Does Burston really think it’s legitimate to view BDS as Tikkun Olam?

(My apologies for taking so long to post this. I wanted feedback from friends on my treatment of Tikkun Olam which is not an area of any expertise for me. I wrote this during the Thanksgiving break, but only post it now. I do think, however, that the issue I treat here is not going away.)

A good friend sent me the following piece by Bradley Burston with the comment: “It expresses how I feel.” I find it so pervasively flawed that I have difficulty taking it seriously. But if my friend can (and he’s one of the smartest people I know), then I have to, and it does raise, however poorly, a whole range of key issues. So, with great reluctance (because there are more interesting texts to sink one’s teeth into), I fisk below.

First, a brief introductory note: One of the key contentions of Burston and the people he likes (J-Street, Jewish Voices for Peace, Young Jews for Peace, etc.) is that a) they love Israel and b) they know the best way to peace which, since Israel won’t take that path, they must force upon her. Now all these groups locate along the “left” political spectrum differently. NIF disapproves of BDS but funds groups who do; J-Street disapproves of  BDS even if they associate with people who do; Jewish Voices for Peace and Emily Schaeffer (below) support BDS in many forms.

Whatever the details, each of these groups believes that they must pressure Israel to leave the occupied territories out of a combination of moral passion – the Israel they love should set a moral example to the world – and peaceful intentions – they know their formula for peace will work.

Now some people, myself included, see the situation very differently. On moral matters, howevermuch we may share concerns about the occupation and dominion over another people harms both Palestinians and Israelis, we have difficulty with a moral equivalence, that ends up as a moral inversion, with the profound condescension and bigotry it involves in its abysmally low standards for the Palestinians, and the inversely exacting standards to which it holds Israel. The result – people, Jews! – for whom Israel is the new Nazi. And even as such people are morally reckless in their accusations of Israel, they echo and reinforce genocidal hatreds among the most base of the enemies of the Jews.

On the practical level, many of us feel that while making concessions and apologizing is a splendid way to begin a process of reconciliation, that only works in cases where the other side also seeks resolution, and responds in kind. In some cases, conflicts are not only unresponsive to such an approach, but literally allergic: rather than a peace process it produces a war process. Indeed, given how often and consistently Palestinian (and more broadly Arab) leaders have seized upon Israeli concessions to press for more and on Israeli confessions to reaffirm a demonizing narrative, it’s dubious that under the best of circumstances, Palestinian political players would respond to an Israeli withdrawal to the ’67 borders with a shift to peace.

On the contrary, any such move most likely will strengthen those in the Palestinian camp who argue that any withdrawal should be part of a “Phased plan” to destroy Israel and use any and every pretext to keep the war alive. Any observer who dismisses even this possibility – the favorite line is either, “you’re paranoid,” or “oh, you think they only understand violence.” – is either in ignorance or denial of the discourse that prevails in Palestinian political culture today.

And so, if under the best of conditions withdrawing to the ’67 lines could backfire, how much the more likely that the voices of attack will grow louder if Israel finds itself compelled as a result of becoming the object of universal execration (BDS) and pressure from its only powerful ally, the United States, to withdraw. The naïveté of such a formula is only matched by the aggressiveness with which it gets implemented. A formula for war: si vis bellum para pacem.

The fact that groups can argue that the US should force Israel to make these concessions without any serious discussion of the necessary massive reciprocity from Palestinians (especially when it comes to incitement to hatred and violence), raises serious doubts among many about their realism, and given their recklessness in insisting that virtually any means to get there are legitimate, it raises for us serious doubts about their responsibility.

As far as I can make out, Burston has no idea what I’m talking about. He’s like the New Yorker cartoon of a Manhattanite’s view of the USA. When he looks at the landscape of this debate, all he sees are him and his like-minded friends “doing the right thing,” while the opposition is at the other end of the spectrum – messianic rabbis and their neo-con partners who will not part with an inch of the land, even if God himself told them to do so. And nothing in between.

He encases his simplistic dualism in the antimony “Jews of the Gate” vs. “Jews of the Wall.” This fisking comes from someone who thinks that both of his categories are poorly conceived; and that the real issues are entirely different from the ones upon which he focuses.

Thanksgiving, Tikkun Olam, and U.S. Jews breaking the Israel barrier By Bradley Burston

[Part 2 of a series on U.S. Jews emotionally divesting from Israel. In part, a journal of a recent West Coast speaking tour hosted by J Street]

Norah: It reminds me of this part of Judaism that I really like. It’s called Tikkun Olam. It says that the world is broken into pieces, and that it’s everybody’s job to find them and put them back together again.

Nick: Well, maybe we’re the pieces. And maybe we’re not supposed to find the pieces. Maybe we are the pieces. “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” (Columbia Pictures, 2008)

It’s hard not to read this as a spoof of the trivial use to which a mystical concept like tikkun olam has been put in new “new-age” spirituality. Not having seen the movie, I don’t know if this is an homage to “Deep Thoughts,” but Burston seems to offer them up as his credo. Indeed, Nick’s version – people! – stands behind the full line-up of comments he makes throughout this piece. So it’s probably worth a short comment on this deep and now deeply problematic notion that has set our moral compasses awry in the 21st century. Briefly, tikkun olam represents a mystical-messianic principle, first elaborated in Lurianic Kabbalah, that seeks to reunite the divine sparks and souls imprisoned in the shells (qlipot) created by the breaking of the vessels early in the process of creation. In Lurianic kabbalah, this takes the form of liturgical and other contemplative activity, with a heavy emphasis on the intention of the one performing these acts. Perhaps most significantly, Lurianic teaching endowed every act of tikkun, no matter how seemingly insignificant, with cosmic significance and impact. It nurtures both enthusiastic and quietistic forms of millennialism through which humans (help to) bring about the perfection of the world. In the 60s, tikkun olam got reoriented, like so much of modern Judaism, away from such particularistic (and superstitious) notions as prayer and mitzvot (commandments) towards “social justice.” In millennial terms, this modernized principle of tikkun olam is a active transformative apocalyptic approach to the goal of bringing on a “perfect” (redeemed) world. Like so many demotic millennial movements, it seeks redemption in the egalitarian approach it takes toward “others.” It’s a matter of debate whether this shift to social justice pre-eminently represents an improvement, universalizing earlier notions, or has just offered a Jewish covering term for the kind of messianic impulses of the 60s, open to any rereading no matter how superficial or distant from the original, mystical principles and Jewish values.  Perhaps the key issue, discussed at length below, concerns the nature of the dark side, the sitra achra, the texture of the klipot, and whether they are nogah (that can be illuminated, redeemed) and those that are tmayot (impure, irredeemable). My sense is that, deeply underestimating the dark side of Israel’s enemies, Burston and his “Jews of the Gate” think they can “repair” the dark side of Hamas, or of Fatah just by being nice.

On this, the eve of Thanksgiving, I find myself been thinking a great deal about Tikkun Olam, human acts which repair the world, words and deeds and decisions which mend and put together what has gone broken, twisted, missing.

For me, the term “decisions” rings strange here, since tikkun olam is above all about deeds (including words as deeds). Does “decisions” have the connotation of “policy decisions”? – a shift that suggests a kind of institutional political messianism that has a long history of dangerous “decision-making.”

At root, Thanksgiving is itself an act of Tikkun Olam. It celebrates the bridging of fierce differences, the coming together of seeming opposites, the idea that helping people in dire need takes precedence over barriers of creed and color.

This seems like a good example of the banalization of tikkun olam. Acts of gratitude are obviously good things, and on a intercultural level can have huge consequences for the state of the world. Perhaps if the French were not so ungrateful – as in “The French can forgive the Germans for conquering them, but not the Americans for saving them.” – then both France and Europe might be in much better condition to confront its challenges than it now appears to be. But identifying gratitude, even on a grand scale, with tikkun olam, turns the concept into an occasion for homiletics. And Burston’s homily is a pluralistic interpretation of Thanksgiving: “fierce differences” and “seeming opposites” come together when someone has the courage to put “my side” aside and reach out across the cultural divide of “us-them” and help an “other” in dire need. Especially nice, in this case, the “people of color” reached out to needy “white” pilgrims.

Thanksgiving can also make it all too clear how broken the world has become.

There’s no further sentence to explicate this statement. Were I to fill in the blanks, I might add that it all ended rather badly for the natives who reached out, since the white man’s gratitude did not survive his greed both material (land and minerals) and spiritual (new souls for Christ). But I suspect that’s not Burston’s point. Rather, it seems like a foreboding look at the present.

