Will The Paris Attacks Accelerate The Jewish Exodus?

Tributes And Reaction To Paris Terror Attacks After Gunmen Kill 17 People

Jamie Kirchick remembers “an evening last September when I was strolling through the Marais’ windy and narrow streets”:

I came across the Notre Dame de Nazareth synagogue, a grand, 19th century building constructed in the Moorish revival style that serves the city’s Sephardic Jews, those who come from North Africa. The rabbi happened to be walking out of the synagogue with his wife. After dispensing with the facts of my Jewish background and American citizenship, I promptly asked, “What’s the situation?” Our shared patrimony obviated any need for further elaboration; as a European Jew addressing an American one, he knew exactly at what I was aiming. “There is no future for Jews in France,” he said. If the Rabbi is right, and I fear he is, than it means that there is no future for Jews in Europe. For France is home to the continent’s largest Jewish community, numbered at over half a million. But it is declining rapidly.

Josh Marshall also worries about the future of Jews in France:

When these events [last week] began to unfold I immediately thought of this article I saw [last] Monday. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky (the same 70s and 80s era Soviet refusnik, Anatoly Sharansky) said that in 2014 some 50,000 French Jews asked the Jewish Agency (the primary agency organizing and facilitating Jewish immigration to Israel) for information about immigrating to Israel.

It’s important to note that Jewish immigration into and emigration out of Israel is a highly politicized and emotive issue within Israel – it goes to the essence of the Zionist project. So these numbers should be seen through that prism. But there’s something very real happening. To expand on those numbers, in 2012 about 2000 French Jews left for Israel. In 2013 it was a bit over 3000. 2014 apparently hit over 6000.

Joshua Keating points to a string of anti-semitic attacks in recent years that have motivated that exodus:

Tensions reached a high point during last summer’s war in Gaza, when demonstrations turned violent with pro-Palestinian youths attacking Jewish businesses in a neighborhood known for its large Jewish population. Several synagogues were also firebombed. Demonstrators at some rallies chanted slogans like “death to the Jews” and “slaughter the Jews.” These incidents followed an attack in May on the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, where a French former ISIS fighter killed four people.

These attacks have added to the growing unease of a community still reeling from the 2012 shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, which killed three children and a teacher, as well as the grisly torture and murder of  a young Jewish man named Ilan Halimi in 2006. While these dramatic incidents have garnered the most international attention, smaller anti-Semitic crimes have become depressingly commonplace. On New Year’s Day of this year, for instance, a fire was started and a swastika drawn on the wall of a synagogue in a Paris suburb.

The Jewish Agency, which helps Jews make aliyah, was on the scene in Paris this week and seemed to be harnessing French Jews’ fear to advocate for more emigration:

In what now has become a strange coincidence, the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Immigration Absorption held an Aliyah Fair in central Paris on Sunday that was scheduled before any of the attacks took place. The fair was designed to inform French Jews and returning citizens above the age of 50 on how to start the process of relocating their lives to Israel. The fair had increased its security to make sure families felt safe as they came to the fair to weigh the option of immigrating to Israel.

Chemi Shalev is disheartened to see Israeli leaders, especially on the country’s right wing, pushing “emigration to Israel as a Zionist antidote for the anti-Semitism and atmosphere of fear”:

[T]his instinctive reaction – perhaps Pavlovian is a better word – should give reason for pause and discomfort, even among the most ardent of Zionists. Because whether French Jews answer these calls by emigrating to Israel or whether they simply take the advice in principle and go somewhere else, in some ways this campaign is no more than blatant capitulation to terror. It gives its instigators a prize they could never have dreamed of: a frenzied flight of Jews, at best, or the complete elimination of Jewish presence in France, at worst. … Such a surrender, as Netanyahu regularly lectures the West, can only invigorate the Jihadists and spur them to adopt similar tactics in other European countries.

Likewise, Brent Sasley argues that “the calls by many on the political right for French Jews to return ‘home‘ to Israel indicates a lack of interest in recognizing that the conditions that led to the emergence of Zionism have changed” – i.e., that 2015 is not 1933, and that the challenges Jews in Europe face today do not compare to the existential threats of the past:

At its emergence, Zionism was perceived by its leaders and adherents as a movement of no or little choice. Anti-Semitic persecution required a safe haven. At the same time, the belief that the Jews could never be a normal people so long as they lived among host societies and didn’t have their own state meant that national redemption was a necessary process, not an optional one. An effective conversation about Zionism can only begin if participants recognize that things have changed over time. While the events in France reinforce for some the notion that they haven’t, this is a misunderstanding of world, Jewish, and Israeli history.

