Terra Incognita: Hypocrisy of the first order

Why do people who self-identify as “Jewish Americans” not subject the “American” part of that identity to the same high standards?

American, Israeli flags. (photo credit: REUTERS)
American, Israeli flags.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Last Wednesday, Bertha Klein’s son called a medical hotline in Antwerp. Initially the medical professional hung up upon identifying the caller as Jewish.
Then the doctor told them to “get treatment in Gaza.” An Orthodox Jewish woman was refused service at a clothing store in Belgium and an Italian philosophy professor named Giannia Vattimo called during a radio show for people to journey to Gaza, buy Hamas missiles and shoot “Zionist bastards” in Israel.
Jews around the world are being blamed for Israel’s actions in Gaza. Despite some 200,000 killed in Syria, no one refuses service to Syrians; no European professors call on people to kill Syrians who support Assad. No doctors, upon hearing someone is an Arab, tell them to “go to Damascus.”
Many commentators are conflating all Jews with Israeli actions and some Jewish commentators have internalized this. Richard Gizbert at Al-Jazeera, formerly of ABC, writes an op-ed titled “Gaza, Israel and the company we keep,” in which he notes, “I’ve tried to figure out how my Jewish friends and any supporter of Israel who has a brain can back this.” In his op-ed he identifies all Jews with Israel’s actions, noting he “asks Canadian Jews” when he wants to critique Israel. His Arab friends are individuals, but Jews are one massive group, conspiring together, all marching in lockstep. No other group is subjected to this view; Italians in America or Argentina are not blamed for Italy’s actions; no one bashes their “Chinese friends” because of Tibet, or some random Indian at a motel for “what are you doing in Kashmir.”
M.J. Rosenberg, who once worked with AIPAC and Israel Policy Forum, writes, “For three weeks the killing of children and other innocents in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli military has dominated the news. We see the bombs dropping. We see the destroyed schools, hospitals and mosques. We see the parents wailing over the deaths of their children and children wailing at the deaths of their parents and siblings.” Ezra Klein at Vox claims he has become “more pessimistic on Israel... around 100 Palestinian civilians have died for every civilian Israeli casualty.”
He claims a personal interest in Israel, having spent a week there once.
Jonathan Freeland at New York Review of Books asserts that being a liberal Zionist is difficult in the US because the “nearly 200 children [killed in Gaza] is hard to defend.”
He claims that attacks against Jews in Europe show that, “Defending Israel when Israel is killing civilians by the hundreds now exacts a very direct price.” He mentions a rabbi who said Israel’s actions were a “failure of Judaism.”
There is “weariness in our Liberal Zionist fraternity,” he opines.
They are weary because of people like Spanish actor Javier Bardem (husband of Penelope Cruz). Bardem explains, as if it were not immediately obvious, that “being Jewish does not automatically mean you support massacre.” He notes he spoke to the Jews, err, “Jewish friends in the US about the conflict,” and one had told him “you can’t call it self-defense while you’re murdering children.”
So what’s going on here? Basically, a massive campaign is being waged against Jews and some, especially on the Left, have adopted an anti-Israel view that incorporates the blaming of all Jews for the actions of Israel.
Amy Klien at Haaretz intoned that Israel was putting US liberal Jews in a bind. “We spend our days defending ourselves among Jews, defending Israel to others, and amid all these pleas we have no way to convey our deep, deep disappointment in our people,” she wrote.
The narrative adopted here is extraordinary for how it accepts without question the visceral hatred Israel is subjected to and the notion that the “Jewish people” are at fault. Another writer argued that, “The current Gaza death toll casts a moral shadow upon American Jews, and unfairly, upon Jewish communities everywhere.”
One of the culprits in all this is The New York Times, which has ceaselessly subjected the US public to frontpage coverage of Palestinian suffering. On July 17 it led with Tyler Hicks’s photo of two dead children on a Gaza beach. July 21 had a doctor weeping over more dead children at Gaza’s Shifa hospital. July 22 showed a picture of Israelis burying a soldier while Palestinians buried more dead. July 24 showed families seeking shelter in Gaza. On July 29 it was people “overcome with grief in Gaza city” and then on July 31 a UN “shelter” in Gaza that had been hit, it claimed, by Israel. Only one photo from that period on page one was devoted solely to Israelis, showing them cowering from Hamas rockets. The caption claimed it was “raining death in Israel and Gaza.”
The policy seems to be hammer, hammer, hammer home the death of Gaza civilians. However, the Times has not published photos of Afghans killed by US forces, or of ISIS executions recently.
The tragedy is that instead of rebelling against this onslaught and asking tough questions about the coverage and demanding that Jews never be collectively blamed for Israel’s actions, some misguided and hypocritical self-defined “liberal Jews” subject Israel to unremitting criticism.
A Reconstructionist rabbi, writing at The Forward, claimed that Israel had unfairly responded to a “trickle of impotent rockets.” Jewish rabbis on the Left such as Henry Siegman speak out about a “slaughter of innocents in Gaza” and Jews being made to feel they must “answer for” Israel’s actions.
None of these voices spoke up during America’s 13-year occupation of Afghanistan. No one asks why the Times doesn’t run photos of dead children from the drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan. No one asks why we all know that exactly, as one commentator claimed “1,405 Gazans have died”, but have no idea how many Afghans have died at the hands of the Obama administration. The Guardian called Hamas rockets “useless fireworks,” but does not ask why the UK is still in Afghanistan, despite not even a firework being fired at it from that country.
It is understandable that Israeli Jews on the Left or Right question their country or hold it to a high standard. But why do people who self-identify as “Jewish Americans” not subject the “American” part of that identity to the same moral qualms, high standards and questioning? No talk of “slaughter of innocents,” no “disappointment in our people” when it comes to America or England, or France’s role in Africa? Where is the outrage over the dead Afghan or Iraqi children? There is none; few even ask how many died. Where were Siegman, Rosenberg and Klien to shout “not in our name” about those wars? No “moral shadow”? No one claiming that all Americans should have to “answer for Guantanamo”? These left-wing American Jews want to feel welcomed among their liberal friends, and instead of standing up to the “liberals” who blame them as Jews first, as they would surely stand up for a black person being blamed for the actions of Mugabe, or an Arab being blamed for the deeds of Assad or bin-Laden, they instead flagellate themselves and join in the anti-Israel chorus of hypocrisy.
Follow the author on Twitter @sfrantzman