Trending Topics:

Shunned

Activism
on 26 Comments

The email was concerning; it arrived in my personal inbox and that of Just World Books. And in the emails to Robert Shetterly (who painted my portrait as part of his Americans Who Tell the Truth project), and to an activist in the Boston area who had organized a presentation for me. The author stated he was, “the only Jewish criminal attorney at law in Vienna and member of the Executive board of Austria’s oldest, main and central synagogue, the famous Vienna “‘Stadttempel.'” He described the local Jewish community as small but wealthy and flourishing. He ended the first paragraph with: “But as the only child of Holocaust survivors I do not forget our history.”

The attorney expressed concern that my books and “the far left“ Jewish Voice for Peace, of which I am a member, are advocating for the boycott of Israel and that, “Boycott is a form of violence.” He noted that since January 2018 BDS supporters have been banned from entering Israel.

Portrait of Alice Rothchild by Robert Shetterly, from the Americans Who Tell The Truth collection, 2018.

He reminded me that, “the Holocaust began with the boycott of Jewish shops, Jewish lawyers, Jewish doctors and Jewish institutions. Boycott of Jews was the beginning of the worst mass murder in history, the Shoah,” and that much of his family did not survive, “At that time your government refused to issue visas for Jews from Europe. You should remember this anti-Jewish policy of your homeland, of the United States of America during the Second World War.”

He ended with, “So please tell Dr. Rothchild and her friends not to come to our synagogue. These people are not welcome here. We do not want to see them, we do not want to hear them, we do not want to pray together with them. They can stay wherever they want, but please let them stay away from us.”

My first thoughts were how does an old Jewish attorney in Vienna find me typing away in my study somewhere in the Pacific Northwest? What Israel hasbara organization and/or perhaps Israeli military intelligence unit now has me in their radar? Will they send out their troops to disrupt the next time I am giving a presentation? The shunning, on the other hand, was all too familiar.

Besides being angry, this man is also in great pain; the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust wiped out much of his family and shaped his life and world view. I imagine there must be some kind of personal vindication to live in Vienna and rebuild a Jewish community in the belly of the beast. I have tremendous respect and empathy for that kind of suffering and strength and for what is required to survive and prosper. I also share his outrage at the immigration policies of the U.S. as well as other nations that refused or turned away Jews desperately fleeing certain death and disaster. I know from this attorney‘s further correspondence with Mr. Shetterly that he views the Palestinians as the new Nazis. This is a common feeling among many Jews, often expressed in Israel as, “When I see Arafat, I see Hitler,” and in the frequent use of the words “potential holocaust” to describe any perceived external threat to the state.

These ideas are a compounded tragedy and I would argue a grave misunderstanding. First, boycotts are a well respected, nonviolent form of protest that has been used for good, (Quakers against slave holders, African-Americans in Montgomery refusing to take the bus), and evil (Nazis against Jews). The strategy of boycott is not evil or inhumane in itself, but it can be used for a variety of purposes. The Nazis used “boycott“ not to protest for an oppressed minority or against some injustice, but as a governmental policy to discriminate and destroy another people. The boycott, divestment, and sanction of Israel was called in 2005 by over 150 Palestinian civil society activists seeking to end the second class citizenship of Palestinians in Israel, to end the occupation, and to resolve the multigenerational refugee catastrophe – without violence.

To equate Palestinians with Nazis, the attorney used the oft quoted example of Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from 1921 to 1948. Al-Husseini is a complex, controversial figure, an Arab nationalist who actively opposed Zionism in the 1920s and also became an opponent of British colonialism in Palestine. During WW II he collaborated with fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, but after 1948 he was sidelined by the Palestine Liberation Organization. It is unclear how much of his political activities were grounded in Arab nationalism and anti-colonialism, and how much in anti-Semitism. The Arab nationalism and anti-colonialism are understandable responses to the British Empire and Jewish settlement in Palestine; the anti-Semitism is unforgivable.