Aliza Luft detects a different historical parallel, between the French Jews of the past and French Muslims today:

French protestors in the 1930s blamed Jews for their supposed capitalistic tendencies, for stealing jobs, for forcing French civilians out of the economy. Today, Muslims are stereotyped in France as stealing jobs and welfare, living off state benefits, and bringing down the country’s economy. French citizens who consider Muslims not really French see them as threatening to their material goods; as scapegoats for the country’s current economic woes.

(Photo: Children wave French flags from a window as French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve visits the Jewish school in the Jewish quarter of the Marais district of Paris on January 12, 2015. Mr. Cazeneuve visited the area to inspect the deployment of thousands of troops and police to bolster security at “sensitive” sites including Jewish schools. By Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.)

#JeSuisJuif

Noah Rayman discusses how last week’s attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket is affecting Jewish communities in France:

The assault on the Kosher supermarket shook the Jewish community in France and abroad. As dual hostage situations unfolded, police ordered the closure of all shops in the tourist-filled Jewish neighborhood in central Paris, far from the supermarket under siege in the city’s east, according to the Associated Press. And ahead of the Sabbath Friday evening, the iconic Grand Synagogue of Paris was closed, USA Today reported.

The Jewish community in France, numbering more than 400,000, had already been on guard after an uptick in anti-Semitic violence in recent years, including the shooting of four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May 2014, allegedly by a French Muslim man. After the attack on Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, Jewish institutions were on maximum alert, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. Volunteers joined police deployed by the French authorities to secure schools and religious sites.

Elliot Abrams wonders why there isn’t more sympathy for the Jewish victims:

Terrorism against French Jews is not new. In 2012 a terrorist murdered three schoolchildren and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse. There was no million-citizen march.

And suppose that last week’s terror attack in Paris had not aimed at Charlie Hebdo, but “only” killed four Jews–or eight or twelve, for that matter. Does anyone believe a million French citizens would be marching in Paris, with scores of world leaders joining them?

One is reminded of the synagogue bombing on Rue Copernic in Paris in 1980, after which Prime Minister Raymond Barre publicly declared that “A bomb set for Jews killed four innocent Frenchmen.” That shocking lack of solidarity– that definition of Frenchmen to exclude the Jews – does not seem to have been cured, and the French today appear to feel more solidarity with the journalists who were killed than with the Jews who were killed.

But Jeffrey Goldberg observes that the current French leadership has been taking the issue of anti-semitism seriously:

[French Prime Minister Manuel] Valls, who on Saturday declared that France was now at war with radical Islam, has become a hero to his country’s besieged Jews for speaking bluntly about the threat of Islamist anti-Semitism, a subject often discussed in euphemistic terms by the country’s political and intellectual elite. His fight, as interior minister, to ban performances of the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne (the innovator of the inverted Nazi salute known as the quenelle) endeared him to the country’s Jewish leadership, and he is almost alone on the European left in calling anti-Zionism a form of anti-Semitism.

“There is a new anti-Semitism in France,” he told me. “We have the old anti-Semitism, and I’m obviously not downplaying it, that comes from the extreme right, but this new anti-Semitism comes from the difficult neighborhoods, from immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, who have turned anger about Gaza into something very dangerous. Israel and Palestine are just a pretext. There is something far more profound taking place now.”

And Adam Taylor holds out the #JeSuisJuif solidarity campaign on Twitter as evidence that the world isn’t ignoring those victims, though anti-semitism remains a real problem in France:

#JeSuisJuif began to trend after news spread about hostages being taken at the grocery store, which is called Hyper Cacher, or Hyper Kosher, in Porte de Vincennes. The attack took place at the start of the Jewish Sabbath, when the store was busy, and there were fears that other Jewish businesses in the area could be targets. Later, French President Francois Hollande described the hostage taking as an “anti-Semitic attack”

The attack comes at a fraught time for France’s Jewish community. Many French Jews have perceived a rise in anti-Semitism in the country in recent years. Reports of violence against Jews skyrocketed at the start of 2014, and things became worse over summer as a conflict in Gaza prompted anti-Israel protests that blurred the line with anti-Semitism. One survey by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League estimated that 37 percent of French people openly held anti-Semitic views – the highest number in Europe.

