February 26, 2020

A Missed Virtue Signal

The week after Michelle Goldberg decided to use her perch at The New York Times to write an inaccurate, morally incomprehensible screed headlined “Anti-Zionism Isn’t the Same as Anti-Semitism,” three Israelis — including a 3-day-old infant — were murdered, more than a dozen were wounded, and tunnels were found in northern Israel showing that Hezbollah was close to launching another psychotic war.

On Facebook, which I use as a mosh pit of current political insanity, I wrote what I always write when the NYT becomes more pro-jihadi than Electronic Intifada: “I don’t know how Bret Stephens stays.” 

One week later Stephens offered a devastatingly good answer: “When Anti-Zionism Tunnels Under Your House.” He didn’t call Goldberg out by name or even wonder how she had come to such a psychologically twisted place. Rather, he simply made mincemeat out of her argument: “Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state. … Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse.”

As for apologists like Goldberg, whose own deep hatred of Israel runs through her piece, Stephens doesn’t mince words: “When you find yourself on the same side as Hassan Nasrallah, Louis Farrakhan and David Duke on the question of a country’s right to exist, it’s time to re-examine every opinion you hold.”

The problem is, Goldberg and readers like her will ignore him. Why? For one, she has chosen to remain ignorant of Israel’s history. She appears to believe the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement’s myth that there once was a country called Palestine and then those nasty Jews “occupied” it. 

It was the Romans, of course, who slapped the word “Palestine” on the area to erase any Jewish connection to it. As Stephen M. Flatow — whose daughter, Alisa Flatow, was killed in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995 — wrote in The Algemeiner, Arabs living in the area never considered themselves Palestinian: “They had the same history, culture, religion, and language of the Arabs in neighboring Syria. They considered themselves ‘Southern Syrians.’ ”

Precisely because of this, they didn’t mind when the British sliced off 78 percent of the land and called it Jordan in 1922. Why don’t Goldberg and her BDS friends ever focus on Jordan, which routinely mistreats the “Palestinians”? Hmm, this is a tough one. Could it be because Jordan is Muslim?

Goldberg also believes that Israel is not central to Jewish identity. The fact that we’ve prayed for our return to Jerusalem for nearly 2,000 years, that most Jews feel such a profound connection to the land that even daily NYT gaslighting can never change it — none of this seems to have ever entered Goldberg’s Brooklyn bubble.

One could say that Goldberg doesn’t actually believe any of these things, that she’s just trying to stay politically on trend — virtue signaling, as we now say.

But the larger point is that these nonsensical screeds no longer matter. The Jew-hatred of anti-Zionism is now at our doorsteps. Just within the past few weeks: Mohamed Mohamed Abdi was arrested for attempting to run over two Jewish men in Los Angeles, allegedly shouting “F***ing Jews!”; Arab Muslims in Germany saluted Hitler; and perhaps most fitting of all, a “free-speech wall” at Pomona College in Claremont — on which the Pittsburgh tragedy was commemorated with the words “Anti-Semitism Exists. Acknowledge It.” — was vandalized with the words “Palestine exists. Acknowledge it.”

Not only is today’s anti-Zionism merely fashionable anti-Semitism, but since the 1960s the word “Palestine” has been used as a pseudonym for removing Jews from our ancestral homeland. Like Hitler, Yasser Arafat was evil but far from stupid. He knew the full-fledged myth that he had to fabricate, and he knew that if he did it well, the Michelle Goldbergs of the world would help him fulfill his goal. 

I’m sure he wasn’t counting on it being so easy.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.