That said, it is important to remember that there never was a Nazi party in historic Palestine and that Islam does not have the centuries old history of Jew hatred that is found in European Christianity. The call to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel also has an explicit statement against bigotry of all types and names anti-Semitism in particular. The anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that can now be found in Muslim countries began almost entirely with the founding of the State of Israel and resentment in the Arab speaking world regarding the Israeli treatment of the indigenous Palestinian population. It is also a politically useful issue for autocratic leaders seeking to unite their restive citizens who have a lot of other political and economic matters to complain about. The Palestinians I have worked with in the region make a clear distinction between Jews (fellow Abrahamic religious people) and Zionists (people with the clear intent to dispossess Palestinians of their land and to erase their history and rights). This is an important difference.

The second big problem for me is that my accuser does not make a distinction between Jews (a people, a cultural group, an ethnicity, a religious community) and Israel (a country that claims to be a state of the Jewish people, that privileges Jews over non-Jews, but is none-the-less still a country). That is a critical distinction and I would argue that it is particularly the responsibility of Jewish people to call out the egregious policies of the State of Israel when the state claims to be speaking for us. It is a state not a religion after all. The recent passage of the Nation State Bill has also made it abundantly clear (as if it had not been already), that it is not possible to be a democracy (a state of equal citizens) and a Jewish state (a state that privileges the national aspirations, history, trauma and dreams of Jews only, despite its multicultural society). And if we are tax paying U.S. citizens, we have an added complicity given the billions of dollars of military aid as well as political cover that our government provides for the Israeli state and its war machine.

I fail to understand how a a brutal occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and a crushing siege of Gaza keeps Israel safe. How arresting thousands of children, jailing tens of thousands of young people, restricting permits to travel to hospitals for treatment or travel abroad for study brings us closer to peace. How an aggressive Jewish settlement project in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is supposed to make Palestinians more willing to negotiate. How discriminating against 21 percent of Israeli citizens can be compatible with democracy. How refusing to take responsibility for the ongoing refugee crisis builds anything but another generation of angry, impatient, disillusioned young people and the hostility of surrounding nations.

Though I am not a religious person, (that ended a long time ago), and I actually have no plans to attend the synagogue in Vienna, or any synagogue for that matter, I do take the moral foundations, the prophetic traditions, of my Jewish heritage very seriously. When I see oppression and injustice and inhumanity, I am compelled to call it out and I will advocate whatever nonviolent means of resistance I have at my disposal. Ironically, my voice is often welcomed in churches and mosques. I hope someday to be welcomed in synagogues too. It would be nice to come home.

Alice Rothchild
About Alice Rothchild

Alice Rothchild is a physician, author, and filmmaker who has focused her interest in human rights and social justice on the Israel/Palestine conflict since 1997. She practiced ob-gyn for almost 40 years. Until her retirement she served as Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Harvard Medical School. She writes and lectures widely, is the author of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience, On the Brink: Israel and Palestine on the Eve of the 2014 Gaza Invasion, and Condition Critical: Life and Death in Israel/Palestine. She directed a documentary film, Voices Across the Divide and is active in Jewish Voice for Peace. Follow her at @alicerothchild

Other posts by .


Posted In:

26 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay
    October 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

    It’s unfortunate that “the only Jewish criminal attorney at law in Vienna and member of the Executive board of Austria’s oldest, main and central synagogue” has chosen…
    – not to advocate for the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality; but, instead,
    – anti-Semitically to conflate Israel and Zionism with all Jews and all Jews with Israel and Zionism; and
    – hypocritically to advocate for a right for Jews to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

    Peace and continued respect to Ms. Rothchild.

    • Steve Grover
      Steve Grover
      October 26, 2018, 11:49 am

      The only Jewish criminal attorney in Vienna is a great man. And because the Jewish Community in Vienna knows exactly who hates Jews and Israel. They should be honored by Jewish Communities throughout the world.

      • James North
        James North
        October 26, 2018, 12:42 pm

        Mooser: There you go again! But you slipped slightly; try to make your sock-puppet “Grover” a little more believable. “The Jewish Community in Vienna knows exactly who hates Jews and Israel!” Why would anyone think this silly statement is plausible?

