The exploitation of Judge Goldstone’s Jewish background by our enemies intensifies our obligation to confront the enemy within – renegade Jews – including Israelis who stand at the vanguard of global efforts to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. Such odious Jews can be traced back to apostates during the Middle Ages who fabricated blood libels and vile distortions of Jewish religious practice for Christian anti-Semites to incite hatred which culminated in massacres. It was in response to these renegades that the herem(excommunication) was introduced.
More recent examples include Jewish communists who, in addition to undermining campaigns to liberate Soviet Jews and defending state-sponsored anti-Semitism, even applauded the Stalinist execution of their kinsmen on bogus charges. Like their contemporary counterparts, some of them attempted to depict themselves as devoted Jews championing “world peace.”
In practice they simply advanced the objectives of the Evil Empire. They were regarded as pariahs and isolated from the Jewish mainstream.
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, took ruthless measures against Israeli renegades, insisting also that Israeli embassies maintain close ties with local Jewish leaders and persuade them to refrain from publicly criticizing policies impinging on security. The consensus was that it would be immoral for Jews abroad to influence decisions that could have life-and-death implications for Israeli citizens.
Unfortunately, in the wake of the Oslo Accords, the massive divisions which tore Israeli society apart shattered this convention, ironically with right-wing politicians encouraging Diaspora leaders to undermine the Rabin government.
This occurred simultaneously with the rise of post-Zionism, vigorously promoted by the daily newspaper Ha’aretz, which published critiques of Zionist doctrine until then considered beyond the pale by the vast majority of Israelis.
Ha’aretz also launched an English internet edition which emboldened Diaspora Jewish extremists and provided a green light to global media outlets to run demonizing articles about Israel on the grounds that they had already appeared in a “reputable” Israeli daily. The most recent example was the Ha’aretz campaign defaming the IDF, which proved to be entirely baseless but created an enormous global upsurge of anti-Israeli hysteria and eased the way for the Goldstone Report.
IN THIS atmosphere, fringe groups of “non-Jewish Jews,” many with no prior involvement in Jewish life, exploited their Jewish origins or Israeli nationality to defame Israel. Today, they occupy leading roles fueling global anti-Israel campaigns.
Regrettably, successive Israeli governments failed to respond even when professors at universities funded by Israeli taxpayers and Diaspora Zionists began exploiting their positions to delegitimize their country. They identified with Israel’s enemies, calling on the world to boycott Israeli institutions, including their own universities.
Israel prides itself on being the only country in the region in which genuine freedom of expression reigns supreme. But it is also a country under siege, surrounded by neighbors seeking its destruction and confronted by an ever-hostile global community. To tolerate such abominations in the name of freedom of expression is taking an ideal to a lunatic extreme. Besides, it is hard to visualize the authorities adopting such a laissez faire approach had the offenders been racists, fascists or even radical right-wing extremists.
In fact, when senior academics like Ben-Gurion University’s Neve Gordon, call Israel an “apartheid state” and encourage the world to boycott Israeli institutions, they are the ones abusing academic freedom.
It is thus high time for the Knesset to set up a non-partisan commission to recommend legislation to deny tenure at state-sponsored institutions to those indulging in such activities.
The rot has extended to the Diaspora, especially Europe and has also affected the United States. Highly vocal Jewish groups like the recently created J Street describe themselves as ‘Zionist’ but their prime objective is to pressure the US government to use “tough love” against Israel – a euphemism for demanding that the Jewish state make further unilateral concessions to neighbors pledged to its annihilation.
In the past two weeks alone, a host of new anti-Israeli initiatives were reported. In Toronto, Jews were at the forefront of a campaign to boycott Israeli films at a film festival because the anniversary of Tel Aviv – ‘built on the destroyed villages of Palestinians’ – was being celebrated; two Israeli women who evaded national service are conducting a North American campus tour under the auspices of ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ to persuade students to intensify their role in the “resistance movement”; in San Francisco the local Jewish Federation is providing funds for a film festival which promotes the vilest anti-Israel films; radical Rabbi Michael Lerner invited a woman who justifies suicide bombings to address his synagogue on Yom Kippur; and so on.
IM EIN ani li mi li? If we are not for ourselves, who will be? We are engaged in a battle against fiendish enemies committed to our destruction. The Israeli government must now take steps to neutralize the impact of renegade Jews who present themselves as legitimate alternative Jewish viewpoints. Such an initiative by a country which provides genuine democratic rights to all its citizens, including Arabs, could hardly be categorized as eradicating freedom of expression. It would rather represent a highly overdue effort to exorcise such odious groups from the mainstream and expose them as unrepresentative fringe groups with no standing.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is currently riding a wave after his superb United Nations address. He should summon a global Jewish solidarity conference encompassing Jewish leaders, opinion makers, philanthropists and activists similar to that organized in 1989 under the auspices of then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and then defense minister Yitzhak Rabin in order to demonstrate the unity of the Jewish people.
At a time when we desperately seek allies, in addition to encouraging millions of Jews in the Diaspora who remain committed to Israel to become more actively engaged in our struggle, such a gathering would also provide an opportunity to exorcise the renegades from our midst.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post