Category Archives: Arab anti-Semitism

THE THREE POSTULATES OF PROGRESSIVE AMERICAN JUDAISM

The Three Postulates of Progressive American Judaism

Postulate:  something taken as self-evident or assumed without proof.

“Among Jewish respondents who have gotten married since 2000, nearly six-in-ten have a non-Jewish spouse,” according to the 2013 Pew survey of American Jews. We live in an unprecedented environment of assimilation — Hellenization — of which political Progressive American Judaism is an important concomitant.  Perhaps a quarter of American Jews seem to embrace it to one extent or another.

Some preliminary definitions and disclaimers. 1)  When I say Progressives, I mean self-styled political Progressives.  2)  Not all Progressives conform in all particulars to my descriptions here.  I use the organization JStreet as an exemplar, and my descriptions relate most particularly to this group and to the individuals associated with it.  3) With this focus in mind, the folks I discuss are not exactly foes of israel — certainly not in their own mind — but neither are they exactly friends.  So while on one side they differ from radical enemies of Israel like Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler (a small minority), they are also distinct from anyone, whether sometimes critical of Israel or not, who accepts and supports the idea of Israel as a Jewish state (the majority of American Jews).   So, to repeat, I speak of all those who see JStreet as, more or less, an expression of their own views.

A.  The Postulate of Israeli Guilt.

Mr. Peter Beinart, perhaps the most prominent writer associated with JStreet, opens his 2012 book The Crisis of Zionism with an anecdote that he has gleaned from a video.  It seems that an Arab was arrested for stealing water from a Jewish settlement;  the scene was captured on the video.  From this scene, but without any further investigation whatever, Beinart concludes that a grave injustice was done to the Palestinian.  Moreover, Beinart vows, as a result of the lesson that he has learned from the video, he will instruct his children “that unless American Jews help end the occupation that desecrates Israel’s founding ideals, this is what Zionism will become, a movement that fails the test of Jewish power.”

Absent an investigation of the circumstances that lead to the arrest of the Arab man, how does Mr. Beinart know that a grave injustice was done ?  Of course he does not, as Bret Stephens has pointed out in a trenchant review of the book. But even as a religious zealot never questions the postulates of his faith, it does not occur to Mr. Beinart to question the postulate of Israeli guilt.

Note here that the occupation, seen as undesirable by the Israeli government and the majority of the Jewish population of Israel, is presented here by Mr. Beinart as an Israeli crime.  Never mind that Israel has repeatedly, for instance through a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, tried to extricate itself from the burden of the occupation.  Except by those who accept the postulate of Israeli guilt, it is difficult to exculpate the Palestinian elites from responsibility for the stalemate on this question.

After the March re-election of Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel, Mr. Beinart suggested that the U.S. government should “punish — yes, punish — the Israeli government” for holding to its own policies.  One can discuss with people with whom one disagrees, but whom does one “punish,” as Mr. Beinart suggests ? Obviously those who are guilty.

The postulate of Israeli guilt has infected all statements on Israel by these Progressives.  I have seen it, for example, in statements by Progressive rabbis in response to the current intifada in Israel.  Following the lead of JStreet, these Progressives hold that the knifings, shootings, and other murders of Jews, by Palestinian Arabs, are as much the fault of the Israelis as of the Arabs. Go figure.

  Partners for Progressive Israel  (PPI) has gone further:  it suggests that the current violence is actually (mostly) Israel’s fault.  PPI is a small group of self-styled Progressive Jews who support the Meretz party in Israel. PPI’s membership overlaps largely with that of JStreet.

What are we to make of this postulate of Israeli guilt ?  Where does it come from ?  Similar to the question of anti-Semitism, to which it is related, it must remain a mystery to those who insist on seeing man as a rational actor.  And no, our Progressives are not rational.  This irrationality again comes into play when we consider the second of our postulates:

B.  The Postulate of an Immoral Right Wing

Here is a précis of some of the Basic Principles by which the Progressive Judaism of our time likes to define itself:  1)  We support the core democratic values among which there is the principle  of government by the people, as opposed to, for instance, government by an elite.  2) The world can be divided into the Left (good) and the Right Wing (bad).  3)  The Right Wing is, well, not Progressive.  It is, in fact, regressive.  It represent the interests of the billionaires (shades of Bernie Sanders !) and other bad actors.  4) The Israeli government is Right Wing and therefore reprehensible.