      • eljay
        eljay
        October 26, 2018, 12:52 pm

        || Steve Grover: The only Jewish criminal attorney in Vienna is a great man. … ||

        He’s a supremacist hypocrite like you. Of course you think he’s a “great man”.

        || … the Jewish Community in Vienna knows exactly who hates Jews and Israel. … ||

        The Jewish Community in Vienna probably also knows who Jews and Israel hate. I wonder how long that list is.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 26, 2018, 1:21 pm

        “But you slipped slightly; try to make your sock-puppet “Grover” a little more believable”

        “A little more believable”? I haven’t got time for all those little touches, I’m competing with the “Jackdaw” and “Boris” sock-puppets, and their ‘authors’ are way ahead of me.

        Look, I know, and have admitted several times that “Steve Grover” is third-rate hack-work. I wish I had the chops to do a “Jackdaw” or a “Boris”.

  2. JWalters
    JWalters
    October 22, 2018, 9:50 pm

    Alice Rothchild’s open response to “the only Jewish criminal attorney at law in Vienna” is as understanding, as kind, as informative, and rational as any Zionist could ask for.

    The Zionist attorney is highly selective in the history he cites. His selections may reflect his view of the Jewish religion. The connection between Jewish religious teachings and Israeli actions and policies is discussed by Israeli Professor Israel Shahak in his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion. It is available online here.
    https://ifamericaknew.org/cur_sit/shahak.html

  3. RoHa
    RoHa
    October 23, 2018, 12:57 am

    “At that time your government refused to issue visas for Jews from Europe. You should remember this anti-Jewish policy of your homeland, of the United States of America during the Second World War.”

    I was under the impression that the US was refusing visas for everyone, not just Jews. But, of course, it is only Jews who matter.

    “I imagine there must be some kind of personal vindication to live in Vienna and rebuild a Jewish community in the belly of the beast.”

    I don’t see the point of rebuilding a Jewish community “in the belly of the beast”, though I do see a point to living in Vienna.

    • JaapBo
      JaapBo
      October 23, 2018, 8:17 am

      The U.S. immigration laws at that time were restrictive and designed to favor certain desired national origens and disadvantage other national origens: “the 1924 Act set the annual quota of any nationality at 2% of the number of foreign-born persons of such nationality resident in the United States in 1890”. They chose a 34 years passed reference year to disadvantage South- and East-Europeans, and Jews.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Act_of_1924

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        October 23, 2018, 9:35 am

        Thanks for that. It seems the law (a) was in force long before WW2, and (b) wasn’t solely directed at Jews.

      • Keith
        Keith
        October 23, 2018, 10:38 am

        JAAPBO- “They chose a 34 years passed reference year to disadvantage South- and East-Europeans, and Jews.”

        Jews were never singled out as Jews. Jews who lived in Eastern Europe were affected because they lived in Eastern Europe. So, South and Eastern Europeans, including the Jews who lived there, were disadvantaged. In fact, others were more severely impacted. I once again quote Tree and her definitive statement on the immigration question.

        “The US never restricted immigration solely on the basis of religion. In the 1920’s, well before Hitler came to power, and in fact while he was serving time in prison, the US passed laws restricting immigration based on country of origin, in an attempt to maintain the numerical prevalence of Western and Northern European stock over newer Southern and Eastern Europeans, and Asians. German immigration, although limited by quotas, was not banned, and in fact from the 1930’s to early 1940’s its estimated that 140,000 German Jews immigrated to the US, and the total German Jewish immigration to other countries was on the order of 450,000 or 70% of the total German Jewish population of 600,000.

        Jews were not restricted as Jews from immigrating to the US and they were the overwhelming majority of the immigrants arriving in the US from Germany during this time. Overall, from 1931-39, over 20% of all US immigrants were Jews, which was the highest Jewish percentage of any decade in US history. In 1939 alone, over 50% of ALL US immigrants were Jews.

        During this same period, approximately 40,000 to 50,000 German Jews arrived in Palestine. This was only 10% of the total German Jewish immigration. Not only that, but the Zionists in Palestine, who were in charge of determining who exactly was allowed in to Palestine under British quotas had a selection process that put greater weight on whether a particular Jew was a Zionist, in good health and capable of materially aiding the Zionist cause and economy over the need or vulnerability of that particular Jew. Thus, sometimes a Jew from the US or the Americas were given preference over a German or Eastern European Jew, and young adults were given preference over the elderly or young children.

