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ISRAELIS’ ATTACK ON REFUGEES
Terror is raging in Tel Aviv. Preschool children are sent home for fear of attacks. People are afraid to walk around their neighborhoods. Health clinics are guarded to protect clients from violent infiltration. Who are the perpetrators? Jews. Their victims? Refugees. These refugees watched their families killed and their villages bombed and escaped to Israel to preserve their own lives.
I don’t aim to place all or even most blame on Israel. But the Jewish State cannot turn its back and say, “This is not our problem.” We shouldn’t even whisper such words given our history of losing millions as other nations turned their backs. Yet 1,000 Jews recently screamed these words as they violently marched through the streets of Tel Aviv. In the Knesset, Jews proclaim these words as they put forth policy to deport refugees to South Sudan—a move authorized by Israel’s Attorney General that could send thousands to their deathbeds.
In 1944, David Ben-Gurion asked the international community, “If, instead of Jews, thousands of English, American, or Russian women, children, and aged had been tortured every day, burnt to death, asphyxiated in gas chambers—would you have acted in the same way?” I pose that question back to you.
—Anna Rose Siegel
Tel Aviv, Israel
ARABS AND THE HOLOCAUST
In his article, “Setting The Record Straight: The Arabs, Zionism, and the Holocaust,” (Tikkun, Spring 2012), it is reassuring that professor Ussama Makdisi acknowledges that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, had a “sordid” relationship with the Nazis. The details, which he doesn’t provide, include the Mufti’s recruitment of Bosnian Muslims into the SS, his advocacy of Jew-hatred throughout the Arab world with incendiary radio broadcasts from Berlin, and his prominent role in the pro-Nazi coup in Iraq in 1941. Makdisi shies away from fully assessing the weight that this leader bore in the Jewish-Arab conflict over Palestine. Apparently, the book The Arabs and the Holocaust by Gilbert Achcar, which he reviews favorably, fails in this regard as well.
I agree that it’s too simple to lay all the blame on the Mufti for the periodic post-1917 Palestinian-Arab attacks against their Jewish neighbors, but it would be refreshing and useful for historians to honestly analyze his impact, without getting bogged down in ideological finger-pointing. And yes, some Israeli and pro-Zionist writers—perhaps most shockingly, Benny Morris—do engage in such finger-pointing from their side. Still, if the Mufti were not the most influential leader of Palestinian and perhaps pan-Arab nationalism in the 1930s and ’40s, I would like to know who was. Likewise, Makdisi appears to think that the violent turn in the Arab-Jewish conflict came from the Zionist movement. He writes, “There can be no substantial discussion, let alone judgment, of Arab attitudes toward the Holocaust without a frank discussion of Zionism’s violence toward Arabs.”
Clearly, the alliance of Arab nationalists with the Nazi cause exemplified the principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” But can Makdisi deny that the Yishuv—the organized Jewish community in Palestine—had every reason to see Palestinian enmity in the 1930s and ’40s as unrelenting in its violence and even genocidal in intent? And if Makdisi and Achcar can contextualize the motivations of the Mufti and his ilk, should they ignore the context of Palestine becoming a refuge for Jews against the ravages of twentieth-century anti-Semitism? Finally, can Makdisi understand that Zionism wasn’t simply a settler-colonialist project, as he seems to believe, but the effort of a hounded people to find a safe home? This doesn’t justify all that has been done in the name of Zionism, but such an understanding may help forge a fair and workable peace.
New York, NY
JESUS AS A JEW
Daniel Boyarin, in “Jesus, the Kosher Jew” (Tikkun, Spring 2012), may be right about Torah’s kosher laws in Mark 7, but he is wrong about the central theme of Mark’s gospel. Mark’s story is not about a “Jewish Christ,” but rather is concerned with “the parting of the ways” between Judaism and Christianity. The gospel was written during the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 ce), which destroyed Judaism in Palestine, and explains how this could happen to God’s chosen people. Mark’s answer: God has rejected the Jews and salvation will now be given to the Gentiles.
In Mark, Jesus teaches before great crowds, and yet not one witness to these amazing performances understands his true identity and mission. He teaches in parables (4:12) so that his listeners won’t understand his message, because God does not want Jews to be forgiven and saved. His family members pronounce him crazy (3:21). He performs several miracles in the presence of disciples who are confused about his identity and mission because God has closed their minds (6:52).
No Jew in Mark’s story understands who Jesus is. The first to “get it” is the Roman centurion (15:37-39)—a Gentile. This central theme is summarized in the parable of the wicked husbandmen (12:1-12). The Gospel of Mark does not help us understand the historical meaning of the early Jesus movement. It’s all about Mark’s reinterpretation of that movement for a Gentile audience. To rediscover the Jewish Jesus, one must look to Matthew instead.
Oak Bluffs, MA