OpinionJewish Diaspora

Diasporic deviance syndrome

Post-Oct. 7, the sole solidarity apparent is that of the left against Israel.

Students for Justice in Palestine and other organizations staged a “Day of Rage” rally by the Israeli consulate in New York City to protest violence against Palestinians, October 2015. Credit: A. Katz/Shutterstock.
Students for Justice in Palestine and other organizations staged a “Day of Rage” rally by the Israeli consulate in New York City to protest violence against Palestinians, October 2015. Credit: A. Katz/Shutterstock.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

Were you aware that the Dreyfusards, those seeking to exonerate the Jewish captain of France’s army who was accused of spying for Germany, were not only working for France and for Jews, but that their campaign “was also a fight for Black people, for LGBT people, for indigenous people, for Palestinians”? That is the opinion of Noah Berlatsky.

In a 2019 op-ed piece on JNS, I employed the term “Diasporic supremacy” to relate to the new form of anti-Zionism that has developed, as well as the smug “we-do-not-agree-with-Israel’s-government” attitude of the liberal Jewish establishment. Noah Berlatzky’s above-quoted opinion is an excellent, unfortunate example of the workings of the minds of Diasporic supremacists. It has now evolved into a Diasporic deviance syndrome.

Noah, I discovered, edited an online comics-and-culture website “The Hooded Utilitarian” for a year or so and authored a book on Wonder Woman in comics. He is pro-Diaspora and, of course, critical of Israel. How critical?

He quotes Omar Bartov and opines that Israel is a country with “a policy of war crimes.” Israel is led by “genocidal bigots and religious fanatics” who engage in “war crimes and ethnic cleansing.” He is positive that Zionism is colonialism because, well, he adopts all the definitions that so describe Zionism. Truth is not what is, it seems, but how one defines the parameters of a situation.

In the following excerpt, he demonstrates that particular convoluted thinking well:

The core of colonialism isn’t a violation of ancestral land claims. It’s the ability to decide, through force, whose weight anchors the land, and whose bodies can simply be brushed away … Israeli arguments that their ancestors lived on the land are largely irrelevant to colonial dynamics. What is relevant is the fact that Israel sees itself as arbiter of resources and of life within Gaza.

Berlatzky knows that the Jews possess the better claims for ancestral lands. He may have sung at a Shabbat meal a zimra, a religious hymn, composed by Rabbi Yisrael Najara. Najara resided in Gaza and his hymnal was published in Safed in 1587. He may have read of Shabtai Tzvi, a false Messiah, whose publicist in the 1660s was Nathan of Gaza. Gaza, Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, Hebron and many other locations of Jewish residence throughout a 3,000-year history, even during conquest, subjugation and occupation, are Jewish ancestral lands. So Berlatsky simply cancels the worth of that claim in favor of some dumbed-down sloganeering.

When Arabs overran the land of Judea, renamed Palaestina, it was a country of Jews. Arabs were the occupiers and imperialists in this story. It was a Jewish country when, in 351 C.E., a Jewish revolt against Constantius Gallus broke out in an attempt to take advantage of the destabilization of the Roman Empire at the time. A recent find of a hoard of coins provides evidence.

A decade later, in 362, the Emperor Julian issued two letters to the Jewish community in Jerusalem that prohibited special levies against the Jews and that on his return from Persia, he would rebuild “the sacred city of Jerusalem.” In another letter, he promised to restore the Jerusalem Temple. Jews weren’t colonists but the local population.

These are but two instances—and from the fourth century C.E. It highlights 1,800 years of continued Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, even under conquest and occupation, illustrating that the “weight” that anchors the justified Jewish claim to its historical national home is not force, but its right—a right the Arabs do not possess for they were, and are, the ones using force. Berlatzky is wrong.

To jump centuries forward, in 2005, Israel left Gaza. Israel disengaged. No Jews, alive or dead, were left there (the cemetery was relocated to Israel). No farms and no fields. It was only a year later when Hamas staged a coup and overthrew the Fatah administration (and threw Fatah activists off roofs to their deaths), and in 2009 purged those left that Israel, in response to Hamas rocket firings instituted a blockade.

Israel, despite Berlatzky’s writing so, does not consider itself an “arbiter” neither of Gaza’s resources or the lives of those living there. Indeed, Israel has, until Oct. 7, done as much as possible to become less and less involved with Gaza, if Hamas would only allow that situation. One can be anti-colonialist but one should not falsify the truth about Gaza’s reality so as to support personal whims.

Berlatzky also makes the correct point that the “anti-Dreyfus movement was in many ways a dry run for twentieth century fascism.” He is correct that “it demonstrated that antisemitism could be used to create a right movement [a movement of the right, I think he meant to write] which could feasibly challenge the liberal mass politics of the Revolution.” Yet he fails to realize that that development is being repeated, this time by those he considers fellow anti-Zionist travelers.

Berlatzky insists on misinterpreting the Dreyfus Affair in late 19th-century France. He writes:

“Contra Zionists, then, the Dreyfus Affair was not a story of unremitting antisemitism in the diaspora. Nor was it a story of weak self-hating diaspora Jews … [it] is a story about how Jewish resistance and Jewish struggle catalyzed a broad ethnic, religious, and political coalition against antifascism.

Berlatzky would have us believe that the Diaspora won out over Zionism and that France’s fascism had been defeated. Although a former Dreyfusard, Leon Blum, became France’s Prime Minister, serving two terms for a little more than a year before World War II, he himself wrote in his memoirs that his generation had failed to achieve any of their dreams and hopes that they had held when they were younger. At least there is a kibbutz in Israel named after him.

Berlatzky wishes we agree with him that as opposed to “Zionists [who] insist that diaspora can only mean weakness and failure” and that “safety is only possible through a world of ethnostates,” which is “a dream of purity as strength,” he would rather we believe in the diaspora where “a better world” is built “by standing in solidarity to fight for the rights of the marginalized.”

In our post-Oct. 7 world, the sole solidarity apparent is that of the left against Israel. Diasporic deviance syndrome weakens rational cognitive thought processes while strengthening belief in false analyses of past history and current affairs. It is a danger, especially for Jews. Berlatzky seems to welcome the condition. It is one that should be cordoned.

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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