Sunday, January 18, 2015

From Exodus to Paris: The Great Mistake of The Jew hater

Joel Egerton as Pharaoh,
 'Exodus: Gods & Kings'
The first person in history who looked at the Children of Israel & saw them as a nation was not Moses, or any other Jew – it was not even G-d Himself – it was Israel’s deadly enemy, the Pharaoh of the Exodus story. 
He said, in Exodus 1:9 -
  “וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-עַמּוֹ:  הִנֵּה, עַם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--רַב וְעָצוּם, מִמֶּנּוּ.”
“And he said unto his people: 'Behold, the people, the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us”.

3,500 years later and it is still the enemies of the Children of Israel who, even more than the Jews themselves,  see the entire Jewish people as part of the state of Israel, regardless of where they live, or what views they hold, or even whether they are living or not (judging by the number of Jewish cemeteries that get vandalized).  This has proven in the past and will prove now to be a terrible error by our enemies.

Soon after the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Arab countries expelled  their
ancient Arab Jewish communities – people who could in some cases trace their residence in those place back over 2000 years, but who shared the same faith as Zionists. The vast majority of these Jews almost certainly had no intention of emigrating to Israel, but of course with nowhere to go, they came to Israel and their descendants have helped build this country.

“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as a hoax that purports to document the “Zionist” takeover of the world – “Zionists” being any successful Jew of course. It is a worldwide Jewish plot with Israel at its heart.  Absurd yes,  but still  Protocols is a best seller in the Muslim world, with Arabic copies even  to be found on sale in London  
Israel itself has become stronger over the decades, comprehensively defeating the combined Arab armies in several wars, as well as economically, technologically and educationally outperforming the entire Middle East. The Arab and wider Islamic world has realized that they cannot defeat Israel militarily, or economically and that the little Jewish State is not going anywhere. 

With that realization, coupled with increasing catastrophes of virtually all Islamic states, their hatred has increased.
“But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.” Exodus 1:12

Modern version of the Nazi salute openly displayed in France recently
Of course opposing Israeli government policies is not per se antisemitic, but Antizionism – the delegitimization of Israel & the effort to boycott all things Israeli - is consistently  a crude cover for antisemitism, because as we have seen, the enemies of Israel make little differentiation between Israelis & non Israeli Jews – they attack Israel by attacking Jews in any country where they are citizens. As the Guardian newspaper reported in August 2014:
In the space of just one week last month… eight synagogues were attacked. One, in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, was firebombed by a 400-strong mob. A kosher supermarket and pharmacy were smashed and looted; the crowd's chants and banners included "Death to Jews" and "Slit Jews' throats". That same weekend, in the Barbes neighborhood of the capital, stone-throwing protesters burned Israeli flags: "Israhell", read one banner.
Chants widely reported to have been heard at more than one “Anti-Israel” event in Germany, France, UK and other places this past summer included: "Jew, coward pig, come out and fight alone," and "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”.

In a few weeks, the annual hate fest known as “Israel Apartheid Week” will once again hit American campuses, when outside agitators will invade what should be places of learning and turn them into places of division and for Jews at least, intimidation and hatred. For the enemies of Israel, all Jews are part of Zionist Israel, so you can imagine how it must feel for a Jewish teen, merely trying to walk across campus to get to class, to be confronted with their hatred, and vilification.

…back to where I started this piece – with Pharaoh:  his recognition of “Am Yisrael” – the people of Israel – and his antisemitism, lead to the Children of Israel themselves identifying as a people. So it was also 100 years ago when the Zionist movement grew as a reaction to European Jew hate, that the Jews saw their only hope of a future not as German, French or Russian Jews, but as one ancient yet new nation,  Israelis – the antisemitic vision became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Again today, the Jews of Europe are attacked for being part of the same faith as Israelis – they are waking up to the fact that again, they may have no future anywhere except as citizens of the Jewish state of Israel.

There is one final part to this analogy with The Exodus story – it was only when the Children of Israel became the People of Israel, that according to The Torah, they merited leaving Egypt to head to a life of independent Jewish living in the land of Israel, leaving their enemies crushed or weakened behind them. Perhaps the greatest mistake Pharaoh made was forcing  the Jews to become a nation – it’s the same mistake the British would make thousands of years later in the American colonies and a calamitous mistake today for the Islamic world toward the Jews. The antisemitism that we have seen across Europe spewing out of Muslim communities, has brought Jews together in Zionism in a way we would never have done had we been left alone.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In 2015 Zionism Comes Full Circle

Over the past 70 years Zionism has evolved asking itself important questions about its purpose in a world where there is a strong Jewish state with 60% of Jews already living there. What is Zionism's fundamental purpose in the 21st century?

