Last night I delivered a lecture about anti-Semitism in Doylestown, Pennsylvania at Temple Judea. Drs. Abigail, (nee Rosenthal), and her husband, Jerry Martin, personally drove down to New York City to fetch me, my walker, my cane, and my two briefcases, back to Pennsylvania. Our conversation was so serious, so passionate, so witty, that the long drive in rush hour traffic passed quickly and pleasantly.
Abigail was afraid that people might not come or that I might be met with some hostility given the tendency among so many Jews to deny what might be terrifying them. She was pleased to be wrong. Amazingly, the place was packed and mainly with very friendly, very supportive Jews, some of whom were Holocaust or Soviet survivors. Many local-area Christians also came to “stand with the Jews” in their hour of need.
Abigail introduced me. Blessed lady: She called me a “hero of the resistance” because, during the long course of my career, whenever I met “evil” I found a way to “resist” it. She described me as “one of those who refused to deny or evade the fact of the return of anti-Semitism, but instead gave early warning.”
I immediately said that I wished my parents were still alive to hear her kind and eloquent words.
From our conversation in the car, it was clear that Abigail, too, has lost friends and allies over her own truth-telling and for her support of Israel, America, and of free and independent thought. The three of us agreed: Today, the virtues that were once associated with liberalism, (we were once all liberals), have migrated to what is now denigrated as “reactionary conservatism” by the very liberals who have themselves become fascist-totalitarians who oppose and mock all thought, every fact, that does not support their politically correct analysis and conclusions. Unfortunately, ironically, many such liberals occupy the top posts in the West.
I had written a new speech for the occasion which will appear two weeks hence in The Jewish Press. I do not want to steal my own thunder but suffice it to say I delivered a politically incorrect truth-telling speech which drew thunderous applause. I posed a long series of questions beginning with:
“Who would ever have believed that the Jews would be in such danger again? That we might be facing a second Holocaust? That Israel and Zionism, the national liberation movement of God’s chosen and persecuted people, would become such dirty words in the world, despised by western intellectuals and Islamist mobs alike?”
I talked about how much easier it is today to research anti-Semitism as compared to when I first began to do so in 2001-2002. Today, I get at least fifty pieces of email a day which describe the bombing or defacing of a synagogue, cemetary, or Jewish Center anywhere, everywhere around the world; which report on the alarming increases in verbal, physical, economic, legal, and propaganda-driven assaults on Jews on university campuses, in marches and rallies, and, of course, at the United Nations.
The annual “Israel Apartheid Week” is currently showing in at least one hundred American cities on campus. I am using the word “showing” advisedly since so much of student politics is a form of street theatre. Three days ago, at the University of Toronto, Jewish students were physically attacked by Palestinian “security guards” and threatened–yes, even with “beheadings.” No, I am not talking about York University, which is also in Toronto, where Jewish students were chased and trapped in the Hillel office and had to be led out by the Toronto police to safety.
Since I’d expected the audience to be a liberal one (Temple Judea is a Reform synagogue), I had decided to reveal my own past political pedigree. I told them that I first became a Zionist in 1948, when I joined a left-Zionist youth group. For sixty years, this vision of liberation guided and inspired me as I joined and ultimately led other national and international movements for civil, human, and womens’ liberation. I worked in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements and became a leader in the feminist movement.
I excelled in criticizing Israel long before it was fashionable to do so, for both Jewish-ethical and secular political reasons. My credentials were impeccable because, in the early 1960s, I had married a Muslim and had lived in Afghanistan. Yes, ’tis true. That’s where I learned very valuable lessons both about America and about Islamic gender and religious apartheid.
So, I was once a very cool and worldly kind of Jew, one more attuned to the “stranger in our gates,” less so to our people within.
Something changed as I began to encounter anti-Semitism among my left and feminist political allies in the late 1960s. I responded by visiting Israel for the first time. I married an Israeli, worked against the “Zionism=Racism” propaganda at the UN, (if you think about it, anti-Zionism=Racism), began organizing Jewish feminist political conferences and Jewish feminist rituals, including Passover Sedarim and lifecycle rituals.
I did not break with the progressive left or with feminists. But my eyes were further opened when I worked for the United Nations and traveled to Oslo and to Copenhagen in 1980 for two UN world conferences. I was an eyewitness to what amounted to a psychological pogrom against the Jewish state, organized by Soviet Russia, the Arab League, the Iranians, and the Palestinians. It was a genuine hate-fest precursor to Durban One and to the upcoming Durban Two.
When the Intifada of 2000 broke over Israel’s head–I could no longer keep silent. After 2001, I knew that now, we are “all Israelis”– yes all of us, every civilian in the Americas, in Europe, India, Africa, Asia, and in every Muslim country, each vulnerable to the Islamic fundamentalist war against civilians and against the West. By 2002, I was fully embarked upon a book about the new anti-Semitism.
The most interesting part of any lecture is what the people say afterwards.
One man said: “I am a survivor. In 1933, I saw how criminals got their hands on the levers of state power and used it. I am afraid we are seeing this happen again. I fear that the liberties we have will be taken away. We must be ready to do all that we can do to stop this. We had better be very vigilant about who we vote for.”
A second man said: “I am a Christian and I am so glad you’ve praised and do not fear the Christian support for Jews and for Israel. I have lived in Israel and studied there. If America does not stand by Israel, I am ready to move to Israel and become an Israeli citizen. I am here to stand with God’s people, the Jews.”
A third woman said: “We have to do something. But how do you get people to understand what the true facts are if all they ever get to see and hear are lies? Doctored footage? I just saw a film about ‘The Occupation’ and every single fact was a lie. Do I analyze the film? Do I make my own film?”
A fourth man said that “The Jews gave the world lawfulness and the knowledge that there is only one God. In turn, the world gave us Tsuris (troubles).”
I could not resist commenting thusly. “The Ten Commandments and all the laws derived from it will not please those people who want to commit adultery, steal, get high, worship idols of all kinds. They are not pleased with the Jewish messenger from God and tend to kill the messenger.”
A fifth speaker, a woman, identified herself as a Christian who is here to “stand with the Jews” and to inform her own church of what is happening to the Jews. She has shown the film Obsession.
To her I said: “Right now, Jews who fear for Israel’s future, may have more in common with Christians such as yourself than we do with so many other Jews who do not feel that close to Israel, who may not see Israel as the symbol of the West that it truly is. Indeed, such Jews often specialize in blaming Israel first no matter what the situation may be. I am proud to stand with you, as a righteous Christian.”
A sixth speaker, another woman, asked whether I was “encouraged” with what President Obama was doing vis a vis Israel and the Middle East. I took a chance and answered her honestly. Trust me: I said that I was nervous, unnerved, always ready for yet another shoe to drop.”
She said: “Oh, I am so relieved. I was afraid that you’d answer in the opposite way.”
I concluded: “Israel may have to go it alone against Iran. I will stand with anyone who is standing with me for Israel against radical totalitarian evil.”
Not a single person challenged me about Israel’s purity, hectored me about the “humiliation at the checkpoints,” or walked out in a huff after delivering a hateful harangue. I did not require any security. No one rushed the platform. The police did not have to be called. I was not hustled out for my safety.
The very friendly rabbi, Gary Pokras, warmly thanked me for coming.
I dare not generalize from one evening in Doylestown but perhaps–just perhaps–the tide might be turning on the matters of Israel and America; perhaps, just perhaps, more people are beginning to “get it.”