by: David Harris-Gershon on September 12th, 2015 | Comments Off
Originally published at Jewschool
As missiles fell in Israel and bombs obliterated portions of Gaza last summer, I awoke each morning with a jolt, as though remembering some pressing task nearly forgotten. That jolt felt from afar – from across the Atlantic – was unmitigated fear. A fear that when I swept the crust from my eyes, fired up my laptop and scanned Twitter, I’d either find that an Israeli soldier I knew had died or bear witness to more images of bodies piling up in Gaza. While the former fear was never realized (despite 66 soldiers and six civilians dying in Israel), the latter was actualized with a nauseating consistency.
Every morning, the casualty totals in Gaza grew. Every morning, new images of homes and apartment complexes turned to rubble revealed themselves. Every morning, reporters on the ground wrote of unspeakable traumas, of entire families lost in the blink of eyes once open. And as Palestinian suffering grew, so too did my public expressions of empathy. Expressions which were attacked so forcefully, one might have thought, absent all context, that I was a skinhead seeking Jewish blood.
Finally, awoken to images of a U.N. shelter shelled by Israel, killing 16 civilians hiding in a location promised to be safe, I wrote the following on July 25, 2014:
“Empathizing with Gaza does not make me anti-Semitic, nor pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It makes me human.”
There are visual moments which have the capacity to shift perceptions and increase awareness in ways that are unmatched by words or data. Moments captured on film which are fleeting, but remain indelible long after they’ve passed. Such a moment occurred on Friday in the West Bank, the images of which are spreading rapidly.
Israeli soldier roughly detaining Mohammed Tamimi, 12, during an anti-occupation protest in Nabi Saleh. Credit: Reuters
As seen in the image above, it is a difficult moment which occurred during Friday’s weekly anti-occupation protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. An Israeli soldier chased down twelve-year-old Mohammed Tamimi, whose arm had been broken in a previous demonstration and who was accused by the soldier of throwing stones. As Mohammed was being dragged away, his fifteen-year-old sister, mother, aunt and members of the Tamimi family began screaming to the soldier that he’s a minor, and that his arm is broken, before physically tearing the soldier off of Mohammed during a struggle.
An image of this difficult moment can be seen below, and video of the incident in its entirety here:
Veteran Israeli analyst, Nahum Barnea, has penned a piece entitled “On the edge of the abyss” which details how Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is desperate to do whatever must be done in order to kill passage of the Iran deal in Washington.
According to Barnea, this includes threatening the Obama administration, or more accurately, those members of Congress still weighing their decision on the Iran deal. The threat? That a passed nuclear agreement will result in one thing: a last-resort war launched by Israel to save itself. Here is Barnea:
Israel is willing to invest quite a lot in putting the military option back on the table. Defense Minister Ya’alon threatened last week in the media that Israel will resume targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. It was strange, because in the past, Israel didn’t make its threats in the media – according to foreign reports, it conducted its assassinations in secret. Ya’alon’s comments were not for Tehran’s ears, however, but for Washington. There were other moves, more concrete ones. It’s important to Israel to create the impression in Washington that approving the agreement would lead to war.
On the matter of Iranian nuclear scientists, Barnea is referring to an interview last week Defense Minister Ya’alon granted Der Spiegel. In that interview, Ya’alon hinted that Israel was responsible for a series of targeted attacks which killed five Iranian nuclear scientists, and boldly implied such targeted assassinations may be resumed along with the bombing of Iranian facilities if the deal passes.
According to a CBS news report in 2014, the Obama administration pressured Netanyahu last year to order a cessation of such targeted killings by Mossad. Now, with the nuclear agreement being weighed by Congress, the Netanyahu-led government is making not-so-veiled threats to Washington that it will act if the deal passes.
I’m an American Jew who is a conscious ally of the black community and happens to also be a supporter of President Obama’s Iran deal. Neither of these things make me unique. Indeed, most US Jews, politically liberal and socially progressive, are allies in the fight against bigotry – 64 percent of Jews think blacks still face and lot of discrimination – and support Obama’s diplomacy with Iran.
