I ought to be grateful that after Israeli journalist Ben-Dror Yemini began his talk at a Reform synagogue in New York last week by saying that he had asked for seven hours to address us, he proceeded to speak for only 90 minutes, passing over many of the slides in his power point on the Industry of Lies against Israel so that he could get us home at a respectable hour. I really thought we were in for a Castro-like drubbing!
Even at its abbreviated length, though, the talk was unsettling. There was one urgent question all evening: Why are so many young American Jews being drawn into criticism of Israel? Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch introduced Yemini in the sanctuary of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue by saying that Jewish children are “succumb”-ing to lies put forward by Omar Barghouti, a founder of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Even Jews, even our own children, often succumb or are at least tempted by this industry of lies.
That concern was restated from the floor several times, by many of the 60 Jews gathered there, almost all about my age or older (60s). Why have our children fallen for Palestinian celebrities in their tailored suits?
Yemini, an advocate and author of 63, explained that in today’s leftwing politics of “intersectionality,” Israel is linked to colonialism and racism, and it doesn’t matter to young Jews that far more people are dying in Somalia or Nigeria than in Palestine, or that Russia and Pakistan kill more civilians in combat. No, it’s not about human rights, it’s about who you are against: Israel. And these Jews are suffering from a Jewish sickness:
How is it that Palestinians took over the whole phenomenon of intersectionality? It’s amazing. . . . You don’t need me, you need a psychiatrist to understand this phenomenon.
And you see so many Jewish organizations that are part of the problem!. JVP for example. How they are celebrating a Palestinian terrorist. They are making a reception and honor her [Rasmeah Odeh] like if she is a big hero. . . And what she says in her speech, in the JVP: the destruction of Israel. And they’re all clapping!
I mean, it’s a sickness. It’s not much more, it’s a sickness. And part of the sickness is — it’s we, the Jews.
What is this Jewish sickness? Yemini went on to say that young Jews are looking for tikkun olam, or social justice, but they are misguided.
I tell those Jewish students who look for tikkun olam as a part of their identity, if you look for tikkun olam, the best place is Israel. Because the contribution of Israel to humanity per capita is the highest in the world. But they don’t know it! They have no idea. For them Israel is occupation. . . They just don’t know!
He blamed Jewish charismatics for feeding these delusions.
We have to admit that some of the leaders of the whole phenomenon are Jews, from Chomsky to Norman Finkelstein to Judith Butler and Richard Falk and many others, and Sara Roy from Harvard — so many. And some of them define themselves as children of Holocaust survivors. Ah! Now we legitimate whatever they say which is almost antisemitic against Jews. Because demonization was the main tool of anti-Semites — and what they do now is demonization. It’s a kind of a paradox, but it’s happening.
This guy thinks about Jews more than I do, I have to admit! When someone criticized the New York Times, Yemini promptly pointed out:
And we also have to bear in mind that we are speaking about a Jewish newspaper.
Yemini’s overall point was that Israel is not nearly as guilty of human rights abuses as other countries, but it is “paying the price for being a democracy.”
When a man pointed out that Israel also lies about Palestinians, Yemini, a favorite of the rightwing Zionist Israeli American Council, dismissed the point:
You cannot compare an elephant with a mouse — you cannot. And the amount of lies against Israel — it’s huge, it’s really huge. And the amount of lies against Palestinians — I cannot compare it.
The crowd loved the presentation, but I found it embarrassing. Here is a liberal synagogue in New York performing acrobatic tricks of Nigerian and Russian whatabouttery to try and diminish the human rights abuses that are being done in our name, as Jews, and approved by our government, as Americans, under the pressure of the Israel lobby. That’s why the young Jews are succumbing. Because they know this racket is the Jewish cosa nostra — our thing — and they want no part of it going forward. If Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch had any intellectual integrity he would invite these young Jews and JVP, the people he said are succumbing to lies, and Yemini said are sick, in to his synagogue to explain themselves. Let’s see. . . .