Monday, March 12, 2007

Darfur: The "palestine" of American Jews

No one will accuse me of thinking that Darfur is not one of the most important issues that is facing World Jewry and humanity at large.

So I do not need to start by saying that I am glad that the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) put Darfur high on their agenda.

However, I am disappointed by lack of effort to bring awareness to the genocide which Iran is planning.

The JCPA explained afterward that the resolution was voted down for technical reasons, not because of its content. However, it seems indisputable that the issue of Iran's nuclear armament was not the most popular item on the agenda of the JCPA's plenum: The genocide in Darfur was the top-priority international item on that agenda. In the case of Darfur, a divestment resolution was passed by a large majority.

The mood at the JCPA conference gives some indication of public opinion on the "Jewish street" in America. The fact is that there has been no massive Jewish mobilization to date for the struggle against a nuclear Iran. The largest mass demonstration, in which tens of thousands of American Jews participated, was held in protest of the genocide in Darfur. Israeli leaders like former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and even historians like Benny Morris have declared that Israel is facing the prospect of a second Holocaust; however, Jewish activists in the United States prefer to deal with the genocide of another nation that is taking place right before our eyes.
- Ha'aretz

While it is commendable to be working against a current genocide, that is no excuse to ignore a
imminent threat of genocide directed at your people. So what are their excuses?

David M. Elcott, who was recently appointed executive director of Israel Policy Forum, believes that American Jews are simply smarter than Israeli politicians. He says that Netanyahu's apocalyptic rhetoric is not acceptable from the standpoint of Jewish theology; the Jews, he notes, have always spoken of hope, and the language of despair is foreign to Jewish tradition. (still Ha'aretz)
Since when did most of American Jews care about theology? Which tradition is he talking about? Jews are always in despair and they turn to many recourses including Messianism throughout the ages.

In an unforgettable speech that he delivered of the United Jewish Community's General Assembly in Los Angeles last November, Netanyahu kept repeating the same point - namely, that it is as if we are in 1938, but instead of Germany, the threat is an Iran that is trying to arm itself with weapons of mass destruction.

In Elcott's view, the analogy Netanyahu made between Iran and Nazi Germany has a flip side: It draws an analogy between Israel and European Jewry on the eve of World War II. As Elcott sees it, saying that the Jews in Israel are in the same situation as the Jews of Warsaw or Berlin in 1940 "undermines the Zionist vision of an independent State of Israel." (still Ha'aretz)
How are we in such a different position? We were afraid to rock the boat and protest without a state of our own, and now even with a state of our own we are afraid to rock the boat. Political action and acknowledgment of threats to Israel undermines the Zionist vision? What does he suggest, oh right, Jewish theology. I guess by that he means pray to G-d and hope that everything will be alright. G-d forbid you should take action and try to find solutions to the threat of a nuclear Iran, because that would undermine the Zionist vision. I guess when I learned about how Zionism was about taking bold action as opposed to sitting around and talking and waiting for the messiah to come, it was all lies.

I am not saying we should be rushing to go to war with Iran. I know that many people don't want another Iraq, but that is no excuse to hide under the covers and hope it all blows over. It won't blow over if we ignore it, it will blow up in our faces.

But why did I call Darfur the "palestine" of American Jews?

Given the choice between an internal threat and a threat aimed at Israel, many of America's Jews prefer to sit on the fence. It is much simpler and much easier to struggle for the victims of genocide in Darfur. (still Ha'aretz)

Its exactly the same reason the left focuses on Palestinian issue when it looks for someone to rally for. Its easy, and to them non-controversial. We can't just save Darfur because it is
convenient and everyone else is doing it. We must do it with the same conviction against genocide that will make us stand up to genocide anywhere in the world, including from Iran. We should not just be interested in Darfur because its the "in" thing. We must stand up in North Korea as well. And as for Jewish groups, its great how we are helping others, but lets not die in the process

Oh... and SAVE DARFUR!


ahhhri said...

You really like the Iran thing...k

Joel Nothman said...

Again it's not the topic, but:
I don't know why you point to Messianism to argue against Elcott... Messianism is much more often about hope than despair. Elcott was trying to say there are two approaches to a bad situation: optimism and pessimism; and it is far from a Jewish approach to be pessimistic in this sense. And I think he's generally right: with the exception of early (pre-Rabbinic) Judaism where there was much more apocalypse literature, the overwhelming Jewish take on tragedy is hope. Whether that hope is active or passive or messianic is a matter of the next step.

Secondly, I think you should avoid quoting the article as "Haaretz." The article is not by Haaretz, and it does not (necessarily) reflect the opinion of Haaretz. While a news article could be quoted with the publisher's name, here you give the impression that Haaretz has a consistent view in its op-eds. Your quotations were actually of Amiram Barkat writing in Haaretz.

seraphya said...

I would say say Jews are classically thought of as pessimists and submissive. Zionism was a bit of an answer to that. On a hope-against-hope level Jews are optimists, but on a realistic level we always expected to be slaughtered by our enemies, sure we would always have a remnant, but thats not exactly hope. I think an over-all either your an optimist or a pessimist is not accurate.

Also considering Amiram Barkat is a Haaretz Correspondent, and I don't this article was an op-ed, I think it was ok, or did I mess up somewhere?