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Our Daunting Task


Our beloved, miraculous Jewish state is under siege.

It was assumed that the ceaseless persecution of the Jews in exile would cease once we again had our own sovereign homeland, our own army, navy, and air force.

Now, 62 years after its establishment, it is abundantly clear that Israel has become the “Jew” of the world: Defamed, demonized, shunned, shamed, accused of countless blood libels, refused the right to defend itself, blamed when it does.

Daily, hourly, Israel is cursed in all the world’s languages, scapegoated for the crimes and sins of the Arab and Muslim world.

Old-style anti-Semitism is still with us but now there’s a “new” anti-Semitism coming at us from the progressive left, the intelligentsia, the “good” people. It is also coming at us from the Arab and Islamic world, enhanced by the Internet, television, radio and films.

I have been challenging anti-Semitism among leftists and feminists since the early 1970s. I first began to document the “new” anti-Semitism in 2000, right after the Palestinians launched the Second Intifada that year.

At first, I was something of a lone voice. The organized Jewish world either denied or minimized the rise of anti-Semitism and the existential threat that Israel might face. By standing up for Israel, Jews and America, I sacrificed my reputation as a politically correct intellectual. I lost publishing opportunities and most of my former friends and allies.

Why? Because we live in a time when objective truth does not count anymore, when only Big Lies matter.

For example, Islam is the world’s largest practitioner of both religious and gender apartheid. Say this on most campuses, as I have, and you will be jeered, booed, possibly physically menaced, certainly demonized as a “racist” and “Islamophobe.”

The politically correct line is that Israel is a “Nazi apartheid state.” The brainwashing has worked. Sixty years’ worth of Arab League and Saudi funding has accomplished the unbelievable: Israel is not only the bad guy, it is the very worst bad guy in the entire universe.

This is no small victory given how very bad our world is in terms of real genocide and ethnic cleansing; in terms of real slavery; in terms repeated and very public gang-rapes of girls and women as a weapon, not a spoil, of war; in terms of the oppression, torture and murder of one’s own people.

Blame Israel first – that’s the mantra. Thus, when Arab countries persecute Palestinians by revoking their citizenship (as Jordan has done – and let’s not forget that Jordan massacred more Palestinians in 1970 than Israel has killed in countless wars of self-defense), or not allowing them to work in many professions (this is true in Lebanon), or making their travel throughout the Arab world exceedingly difficult (as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan do), you almost never read about this in your morning paper.

The United Nations does not condemn Arab governments for their mistreatment of Palestinians nor does it condemn Palestinians for jailing, torturing and murdering other Palestinians.

I am alarmed at how many Jews are in the forefront of anti-Israel and pro-Hamas activism. They are our internal enemies – their own worst enemies. Recently, an organization called Jewish Voice for Peace organized a campaign asking TIAA-CREF, one of the world’s largest financial services companies, to divest from companies it says “profit from the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

Caterpillar, Motorola, and Northrop Grumman are just a few of the companies Jewish Voice for Peace has targeted for divestment. Signatories to this campaign include many liberal American rabbis, activists, and academics.

Meanwhile, J Street, which bills itself the “political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans,” has called upon the Treasury Department “to launch thorough investigations into whether or not the [American non-profit] organizations funding settlement activities on the West Bank have broken the law.”

Israel and the Jews cannot afford to lose. We must win this war of ideas, outwit and outrun the propaganda, hold our own militarily and survive as a people – only this time not as a mere “remnant.”

Alas, Jews can no longer afford to trust Jewish-American and Jewish-European organizations that are failing the needs of the people they claim to represent just as decades ago they failed to rescue European Jewry from the Holocaust.

Small, independent, poorly funded groups and individuals have stepped up to the task, on campuses, on the streets, on the Internet. The large Jewish organizations are following, reluctantly and slowly, behind us.

As religious Jews we have an even greater task. Especially at this time of year, can we open our hearts to all those Jews whom we fear – whom we know – are behaving recklessly, selfishly, self-destructively? Can we try to understand, really understand, that they, too, are “b’Tzelem,” and that if we cannot find ways of connecting at some level to each other, our failure to do so may doom us?

Six years ago I first proposed a new kind of meeting of the twelve tribes in these very pages (“Jews on the Precipice,” front page essay, June 18, 2004). “So many Jews who hold passionate and opposing views have simply stopped listening and talking to each other,” I wrote. “The silence is more awful than arguments . We must come together in order to strategize about our very survival.”

If such a conclave were indeed to take place, I believe we would need one psychiatrist for every three Jews present. I am not saying we are crazy. I am saying we are all so angry at each other, so hard, so sure of our own position – so stiff-necked, arrogant and self-righteous – that without professional help we would all walk out on each other, mid-sentence, blood pressure boiling, curses on our lips.

I am asking us to envision doing something very difficult, very large. Can I actually sit in a room with J Streeters, or with Women in Black, or with others who demonstrate against Israel, sign petitions against Israel, arm the rogues at the United Nations with ammunition against Israel? Probably not. I fear I’d walk right out.

Moshe broke the first set of tablets at just such a moment. But he also begged God to forgive the Jews for the very sins that drove him to break the luchot.

We are all in Moshe’s position now. In Moshe’s merit, and for God’s sake, let us have less hate or even dislike for other Jews as we strengthen our resolve and gird our loins for battle.

Dr. Phyllis Chesler, an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies and co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network, is the author of many works including “Women and Madness” (1972) and “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003). This essay was adapted from a speech she gave at Vacation Village on Shabbos Nachamu. She can be contacted through her website, www.phyllis-chesler.com.

About the Author: Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a professor emerita of psychology, a Middle East Forum fellow, and the author of fifteen books including “Women and Madness” (1972), “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003), and her latest, “An American Bride in Kabul” (2013). Her articles are archived at www.phyllis-chesler.com.


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