"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
-Oscar Wilde
Brilliant at Breakfast title banner "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
"...you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly. I know what I am, what are you?" -- Steve Gilliard, 1964 - 2007

"For straight up monster-stomping goodness, nothing makes smoke shoot out my ears like Brilliant@Breakfast" -- Tata

"...the best bleacher bum since Pete Axthelm" -- Randy K.

"I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." -- "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (1954-2015), They Live
Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Israel, anti-Semitism, and the experience of being a lapsed Secular Jew in America
Posted by Jill | 7:03 AM
I was born into an only marginally-observant Jewish family. When I was a kid, we went sporadically to the local synsgogue for a while, we went to the Unitarian church for a while, and then we went nowhere for religious affiliation. When I was very small, we celebrated Hanukkah. Later on, a Christmas tree became the norm.

When I was in my early teens, I became active in the temple's youth group, and when I lost interest in that, it was the end of my affiliation with organized Judaism until a 3-year stint as a macher in a group for single Jews when I was in my early 20's. That was the big opportunity for the so-called Jewish community to bring this particular renegade back into the fold, but when they killed the program because, and this is a direct quote from the director of the YM/YWHA that ran it, "Single people are narcissistic and don't care about the future of the Jewish community or its agencies", I flipped the bird at organized Jewry and never went back.

I have only rarely experienced anti-Semitism in my life. A high school friend had a virulent anti-Semitic mother who referred to her "dirty Jew" friend. I've already blogged on the lawsuit in the early 1970's about the high school's Christmas tableau that resulted in swastikas being spray-painted on the doors of Jewish-owned stores and anti-Semitic tirade letters printed in the local newspaper. And in the small, provincial college I attended, I encountered the anti-Semitism of ignorance -- the notion that Jews have horns and astonishment that a Jewish person would be driving an old Dodge Dart instead of a Cadillac.

There are some Jews who are as lapsed as I am who feel absolutely no connection to Judaism as either a religious or a cultural tradition. My own sister is one of them. When a Mel Gibson erupts in a hate-filled tirade, it sets nothing off. When Israel is in the news for some military action or other, it evokes no feeling of dread.

I have no explanation for why the Jewish identification lingers in some of us and not others. Sometimes this identification results in anti-Semitism used as a convenient excuse for one's own social difficulties -- our small social circle isn't because we're shy, or because we're not putting out the effort, or because we just don't have that certain something that draws people to us -- it's because they hate Jews. It removes the responsibility to examine our own behavior and shifts the blame for our own failings outwards.

This is not to say that anti-Semitism doesn't exist. And for even lapsed Jews like myself, there's a certain "Jewdar" that allows us to smell anti-Semitism at a thousand paces -- or so we think. Sometimes it's easy to spot an anti-Semite. Despite Mel Gibson's denials during his promotion of Get A Stiffy Watching A Jew Get The Crap Kicked Out Of Him For Three Hours, it was pretty clear that he really IS an anti-Semite -- and with his arrest tirade last week, he dropped the rest of the veneer that hid that fact.

But sometimes it's more difficult.

Which brings us to the Israel Problem.

Unlike most American Jews, I feel no particular kinship with Israel. I've never been there, I really have no desire to go there, and my answer to "Next year in Jerusalem" is "Are you out of your fucking mind?"

Like many Americans, I've been heartsick at what Israel is doing in Lebanon over the last few weeks. If there was ever a shandeh far di goyim, it's the bombing of Qana. I simply cannot see how destroying Lebanon, massacring women and children, and then marching on into Syria (which is what the American Neocon Administration wants Israel to do) is going to make Israel one iota safer.