A few weeks ago, I went to America in search of the fault lines of the Jews. As different as American Jews are from Israelis, and the differences are in many ways core-deep, the fault lines are strikingly similar. Here as there, the cracks which keep the Jewish people broken, keep us in pieces, extend to radically differing concepts of the forms Tikkun Olam should take, and radically differing reasons for giving thanks.

So Burston will now analyze the culture wars going on within the Jewish people in terms of a foreboding “broken world” in which two different tendencies divide us from each other. Burston apparently wants to fix (letaken) this rift, to heal the riven world. Let’s see what form that takes.

This is because the fault lines dividing Jew from Jew extend directly from the Green Line, the pre-1967 war border that divided Israel from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Now that strikes me as a remarkably contemporary political faultline along which to draw a fundamental division within a people over three millennia old. I can think of many other faultlines that might cut considerably deeper and include many more issues of import, but what’s noticeable about this one is that it’s not so much about Jews, as about Israel’s relationship with her Palestinian neighbors, not an internal issue in which two groups of Jews have been alienated, but in which two groups of Jews differ on how to treat the non-Jewish “other.”

For the purpose of this discussion, let’s give these pieces a name. On one side are the Jews of the Wall. On the other, the Jews of the Gate.

It’s not explicit yet, but this has all the hallmarks of an invidious comparison, one in which one establishes one’s own identity by denigrating the “other side.” Virtue with us (it’s not hard to see it coming, “the Jews of the Gate”), and everything wrong, on the other side (“the Jews of the Wall”). Is this another version of the the “New Afrikaner Jews” (as in “Apartheid Wall”) vs. the “Righteous Jews” that John Mearsheimer identified recently as holding the key to Palestinian future. Note that in Lurianic terms, the dark forces are called, the sitra achra – the “other side.” The dichotomy recalls the famous Frank Zappa line: “The mind is like a parachute; it only works if it’s open.” Of course, a parachute then only works once if you can’t close it up as well. No integrated person would be entirely in either camp – always closed, always open; and no observer of the Arab-Israeli conflict can hope to offer serious thought if they aspire to belong only to one camp.

The Jews of the Wall are that minority of Israeli and American Jews who sincerely and unshakably believe in permanent settlement in all of the West Bank. Over time, they have become the vanguard both of Orthodox Judaism and the secular neo-conservative Jewish right, whose power and influence, much of it monetary, has American Jewish institutions terrified of their own shadows.

Now this is a pretty amazing combination of groups here, only a very few of whom hold the “sincere and unshakeable belief in permanent settlement in all of the West Bank.” But, in a move that, were it targeting the “Jews of the Gate” would immediately get labeled smearing, and efforts to silence legitimate criticism, Burston presents this irredentist, messianic, dogmatic (unshakeable) belief as the driving force behind the “bad Jews.” Mearsheimer’s “New Afrikaners” and Burston’s “Jews of the Wall” are synonymous. And it doesn’t seem to me that he’s working on reuniting these pieces.

The Jews of the Gate, meanwhile, comprise the majority of Jews in both America and Israel. They want to see a future partition of the Holy Land into two independent states, a democratic and internationally recognized state of Israel next to a sovereign and independent state of Palestine.

As simplistic with the one side, so now with the other. This is a stunning oversimplification of the lines of disagreement. The vast majority of Jews (and non-Jews) may accept the notion of two states, but wonder if now is the right time to implement it. If the Palestinian state, far from being an even remotely “democratic” state, turns into a theocratic enemy, what is that likelihood that such a development would produce peace? In this sense, J-Street’s pious hopes for Hamas-Fatah reconciliation in the framework of a two-state solution, strike some in the middle ground as silly.

Ultimately, a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be advanced by Palestinian political reconciliation, and we support efforts by third parties to achieve reconciliation and a unity government, whose officials will work within a diplomatic process to achieve an acceptable two-state solution.

It applies to a critical faultline within Palestinian society (on which side Fatah falls is still unclear) a lack of serious thought, and comes up with formulas issue of fantasies about the power of good will. To lump everyone on the spectrum of Jews (and non-Jews) thinking about these problems into these two camps misses literally every significant development since Oslo blew up in everyone’s faces in 2000. It carries over the same militant Manicheanism (dualism) that the pro-Oslo forces used to silence all criticism of the proponents of the “peace process” from 1993-2000. “Hush! Don’t offend the Palestinians. You’ll queer the peace process.” Burston’s dichotomy, in addition to its invidious identity formation, literally sweeps away all the cognitive dissonance that has descended on “Jews of the Gate” after the Oslo Terror war hit, when, in the words of one Israeli, “I realized, it’s not in our hands.” If Burston doesn’t recognize the deeply troubled, reluctantly realistic Israelis and Jews who agonize over what went wrong? what’s wrong? and what can we do when it’s not in our hands to make the decisive moves? – then I’d say he’s the unshakably dogmatic believer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Jewish Federations General Assembly as he gets heckled by young U.S. Jews in New Orleans, November 8, 2010. Photo by: AP Before coming to America recently, I’d heard warnings from friends in the U.S. Jewish community that the very mention of J Street would spark nasty arguments, attempts to silence dissenting opinions regarding Israeli policies, behind-the-scenes sabotage by powerful pro-settlement donors and organizational professionals, perhaps cancellations of events. I had been warned, as well, that it was already too late. That young Jews of the Gate, liberal in outlook, open in faith, passionate about Israel but conflicted over its policies and disaffected by its explanations, had simply given up and gone, essentially leaving the field to the outnumbered but dogged Jews of the Wall.

Well, we know who the good guys here are. Indeed, Burston has to fudge the data to make his case look as good as it does. One of the salient points about the “liberal Jews” (the ones Peter Beinart identifies with) is that they are specifically not “passionate about Israel.” (Beinart begins by discussing how “non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders,” with many professing “a near-total absence of positive feelings.”) On the contrary, as critics point out, they are often far more concerned about their own embarrassment before their liberal friends than they are in any way identified or committed to Israel. Among the worst of these “passionately moral” folks ready to throw Israel to the BDS wolves so that they can feel morally pure, I’d go so far as to venture that we have a Jewish-style honor-killing: “Israel has so shamed my Jewish identity that I will contribute to its demise for the sake of my moral honor.”

In fact, when you consider it, it’s in the direct interest of pro-settlement and right-leaning forces in the U.S. Jewish community to have an Israeli government which alienates and repels as many young, energetic, moderate American Jews as possible. It’s in the direct interest of the powerful minority of pro-occupation, pro-settlement (let’s call them POPS) activists and communal officials, along with a Sharansky-driven Jewish Agency and a Lieberman-driven Foreign Ministry, to have these voices of conscience out of the way. For the pro-occupation, pro-settlement American Jewish right, it’s not a problem that most Jews find the settlement enterprise repellent – it’s a godsend.

I confess to a certain confusion. Why is it in the interest of the POPS to “alienate and repel as many young, energetic, moderate American Jews as possible”? To eliminate criticism? To clear the field for their own strident voices? Is this crude sarcasm? Or does he seriously think that’s how opponents of a Palestinian-state-now-at-any-price think? No wonder he thinks that the “Jews of the Wall” are a tiny minority. In his mind, they’re Neanderthal. What about all those people – not Zvi Kook “Whole land of Israel” messianists – who find themselves (ourselves) utterly baffled by the craziness of Israel’s “leftist” detractors, and deeply troubled by the bizarre strength of a post-modern meme that assumes “my enemy’s side, right or wrong.” What about those who wonder how much of what outrages/ embarrasses us about what Israel does, reflects not the actual situation, but rather a serious distortion in our perception created by a PC discourse manipulated by people whose transgressions of their own people’s human rights o’ershadow even Israel’s sins against the Palestinians? (In my earlier conversation with the friend who sent me this note, I asked if he thought the settlements were the core of the problem.

“Yes.” “And how do we know that?” “That’s what the Palestinians say.” “Are we required to believe what they say, even if the settlements is a smoke screen.” “Yes.”

I don’t think he means this. He just doesn’t want to know what it would mean to say, “no.” The policy implications are, apparently, unthinkable. Who knows? We might have to call their bluff. So, like Robin Williams in Hook, we should pull out our checkbook and see who wins that competition.

Following this visit, however, I find myself with renewed reason to be hopeful. More, this Thanksgiving season, to be thankful for. Because the voices of young American Jews of the Gate have never been stronger.

This month, when Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Jewish Federations of North America in what amounts to its annual State of the Jewish Community speech, a group of young Jews issued a remarkable, stunningly poetic counter-declaration to the general message of “Everyone But Israel’s At Fault.”