This is why it pains me to see racist attacks against President Obama emanating from Israel beginning to shake the foundational relationship between the Jewish and black communities in America. For despite attempts by Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to posture himself and Israel as representing “the entire Jewish people,” the reality is that Israeli and American Jews are very different. Indeed, Israel cannot be conflated with all Jews, and Jewish Israeli politicians in turn do not represent American Jews. This also extends to most institutional Jewish leaders in this country, who are out of step with the Jewish community.
However, for black Americans who see Jewish leaders in America supporting Israeli attacks against President Obama, it’s easy to understand how a conflation might take place. And yes, there is a reason many in the black community view recent attacks against President Obama’s Iran deal emanating from Israel to have racist undertones.
It’s because they do.
A scan of social media in Hebrew shows this to be painfully clear. Unfortunately, also clear are visible, public expressions in English from politicians and high-profile figures. Take for example, this Tweet sent out by Judy Mozes, the wife of Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and a popular radio personality:
Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has just appointed a man to represent Israel on the international stage who rejects Palestinian statehood and wants to annex most of the West Bank. The move simply confirms that Netanyahu’s true geo-political goal is for Israel to gain sovereignty over the West Bank and create a ‘Greater Israel.’
Yes, Netanyahu recently tried to backtrack from statements indicating that he wants to occupy the Palestinians indefinitely; however, this appointment shows Israel’s current leader has always rejected and will continue to reject any peace agreement which grants Palestinians a sovereign state.
Lest anyone question the extremist politics of Danny Danon, the man who will now diplomatically represent Israel, he has explicitly rejected the two-state solution, remarking when he was Deputy Defense Minister that he would go so far as to block Palestinian statehood if it were to come up for a vote. This is also a man who has expressed a desire for Israel to “gain sovereignty over the majority of the [West Bank] … “with the minimum number of Palestinians” as possible. As for the Palestinians themselves? Danon would rather Jordan figure out their ‘status’ rather than Israel burden itself alone with such matters.
Just to reiterate, Israel’s new U.N. ambassador, the country’s highest-ranking diplomat, is a one-stater who cares little about the rights of Palestinians, and certainly doesn’t think such rights should be Israel’s concern. Indeed, the only thing which differentiates Danon from those proponents of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement who seek a bi-national, democratic state, is that the latter seem to be the only ones who care about democracy.
In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg today questioned whether President Obama truly understands “Jewish anxiety” about the Iran deal. He did so despite Obama’s clear acknowledgement of the Iranian regime’s anti-Semitism and unequivocal validation of the fears some Jews have about the deal.
So what sparked Goldberg to question Obama’s “understanding” of such fears? He believes the Obama administration’s advocates are “empower[ing] actual anti-Semites” by singling out AIPAC and Israel-lobby hawks for their opposition to the deal, and that Obama doesn’t see how targeting “Jewish special interests” might lead to an increase of anti-Semitism in America.
As a result, Goldberg writes, “Jewish supporters of the Obama administration are beginning to feel scapegoated” – at least, according to some people showing up in his email inbox.
I’d like to tackle both of these notions Goldberg puts forward, and as a Jewish Obama supporter, hopefully put them to rest.
This is rich. In a Weekly Standard op-ed written by Elliot Abrams and trumpeted by Karl Rove and Bill Kristol, President Obama has been accused of promoting anti-Semitism for calling out the Israel Lobby’s influence and warmongering.
The logic behind this ugly, slanderous charge goes as follows:
- 1) President Obama called out AIPAC and the Israel lobby as being a powerful force, backed by millions of dollars, hoping to topple the Iran deal.
- 2) President Obama then identified this force, which was also behind the Iraq war, as advocating for a war which is against the United States’ best interest, arguing that he, as President, must do what’s right for the U.S., not Israel.
- 3) Thus, President Obama has accused American Jews of placing Israel’s interests over America’s, which is to accuse American Jews of “dual loyalty,” the most nefarious and dangerous of anti-Semitic tropes.
