May 6, 2010
Moral blindness in the face of evil is depravity. But in the upside-down moral universe of our world, moral blindness has become a badge of honor. If you refuse to call evil by its name, then you are a moderate. And if you stand up to evil, you are an extremist.
The embrace of moral blindness as an emblem of sophistication is nowhere more apparent than among American Jews. Take recent events on US college campuses. This week the Washington Times reported that a large and vocal group of Brandeis University students are organizing to protest the university’s decision to invite Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to give this year’s commencement address.
In a Facebook initiative led by a student named Jonathan Sussman, several hundred students have joined the demand to disinvite Oren. Sussman claims that by inviting him, Brandeis is siding with “a rogue state apologist, a defender of (among other things) the war crimes and human rights abuses of the war on Gaza.”
Sussman gained notoriety earlier this year when he sought to organize students to disrupt former UN ambassador Dore Gold in a debate the university hosted between him and Richard Goldstone. Sussman, a self-proclaimed communist, is a member of the anti-American Students for Democratic Society.
For their part, pro-Israel students have defended the administration’s decision to invite Oren on technical grounds. In a dedicated Facebook page, Brandeis student Nathan Mizrachi wrote that protesting Oren is a “waste of time.”
While allowing that Oren is controversial, Mizrachi argued against protesting his speech by claiming, “anyone who is consistently contributing to our worldview in a dignified, widely respected manner – instead of idiots like Michael Moore or Fox News – is someone who merits our attention.”
Mizrachi couldn’t bring himself to argue that Brandeis was right to invite Oren. He couldn’t be bothered to note that everything Sussman wrote is a lie. The most ringing endorsement of Oren’s appearance that Mizrachi could muster in response to Sussman’s latest attack was to say that it was a waste of time to protest his appearance and that it “would truly be a disgrace to our university” if protesters were to shout Oren down at commencement.
No offense to Mizrachi, but his Facebook counteroffensive is not exactly what most people would call a particularly heroic defense of Oren, Brandeis or Israel.
UNFORTUNATELY, THIS is more often than not what passes as a pro-Israel message in the US Jewish circles these days. Following the example communicated by the US Jewish leadership, supporters of Israel often act as if shouting down Israel advocates is wrong only because doing so is an assault on freedom of speech. It isn’t that Israel is in the right and the Palestinians are in the wrong. It isn’t that Israel is a just and moral society. It isn’t that the IDF fights justly and morally and only in self-defense. It isn’t that the Palestinians have taken all the lands Israel has given them and transformed them into terrorist enclaves or that they democratically elected Hamas – a genocidal terrorist organization – to lead them. It isn’t that there is not now and never was a Palestinian leadership willing to accept Israel’s right to exist.
It’s just that it isn’t right to silence Israel advocates. It’s against the First Amendment. Zionists have a right to express themselves too. But then, not all Zionists. And not too many of them.
Take The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh for example. Abu Toameh was scheduled to speak at Tufts University last month. His talk, sponsored by Honest Reporting and CAMERA, was supposed to be held under the auspices of Tufts Friends of Israel. At the last minute, Friends of Israel cancelled his lecture.
Abu Toameh was informed that the pro-Israel student group cancelled his talk as a preemptive move to avoid criticism from campus Arab groups. Tufts Hillel director Rabbi Jeffrey Summit later wrote him claiming that the talk was cancelled due to an overabundance of pro-Israel speakers on campus.
The situation at Tufts and Brandeis, where pro-Israel students can’t figure out why Israel should be defended and don’t want to overload themselves with too many speakers defending Israel is downright wonderful in comparison to the situation at Berkeley. There Jewish students and faculty were galvanizing forces behind the divestment from Israel drive that passed overwhelmingly in the Berkeley student senate in March.
The divestment initiative, which called on the university administration to divest from General Electric and United Technologies for their joint projects with the IDF, was vetoed by the senate president. His veto was narrowly sustained in a later vote last week. In the meantime, the divestment drive has expanded to the University of California at San Diego.
In an article published last month on the American Thinker Web site, UC Santa Cruz and UCLA professors Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Leila Beckwith wrote that the divestment campaigns and the overwhelmingly anti-Israel atmosphere on campuses has made life extremely difficult and often frightening for Jewish students.