“Stunning” is a bizarre word for poetry like this:

We embrace diaspora, even when it causes us a great deal of pain. We are the rubble of tangled fear, the deliverance of values. We are human.

Alright, each to his own taste. This is not, however, a counter-declaration to the “general message of ‘Everyone But Israel’s At Fault.’” On the contrary, this is a manifesto celebrating ‘Everyone But Israel’s Right.’ They refuse “to have our histories distorted or erased, or appropriated by a corporate war machine…” (that’s the Israeli corporate war machine, not the Arab one); they refuse to be “whitewashed…” (I remember that when I first told a good friend of mine, who sat on the board of B’Tselem, that I thought al Durah was staged, he yelled at me “You’re whitewashing the occupation!”); they refuse to carry on “the legacy of terror…” (that’s the Israeli one, not the Arab one); to buying “the logic that slaughter means safety… (presumably a reference to what they believe was a slaughter of the innocents during Cast Lead) to witnessing “the violation of human rights in Palestine” in silence… All these remarks suggest that these passionate young Jews even as they reject the Israeli narrative and they emphatically adopt – i.e., give epistemological priority to – the Palestinian narrative of suffering.  These folks sound a great deal like they’re part of the “Israel’s entirely at fault” camp, adherents of the post-modern credo – “the ‘other,’ right or wrong.” There’s more to this point than meets the eye here. It is a constant trope of the hyper-critics of Israel that their critics are the “Israel right or wrong crowd” who want to silence any criticism of Israel. This was on display throughout the controversy about Alvin Rosenfeld’s essay on the way that Jews who compare Israel to Nazis (and other rhetorical excesses) contribute to the anti-Semitism we see flourishing since October 2000. Letty Pogrebin

put it:

If you’re a Jew who has ever said or written anything critical of Israel, then you may be contributing to an “intellectual and political climate that helps to foster” hostility toward the Jewish state and exacerbates hatred against Jews…

The problem here is that there’s an enormous, fundamental, crucial difference between people like Alvin Rosenfeld and myself and so many others, who object to morally depraved comparisons of Israel to the Nazis and to racist Apartheid South Africa, and accept, indeed engage with those who have “legitimate” criticisms of Israel. To claim that we lump self-degrading Jews like Norman Finkelstein (who has an elaborate page at his site suggesting that Israel and the Nazis are essentially identical), together with people who “question Israeli policies” about the West Bank and Gaza, is either clueless or dishonest.

While Netanyahu, the conference organizers and many of its speakers focused ire on foreign critics of Israel and – in an especially unfortunate McCarthyite phrase, “fellow travelers,” apparently a reference to Jews who question Israeli policy – for de-legitimizing the Jewish state, the message of the counter-declaration was that Israel’s Jewish critics see themselves and should be seen as part and parcel of the Jewish community.

Again, the phrase “apparently a reference to Jews who question Israeli policy” as the category of those who “delegitimize” Israel, reveals a level of misunderstanding that, at this point, ten years into the campaign of demonization, is inexcusably wrong. Can Burston not tell the difference between “questioning Israeli policy,” and comparing her to genocidal racists? As for the designation “McCarthyite” for the phrase “fellow-traveler,” it illustrates (again) the level of dishonest rhetoric involved here. It’s not like there were not really fellow-travelers who betrayed the USA (and the world community) to the Soviets; it’s not like there weren’t really people, journalists, intellectuals, ideologues, who served, wittingly or not, as agents of misinformation in critical matters. To suggest that a reference to fellow-travelers is automatically “McCarthyite” seems like about the same level of bundling involved in identifying the Zionazi-niks with “any one” who criticizes Israel “any time” about “anything.” You can’t use such crude (lack of) distinctions and think clearly.

Concurrently, Emily Schaeffer, a Boston-born American-Israeli human rights lawyer and activist, published an essay which clearly signaled to the wider Jewish community that the Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment movement – singled out by a senior Federation official as an existential danger to Israel – had a much more nuanced and complex side than the cartoon villains portrayed by invited experts to the New Orleans gathering.

Now the article turns dark and dangerous. The BDS movement is run by the worst delegitimizers of Israel, people who consider it a irredeemably racist state: Israel delendum est. The movement, which began its career at the notorious Durban I conference, embodies all the most vicious dimensions of the Palestinian victim narrative: no designation for Israel is too low, to vicious, too hate-mongering. This is the cognitive component of the genocidal war that the worst of the Palestinians pursue with such passion. It takes aggressive naïveté to think that this campaign is a “short-term” strategy for resolving Israel’s violations of international standards of justice and human rights, that it is merely the first of a long line of such “corrective” measures designed to make the world a better place, that once Israel is (ideally) brought to its knees by the campaign of vilification that lies at the heart and soul of BDS’s allegedly “non-violent” strategy, the result will be a “just” and therefore “legitimate” Israel in the eyes of its enemies. Schaeffer, if she believes what she writes (probably the case), offers a paradigmatic case of folly or dishonesty. For example, to the major criticism leveled at BDS – it’s bizarre standards in attacking Israel for transgressions that pale in comparison with those of other countries, especially its neighbors – she responds:

There are many countries that violate the same or similar norms, and should the oppressed populations in those countries call for the international community to impose BDS on the governments controlling them, then much of the same Israeli and international community that has decided to heed the Palestinian call for BDS against Israel would follow their lead as well.

This is an amazingly foolish remark. It’s almost as if she has taken Moynihan’s law in reverse, and made it her principle of action:

The amount of oppression in a land is directly related to the amount of complaint one hears arise. We, the tikkun olam BDS movement will attend to every and all complaints on a loudest-served-first basis.

Finally, Israel gets to the head of the diplomatic line. The rest of the cultures can wait till later for their judgment on how they defended human rights and allowed the oppressed to voice their pain. Right now, we’re going after the worst, whom we identify because they are the most loudly denounced. Like Goldstone in Gaza, they listen overwhelmingly to complaints about Israelis. The muffled complaints about a Hamas’ sacrifice of Gazan life remains unvoiced. As a result, post-modern masochism and pre-modern sadism hook up, and the Western left becomes a megaphone for the third-world right. And to support such a catastrophic failure in moral judgment, Schaeffer offers the vague promise that others will get the same treatment? If she really believes this, she lives in a fantasy world. The pro-Palestinian camp keeps silent on the sins of those with whom they show solidarity, even when they themselves are the target. The idea that BDS participates in an impartial justice-oriented discourse that will target any civil rights violators, and that the “Human Rights” community will listen to any voice that calls out, boggles the mind. It suggests that Schaeffer literally does not know with whom she allies herself. It resembles the mind-set of fellow travelers like George Bernard Shaw, who ignored the evidence before their very eyes. This is the fantasy world that so concerns those of us who distinguish between fair and unfair criticism, who believe in “whoever’s right, my side or not,” rather than either “my side right or wrong” (Jews of the Wall) or “their side right or wrong” (“Jews of the Gate”). The latter fantasy empowers, lionizes haters whose beliefs are shaped by a genocidal media, presenting them as heroes of “human rights” and “justice.” Just as no event better illustrated demopathy than a Durban conference against racism that became a platform for hatred, so one cannot find a better example of dupes and demopaths working together than tikkun olam Jews and Palestinian proponents of BDS. According to the proverb Hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue, so, when people fall dupe to hypocrisy, the results harm the very values to which the hypocrite paid tribute. Human rights and justice are the losers in this game. It’s not just time and energy lost, it’s working for the forces one thinks one opposes. It’s strengthening the klippah. BDS rides a wave of hatred, and those who partner with it, join forces with the darkest forces at work in the public sphere today. They make themselves the legitimate target of criticism from those who retain some sense of moral proportion.

As the Federation’s General Assembly heard plans for a new multi-million dollar Israel Action Network the Tel Aviv-based Schaeffer wrote than “just because a person supports BDS and aspires for major change in Israel does not mean that said person cannot love a million and a half aspects about the life, culture, landscape and even politics of Israel today and historically. Nor does it mean that Israelis need to boycott themselves (something that is neither possible nor part of the Palestinian call). The only thing that is black and white in the BDS movement is that the call will remain in effect until Israel — with a lot of help from its friends — ceases to violate international humanitarian and human rights law.”

