What do Israel and Charlottesville Have in Common? Facing Anti-Semitism

As I watched the tragic scene of the car crashing into the crowd of counter-protestors in Charlottesville, for a minute I thought I was looking at another Palestinian car ramming in Israel — one of the latest weapons of choice over the last few years to kill Jews. There have been 60 Israelis murdered by Palestinians using vehicles as weapons.1

However, far too often what’s reported throughout world news is what happened to a terrorist after attacking an Israeli, with sparse mentioning of his victim. The news reports scream, Palestinian shot dead by IDF — BUT WHAT ABOUT THE INNOCENT VICTIM?

But it wasn’t. It was in the United States.

Apart from the horrifying affront to African Americans, white supremacist marchers were bellowing the Nazi Party phrase “blood and soil,” and “Jews will not replace us” — marching through the University of Virginia college campus Friday — bearing evil-flamed torches. Taking place on a college campus made the act even more egregious giving them the opportunity to poison the minds of our next generation. Face it, our kids aren’t born that way — they are taught to hate.

What do these expressions mean? “Blood and Soil,” and “Jews will not replace us,” are phrases used by Hitler — Nazi outcries from the times of the Holocaust. It was based on the doctrine to return to the rural German land with German blood stock — code words for getting rid of any Jewish influence on German society.

James Fields, with forethought and intention, mowed down an innocent counter-protestor, Heather Heyer, who died for her moral convictions — a shero. May her memory be for a blessing. Nineteen others were also injured and two officers died in a helicopter crash while doing their jobs protecting the public. May they rest in Peace.

Listening to Heather’s mother’s words at a gathering honoring her daughter, I recognized where Heather got her bravery, strength and compassion from — as her heart shone through her mothers’ tears:

“Here’s what I want to happen,” she continued. “You ask me, What can I do? So many people… I want this to spread. I don’t want this to die. This is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy. This is not the end of Heather’s legacy. You need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability. What is there I can do to make the world a better place? What injustice do I see?  You poke that finger at yourself like Heather would have done. You take that extra step. You find a way to make a difference in the world.”

This is what we need to teach on our college campuses — NOT HATE.

On Saturday, while the neo-Nazis gathered for their “Unite the Right” rally, about forty Jews were attending Shabbat services at Charlottesville’s Congregation Beth Israel. This is the frightening Facebook post from the congregation’s President:

 “On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning  services. [Note: the congregation’s rabbi was not there as he had gone to the rally with others to counter-protest the neo-Nazi march]. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped).

“For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them….Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There’s the synagogue!” followed by chants of ‘Seig Heil’ and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

“When services ended, my heart broke as I advised congregants that it would be safer to leave the temple through the back entrance rather than through the front, and to please go in groups.

“This is 2017 in the United States of America….

“Soon, we learned that Nazi websites had posted a call to burn our synagogue. I sat with  one of our rabbis and wondered whether we should go back to the temple to protect the building. What could I do if I were there? Fortunately, it was just talk — but we had  already deemed such an attack within the realm of possibilities, taking the precautionary step of removing our Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the premises.

“Again: This is in America in 2017.

Local police faced an unprecedented problem that day, but make no mistake, Jews are a specific target of these groups, and despite nods of understanding from officials about our concerns — and despite the fact that the mayor himself is Jewish — we were left to our own devices. The fact that a calamity did not befall the Jewish community of Charlottesville on Saturday was not thanks to our politicians, our police, or even our own efforts, but to the grace of God.”

Mr. Zimmerman also mentioned several non-Jews who came to the Temple to show solidarity, and to help make sure their friends were safe. These angels reminded me of the designation the Righteous Among the Nations —  an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.

May this congregation and these holy people be blessed.

As reported by Ben Cohen, in the Algemeiner, a prominent rabbi from Washington D.C., Rabbi Herzfeld, had gone to Charlottesville with other rabbis in protest, “…not to be silent, not to be mute when there are Nazis with guns marching in front of synagogues. He said, “I’m unable to sleep, I feel pain that there is a synagogue in this country where there are men outside holding automatic weapons with ill intent to those who are praying, he said, “And the response is that the Jews have to leave through the back and cancel services. This is Nazis versus Jews in America, and where is our protection?”2

When Herzfeld confronted the Charlottesville police captain Victor Mitchell about the lack of protection, he was told that it was “adequate” — there hadn’t been any!  The rabbi urged the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to investigate why the Charlottesville police department did not protect the defenseless synagogue.3 We’ll see if an investigation is scheduled.