“The Death Of Klinghoffer” Lived

John Adams and Alice Goodman’s 1991 opera explores the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound American Jew who was killed during the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by members of the Palestine Liberation Front. The Metropolitan Opera’ new staging of the play opened on Monday night, but long before the curtain was drawn, the drama had already begun, as the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations (and some guy named Rudy Giuliani) protested the Met’s decision to stage a show that they claim has anti-Semitic overtones and tries to justify an act of terrorism:

Angry protesters gathered across from the Met on the opening night of the opera season last month; a pair of public talks with members of the “Klinghoffer” creative team were quietly called off; and Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said that he had received threats related to the production. He recently sent an email to the opera’s cast expressing regret that they had been subject to “Internet harassment” and defending the work from its critics, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times. Many Jewish leaders, including liberals and conservatives, are finding themselves drawn into the debate. The Met’s attempts to calm things by canceling a planned transmission of the opera to movie theaters around the world this fall accomplished little — and may have fueled more criticism. Now “Klinghoffer” threatens to become the Met’s most controversial company premiere since 1907, when Strauss’s “Salome” was deemed outrageous and banned for decades.

Alex Ross, vitally, reveals the hateful illiberalism of the opera’s prime critic:

The most aggressive rhetoric came from Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a money manager who has also worked as a political operative. A few years ago, Wiesenfeld won notoriety for seeking, unsuccessfully, to deny the playwright Tony Kushner an honorary degree, on account of Kushner’s criticisms of Israel. Wiesenfeld led the “Klinghoffer” rally, and he had much to say. “This is not art,” he thundered. “This is crap. This is detritus. This is garbage.” He declared, as he did at an anti-“Klinghoffer” event last month, that the set should be burned. He made a cryptic joke to the effect that, if something were to happen to Gelb that night, the board of the Met would be the first suspects.

Burning the set?

Paul Berman, in his review of the opera, gets why it’s so controversial but doesn’t quite agree with the protesters:

I can see why, in gazing on what they have wrought, Adams and his librettist must feel that, all in all, they have been badly misunderstood by their detractors, and that, in fact, they have presented a subtle and nuanced picture, not romantic, not apologetic, but intent on showing why, at times, decent people do sometimes sink into degraded hatreds and gratuitous violence.

And yet, in regard to seeking out everyone’s humanity, The Death of Klinghoffer seems to me to run aground on a philosophical shoal. Everything in the opera hangs on the validity of the “root cause” explanation—on the assumption that Palestinian terrorism and violence result from the dispossession of 1948, which means that reasonable or “human” traits attach to even the ugliest aspects. But something in that assumption ought to be questioned. Many millions of people and entire ethnic and religious groups were displaced and exiled in the course of the turmoil that accompanied the end of World War II, and not all of those millions responded by forming terrorist movements, and this reality may suggest that something else, apart from suffering and dispossession, is required for terrorist crazies to emerge.

But Frank Rich rolls his eyes at the scandal, noting that the opera’s loudest critics haven’t even seen it:

Klinghoffer has zero anti-Semitism. It does have what Justin Davidson of New York has accurately described as a “clumsy libretto” — dramaturgically diffuse, often lyrically banal — though it is far more lucid in this gripping, beautifully sung Tom Morris production than it was in Peter Sellars’s original at BAM. Not for a second does the opera present the terrorists as anything other than cold-blooded killers — in Adams’s score and the staging as well as in words — and not for a second does your heart fail to go out to their victims, led by Leon Klinghoffer. The performance ends with a wrenching solo by the widowed Marilyn Klinghoffer — “They should have killed me / I wanted to die” — and, as Alex Ross of The New Yorker tweeted Monday night, “In the end, the protest failed completely. Marilyn Klinghoffer had the final word, and John Adams received a huge ovation.”

Moustafa Bayoumi argues that the opera is problematic, but not for the reasons the ADL asserts:

Palestinian history in Klinghoffer is staged as Muslim only – and only as fundamentalist Muslim, which is wrong and dangerous. The group that carried out the Achille Lauro operation, the Palestinian Liberation Front, was a Marxist-Leninist faction, an offshoot (twice removed) of the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was led by the Christian Palestinian George Habash. But if you watched Klinghoffer, you’d have no idea Marxist Palestinians even existed, or that Christian Palestinians were at the forefront of much of the Palestinian national movement. … Klinghoffer wants to collapse the complexities of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians into a timeless religious battle between Muslims and Jews.