More of same. Actually, the facetious apologies aside (Palestinians don’t call for Israelis to boycott themselves), this paragraph gives a good insight into the mindset of the BDS naifs. They think they’ve found a policy technique for tikkun olam.  If we just sternly denounce human rights violations and call for shutting out a given country until they submit to our demands, we can make the world a place where human rights will flourish. Israel just happens to be the first, perhaps because she has true friends who intervene to stop her from so terrible a path of action. And once we develop and perfect this technique, we can turn it on the rest of the world’s human rights violators. The problems here are obviously too great to deal with in this fisking. Suffice to say that in granting epistemological priority to the Palestinian narrative, and ignoring Moynihan’s law, such people are contributing to the destruction of the very culture of human rights for which they think they are the most passionate and honest advocates. As Joseph Conrad said of “visionaries”:

Visionaries work everlasting evil on earth. Their utopias inspire in the mass of mediocre minds a disgust of reality and a contempt for the secular logic of human development.

For Jews, this hyper-compassion for the Palestinians combines with the challenge of self-abnegation. Their tikkun of the Nakba is to feel the terrible pain of those their own people harmed. But in their act of atonement, they feel bound to read the images and testimony of that pain, according to the discourse born of hatred and revenge, of humiliation and rage. They embrace not the pain but the hatred. This brings up the question raised by some adepts of tikkun olam, about the nature of the klipa. It’s not even a question of whether the klipa we are dealing with – the Palestinian grievance against Israel – is nogah or tmaya. The problem here is how radically they under- and mis-estimate the nature of the problem, and how recklessly they over-estimate the power of their tikkun to transform it. The real kicker in this paragraph is the protestation of true love:

just because a person supports BDS and aspires for major change in Israel

which means, just because a person (Jew) supports a campaign that vilifies Israel out of all proportion, and aspires for changes in Israel that others see as possibly irredeemably damaging…

does not mean that said person cannot love a million and a half aspects about the life, culture, landscape and even politics of Israel today and historically.

Well, I suspect that anyone who loved a million and a half aspects about the life… and even politics of Israel” would not be anywhere near so cavalier in their treatment of her. If they feel they act out of love, that they’re doing tikkun olam by internalizing and instrumentalizing a Palestinian scape-goating narrative that seeks Israel’s destruction, then they illustrate the tragic observation that “We all kill the things we love.” As Ben Cohen noted recently, referring to piece by Jeffrey Goldberg:

…supporting BDS under any circumstances is incompatible with defining oneself as pro-Israel. After all, can you imagine a foundation dedicated to civil rights supporting grantees whose advocacy of separate lunch counters was deemed “incidental?”

I believe they may think they love Israel; I believe they may think they’re doing the right thing (God’s work, tikkun). But I can also think they delude themselves, and that they need to ask themselves what they love more: their own moral purity or an Israel which, for all its imperfections, towers over the depraved cultures that surround it and that loathe its very presence. This raises the key issue about people who think that BDS is tikkun olam. A real tikkun engages the entire person, it permeates and elevates with its heroic compassion and self-transcendence. This is policy tikkun of the basest sort: it embraces a weaponized narrative aimed at destroying Israel, and implements it in the belief that somehow that destruction will lead to a much better world.

Last week, after the Boston Globe reported that a Newton, Massachusetts synagogue had abruptly canceled an appearance by J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, “because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics,” the event attracted national attention, and an overflow crowd to the nearby elementary school to which the evening was hastily relocated.

“I deeply regret the inconvenience to J Street, and the difficulty that created for them,” said Rabbi Keith Stern, the congregation’s spiritual leader, who said a “small, influential group’’ within the congregation had strongly opposed holding the event. Stern, who attended the school appearance, said “I feel badly that people got so exercised here, through a gesture I really believed was about bringing an opportunity to the congregation.’’ These voices, and many others, have broken the Israel Barrier, the unspoken compact that states that acquiescence to occupation and settlements – without, G-d forbid, using the O word, or the S designation – is the U.S. Jewish community’s definition of apolitical, its gold standard for unity.

I would not have counseled canceling a Jeremy Ben-Ami appearance in a synagogue, but given the widespread use of shunning in the progressive camp, any objection by people sympathetic to BDS is nothing short of the pot calling the kettle black.  And given the people that J-Street associates with, it’s hard not to understand how some people might find them less of a friend than Job’s. On the contrary, the synagogue should have welcomed Jeremy on condition that he debate with people who disagree with him, something he does only rarely. In any case, Jeremy’s reaction replicates the “dialectical scam” described by Alvin Rosenfeld – turn a small incident into one of martyrdom at the hands of the enemies of free speech. Apparently, Burston finds the dialectical scam difficult to resist. It fits nicely into his effort to present the “Israel Barrier” as “the unspoken compact” that demands “acquiescence to occupation and settlements,” and identify that as the reason the “Jews of the Wall” might mobilize against Jeremy Ben-Ami’s J-Street… even if such a take misreads every aspect of the problem. (Perhaps surprisingly for people who consider themselves highly self-critical, the misreading is entirely in favor of the house.) The problem is not opposition to the settlements and the occupation, it’s how far in opposing them will you go? It’s not criticism, even loud and pointed criticism, that’s the problem. It’s demonizing, and it’s the Jews who have convinced themselves that they are contributing to tikkun olam by passionately opposing the O and the S by any means, including joining hands with forces of hatred

.

What I’ve seen in the past few weeks are unprecedented clashes between the two groups, a new desperation on the part of activists and string-pullers of the Jews of the Wall, and the nascent strength of the Jews of the Gate. In New Orleans, when members of the Young Leadership Institute of Jewish Voice for Peace heckled Netanyahu and held up signs reading that occupation, loyalty oaths and settlements were delegitimizing Israel, they were manhandled, placed in headlocks, and their signs literally chewed to pieces.

This is choice. The protesters were classic 60s knock-offs; their slogans mechanical (remember these are the folks with the “stunningly poetic” manifesto); their logic, a bulldozer. And unless they were forced from the room they would, indeed, have silenced Netanyahu. But of course, showing public contempt for the democratically elected Prime Minister of Israel makes perfect sense. They’re a rogue state (in the bad way), and deserve that contempt.

A few days later in the Bay Area, an Israeli flag-draped member of a rightist advocacy group, San Francisco Voice for Israel/StandWithUs, disrupting a Jewish Voice of Peace meeting, pepper-sprayed two JVP members in the face and eyes.

Note how this version suppresses the voice of the “other” (in this case, StandWithUs activist Robin Dubner). Here the pepper-spray is a tactic of disruption; in Dubner’s account the disruption was modeled on the earlier disruption of Netanyahu (applauded above), and the pepper spray was a defensive response to the hostile treatment at the hands of the organizers (excoriated above).

It makes perfect sense. Just when the Jews of the Gate are engaging the wider Jewish community in fresh ways, the Jews of the Wall are ratcheting up their attacks on them. They thought they had them where they wanted them. Because they want them gone.

This is mirror-talk. The BDS movement has precisely this profile. And yet, those opposing BDS-talk, who recoil in sane horror at people morally reckless enough to engage in tikkun olam with some of the darkest forces on the planet, get boxed and recycled as dogmatic racists.

The Jews of the Gate drive them bats. Because the Jews of the Gate face the world.

The “Jews of the Gate” drive the “Jews of the Wall” bats because the Jews of the Gate ignore the feedback from the real world to pursue a messianic dream down the most perilous and self-destructive of paths. They drive crazy anyone who realistically cares about values because, in their moral ferocity, they undermine the very values they claim to champion

.

The Jews of the Gate face one another. The Jews of the Gate believe in the possibility of a future.

I’m not sure if this is a typo or not. Shouldn’t it read “The Jews of the Wall face one another. The Jews of the Gate believe in the possibility of a future.”? In any case, it’s actually true that the Jews of the Gate face only one another and refuse to listen to Jews who find their behavior morally problematic. (How can anyone of good will not see what a wonderful person I am?) The proof of this self-absorption is in the very pudding whereby they dismiss any objections to demonizing Israel as objections to “any” criticism. They’re like Miracle Max, “I’m not listening!” <object width=”480″ height=”385″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/X90qKQAMh8A?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US”></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/X90qKQAMh8A?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”480″ height=”385″></embed></object> For someone who believes in tikkun olam, Burston and his friends clearly don’t think “the Jews of the Wall” deserve any respect. The only “other” they seem to respect are those who abuse their people.

They have broken the Israel Barrier. They are being true to what they believe. They are being true to their Judaism and their love of Israel. They are using the tools God gave human beings to repair the world. Their voices and their hands.

Wow. He really means it. The BDS folks think a) they love Israel, and b) they’re doing tikkun olam. And God help anyone with the effrontery to question their good will or the beneficial results of their efforts.

The Jews of the Wall, in their drive for uniformity, rabbinical authority, spiritual and genetic cohesion, stand for exclusion. They face the Wall.