Now how do we know that the Israeli government is Right Wing ?  Neither Netanyahu nor the members of his coalition use the term to refer to themselves.  In fact, in the contexts in which our Progressives use the term, Right Wing is no more than an epithet, a term of abuse.  I have blogged on this topic before, here and here. It is of course true that in other contexts, more neutral observers, particularly the media, will refer to the Likud and allied parties as “right wing”  without an implication of moral judgement. But be that as it may, The Progressives’ syllogism — Right Wing is bad;  Likud is Right Wing; hence Likud is bad —  is seriously compromised  when tested by empirical data.

If, as Progressive doctrine holds, the Right represents the interests of privilege while the Left represents the interests of oppressed masses, it should follow, in accordance with the democratic principle that people must be trusted to know their own interests, that the less privileged in society will vote Left, more privileged Right.  But generally speaking, just about all over the world with some exceptions, the very opposite holds true.  Here is a representative study of Israeli voters in the 2003 elections, conducted by Michael Shalev and Gal Levy.  (The full study is available here.)

table

The most relevant line for our purpose here is the last, which gives the social-economic status of the average voter of the different political parties.  The authors report what they call standard scores, which are more commonly called z-scores, and which I will translate into the more common percentile scores.  So we learn that the average Shas  (“right-wing”) voter is in the 21st  percentile of the population;  the average Likudnik (also “right-wing”) in the 41st, the average Labor voter (moderate Left) in the 56th, and the average Meretz voter (Left, strongly approved by the American-Jewish Progressive PPI) is in the 72nd.  (The numbers for the centrist Shinui are 61,  69 for Russian olim.)  In other words, the electorate of the current governing parties come from the distinctly less advantaged while the splinter Meretz group, so beloved by American Progressive Judaism, attracts the over-privileged.

Of course our Progressives can reply, as Marxists sometimes do, that the poor, the downtrodden, the toiling masses do not know what is good for them.  Only we, the enlightened elite, we have the knowledge and the wisdom and the virtue.  Progressives can say that, but only at the expense of repudiating their profession of belief in democratic self-government.  You can’t have it both ways.

C.  The Postulate of Palestinian Innocence

One of the most striking experiences in reading Mr. Beinart and his comrades is their innocence — in the culpable meaning of that term — of any appreciation for the cultural context of the current Israeli-Arab conflict.  The hell that is today’s Syria, the millions of refugees from Muslim countries, the unspeakable violence, internal and exported, of radical Islamism, none of this finds its way into the Progressive media.  So the question that arises for non-Progressives — if Israel is the cause of violence by Arabs in Israel and the Occupied Territories, who is responsible for the even greater violence by Arabs and Islamists  in the rest of the world ? — never seems to faze our Progressives.

The major cultural factors of Palestinian society that impinge on the Israeli conflict may be summarized under four headings:

1) There is  an Islamic culture of violence.  A very recent, very thorough, very informative review of Palestinian opinion data by Daniel Polisar shows the deep-rooted nature of the problem.  The companion piece by Amir Taheri adds an important historical perspective.

2) There is a pervasive, quasi-unanimous hatred of Jews among the Palestinian masses, documented in the Polisar study.

3)  There is  a constant incitement to violence on the part of the Palestinian elites, documented by an ongoing basis by MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch.

4) The Palestinian school system, in particular, educates the young to hate the Jews, to reject Israel, and to embrace violence.  This too is documented by MEMRI and PMW.

All these cultural factors in Palestinian society are notorious to all — to all, that is, save our Progressives.  What makes them turn a blind eye ?  I suggest that it is their postulate, their unshakable,  irrational belief in a Palestinian people without agency, a people, in the condescending world of the Progressives, who are as innocent as the Israelis are guilty.

We come back to where we started.  The Hellenizing quarter, approximately,  of American Jews, ashamed as they may be of their pushy and over-assertive and over-sensitive co-religionists, seem to have embraced a fairly new stance of Progressivism.  This stance appears to them enlightened and universalist and humane — much more humane than thou. But these new Progressives have paid a great price for their considerable satisfaction with themselves.  And that price is the illogic and incoherence of dogmatic postulates that cannot stand the test of empirical reality.

