By CINNAMON STILLWELL
A remarkable thing happened in the Bay Area last month. San Francisco and Berkeley, two cities known for their anti-American, anti-Israel, and increasingly anti-Semitic character, hosted rallies against global terrorism. The mangled wreckage of the Jerusalem #19 bus, destroyed in a suicide bombing and displayed at both events, brought the reality of terrorism closer to home. It was a powerful reminder of what too many, especially in the Bay Area, still label acceptable.
One could be forgiven for assuming that these rallies had enjoyed the support of the Jewish community, but instead the opposite was true. An inordinate amount of disdain was directed at rally supporters, the bulk of it from Jews. Jewish organizations, individuals, and even rabbis did everything in their power to either ignore the rallies, urge people not to attend, or to condemn those who took part. But their hostility was misplaced, to say the least.
Although the rallies were all encompassing, it was obvious that at the heart of the matter were Jews and those that hate them. After all, what else motivated the suicide bomber of bus #19? Or the Arab protesters across the street from the rally in Berkeley screaming, “Go back to Germany”? Why else were their children carrying signs accusing Jews of “organ thievery,” the modern blood libel? The Nazi-like hatred for Jews indoctrinated in Palestinian youth from the moment they’re born is undeniable, and peace in the Middle East will not be achieved until that changes. The results were clear for all to see on the streets of Berkeley and San Francisco. And yet it was those in the anti-terror crowd who were labeled “hatemongers.”
One of the most spurious accusations leveled against rally supporters was that somehow they had "incited" violence by their mere presence. Violence was indeed the goal of a mob of keffiyeh-clad youth who disrupted the peaceful rally in “free speech” bastion Berkeley. And in San Francisco, the same group was thwarted. No doubt the disapproving Jewish community felt a certain “I told you so” at the news. But does it follow that it was the rally-goers’ fault that they were attacked? Unscrupulous lawyers accusing rape victims of “asking for it” have used the same argument. It’s called blaming the victim.
If holding a rally against global terrorism and commemorating the victims of suicide bombings is inciting others to violence, then so be it. Jews should not have to feel guilty for condemning terrorism or cower in fear of those who oppose their very existence. The day they do is the day they surrender that existence.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. In a strange psychological case of identification, some Jews throw in their lot with the opposition. They have bought into their own demonization and are in effect Jewish anti-Semites. It appears they would rather assist in their own annihilation than come to grips with the hatred directed toward them. This propensity for self-loathing is well known. Why else would openly anti-Semitic, self-styled “pro-Palestinian” organizations make recruiting Jewish members their main focus? Just ask the members of “Jews for a Free Palestine” who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Jew-haters in Berkeley.
In the wake of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it’s instructive to look back and see how this disunity has harmed Jews in the past. During the Holocaust, Jews were used by the Nazis to calm their co-religionists and help make them more docile for the trip to the gas chambers. There were Jewish prisoners (among others) who worked as guards in the concentration camps, often treating their fellow Jews as brutally as the SS. They were called “kapos,” a term gaining currency once again as old wounds are reopened.
When you hear leaders in the French Jewish community telling others to “remain calm” amidst a backdrop of anti-Semitic attacks and vandalism, echoes of the past can be heard. Similarly, when fellow Jews told those who supported the anti-terrorism rallies that they should “be quiet,” “not make waves,” and, most outrageously, that they “incited” hatred, it seemed as if history was repeating itself all over again.
Yet even in their darkest moments, Jews managed to fight back. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943, when Jews of all political stripes — facing certain death at the concentration camp in Treblinka — banded together to form the Jewish Resistance Organization, was a shining example. They dealt a severe blow to the Nazis, forcing propaganda chief Josef Goebbels to concede in his diary: "The Jews have actually succeeded in making a defensive position of the Ghetto. Heavy engagements are being fought…this just shows what you can expect from Jews if they lay hands on weapons."
A year later, in 1944, Jews living in what the British called Palestine formed the Jewish Brigade, an all-Jewish fighting force. They fought with the allies against the German army in Italy, and after the war ended, did everything they could to smuggle Holocaust survivors out of Europe and into Palestine. Later in 1948, these veterans fought bravely in Israel’s War of Independence. Member Jonathan Peltz summed up the Brigade’s main achievement: “We proved to the world that we can fight. We proved to ourselves that we can fight."
The story of the Jews themselves is one of triumph over adversity and the quest to reclaim or hold onto the Jewish homeland. Israel’s (or Judea’s) ancient history is that of a nation constantly besieged by enemies. But no matter the hardships, the Jews never gave up. The founding of the nation of Israel in 1948 speaks to this tenacity, as does the Six-Day War of 1967, which was a further triumph of which Jews should be proud.
This is why Israel is so resented in the world — because it represents Jewish strength. The current disengagement plan and the resurgence of Oslo-like naivete are not examples of such strength, but rather the capitulation without cause that seems to plague the country in moments of doubt. The path Israel takes will help determine the fate of Jews in the years to come.
One thing is certain: It’s time for Jews to stop apologizing for being Zionists. At a time of rising worldwide anti-Semitism and an increase in Jews making aliyah, it should be painfully obvious why the State of Israel is so important.
My mother once told me about an encounter she had in “liberal” Marin County (where I grew up) with a Jewish family she knew. During one conversation, she let drop casually that she was a Zionist. “You’re a Zionist?” the man asked in horror. “Of course” she answered. “How can you be a Jew and not be a Zionist?”
A better question I couldn’t have asked myself.
Cinnamon Stillwell is contributing editor to ChronWatch.com and also writes for SFGate.com, Frontpagemagazine.com, and Israel National News. She lives in San Francisco and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.