(February 14, 2022 / JNS) Jewish left-wing critics of Israel say the darnedest things—sometimes by accident.
Last week, Rabbi Jill Jacobs—a prominent and oft-quoted figure on the American Jewish left—declared that “denying Jewish history” is anti-Semitic. She probably didn’t realize that she was thereby declaring Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, to be an anti-Semite. But she said it, and she was right, and it’s too late to take it back.
Jacobs is the longtime CEO of “T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights,” which is the U.S. arm of an extreme-left Israeli group called Rabbis for Human Rights. It’s a small organization, but it garners a lot of attention because many journalists sympathize with its pro-Palestinian positions. Thus, Jacobs is frequently quoted in the news media and invited to appear on radio and television programs.
Last week, for example, Jacobs was quoted by The Washington Post in its article about the Senate hearing concerning the nomination of Holocaust historian and Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt as U.S. envoy for combating anti-Semitism. Jacobs has no particular connection to Lipstadt and no particular expertise on anti-Semitism; nonetheless, the Post chose to present her as a Jewish leader commenting on the issue.
Now here’s where things got interesting.
Jacobs made a few general, unremarkable statements about examples of anti-Semitism. One of her examples was “denying Jewish history.” And that’s obviously true.
But Jacobs, who fervently supports the Palestinian statehood cause, does not seem to have considered the implications of her statement with regard to the man who would become the head of the Palestinian state that she wants to see established in Judea and Samaria, and the Old City of Jerusalem.
I’m talking about the fact that Abbas is one of the most outspoken deniers of Jewish history in the world today. He has made so many statements denying Jewish history that they could fill a book—and, in fact, they have; he is the author of an entire book claiming that the Nazis killed only 1 million Jews and accusing Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, of collaborating with the Nazis. But for now, I’m going to cite just two of his speeches because they are particularly revealing.
On Jan. 14, 2018, Abbas addressed the Palestinian Central Council at P.A. headquarters in Ramallah. A few excerpts from his lie-filled tirade:
— “Israel … is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.”
— It was not the British White Paper or mass murder by the Nazis that kept Jews from going to Palestine, but rather, “the Jews did not want to emigrate, even with murder and slaughter.”
— Jews in Yemen and Iraq “didn’t want to come” to Israel, but Ben-Gurion forced them to by collaborating with Iraqi officials “to take away the citizenship of Jews and force them to emigrate.”
— When Theodor Herzl visited Palestine, he said: “We must wipe out the Palestinians from Palestine so that Palestine will be a land without a people for a people without a land.”
On April 20, 2018, Abbas addressed the legislature of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which he chairs. Here are a few of the slurs, lies and assorted absurdities that he mouthed:
— The Jews in Europe provoked the Holocaust because of their “social function” as money-lenders.
— Jews are to blame for communism because Josef Stalin was a secret Jew.
— Today’s Jews are not authentically Jewish, but are actually descendants of the Khazars, a medieval Turkish tribe, “which means they are not Semitic and have no relation to Semitism and have nothing to do with the prophets Abraham or Jacob.”
— There were never any pogroms in Arab countries, as proven by the fact “that there were Jews in Arab countries. Why wasn’t there ever one incident against Jews because they’re Jews? Not even once … in over 1,400 years.”
Abbas’s denials of Jewish history were so egregious that even some of Jacobs’s closest allies on the American Jewish left were compelled to condemn him. Americans for Peace Now charged that Abbas made “vile anti-Semitic statements.” J Street acknowledged that Abbas’s address “featured absurd anti-Semitic tropes and deeply offensive comments on the history of the Jewish people and Israel.”
Even The New York Times, despite its strong pro-Palestinian leanings, reported that Abbas’s remarks were “laced with deeply anti-Semitic tropes.” And Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East, said Abbas was “perpetuating conspiracy theories that fuel anti-Semitism.”
All of which creates a bit of a problem for Rabbi Jill Jacobs and her colleagues at T’ruah.
According to her own definition, the P.A. boss is an anti-Semite. Which means that she will now either drop her call for a Palestinian state—since, of course, it’s crazy to give a sovereign state to a rabid anti-Semite; or she will argue that even though Abbas is an anti-Semite, he should be given a sovereign state just a few miles from Israel’s major cities—which, of course, is crazy since it would mean putting millions of lives in direct danger.
I suppose the rabbi may look for the easy way out—that is, to hope that nobody asks her that question so she can go on pursuing her political agenda. But I hope she will choose a different path; I hope she will choose to be intellectually honest and confront the powerful implications of her own words.
Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”
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