Okay, so now we find ourselves all essentially in the same boat, and “the ship be sinking.” The question is whether we will continue to struggle with each other until we drown or struggle together against “Trumpism.”
I have basically had to take a break from Facebook because of all of the anti-Jewish attacks and myths perpetrated by not just the right but by disturbed corners of the left as well, not just by those whom I have argued against but by those whom I’ve argued for when it comes to attacks and myths propagated against them. I am not religious, but I have come to be proud of my Jewish cultural heritage, the tradition of helping, of questioning and debating, of the valuing of facts and knowledge, of social conscience born of history and guilt, and, most of all, of siding with the “underdog.” Yes, I’ve seen in my lifetime too many Jews diverge from the direction their moral compass was pointing, out of both the typical paranoia suffered by most oppressed groups and their attempts to assimilate into White culture. But what still distinguished them… us… was that there was usually a wall that kept our missteps from reaching the depths to which members of most other White ethnic groups could sink, and that there were still many of us, disproportionately more in fact, that could never abandon our progressive roots. Where once we were the staunchest allies of African Americans in their struggles for civil rights, we allowed, and were substantially responsible for, a bitter schism to develop. And though we shared so much kinship and pain with Muslims, we are not only at odds, we are at war. And all the time, those who rule the world laugh at the success of their divide and conquer games: at the belief that it is “Zionists” and not corporatists that hold their seat of power, at the belief that it is Islam and not imperialism that is the principal and true source of terrorism, at the belief that it is the scapegoats, immigrants or Blacks or poor people or “political correctness” depending on the election season, that are the enemies of angry working people and not them, and at the belief that we, Jews and Muslims and Blacks, whatever our misunderstandings, are not natural and necessary allies in a battle for our mutual survival.
Once upon a time, Jews were not only active partners but in leadership positions in the civil rights movement. Many had commitment and courage enough to be beaten, and some, like Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, famously, to be lynched alongside their African American brothers and sisters. For decades, surveys of different ethnicities found Jews far and away the most supportive of African American rights. But in a racist society, it’s hard, even among the well intentioned, to avoid absorbing some of its prejudice, and many Blacks felt that the Jews who were supposed to be supporting them were actually more paternalistically trying to lead a movement that should be self-determined. In addition, as the Black Power movement grew and anger against Whites started to be freed, Jews became a particular target. I think this was because of two visibility factors: that we were the last White ethnic group to escape segregation and poverty and leave the communities that Blacks were moving into, with some remaining in the capacities of landlords and shop owners, and because of the tradition of serving in the helping professions, making us the teachers and social workers that Blacks were, not always pleasantly, dealing with. Unfortunately, for some African Americans, ranging from the Nation of Islam to, at one time, Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the anti-Semitic stereotypes cast onto Jews coming from within other White ethnic groups that were nowhere to be seen seemed too tempting not to embrace. And many Jews, who couldn’t or didn’t want to understand this dynamic that was unfolding or the role of some of their own in its percolation, reciprocally turned their own backs on their former allies, albeit still not as much as those who had never been sympathetic in the first place.
Meanwhile, we have the greater mutual hatred centered in the Middle East, between Jews and Muslims. We should see this as fratricide. Jews and Arab Muslims are bound together as Semites, “the seed of Abraham.” Both claim the bequeathing by God of the “Holy Land” to them, and not coincidentally. Now, being non-religious, I would have found it more politically practical and morally justifiable if the subdivision of Germany had been for the purpose of creating the Jewish State rather than it being a plaything for imperialists. I am not a Zionist in the sense that I am not a nationalist and have no allegiance to Israel, especially given its reactionary and oppressive policies. But unlike too many, I understand what Zionism is, and is not. Zionism is not some conspiratorial international power elite of bankers and merchants, despite the ravings of neo-Nazis and people who have chosen, intentionally or defensively, to believe them. Zionism does not control America or Britain or any country other than Israel; the tail does not wag the dog. It is hard to blame Jews fleeing pogroms and gas ovens and millennia of other inventions of extermination to want a homeland of their own, again. Some of the leaders of their movement were imperialists, sure, but most were survivors who, like Moses, were trying to lead their people toward their prophesied salvation. Some really believed that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land,” and some clearly knew otherwise. It’s not very different from the “manifest destiny” that led victims of religious persecution in Europe to the alleged “New World.” The moral questions arise once each group arrived and (pardon the expression) “discovered” that there indeed was a people already settled there and for a long time (for those who believed that time is relevant to their “eternal God”). What followed were displacements and massacres. In Palestine, Jewish terrorists (yes, we can use that term, too), the Irgun and the Stern Gang, were ruthless in the colonization, and the rest of the immigrants either tacitly approved or looked away. The intention, even after the partition imposed by the Western powers that saw the remaining Arabs getting the least desirable and cultivable of what had been their homeland (since, like the Native Americans, they didn’t know what to do with the land anyway), was clearly to take over all of “Eretz Israel,” which has become reality with the support of those Western powers. And why did they provide that support, and those arms and vetoes? Not because “Zionists” control anything, but because having a “friendly ally” in an area where their control was shaky at best was and is good politics and business, hence the propping up of other “friendly” regimes, from that of the Shah of Iran to the current government of Iraq. Even Westerners ranging from neo-Cons to neo-Nazis who otherwise hate Jews as much as, if not more than Muslims support Israel, for reasons political, economic and/or religious. Anyway, the “anti-Zionist” sentiment of Palestinians, fellow Muslims, and their supporters, who in America, again, happen to be disproportionately Jewish, is more than understandable. But sadly, beginning with the collaboration between the Nazis and some Arab leaders, and continuing as too many Palestinians, from their vantage point, started seeing Israel and Zionism as a multi-tentacled giant that embodied and confirmed the historic stereotypes of Jews rather than just one of hundreds of governments that oppress their minorities, “Zionists” became a code word. This further provoked the paranoia and tightened the blinders, very typical of “post-oppressive syndrome,” of many Jews internationally, who already believed themselves “chosen” and carried their own horrible myths and stereotypes about Islam.
And now we live in a world of lies and self-fulfilling prophesies, and we Americans are facing a regime made up of racists and of anti-Semites in the fullest sense of the term. Trump supporters are celebrating a victory for White Christian America, with, by now since the election, over a thousand cases of harassment and assault against Jews and Muslims, African Americans and Latinos, and the spray-painting of swastikas and “KKK” next to “Trump” in schoolyards and dorms and on people’s cars and homes. White supremacists have been fueled and emboldened, and a White nationalist/anti-Semite has been appointed the chief Presidential advisor by a President-elect who used neo-Nazi sources of “information” for his campaign, picked someone who was too racist for a Republican Congress to approve for a federal judgeship to be our Attorney General, and still talks about a registry for Muslims. So I am reaching out to my Muslim and Black brothers and sisters. Can we afford to be divided anymore? Does it even matter “who started it” when the specter of someone else “finishing it” hangs over our collective heads? In the face of “divide and conquer” we have to unite, and finally understand now that it is undeniably clear that an attack on any of us is an attack on all of us and requires that we stand and fight back together, as we should have all along.