AND YET, there has been no divestment of major Jewish donors from these institutions. There has been no demand that Hillel replace ineffective or anti-Israel administrators. There has been no demand that campuses fire professors like Berkeley Hebrew Prof. Ruth Adler or Talmud Prof. Daniel Boyarin, who force their students to undergo anti-Zionist indoctrination in their classrooms.
Again and again, the official Jewish community’s and pro-Israel students’ response to anti-Israel campaigns and often violent onslaughts is to mumble out a protest against their infringement on the freedom of expression. For many US Jewish leaders and Jewish campus activists, the biggest problem with the red-green alliance of leftists and Muslims is that it denies pro-Israel students and speakers the right to express themselves.
The mendacity of the red-green alliance’s claims against Israel, the bigotry of its increasingly open calls for Israel’s destruction, its denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination or even our right to define ourselves as a people all go unopposed.
This is not a sustainable line of defense. This is not even the beginning of a defense – of Israel or of the rights of American Jews. But this state of affairs does explain very well why according to recent polling data, half of American Jews under 35 would be okay with a world without Israel.
Some argue that what happens on the campuses is not important. What really matters is what happens in the grown-up world. Unfortunately, we see that the depraved moralblindness of the classroom has brought about a situation where political leaders cannot recognize the moral depravity of the international community. And sophisticated grown-ups – particularly American Jewish grown-ups – cannot or will not make their leaders pay a price for their depraved support for evil.
TAKE IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s decision to travel to New York this week to participate in the UN’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. It is clear that Ahmadinejad’s purpose is to ensure that the conference is a circus. Ahmadinejad means to make certain that to the extent a distinction is made between Iran‘s nuclear weapons program and Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal, the distinction will claim that whereas Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal needs to be destroyed, Iran’s interest in nuclear weapons is a justified response to Israeli badness.
Apparently anticipating his move, according to The Wall Street Journal US President Barack Obama has been discussing Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal with Egypt. According to the newspaper’s account, the US is discussing Egypt’s demand that the Middle East become a nuclear-free zone. A senior US official claimed, “We’ve made a proposal to them [Egypt] that goes beyond what the US has been willing to do before.” Some US Jewish groups have called for a protest of Ahmadinejad outside the UN building. Others have called on state delegations to stage a mass walkout during his speech.
But none have attacked the administration for agreeing to the false moral equivalence between Iran’s nuclear program and Israel’s nuclear program. None have condemned Obama for discussing Israel’s purported nuclear program at a time when Iran, which has declared its intention to destroy Israel, is racing toward the nuclear finish line.
Then too, the American Jewish community is silent as Obama strong-arms Israel into indirect, administration-mediated talks with the Palestinians. It is silent even as it is widely reported that Obama has threatened Israel that if it builds homes for Jews in Jerusalem or refuses to accept a Palestinian state by next year, he will impose his own “peace plan.”
The American Jewish community is all but mute as Obama does to Israel what Berkeley is doing to Israel.
The fact of the matter is that defending Israel against its enemies isn’t a freedom of speech issue. It is an issue of right vs. wrong. Israel is the state of the Jewish people. It is a great ally of the US. Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem were legally allocated to the Jewish people by the League of Nations Mandate in 1922 and that allocation has never been cancelled or superseded. Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and neighborhoods in united Jerusalem are not illegal. The IDF did not commit war crimes in Gaza or anywhere else. Arabs are full citizens in Israel. When Israel fights, it fights to defend itself from aggression.
The aggression launched against Israel is conducted by societies and states that refuse to recognize its right to exist. It is launched by societies and states that ignore the laws of war, that refuse to respect even the most basic human rights of their own citizens, let alone of Israelis. The Palestinians have yet to find even one leader who is willing to accept Israel’s right to exist or the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in our land.
This is the truth. This is where the defense of Israel begins. And it is the absence of this truth and this defense from the lexicon of Jewish American students and community leaders in recent years that has brought about a situation where the only reason not to attack Israel is because it is “a waste of time.”
It is the absence of this truth and this defense that has enabled a situation where the president of the United States can maintain the support of the American Jewish community while allowing others to equate Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal with Iran’s nuclear program, and while treating Israel as if it were the root of all the pathologies of the Arab world.
And if the truth about Israel continues to be ignored by American Jews, not only will it be imperiled. The sustainability of their own community, which has embraced moral blindness in the name of moderation and sophistication, will be called into question.
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