For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Third Intifada: Anti-Semitism and its Real Message
Ze'ev Ben Yechiel
18 April '11 H/T Raphael Blumberg
"Oy, I can't believe how much anti-Semitism there is in the world!" "We have to stand up and make the governments denounce this hate speech!" "Let's sue Mark Zuckerman for allowing this travesty!" Quiet, Bubbie. You're missing the point.
For 1878 years we languished in our last exile, impotent and utterly at the mercy of our host nations, enduring horrific subjugation and slaughter as a fact of life, appealing when we could to our foreign masters to spare us from themselves. Then, on May 14 , 1948, the Jewish reality was transformed overnight. The official rebirth of our nation rebuilt on its land, wrought with our hands and the divine assent of our Creator, should have filled Jews in every country with pride, empowerment and a sense that no more will they have to suffer the vicissitudes of hostile neighbors. But for some reason our diaspora ghetto mentality endures, and each time the anti-Semitic banner unfurls, the Jews left in the exile -- and, even more unbelievably, many of those reborn as natives of their Chosen Land, continue to quake with fright at every stated threat, and continue to petition the "higher powers" among the nations to intercede on our helpless behalf.
The Jewish reality has indeed been a different one for over 62 years, but the Jewish delusion of impotence thrives on well into my generation. So much of our nation continues to identify themselves as victims of anti-Semitism, so closely and so much to the exclusion of any other unifying characteristic, that the anti-Semite has come to define the Jew, and Judaism has become stripped away to "Semitism". With the smoke of the crematoria still in our rear-view mirrors, we are continuing to miss the fact that we've crossed into a different existence, and it seems that we are still so sensitive to the cry of the Jew-hater that we scramble to secure official condemnation lest the gentile masses slaughter us again. In doing so, we are spurning the sacrifice of the six million, who died against their will so that we can finally exercise ours.
Worse yet, by allowing the other nations to define us and relying on them to defend us, we continue the work of the Jew-hating murderers of yesteryear, and we betray the G-d that has straightened our backs once again.
Here is some news that may shock you: We don't need to suffer anti-Semitism anymore. Today, we can--and must--learn to benefit from it. With our national restoration, the festering Jew-hatred that loomed over us like a volcano is now a blessing in disguise, and a curse only if we persist in our ancient attitudes toward it. For as long as we come crying to the authorities every time a Jew-hater raises his voice, we will continue to appear to the world as a nation of whiny playground lawyers who can't stand up for ourselves against our bullies. It is time to accept anti-Semitism for the bitter medicine it is and directly confront its sources, rather than the other way around. Only when we attack the root of the disease will we merit to enjoy its departure. Only then will we break the chains of victimhood, straighten our knees and clothe ourselves as the invincible, immortal nation we're divinely commanded--and enabled--to be.
Take the latest case of global anti-Semitism and our reaction to it, a textbook example among thousands: The Third Intifada proclaimed on Facebook has an entire virtual Jewish community up in arms, with young and old alike clucking their tongues and feigning shock that nice Jewish boy Mark Zuckerberg is allowing his website to host such filthy, filthy propaganda. Worst of all, we're demanding that Facebook shut down the page, since it constitutes "hate speech". This is counterproductive, and actually self-destructive on several levels: 1) It makes us look weak. 2) It surrenders us to our enemies. 3) It denies the role of anti-Semitism in exposing our enemies. 4) Worst of all, it deflects us from correcting the character flaws that fuels our enemies' hatred and denies G-d's purpose in sending them against us. And in order for us to receive the intended message, we'll need to step back from our usual alarmist paradigm, see how we appear to the rest of the world, including those who profess to hate us--and turn their own weapons against them.
1) A careful observer of our hysterical reaction to the Facebook initiative can't deny that it makes us look powerless. "Let's sue Zuckerberg for aiding and abetting Third Palestinian Intifada." Is this the best we can do? Our enemies clamor for our destruction, and we're begging twenty-something ubergeek Mark Zuckerberg for protection? By huffing and puffing against the administration of the site--by parading our offense, our hurt, our injury in an attempt to get the authorities to intervene--we become the child, who, wounded, runs to the teacher for defense when he can't defend himself. Doing so, we effectively acknowledge that the bully has achieved his aim--our intimidation.
2) By proudly pouting and pointing to our bruises in our appeal to teacher, we are showing that the hatemongers on Facebook have shaken us. And then, the more Mr. Zuckerberg complies with our demands for intervention, the realer the threat appears and the stronger our enemies become. The Cassandra hue and cry directed at the Internet authorities, and our coercive attempt to elicit their responsibility for the actions of our real-life adversaries, means that our attackers have already won.
3) Another reason not to rush to have others silence those who hate us is that, by aiming their invective at us, our enemies reveal their location, their identity, and most importantly, their aims. We need to know who our enemies are, where they roost, and most important, what they intend to do to us. Like a portable missile battery, the ideological ammunition is there, and it will emerge against us no matter how many peacekeepers we send to throw tarpaulins over the launch sites and declare them deactivated. Armies know that sometimes the best way for an enemy to blow his cover is to fire a few rounds, especially since the first salvos of a confused enemy are relatively weak and poorly directed. Then we ourselves can sharpen our swords to meet the attacker on their turf, where our offensive position gives us the upper hand.
