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Eisner and Greenblatt refuse to see Israel’s face in Richard Spencer’s mirror

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America is based on the idea that we are all created equal. We hold this truth to be self-evident, says our Declaration of Independence. And over the years we have tried to put our money where our mouth is. We come together in the body politic as individuals, even as we also identify with different sub-groupings—racial, sexual, cultural, religious, place of origin, professional. We are not equal in fact, of course. We elect politicians and lobby as groups, and some groups are stronger than others.  But whether success or screw-up, Americans feel strongly that, all things being equal, everyone should have the same shot at success. When it comes to race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, alienage, and gender, our courts will not tolerate making distinctions between groups or individuals absent some compelling or heightened state interest. And “We prefer this group” or “we don’t like that group” doesn’t cut it.

That’s not what Richard Spencer and his white nationalist movement believe. It’s not what Steve Bannon believes. It may not be what Trump believes. “We . . . stand against the dispossession of America’s historic majority,” (i.e. whites), says Spencer in an advertisement for the National Policy Institute.  At a rally celebrating Trump’s victory last November he gave a Nazi salute and shouted: “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory.” Spencer prefers Americans of white northern European Christian ancestry, and he thinks our politicians and courts should too. Spencer thinks that in the culture wars, the state should side with white European, Christian culture. He (correctly?) understands Trump’s campaign slogan of “make America great again” as “make America white again.” It’s a profoundly un-American idea.

Because Spencer knows he is advancing a profoundly un-American idea, he hunts around for models of respectability to associate with. And as he looks around, he sees that Zionism is respectable in our circles of power. So he threw Zionism in the face of a rabbi at Texas A&M University who challenged him last December: “The Jewish people are a people precisely because they did not engage in radical inclusion,” he said. “Jews exist precisely because you did not assimilate; it’s because you had a sense of yourselves. I respect that about you. I want my people to have that same sense of themselves.” The rabbi was flummoxed.

After the protests in Charlottesville, Spencer doubled down in an interview with Israeli television: “You could say that I am a white Zionist in the sense that I care about my people. I want us to have a secure homeland that is for us and ourselves, just like you want a secure homeland in Israel.”Spencer is aided in his analogy by what Israel has become, even as it stays respectable. He is aided by the fact that Israel has occupied the West Bank for 50 years, all the while denying citizenship and access to civil courts to 2.7 million Palestinians living there. Spencer is aided in his analogy by the fact that Israel maintains the Gaza strip as an open-air prison. Spencer is aided in his analogy when Prime Minister Netanyahu says that the West Bank is “the inheritance of our forefathers, this is our country. … We came back here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the Land of Israel.” He is aided in his analogy when Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s minister of justice, repudiates universal human rights, saying: “Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way that divorces them from the history of the Knesset and the history of legislation that we all know.” Spencer is aided in his analogy when Israel is ready, once more, to entertain a nation state bill that will explicitly favor Jewish culture over the democratic nature of the state. These are all things Richard Spencer and his movement would like to see in the United States. And who is to say that Spencer is wrong in cozying up into the glow of Zionism when Netanyahu receives 25 standing ovations in Congress every time he appears there, and the world tolerates this state of affairs in Israel and deems it respectable.

Naomi Dann, from her twitter feed @naomi_dann

Spencer’s association with Zionism, of course, does not make his ideas any more respectable in American eyes. It does run the risk of making Zionism less respectable in American eyes. As Naomi Dann from Jewish Voice for Peace pointed out in a gently worded article in The Forward (8/17/17), Spencer’s comparison of white supremacy to Israel is discomfiting because Richard Spencer “is holding a mirror up to Zionism and the reflection isn’t pretty.”

The reaction to Dann’s article in Zionist circles was as swift, as it was predictable. The instinct of the Jewish establishment is to smash this mirror rather than to gaze upon it, lest Zionism turn to a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife. Instead of squirming in the presence of this strange and unwelcome bedfellow (Spencer), Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League, launches an ad hominem attack on Dann. “Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) staffer Naomi Dann” was “riding the waves of extremism and hate” he begins. He continues by attributing improper motives to her. Her purpose is to demonize the Jewish state of Israel; she is a “Jew hater,” he suggests. And he concludes by exhorting that we ignore the image in the mirror. “Richard Spencer and JVP … mischaracterize, distort and blaspheme Zionism and do so to further their own perverted political agenda,” says Greenblatt. “[W]e must have zero tolerance for those who seek to divide and vilify the principles which we hold dear which include living proudly and securely as Jews in America and defending the legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel. There will always be those on both extremes who seek to attack or undermine those core principles. As proud American pro-Israel Jews, we must continue fighting those hateful voices.”

