Sunday, September 29, 2019

  • Sunday, September 29, 2019
  • Elder of Ziyon
Bari Weiss' How To Fight Anti-Semitism has been the talk of the Jewish world for the past couple of weeks.

In six relatively short chapters, Weiss goes into details of her shock at the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where she grew up. It then surveys the history of antisemitism (my preferred spelling), and then goes into a bit of detail on antsemitism on the Right, the Left and by Muslims. Finally she discusses "How to Fight" the phenomenon.

Weiss' audience does not seem to be Americans as a whole. The entire book, especially the last chapter, is really aimed at overwhelmingly liberal American Jews.

And here is the real surprise of the book: Despite how Weiss is described in the media, she is a liberal. She supports the right of immigration, she is a feminist, she supports equal rights for all, she is against Israel's rabbinate's exclusion of non-Orthodox in some aspects of life. All of Weiss' arguments in this book are from within a firm liberal mindset and tradition.

This is why, despite the title, the centerpiece of the book really isn't the last chapter. It is the chapter on the antisemitism of the Left. The longest chapter in the book, Weiss knows all of the arguments that the Right is the only real threat to Jews today, and she methodically demolishes them. While it is true that the antisemites from the Right are the ones with the guns, the ones on the Left are limiting how American Jews can even think if they want to be accepted in progressive circles.

In a stunning analogy that she quotes from Dana Horn, there are two categories of antisemitism: Purim antisemitism and Chanukah antisemitism.

Purim antisemitism is the Jew-hatred of the Nazis and the Islamists: the desire to eliminate all Jews. Chanukah antisemitism is the desire to eliminate Jewish civilization - and, worse, it asks Jews to be willing participants in that destruction, just as the Hellenized Jews of the Seleucid regime did. This is today's Leftist antisemitism, where solidarity with the Jews of Israel is enough to cut Jews off from the causes that they gravitate to most such as anti-racism or feminism.

Weiss also spends a bit of time analyzing historic socialist antisemitism - how it turned against the very socialist Jews who enthusiastically joined up and persecuted their fellow Jews in the Soviet Union, and how that immoral philosophy has survived to attack Jews today under the guise of supporting human rights.

She also shows how the concept of intersectionality, originally a noble idea, has been hijacked and twisted into a perverted show of who is the biggest victim - and how the biggest victims are automatically assumed to be righteous, no matter what they say or how they act.

This is where Weiss' liberalism shines. To her, people's words and actions are important, not their race or gender. In the bizarre progressive world, Ilhan Omar's antisemitic words simply do not matter because she is a black female Muslim. Islamic misogyny should be condemned every bit as much as any other type, and the fact that it comes from a group perceived as non-white doesn't excuse it.

The book has been praised by Zionists and vilified by anti-Zionists, because Weiss proves quite handily that the anti-Zionism that delegitimizes Israel is an fact antisemitism. (Although this review in The American Prospect actually tries to argue that Muslim and Arab antisemitism is not really a thing - Pew surveys notwithstanding.)

The last chapter, on how to fight antisemitism, is again aimed at liberal American Jews. It is not a chapter on how to defeat antisemitism, but how to respond to it. Weiss starts the chapter off with a lengthy quote from a terrific manifesto written by Ze'ev Maghen in the late 1980s. That essay covers most of Weiss' points in the chapter Here's an excerpt:

A man calls you a pig. Do you walk around with a sign explaining that, in fact, you are not a pig? Do you hand out leaflets expostulating in detail upon the manifold differences between you and a pig ("A pig has a snout, I have a nose; a pig wallows in mud, I only occasionally step in a puddle, and then, of course, inadvertently...")? Do you stand on a soap box and discourse eruditely on why, in general, it is extremely not nice to call people pigs, and appeal to the populace to please have no truck with an individual rude and nasty enough to say such things about an upstanding citizen like yourself?

Fellow Jews, where in hell is your dignity? Where is your abhorrence of useless, thoughtless, counterproductive endeavor? Of course we want people to befriend us, to treat us with proper regard, that's only natural. Of course we desire and advocate amicable relations between ourselves and other ethnic and religious groups (after all, who came up with "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore"-a Martian?). But let's make a moment's inquiry, shall we, into the analogous microcosm of a healthy, strapping, youthful, well-adjusted organism-say, the reader- and examine how s/he interacts socially toward the same ends in his/her individual life.

You want people to like you, right? Well, and how do you go about achieving this? Do you launch a campus-wide "Don't Dislike Dan!" campaign, replete with billboard, petition, full-page ads, a couple of lobbying organizations and occasional sky-writing? If some miscreant simply won't be your pal, in fact actually takes an overt aversion to you despite all your exertions to woo his affection and heal the breaches, would you....picket in front of his dorm? Or do you run your life a bit differently, concentrating your time and effort on being the best "yourself" that you can, growing and learning and living and enjoying, treating others fairly and kindly, setting up criteria for right and wrong and trying like the dickens to adhere to them and if despite all this a few folks nevertheless persist in being incurable slimeballs and absolutely refuse to interact genially and courteously........@!%#?& them, as my grandmother says-you move on.

Clearly any sane human would opt for the latter course, seeing as the alternative is not only laughably ludicrous, but profusely demeaning and unforgivably ineffective. And yet as a group, as a people, we Jews have inexplicably chosen to live this very same absurd alternative. The current trend among the vast majority of American Jewish youth is lamentably not toward being the best "ourselves," the best Jews, we can be; for most Jewish young people in this country the condition is rather one of fundamental ignorance of the enormous treasure and incomparable high that is full, glorious, meaningful Jewish life. At the same time, the preponderance of highly-funded Jewish organizations in America today (and the ones gobbling up the largest chunks of young, activist Jewish talent), rather than confronting this lethal problem, are focused almost entirely on one thing: perimeter "defense." So terribly many of us have never experienced the warmth and splendor of a genuine Shabbat, have never learned a word of our language or set a foot down in our homeland, so terribly many of us are assimilating and intermarrying at a rate auguring nothing short of national oblivion-yet dare anybody disturb us during this gradual (not so gradual!) disappearing act by calling us names or painting swastikas on our walls, and we and our organizations will raise a hue-and-cry so loud, so fierce and so heavily financed that it will be sure to accomplish..nothing. Instead of brilliant rays of edifying, stimulating light pointed inward at our own people, we have dull, feckless, tinker-toy weapons (like those demonstrations) trained outward at "them."
Weiss' chapter does not have the effective anger of the Maghen piece, but her advice boils down to the same thing: call out injustice, don't hide, engage more with Judaism and be proud of your beliefs rather than hiding them. These is not exactly earth shattering ideas but, unfortunately, many liberal American Jews need to hear this.  (No, having a seder to push the latest progressive agenda while ignoring anything about Judaism doesn't count.)

The book is quite up to date, with many examples from 2019 up through this past summer.

The reason that the anti-Zionists of the world hate Weiss isn't because she is "conservative" - it is because she uses liberal arguments to show that they are in the wrong. As such, this book is a must read for American Jews who are uncomfortable with their being forced to hide their Zionism.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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