        It should also be noted that during the time of the US immigration quotas, Ukrainians, who were dying in the millions from the forced starvation of the Holodomor, were almost completely cut off from any immigration to the US. Poles, who were as a nation suffering from the Soviet Union’s Great Terror were also nearly completely cut off from US immigration, as were other Eastern and Southern Europeans. The majority of the Europeans who were victimized by the massive curtailment of US immigration opportunities that occurred in the 1920’s and onward were religiously Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.

        It should also be noted that during this time any immigration to the US from Asian countries was COMPLETELY prohibited, and those Asians who had immigrated earlier were prohibited from becoming naturalized US citizens.

        I’m sick and tired of the lie that Jews were singled out for prohibition, and the lie that others were not as negatively impacted by the country restrictions as Eastern European Jews. The US restrictions doomed Ukrainian kulaks, Polish nationalists and others well before they doomed Eastern European Jews.” (Tree) https://mondoweiss.net/2013/09/latest-generous-offer-leaked-israel-wants-to-control-jordan-river-and-40-of-west-bank-while-palestinians-get-temporary-borders/#comment-591577
        1/2

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976
        October 23, 2018, 12:51 pm

        Thanks for that, Keith. Tree is much missed.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 23, 2018, 4:07 pm
      • RoHa
        RoHa
        October 24, 2018, 1:36 am

        I’ll have mine with orange sauce.

      • JaapBo
        JaapBo
        October 24, 2018, 2:44 am

        @Keith,
        You are completely right I think.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 24, 2018, 10:58 am

        Didn’t the US fight in WW1 just a few years before the Act? And the Versailles Treaty was failing pretty good by then.That might just sour US people on large immigration, whether Jewish, Catholic, Protestant Eastern Orthodox or Muslim from the area.

  4. Peter in SF
    Peter in SF
    October 23, 2018, 5:52 am

    It is unclear how much of his political activities were grounded in Arab nationalism and anti-colonialism, and how much in anti-Semitism. The Arab nationalism and anti-colonialism are understandable responses to the British Empire and Jewish settlement in Palestine; the anti-Semitism is unforgivable.

    Anti-Semitism is the view that originated in Germany in the 19th century that Jews are a racial group of non-European origin, and as such, don’t deserve the same rights as “real” white people. It doesn’t make sense to suggest that a Palestinian Arab might even have such a view. Of course a Palestinan Arab might well hate all Jews, but not for this reason. Now if you’re using “anti-Semitism” as a catchall term for all anti-Jewish hostility, how can you call one form of it “understandable” and another form of it “unforgivable”? A lot of people who lived in Europe during WW2 are anti-German as a result of that experience, but who’s going to wag a finger at them and say that although anti-German sentiment is an understandable response to German invasion and genocide, anti-German sentiment that comes from anti-Teutonism is unforgivable?

    That said, it is important to remember that there never was a Nazi party in historic Palestine

    How could there have been? Unlike, say, a Communist party, a precondition for the existence of a National Socialist party would be an already established state that could exert military power. Palestine was governed as a colony, and correct me if I’m wrong, but no colony anywhere had a Nazi party.

    and that Islam does not have the centuries old history of Jew hatred that is found in European Christianity.

    My understanding is that Jew-hatred such as it has been in the Islamic world is all about religious difference, never about racial difference. If you were a member of the Ummah, it didn’t matter if you had Jewish ancestry.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      October 23, 2018, 10:28 am

      @Peter in SF, et al

      Speaking of Nazis and fascism:

      After WWII, a memorandum dated January 11, 1941, was discovered in Ankara. Prepared by the German Naval Attaché in Turkey, it revealed that Naftali Lubentschik, a representative of the Stern Gang (one of the Yishuv’s terrorist organizations) led by Avraham Stern, had met with German Nazis, Otto Von Hentig and Rudolph Rosen in Vichy controlled Beirut and proposed that in exchange for military aid and freedom to recruit European Jews for Palestine, the Sternists were prepared “…to take an active part in the war on Germany’s side…and [this cooperation] would also be in line with one [of Hitler’s recent speeches which] stressed that any alliance would be entered into in order to isolate England and defeat it.”