But what if Spencer’s mirror shows that the principles we hold dear as Americans are at odds with Zionism as lived. . . that Zionism as lived is more in line what Richard Spencer stands for?

Jane Eisner piles on in the same vein. The analogy Spencer is making is “offensive” she says, and it’s “even more distressing” when Naomi Dann gives a “supportive rendering” of the analogy. “When a Jew even hints at comparing Israel to Nazis,” says Eisner, “it must be denounced.” Smash that mirror, never mind the truth it might speak.

But pointing to Nazi flags in the streets of Charlottesville is a distraction. Spencer is not comparing Israel to Nazi Germany: he is making a cool reasoned argument for preferring white European, Christian culture in this country that (he claims) white European Christians have founded. He is making a case for a very un-American idea, and that very un-American idea is, in fact, expressed by Netanyahu and Ayelet Shaked, and many others, in Israel.

Greenblatt asserts Spencer is motivated by hate. Eisner agrees: “Like the anti-Semitism at its core,” she says, “this ugly syllogism will not die, resurging at times of anxiety and anger, and fueled by a willful disregard for what Zionism and Nazism actually represent.” And, of course, anti-Semitism will not die. It has expressed itself in the Charlottesville march (“Jews will not replace us”) and elsewhere since Trump’s election, but when Spencer holds up Zionism as a positive model for what he wants for white America, he is not expressing anti-Semitic ideas, and he is not being disingenuous. Spencer’s challenge to our American values is real and he will continue to point to Israel as long as we continue to tolerate those ideas within Zionism.

Jane Eisner, editor of the Forward

“The version of Nazism that Spencer espouses,” continues Eisner, “even if it’s dressed up as a kind of perverted affirmative action for white people, is by its nature exclusionary and racist.” But why is that different from “Zionism dressed up as a kind of perverted affirmative action for Jews?” The loss of white European Christian culture in America is real. After all, white Christians inter-marry too. The country is much more secular and multi-cultural than it used to be. Whites are slated to become a minority by some projections by mid-century. White Christians can get nervous about this without being “propelled by grievance and hate,” as Eisner claims. Just like Zionists don’t have to be driven by grievance and hate. Spencer “views ethno-nationalism as a zero-sum game,” says Eisner, “where one group’s power automatically diminishes another group’s status.” And Spencer would agree with this—but so would Netanyahu and Shaked, and that’s his point.

“The American ideal has always aspired to the . . . notion of nationalism that expands to include rather than restricts to reject,” says Eisner. And this is true. But it’s not Spencer’s view, and it’s not Netanyahu’s and Shaked’s view. So when we look at Netanyahu’s and Shaked’s Zionism, Eisner is wrong when she claims “Zionism, too, is an expansive aspiration, asserting that Jews, like all other peoples on earth, deserve the right to govern themselves in their ancestral homeland.” Spencer would agree with “ancestral homeland;” but he views America as the ancestral homeland of White Christians who landed at Plymouth Rock. That involves considerable fiction, but it’s an idea at least as coherent as Israel being the ancestral homeland of 21st century Jews of the world.

Eisner concludes with an appeal to “Truth.” “For a Jew to compare Israeli policy that she finds offensive to Richard Spencer’s ideology is more than troubling. It’s also not true,” she says. “And truth is too precious a commodity these days to ever be squandered.”

A search for truth requires introspection and self-reflection. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” The mirror may lie, but smashing the mirror before it answers does not advance the search for truth.

This post first appeared on Roland Nikles’s blog with the headline, “’Mirror, mirror, on the wall’ . . . , says Richard Spencer; and ‘Smash that mirror!’ say Jane Eisner and Jonathan Greenblatt.
Roland Nikles

Roland Nikles is a Bay Area writer and attorney. He blogs here: And you can follow him on twitter @RolandNikles

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20 Responses

  1. AddictionMyth on September 3, 2017, 4:53 pm

    The funny thing is, people like Eisner defended Israel by saying it’s the Jews’ backup country in case things go south. Like say, if Nazis rise to power again and start killing the Jews. Yet here’s a neo-Nazi on Israeli TV who isn’t threatening but flattering us! Haha I think we’re safe where we are.

    • Misterioso on September 4, 2017, 2:31 pm

      What if “things go south” for Jews in America?
      Israel will lose its protector in the international arena, major arms source and $12 million per day in aid from US taxpayers.

      I don’t think Israel would serve as “the Jews’ backup country.”