Adam Shatz is on the same page:

[Y]ou could make the case that if The Death of Klinghoffer caricatures anyone, it’s Palestinians, not Jews. The ‘Chorus of Exiled Palestinians’ that opens the opera features a group in Afghan-style clothes, evoking the vanished paradise of pre-1948 Palestine and the Nakba that robbed them of their land and future. Dressed in black and virtually indistinguishable, they’re designated mourners of Palestine, an undifferentiated mass united in suffering and thirsty for revenge. The women are all covered in full abayas, which is unusual among Palestinian women today, and was even more unusual in 1985.

A Monumental Error

Yigal Schleifer spotlights how a new memorial to the victims of the Nazi occupation reflects the revisionist nationalism of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party, and hints at the creeping resurgence of Hungarian anti-Semitism:

The government is erecting the monument to honor the victims of Nazi Germany’s March 1944 occupation of Hungary—including 565,000 Jews. But the country’s opposition parties and Jewish groups are unhappy: They believe the monument—a historically and artistically challenged creation that will feature an eagle (Germany) swooping down on the archangel Gabriel (Hungary)—whitewashes the extensive and troubling role Hungary’s Nazi-sympathizing government played in the massive deportation of Jews to Auschwitz.

The Fidesz ex-party official I’m with explains that the monument is a powerful example of how Orban has reached back into Hungary’s history for inspiration. “It isn’t modern right-wing politics, but a 19th-century conservatism that plays well with the Hungarian sense of the past. That’s what he’s doing here,” he says, pointing toward the monument site.

The official approach to the memory of the Holocaust fits uncomfortably into all of this. On the one hand, Fidesz has been credited with taking positive steps, such as setting aside 2014 as a year to commemorate the Holocaust and dispensing government funds for memorial projects and events. On the other hand, as with the monument in Szabadsag Square, Fidesz is being accused of rewriting history by offering up a narrative in which Hungarian responsibility for the systematic deportation of nearly 440,000 Jews—the majority to Auschwitz-Birkenau—is diminished: The monument portrays all Hungarians, by linking it to the 45-year Soviet occupation and the continuum of Hungarian suffering. During my stay in Hungary, it was the construction of the monument that almost every government critic I spoke to—Jewish or not—considered the defining symbol of the Orban government’s efforts to toy with the past in order to bolster its political future.

“It Really Doesn’t Matter Whether Or Not You Agree With The Israeli Government’s Policies”, Ctd

by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

I want to thank the Dish readers who responded to my recent post on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Yes, even the furious ones. You’ve helped clarify my thoughts on the topic. Below, I respond to several (overlapping) dissents. One reader writes:

Regarding Phoebe’s post “It really doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with the Israeli government’s policies,” I think she and others are misreading the NYT’s letter to the editor, or at least I (and I’m sure the many others to whom this letter is not “jumping out”) read it very differently. I do not read the reference to “patrons” to mean Jews living outside Israel.  I read “patrons” to mean countries (obviously, most specifically in this instance the United States). The term “patron” is routinely used in the context of foreign affairs (and in the NYT) to describe one country that provides some kind of support (financial, military, etc.) to another country or entity. This is particularly true in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian/Hamas/Hezbollah conflict. The United States is routinely described as a patron of Israel, and Iran and Syria are routinely described as patrons of Hamas and Hezbollah. Given the context it is far less likely that the writer intended “patrons” to mean Jews or some “nice little loophole” than that the writer was simply using common vernacular to refer to the countries who aid and support Israel and who most certainly do have influence over the Israeli government.

These angles of the issue should really be addressed in a post like this on the Dish.  While there should not be any connection between anti-semitism against Jews (whether in the U.S., Europe, or anywhere) and the Israeli government’s policies, it is a simple fact that there is a connection. Does Phoebe contend that there is not a connection between Israel’s policies and anti-semitism?  (which, again, is plainly a different question from whether there should be a connection).  And, if there is a connection then what exactly is objectionable in the writer’s paragraph about Israel’s patrons if “patrons” is read to mean the United States and other Western governments, as that term is widely used in foreign affairs?