I'm not an idiot. I understand that Israel is besieged by its neighbors on three sides. I also believe that perhaps carving out a Jewish homeland in 1948 in that particular location as a way for the United States and Europe to try to assuage its collective guilt about the Holocaust probably wasn't the smartest idea. But what are you going to do about it now? Dismantle it? Throw all the Jews out and give the whole mess to the Palestinians? Does that really solve anything? Most Israeli Jews were born there. Do you throw them out of their homeland and into a world in which the Poles still blame the Jews for everything and Mel Gibson blames the Jews because he tries to squelch his demons with tequila? Does anyone honestly believe that dismantling Israel would turn the Middle East into a land of milk and honey?

These are tough times to be on the left side of the fence with even a marginally Jewish identification. Sometimes the left is as knee-jerk in its "Israelis are butchers" generalizations as the right is in its "everything Israel does is justified" attitude. I'm disgusted at the nearly 60-year-long battle on the part of the Arab world to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Right now I feel like a parent with two squabbling kids in the back seat of the car. I don't give a shit who started it. I just want it to stop. As Bill Cosby once said about HIS kids, I don't want justice, I want quiet. Deal with it and find a way to live with it. It's not that the Arab world is so fond of the Palestinians

I'm equally appalled at the Israelis thinking they can prevent another Holocaust by behaving like Nazis. I'm doubly appalled because these are supposed to be arguably "my people." These are the people who are really the public face of worldwide Jewry.

There is plenty of blame to go around here. I don't think we need to choose up sides.

I understand that opposition to Israel doesn't necessarily mean hatred of all Jews.
So why does it FEEL as though it does? Why, even when I agree with the anti-Israel blog rant, does my stomach knot up?

Perhaps it's because of statements like this, in a blog that's on my blogroll:

I suggested in my post the other night that the Israelis really didn't care about anyone but the Israelis, no one else matters. Could this arrogance have something to do with the 2500 years of prejudice they have suffered?

If that isn't an anti-Semitic statement, I don't know what is. For one thing, "Israel" as a country didn't exist until 1948. Therefore, if you're talking about the 2500 years of prejudice the "Israelis" have suffered being their own fault because of their "arrogance", you're talking about Jews, not just Israelis. There's no wiggling out of that one.

The blog's author has since explained thusly:

The heat of anger can result in the hands dancing across the keyboard before the brain is fully engaged....I will stick by the first sentence but the second was uncalled for. I was confusing nationality and ethnicity. I should have know better as most of the Jews I know here on the left coast are just as shocked by the action of Israel as I am. Ditto for Jill out there in New Jersey. My anger should not only be directed at the politicians in Israel but their brothers in homicide here in the US, the Bush administration and the neocons.

I confused nationality and ethnicity and I apologize for any offense that might have caused. I have been called anti-semitic many times recently for opposing Israeli actions, Joe Lieberman and the neocons - that too is confusing nationality and ethnicity.

Sorry, Ron, but that still doesn't cut it. There are many Israelis who are appalled at the actions of their government, just as we here in the United States are appalled at the actions of OUR government. But Ron, in ignoring those Israelis, is still painting a particular nationality with a broad brush -- because it's easier. And it's still making a sweeping generalization of an entire group of people. This still smacks of "All Jews are cheap -- oh, I didn't mean YOU...."

Ron says:

Could this arrogance have something to do with the 2500 years of prejudice they have suffered?

Mel says:

The Jews are responsible for all the war in the world.

Ron says:

The heat of anger can result in the hands dancing across the keyboard before the brain is fully engaged.

Mel says:

I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable."

Do YOU see a difference there? I don't.

The Talmud states:

You can gauge a person's true nature by the way he spends money, the way he handles anger, the way he acts when drunk, and some add by what makes him laugh: Eruvin 65b

If people like Mel Gibson and like Ron want people like me to believe that they are simply disagreeing with the tactics and policies of the Israeli government, and want to keep a dialogue going, then they really need to look inside themselves and examine what's really going on in there. If you really do hate Jews, that's fine. Then at least I know the context of your argument and we can talk with all our cards on the table. After all, Everyone's a rittre bit lacist, as Christmas Eve says in Avenue Q. But don't hide behind the easy target of Israeli atrocities.
Bookmark and Share