Be­yond hate at­tacks, a more sub­tle form of racism is at work in the di­as­pora: the pres­sure on Jews to de­fine their rap­port with Is­rael ANAL­Y­SIS


TWO WEEKS ago, at the height of the Gaza cri­sis, a high-level meet­ing was con­vened in se­cret in Jerusalem by Eco­nom­ics Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett — who also holds the di­as­pora port­fo­lio in the cabi­net — and Jewish Agency Chair­man Natan Sharansky.

The aim was to as­sess the level of an­tisemitic vi­o­lence against Jews around the world, par­tic­u­larly in Europe, and whether Is­rael should or could in­ter­vene.

“We pre­fer to keep these meet­ings low-pro­file, that has been the prac­tice in the past and I think it’s bet­ter that way,” said Mr Sharansky this week. “When there’s a need for us to talk in a loud voice against an­ti­semitism, we do so. Some­times we need to be more dis­creet.”

The meet­ing ended with­out any rec­om­men­da­tions or op­er­a­tional con­clu­sions: the as­sess­ment of all the ex­perts was that, for now, gov­ern­ments were deal­ing firmly with the out­break of at­tacks on Jews.

The only ex­cep­tion to this was Turkey, where the prime min­is­ter and, as of Sun­day, pres­i­dent-elect, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, has com­pared Is­rael to Nazi Ger­many and called on the lo­cal Jewish com­mu­nity to con­demn Is­rael.

“There re­ally is noth­ing Is­rael can do right now,” said an of­fi­cial who at­tended the meet­ing. “We are very en­cour­aged by the re­sponse of the gov­ern­ments who have spo­ken out against an­ti­semitism. It’s not as if any­one is ask­ing us to or­gan­ise an air­lift.”

Last week, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu sent a let­ter to the Jew- ish com­mu­ni­ties thank­ing them for be­ing “a source of great strength for the peo­ple of Is­rael” over the past two months. He ac­knowl­edged in the let­ter that “this has been a dif­fi­cult pe­riod for Jews around the world, as many of you face in­creas­ingly vir­u­lent and some­times vi­o­lent man­i­fes­ta­tions of an­ti­semitism”.

While the most se­vere in­ci­dents have been in Europe, there has been vi­o­lence and abuse in many coun­tries around the world.

In the US, where an­tisemitic in­ci­dents have been less preva­lent, the Gaza cri­sis has played out mainly in the me­dia and in var­i­ous Jewish move­ments, where the largely lib­eral com­mu­nity has been thrash­ing out its dilem­mas. In ad­di­tion, some of the more prom­i­nent fig­ures crit­i­cis­ing Is­rael’s ac­tions, such as comedian Jon Ste­wart, are Jewish.

While there have been large ral­lies in sup­port of Is­rael in many US cities, there have also been re­ports of proBDS Jewish groups at­tract­ing more mem­bers.

Groups such as J Street have tried a mid­dle path, ex­press­ing shock over the dead civil­ians in Gaza, sup­port­ing Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry’s fal­ter­ing at­tempts to reach a cease­fire, while recog­nis­ing Is­rael’s right to de­fend it­self.

This round of fight­ing seems to have left in its wake a di­vided and un­cer­tain Jewish land­scape in Amer­ica.

One of the cen­tral chal­lenges to di­as­pora Jews in re­cent weeks has been pres­sure to say where they stand on Is­rael. It has come from within, but also from ex­ter­nal play­ers, such as the board of the Tri­cy­cle Theatre in Lon­don and Euro­pean in­tel­lec­tu­als, who have lam­basted their Jewish neigh­bours for fail­ing to con­demn Is­rael’s ac­tions.

So­cial net­works such as Face­book and Twit­ter have cre­ated a bat­tle­field of ideas for ev­ery in­di­vid­ual, mak­ing each a Jew a par­ti­san, will­ing or not.

No one has a right to de­mand this from Jews as in­di­vid­u­als or com­mu­ni­ties — it is an­tisemitic to hold them re­spon­si­ble for Is­rael — but it is the re­al­ity that we have to live with, and it will al­most cer­tainly reap­pear and in­ten­sify the next time Is­rael goes to war.


A pro­tester in Malaysia sets fire to a poster of Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu


Jessie Duarte

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