I’ll address the second paragraph later, but first, the first: I agree that “patrons” is ambiguous, and that it’s entirely possible that Bruce Shipman meant countries (or just the US), not global Jewry. Indeed, the most charitable explanation I can come up with, reading, rereading, and rereading the letter some more, is that, by “patrons,” he meant the US government. If that was what he meant, though, he might have said so, and not relied on highly sophisticated readers catching the foreign-policy jargon. There would have been a clear way to indicate exactly which parties he was holding accountable, and he opted against. What reads to me, and to some other Jews, as a dog whistle doesn’t read that way to all. That’s… the trouble with dog whistles. Either you hear it or you don’t. As it stands, he used roundabout language that leaves very much open the possibility that he means Jews. After all, as another reader points out, many Jews do patronize Israel:

I find Ms. Bovy’s argument a little hard to follow. American Jews have a very strong connection to Israel, both financial and political. I have numerous friends and colleagues who are “secular” Jews. They aren’t particularly religious, but the older the get, the more often they go to synagogue. They make their kids do the Bar mitzvah thing. And they travel to Israel on vacation. For the most part they are politically liberal. But when it comes to Israeli policy, they are right wing nuts. If I say anything – anything – negative about Israel, they freak out. Anti-Semitism. You can’t even have a conversation about the Middle East in their presence.

I must admit that I found part of this response similarly hard to follow. Is there something sinister, or even surprising, about “‘secular’ Jews” expressing some religiosity? But I will set that aside, and turn to the “freak out” portion of the paragraph. I can’t speak to this reader’s personal experience with otherwise impeccably progressive friends who start railing on about Judea and Samaria at a moment’s notice. There are plenty of people who are fully liberal or conservative but for the one area that affects them personally; surely that category wouldn’t exclude Jews.

I can, however, offer some thoughts from… the other end of such conversations. I’ve been in situations, in the US and elsewhere, where I’m the token Jew, asked to account for what my kind are doing over there in Israel. In cases like this, it’s easy to feel on the defensive, and to come across as more rah-rah Israel than one might if not feeling cornered on the basis of a personal identity that frankly isn’t opt-out (born Jewish, always Jewish, in the eyes of society), or if discussing with other Jews.

The most vigorous dissent, however, comes from a third reader:

Phoebe Malz Bovy owes Rev. Bruce Shipman an apology for her latest post. Her dishonesty lies in her simply substituting one term for another, making a joke about doing so, and proceeding as though that substitution is legitimate. Shipman did not name Jews as the target of his remarks, and in fact “Israel’s patrons abroad” includes essentially every national politician in America, the vast majority of them gentiles, to say nothing of an enormous number of mainstream gentiles living in the United States and elsewhere. If we’re simply allowed to substitute one word for another out of rhetorical convenience, then we’ll very quickly find ourselves accusing everyone with whom we disagree of the worst bigotry.

Bovy’s post– in which she does not use the word “Palestinians,” which is typical of her erasure of that inconveniently living people– is typical of her work, which seeks to wave half-heartedly at the notion that there might be some such thing as legitimate criticism of Israel and its brutal, racist occupation, and then turns around and calls every actual instance of such criticism anti-Semitic. Which is particularly untoward, given that so much of that criticism, in the United States, is carried out by anti-Zionist Jews, a large and growing movement of liberals and leftists who are rightfully and naturally disgusted by the conduct of Israel.

Nor is there any acknowledgment of who, exactly, is the threatened party in greater Palestine. This is a reality that Ms. Bovy has to grapple with: Israel is among the safest countries on earth. By any rational estimation whatsoever. In fact, Israel– with its immensely powerful military, its nuclear arsenal, and the unwavering patronage of the United States– is among the least existentially threatened countries in the region. Any dispassionate consideration of its military, diplomatic, and economic security leads us to conclude that it is a stable and secure nation. The same cannot be said of the Palestinians, a refugee people, lost without a state, at constant risk of death from the Israeli government that occupies its land. As Rev. Shipman said: the only legitimate, moral solution is the recognition of the Palestinian people as fully human and thus fully deserving of human and democratic rights. It is Israel’s refusal to grant that recognition that is to blame for Israel’s increasing isolation, and that refusal which threatens its soul.

