestinian family last July, the left has used it to launch a sweeping assault on religious Zionists in general and religious settlers in particular. The perpetrators weren’t mere “wild weeds,” leftists asserted, but a product of systematic racism and incitement in the religious community. And as long as the perpetrators remained unknown, this claim was hard to refute: Without knowing who they were, it was impossible to know their motives. But with the suspects having finally been indicted this week, it’s now clear this assertion is bunk. Nor is that my verdict alone: It’s the verdict of none other than the reporter covering the case for the far-left daily Haaretz – a paper that can’t be accused of any sympathy for either settlers or the religious community.
Last week, when reporters already knew who the suspects were but the rest of us were still in the dark due to a gag order, Haaretz ran a front-page analysis by settlement reporter Chaim Levinson titled “Jewish Terror Doesn’t Happen Because of Radical Rabbis, but in Spite of Them.” It’s worth reading in full, but here’s the gist:
Many well-meaning people still believe that “pro-Palestinian activists” are exactly what the term sounds like – people anxious to better the Palestinians’ lot by ending “the occupation” and creating a Palestinian state. But Haaretz journalist Amira Hass provided a window onto these activists’ true nature in a column this week: They are people for whom even Hass – a self-described non-Zionist who deems Jewish immigration to Israel a “crime” and Palestinian violence against Israel a “right” – is a “Zionist,” and therefore beyond the pale. In short, they are people whose world has no place for any Israeli Jew of any political persuasion, and for whom the only “pro-Palestinian” future worth contemplating is one where Israel ceases to exist.
To understand just how extreme a worldview is required to label Hass too “pro-Israel,” some background is in order. Hass is Haaretz’s longtime Palestinian affairs analyst, but she’s unique among the Israeli journalists covering this beat in that she doesn’t live in Israel; she has lived for over two decades among the Palestinians, first in Gaza and then in Ramallah. This isn’t merely out of journalistic dedication; it’s where her avowed sympathies lie.
Concerned about French Jews under siege from a rising tide of European anti-Semitism, apparently some American Jewish philanthropists wanted to help. Their answer was to hire liberal political consultant Stanly Greenberg to come up with a report that might help the CRIF — the umbrella philanthropy that represents the French Jewish community — come up with better ways of connecting with their compatriots. But Greenberg’s answer seems more like a recommendation to just give up. According to JTA, which obtained a copy of the 70-page report prepared by the consultant for the CRIF, Greenberg thinks they should avoid mentioning Zionism and refer to themselves as “French citizens” rather than “French Jews.” But, like the advice Jewish tourists get for visits to France about not wearing jewelry or head covers that identity themselves as Jews, the advice from the former strategist/pollster for Bill Clinton and John Kerry seems to be rooted in an acceptance of anti-Semitism rather than doing something about it. If that’s the best American Jews can do for their French brethren, they might do better to do nothing at all.
Actor Michael Douglas came face to face with European anti-Semitism recently and didn’t like the experience. Neither have many of the European Jews interviewed by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg for his feature, whose headline poses the main question about the upsurge in hatred and violence against them: “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?” Douglas writes about the abuse directed at his son because the boy was wearing a Star of David while staying in what was likely a posh hotel in “southern Europe,” in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times. He has plenty of commendable outrage but nothing other than an anodyne call for an ecumenical stand against hatred to offer in response to a trend that can’t be ignored. Goldberg delves deeper into the motivations of the haters and the responses of the Jews but seems ambivalent about what conclusions to draw from it all. But the answer remains obvious even if it is easier for American Jews, who live in a country where anti-Semitism touches few lives, to ignore it: Israel remains the only logical answer to the question that his article poses.
This summer, toward the end of Israel’s Gaza offensive, Peter Beinart found something to smile about in an otherwise hard time—an apparent drop in support for Israel among young Americans. Beinart had been predicting since 2010 that U.S. opinion would grow less tolerant of Israel, but American support for Israel in 2013, as measured by Gallup, matched an all-time high. Now, though, a Gallup poll was showing that only 25 percent of younger U.S. respondents considered Israel’s actions in Gaza justified. Fifty-one percent considered them unjustified. Israel was losing America’s millennials, and so we could expect that, with each new conflict, “the American mood [would] incrementally shift.”
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu took a pasting from pundits and even some Jewish leaders when he reacted to the attack on Copenhagen synagogue by repeating his call for European Jews to “come home” to Israel. Many people were uncomfortable with the prime minister’s open advocacy for Zionism. But the problem goes deeper than that. Despite the recent violence against Jews in Paris and Copenhagen, denial about what even the U.S. State Department has termed a “rising tide” of anti-Semitism still exists. But yesterday’s comments by a German Jewish leader advising fellow Jews not to identify themselves by wearing yarmulkes while walking in certain sections of the country is yet more confirmation that what Europe is experiencing is a revival of Jew hatred that can’t be ignored. If Jews must live in fear even in a country that supposedly has learned the lessons of the Holocaust, then what hope is there for Jews on the Continent other than to seek protection elsewhere.
After a career that stretches back to Israel’s birth, 91-year-old Shimon Peres is a revered national institution. His multifaceted work in helping to build the state and especially its defense establishment demands respect and admiration. So, too, does a record of public service that saw him serve in virtually every key position of responsibility in the Israeli government. Thus, when Peres speaks, he deserves a hearing. But as much as he should be considered the last of the country’s living founding fathers, his past performance as a prophet is as bad as his resume is impressive. Thus, when Peres tells us today that European Jews shouldn’t panic, that Middle East peace will happen in his lifetime, and that, far from worrying about Iran, we should think the Islamist regime’s days are numbered, these predictions should be dismissed as not only wrong, but dangerously wrong. The problem with Peres is not just that his optimism is foolish, it’s that all too many people in the corridors of power in Washington and Western Europe think he knows what he’s talking about.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the attack on a Copenhagen synagogue last night by placing it the context of a rising tide of violent anti-Semitism. But, as he did after last month’s attacks in Paris, he said European Jews should draw conclusions from these events when he called on them to “come home” to Israel. In response the chief rabbi of Denmark criticized the prime minister saying that the statement was irresponsible and that terrorism wasn’t a reason to move to Israel. Some, especially Netanyahu’s many critics, view this exchange as yet another example of his seeking to take advantage of tragedies for the sake of boosting his poll ratings in a tight election race. But whatever you may think of Netanyahu, these attacks are both unfair and inaccurate. As the nation state of the Jewish people in their ancient homeland, Israel doesn’t exist solely as a refuge for Jews under attack. But the latest string of attacks on Jews in Europe, as the editors of this magazine wrote in our editorial in the February issue of COMMENTARY, do once again prove “the existential necessity of Zionism.”