Judaism

Phyllis Chesler: Are Jews ready to leave America?

Laura Ingle reports from New York City

 

Since the beginning of this year, Jewish American community centers and schools have received seventy three bomb threats. This past week, headstones in Jewish cemeteries were seriously vandalized in St. Louis and Philadelphia.

This is now happening In America--not in Europe, not in the Middle East.

Horrible as this may be, at least those who claim that anti-Semitism no longer exists are just a little bit quieter.

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog is a bit hysterical; he is advising the Israeli government to prepare for "waves" of immigrant from the West.

Ah--not so fast. It is my strong impression that Jews have always been very reluctant to leave their cities, villages, jobs, friends, schools, cemeteries, mother tongues, until it is almost too late; that uprooting oneself if one is not young, healthy or quite rich is hard to do, especially if one has children and grandchildren who will not be coming along; if one believes that things are either "not that bad" or will "soon get better;" and, above all, if leaving one's familiar place in the universe means living at a more impoverished level, having to obtain one's degrees and licenses again--again!--and in a new language; and if it means starting over from scratch in a new country where one may have few friends or no relatives.

Long ago, the Hebrew slaves did not want to leave Egypt. And, once in the wild, wild wilderness, they even longed to return. Trusting that God will provide, no matter what, may not be how many modern, assimilated, and secularJews think.

A few years ago, I met with young French Jews. I asked them about the dangers they faced in Paris. The response: "This is our country. No one can make us leave."

But if their family had money, their parent and grandparents were already quietly buying homes outside of Tel Aviv on the ocean. Many have indeed moved there.

Today, some Jewish-American organizations believe that aligning themselves with Muslims and African-American groups will make us safe, that other minorities will fight for us, that such alliances will save us because we, too, will be seen as "victims."

While I myself work with Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents and reformers, (on defending the West), we all know that their heroic work represents only a minority of their current or former co-religionists.

The problem with such alliances is that so many progressive movements, including the civil rights and feminist movements, have drifted very far left. This has meant that the politically correct view held by all is an anti-Israel and anti-Judaism POV. This racism, which is never acknowledged as racism, has increasingly driven out pro-Israel Jews, Orthodox Jews, and young Jewish students, who do not understand why they are being attacked.

Making common cause with progressives or with reactionaries who are overtly or secretly anti-Semitic is a losing proposition. 

Some "interfaith" activists argue that it is especially important for Jews to defend Muslims--including potential refugees--because once, we were "strangers in a strange land." 

It is important to choose our allies carefully. 

Islamist Linda Sarsour and her Islamist, terrorist, and anti-Zionist allies (such as Angela Davis and Rasmeah Odeh) are making political hay out of the vandalized Jewish cemeteries by offering to raise funds to restore the damaged headstones.

I suggest that the Jewish communities politely and firmly refuse their funding--although I might suggest that Sarsour and Company consider restoring the synagogues and cemeteries that Muslims have been destroying for 1400 years. With tongue in cheek, I might also suggest: Why not start with restoring the Temple in Jerusalem? Any vandalized graves on the Mount of Olives? How about the Jewish gravestones Jordan destroyed?

Most Jews have enjoyed safety and opportunity in America from the moment the Republic was formed. Anti-Semitism existed—private clubs, certain neighborhoods, elite colleges—were either closed to Jews or had quotas. That all changed for the better in the last half-century. Many Jews, especially the public intellectuals, specialized in minimizing anti-Semitism.

However, since 9/11, when Usama bin Laden declared war on Americans, Zionists, and Westerners, the FBI has logged Jew-hatred, not “Islamophobia,” as the most frequently occurring hate crime. Synagogues were bomb-threatened, internet-based Jew-hatred became far more rampant. Anti-Zionism became a way of expressing Jew hatred while claiming that one loved Jews but just happened to disagree with the policies of only the Jewish state--not with those of Iran or Sudan.

Most American Jews do not feel endangered now, but they are currently sickened, frightened, perhaps reeling a bit. Our strongest allies are Christian Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, and hopefully, the Trump Administration.

Jews are the “canaries in the mine.” If Jews are driven out of America, many other Americans will soon follow, and a darkness will cover our bright and shining civilization.

I do not envision a mass exodus from America anytime soon. But if we do not make America work as it was intended to work…then woe to Western civilization.

Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies. She is the author of 4 studies about honor killings and 16 books.

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