An antisemitic moment

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On Thursday my co-editor and I spoke about our Goldstone Report book at Suffolk Law School in downtown Boston. There were maybe 15 people in the room and in the third row there were four or five Israel supporters. You could tell. One had on a yarmulke. Then when we started talking they would sit back and roll their eyes or grin or groan. It was kind of amusing in a Lil Abner way. As a speaker I try to channel positive vibrations, though, and I started keying on a woman’s face in the back row. She was large and seemed Asian. She nodded when I spoke about the killings of Palestinian children, and offered me other encouragement. 

During the Q-and-A the hasbara-ists lit into us. One talked about the so-called occupation, and went through a litany of Arab attacks on the Jewish population in Palestine and Israel. Another talked about what Americans would do if rockets were fired from Tijuana at San-Diego. 

Finally the woman raised her hand and was called on.

“American Jews live in a dream world. Do you ever wake up?” “Who are you addressing?” an older guy said. “I’m addressing what I hear constantly. American Jews all speak the same, they have the same retort. Everyone gets the same script. Nobody thinks outside the box. Nobody thinks about who’s on the other side that they’re killing.”

Our moderator jumped in and said it was inappropriate to talk in such a blanket manner about Jews. The woman continued, saying, “I see a slow-drip genocide. I see Israel as committing a genocide…” And there are no consequences because Israel has “bought off the media and bought off the Senate and the Congress.”

I asked the woman if it was meaningful to her that the three co-editors of the Goldstone report book we’re pushing are Jewish. She said it was, and that she’s impressed by the American Jews who work for peace, she thinks they’re up against a lot.

It was a disturbing encounter. It cast a pall over the event. And still the question of Jewish orthodoxy about maintaining a monolithic community in support of Israel to the outside world is a real issue. There are many fissures in that monolith. But there’s still an orthodoxy. Jeff Blankfort once wrote a paper about American Jewish “responsibility” for Israel’s crimes, and I have written that Palestinian statelessness is an American Jewish achievement. I feel I’m going to be wrestling with this question for a long time, hopefully in a more gentle manner.

Still I found the woman’s comments disturbing. They seem all the more reason to try and organize Jews against the occupation and the denial of Palestinian rights, all the more important to help Jews wake up.

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