etz hayyim 311.
(photo credit: AP)
The Etz Hayim Synagogue on Crete was struck by
arsonists on January 5 and again - more devastatingly- on January 16.
Over the weekend, Greek police arrested four men described as bouncers
and waiters for perpetrating the attacks, saying they were motivated by
a dislike of Jews.
against Jews and Jewish institutions are up throughout Europe,
attributable, say experts, to fury by extremist rightists, leftists and
Muslims over last year's war against Hamas in Gaza.
As the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism - which
comprises Israeli government offices, the Jewish Agency and Diaspora
organizations - reported, the uptick in attacks reflects a further
blurring of boundaries between Israel, Zionism and Judaism.
The BBC's Malcolm Brabant cited Etz Hayim's director, listed
elsewhere as Nikolas Stavroulakis, as saying the attackers had not done
their homework: The synagogue is a multi-faith institution which
includes Muslim and Christian members and "many of the Jews who worship
there are opposed to Israel's settler program and frequent incursions
Stavroulakis has devoted himself to memorializing
Jewish life on the island, which dates back to biblical days. Today
about 10 Jews live there. Yet Stavroulakis's comments reveal a certain
naiveté - as if dissociating from Israeli policies, or embracing
non-Zionist, even anti-Zionist positions, would inoculate a Jewish
person or institution against anti-Semitic battering.
WITH President Shimon Peres scheduled to address the German
parliament Wednesday for International Holocaust Memorial Day, and
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu concurrently in Poland to mark the
65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, this is a good time to
consider the distinctions between those who revile Jews; those who
oppose the right of Jews to self-determination by denying Jewish
peoplehood; and those who oppose particular Israeli policies.
the West, vulgar Jew-hatred and Holocaust-denial meet with strong
censure in the public square. No reputable voices would condone attacks
on synagogues or holding Jews to standards gentiles are not expected to
On the other hand, urbane anti-Israelism is all-too often
treated as justifiable - even chic. While some of Israel's foes in
academia, diplomacy and the punditocracy put their cards on the table,
others hypocritically hide behind abstract assertions of support for
Israel's right to exist and to self-defense based on preposterously
impractical criteria. Thus anti-Israelism flirts with anti-Semitism
when the Jewish state is held to a yardstick no other country is
expected to meet on the grounds that "after all, you call yourselves
the 'chosen people.'"
No one questions whether right-wing louts who
burn Jewish houses of worship, beat up people who "look Jewish" or
desecrate Holocaust memorials are anti-Semites. But those who reject
the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, or who deny that
Jews are a people, engage in a more subtle form of contempt. That some
practitioners of anti-Israelism are themselves of Jewish ancestry
matters not a whit. Anti-Israelism is further characterized by calls to
boycott the Jewish state (aping the Arab League-instigated embargo
which began decades before the first West Bank settlement was erected)
and by the cynical manipulation of symbols and semantics - such as
"apartheid," "genocide," and "Nazi" - to delegitimize Israel.
In these endeavors, ostensibly progressives are the strange
bedfellows of fanatics and reactionaries - Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran and
the Muslim Brotherhood.
WHAT ABOUT those who simply object to particular Israeli policies?
The late US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said famously
that he could not define "hard-core pornography" but "I know it when I
Similarly, Israelis have a knack for distinguishing between
genuine friends who earnestly oppose this or that policy, and others
who profess closeness yet whose counsel, if heeded, would place the
country in mortal jeopardy.
Israelis engage in strident debates over settlements, religion
and socioeconomic issues. We hardly expect outsiders - whether Jewish
or not - to unthinkingly embrace government policies as a sign of
fidelity. To suggest otherwise is simply disingenuous.
FROM the first pogrom in 38 BCE to the liberation of Auschwitz,
haters have as a rule been candid about their motivations. In the 21st
century, however, anti-Israelism has given our foes a pretext to
obfuscate their motives. But we Israelis see them for what they are -
morally no better than the hooligans who set the Etz Haim Synagogue