“The Holocaust was not an isolated and unique event... the Jews being targeted was a deliberate act in response to what western society views as a continuing irritant, a Jewish people and religion in their midst.”

 
“Jacobo”, the on-line handle for an apparently young and disconnected Jew, incongruously submitted the following “response” to a 23 November Tabletmag.com article, Daybreak: Stuxnet Strikes!:


"Since Zionism is not Judaism, no way does anti-Zionism = antisemitism. Just in case you haven’t noticed, the public isn’t buying this deliberate lie. Especially not buying are young Jewish-Americans, fed up, as they are, with the one about Israel being a sanctuary for persecuted world Jewry. Face it, only an insignificant number of the Jews Israel is so desperate to obtain are emigrating there, with Germany being the Russian Jew’s favorite destination. The only way there’ll ever be a mass migration to Israel is for Mossad to bomb synagogues in the West...”
 
Not worth a response? Perhaps. But it is precisely this direction of thinking among a small but significant number of our youth that at least deserves an effort at guidance towards the reality of the historical and continuing threat facing ourselves in the Diaspora. As a representative and symbol, Jacobo raises issues critical to Jewish survival without fully understanding them.

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What follows is a development and expansion of my response to him as I would have wanted it to appear had I spent more time formulating it. My original response appears in the hyperlink to the article above.



“I understand what you are saying, Jacobo. But I think you may not be aware, or choose not be so, of Why the Jews, why are we subject to antisemitism; Why the Holocaust, why were we targeted for extermination? You rightly point out that Zionism is not Judaism. Zionism is the movement of national liberation of the Jewish people, our secular response to a need as it emerged in the post-Enlightenment west. Christian secular and religious antisemitism intensified in response to Jewish emancipation from serfdom in the early and mid-19th century.

Zionism expressed the realization by mostly younger and discouraged Jews that our people would never find acceptance, would forever be under threat in our Christian Diaspora. The original goal of Zionism was not necessarily a Jewish state but a refuge for our threatened people. Of course the Holocaust, an event not even conceived by early Zionism, demonstrated that only an independent and sovereign Jewish state would be in a position to provide that refuge confronted with a next Holocaust.

You may have read, or heard in lecture, that the Holocaust was an aberration, a unique and ahistorical, even “mysterious” event. But the fact that the Holocaust was defined the “final solution” already places it in historical context. Other efforts at “solution” had to exist to make that one “final.” And even a cursory glance backwards in time more than demonstrates this to be true. Irving J. Borowsky, in his ecumenical preface to a Catholic priest’s book on antisemitism, warned that half of all Jews born in the Diaspora during the past thousand years were murdered by their neighbors.

So the Holocaust was definitely not an isolated and unique event. It did not just happen. The Jews being targeted was not accidental but a deliberate act in response to what western society views as a nearly two-thousand year long irritant, a Jewish people and religion in their midst. My recent JPost article, Is Christianity anti-Jewish?, describes the background to our continuing risk resulting from our choice to live in the Diaspora (of course there are risks living in Israel also, but at least there we are aware of the daily threat, and in a position to defend ourselves).

As regards anti-Zionism = antisemitism, certainly the Jewish state has its faults and those deserve to be addressed. But Israel, the state of the Jews, is also symbol of the Jews. The Jewish state provides an opportunity for antisemites to politely express their animus in a “genteel” and disguised manner. And this explains why, when Israel takes action worthy or not of criticism, Diaspora Jews are targeted. This explains why, when Israel finally abandoned restraint in face of years of provocation, of thousands of rockets launched from Gaza at Israeli civilians; when the obvious provocation of Turkey’s Mavi Marmara turned violent; not just Israel, but Jews throughout the West became targets.

Or consider that the leader of Europe’s combined Jewish organizations recently warned that the level of antisemitism today is as intense as it was in the years before the Holocaust. Why the intensification of antisemitism today? Because, among other factors, as are the Chinese in Southeast Asia, the Jews are the West’s traditional target during periods of economic uncertainty and social unrest. If antisemitism today has not reached the levels of the years of the Great Depression (in the US, not just Germany), even under our Great Recession the antisemitism fever rises.

You are correct on one point though, Jacobo. Many among us, we Diaspora Jews, prefer not to view Israel as the expression of Zionism’s fundamental purpose, as refuge to ourselves in time of need. Self-convinced the threat does not exist, we have no need for a “refuge.” Perhaps we are just too comfortable, reluctant to surrender the comforts of life in the Diaspora. Perhaps the explanation is resistance to change. The more likely explanation is that "feeling" vulnerable we deny the danger exists. But whatever the reason it is clearly easier for us to accept unreflectively that which appears to surround us: neighbors, co-workers, friends and intermarried family, that what is today will also be tomorrow. We consider ourselves fully assimilated, alive in what we are convinced to be the “exceptional” Diaspora.

Of course that was exactly what our German community believed in the years leading up to Shoah. And since Jews had lived in that land for more than two thousand years, perhaps they had greater justification. The fact that before Germany democratically elected Hitler chancellor, a Jew was that country’s foreign minister; that a Jew had had drafted the democratic constitution that provided Adolf Hitler his election victory; these facts only reinforced the illusion complete assimilation and acceptance.

The lesson here, Jacobo, is that nowhere should Diaspora “exceptionality” be taken for granted. Zionism is the Diaspora’s lifeline. We deny this at great risk.”

My writings on this and other topics may be read, complete with hyperlinks, on my other blog sites, Israel, the Diaspora and Jewish Denial and Antisemitism in Art 


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