The goyim and us

We need to care about what they think. That’s what ‘hasbara’ is all about: understanding how to explain our policies and positions.

December 19, 2010 23:36
3 minute read.
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Since I began writing this column, I’ve received quite a few e-mails from readers, both agreeing and disagreeing with my views. On several occasions, derogatory comments were also part of the equation. It’s all part of the discourse, I guess. The single comment that made me cringe was actually one that most wouldn’t consider too disparaging as the reader basically bemoaned that I “care too much about what the goyim think.”

There are two reasons I found that remark particularly distasteful.

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First of all, I have come to loathe the use of the term “goyim” in the modern vernacular. Dating back centuries, the word meant “the enemy” – the non-Jews who were constantly persecuting our people. I’m more familiar with the expression with Jewish, vaudevillian humorous connotations (What? You’re putting mayo on a knish? What a goyish thing to do!). Unfortunately, for many, it has morphed into a derogatory term for non-believers as if they are to be discounted and looked down upon.

There is no better example for this than the “rabbis’ letter,” the recent controversial ruling by dozens of the country’s top municipal rabbis calling on Jews not to rent or sell properties to goyim.

Despite the fact that this edict was condemned left, right and center, most of the signatories have yet to remove their names from this venomous document. This backward way of thinking has no place in modern day Israel but having it come out of the mouths (or pens) of rabbis, those who are supposed to be the wise men of the Jewish people, is an abomination.

What happened to the concept of “or la’goyim” (light to the nations), one of the few good idioms which came out of this antiquated word? Aren’t we supposed to set an example for all other nations to follow?

JUST AS disgraceful are the people trying to justify the letter. Pointing out that in some Muslim nations Jews have been and are still persecuted does not validate the ruling.

If anything, the opposite is true.

We are a democracy, while almost all Muslim countries are dictatorships.

We must treat all of our citizens equally both in the eyes of the law and on a normative basis. How many countries forced Jews throughout the years to live in ghettos, denying them the right to live among the rest of the population? Is this really the example we want to set? The second issue I had was really a derivative from the first. We need to care about what the goyim think. That’s what hasbara is all about: understanding how to explain our policies and positions to the rest of the world.

Israel does not exist in a vacuum.

We do have friends in the world and we need their support to survive in every aspect of our existence.

All those who deal with public diplomacy are aware of that, but many segments of the public itself are in denial. Israel is under more scrutiny than almost any other country and sweeping things under the rug is not an option. We cannot look away from any and all forms of prejudice. I believe that most of the country is disgusted by discrimination on such a level. To make matters worse, it’s this kind of thinking that serves a severe blow in our efforts to win over hearts and minds.

The “wise men” who signed the rabbis’ letter write that Jews who rent or sell to goyim should be ostracized as they have caused harm to the Jewish way of life. The irony is that these rabbis who decided to put this bigoted edict to paper are the real threat to our way of life, our existence and are increasing our chances of becoming the pariah of the world.

The writer is an independent media consultant, an adjunct lecturer at IDC Herzliya’s School of Communications and a former producer at the Fox News Channel in New York.

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