CLIMATE CHANGE

Say what you want about Climate Change. It is a topic I have yet to address, nor do I anticipate doing so, in the foreseeable future. There is one Climate Change however, that ought to greatly concern us as Jews. And that is the Climate Change toward Israel. It may very well have begun on college campuses, particularly in the Humanities, where the minds of impressionable naĂŻve students have been filled with vitriol against Israel. Rather than stick to a curriculum of Philosophy, Sociology or Psychology, students receive an education in how to revile Israel. As a result, the country that was once referred to as the Jewish State is now being called the Apartheid State or the Fascist State. Recently, I was asked to respond to the following question, posed by a presumably well-meaning, but woefully misdirected individual:

Is the treatment of Israeli soldiers toward Palestinians any different than the treatment of Nazi soldiers towards Jews?

When it comes to absurd comments, never go on the defensive. Ever! Doing so implies that there is something to defend. Instead, bear in mind the following quote attributable to both George Washington and (lehavdil*) Mao Zedong, that a “good offense is the best defense”.  Should you therefore, ever find yourself being placed in the position of spokesperson for the entire Jewish State, rather than attempt to answer an inane question, such as “how come there are no names to the Concentration Camps that Palestinians are forced into by Israelis”, make sure that it is the quisling who starts sizzling. Answer that question by asking: “Could you please tell me where you get your information? What do you know about these Concentration Camps to ask such a question? Have you checked with Peace Now, a Jewish organization formed to monitor Israel’s abuse of Palestinians? Why don’t you do so and obtain a list of Concentration Camps, so that I can deal with your question, intelligently”?

Misinformed finger-pointers typically get their information – giving them the benefit of the doubt that they actually are informed – from the media. The media tends to be neither factual nor accurate, in that being factual and accurate, rarely, if ever, holds one’s interest. The misinformed ought, therefore, to be asked if they are able to comment on the silent majority of Palestinians, gainfully employed by Israelis and enjoying a far better lifestyle than their counterparts living under Jordanian rule. Of even greater importance, it is our duty to chastise the misinformed, to get them to explain why they have failed to take up the cudgel of human rights for the plight of the suffering of others. Currently, I am mentoring a chaplaincy student from Nigeria. I have in my office a copy of his “Full Life Account”. He writes: “When I was a few months old, 18 armed men came to our house. It was a brutal scene. They stole our money and abused us. One of them walked up to my mom and demanded she give him the baby. Other gang members managed to divert his attention. A close friend of my mom’s was not so lucky. She had given birth to a baby girl around the same time I was born. The thugs murdered her infant daughter instead”. One would do well to ask the Israel accuser, why he/she has yet to champion the causes of people in this world who are truly oppressed?  Where were you when Tutsi were being raped tortured and murdered by the Hutus? Were you as concerned about Sudanese when they had to flee for their lives to Syria? Have you expressed outrage at the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar? Now that Palestinians are stabbing Israelis, now that Palestinians are throwing fire-bombs into Israel, now you suddenly become concerned about human rights?

When it comes to absurd comments or questions, one is best to ignore them. Two weeks ago, when Dallas plunged into a deep freeze, well-meaning, but unthinking congregants turned to me with the following ludicrous remark: “You should be used to this, you are from Canada”! For the record, being from Canada means nothing: Vancouverites experience far more temperate winters than Dallasites. Waking up to 26-degree weather is unimaginable to Vancouver residents. For the record, it’s been close to half a century, since I lived in Canada. “Being used to it” after a 50-year absence is quite a stretch. For the record, there are things that some people never get used to. I am sure that there are Dallas residents who detest and deplore the climate from mid-June until mid-September. It is, therefore, best to ignore thoughtless remarks.

If Climate Change is of concern to us, we would do well to be alert to the fact, that the climate toward Israel seems to be undergoing change as well. As such, when well-meaning, misinformed and dangerously selective individuals turn up the heat on Israel, we would be well advised to keep our cool.

  • Lehavdil is a Hebrew term that means “perish the comparison”


DENIERS AND DEFACERS

As one of literally a handful of rabbis who met with Professor Deborah Lipstadt last Friday morning, I should have been more attentive. While Ms. Lipstadt was explaining the difference between soft core Holocaust Denial and hard core Holocaust Denial, I couldn’t help but realize that Holocaust deniers and those who spray-paint Heil Hitler and swastikas on buildings are really two sides of the same coin. Both groups want to infuriate Jews by touching upon a most sensitive and volatile subject. Every time Jews respond (typically through contacting the police and reaching out to the media), the deniers and defacers are granted a victory. Accordingly, whether Ms. Lipstadt agrees or not, Jews must totally ignore both the deniers as well as the defacers. It’s high time that a completely different modus operandi be embraced.

Wiedergutmachung is the German term for reparations. Literally translated as making good again, Wiedergutmachung came to serve as the German word for reparations in 1953. It was an attempt on the part of the German government to reach out to Jews worldwide who somehow managed to show contempt to Hitler by surviving the Holocaust. Tens of thousands of Jews led by Menachem Begin staged a massive protest at the time. They were adamantly opposed to “blood money.” I would like to believe that I would have been one of those protesters – for a different reason, however. True Wiedergutmachung must not be limited to any financial arrangement. In retrospect, the nascent Israeli government should have extracted a pledge from German people throughout the world to confront deniers and defacers throughout the world.

“We love Israel” is the contemporary mantra taken up by countless Christians – Evangelicals and others. Personally, I embrace the Evangelicals and others and love them in return, regardless of the real and ultimate reason for their love. Christian lovers of Israel must bear in mind, however, that Israel was established as a homeland and a haven for the Jews while the chimneys at Auschwitz were still warm from turning our people into smoke. True love for the Jewish people is a sine qua non for true love for Israel. The two are inseparable. If Evangelical and other Christians truly love Israel, then they must take up the cudgel against deniers and defacers. Recent events in Whitefish, Montana serve as a case in point. Once again, anti-Semitism reared its ugly head when White Nationalist Whitefish resident Richard Spencer planned an armed march through the town of just over 6,000. Governor Steve Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox, Senator Jon Tester and Senator Steve Dalnes immediately denounced Spencer and his planned march. Evangelical Christians, along with others who profess strong love for Israel, should have descended upon White Fish delivering the following message: Either Spencer, leaves taking with him his vitriolic poison, or we stay and proceed to infuse mega doses of Christian love into Whitefish.

Americans are up in arms over refugees seeking to cross into this country. As a result, there are marches and demonstrations from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Regardless of how one feels about the topic, one would do well to ask the marchers and demonstrators, where is their concern for humanity when Holocaust deniers and defacers rear their ugly heads and carry out their despicable acts? Isn’t protesting acts of Holocaust denial, as well as demanding that justice be meted out for the defacing property with Nazi slogans, equally as necessary as the current cause in which they have involved themselves?

Germans and Evangelicals, as well as other Christians and concerned Americans: In addition to the status quo of Wiedergutmachung, love for Israel and marching and demonstrating for refugees, I ask that you speak out against the deniers and defacers. You might very well be surprised at what you are able to achieve.