Increasingly, I perceive Diaspora Jewish communities inexorably moving into a self-destruct mode on several fronts.
David Rothkopf, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, has published
this government of Israel and what it stands for must be opposed in every way possible, including, given the absence of other effective options, boycotts … [as] its acts have not only undermined its legitimacy …
… [it is a] country part of one of the most dangerous movements afoot on the planet today.
In the past, there were Jews who rejected any national Jewish identity, preferring to be but a religious community, albeit quite non-Orthodox. Their anti-Zionism had nothing to do with what Jews were doing in Eretz Yisrael; rather, they saw them there as just another Diaspora community, even worthy of philanthropic help, though they could make no demands on the rest of world Jewry. There were ultra-Orthodox whose theology rejected any human-created nationalism.
Today, there are Jews who have shed their Judaism for political and ideological substitutions for both religion (theirs is “liberalism”) and any form of nationalism, preferring a globalization orientation. Israel, asserting rights to a territory and more than willing to use its military power to actively defend itself and Jewish lives, is confronting another presumptive national-identity narrative, what I term Palestinianism, a false narrative that unnerves them in the cultural and social circles they move in.
Faced with this over the past decade, the Jewish establishment has collapsed, permitting more and more corrosive machinations to control campus life, communal activities and the institutions that run them.
This was published in 2008, and while specific to Toronto, my reading over the past decade indicates that a similar malaise has spread all across the American college campus system. It includes the canceling of Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely’s appearance, which was a nadir:
“Hillel at the University of Toronto has a key influence on Jewish campus life. The local Jewish Federation, United Jewish Appeal (UJA), which is the principal financial benefactor of Hillel, permits a non-confrontational non-approach to the annual event [Israel Apartheid Week]. Hillel does not actively respond to accusations against Israel, or to the protests on campus. Instead, the campus group creates feel-good programming about Israel which, while obviously important, does not directly address the dissemination of misinformation on campus which directly target Israel.”
And when a group takes up the cudgels to push back, we have The Forward “exposing” the Canary Mission and other anti-BDS efforts in a negative, put-down tone. It was reported that Barnard College was due to host members of the Ramallah-based Addameer group with apparent ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terrorist organization. How do supposedly smart and intelligent people permit the poisoning of student minds—all students and not just Jewish ones?
However, it is not just on the Israel-Zionism front that I perceive a self-destruct mode. Here is Deborah Dash Moore, a professor of American Jewish history at the University of Michigan, commenting on what should now be the emphasis on sociological polling now that Stephen Cohen is out:
“Stop assuming that there are gradations of being Jewish that make one better than the other, that intermarriage is a bad thing or that intermarriage is a good thing.”
Judaism is simply being de-Judaized.
Dropping links with Zionism and Israel—while at the same time adopting forms of Judaism that insist on contemporary forms of behavior not necessarily linked to tradition and moral values created from post-modern philosophies—are but acts of assimilation. Add to that a distinct unwillingness to entertain educational, and yes, hasbara-based programs dealing with Israel’s post-1967 reality, basically accepting that Israel and Jews are engaged in wrongful behavior in Judea and Samaria; after all, Birthright does not travel to the Jewish communities or discuss Jewish national rights to its historical homeland, and Hillel rarely hosts such a speaker. In this light, the funders, lay leaders, rabbis and educators are digging their own graves and those of the younger generation for which they are responsible.
This self-destruct vortex is feeding itself, and the Jewish establishment seems incapable of pulling itself and the community out. Worse, they have found whom to blame: Israel.
Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and author.