Prof. Phyllis Chesler
This article originally appeared in Arutz Sheva.
Really, what more—what else—is there to say? Only this:
American Jews have been sleepwalking. We have not been on a war footing.
Some among us refuse to identify as Zionists because doing so is too great a burden to bear and perhaps because we are not used to sacrificing ourselves for a larger, collective good. That would be too “tribal,” and Jews belong to the only tribe that is seen as suspicious for their tribal loyalty.
All others tribes are currently very trendy; some are even sacred.
What is it that so many American Jews have forgotten or cannot bear to understand?
For millennia, Jews were slaughtered, first by pagans, then by Christians, and then by Muslims all over the world, century after century.
The Jews as a people have never done anything “wrong” that can justify our torture, murder, or exile. I know: This is very hard, even frightening, to accept, namely, that Jew hatred or ethnic bigotry towards the Jewish people, has more to do with the hater’s psychology and revered propaganda, both secular and religious, than with the victims’ actions.
Accepting this fact is frightening because there is little a Jew can do about this. Jews have tried everything: Converting out, adopting the psychology of the Jew-hater, being the first to accuse other Jews (and now the Jewish state) of crimes in the hope that one will be therefore be spared.
For millennia, Jews have been accused, falsely, of Blood Libels and of selfishly keeping to themselves.
Jews have also, simultaneously, been seen as having a finger in every pie, of being “everywhere,” of pulling all the strings.
This was Haman’s precise accusation in Shushan, (Persia): “There is a certain people scattered…and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from every other people’s. They do not observe te King’s laws; therefore, it is not befitting the King to tolerate them.”
Haman captured the dual perception of Jews for all time: Interspersed everywhere—but also unacceptably different.
For millennia, Jews have been viewed as dangerously: assimilated, progressive, universalists—Marxists; but also, paradoxically, as dangerously wealthy and powerful capitalists. Such accusations are illogical, contradictory. They always are.
Having been seen as “blessed” or “chosen” by God, the Jews could do nothing right to assuage the envy of those who felt that they had not been similarly blessed or that their own birthright had been stolen.
A group of cognitive warriors, I among them, (e.g. Elder of Zion, Oriana Fallaci, Richard Landes, Keneth Levin, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Joan Peters, Nidra Poller, Ruth Wisse, Robert Wistrich, Bat Ye-or), sounded the alarm early on. Others have joined us, including Giulio Meotti, Jack Engelhard, Andrew Pessin, Howard Rotberg, Eric Rozenman, Ben-Dror Yemini. (I fear that we mainly read each other and are not widely read by those who are not covering this particular war.)
Collectively, we have all been hard at work for the last 20-50 years trying to combat the lethal propaganda that has been launched against Jews—perhaps more lethal in our opinion, than the unending rockets, stabbing, bombings.
Why “more lethal?” Because such disinformation leads to hostility and indifference, and allows even the “good” people to Do Nothing.
Such propaganda has justified the numerous UN resolutions against the Jewish state, the countless Israel Apartheid Weeks on American campuses, the diabolical BDS campaigns, the violent disruptions of pro-Israel speakers, the “Palestinianization” of marches, a university curriculum from which the ethnic bigotry against the Jewish people is not considered to “racist” or “prejudiced,” a media which keeps reporting falsely that Muslims, not Jews, are the most attacked group in America.
Years ago, I argued for an Iron Dome against such propaganda. None yet exists.
And so—Pittsburgh. What happened in Pittsburgh is terrible, a bleeding wound, a nightmare—as are all the previous attacks upon Jews in America that have been forgotten, perhaps because the attackers were Muslims as well as white neo-Nazis; all were seen as “mentally ill” loners, not as part of a rising tide of Jew-hatred among Islamist Muslims and among white supremacists, and assisted by a very biased Western media and professoriate.
And so—Pittsburgh. Why didn’t the synagogue have armed guards and a metal detector unit at their door? Here’s probably why.
Because they did not see themselves as on the front lines of the war against the Jews. That was Israel’s problem and Israeli embassies and consulates, had such security.
But in America? Where Jews were able to successfully run the blockades against them in business and in the academic world?
But in a conservative synagogue—whose members welcomed refugees?
Yes, in America, and in a progressive, humanitarian, Conservative synagogue.
And now, for the first time, some Jewish Americans are scared. One man, who spent his early years in a refugee camp in Germany sounded personally endangered. Another woman, born in Palestine, kept referring to “dark times.”
Many Jews seem to feel that the 1930s have returned with a vengeance. (I thought so and said so early in this century).
But I think it may be worse than that because Jew-hatred is far more global than ever before and Big Lies appear every second and in every language on the internet.
Although Israel is even more on the front lines than we are, at least Israelis know it and have taken every precaution possible. Amazingly, they are not “scared” and report being “happy.”
In America, the Jews are unarmed, both psychologically and in every other way.
Prof. Phyllis Chesler is a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum and recipient of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, is the author of sixteen books, including Women and Madness, Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman, and The New Anti-Semitism. She has written four studies about honor killing, Her latest books are An American Bride in Kabul, (Palgrave Macmillan) and Living History: On The Front Lines for Israel and the Jews.Professor Chesler may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com.