For Bibi, the di­as­pora is mostly a relic of his­tory

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

CAST YOUR mind back to the 70th an­niver­sary of Is­rael’s dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence last month, and that strange, split-screen mo­ment when the TV net­works showed both the ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony for the new US em­bassy in Jerusalem and the protests at Is­rael’s fron­tier with Gaza, where IDF forces shot dead some 62 Pales­tini­ans.

Rightly, it was the lat­ter event that got most of the world’s at­ten­tion. But I want to fo­cus on a less no­ticed part of that Jerusalem cer­e­mony.

There were bless­ings de­liv­ered by two Chris­tian pas­tors, hail­ing Jerusalem as the city of ‘Je­sus Christ our Lord.’ As it hap­pens, both men were fa­mil­iar. And not in a good way.

First up was the Dal­las cleric Robert Jef­fress, who once baldly de­clared, “You can’t be saved be­ing a Jew.” For him, Ju­daism and other nonChris­tian faiths not only “lead peo­ple away from the true God, they lead peo­ple to an eter­nity of sep­a­ra­tion from God in hell.” So not a nat­u­ral friend of our peo­ple.

The clos­ing bene­dic­tion came from John Hagee, who once preached that Hitler was a “half-breed Jew”, sent by God as his “hunter”, to hound and chase the Jews to­wards “the only home God ever in­tended for the Jews to have: Is­rael.”

That’s right. For Hagee, the Holo­caust was part of a di­vine plan, with Hitler a holy ser­vant.

The pas­tor also ex­plained that the blame for an­ti­semitism rests, you guessed it, with Jews. Ap­par­ently, it’s our pun­ish­ment for dis­obey­ing God.

Odd, then, that this pair of an­tisemitic cranks should have been given pride of place in Jerusalem, where they were warmly em­braced by Mr Ne­tanyahu and his min­is­ters. Odd, but these days not so rare.

Last week, Ron Der­mer, Is­rael’s am­bas­sador to the US and a close Bibi con­fi­dante, hosted Hun­gary’s for­eign min­is­ter, prais­ing the coun­try’s leader, Vik­tor Or­ban, as a true friend of Is­rael and the Jewish peo­ple. In Mr Der­mer’s view, Mr Or­ban has “zero tol­er­ance for an­ti­semitism.”

That’s hard to square with Or­ban’s record and es­pe­cially his re­cent re-elec­tion cam­paign, which de­picted Ge­orge Soros in clas­sic an­tisemitic fash­ion, as a sin­is­ter ma­nip­u­la­tor and pup­pet­mas­ter.

When Is­rael’s am­bas­sador in Bu­dapest sided with the lo­cal Jewish com­mu­nity to de­nounce the Soros im­agery, Mr Ne­tanyahu in­ter­vened — or­der­ing the am­bas­sador to with­draw his re­marks.

The Is­raeli PM has been sim­i­larly friendly to­wards the Aus­trian Chan­cel­lor, Se­bas­tian Kurz, even though Mr Kurz’s coali­tion in­cludes the Free­dom Party, an out­fit with re­cent roots in neo-Nazism. The Jewish com­mu­nity in Vi­enna is dis­tressed, but Mr Ne­tanyahu is un­moved.

What’s this about? Why would Mr Ne­tanyahu be so com­fort­able with those who so clearly dis­like Jews? Un­til re­cently, my an­swer would have been a vari­a­tion on “My en­emy’s en­emy is my friend.” Many of these right­ists are ve­he­mently anti-Mus­lim. They see Is­rael fight­ing what they re­gard as the good fight against Is­lam, and that leads to an affin­ity. It’s the same com­mon cause made by those Is­raeli right­ists who’ve be­come fan­boys for Tommy Robin­son, and which leads the English De­fence League to fly the Is­raeli flag on their marches. What unites them is a shared loathing of Mus­lims.

But with Bibi, it goes deeper. It re­lates to a cal­cu­la­tion he seems to have made about the fu­ture vi­a­bil­ity of the Jewish di­as­pora. Ac­cordin Why is he so com­fort­able with those who dis­like Jews? ing to those who know him well, Mr Ne­tanyahu has con­cluded that non-or­tho­dox Jewish life out­side Is­rael is doomed. Lib­eral, sec­u­lar or cul­tural Jews in the US or Eu­rope are, thinks the Is­raeli PM, a dy­ing breed. Within two or three gen­er­a­tions they will be gone al­to­gether.

That means fu­ture sup­port for Is­rael from abroad will come from two groups, ei­ther evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians or or­tho­dox Jews. Tellingly, the other guest speaker at the cer­e­mony in Jerusalem was a rabbi from Chabad.

It would ex­plain a lot, from Mr Ne­tanyahu’s dis­dain­ful dis­missal of lib­eral Jewish con­cerns, to his re­peated in­sen­si­tiv­ity to the predica­ment of di­as­pora Jews. Wit­ness his urg­ing an au­di­ence of Paris Jews af­ter the Jan­uary 2015 killings at a kosher su­per­mar­ket to aban­don France and come to “our his­tor­i­cal home­land, in the land of Is­rael”, a plea which, framed that baldly, seemed to con­firm the hos­tile, an­tisemitic no­tion of Jews as less than fully French. (The au­di­ence re­sponded by singing “La Mar­seil­laise.”)

Only a politi­cian who doesn’t care about the plight of di­as­pora Jews could have been so clumsy. The same goes for the in­dif­fer­ence he con­sis­tently shows to­wards the fact that it is Jewish com­mu­ni­ties abroad who are called to ac­count for the con­duct of his gov­ern­ment. Bibi could not care less.

That might be be­cause he has writ­ten off most of the Jewish di­as­pora, bet­ting that the Jewish fu­ture rests only on Is­rael and that Is­rael’s fu­ture rests on Chris­tian evan­gel­i­cals in the US and ul­tra-na­tion­al­ist Is­lam­o­phobes in Eu­rope. So long as the likes of Don­ald Trump, Fox News and Vik­tor Or­ban love Is­rael, that’s good enough for Bibi. As for the rest of us, we don’t count. To Mr Ne­tanyahu, we’re his­tory.

Jonathan Freed­land is a colum­nist for The Guardian

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