OpinionAntisemitism

The Jews have been ‘lulled to sleep by chloroform’

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, politically cognizant of the trap that Jews were caught in, asked: “What happened to you, my brothers, chosen stepsons of the Almighty?

Antique bottles of chloroform. Credit: Kevin King/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
Antique bottles of chloroform. Credit: Kevin King/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

In mid-June 1939, Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky published a column in Warsaw’s Yiddish-language daily Der Moment. In it, he gave his assessment of the attitude of Polish Jewry and those elsewhere in Europe, which he viewed disappointingly. He was even depressed for he observed that his fellow Jews were as if “lulled to sleep by chloroform” with “their lethargy, their … ‘it doesn’t concern me’ attitude.” It was as if they were all in a “huge hospital, reeking of the alluring smell of anesthetic … crowded from the basement to the attic.”

Jabotinsky, politically cognizant of the approaching storm and the trap that Jews were caught in with nowhere to go, asked: “What happened to you, my brothers, chosen stepsons of the Almighty? The world of today does not live in illusions, does not believe in miracles, one cannot expect gifts from heaven, and this calm is completely incomprehensible.”

He wrote that he witnessed the abeyance of his fellow Jews’ “abilities to think, fight, desire, even groan in pain.” Their “conscience has been lulled to sleep by chloroform.”

Jabotinsky’s words immediately came to mind after watching a video clip of Jonathan Glazer’s acceptance speech at the Oscar awards ceremony on March 10. His core message was that he and his fellow awardees—producer James Wilson and financial backer Leonard Blavatnik—“stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people.”

He added, “Whether the victims of October 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?”

I am not sure any other person of whatever ethnicity or religion would similarly declare a refutation of his identity and affiliation if faced with the behavior of terrorists on behalf of “Palestine” and, in fact, I am sure they would not so announce it. Actually, if Susan Sarandon is any example, many in the entertainment and art worlds go all-out to justify and praise Hamas’s “resistance” in a renewed gilgul of radical chic a la Leonard Bernstein or what Jonathan Tobin termed the “fashionable rationalizations of hatred for Jews.”

Jabotinsky “Der Moment“
The title of Jabotinsky’s “Chloroformed“ in the Yiddish daily “Der Moment,“ June 11, 1939. Credit: Courtesy.

This is not the classical religion-based hatred. It is not the racial hatred of the hard right. It is not even the Marxist economic hatred. Not that elements of all those are not present in the current wave of extreme animosity. The year 1939 was six years after Hitler had come to power, five years after the Racial Laws began and a year after the failure of the Evian Conference, when Europe’s Jews realized that they were essentially trapped. We are not in that situation.

But if there is something that can be learned from Jabotinsky, it is that Jews themselves cannot be trusted to recognize the danger looming nor to take the proper steps to prepare to meet the threats.

The establishment Jewish leadership was warned for years that their ignoring of the menace from the left—from the progressives and the liberals, too—was dangerous, at least, as that menace of the right, if in a different manner. The problems Jewish students have at North American universities, Michael Oren writes, was the result of a “process that led to the current morass was more than half-century in the making.”

Jews have backed the wrong politicians in a variety of countries. They have generously funded the many associations that actively undermine Jewish identity and ethnic self-pride. They have hosted and even fawned over intellectuals who set out to destroy the organizational and educational frameworks that were in place to assure a Jewish future.

Moreover, they actively engaged in degrading, demeaning and even shunning those activists and programs that could have added balance, as well as a political and educational alternative, for the communities they oversaw. Speakers weren’t invited to conferences, and alternative voices were squashed.

The next generation—the students of today on college campuses who are under siege—were not provided the tools and knowledge to face the onslaught of the pro-Palestine campaigns, from BDS to genocide. Not only were the leaders chloroformed, but they also failed to avoid facilitating the chloroformation of this current generation. IfNotNow activists have proudly claimed their shared experience at Ramah summer camps and sought to deepen the divide there, which seems to have been thwarted to a large extent.

Israel’s right-wing nationalist camp was barely tolerated as Jewish community leaders in America became more and more liberal, and voted Democratic. They would not be found in the company of such people. There was no genuine analysis of Zionist historical and legal rights, or contemporary political developments, local or global. Far-left journalist Peter Beinart was welcomed under the tent for years until he officially abandoned the need for a Jewish state.

The radical left forces within the community were given more than a relative free pass, and they were more than just tolerated. They were fawned over and invited inside the communal tent. Jewish leadership created a self-contained aloofness and thus assisted in preparing the gauze mask for the application of the chloroform that would dull the senses and weaken the ability to confront the growing danger.

The result of this is all too apparent: the terrorizing of the Jews aided and abetted by Jews from the academia to the Academy Awards stage in Hollywood.

Who will reawaken this current generation of Jews under siege?

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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