This is a nasty piece of rhetoric. It’s the classic: my (Jewish) enemies are of the tribal “my side right or wrong” school – racial and ideological solidarities that do not permit them to acknowledge the “other.” The fact that this description suits Muslims and Palestinians to a degree unmatched by the most extremist “rabbinical” zealot, plays no role in Burston’s calculus. Like so many in the BDS movement, the standards applied to Israel with severity are waved when dealing with witnesses and allies among the “other.” Tikkun olam here only involves mending the broken where suffering, innocent Palestinians are concerned. Fellow Jews whose concerns get in the way deserve nothing but denunciation and dismissal.

They live the past. They translate compromise as surrender.

Please, Bradley, listen closely. (I know, it’s hard.) Compromise, like self-criticism, does not mean surrender; it can, under conditions of civil society, play the key role in achieving a positive-sum solution, one that benefits both sides and therefore can work voluntarily rather than through imposition. But compromise with people who have no intention of compromising, and who consider the “other’s” compromise as a sign of weakness and a prompt for more demands and more violence, is in fact counter-indicated. This is a basic fact of life, and if you can’t see the problem, or discuss which situation Israel faces in the current situation, then you do not belong in a serious discussion.

They believe that God’s Arabic vocabulary consists of the word No.

I presume he means here that the Jews of the Wall think that Arabs always say no in Arabic. Given howmuchdatasupports this expectation (evidence that directly contradicts what some of them say in English), it seems a bit off to ridicule the sentiment. How many sincere “yes”s can Burston point to spoken in Arabic?

They will tell you that they believe in negotiations, but ceding any of the homeland would rend Israeli society to the point of the destruction of the Jewish state.

Well some, but few, of them will argue this case (especially in its “any of the homeland” version), and they are probably right that it would cause enormous suffering and mutual hostility between Jews. (Not that rending Israeli society bothers the “Jews of the Gate”.) But the mainstream argument in opposition to the “get back to the green line and we’ll have peace now” crowd is that ceding on settlements without reciprocity, in the “hopes” that a) that’s what the Palestinians really want, and b) that doing it will change them from relentless foes to civil neighbors, is not particularly shrewd, and promises, like Oslo, to blow up in everyone’s face. You may not agree with this argument, but it’s inappropriate to deal with it by reducing the argument to the absurd and then mock the straw man you’ve created.

They will tell you that the Arabs hate us, Iranians, the Turks, Barack Obama, that they will always hate us. Therefore we cannot withdraw. If God Himself tells us to, we cannot withdraw.

There is no lack of Jews who, looking at the madness of anti-Semitic orgy that has gone on in the Arab, Muslim, and especially Palestinian world, echoed by the Western “Left,” sigh and say, “Esau hates Jacob” as if anti-Semitism were genetically programmed in human nature. (It is in the way that envy is.) But pointing to them as a kind of “off the charts” appraisal of a situation in which Burston and the people he admires (BDS, JVP, J-Street) play a role of enabling the very discourse these folks despair about, seems, again, misdirected at the least. And it has nothing directly to do with the settlements. People who do not support the “Settlements” or the “Occupation” in any way, can look at the global public sphere and conclude that lots of people have an astounding appetite for nasty narratives about Jews. As one academic in Budapest interrupted my presentation on Al Durah to say, “Everyone knows that Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian children every day

.”

The Jews of the Wall believe that the entire outside world is hostile to them. The truth, one suspects, is the exact opposite. They can’t bring themselves to say what they really mean: The Occupation must persist in order that the settlements grow, and the settlements must grow in order that the Occupation become permanent.

Given the line-up of UN, UNHRC, EU, NGOs, Solidarity Organizations, journalists, Nobel Prize winners, etc., the perception that “the whole world” is hostile to Israel hardly seems incomprehensible, even if one does not concur in the assessment (as I do not). After all, after Jenin, Kofi Annan remarked, “Is is possible that the whole world is wrong [about the "massacre"] and Israel is right [that it was a highly disciplined maneuver that minimized civilian casualties]?” Unconsciously, he echoed a remark by Ehad Ha’am in 1892 about the blood libel. And both cases indicate not a permanent condition of mankind, but moments when madness prevails. Alas, one of the components of that madness, this time around, as in the Holocaust, involves Jews in denial about what transpires.

They cannot accept that the Jews of the Gate care about Israel no less than they.

It seems like a legitimate suspicion that Jews who are ready to ally with people dedicated to the destruction of Israel and who apologize for people who rant on about killing Jews everywhere, don’t really care about Israel. In the same way that one can question whether a father who kills his daughter on suspicion that she’s shamed the family loves his daughter (who may be innocent) as much as he loves his honor, so we who love Israel despite her faults can legitimately wonder about those who claim they love Israel even as they consort with those who defame her.

And that Israel belongs to the Jews of the Gate every bit as much as it belongs to them. The Jews of the Gate want to see a different Israel, a better Israel. There are many more of them than there are of the Jews of the Wall. And their answers to Israel’s problems, to the cliff up ahead are a great deal more reasonable and a great deal more realistic than Shut Up and Gun It.

Here we reach the height of smug folly. I understand that Burston and his tiny minority (tiny now at least in Israel where they see things up close) think that forcing Israel to make the “painful concessions” that will change the Palestinians from belligerents to peaceful neighbors. I even understand that he thinks they reasonable and realistic. But therein lies the problem. He never pauses to consider the disastrous consequences if he is wrong.

It’s time for the Federations to come clean – they are, to a great degree, Jews of the Gate as well. Next year, at the GA, it will be time to invite anti-occupation people into the tent. Until now, they’ve never been able to bring themselves to say the word. They can’t bring themselves to name the disease. But BDS is a symptom. Flotillas are a symptom. Emotional divestment from Israel is a symptom. Occupation is the disease.

Occupation is one of the symptoms of a problem that existed long before the occupation (presuming that Burston’s speaking about over the Green Line). Indeed the occupation is a result of the problem of Arab irredentism; and what Burston hears when Palestinians speak of the “Occupation” (Green Line) is probably not what they mean (Shoreline). So it is with demopaths and their dupes: they use the same language and mean radically different things. And the dupes just think that if they believe their meaning enough, make the painful sacrifices, the demopaths will prove to be men and women of integrity and compassion. Good luck with that. One of the many diseases we need to treat is masochistic omnipotence syndrome, in which the only problems we can acknowledge are the ones “we” cause (and can therefore, presumably, fix). And, alas, the less one allows oneself to find any fault with one’s foes, the more hysterical one must get about one’s own faults. One ends up, as Nick Cohen laid out so devastatingly, begging a ruthless foe to “Kill us, we deserve it!” (What’s Left, chapter 9).

In the final analysis, I’d argue that the behavior of the folks who claim to do tikkun olam in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict have actually done the opposite. They’ve demonized Israelis and fed the desire for revenge among Arabs by systematically affirming and inflating their grievances. If there is a job for the tikkun olamniks in the Middle East, it’s to teach self-criticism and forgiveness to a remorselessly vengeful culture. But that’s much harder than parading in the invisible garb of moral rectitude on the stage of history, claiming to do good, even as one brings on ever-greater hatred and violence.

33 Responses to Does Burston really think it’s legitimate to view BDS as Tikkun Olam?

  1. Elihu says:

    One can only hope that Bradley reads your critique of this peice. Over the years, and in the course of communication with him, I have found Bradley a generally thoughtful fellow. His frustration with reality here seems to have clouded his thinking, though so that he has fallen into a simplistic and self-righteous Manichean dualism. Moreover, Bradley’s accusation that “[t]he Jews of the Wall … have become the vanguard both of Orthodox Judaism and the secular neo-conservative Jewish right, *whose power and influence, much of it monetary*, has American Jewish institutions terrified of their own shadows.”(empahsis mine.) it makes one shudder. Where have we heard such accusations of unrepresentative power, influence and monetary control before…? Does Bradley truly believe that the overwhelming majority of Jewry is in the liberal/left camp and that this segment of Jewry is the one cowed due to lack of funds and influence despite their supposed numbers? (Does the name Soros even register with him?) Oh, my.

  2. RichardNYC says:

    Since BDS Jews take large doses of self-absorbed pleasure from the belief their betrayal is seen as barrier-breaking, someone should compile a short history of the similarly deluded moral fashion victim Jews who’ve sold out their own people when politics of the time demanded it. Start with the middle ages and end with the Jews who fingered their own at the behest of the Nazis and the Soviets. Seeing that antisemitic Jews are merely passe, and that others know this, will erode the psychological payoff of engaging in antisemitic behavior.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by soccerdhg, Challah Hu Akbar. Challah Hu Akbar said: Sifting through #BDS and #TikkunOlam http://bit.ly/i3DZ23 Wow, great work again by Richard Landes. [...]