      The proposition presented to the Nazis pointed out that “the establishment of the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis and bound by a treaty with the German Reich would be in the interest of maintaining and strengthening the future German position of power in the Near East.” (Quoted by Klaus Polkehn, “The Secret Contacts: Zionist-Nazi Relations, 1933-1941” as well as Lenny Brenner, Zionism in the Age of Dictators, Westport, Conn., Lawrence Hill & Co., 1983, p. 267 and Yediot Aharnot, February 4/1983). The Nazis rejected the Stern Gang’s proposal.

      Following Stern’s death at the hands of the British in 1942, three of his lieutenants (one of whom was Yitzhak Shamir) took over leadership of the Gang. It is revealing to note that despite Avraham Stern’s ignominious record and his flirtation with the Nazis, Ben-Gurion later referred to him as “one of the finest and most outstanding figures of the era.”

      For the record:
      “Adolf Hitler, who took his racism seriously, applied it to all Semites. He could not stand Arabs either. Contrary to legend, he disliked the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had fled to Germany. After meeting him once for a photo-opportunity arranged by the Nazi propaganda machine, he never agreed to meet him again.” (The late Uri Avnery – http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1424446157)

      Jewish fascism had an early start in Palestine:
      In 1925, Polish born Zionist, Vladimir Jabotinsky, founded the Revisionist Party, the precursor of the Irgun and Stern Gang terror groups as well as today’s Likud party. It called for the “revision” of the British mandate to allow the forcible Zionist colonization of Transjordan and its union with Palestine to create one Jewish state. Jabotinsky advocated that Zionism should concentrate solely on the creation of a Jewish state encompassing the borders of biblical or Eretz Israel and if London (i.e., the League of Nations Class A British Mandate) did not provide its full hearted support, Jewish forces should be mobilized to be used against British troops in Palestine.

      Jabotinsky’s chauvinistic, militaristic, fascistic and authoritarian views appealed mainly to young Jews, including many in Europe, where he formed youth groups known as Betar whose practices such as wearing brown shirts and using distinctive salutes were taken from Italian fascists. Revisionist Zionism became increasingly popular during the late 1920’s as Betar groups were being founded in Palestine.

    • jon s
      jon s
      October 23, 2018, 2:33 pm

      Actually, there were chapters of the Nazi party among the German Templers:

      https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22276494

  5. JaapBo
    JaapBo
    October 23, 2018, 8:04 am

    There also was an anti-Nazi boycott since 1933: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Nazi_boycott_of_1933
    Guess who broke it? Zionists in Palestine ….

  6. Vera Gottlieb
    Vera Gottlieb
    October 23, 2018, 8:26 am

    The ongoing, never-ending Jewish arrogance is stomach turning…to put it mildly. And what israel is doing to Gazans isn’t violence???

  7. James Canning
    James Canning
    October 23, 2018, 2:04 pm

    A strong argument can be made that BDS is actually a program from which Israel can benefit.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      October 23, 2018, 5:43 pm

      Obvious, Canning. It’s in order to benefit from it, in fact, that the Zionist-lites all but got to control the whole “official” movement i the West.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      October 24, 2018, 12:04 pm

      I just posted that link on another thread.

      My first thought was that those of us who were mocked for warning that the IHRA would be used as a tool to criminalise all pro-Palestinian activism in Europe have been shown to be absolutely correct. And this is just the start.

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan
        October 24, 2018, 1:27 pm

        I think it’s bullshit. BDS is gaining traction because ordinary people in Europe have figured out that Israel is happy with apartheid. Israel can’t kosherise human rights abuses.
        And wanting Israel to drop the cruelty has SFA to do with hating Jews.

        The bots want to head off the possibility that Israel becomes an election issue. If the confederacy could not defend slavery Israel cannot defend apartheid.

Leave a Reply