Several years ago, after a series of terror attacks by Islamists on French Jewish institutions, Bibi Netanyahu got on his bully pulpit to lecture Europe about their dereliction of duty in protecting for local Jewish communities. He even rose to the pulpit of France’s grand synagogue to tell the nation’s prime minister, in a bout of grand chutzpah, that the latter essentially didn’t deserve his Jews. That they should all abandon him and return “home.” He urged them to make aliya where, he claimed, they would find the safety they lacked in Europe. Indeed, there was a temporary rise in aliyah from France that lasted a year. After the attacks subsided levels of aliyah receded to their former levels. I predicted this eventual outcome in the midst of the anti-Semitism attacks, while the Jewish Agency and other Zionist apparatchiks were crowing about the “end of Jewish history in Europe.” All of Bibi’s blandishments to “come home” amounted to nothing.
This outcome violates a central tenet of Zionism: that the Diaspora is destined to wither away and die. That the only certain and safe home for Jews is Zion. That those who resist the return to Zion will end up like those who died in the Holocaust. Because anti-Semites lurk around every corner and are waiting to realize the Final Solution as soon as they get their chance.
Diaspora Jews aren’t buying it. They like their homes quite well, thank you. They don’t anticipate the Apocalypse or an imminent Shoah. So they’ll stay right where they are.
There has been a recent outbreak of anti-Semitic (and Islamophobic) acts here in the U.S. Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia were vandalized in hate crimes that saw the desecration of hundreds of graves. I’m proud to say that American Muslims have raised well over $100,000 to repair the Missouri cemetery (make your own donation). I’m certain they will do the same regarding the Pennsylvania resting place.
Jews have been astonished by Pres. Trump’s lack of concern or response to these attacks. They, in fact, suspect that the circle of anti-Semites who boosted his candidacy from David Duke to Richard Spencer, may be harboring those who are committing these anti-Semitic crimes.
I wonder when the proud patriotic Jewish government of Israel led by Netanyahu&Bennett will denounce the rise of antisemitism in Trumpland
— Yossi Melman (@yossi_melman) February 26, 2017
But there is another major figure who’s remained curiously silent: Bibi Netanyahu. Why would he shout to the rooftops about Europe’s betrayal of its Jews, while keeping mum about this American brand of anti-Semitism? Does he feel that America is such a strong country that it doesn’t need to hear his alarum about the dangers of anti-Semitism? Unlikely.
A much readier explanation may be found in his political alliance with the Trump administration. Donald Trump is Bibi’s gravy train. The president is like a candy store not just open for business, but offering free samples for Israel’s far right. So the Israeli prime minister is not about to rock that boat. As for the suffering of Jewish communities beset by such heinous acts of violence? Well, they’ll have to find another champion because Bibi’s going to take a pass on this one.
I’ve repeatedly written here that Bibi’s Zionism is based not on principle, but on pure political opportunism. He, like Ben Gurion before him, didn’t care about the Diaspora per se. The Diaspora was and is only useful as a foil to advance the interests of Israel. Jews in the Diaspora are tools or agents for advancing Israeli interests. They have no value in and of themselves.
Returning to the cemetery desecration: contrast the response by the Muslim community here to the response to settler arson attacks against Palestinian churches and mosques. Besides a single NGO and a handful of Israeli Jews…nothing. Radio silence. Yes, a denunciation by Pres. Rivlin and an expression of pro forma outrage from Bibi. After that, nothing. No arrests, no convictions, no jail time. And in the unlikely event some individual is charged and serves time, the settler lobby yammers away until the president pardons them for their sins. Finally, not a kopek or a grush contributed to restore the holy places.
Even more disturbing are the official state endorsed desecrations of Muslim cemeteries like in Jerusalem’s Mamilla neighborhood. There one of the oldest Palestinian cemeteries in the country was bulldozed to make way for the so-called Museum of Tolerance. No amount of protestations from the local community or appeals to the good Rabbi Hier or other Israeli authorities moved them to spare the graves of the dead. Israeli progress was deemed more important. And this to build an institution allegedly promoting tolerance!
America isn’t yet like Israel in this regard. But the Trump presidency promises to bring us farther down this dangerous path.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.