Middle East studies in the News
A Yom Kippur Prayer For Jews who are "Proud to be Ashamed to Be Jews" [incl. Hamid Dabashi, Rashid Khalidi]
by Phyllis Chesler
Why Israel? Why the Jews? Why are so many presumably "civilized" people, "good" people, educated people, so eager to join the Jew-hating, death-eating barbarians–century after century, country after country? In the Book of Esther, set in ancient Persia, Haman, the Viceroy, plots the genocidal extermination of the Persian Jews. He tells the King that "There is a certain people scattered and dispersed in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from every other group and they do not observe the King's laws. Therefore, it is not befitting the King to tolerate them."
Jews are everywhere, Jews are "different," Jews hold themselves apart, they have dual loyalties, or no loyalty to the realm, only to God.
Here we have it, the universal accusation and the justification for anti-Semitic persecution. Luckily, the King fancies the very Jewish Esther, takes her into his harem, "chooses" her as his beloved—and through her efforts (and that of the entire Jewish community), Esther saves the Jews. And King Achashverosh kills Haman and his entire family instead.
Back then, the Jews, led by Esther's uncle Mordechai, backed Esther, fasted for her, prayed for her. Today, many Jews join with Haman's descendants. The psychiatrically deranged Hasidic sect, Neturai Karta, literally take money from Ahmadinejad and participate in demonstrations against the Jewish state. But other, seemingly less deranged Jews insist that their anti-Zionist activism has been undertaken "for our own good" or for the greater glory of (their version of) Judaism.
Please understand: Such Jews are sincere, even zealous, very zealous. They believe that their anti-Zionism and anti-Judaism represents a specifically Jewish response to evil and a specifically Jewish pursuit of justice. They believe that only their approach will "save" Jews and all humanity.
Thus, in response to the Florida Minister's threat to burn a Qur'an, my old friend, Tikkun's Michael Lerner, recently wrote to say that he would be doing a public reading of the Qur'an. He invited members of his network to organize public readings of their own.
Years back, a lesbian feminist rabbi (who is very learned and quite pleasant and who shall remain nameless), invited a member of the PLO to address her congregation on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) which fast approaches. Indeed, according to a discussion in the Talmud, only one holiday will survive after the coming of the Messiah—either Yom Kippur or Purim; the sages are not sure which one will still be celebrated after the End of Days.
More recently, some American Jews (Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Hedy Epstein, and Yael Korin), joined Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nobel Prize winner Mairead (Corrigin) Maguire and signed a California-based petition to boycott companies which do business with Israel; interestingly, Finkelstein, Epstein and Korin are children of Holocaust survivors. That's a theme unto itself but for another day.
Some American and Israeli-born Jews also joined the ongoing international campaign to boycott Israeli academics—yes, even Israel's politically correct left-wing academics. There are, so far, more than 700 signatories, including Bill Ayers, Mona Baker, Hamid Dabashi, Barbara Ehrenreich (no, she's not Jewish), Charlotte Kates, and Joseph Massad. Some of the Jewish signatories are: Anna Baltzer, Judith Butler, Marilyn Hacker, Yael Korin (again), Ilan Pappe, Adrienne Rich (who is half-Jewish), Sarah Schulman, Adam Shapiro, and Ella Shohat.
Also in 2010, some American Jews encouraged a new flotilla, "The Audacity of Hope," as envisioned by Rashid Khalidi, to "break" the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Jewish signatories Anna Baltzer (again), Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, Hedy Epstein (again), Michael Ratner, and Starhawk, joined the likes of Rachel Corrie's parents, Angela Davis and Alice Walker.
And now we have a new boycott, this time by American actors, writers, playwrights, and directors, who are supporting the Israeli refusal to perform in the city of Ariel's new cultural center in Israel. (The city is "over the green line.") I have written about this here. Thus, the likes of Ed Asner, Theodore Bikel, Tony Kushner, Mandy Patinkin, Stephen Sondheim, Harold Prince, Wallace Shawn, Eve Ensler, Judith Malina, Rosanne Barr, Alicia Ostriker, as well as non-Jews such as Vanessa Redgrave, Kathleen Chalfant, Cynthia Nixon, Juliane Moore, and Mira Nair, have all signed a petition supporting the Israeli theatre people who are refusing to perform. In all, 150 Americans have signed this petition. Yes, many, but not all of them, are Jews. Israeli authors A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman, and 47 other Israeli theatre people are among those who sent a letter to Ha'aretz about their boycott of Ariel.
These are also Israelis whose bylines frequently appear in the American mainstream media.
In 2006, Dr. Alvin H. Rosenfeld published a paper entitled "'Progressive' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism." He got into quite a bit of trouble for doing so and I am indebted to him. Rosenfeld quotes British barrister Anthony Julius who coined the phrase: "Proud to be Ashamed to be Jews," which so aptly describes such anti-Zionist Jews.
Yom Kippur is coming. I know it sounds arrogant, righteous, desperate, even foolish, but I am going to ask God to forgive these Jews because I do not want others, including myself, to suffer for their sins. Please understand: We are commanded to do so since all Jews will be held accountable for each other's actions. And, for Jews to make common cause with such high profile anti-Zionists and Jew haters is shameful. Perhaps these Jews do not see it this way at all.
So really, why do Jews do this? Why are so many educated and politically active Jews, including Israeli Jews, often the ones who fight against Jewish interests, even against Jewish survival? What mad gene drives them to do it? Is it the case, as playwright David Mamet has suggested in The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews, that such secular-driven messianism is really religious Judaism misunderstood? Is this an example of self-hatred—or self-love? In my view, such Jews find it opportune, fashionable, rewarding, both economically and psychologically, to be the first to blame other Jews or the Jewish state, the first to argue the "enemies" case.
They are respected for doing so. They feel safe. They are signaling that they are part of the "larger" world, not part of the smaller, provincial community—the one that holds itself apart—the people that is perennially under siege, far from perfect, and whose pariah status threatens their feelings of well being.
Tragically, all these boycotter and flotilla Jews wish to be seen as "anti-racists;" however, they rarely protest extreme human rights abuses in the Middle East when the evildoers are Muslims. In my opinion, by holding Arab and Muslim countries to much lower standards, and by condemning their mainly Muslim inhabitants to continued Islamist barbarism, the do-gooders, including the Jews, fail every ethical test of non-racism. They applaud every conceivable nationalism save one: the Jewish version. Zionism does not equal racism. As Judea Pearl once wrote, "anti-Zionism=racism." Thus, their excessive anti-Zionism is really a form of anti-Semitism which does equal racism.
Please forgive them. They know not what they do. Please enlighten them before they doom us all.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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