Here’s a first for me: a citation from the Koran in support of an historically unhappy truth about my people. Surah 59:14 says of the Jews: “There is much hostility between them: Their hearts are divided.”
Nothing has the power to divide Jewish hearts like Israel, daily proof of which appears in the news. On the extreme end of anti-Israel agitation we find Canada’s most famously faithless Jew, Naomi Klein, rarely out of the headlines between tearful photo-ops in Ramalla and attempted film-festival smears in Toronto. And then there’s the slightly more demented Diana Ralph, stalwart of the Israel-hating fringe group Independent Jewish Voices, recently outed as a tinfoil-hatted anti-Zionist, anti-American conspiracy theorist.
As candidly hopeful Israel executioners, they are but a melodramatic tip of an underlying iceberg. Klein and company won’t administer the coup de grace to the Jewish people. That will come from more seemingly trustworthy, influential elites, nominal Jews who don’t realize that they have abandoned Judaism for another religion, one presently antithetical to Judaism’s existential portion.
During the High Holidays of my youth, when it was permissible—laudatory—to love Israel out loud, rabbis would profit from the annually crowded pews to encourage the purchase of Israel bonds, or to urge solidarity with Soviet Jews in their campaign to leave Russia for Israel.
How times have changed.
In the course of an Aug. 19 conference call with 1,000 or so American rabbis, Barack Obama urged them to use their High Holiday sermons to “tell the stories of health-care dilemmas to illustrate what is at stake.” Rather creepily, he added—imagine if it were George Bush intoning these words to 1,000 evangelical ministers—“we are God’s partners in matters of life and death.”
(The call was meant to be off the record, but at least three rabbis happened to be Twittering as they listened.)
A symbolic moment and potent words. With all due respect to Medicare, a universal health system is not a “matter of life and death” to the Jewish people. Defending Israel is. What were these rabbis thinking, taking their holy day sermon orders from the state?
It’s almost as if these rabbis no longer make any distinction between their religious vocation and their political leanings. It’s almost as if Obama were a religious colleague rather than a political figure. It’s almost as if they could no longer distinguish between Judaism and the Democratic party.
In fact, there’s no almost-as-if about any of these conditions. Liberalism is today the de facto religion of most American Jews, a stunning 78% of whom voted for Obama, no particular friend to Israel, to say the least. It would seem that Jewish voters are more concerned about women’s right to unconstrained abortion than Israel’s survival.
Ahavat Yisrael, the (not uncritical, but steadfast) love of Israel is the heart and soul of Judaism, like it or not. In his new book, Why are Jews Liberal?, Norman Podhoretz, elder intellectual statesman of American Jewish neo-conservatives, explains liberal Jews’ rejection of Israelcentred peoplehood as the post-Enlightenment price they willingly paid for acceptance and equality in the Diaspora. But rather than adopt a purely secular philosophy, he says their abandonment of Judaism “had the feel and the force … of a conversion from Judaism to another kind of religion.”
When the left abandoned Israel in 1967, leftist Jews abandoned Judaism, but in galling displays of self-love (please don’t call them self-hating Jews; they adore themselves), they refuse to hand in their Jewish passports. Our publicly anti-Zionist Jews flay their fellow Jews, but flaunt their Jewishness to clothe their non-Jewish anti-Zionist colleagues with respectability. They insist, even as they scream for boycotts of Israeli academics or films, even as they denounce Israel as an “apartheid” state, that they are the true standard-bearers for Jewish values like “social justice,” that catch-all shibboleth for the ennoblement of myth-driven anti-Semitic Arab revanchism.
A perfect example of this irrational tic was on display in an op-ed in these pages last week by professional leftist Judy Rebick, purportedly a defence of Naomi Klein’s attempted attack on the Toronto film festival. With no rational argument at hand, Rebick cynically opted to play the shmaltz card in a kitschy homage to the warmth and liveliness of her grandparents’ oh-so-Jewish home, stating her grandmother “would have been so proud of Naomi Klein,” a revisionist canard of a peculiarly chutzpadik order, as Rebick’s pogrom-surviving grandmother would doubtless have been appalled by a smug Jew consumed by Israel-hatred.
The Jews have been expelled from 94 countries. There is but one, our homeland since time immemorial, from which Jews can be blown to smithereens, but not expelled. Israel is today in mortal danger from Hitler’s myriad godchildren. Never mind the overt, spotlight-seeking Jewish anti-Semites. That in such parlous times 1,000 establishment Jewish spiritual leaders think pleasing the Obamessiah is more important than encouraging their flocks’ ahavat Yisrael on Judaism’s most sacred days is a measure of the religion of Judaism’s decline and the religion of liberal-ism’s ascendancy in America.