  4. sshender says:

    I don’t recall enjoying reading anything as much as I did now in quite a long time!

    Good to see you back.

    P.S. Did not want to comment on Atheist Morality, as there were already plenty of heated debates there, however, I highly recommend reading Sam Harris’ (one of the new atheists) newest book “The Moral Landscape” where he argues that moral questions have right and wrong answers that are grounded in empirical facts – and are thus best pursued using, not just philosophy, but the methods of science. Harris thus advocates that scientists begin conversations about a normative science of morality.

    I believe you will find yourself in agreement with him on most counts.

  5. A. Jay Adler says:

    You write,

    I find it so pervasively flawed that I have difficulty taking it seriously. But if my friend can (and he’s one of the smartest people I know), then I have to, and it does raise, however poorly, a whole range of key issues. So, with great reluctance (because there are more interesting texts to sink one’s teeth into), I fisk below.

    Your friend should consider this post a testament to your regard for him, for nothing else warrants it. Burston’s offering is so simple minded and banal, it does not rise above any typical presentation of the BDS rationale. Confronted, uncomprehending, with an enemy who is defeated but hatefully, self-destructively unreconciled to that defeat, and who spurns every hand up in the dream of being levitated above his enemy’s disappearance, a Burston engages in magical thinking. Self-destructive recalcitrance and suffering are raised to a virtue; dumbstruck ascendancy becomes a wound to be repaired. Mystical self-abnegation is proposed to resolve the inexplicable contradiction.

    Meanwhile, back in the unpoeticized world…

  6. Daniel Bielak says:

    Must Read:

    “The Anti-Semite’s Pointed Finger”, by Ruth R. Wisse, November 2010
    https://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/the-anti-semite-s-pointed-finger-15563?page=all

  7. Daniel Bielak says:

    I found the above article by seeing it referred to in the following also important article.

    “If I were not a Jew, my hair would stand on end with fear”, by Matthias Küntzel
    http://www.matthiaskuentzel.de/contents/if-i-were-not-a-jew-my-hair-would-stand-on-end-with-fear

  8. Daniel Bielak says:

    Excerpt from “The Anti-Semite’s Pointed Finger”, by Ruth R. Wisse:

    I have tried to show (a) that anti-Semitism cannot be arrested by any remedial action of the Jews; (b) that there are harmful consequences for pretending that concessions from Jews can stop the aggression against them; and (c) that anti-Semitism forces a choice between protection of the Jews and, under the guise of liberalism, complicity with their enemies. And though anti-Semitism is often compared to cancer, there is no comparable effort to finding a cure. The reason seems plain: where the carriers of an illness are also its casualties, they and their well-wishers have incentives to tackle the problem. But the carriers of anti-Semitism do not experience themselves as its apparent victims. At-risk Jews cannot halt the malignancy, because they are not its carriers. And its carriers, the anti-Semites, will not seek a cure, because they don’t recognize its harm to them. Not until enlightened Arabs recognize that they, not the Jews, are its ultimate casualties will this political threat be contained.

  9. Daniel Bielak says:

    Excerpt, and conclusion, from “The Anti-Semite’s Pointed Finger”, by Ruth R. Wisse:

    To say that anti-Semitism persists and succeeds does not mean that anti-Semitism is politically invulnerable. Tactics in fighting anti-Semitism may and should vary. But what is required strategically, from Jews as from all decent human beings, is no more than what justice and truth and genuine liberalism demand: namely, to reject vigorously the role of defendant at the bar of world opinion and to instigate political, diplomatic, moral, and intellectual countersuits on every front.

  10. Daniel Bielak says:

    An essential excerpt from “The Anti-Semite’s Pointed Finger”, by Ruth R. Wisse:

    Today, by any reasonable standard, Israel remains a beacon of liberalism in an illiberal region. Moreover, on any genuine political compass, Jews and Israel are the true north of liberalism, not simply on account of the way they are constituted as a people, but also because of the anti-liberal forces ranged against them. Arab opponents of Israel themselves oppose liberal democracy and fear its freedoms. Anti–Semitism in all its forms—Christian and Muslim, secular andreligious, totalitarian and authoritarian—is an anti-liberal movement, one that explicitly defines liberalism as a Jewish conspiracy. One would therefore expect the alignment of Israel with liberalism and anti-Zionism with anti-liberalism to win Israel the defense of all liberals. The standard-bearers of muscular liberalism, from the 19th-century novelist GeorgeEliot to the late senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, have done just that, using defense of Jewish rights as a touchstone of liberal principles.

    Yet here is the paradox: the fiercer anti-Semitism grows, the more it forces a choice on liberals. The choice is between protecting the Jews and protecting the orthodox liberal belief in rational compromise, world peace, “getting to yes,” and all the rest. Protecting the Jews requires confronting hostility that is not subject to rational persuasion, does not obey the liberal version of the rule of law, does not abide by liberal ideas of fairness, and does not extend peace and goodwill to others. To side with Israel, therefore, leaves one exposed to the same hostility that assails the Jews—an uncomfortable position for individuals and governments alike. The dictates of self-interest persuade some to ignore aggression that presumably doesn’t concern them, and then to justify their callousness by holding Jews responsible for the aggression against them. Some Jews try to demonstrate their own innocence by dissociating themselves from those of their fellow Jews who are under attack.

    The politics of anti-Semitism strikes again: blaming the Jews succeeds by persuading liberals that it is aimed only at the “culpable” Jews. By casting these Jews as aggressors, it invites liberals to join the attack on them, on behalf of the Jews’ alleged victims. It congratulates liberals for joining the anti-liberal side by persuading them that they stand with the weak against the strong.

  11. Daniel Bielak says:

    Excerpts from “The Anti-Semite’s Pointed Finger”, by Ruth R. Wisse

    Explanation of the nature of the situation of anti-Jewish (anti-Israeli) bigoted-prejudice/malicious-political-utility/mass-hysteria:

    Today, by any reasonable standard, Israel remains a beacon of liberalism in an illiberal region. Moreover, on any genuine political compass, Jews and Israel are the true north of liberalism, not simply on account of the way they are constituted as a people, but also because of the anti-liberal forces ranged against them. Arab opponents of Israel themselves oppose liberal democracy and fear its freedoms. Anti-Semitism in all its forms — Christian and Muslim, secular and religious, totalitarian and authoritarian — is an anti-liberal movement, one that explicitly defines liberalism as a Jewish conspiracy. One would therefore expect the alignment of Israel with liberalism and anti-Zionism with anti-liberalism to win Israel the defense of all liberals. The standard-bearers of muscular liberalism, from the 19th-century novelist George Eliot to the late senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, have done just that, using defense of Jewish rights as a touchstone of liberal principles.

    Yet here is the paradox: the fiercer anti-Semitism grows, the more it forces a choice on liberals. The choice is between protecting the Jews and protecting the orthodox liberal belief in rational compromise, world peace, “getting to yes,” and all the rest. Protecting the Jews requires confronting hostility that is not subject to rational persuasion, does not obey the liberal version of the rule of law, does not abide by liberal ideas of fairness, and does not extend peace and goodwill to others. To side with Israel, therefore, leaves one exposed to the same hostility that assails the Jews — an uncomfortable position for individuals and governments alike. The dictates of self-interest persuade some to ignore aggression that presumably doesn’t concern them, and then to justify their callousness by holding Jews responsible for the aggression against them. Some Jews try to demonstrate their own innocence by dissociating themselves from those of their fellow Jews who are under attack.

    The politics of anti-Semitism strikes again: blaming the Jews succeeds by persuading liberals that it is aimed only at the “culpable” Jews. By casting these Jews as aggressors, it invites liberals to join the attack on them, on behalf of the Jews’ alleged victims. It congratulates liberals for joining the anti-liberal side by persuading them that they stand with the weak against the strong.

    Summary overview of the situation of anti-Jewish (anti-Israeli) bigoted-prejudice/malicious-political-utility/mass-hysteria:

    I have tried to show (a) that anti-Semitism cannot be arrested by any remedial action of the Jews; (b) that there are harmful consequences for pretending that concessions from Jews can stop the aggression against them; and (c) that anti-Semitism forces a choice between protection of the Jews and, under the guise of liberalism, complicity with their enemies. And though anti-Semitism is often compared to cancer, there is no comparable effort to finding a cure. The reason seems plain: where the carriers of an illness are also its casualties, they and their well-wishers have incentives to tackle the problem. But the carriers of anti-Semitism do not experience themselves as its apparent victims. At-risk Jews cannot halt the malignancy, because they are not its carriers. And its carriers, the anti-Semites, will not seek a cure, because they don’t recognize its harm to them. Not until enlightened Arabs recognize that they, not the Jews, are its ultimate casualties will this political threat be contained.