However after the Islamic terror attacks in Paris last week, coming after several years of growing antisemitism from French Muslims, Zionism has found itself returning to its historic core purpose: the in-gathering of the Jewish people in our ancient homeland.

Over a century ago, Zionism’s founders and leaders saw the clouds of hatred gathering, and anticipated a need to create a new future for the Jews of Europe – a future where they would not be dependent on the good will of fickle governments or on a notion of “tolerance” – after all who wants to be tolerated? They saw the desperate need for an independent, strong Jewish state – a place where Jews could truly take their future into their own hands, contributing and building their lives on their own terms – they dreamed of what we have today:  Israel.

Over the past weekend the leaders of today’s Zionism, in the form of the chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky and the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, made emotional statements that would not have seemed that out of place if said in the 1930s by David Ben Gurion – predecessor of both Sharansky and Netanayahu:

Netanyahu said yesterday “To the Jews of France I say - Israel is more than just a place you direct your prayers – Israel is your home.”, and he went on to state “Any Jew who wishes to emigrate to Israel will be received wholeheartedly and with open arms.”

Chairman Sharansky - who personally suffered the USSR's repression of Jews before escaping to become a leader in Israel - said that he anticipates more than 10,000 French Jews will make aliyah (emigrate to Israel) this year. “We’re not building our aliyah strategy on tragic events. We’re building it on the fact that there is this place in the world called Europe, where Jews are feeling increasingly uncomfortable,” he said.

There are strong parallels between the situation facing the Jews of Europe in 2015 and in 1915:
Jews went from being virtually excluded from the march of history to being propelled to the very front line of European life. Secularization and liberalism allowed Jews to operate as equals. It was this revolution that propelled the Jews from their marginal status to the central of world affairs and by the end of the 19th century, Jews were leading the way in political thinking, philosophical debate, finance, medicine, the arts and law. Jews felt they could finally build reasonable futures for their children.

The earliest Zionist thinkers – people such as Leo Pinsker, Max Nordau and even Theodore Herzl himself – did not start out believing that Jews needed to have a state of their own. These founders of modem Zionism were all products of the new secular liberal, yet nationalist European thinking, instilled with the current ideas that were sweeping across the continent, and they saw a future of Judaism in Eastern and Western Europe.

The problem stemmed from the tensions between how they perceived themselves as Europeans and Jews, and how others perceived them.  Despite their involvement and indeed assimilation into the societies they lived in, they were rejected – pogroms in Russia; Dreyfus and other injustices in France; and a dark, festering antisemitism in Germany. 

Things had seemingly never been better for Europe or Europe’s Jews and yet at the same time, the leaders of Zionism came to see that their existence was a fragile safety based on the mood of whatever government was in power. They saw no future in Europe and history would tragically prove them right. 

Jump forward to January 2015, to a Western Europe that has not seen war in 70 years. The nations are far more multicultural and are  joined in economic union. They place the highest value on individual rights and freedom of expression. Once again things have never been better for Europe and yet Europe’s Jews are again questioning whether any future for them exists in those countries:

Antisemitic graffiti regular appears in Jewish neighborhoods of London
Leave aside this past week’s horrors, the situation was already disturbing: In the UK, for Jewish children to attend faith schools involves a level of security that would not be out of place at the home of Israel’s President in Jerusalem; across Europe synagogues have to have security when services are taking place. Rabbi’s in Denmark, Finland, Germany and France have all, in recent years, warned Jews not to walk in the streets wearing kippot (skull caps); Graveyards desecrated, swastikas daubed on homes & synagogues, and several incidents of terrorism such as occurred in Toulouse and other cities aimed specifically at Jews. On a personal note, on several occasions prior to my own move to Israel in 2008, I experienced antisemitic abuse shouted from passing cars as I walked along streets in London.

Security services have admitted that what we have seen in Paris could easily happen in any major city in Europe and while the target of Islamists is western freedoms, which Israel shares,  their particular hatred for Jews is rabid.   The writing is on the wall, and the Jews of France, and no doubt all of Europe, face similar fears to the Jews of those places 100 years ago.

The difference between then and now is simple – Israel was a dream at the start of the 20th century – today it is a reality. The Jews of France have a place to go and it is ready and waiting to welcome them home.