    • festus on September 5, 2017, 10:28 am

      So much is insane about this Zionist project. Do people really think if the USA wanted to wipe out the Jews, Israel would be a safe haven? Of course the idea that the USA would want to genocide the Jewish people is nuts in of itself…….if Israel did not exist. The existence of Israel and the damage that state has done to America could change that equation. Thus Zionism puts the Jews in danger of the very thing Zionism is supposed to protect them from. Nuts to the nth degree.

  2. eljay on September 4, 2017, 9:57 am

    Jewish supremacism (Zionism) and White supremacism are related brands of evil. Zionists and White supremacists believe that they are entitled to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

    Spencer is the equivalent of a hard-core Zionist: Unapologetically hateful and immoral. Eisner is the equivalent of a “liberal White supremacist”: A “kinder, gentler” hypocrite.

  3. JosephA on September 4, 2017, 10:42 am

    I think it’s interesting when Zionists speak so passionately about racism. It’s doublespeak at it’s finest – Orwell would be proud.

    The Anti Defamation League claims to have a “…dual mission of securing justice not only for Jews but for all people”. I think the statement should be corrected to read as follows:

    Reflecting a Jewish tradition and the ADL value of inclusion, we chose a dual mission of securing justice not only for Jews but for all people except those of Palestinian descent, or anybody who disagrees with zionism.

  4. Citizen on September 4, 2017, 12:59 pm

    Jewish Zionist justification is that Gentiles have always victimized them around the world in the long run and their only practical insurance policy is the Jewish controlled state of Israel. Richard Spencer’s “white Zionism” does not have that justification. Jewish history never points to world historical events showing Jewish privilege compared to the ordinary Goy in the same place and time. Now Jewish history also includes USA’s founding principle, “all men are created equal,” and the decline of white power in the USA & its demographic culture–and the Nakba….

    • Roland Nikles on September 4, 2017, 4:45 pm

      In writing this article I re-read UN Res. 181. The vision of 181 was for two ethnic majority states–Jewish and Arab–each democratic, and each guaranteeing citizenship for all and protection of minority rights. Israel’s declaration of Independence followed that model. *That* was not Richard Spencer ethno-nationalism. The creation of that (UN 181-style) Jewish majority state, it seems to me, was legitimized by the justification that Gentiles have always victimized Jews around the world in the long run and their only practical insurance policy is the Jewish controlled state of Israel. Spencer style ethno-nationalism in Israel has come to the fore since Likud came to power, and it strikes me a Spencer style ethno-nationalist state as lived today is *not* so justified.

      • RoHa on September 4, 2017, 10:40 pm

        “The vision of 181 was for two ethnic majority states–Jewish and Arab–each democratic, and each guaranteeing citizenship for all and protection of minority rights. Israel’s declaration of Independence followed that model.”

        We know what the Zionists said, and we know what they did.

        “The creation of that (UN 181-style) Jewish majority state, it seems to me, was legitimized… ”

        The creation of that state was contrary to the wishes of the majority of the population of the territory.

        “that Gentiles have always victimized Jews around the world in the long run”
        A dubious claim.

        “and their only practical insurance policy is the Jewish controlled state of Israel.”

        Flat out wrong.

        But even if both of those are true, Jews do not have a right to safety at the expense of other people.

      • festus on September 5, 2017, 10:29 am

        Gentiles have always victimized Jews around the world in the long run.

        Just not so.

      • Mooser on September 5, 2017, 11:17 am

        “Gentiles have always victimized Jews around the world in the long run.”

        Outrageous! I thought we had a no-victimization clause in our contract with them. They broke it, the finks.

  5. Misterioso on September 4, 2017, 2:40 pm

    Regarding Israel, “a light unto nations [not].”

    “As Violence Intensifies, Israel Continues to Arm Mayanmar’s Military Junta”

    Haaretz, Sept. 4/17

    “The violence directed at Myanmar’s Rohingya minority by the country’s regime has intensified. United Nations data show that about 60,000 members of the minority group have recently fled Myanmar’s Rahine state, driven out by the increasing violence and the burning of their villages, information that has been confirmed by satellite images. But none of this has led to a change in the policy of the Israeli Defense Ministry, which is refusing to halt weapons sales to the regime in Myanmar, the southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma.

    “On Thursday, the bodies of 26 refugees, including 12 children, were removed from the Naf River, which runs along the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Of the refugees who managed to reach Bangladesh, many had been shot. There were also reports of rapes, shootings and fatal beatings directed at the Rohingya minority, which is denied human rights in Myanmar. The country’s army has been in the middle of a military campaign since October that intensified following the recent killing of 12 Myanmar soldiers by Muslim rebels.”

    • just on September 4, 2017, 6:42 pm

      It’s grotesque in the extreme, Misterioso.

