To a Jewish non-Zionist friend
Tonight is the beginning of Shavuot, the Jewish celebration that commemorates the children of Israel receiving the Torah from God at Mount Sinai. This is the defining moment that turned the Israelites from a large extended family into a people.
I was surprised to discover how fearful you were of anti-Semitism, ‘real’ anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism based on religious belief or on racism. Living here in the cocoon that is Israel, I couldn’t quite understand it. Then it dawned on me. Should anti-Semitism, ‘real’ anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism based on religious belief or on racism, rear its ugly face again in a big way, then you will find yourself to have been horribly wrong all along. But this is not the reason you are fearful. Like all fears, your fear is a personal, practical, everyday fear. How will this affect me and mine?
Human society has always been a coming together of individuals because they discovered that together they could achieve things that they couldn’t achieve on their own. As I see it, the main lesson of the destruction of European Jewry, besides the lesson that mankind stinks, was that such a coming together of Jews was necessary, in order for Jews to achieve self-preservation as a people. If you don’t see Jews as a people, but solely as a religion or as some sort of mutual ancestry or as a bit of both or whatever, then this is irrelevant.
As you see it, Israel, being an unnatural aberration, needlessly creates immense hatred, while anti-Semitism, ‘real’ anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism based on religious belief or on racism, doesn’t really exist any more, not in a way that is any sort of danger. Israel has created a new problem instead of solving the old one.
Naturally, you are fierce in your denunciation of any attempt to suggest that anti-Zionism could possibly have any connection with anti-Semitism. And you haven’t said it, but I am led to understand that you believe that should Israel cease to exist, the problem would also cease to exist. This may be true. This is definitely something to think about.
But for the problem to disappear, wouldn’t the Jews who live in Israel also have to disappear? Well that’s okay, because a lot of them will. Should Israel cease to exist, in whatever way, even if it happens gradually and democratically, a large proportion of Israeli Jews will very likely end up being slaughtered by their neighbors. So okay, it has happened before, and not only to Jews. The world will profess its horror and shock, maybe erect a few monuments, build a few museums, and move on.
But what about the ones who manage to get out? A situation will probably arise, whereby a couple of million homeless, desperate, illegal Jews will be wandering round the world with all their meager worldly possessions on their backs, dirty, penniless, hungry; some bobbing up and down in boats in the Mediterranean, turned away at every port; many turning to crime to survive. Europe of 1945 revisited.
I don’t think this situation will make Jews very popular, do you? People love an underdog, an underdog presses all their compassionate buttons, but not when he’s in their neighborhood.
All this is just speculation. My fear, like yours is a personal, practical, everyday fear. How will this affect me and mine?
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
To a Jewish non-Zionist friend