I was predictably disappointed that the President of the United States didn’t unequivocally state his abhorrence of what happened, but not surprised.

The city’s mayor condemned this weekend’s gathering as “a cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance.”

What is anti-Semitism? Most decent people are probably thinking they know what anti-Semitism is. Please read on — you might discover a nuance you are unfamiliar with. When researching various answers, I came across this rather exhaustive definition that seems to cover the bases adopted by many organizations throughout the world. It originated from the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia:

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

“Such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity,” but that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

“There are many contemporary examples of ways in which anti-Semitism may manifest itself, including: promoting the harming of Jews in the name of an ideology or religion; promoting negative stereotypes of Jews; holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of an individual Jewish person or group; denying the Holocaust or accusing Jews or Israel of exaggerating it; and accusing Jews of dual loyalty or a greater allegiance to Israel than their own country.”

It also lists ways in which attacking Israel could be anti-Semitic, and states that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor, can be a manifestation of anti-Semitism—as can applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, or holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel.”

A popular example of anti-Semitism: When Palestinians bomb Israel, Israel retaliates. Then there is inevitably a worldwide demand for Israel to show restraint — beyond what any other attacked country would be expected to do.

Where is the outcry against the Palestinian missiles? Too often they are excused by an empathetic reaction for the plight of the Palestinians. Israel is blamed, instead of the Palestinians’ own leaders.

Do I believe Israel could and should do better to improve their relationships with the Palestinians? Absolutely. Every day I hope for Peace. I believe killing by anyone is wrong. Murdering innocent people won’t bring loved ones back, nor return land. Endless retaliation is not a solution. The past is gone — I hope someday we will look forward, bask in the light of Peace and see each other with respectful, humane eyes. It’s our only chance for this story to end well.

I also believe the Palestinians can’t expect better treatment while they indiscriminately murder Israelis, call Jews “pigs” and “monkeys” in their kids’ textbooks, name schools after terrorists, deny the Holocaust and put a monetary worth on their childrens’ lives promoting suicide missions to help their families’ budgets by receiving salaries from the Palestinian Authority for blowing themselves up — our U.S. tax dollars at work. It’s hard to believe our United States aid to the Palestinians is funneled by the Palestinian Authority to make these unfathomable payments. This is child abuse of the unimaginable kind.

The mutual Jew-hating attitudes of the Grand Mufti Mohammad Amin Al-Husayni, and his successor Yasser Arafat along with Hitler and the Nazis, is well-documented and distressing. Another cultural obstacle to the liklihood of getting along with Israelis. Yet Arafat signed the Oslo Accords with Israel and made other attempts at Peace treaties. Changing extreme views is not probable, but possible — a glimmer of hope. Arafat, Israel’ Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin all received the Nobel Prize for Peace. Unfortunately Peace was always elusive —who will be the next leaders willing to work for Peace?

At Toastmasters tonight, my role is to be the Grammarian. Besides listening intently for proper grammar usage, I get to share a new word. I chose the word oppugn. It means to fight against, to call into question. What will you do TODAY to oppugn the repugnant display of anti-Semitism and racism in Charlottesville?

As always, I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…

 

References:

  1. Adam Levick, “60 invisible Palestinian ramming attacks: Media again ignores Israeli terror victims. UK Media Watch (accessed August 16, 2017).
  2. Ben Cohen, “Leading Rabbi Urges Attorney General to Investigate Lack of Police Protection for Charlottesville Synagogue During Far-Right Protest.” the Algemeiner (accessed August 17, 2017).
  3. Ben Cohen, “Leading Rabbi Urges Attorney General to Investigate Lack of Police Protection for Charlottesville Synagogue During Far-Right Protest.” the Algemeiner (accessed August 17, 2017).

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