Several years removed from my Bar Mitzvah and formal Hebrew school education, I began to question the Jewish narrative on Israel. I later empathized with the plight of Palestinians when married to an Egyptian. My idealistic thinking at that time was if an Arab and Jew could marry, then why can’t there be peace in the Mideast? Our divorce just five years later not only would send me down a different path, it portended more turbulent times ahead in the holy land.
Over time I recognized an epic failure by Palestinian leaders and sympathizers to understand the history of Israeli independence in 1948, as well as the entire history of Jews. What followed was multiple missed opportunities for a two-state peaceful solution. All of them were borne out of a Palestinian refusal to share land and proclamation to drive the Jewish State into the Red Sea.
I also gradually became outraged whenever Zionism was equated with racism, as well as suggestions that there’s a moral equivalency between terrorist organizations such as Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Israel’s democratically elected government.
To be clear, I believe Palestinians deserve a better life. Basic human rights are critically important around the world, and Jews have a history of standing lockstep with anyone who is downtrodden. We were nearly annihilated ourselves. But it’s impossible to achieve this goal when their leadership has been corrupted by graft and committed to the violent destruction of Israel for 73 years. Even more disturbing is the vicious cycle of hatred taught in schools and homes, passed on from one generation to the next.
But the fragile cease fire in Israel is just the tip of a much larger iceberg. There’s a disturbing trend toward removing Jewish people from the list of persecuted minorities with an inference that all Jews are privileged and white. And in keeping with that warped view, there’s a deafening silence over the troubling rise of antisemitic hate crimes worldwide. Democratic strategist and political commentator Donna Brazile used the word pandemic to describe the latest outbreak of antisemitism, which cannot be overstated.
We’ve had a reckoning concerning race in America since George Floyd’s death, which was a tipping point over frustration with police brutality, as well as attacks on Asian-American tied to the pandemic’s Wuhan China origin. We’ve even acknowledged victims of sexual harassment and assault in the form of a #MeToo movement. We’ve also seen the emergence of acronyms LGBTQ and BIPOC (which stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Black, Indigenous and People of Color, respectively), whose causes people are embracing.
But where’s the outrage over, as Peter Savodnik recently reported, pro-Palestinian protesters tossing an explosive device into a crowd of Jews in New York’s Diamond District or diners at a sushi restaurant in West Hollywood beaten by a group of men draped in keffiyehs? It’s even worse overseas where a caravan full of haters drove through Jewish neighborhoods in North London hollering “F-the Jews! Rape their daughters!” or a demonstrator in Vienna, Austria shouting, “Shove your Holocaust up your ass!” amid a cheering crowd of young people who were mostly women. It’s a woke blindspot, plain and simple.
What we have is a never-ending demonization of Israel and Jews alongside the perpetuation of a false narrative about Palestinian victimization in a land called Palestine. But there’s no historical context given to this description, which dates back to the Romans, who renamed Eretz Yisroel “Palaestina” in an attempt to remove the Jewish identification with the land. It was later called Palestine to reference all land past Syria under the Ottoman Empire.
It doesn’t help matters that prominent self-hating Jews make stunningly ignorant and abhorrent comments. One such example is Seth Rogen, who in 2020 admitted to being fed “a huge amount of lies about Israel” in terms of occupying land that belonged to Palestinians. He also questioned the very existence of Israel, a country that he actually said “doesn’t make sense.”
Ignoring history, including a Jewish presence that dates back millennia, as well as the purpose of providing Jews refuge from further persecution and Jewish statehood sanctioned in response to the Holocaust, the comic actor believes only in the diaspora (dispersion of Jews from their original homeland). Reading the account of an interview he gave, I was reminded of chess champion Bobby Fischer, whose infamous hatred of his Jewish identity and fellow Jews was beyond horrific.
Hollywood would do much better listening to the sound logic of Bill Maher, a rabid atheist whose Catholic upbringing eclipsed his mother’s Jewish faith (so he doesn’t have a dog in this fight). He recently told his Real Time audience that Israel had a right to defend itself after Gaza fired 4,000 rockets into Jewish territory and that terms like “occupiers” and “apartheid” simply don’t apply when Jews have lived in the region “way before the first Muslim or Arab walked the earth.”
Indeed, Jews were said to first return to Israel about 3,300 years ago, while the Hebrew calendar dates back to the year 5781. Maher went on to contrast the situation in Israel with actual apartheid in South Africa, which was controlled by governments in Britain and Holland that “had no claim to the land.”
Criticizing Israeli government policy doesn’t automatically make someone antisemitic, especially considering that many Jews themselves fall into this category and are deeply divided about the answer to achieving a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
But far too many critics are on the wrong side of history, and their view of this long-simmering conflict has been wildly distorted. How quickly they forget (or conveniently ignore) that Israel is an island of tolerance in one of the world’s most intolerant regions.
For me, it’s a matter of knowledge vs. ignorance. A proper history of the Jewish people should accompany every course on the Holocaust taught in public schools to educate people about actual events and help eradicate the scourge of antisemitism. This is the only logical way forward.