(May 7, 2018 / JNS)
Hashtagged as “#WeWillBeTheNextGeneration,” a rather obvious biological fact of life, the radical IfNotNow group tweeted the slogan: “Our people are dehumanized by dehumanizing others” on Monday.
This follows from their self-definition as a group that to “liberate” the American Jewish community from support of Israel’s administration of Judea and Samaria— if not more of Israel’s territory Arabs insist belongs to them—they must liberate “all people, particularly those in Israel and Palestine.
Thanks to Eric Hoffer’s 1951 “The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements,” quite a “not now, but way back then” study, we were provided insights into fanaticism. There develops, a “desire for change” from discontented people who place their locus of control outside their power and who also have no confidence in existing culture or traditions. True believers move into a mode of seeking “self-renunciation” as Hoffer posits: “A rising mass movement depend[s] on its capacity to evoke and satisfy the passion for self-renunciation,” as well as being “a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.”
And that helps us contemplate the IfNotNow phenomenon.
IfNotNow presents an irrational outlook. For them, the values of the Jewish tradition are to be celebrated as “Jewish cultural diversity,” which really means nothing specific and yet everything. They acknowledge the existence of anti-Jewish oppression, but “in the world and in ourselves,” and so in order that they “may all be more whole,” they work towards ending oppression not “of our communities” but rather “in our own communities.” All negativity, it appears, is less a problem of those engaged in such behavior or thinking and more an internal problem, to be dealt with in a form of self-flagellation.
I wonder how they would deal with a recent incident at Stonybrook University whose Students for Justice in Palestine group, allied with Jewish Voice for Peace compared Zionists to Nazis and KKK members when they posted: “If there were Nazis, white nationalists and KKK members on campus, would their identity have to be accepted and respected?” adding, “Then why would we respect the views of Zionists?”
I will wait for their response.
What is extraordinary is that IfNotNow does not “take a unified stance on BDS, Zionism or the question of statehood.” It is the “occupation” that is their motivating urge. Whether or not the Jewish people possess a national identity—one promoted by a culture, a language, a shared history and a religion, an identity that requires them to reside in a homeland, a territory the international community recognized, guaranteeing thereby a right “to close settlement” on that land—is simply inconsequential. Zionism is not something that factors into their agenda. They are a new form of Jew: demanding recognition as “insiders,” yet insisting they be permitted to be “outsiders.”
They have emerged as a new type of Jew who, like many before—whether as apostates, Bundists, Neturei Karta, universalists or out-and-out Communists—define themselves as who they are not. From that ideological rigidity, they assume a new fundamental: It’s the Jews who are always guilty.
They have parallels in Israel, usually in the opinion columns of Haaretz staffers or guest commentators. Here is Efraim Sneh this week: “Ever since [Mahmoud Abbas] was elected leader in January 2005 his path failed because all Israeli governments, knowing that he was the most moderate among Palestinian leaders, saw to it that he was humiliated and weakened. In effect, they opted for Hamas over him.”
Holocaust denial by the Palestinian Authority’s leader is bad, but that is secondary to his sloganeering to smear Israel. That the Mufti sought out Hitler already in 1933, adopted his outlook, coordinated with Hitler while spending the war years in Berlin and planning crematoria for Jews in the Dothan Valley is incidental for Sneh to understanding why there is an Arab conflict with Israel and Zionism. But his thinking strengthens those who follow suit in foremost bashing Israel on the political and moral level.
These two examples highlight a new pattern of anti-Zionism that is corrupting our younger generation. They proudly proclaim themselves as “true non-believers.” But out of emptiness, nothing can come. Unless you presume yourself to be divine.