In the wake of the Pittsburgh white-supremacist’s terror attack on a synagogue, Israeli labor leader Avi Gabbay called “upon the Jews of the United States to immigrate more and more to Israel, because this is their home.”
This was an echo of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who in the wake of the 2015 Paris terror shootings, messaged “all the Jews of France”, indeed “all the Jews of Europe”: “the state of Israel is your home”.
This is hardly the first time that the opposition leader Gabbay echoes Netanyahu so precisely and in such similar contexts. Last year, he approvingly cited Netanyahu’s words: “The left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish”. Gabbay was aware of the historical and racist context of Netanyahu’s original statement, which was caught on hot mic in 1997 (Netanyahu also said that the left “think that our security can be placed in the hands of Arabs”) – and Gabbay explicitly credited Netanayhu.
Gabbay’s statements on Pittsburgh were regarded as “tone-deaf” by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), and even centrist lawmaker (and former Israeli Ambassador to US) Michael Oren felt a need to damage-control Gabbay’s words for being too nationalist:
“Avi Gabbay said things that should not be said because he simply does not understand. Through his words he adds insult to injury. The call to U.S. Jewry, especially after last night [massacre in Pittsburgh], deeply hurts their feelings and reduces their desire for Aliyah [emigration to Israel]. Gabbay does not understand anything about Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora.”
Michael Oren is an expert on saying things that should not be said. Earlier this year, he found ultimate proof that Ahed Tamimi’s family was not a “real family”, posting as evidence two photos of the family that he said were different when they were actually the same photo in a mirrored pairing:
‘A boy of 12 takes a photo with a cast on the right arm, the next day with a cast on left arm. You tell me if it’s not funded and directed? The Tamimi family is part of the “Pallywood” industry, which sends children to confront IDF soldiers in order to cause PR damage to Israel, for money’.
So if Michael Oren tells you you’ve gone too far, then you may really be in too deep.
Offensive statements “correcting” American Jews for their supposed naiveté and liberalism seem to regularly come from the Israeli Zionist left, as for example when former left leader Isaac Herzog (now head of Jewish Agency) called intermarriage, especially amongst US Jews, a “plague” this summer.
The calls to emigrate to Israel in the wake of anti-Semitic violence abroad appear to be intrinsic to Zionist thinking, and the whole notion of ‘assimilation’, be it through inter-marriage or otherwise, is regularly frowned upon (if not worse) by Zionists, who see this as weakness, since their solution is an exclusivist, isolationist one.
Zvia Greeenfield, a prominent leftist former Meretz lawmaker, wrote in Haaretz this week:
“The American Jewish minority still faces the question that has preoccupied the Diaspora since the French Revolution and the departure from the ghetto: Is it better for Jews to maintain a separate identity or to assimilate into local society? Recognizing that on the broader level (although perhaps not on an individual level) assimilation as a solution is an illusion that would sooner or later come to a violent end was what motivated Theodor Herzl to offer the Zionist solution – Jewish self-sovereignty. But the large American Jewish minority did not choose Herzl’s proposal, and today most of it chooses to assimilate into society at large and assume everything will be fine”.
Greenfield extolls the Zionist solution:
“In Israel, the country itself, with its difficult dilemmas and great successes, is the grand vision of the new Judaism. It provides the answer to the question of why it’s worth remaining Jews, and what it means to be a Jew in the post-halakhic era. Those who reject this answer remain with a question that has no resolution other than assimilation”.
That’s an Israeli leftist talking! Greenfield has recently also written in Haaretz on why Israel should treat Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Bin Salman with “kids gloves”, even if he dissolved Jamal Kashoggi’s body in acid, because “Mohammed”, as she calls him, will bring peace.
This type of Israeli-Zionist condescending attitude appears to be a growing menace for many American Jews. Writing in The New Yorker, Bernard Avishai surveys other Israeli responses to the massacre, in his piece titled “In Pittsburgh, Naftali Bennett’s Presence Highlights the Debate Between Netanyahu’s Government and American Jews”. Covering the message by Education and Diaspora Minister Bennett, including his cryptic statement that “Jewish blood is not free,” Avishai writes:
“Bennett was no doubt sincere in his empathy and his outrage. But Bennett—the public figure, not the designated mourner—personifies one side, the most strident side, of a repressed debate between American Jews and Israelis that the Pittsburgh murders must inevitably surface. What causes anti-Semitism, and can American liberalism—can any liberalism—work against it?”
Bennett also exploited the massacre to demonize Palestinians. He did not connect the dots between the massacre, anti-Semitism and white nationalism (which is the obvious nature of the attack), but rather between the attacker and Palestinians:
“From Sderot, in Israel, to Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, the hand that fires missiles is the same hand that shoots worshippers. We will fight against the hatred of Jews and anti-Semitism wherever it raises its head, and we will prevail.”
As Adam Horowitz wrote on this site, the “Israeli government is exploiting the Pittsburgh murders to try to demonize Palestine solidarity”:
“The murderous rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue had absolutely nothing to do with the struggle for Palestinian rights. And anyone who is telling you there is is shamelessly trying to use the murder of 11 innocent people to further their own racist agenda to dehumanize Palestinians and justify their ongoing oppression by the state of Israel.”
Bennett had predictably brought up the Holocaust, in his ‘educating’ message to the American Jewish community:
“Nearly eighty years since Kristallnacht, when the Jews of Europe perished in the flames of their houses of worship, one thing is clear: anti-Semitism, Jew-hating, is not a distant memory”.
Bernard Avishai, considering it a statement lacking tact, noted the inherent condescension:
‘Bennett’s supposition that members of his audience thought of anti-Semitism as a “piece of history”—that they were in need of his corrective—suggests only how he’s underestimated them’…
Avishai notes how Nancy Bernstein, co-chair of the liberal-Zionist J Street Pittsburgh, said that Bennett’s appearance was a “blight” on otherwise moving proceedings.
So there’s even a dismay, also from Zionists themselves, about the way other Zionists exploit anti-Semitism in order to bolster their Zionist anti-Palestinian message. And about how other Zionists, particularly Israeli ones, use anti-Semitism to unfurl their better-knowing arrogance and obnoxious chauvinism of “we told you so.” Yet these critics (such as Avishai and Bernstein) still remain Zionists.
Although this arrogance comes from both right and left, many are still in the impression that there is an inclusivist Zionism, one that is truly liberal. But the very essence of Zionism is an isolationist one. Its very core is driving out of the “others” to make way for “us”, as Israeli historian Benny Morris notes:
“Transfer was inevitable and inbuilt in Zionism – because it sought to transform a land which was ‘Arab’ into a Jewish state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of Arab population”.
Adherents of this ideology are hardly the ones to provide an answer to violence resulting from racist-exclusivist extremists.
When Israeli leaders and pundits, from right and left, are supposedly “tactless” in their statements on anti-Semitism, it is not because they are making aberrant mistakes. They are simply making Freudian slips which result from the exclusivist-nationalist vein of Zionism, which relies upon anti-Semitism to bolster its message of “we told you so”. When that happens, there is often attempt to damage-control by other Zionists, who do not want these comments to damage the liberal image of Israel too much. After all, those naïve and erring diaspora Jews should be treated with some respect…
But in the end, this is what Zionism is about. It is a reaction to real liberalism, suggesting nationalist isolation as the only solution. And nationalist isolation is exactly what the Pittsburgh shooter was about.