      I read this last week:

      “Forget Trump: Israel’s sordid history of supporting dictatorships

      Netanyahu’s silence in the face of the White House’s anti-Semitism should surprise no one. From Argentina to Rwanda, Israel has a sordid history of providing weapons and support to murderous dictatorships. …

      By Eitay Mack (translated by Ofer Neiman)”

      More, from January 22, 2017:

      “Despite war crimes, Israel insists on selling arms to Myanmar

      The heads of Myanmar’s army had a shopping spree with the Israeli security industries, even meeting with the president and the Chief of Staff. Despite ongoing war crimes, Israel continues to maintain extensive security ties with the South East Asian country.

      By John Brown* (translated by Tal Haran)

      Israeli human rights activists are petitioning the Israeli Supreme Court, demanding it force the Ministry of Defense to explain why it does not put an end to Israel’s trade agreements with Myanmar’s military, following reports of crimes against citizens and ethnic minorities, including possible crimes against humanity.

      The petition, filed by Attorney Eitay Mack and a list of human rights activists, specifies a series of crimes committed and still being committed by the regime, including proof thereof, such as evidence of the extensive ties between the heads of the Myanmar military and senior officials in the Israeli government and military, as well as with Israeli security industrial firms.

      Ever since Myanmar (also known as Burma) gained its independence from Britain in 1948, a ceaseless civil war has taken place in various regions of the country. In November 2015 Burma held democratic elections, won by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. However, the government is not in actual control of either the state’s security forces or the private militias, which still do the bidding of the junta that controlled the country until those elections. These persist in their crimes against humanity, war crimes, and serious violations of human rights throughout the country — especially against ethnic minorities, some of which do not even have citizen status. …”

      BTW, what/why is Aung San Suu Kyi doing/saying nothing?


      “Myanmar faces international condemnation over Rohingya

      A chorus of international criticism aimed at Myanmar is growing over the violence against Rohingya Muslims. …”

  6. just on September 4, 2017, 7:48 pm

    No mention in this article of Israeli support for and enabling of this other genocide of Muslim civilians and their hatred/using of the UN. The UN should kick them out! Shame, shame, shame:

    “Myanmar blocks all UN aid to civilians at heart of Rohingya crisis

    Exclusive: Military offensive against insurgents leaves thousands stranded without life-saving supplies…”

  7. mcohen.. on September 5, 2017, 3:25 am

    comedy hour again

    spencer mentioned zionism because he knew it would pit jewish media against each other….and you fell for it.

    he got punched in the face for a reason.someone saw through his bullshit

  8. wondering jew on September 5, 2017, 7:05 am

    As we get further away from the root causes of Zionism: as in: history: as in the history of European Jews ca. 1881-1945, Zionism must stand on its own as a present tense and future outlook.

    In terms of the present and future, the fear of most Zionists is not that Israel will turn into a cosmopolitan, all are welcome state, but into a Muslim, Jews are not welcome state. The slow evolution of America away from white predominance is not heading towards a whites are not welcome state, but is heading towards a cosmopolitan state.

    • eljay on September 5, 2017, 8:33 am

      || yonah fredman: As we get further away from the root causes of Zionism … Zionism must stand on its own as a present tense and future outlook.

      In terms of the present and future, the fear of most Zionists is not that Israel will turn into a cosmopolitan, all are welcome state, but into a Muslim, Jews are not welcome state. … ||

      Zionism was supremacism in the past and Zionism continues to be supremacism in the present. For Zionism to remain Zionism, it must continue to be supremacism into the future.

      And in order for Israel – a state that was conceived and established as a religion-supremacist, Jews are very but others are not quite so welcome state – to remain a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine, the present tense and future outlook of Zionism remains unjust and immoral.

    • Mooser on September 5, 2017, 11:30 am

      ” Zionism must stand on its own as a present tense and future outlook.”

      Judaism should try growing instead of shrinking. That would help.

  9. biggerjake on September 7, 2017, 11:45 am

    So here is the hypocrisy of Israel and the Zionists on full display.

    David Duke and Richard Spencer as offensive as their messages may be, have never killed anyone to my knowledge.

    Bibi Natanyahu, Israel’s chief racist and Holocaust revisionist is responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Palestinians in just the past few years, many of them children.

    Duke and Spencer want to preserve the “white, European, Christian legacy of the US”, and they are condemned and vilified (rightfully so) by the masses.

    Netanyahu says he wants to preserve and protect the “Jewishness” of Israel/Palestine, (whatever that is) and he gets a free pass and standing ovations in congress.

    Is there really any difference in their messages?

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