It is at times like these when one can discover who is genuine and who is “missing in action”.
This is not the first time that Jews in the Diaspora and Israel have faced a situation where, in the face of unbridled hate, they have encountered “fair-weather friends.” In 1933 when the Nazis were voted into power, German Jews experienced this first-hand. I remember my late mother telling me that all of a sudden, girlfriends with whom she had socialized at school dropped her and wanted nothing to do with her because overnight, she had become a “dirty Jew.” My late father likewise recounted how from one day to the next, Jewish university students were shunned and victimized, followed shortly thereafter with expulsions from all institutions of higher education.
Expulsion of Jewish university students and faculty may not yet have occurred in democratic countries but victimization and intimidation certainly is now a common event. Student and faculty groups are demonized, followed by verbal and physical abuse.
Those perpetrating these acts of hate are now showing their true colours. It is becoming glaringly obvious which way the wind is blowing as university heads, administrators and boards either reveal their putrid poison or meekly remain silent and issue weak-kneed responses. In the USA, in particular, this sickness has infected ultra-left and breast-beating groups that identify as “Jewish.” The phenomenon of those coming out of the woodwork and claiming some sort of Jewish identification while they participate in vile demonstrations against Israel and Zionism is nothing new.
Some of the worst enemies of the Jewish People in past history were individuals whose identification with anything Jewish was nebulous or nil. After they converted or decided that attacking other Jews was a guaranteed way of acquiring immunity from persecution themselves, they morphed into some of our most rabid and lethal enemies.
Today’s media love nothing better than discovering such disaffected Jews. Thus, someone standing with a placard that states that they “stand with Gaza” or a collection of anti-Zionist Jews dressed in Haredi garb and draped with Hamas and Fatah scarves immediately becomes media heroes. Never mind that these individuals are no more than a minuscule percentage of the Jewish People. They serve the purpose of propagating distorted news and proving that not all Jews are warmongering fascists.
It is in times like the present that we need to be clear-eyed as to who exactly are our genuine friends and who are faking it.
That means publicly denouncing hate groups and their followers and exposing them for the frauds that they really are. It serves no purpose to issue bland statements in the vain hope that nobody will be upset. Expecting a toning down of hateful rhetoric while it rages unchecked and unchallenged is an exercise in futility. The individuals and organizations spreading such slanders need to be confronted with exposure and condemnation. The same goes for those who cannot find the intestinal fortitude or honesty to denounce the cowardly silence of groups that purported to be our allies.
Interfaith groups have proliferated in recent times. Initially encompassing Jewish and Christian participants, they have, in many countries, now encompassed Islamic groups. When I was a member of the NZ Council for Christians and Jews the main focus of my attention was concentrated on learning about our common similarities and appreciating where we differed theologically. The most impressive aspect of the Council’s work was the respectful dialogue that ensued and the genuine friendships that developed. I always made a point of emphasizing that Judaism and the Land of Israel were an inseparable duo because, in reality, one could not exist without the other.
As mainstream Churches slowly gravitated towards a very ambivalent stance about Israel, the NZ Anglican Communion rewrote the Psalms in order to erase mention of Israel and Zion. This should have been a warning signal about what lay ahead.
Currently, with the three monotheistic faiths represented on some interfaith Councils, the situation has become more complex.
It is becoming glaringly obvious which way the wind is blowing. Islamic groups, with all the best goodwill in the world, would always be hesitant to openly acknowledge the centrality of Israel to Jews and recognize that Jewish sovereignty predated Islam.
Prevailing attitudes mean that nothing remotely inconvenient can be allowed to shatter the illusory narratives so beloved by practitioners of political correctness.
The current reactions by interfaith groups to the pogroms by Hamas do not surprise me in the least. Church groups (other than Evangelical Christians) and Islamic groups are united in their “even handed” reactions. Moderate Muslims who may wish to condemn Hamas are terrified of what may happen to them at the hands of their jihad-supporting colleagues. Some brave individuals have spoken out, as have a few Imams but unfortunately, it is the purveyors of fanaticism who are spreading hate. It is impossible to know what is being preached in each and every mosque, but one has only to witness the demonstrations supporting Hamas taking place to realize that something rotten is being incubated and spread.
The following declarations perfectly illustrated the situation whereby blame is apportioned evenly.
“As the conflict continues to grow in Gaza and Israel and tensions continue to rise regionally, members of the regional interfaith councils and faith leaders throughout Aotearoa New Zealand unequivocally condemn the violence and call for peace and justice. We send our healing love to our Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other faith brothers and sisters in the Middle East and to their families and friends here in NZ as they endure and try to come to terms with the huge loss, pain and worry. We ask all New Zealanders to reject all forms of hatred & violence through love, forgiveness, understanding the other and compassion at this dark time and forever more.”
The World Council of Churches, to which all mainstream denominations belong, stated: “We appeal urgently for an immediate cessation of this deadly violence, for Hamas to cease their attacks and ask both parties for de-escalation of the situation. We are deeply concerned about the imminent risks of spiraling conflict between Israel and Palestinian armed groups – following a period of escalating tensions and violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”
The Roman Catholic Cardinal of Westminster pontificated: “Violence is never a solution. Retribution is never a contribution to peace.”
US Bishops: We call for a cessation of violence from both sides, respect for civilian populations and the release of hostages.”
Churches for Middle East Peace: “call for de-escalation, humanitarian access and addressing systemic issues after war breaks out in Israel/Palestine.”
Note the complete avoidance of condemning Hamas for its pogrom and calling them terrorists. Note also the frenetic attempt at casting blame on all parties concerned and thus equating Israel’s defence of its citizens with the terrorist group’s avowed agenda of murdering Jews. Painfully grating is the admonition that only love and a lack of retribution can defeat evil, given the millennia-long experiences of Jews in Christian Europe.
These few examples should demonstrate how interfaith fellowships have been damaged. A refusal and reluctance to openly condemn the murder of Jewish Israeli men, women and children and attempting to hide behind a façade of moral superiority makes a mockery of Jewish participation in any meaningful interfaith dialogues.
Last Friday, as reported by PMW, the PA Ministry of Religious Affairs issued this instruction for all Mosque preachers: All Mosques must teach that the extermination of Jews is an Islamic imperative.
The complete silence following this directive by Muslim groups worldwide, interfaith organizations, Churches, the UN and its Secretary General, plus all those politicians peddling a two-state solution, speaks volumes about what we are facing. As demonstrators march in various countries, shouting slogans such as “gas the Jews”. Jihad and “from the river to the sea,” the shameful silence from the rest of the world is shattering.
Jewish leaders should be acting by condemning and disassociating themselves from all those who refuse to own up to the truth and instead promote slanderous lies.
The current war against terror has also had an interesting flow-on effect for Israelis with friends and families domiciled overseas. It is at critical times like these that one discovers an individual’s true colours. We, like countless others, have received messages of concern and support from people we may not have heard from in years. Christian friends from New Zealand expressed their horror at events and are praying for Israel. Messages flowed in from Canada, USA, UK and Australia among other places. A non-Jewish colleague who I worked with over 40 years ago sent an email as did former Cheder (Hebrew School) pupils I taught more than 60 years ago. The outpouring of solidarity has been heartwarming.
The flip side has been the silence of those who many thought might show some empathy but who, it seems, have other more pressing priorities.
The American Secretary of State noted this week that “many world leaders express support for Israel in private but won’t publicly endorse its right to defend itself or denounce Hamas terror.”
Revealing one’s true colours has never been easier and more blatant.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.