    Remedy to anti-Jewish (anti-Israeli) bigoted-prejudice/malicious-political-utility/mass-hysteria:

    To say that anti-Semitism persists and succeeds does not mean that anti-Semitism is politically invulnerable. Tactics in fighting anti-Semitism may and should vary. But what is required strategically, from Jews as from all decent human beings, is no more than what justice and truth and genuine liberalism demand: namely, to reject vigorously the role of defendant at the bar of world opinion and to instigate political, diplomatic, moral, and intellectual countersuits on every front.

  12. obsy says:

    I do know nothing about Tikkun Olam, so I miss the point, but I do not feel anything healing, mending or uniting about this text. Quite the opposite. There is sadness about liberal Jews who do not stand up against conservative Jews and there is happiness about those who do. How uniting is that?

    One party is presented as always wrong, the other one always right.
    This text is clearly no attempt to bring those “Jews of the gate” closer to the other Jews.

    Also, I don’t feel this text as an attempt to reach out to the “Jews of the wall” either. I don’t feel it. Neither emotional nor in terms of reason. Do people who want to mend and heal, build their texts like: “you are wrong. we are right. we are good and justified. you are wrong…”
    I guess even Christian missionaries in Israel are more sensitive in their attempts to convert (not unite).

    Richard Landes, the question that I would like to ask your friend is: “Do you feel that Bradley Burston was trying to mend those Jewish pieces?”

    I’m reminded of the people who said that Obama, the extreme left candidate of the left party would unite America, while his opponent McCain, the left candidate of the right party with bonds to politicians of the other party would not.
    Or of those who call a popular left-center-right unity coalition: “extreme right”
    (I hope it is still popular. I had little time to check Israeli politics.)

    I guess in those minds unity can only exist in a classless society. So everyone who follows this line of thought is a uniter while everyone who does not is a divider.

  13. Daniel Bielak says:

    obsy,

    I’m very glad to see you.

    I know the psychology of such Jewish people intimately. I have that quality in my own my mind – because of the experience I’ve had experiencing living as who I am as Jewish person and growing up in my family which is a Jewish family.

    It is a deep profound psychological woundedness. It is a deep profound severe Stockholm Syndrome and egocentric self-view and cultural (Jewish) chauvanistic egocentric self-view. It is based on fear and anger – deep frustration and misdirected anger – and egocentric self-view protection/coddling.

    It is very unbeneficial. It is detrimental. That is why I have said that Jewish people have to start to be mindful.

    • …fear of being hated by non-Jewish culturally Christian people.

      It involves deep empathy for others but mainly for non-Jewish people, and it involves a barrier – a numbness – to the suffering of other Jewish people. A barrier – a numbness – that involves deep hurt and not wanting to feel overwhelmed and helpless – and involves misdirected anger towards fellow Jewish people – anger for being so helpless.

      It involves wanting to feel that one is “good” – that one is “Jewish” – a “Beautiful Generous Victim” – “A Turner of One’s Cheek”.

      And it involves desperately wanting to be loved by those (non-Jewish people) who oneself views as hating oneself.

      It involves wanting to show, to non-Jewish people, and to oneself, how “good” oneself is, by attacking the “bad” Jewish people – the Jewish people who are being attacked by non-Jewish people.

      • and it involves deep anger towards non-Jewish people which is re-directed toward fellow Jewish people.

      • by “non-Jewish people” I meant culturally Christian people.

        …and perhaps, in the case of Jewish people who come from (who grew up in, or whose families come from) Muslim from Muslim societies, Muslims.

        My ethnicity is Jewish-European and the culture that I come from (the culture that I grew up in) is culturally Christian European culture, so for me it’s culturally Christian European people.

        Christianity is unique in its explicit inherent detrimental malicious wrong view of the Jewish people which is held as a tenet of the religion.

        Islam also has some of that – but not just toward the Jewish people and not in such a particular malicious perverse way.

        Islam is more general in its inherent malice than is Christianity. Islam is genocidally malicious toward all non-adherents of Islam, and is genocidally malicious the most toward the Jewish people, but, unlike Christianity, Islam is not malicious solely toward the Jewish people, and the malicious wrong view that Islam has as a tenet towards the Jewish people is not as perverse as the malicious wrong view that Christianity has as a tenet towards the Jewish people.

        • I apologize for expressing my rage.

          The situation in the world is enraging me.

          The way that European people and other culturally Christian European people are treating Israel, the country of the Jewish people, which is under intendely genocidal siege, which is a siege that is being viciously participated in by, and promoted by, European people and by other culturally Christian European people, is enraging me.

          The members of the governmental agencies of the United States, and of European countries hold racist antipathetic culturally-Christian-based wrong views about, and feel malicious antipathy toward, the Jewish people, and have been undermining, and trying to destroy (commit genocide against) Israel, since before Israel was officially re-founded in 1948.

          The CIA is literally a Nazi organization.

          It’s time for the Jewish people to stand up for themselves.

          • The news media of Western countries are propagating racist Jew-hatred against Israel – by lying – outright lying – lying by ommision and lying blatantly.

            It is a an actual conspiracy.

            It is vicious and it is evil.

            And Jewish people just take it, and, in some cases, even delusionally and derangedly, witlessly even participate in it.

          • Sometimes anger – controlled, non-violent, anger – is required.

            Wake up, Jewish people!

          • I think that what I wrote was wrong.

            I think that anger is never good.

            I apologize for my rant.

            But, still, Jewish people need to be mindful and do right action and protect themselves.

            Join with, and protect, and listen to, well-intentioned good-hearted Arab Israeli people. They are truly our best friends. Yes, there are some problems, but those things can be worked out by skillful right thought, right speech, and right action. That is part of what we need to do. Let us be mindful and do right action.

          • Just to clarify, what I think is wrong that I wrote is what I wrote about anger. I think that anger is, in fact, never good.

            I think that all of the other things that I wrote are accurate and true.

            The bulk and core of the membership of the CIA was constituted by several thousand German former Nazi officials. The policies of the CIA toward Israel and toward Jewish people in general have been malicious.

            The policies of the the State Department toward Israel have been antipathetic and hostile.

            Israel has to stand up for itself, with skillful right action.

  14. Israeli Knesset Druze Arab minister Ayoob Kara Visits Vienna and The Freedom Party (FPÖ) to Defend Israel and All Other Secular Liberal Democratic Countries

    KNESSET DRUSE ARAB MINISTER AYOOB KARA VISITS VIENNA AND THE FPÖ…….
    http://tundratabloids.com/2011/01/druse-arab-minister-in-the-knesset-visits-vienna-and-the-fpo.html

    Ayoob Kara:

    It is important to cooperate with every element, organization or party to fight terror, religious fundamentalism, which is a problem and danger to the entire world. I want to mee with Europeans because the same thing happened 60 years ago [alluding to the dangers prior to the Nazi takeover of Germany and World War II]. People were naive back then, they are naive now. People are not speaking out loud about the problems. Muslims are killing people everyday, but nothing is happening [no one is reacting].

    I want to thank Mr. Strache, FPÖ, and all parties in Europe that Israel is on the frontline [of this war]. In the future there will be organizations in the every corner. Today in Israel, tomorrow in Sweden in Austria, everywhere.

    I am not Jewish, but I am more Jewish than the Jews themselves. Non-Jews in Israel feel the same as Jews. I will fight with my Druse friends. They [the Muslims] hate us, they kill [us], and we defend Israel, we fight for Israel. There are only two million of us [Druse]. In Syria, Druse are sent to jail, there is no defense possible.

    Other Arab states are sending messages to Israel that they are afraid of Iran and fundamentalism, but they cannot say it publicly. People are afraid because there are no human rights in the Middle East.

    We must stop these fundamentalist organizations. Islam says: “We have the solution. All must submit to Islam.” But I like liberal life. They hate my policies. I speak out: I want the world to be free. Seventy years ago, people were quiet and did nothing to stop the situation. I am here today [to say]: Let us stop Islamic fundamentalism together before Iran attacks us. If you are afraid, you cannot stop anything. [But] we must stop this.

    In Israel, they are saying: “Why are you going to Austria?”