Two things, one small, one more big-picture. The two are related. The small – the personal – is that I’d have to dispute this claim of  “erasure” of Palestinian suffering, and would direct this reader to the same guest-post of mine I link to in the post in question.

The second is that no, I don’t think it’s “erasure” to respond to stories of anti-Semitism – by which I mean unambiguous things like synagogue vandalism, attacks on Jews who aren’t even in Israel – without mentioning Palestinians. Now, to only notice anti-Semitism and to ignore Palestinian suffering (and every other global tragedy) would be to ignore the broad picture of what’s going on in the world. To those who note that anti-Semitism is not the greatest threat to mankind at this particular point in history… I agree! Bigotry against a group one happens to be a part of is, however, bound to stand out. That’s true for Jews as it is for other groups – it’s the universality of parochialism.

But back to Shipman’s letter. To bring up the questionable or even outright wrong things done by one group of Jews (namely those who have power in Israel at the moment) whenever bigotry against all Jews comes up is to… sorry, but yes, it is to cross the line into anti-Semitism. The thing is, I’m not entirely sure what Shipman’s specific criticisms of Israel entail; for all I know they’re ones I – an opponent of the settlements – would share. It’s not only – for more, see David Schraub – “anti-Zionist Jews” who have such criticisms. To be a “Zionist” isn’t necessarily to be in favor of the current Israeli administration’s policies. For me, it just means thinking there ought to continue to be a Jewish state in some part of the area where there currently is one.

What I found troubling in Shipman’s letter was not that he expressed criticism of Israel, but the context in which he did so. After agreeing that there is “growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond,” he turned immediately to the aspects of Israeli policy that may have inspired this “trend”, and not… to the people targeting Jews. In doing so, he treats anti-Semitism as a legitimate form of protest.

Shipman made two leaps: first, that anti-Jewish acts outside Israel are merely expressions of outrage at the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, and second, that this explanation should be not merely understood (as one seeks to understand the roots of everything that happens) but addressed. Shipman is saying, effectively, that European anti-Semites are making demands regarding Israel policy, are protesting by attacking Jews, and that we should give in to those demands (as if there even are articulated demands when a synagogue is defaced). That’s where justification enters into it.

The problem with criticizing Israeli policy in that context wasn’t that this policy is sound. It should be criticized! The trouble here is that nothing any country – including but not limited to Israel – does can be used to justify acts of hatred against those who share the ethno-religious background in question. There are many good reasons to keep trying to achieve peace in Gaza and to bring about Palestinian statehood. Today’s anti-Semites’ tendency to give Israel policy as a pretext for Jew-bashing? Not one of them.

Ultimately, I think arguments like Shipman’s are worrying to many Jews, but are also not any great favor to Palestinians. Dignifying anti-Semitism as pro-Palestinian advocacy only serves to unfairly delegitimize the Palestinian cause, and only contributes to Palestinian suffering.

“It Really Doesn’t Matter Whether Or Not You Agree With The Israeli Government’s Policies”

by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Naava Mashiah finds that as some European Jews, fearing anti-Semitism, move to Israel, some Israeli Jews are moving in the opposite direction.

So I see two sectors of the Jewish population, one in the diaspora, one in Israel, which believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. You wonder whom is deceiving themselves and whom will actually follow through and make the move. Will the exodus from Israel be larger than the inflow of immigrants from Europe? Will the immigration from North America still continue to make up the gap? Even as I write this, after the beginning of the cease-fire, a plane has landed with a planeload of new immigrants.

The Israelis whom move to Europe, as I did four years ago, will find out that the policy of the Israeli government will inevitably affect their life in Europe, even a small remote village. For the local population will remind you that you are Jewish and therefore connected to this homeland. It really doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with the Israeli government’s policies. … Many in Europe say that it reminds them of Europe in 1936, and are reminded of those whom were proactive and departed, ending up as survivors. Some do not think we have reached such a drastic situation. While in Israel, it is no longer considered ‘against the stream’ to emigrate as it was in the 70’s when the immigrants were considered traitors to the country.

Here in the States, though, surely things are different, right? Perhaps for the most part – and anyone who thinks anti-Semitism is this country’s principal bigotry has been living under one of those proverbial rocks – but then there are moments like this, in response to a NYT story about rising European anti-Semitism:

To the Editor:

Deborah E. Lipstadt makes far too little of the relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond.

The trend to which she alludes parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank.

