A rabbi who thinks anti-Jewish violence isn’t anti-Semitic

She seems to be delving into hair-splitting definitions in order to keep the focus primarily on only one source of anti-Semitism.

Screenshot of New York Police Department security footage showing a milk crate being thrown at the windows of a synagogue in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. Source: Screenshot.
Screenshot of New York Police Department security footage showing a milk crate being thrown at the windows of a synagogue in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. Source: Screenshot.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

Jill Jacobs is a rabbi. A Conservative rabbi. She is the executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

It seems obvious to me that she is covering for anti-Semitism of one variety because only white-supremacist anti-Semitism fits her political outlook. I can only presume that is her thinking because it is of the nationalist variety, rather than an economic-propelled hatred.

Here is her tweet in which she (a) blames “long-term tensions” for anti-Semitic attacks on Jews in Broklyn, N.Y.; (b) these “horrible attacks” do not easily fit into “left-right category”; and (c) that all this is not “parallel to white nationalists whose beliefs are based on anti-Semitism.” (I had to quote from another Twitter account source as Jacobs has blocked me.)

In making those distinctions, someone is going to think that if he or she can come up with an excuse for being all tensed up about Jews, maybe Jacobs, who is looking in only one direction—that is, to the far-out extremist right—won’t see, or better, that she’ll be less alarmed about blacks and Muslims knocking head coverings off Jews, punching them as they walk to and from synagogue, breaking their windows and such. I am sure that all forms of Jew-hatred are abhorrent to Jacobs—well, almost all—but asserting there is a lack of a parallel is a severe Jewish failing on her part. And for that, she need be criticized for she may be dangerous for Jews.

And what are “long-term tensions”? Is she alluding to claims of economic oppression of African-Americans? Is she sympathetically channeling charges of assumed white privilege by Jews—the latest left-wing formulation of anti-Semitism, which, of course, is then transferred to the Israel-Palestine issue. Arabs, it is presented, are of color; Israelis are white (don’t ask about Iraqis, Yemenites of Ethiopians); and Zionism, therefore, is a form of oppression that justifies revolutionary violence.

But Jacobs takes it one step more. Eli Steinberg, writing in The Forward, pointed out that Jacobs approvingly quoted Mark Asher Goodman, also a rabbi, who seemingly disparaged Chassidim in writing

“We are a sacred moral community. Our Torah is a book of actions, not a rallying point for mumbling in an ancient tongue while wearing the garb of our grandfathers and gathering for a shtickle of herring afterwards.”

It’s odd that Jacobs sees no problem with that characterization of traditional Judaism, as perhaps she thinks that’s in-house Jewish humor. Many Jews viewed U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House pre-Hanukkah remarks basically in the same way. But if she was upset at Trump, I am sure she can understand that Jews are upset at her approval of Goodman’s disparaging, as they are parallel, to borrow her term.

There is a shared and even at times coordinated theme that runs through the Jewish progressive left. The Jewish Worker tweeted, in protection of Eli Valley, that “American Jewish leaders, to all of our disgust, dismay, and trepidation, sure seem to be” in cahoots with Nazis. Valley’s “artwork” was denounced by the ADL as bigoted, stereotyping Jews as blood-sucking monsters drivel. Jews deserve, somehow, it seems, hatred of long-term tensions. Yet there are Jewish radical voices pushing material that if not outright anti-Semitic is nevertheless clearly understood as such. They are dabbling in danger to the Jewish community as a whole.

Even worse is the in-step phenomenon of how liberal media outlets highlight marginal minority Jewish voices as if “representative” of the community. First, the journalist is fed information by extremist left-wing Jews, which is then published. The source then quotes that news item to give it coverage and then the journalist reintegrates that fully unrepresentative view as the true reflection of Jews. And the spiral continues. The Washington Post, it appears, has published within the span of just a few days, two op-eds and a report, all one-sided against the Trump Executive Order. The New York Times acted similarly, overloading in favor of one point of view.

Jacobs seems to be delving into hair-splitting definitions in order to keep the focus primarily on only one source of anti-Semitism. That not only is wrong, unhelpful and immoral, it is not being Jewish. And she appears to extend that to her main area of professionalism as T’ruah’s director: undoing Israel’s “occupation.”

For example, she published in The Washington Post last May that while she personally does “not support boycotting Israel, partly because so much of the movement is rife with anti-Semitic undertones,” nevertheless, to her mind, “one may even boycott Israel without stepping into anti-Semitism if it’s clear that the tactic aims to pressure Israel to change its policies.

She knows that distinction not only is too subtle for anti-Semitic anti-Zionists, but that the Palestinian sovereignty movement she supports rarely, if at all, troubles itself to make that distinction in their propaganda or in their shouts of “from the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”—the result of which would be Israel’s obliteration, not to mention Jewish deaths.

Therein lies the worse of her culpability. She downplays or reduces the potency of Islam-generated pro-Palestinian promoted anti-Jewish actions and pronouncements so that her main goal, which is not local Jewish safety, is protected: that is, vilifying and pressuring Israel enough so that it surrenders its national legacy of the Land of Israel. She sacrifices Jews in America for Arabs in a preferred Palestine.

Jacobs is not facilitating a certain anti-Semitism, but she is, to my mind, providing it with a cover that purposefully and disingenuously awards it a worth, enough that it should even be forgiven due to the “sins” of Israel. And portraying those who seek to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitism on campus, like the Trump Eexcutuve Order does, as themselves anti-Semites, by tweeting “Don’t fight antisemitism with antisemitism” are not only irrational, but seeking the injury of Jews.

They have failed the “sanity test.”

I repeat, doing that is not only wrong and immoral, it is not being Jewish.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and political commentator.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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