Here is Abrams concluding this anti-Semitism charge in his own words:
Why would these people opposing the deal be [advocating for war]? It’s their “affinity for our friend and ally Israel.” But we have to resist their arguments: “as president of the United States it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally.” It is implicit, and very close to explicit, here that the other side wants the U.S. president to act not on our own country’s behalf but on Israel’s. This is an echo of the old “dual loyalty” charge that has been lodged against American Jews since the day the State of Israel was established.
The president is not ignorant (the accusation he lays against his opponents) and must know he is here feeding a deep line of anti-Semitism that accuses of American Jews of getting America into wars.
What chutzpah! No, I’m not talking about Abrams’ history with the Iran-Contra affair, which is a different matter all together. What’s incredible and maddening is that Abrams has, in accusing Obama of anti-Semitism, actually employed a REAL anti-Semitic trope in his accusation. For Abrams has conflated AIPAC and all Jews together, as if they are one and the same, something only the ugliest anti-Semite would dream of doing.
Tomorrow, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamim Netanyahu will stream a live, interactive address to millions of U.S. citizens in the American Jewish community. The goal? Convince U.S. Jews to reject President Obama’s diplomatic agreement with Iran as he and pro-Israel lobbying groups intensify pressure on Congress to do the same.
This address―sponsored by American Friends of Likud, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations and Jewish Federations―is an incredible breach of diplomatic protocol. Indeed, it rivals (if not exceeds) the breach he opened in his anti-Iran-deal speech before Congress this past spring.
For not only is Netanyahu meddling in our nation’s affairs, he is also a) tearing at the very fabric of the American Jewish community while b) simultaneously endangering Jews in this country.
On that first point, Netanyahu is driving a wedge not just between Israel and American Jews with his anti-Iran-deal blitz, but between American Jews themselves. Approximately sixty percent of U.S. Jews currently support President Obama’s Iran deal. However, this address by Netanyahu is sponsored by two of the largest Jewish organizations in America charged with representing the interests of the entire Jewish community.
Unfortunately, by inviting Netanyahu to interfere in U.S. foreign policy with a lobbying address to U.S. Jews, these organizations are not representing their community. Instead, they’re fighting its members. A fight which prompted Peter Beinart to ask, “Why don’t American Jewish groups represent American Jews on Iran?”
Early Friday morning, two masked settlers crouched before a home in the West Bank village of Duma, touched their fingers to its cold walls and nodded. Then they spray painted the words “vengeance” and “long live the Messiah” before breaking windows, throwing firebombs inside and fleeing as a family of four burned in their beds.
Three of those family members–a mother, father and their four-year-old son–are fighting for their lives. The fourth, a baby named Ali Saad Dawabsha, burned to death in the home’s attic.
Images of Ali Saad Dawabsha, the baby burned alive by Jewish terrorists, scattered about his family's scorched house.
The crime, committed by terrorists seeking revenge for Israel’s removal of an unapproved settlement outpost, has shaken the nation in ways other crimes have not. This became immediately evident as prominent conservative politicians began releasing pointed and unusually emotional condemnations. Gilad Erdan, a member of Netanyahu’s cabinet, said this in the crime’s wake:
“A nation whose children were burned in the Holocaust needs to do a lot of soul searching if it bred people who burn other human beings.”
Near-universal rage has been directed at presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who yesterday said Obama would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven” with the Iran deal.
As one with countless family members who were murdered in the Holocaust, I too joined those enraged by Huckabee’s vile exploitation of Jewish victims:
However, the unfortunate truth is that Huckabee’s comments stand out because of the disgusting imagery he used, not because the utilization of Holocaust comparisons is unique with regard to Iran-deal critiques.
Indeed, Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has made statements similar to those for which Huckabee has rightly been scorned. This includes a speech he delivered recently at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, where he compared Iran to Nazi Germany and those negotiating with Iran – President Obama included – as Nazi appeasers:
“The Nazis sought to crush civilization and have a master race rule the Earth while destroying the Jewish people. In that same way, Iran seeks to dominate the region and to spread outward from there, with the declared intention of destroying the Jewish state.”
“Appeasing tyrannical regimes will only increase their aggression and is an approach that is liable to drag the world into larger wars. The bad deal with Iran signals that the lessons of the Holocaust have not been learned.”