But if we rush to deny the message of our attackers by scrambling for diplomatic cover, we will only encourage their advance and bring the front closer to us. Acknowledging the venom of our haters rather than smothering it with condemnation is the only way to allow everyone in our nation to see what we're up against, and gives denialist Jews an early incentive for the inevitable encounter. Confrontation is what our adversaries want, for in the end they are compelling us to confront ourselves. Whether the call comes on a Facebook page or in shards of synagogue glass, if we don't respect their demands now, we will pay a much more undeniable price later.
4) By crying foul and squawking at intermediaries to protect us, we are stonewalling a movement that will not go away. What we are doing now by blocking the flow of individual anti-Semitic acts is actually diverting the individual streams of hatred together into what will only become a raging river. Plugging the little holes in the anti-Semitism volcano invites a much bigger explosion, and what we must do is siphon out the magma and store it for our own education and self-defense. Those who are inclined to hate us will do so anyway, and by parading the hatred before the eyes of the world, we are projecting it onto a much larger screen and granting it a legitimacy that is only intended to register for us. For the message of the anti-Semite is meant for us and us alone.
Anti-Semitism is a chronic disease, persisting through time, space and culture. In the long run, the only way to cure a recurring disease is to address the conditions that allow it to recur, and without a proper understanding of the relationship between the Jewish nation and the rest of the world, it is impossible to understand with any perspective why groups, nations, religions and global movements keep rising up against us. Then we not only disrespect the deadly earnestness of our assailants, but we discount the weaknesses in our own national constitution that turns them against us. And that complacency presents a far greater threat to our national survival than any outside forces bent on awaking us.
The Third Intifada Facebook page was taken down today, and tomorrow we can dismiss it as a passing and rather forgettable incident. But the message behind it persists, and the day after tomorrow it will resurface with larger fangs. The Third Intifada page represents the ideological fuel that gives life to much of the so-called Palestinian struggle, and our reaction to it is a symptom of everything that is wrong with the way that the Jewish nation relates to the rest of the world. It illuminates the difference between those who believe in a higher, simpler logic hiding fueling the collective psychology of international relations, in a clever hand that organizes the historical landscape and guides the human narrative towards a destination--and those who do not.
Those who can discern the pattern of events and the underlying texture of the canvas understand that we must view nations as one collective body, with a spirit akin to that of an individual person. By making each nation eponymous with its single founder, our tradition clearly identifies the embodying characteristic of each nation: Esau, Ishmael and Amalek are all progenitors of their respective clans, and long after each group ceases to exist as a political entity, the spirit that unites them against us resurrects the ghosts of these men into forms that should be hauntingly recognizable to every Jew.
Each group of Jew-haters therefore takes the place of a different playground bully, but all of these bullies are feeding off one thing: Our weakness. The real enemy is not the bully but our weakness that draws him onto us, and it is our weakness as a nation that forces the hand of history to stir against us. Until we work to rectify the weakness, history will never run out of bullies for us.
So far it seems that we are not learning our lesson. The Jewish masters of crying foul, the Anti-Defamation League, does a fine job of squinting its eyes at those with the audacity to preach hatred toward us. Naughty, naughty bullies! What the ADL and its entire army of solemnly scandalized Jewish community organizations fails to accept is that the problem is not with the anti-Semite but with our inability to properly learn from him.
So what's the lesson? Must the medicine be so bitter, must we pay for it for so long, and with millions of our lives? Of course not.
In the sandlot, those children coming from strong homes with proud parents are the ones who stand up to the bully and disarm him with a look before he even has a chance to swing. If we are weak, if our home lacks pride, it is for one reason only--our inability to embrace our heritage as G-d's messengers on Earth and unite as brothers of the only nation destined to redeem the world by example. When we fully appreciate what it is the other nations need from us, then we will understand why they attack us for not giving it to them. What the scattered assortment of bullies want is an example of strength where they lack it, of unity where they are torn apart, of ultimate questions and ultimate answers.
The Jewish nation was created not for its own sake, but for that of the world. But until we fully embrace our value, the seriousness of our divine mission, how far we are from accomplishing it and how much power we have in our hands to rise to the occasion, like our forefather Jacob we will not merit a day of rest.
But relax, Bubbie. In the land, nation and Torah of Israel are all the answers, and when we properly establish the cornerstone of our spiritual home, the very same stone that the nations now reject, G-d's presence will already begin to dwell upon it for all to see. Then our erstwhile enemies will freeze in mid-sentence, beat their swords into screwdrivers and rush to help us finish the construction.
So after every shout against us, before scrambling to wave our bloodied flag to the world let's pass it around to each other and our children to remind ourselves of our fragility before the Creator. And in the meantime, as long as our enemies shout, let's remain ominously quiet while we internalize the message, and keep one hand on our swords while we learn to turn our enemies' poison into their own salvation.
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I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"