Jewish Tribalism on Display in JTA Article
First off, let me say this is not satire. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, or JTA, solicited the views of a number of prominent Jews on the question of who, if anyone, might be able to replace the late Elie Wiesel as a unifying force among American Jews.
Apparently it’s a burning question.
The JTA’s rather instructive article on the matter, posted Monday and available here, is written by Ben Sales, and opens with the following line:
Being an American Jew, more than anything else, means remembering the Holocaust.
Stop and think for a moment what that means. It would suggest, perhaps among other things, that self-identifying as a victim is a major part of what it means to be an American Jew. Could it perhaps also suggest a desire for evening the score? If you accept that 6 million Jews died in what is known as the “holocaust,” and if remembering this is a central part of who you are, then what are likely to be your feelings toward the non-Jewish world? Or at least toward those in the non-Jewish world who have been critical of Jews, Jewish lobbies, or the state of Israel?
The second paragraph of the story reads as follows:
That’s what nearly three quarters of Jewish Americans said, according to the Pew Research Center’s landmark 2013 study on American Jewry. Asked to pick attributes “essential” to being Jewish, more Jews said Holocaust remembrance than leading an ethical or moral life, caring about Israel or observing Jewish law.
Wait a minute! Did we read that right? Do an overwhelming majority of American Jews–nearly three quarters–believe that remembering the holocaust is more important, more “essential” to “being an American Jew,” than incorporating ethics or morality into one’s life? Is that what this is saying?
One normally wouldn’t think of the JTA as an “anti-Semitic website,” but what the article seems to be giving us is a full-on, frontal view of Jewish tribalism, warts and all.
Sales states that Wiesel “personified that consensus,” (i.e. the consensus that being Jewish “more than anything else, means remembering the Holocaust”) and goes on to describe him as the “survivor who through his writing and speaking turned himself into perhaps the leading moral voice of American Jewry.”
A few malcontents on the Jewish left “derided” Wiesel for being insufficiently concerned about the Palestinians, Sales avers, but overall he was “the closest thing American Jews had to a unifier.”
The author then hits us with another eye-opening paragraph:
Regardless of religious observance or thoughts on Israel, nearly all Jewish Americans agreed with Wiesel’s message of remembering the genocide and preventing another one.
Sales seems to be trying to make a case: that the reason Jews view holocaust remembrance as so important, and as such a central part of their identity, is due to their innate concerns over “preventing another one.” This begs the question: what do the words “preventing another one” exactly mean? Is it a reference to preventing any future genocide of any people? Or preventing “another” genocide only of Jews?
If it means preventing any genocide of any people at all, then certainly that would be a noble sentiment. But then why does the state of Israel refuse, to this day, to recognize the Armenian genocide?
And why on earth–if the genuine concern is over any genocide at all–do the vast majority of American Jews support the state of Israel?
As I’ve said on a number of occasions, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians probably meets the legal definition of the crime of genocide.
Following Wiesel’s death on July 2, will another consensus leader rise to take his place? Or is the American Jewish community too divided to unite under any one person’s moral voice?
Sales then goes on to gives us views on this question from ten different prominent Jews, including attorney Alan Dershowitz, who is a long time associate of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Before I give you the quote from Dehshowitz, let me give you a quote about Dershowitz from journalist Rania Khalek, who wrote the following in January of 2015:
There are two groups of people Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has spent his career resolutely defending. The first is Israeli war criminals. And the second is accused and convicted rapists.
As rape allegations against Dershowitz intensify, his increasingly bellicose denials, steeped in brazen hostility towards child victims of sexual abuse, are raising eyebrows.
With smear tactics that closely resemble the manner in which he attacks Palestinian victims of Israeli violence, Dershowitz rejected the latest allegations as fabrications, telling Local 10 News that his accuser, Virginia Roberts, is a “serial liar” and “prostitute.”
Dershowitz was later formally cleared of the allegations, and apparently in Sales’ mind, this makes his views (on morality, no less!) worth quoting:
“No one can replace Elie as the moral voice,” Dershowitz wrote in an email to JTA. “There will be new voices, but none represents the combination of tragedy and hope that Elie characterized.”
The article also includes quotes from Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg, who describes Wiesel as “the closest thing we had to a saint,” and Abe Foxman who praised him for his unique ability to be “comfortable in our very, very partisan, unique Jewish world and experience.”
Reflections on Wiesel, though from a vastly different outlook, can also be found on another website–Elie Wiesel Cons the World. The site is dedicated to exposing the “inaccuracies and contradictions” about some of Wiesel’s claims, and is run by Carolyn Yeager, who in an article here offers an analysis of some previously unreleased photos of Wiesel that have come to light only since his death.
So what does it mean if Jews see themselves as inhabiting–in Foxman’s words–a “very, very partisan, unique Jewish world and experience”? Would this possibly account for why Israel stands in violation of so many UN resolutions? And could it also explain why the Jewish state finds it eminently acceptable to continue stealing Palestinian while at the same time professing to the world that it wants peace? The answers to these questions are not cut and dried, but they definitely are worth exploring.
Another question in dire need of being place under the microscope for analysis is: why does the world let them get away with it?
A little bit more on the adage that “being a Jew means remembering the holocaust.” Shortly after posting this article, I discovered a new post from blogger Richard Silverstein, whose latest revelation is that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has appointed a rabbi named Eyal Krim to serve as the army’s new chief rabbi. Krim seems to be living in that “very partisan, unique Jewish world” that Foxman so eloquently described, having once proclaimed it would be acceptable for Israeli soldiers to rape non-Jewish women they may happen to find among the enemy.
“It is permitted to break the bounds of modesty…and to satisfy evil [sexual] urges through having sexual relations with attractive non-Jewish women against their will, out of consideration for the hardships of war and for the good of the whole [army’s objectives],” Krim wrote, as quoted by Silverstein.
How on earth could “the most moral army in the world” have such a man serving as it’s chief rabbi? Perhaps that’s what happens when we lose a major “moral,” “unifying” voice like Eli Wiesel’s.