The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) initiated a yahrzeit last week for George Floyd. While it’s appropriate to acknowledge and remember the gross injustice of Floyd’s brutal suffocation at the hands of Minneapolis police last year, it struck me as odd that just coming off 11 days of incessant rocket fire at Israeli population centers by the Iranian-backed Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip that a plea of similar urgency might not have been made by JFNA, urging Jews to stand with Israel in the right of vigorous self-defense.
JFNA, the central address for the organized Jewish community, is an umbrella representing Jewish Federations across the country. It has a huge constituency and collectively represents endowments and annual campaigns that distribute close to $3 billion. The impact of this gorilla in focusing collective opinion cannot be understated. Nor would the impact of its relative silence during this current round of hostilities.
Comparing the recent muted reaction by major Jewish organizations and the overall community to the barbaric onslaught by Hamas and Iran to the stunned horror as it was in 1991, as Saddam Hussein rained down “Scud” missiles upon Israel is truly astounding.
Suppressed by a frayed bond of connection between Israel and the Diaspora, that feeling of reactive concern, once gurgling with vitality, has been lost. We should be mourning that loss. But to do so, we have first to understand that there is something spiritually and sociologically amiss at our inability to react with horror as our “family members” are subjected to an unprecedented and wholly unconscionable assault by adversaries who have unceasingly chanted for our destruction.
While many have cloaked the ribald aggression of our adversaries as a nationalistic struggle of an unjustly colonized people, this narrative has been conclusively proven defective based on the repeated rejection by the Palestinian Authority of Israel’s multiple offers to address the narrative over the last three decades.
What our community, in its muted response to the aggression of Israel’s adversaries, is failing to understand is that the more that we refuse to acknowledge this virulent outbreak, the more intense it gets. History has demonstrated that there is no appeasement of anti-Semites. How can there be? Anti-Semitism has no basis in rational thought and will ultimately impact Jews everywhere, whether they reside in Jerusalem, London, Los Angeles or Skokie, Ill.
Rather, anti-Semitism and the global wave of mini-pogroms that it is stimulating can only be stifled and repulsed by a granite wall of opposition. The construction of this bulwark, which will include non-Jews, must rest on a footing of Jewish unity. That unity is not demonstrated when Jews in the Diaspora fail to cry out as Jews in Israel succumb to mortal danger. Nor is it demonstrated when in righteous indignation to the silence, we strike out in stridently visible condemnation. Instead, this message of “dis-unity” is broadcast far and wide, breathing life into the once dormant embers of irrational hatred.
The illusion we have come to believe in this post-Holocaust world is that the nature of man, morality and ethics has somehow progressed in parallel to the skyrocketing advancement of technology. It is as if the nature of man has also evolved to a state that has been removed from the very world in which the genocide of a people, as occurred 80 years ago, might ever again be possible. If anything, the vast power of technology in the wrong hands has created dangers far more precarious than ever before. We need only to look at the message embodied in the launching of more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli population centers to awaken us to this dark reality.
It’s time for our communal leaders to stop checking the boxes of platitudinous statements, and instead, vociferously call out anti-Semitism for what it is. The key to abating anti-Semitism lies not in the embrace and the elevation of an agenda whose organizers are in fact instrumental in the rabid demonization of Israel. Social justice must remain part of our creed. But in a purely spiritual sense, it should not continue to be imagined that substituting contemporary social justice, which falsely demonizes Israel, for an agenda that would instead stand irrevocably in Israel’s corner will not carry a price tag far in excess of what Jews may be willing to pay: the unabated global spread of anti-Semitism.
Andrew D. Lappin is a redeveloper of urban industrial properties. He is a former board member of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the Embers Foundation, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), and serves on the Illinois Policy Board which monitors corporate compliance with the state’s anti-BDS statute.