As hope for a two-state solution fades and Palestinian casualties continue to mount, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.

(Rev.) BRUCE M. SHIPMAN
Groton, Conn., Aug. 21, 2014

The writer is the Episcopal chaplain at Yale.

Permit me to spell out what makes a letter like this jump out. (And jump out it did, but there’s no way to link to personal Facebook pages here.) Shipman is not merely stating that there’s some relationship between tensions in the Middle East and anti-Jewish sentiment in Europe, but that poor behavior on the part of Israel excuses anti-Jewish acts in places other than Israel. He’s saying that Jews (sorry, “Israel’s patrons abroad” – nice little loophole of a possibility that he mostly means Evangelicals) are responsible for anti-Semitism, and have brought it upon themselves, as if the typical European (or, for that matter, American) Jew has some kind of influence on Netanyahu. Shipman, as David Bernstein points out in his posts on the letter, blames the victim. Shipman’s saying that if you’re in any sense a “patron” of Israel – a vague enough term that could, depending how one understands it, include nearly all Jews – you can expect continued bigotry until a permanent peace arrives in the Middle East, which is, dare I venture a guess, not imminent.

The reason a letter like this gets published in the NYT, and isn’t jumping out at everyone, is… basically what I was getting at earlier, namely that the commonplace definition of anti-Semitism excludes cases where a pretext is given. As in, there’s been this odd rounding-up, or rounding-down, or something, whereby it’s not just that we must recognize that criticism of Israel exists as a thing separate from anti-Semitism, as is sensible. It’s also that anti-Semitism somehow doesn’t count as such if it’s expressed by someone who also expresses legitimate criticisms. Which is, oh, maybe not so sensible if one stops and thinks about it.

Anti-Zionism In Latin America

by Dish Staff

Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez provides some background on anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in Venezuela:

Recently, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro organized a rally labeled the “March Against Israeli Genocide.” There, the Venezuelan president called upon “the Jews that live in our lands” to “stop the massacre, and the murder of those innocent boys and girls.” It’s a tall order. In the words of one community member: “When the president himself calls out Venezuelan Jews to rein in the ‘Zionist’ government and stop the Gazan genocide – as if we could even do that – you think to yourself, ‘How is it that the country I grew up in feels the need to single me out? When did the open society I used to live in turn into this?'”

According to Lansberg-Rodríguez, Venezuelan anti-Semitism results from the conflation of Zionism with a number of other ideologies with more direct relevance to the country itself:

In Venezuela’s pro-government rhetoric, both regime officials and state media often group together loaded terms that, in effect, become synonymous: “Imperialists,” “International Elites,” “Ultra-rightists,” “Fascists,” and “Zionists” can be used interchangeably, or paired together, to denote any enemy that criticizes or meddles in Venezuelan government affairs. The indistinctness of these terms can make them difficult to keep straight in practice. When an anchor on Venezuelan state television recently derided former Venezuelan Trade Minister (and former Foreign Policy editor) Moisés Naím for signing a letter condemning certain Venezuelan regime practices, he dismissed Naím’s perspective as that of “a believing Jew.” He probably meant to say “Zionist,” but no retraction or clarification was forthcoming.

At present, most Venezuelan Jews do not face open discrimination from their neighbors. Even so, a sense of dread and isolation is pervasive among much of the community, and some worry that, with diplomatic relations severed between the government and Israel, there may be nobody to protect them in a pinch. While researching this story, absolutely nobody I spoke with who still resides in Venezuela was willing to let me use their names.

The scholar Jonathan Israel has described this early migration to the New World and its effects. These educated exiles established an impressive financial and commercial net that spanned continents. But when they were cut down in the 17th century by the Inquisition, these generations vanished from popular memory, leaving only a few cultural traces, like the many largely Portuguese Jewish names that are scattered across Latin America. Perhaps because of their rapid disappearance into the general population, no native variety of anti-Semitism toward them ever developed.

In Spain, the story is somewhat different. There were Jews in Spain before the birth of Christ and, though they were officially expelled in 1492, their presence had been so vital to the country that it continued to impress itself on Spain right down to the present. The old anti-Judaism is still alive in daily speech, in popular legend and among influential sectors of public opinion, but its positive counterpart is no less alive in a cult of respect for the heritage of the Sephardim (the ancient Spanish Jewish community) and a liberal tradition of interest in Jewish traditions.