This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
“Infiltrators” – a word increasingly used to describe African refugees in Israel. It’s become acceptable political discourse in Israel. Not surprisingly, such terminology weighs heavily on my mind as 2013 comes to an end.
That and prisoner releases, new settlement construction, and on New Year’s Day, John Kerry’s return to the scene. He’s going to lay down the law for Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It’s now or never.
In the United States, there’s Open Hillel. To the Jewish establishment, Open Hillel Jews are infiltrators as well.
Infiltrators – moles, plants, spies, double agents, subversives. Enemies among us.
How broad the fifth column in and outside of Jewish life has become!
Infiltrators are the newly defined fifth column. They turn out to be a rather diverse group. According to Israel and the Jewish establishment, they are anti-Semites and self-hating Jews, Palestinians, progressive Christians, BDS supporters, Africans and, in general, people of conscience around the world.
To the Jewish establishment it adds up to a world conspiracy to destroy Israel and, thus, the Jewish people. What else could infiltrators be about?
Check out the Simon Wiesenthal 2013 Top Ten list of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs. You’ll find the rock star, Roger Waters, the Noble Prize winner Alice Walker, and the dogged Jewish journalist, Max Blumenthal, among the derided.
Truly a polyglot – of conscience.
To the fifth columnists it seems the reverse. They’re pleading with Israel to change course.
Not long ago, Jews were seen as infiltrators. Jews were the prototypical fifth column. Jews have the habit of showing up in places they aren’t supposed to be. Much to the chagrin of the Jewish powers that be, it’s still happening.
Refugees? Much of Jewish history can be seen through this prism, too. It wasn’t just the Nazi era either. Much of the Encyclopedia Judaica details our forced wanderings.
Refugees are always perceived as a fifth column. Through much of our history, Jews carried this Yellow Star description as a distinctive. Now we apply it to others – and our own dissidents – with broad strokes and so much vehemence it boggles the mind.
We despise in others what we once were.
Is it a matter of low self-esteem?
We have inverted our Yellow Star. Our power over others has become a point of pride.
It shows how much we have changed. It also shows the depth of the difficulty we find ourselves in.
As a people we have become confused and irrational. Labeling others who live among us as infiltrators to be derided and deported is a form of historical madness.
Speaking of inversions, though, it’s just possible the fifth column could bail us out from the prison we have created for others – and inhabit ourselves.
Rather than a New Year’s resolution, think of the fifth column as a sign of prophetic hope.
Fifth columns often become the future. That future arrives with much suffering but, then, soon is accepted as a no-brainer. Think of racial equality, same-sex marriage and, yes, inclusion of Jews in society. Now ask if the future is on Israel’s side or with the Jewish establishment’s fifth column.
Future generations will ask of Israel and the Jewish establishment: What were you thinking when you labeled refugees and dissidents – infiltrators?
The future has arrived. The ranks of those arrayed against Israeli policies grow daily. Israel’s friends are fewer and fewer in number. They are increasingly conservative, and, like the government of Egypt, verge on fascism.
The Holocaust card has been played. It no longer trumps critical thought. Israel’s security card has been played. No reasonable political analyst thinks Israel’s occupation policies are about security.
The only card left in Israel’s deck is power. Hence the fifth column card played over and over again. But in a game of cards you can’t depend on one card only. Other cards come into play.
Jokers are wild – like the prophets. You never know when the prophets will show up. In what guise or under what banner. Rest assured it will be an infiltrator of one sort or another. That what prophets are.
Prophetic infiltrators are everywhere as the year turns.
With Africans in Israel, count the growing number of Jews of Conscience among them.