  

Arab Attitudes toward Jews (WARNING: graphic images)


Yehoshafat Harkabi,author of Arab Attitudes to Israel,Jerusalem,1972
born 1921, died 1994

Anti-Jewish sentiments are almost universal in the three Arab nations surveyed – 95% or more in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt say they have an unfavorable opinion of Jews. 2008 Pew Report

In my previous posting I described the newest manifestations of Jew-hatred in the Egypt of today, and also the conspiracy of silence in the Western press when faced with this inconvenient set of facts. The deep-seated hatred of Jews among Arabs is not new and has often been documented. Perhaps the most thorough of these descriptions is that of Y.Harkabi (“Arab Attitudes to Israel,” Jerusalem, 1972). Now almost forty years old, this classic, indispensable work consists of a content analysis of the Arab press and literature throughout the Middle East. When Harkabi first wrote the book as a dissertation at the Hebrew University in 1967, direct studies of Arab public opinion (opinion polls) were unavailable. Now that they are, for instance in the form of Pew poll data, we are faced with the sad realization that what Harkabi reported in the Arab literature of his day is still with us, and not only as written words, and that the details he gives are descriptive, by and large, of what goes on today.

Before we go to expressions of Arab opinion, much of it consisting of verbal violence, here is the Wikipedia report on an incident in which this verbal violence was acted out in deeds — the lynching of Israeli soldiers during the 2000 Intifada. (And to those who say that Harkabi’s work is so outdated: this incident took place thirty-three years after he wrote.)

The 2000 Ramallah lynching was a violent incident in October 2000 at the beginning of the Second Intifada in which a Palestinian mob lynched two Israel Defense Forces reservists, Vadim Nurzhitz (sometimes spelled as Norzhich) and Yossi Avrahami (or Yosef Avrahami),[1] who had accidentally entered the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Ramallah in the West Bank. The brutality of the event, captured in a photo of a Palestinian rioter proudly waving his blood-stained hands to the crowd below, sparked international outrage and further intensified the ongoing conflict between Israeli and Palestinian forces.

Aziz Salha, one of the lynchers, waving his blood-stained hands from the police station window. Salha was later arrested by Israel and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Harkabi devotes separate sections to various themes in the Arab treatment of Israel and the Jews. Here are a few of his section headings: the vileness of Zionism; Zionism and Nazism; the vileness of the Jews; Judaism as conspiracy for world domination; scurrility, absurdity, and falsehood in the Arab statements; the Islamization of Jew-hatred. He also notes the frequent use of the notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

One element of current Arab anti-Semitism that was not found in Harkaby’s materials is Holocaust-denial. This aspect of Arab anti-Semitism is relatively new, reaching great prominence only in the 21st century. There is a good description of it in Robert Wistrich’s very important recent A Lethal Obsession, pages 646-661.

Harkabi lists 182 Arab sources, all of which he analyzed in their original language. (Just wondering here: how many Arab books have been studied by Mr. Jimmy Carter, in their original language ? Or by the telling-Israel-what-to-do crowd at J Street ?) Here is a quotation from the Arab writer Nashashibi, who visited Jerusalem before the unification of 1967, and looked over the wall at the Jews of West Jerusalem:

…. a collection of the world’s hooligans and its garbage …. Dogs, robbers, clear out to your own countries !

(We recently heard an echo of that one from Ms. Helen Thomas.) Nashashibi continues somewhat later:

an international dung-heap in which the squalor of the whole world has been collected.

And then there is a quotation from an academic publication, the Egyptian Political Science Review, by the author Fathi Uthman al-Mahlawi (Jan.-March, 1959), among many other such quotations in Harkabi’s book:

And thus Britain wanted to exhaust the strength of the Arabs and divide them, and at one and the same time to get rid of the Zionist plague in her country; she assembled these thousands of vagabonds and aliens, blood-suckers and pimps, and said to them: Take for yourselves a national home called Israel. Thus the dregs of the nations were collected in the Holy Land.

It bears emphasis that these Arab writings, like everything else in Harkabi’s book, date from before the 1967 war. The reason that this needs emphasis is that we hear so often from the חכמים (Wise Men) of J Street, etc., that if only Israel were to go back to its 1967 borders, the Arabs would make peace post-haste. Fat chance !

Current Arab anti-Semitism is regularly reported by Memri and Palestine Media Watch, and there is plenty to report, week in week out: Holocaust denial, description of Jews as descendants of pigs and dogs; allegations that Jews murder gentile children; description of Israel as being similar to Nazi Germany; incitement to hatred in Arab schools and mosques; etc. etc. What we cannot know from such reports is how typical they are of the Arab population. The Pew Report, cited above, is not reassuring in this respect. Moreover, of course, we do not know what the future will bring. Harkabi himself believed that anti-Semitism is not very deeply rooted in Arab culture, and he was cautiously optimistic about prospects for an eventual accommodation between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

But whatever the prospects for the future, we cannot afford to be in denial of the current deep, pervasive hatred of Jews in what is known as the “Arab street,” among the Palestinians and among their brethren in all the neighboring countries.