    I say: “Let us be together! I am glad to be sitting here next to my friend HC Strache!”

  15. The following is a comment by a commenter, who is an Israeli woman, on the Web site Jihad Watch, in reply to my comment, in which I posted the article about Israeli Knesset Druze Arab minister Ayoob Kara who visited Vienna and the Freedom Party (FPÖ) to defend Israel and all secular liberal democratic countries.

    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/01/just-released-new-york-2009-report-hate-crimes-against-jews-251-hate-crimes-against-muslims-11.html#comment-744368

    There are some things I’ve leraned only recently about some of the Arab population in Israel, including some of the Muslims. I thought nearly all of the Arabs in Israel with few exceptions hate us, hate the state, want it replaced with an Arab state and will join the enemy at the first oppurtunity, that is when the chance to destroy Israel will become more realistic. You hardly ever hear them say anything good about Israel. What you hear 99.9% of the time is hate, attacks, incitement, complaints and threats of revolts. And there was a CHRISTIAN Arab Knesset member, Azmi Bishara, who gave sensitive confidential information to HIZBALLAH. He’s a radical Arab nationalist (who, BTW, denied the existence of a Palestinian People and sees Israel as southern Syria). I assume in the western media he was described as a brave leftist Arab reformer since to today’s “liberals” extremist pan-Arab nationalists are “leftist”. The Druze serve in the army, but you hear extremist stuff even from Druze.

    What I realized recently is that pro-Israel Arabs are often scared to voice their support. I had no idea how initimidated they felt. I never thought such fear to express oneself existed here. They are certainly not scared to say the worst things about Israel, Jews, the government. I thought they felt completely free to say whatever they want. After all, there are also Arabs, even if very few Arabs, who defiantly hang the Israeli flag in their homes, so I didn’t think anyone was scared.

    But a series of small incidents lately made me more aware of that.

    One was a TV program about some Arabs in Israel, probably tens of thousands, who claim their ancestors were Jews who were forced to convert to Islam. Including an entire Bedouin tribe of about 5-8,000 people who claim they are still Jewish. They claim the women in their tribe kept the Jewish traditions going in secret. The man interviewed had a mezuzah, a religious artifact Jews hang in the enternce of their homes, hidden under a chair, attached to the bottom of the seat. That wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone who knows the genetic research in the local populations since there are genetic evidence that some of the “Palestinians” are of a Jewish origin (according to the prevalence of the Cohen haplotype). The odd thing was that the participants agreed to be interviewed only under condition of anonimity. This is strange since this is a Jewish state, it is majority Jewish, the majority in the authorities are Jews, so why should any Israeli citizen be afraid to say he believes his ancestors were Jews?

    Then there was the video I posted here of an Israeli Arab, a Druze, who expressed support in Israel and said to westerners and even Arabs (in Arabic) to support Israel. He expressed twice a fear of being killed for what he said. He also said his Christian and Muslim friends lie because they’re afraid that one day this country will diasappear and their brothers from the Arab countries around will come here and kill them.

    Then there was an Israeli Christian Arab who wrote about it in a forum. To my surprise he said he sees himself first as a Christian, then as an Israeli and only then as an Arab. He said he doesn’t understand the Christians in Israel who say they support Hamas and are against Israel. He said they suck up to the Muslims because they’re scared of them. He also said there are Muslim gangs who harras them and the Israeli police does nothing.

    The Israeli police effectively abandoned certain areas in Israel. It’s not only Christians who suffer, but also Jews. I think Israel effectively let the radicals take over the Arab population – a combination of fear of large scale riots if they’ll interfere in an already volatile situation, and of multiculturalism and staying out of Arab business which effectively let the Islamic radicals and PLO supporters/agents take over much of the education system and incite the population with false conspiracy theories. Today 40% of the Arabs in Israel believe the holocaust never happened.

  16. Please see the earlier comments by her, whose alias is Doom-and-gloom, and by me, about this issue, on the following post on Jihad Watch.

    “Moderate Abbas: ‘If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it’”
    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/12/moderate-abbas-if-there-is-an-independent-palestinian-state-with-jerusalem-as-its-capital-we-wont-ag.html

  17. hello says:

    I know what you mean about claims about wanting to unite which are promptly followed by efforts to separate. The trouble is, this is as much of a problem on the Left as it is on the Right. I am a Leftie (and I am not ashamed of it) but I also support Israel. And no, not the way you say the Left supports Israel. But reading the piece above I have to wonder–where does someone like me or a Nick Cohen or Harry’s Place or Engage (all lefties or Leftist organizations/blogs) fit in? When you say things like “Now all these groups locate along the “left” political spectrum differently…” you immediately exclude us. Even when as you cite Nick Cohen!

  18. To Christians and post-Christian culturally Christian-European people who claim to be friends of the Jewish people:

    I did not mean to offend you or hurt your feelings with what I wrote in my earlier comments on this post.

    However:

    If you are offended by what I wrote in my earlier comments on this post, then I know that you are not a friend to the Jewish people and I know that you are not my friend.

    If you are not offended by what I wrote in my earlier comments on this post, then I know that you are a friend to the Jewish people and I know that you are my friend.

    —-

    To Jewish academics and intellectuals who are trying to work to defend and protect the Jewish people:

    There are reasons for everything.

    But things are what they are.

    Evil is evil.

    One does not stop an evil thing from being done by continuously analyzing that evil thing, and continuously describing the factors of that evil thing.

    One stops an evil thing from being done by charging and denouncing those who are doing that evil thing.

    —-

    To the leaders of the government of Israel:

    Clearly and firmly communicate the factual currently 94-year-old history of the situation to the leaders of the governments of Western countries, and to the whole world.

    Stop collaborating with, and therein colluding with, the Islamic Supremacist Arab racists – Fatah-PLO-PalestinianAuthority – who are endeavoring to destroy Israel.

    Stop collaborating with, and therein colluding with, the Western racists – racist Western government officials – who are colluding with, and endeavoring to destroy Israel with, the Islamic Supremacist Arab racists who are endeavoring to destroy Israel.

    Charge and denounce the Islamic Supremacist Arab racists – Fatah-PLO-PalestinianAuthority – who are endeavoring to destroy Israel.

    Charge and denounce the Western racists – racist Western journalists, academics, political activists, and government officials – who are colluding with, and endeavoring to destroy Israel with, the Islamic Supremacist Arab racists who are endeavoring to destroy Israel.

    —-

    To the Jewish people:

    Stand up for yourselves.

  19. sshender says:

    God damn it, Daniel, start a blog of your own if you have so much to share! Don’t hi-jack the comments section of this one. Just because Richard has no time to moderate this blog, does not mean you can troll it.

  20. Daniel Bielak says:

    sshender,

    I know that you’re right. I apologize. The reason that I am doing that – the reason that I have been doing that – is because I suffer from, and am disabled by, OCD, and because I am in a difficult personal situation. I apologize. However, there are some things that I say – some things that I have written – that are important – which are the main things that I am trying to communicate. My last previous comment consisted of those important things – which are the main things that I am trying to communicate. I think that the most important thing, though, is that we – those of us who are Jewish – should be kind to each other. Even if we get on each others nerves and aggravate each other and make each other angry. Let’s be kind to each other. We are each in a situation that is similar to the situation of each other. We are in a difficult situation. Let’s have compassion for each other. Let’s be kind to each other. It is very difficult for me to communicate well, and I don’t want to communicate things that are harmful. I want to communicate things that are good for everyone. I hope that what I am writing will be good for everyone. I won’t write any more incessant unbeneficial harmful comments on this site. I apologize for writing incessant unbeneficial harmful comments on this site. I have tried to make my own blog, but I have been unable to make my own blog because I have OCD which prevented me from being able to make my own blog. I will contain myself and control myself, and I will not write any more incessant unbeneficial harmful comments on this site.

  21. Just to clarify, what I think is wrong that I wrote is what I wrote about anger. I think that anger is, in fact, never good. I think that all of the other things that I wrote are accurate and true. The bulk and core of the membership of the CIA was constituted by several thousand German former Nazi officials. The policies of the CIA toward Israel and toward Jewish people in general have been malicious. The policies of the the State Department toward Israel have been antipathetic and hostile. Israel has to stand up for itself, with skillful right action.

  22. [...] in question as a kind of millennial perfectionism.  As a kind of personal mysticism, a style of tikkun olam, this meme can be very powerful and very [...]

  23. [...] much more troubling, what one might call a “post-modern honor-killing.” Progressive Jews, who believe in tikkun olam as social justice and who want Jews to “lead the world” in the belief that we – all humans – “are called [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>