Disconnect between elites and the rest in Germany: Is it legitimate to criticize diaspora Jews for the behavior of Israel?

The World Jewish Congress expressed its displeasure at the turnout for a demonstration against anti-Semitism in Germany thusly:

Germany’s entire political elite has gathered in Berlin to demonstrate against anti-Semitism. The protest adds 6,000 people to the campaign. But it is far from enough, says DW’s Editor-in-Chief Alexander Kudascheff.

It is a clear signal — 6,000 people have gathered in Berlin to protest against anti-Semitism. Only 6,000. No more.

In 1992, over one million Germans held candle-light vigils in cities, villages and communities across the country to speak out against racism. That was at a time when right-wing hate was countered with demonstrative and imposing force.

But this time, 6,000 people have spoken out. That includes Germany’s entire political elite. The president. The chancellor. Ministers. Unionists. The Protestant and Catholic churches. They all gathered on Sunday to make a clear statement against anti-Semitism – upon invitation from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, since no initiative came from within society, from within Germany itself. That is quite disgraceful, as is the small number of participants.

This disconnect between elites and everyone else is likely a real problem for Jews throughout the West and increasingly so. Jewish influence has always been a top-down phenomenon. Jews as an elite throughout the West have a strong track record of being able to dominate elite discourse by eliminating or marginalizing media figures or politicians who call attention to Jewish power or are critical of Jewish power or Israel (see below). One gets the impression that it was de rigueur for German elites to show up for the demonstration and that any no-shows would be in danger of their political lives. But one has the feeling that no one’s heart is in it, least of all for the great mass of people who stayed away.

Obviously, this calls for a totalitarian solution in which crowds are rounded up and ordered to be enthusiastic on pain of dire consequences!

The problem is that the organized Jewish community presents itself as the ultimate victim at the same time that Israel’s brutality toward the Palestinians is there for everyone to see. The statement continues:

It is undeniable that there is a discrepancy in how Jews are perceived, especially in what people think of Israel. The German public has become distinctly more critical of Israel than the government. And behind this legitimate critical view of Israel, there are still archaic anti-Semitic resentments lurking — displayed on the streets by Muslim immigrants, spread on the Internet by “normal” Germans at the center of German society.

Again the disconnect between elites (the government) and the rest of the population. The strategy pursued by the organized Jewish community is to acknowledge that it is reasonable to criticize Israel while demanding that Israeli behavior have no effect on how Germans and others see diaspora Jews.

There is a certain logic to this, since not all Jews support the Israel Lobby or Israeli behavior. But it perhaps asking too much to expect people make such distinctions when the pro-Israel faction has such a dominant stature among diaspora Jews and is so powerful in influencing government policy toward Israel and the rest of the Middle East.

Another recent example that raises this issue is the resignation of Bruce Shipman as Yale Episcopal Chaplain. Shipman wrote the following letter in response to an op-ed  written by that paragon of balance and probity, Deborah Lipstadt whose article was deemed worthy of appearing in the New York Times:

Deborah E. Lipstadt makes far too little of the relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond.

The trend to which she alludes parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank.

As hope for a two-state solution fades and Palestinian casualties continue to mount, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.

Groton, Conn., Aug. 21, 2014

The writer is the Episcopal chaplain at Yale.

Shipman’s sin was not only to suppose that Israeli behavior has something to do with rising anti-Semitism in “Europe and beyond,” but to imply that such a linkage was rational. Notice that Shipman restricted his comments to diaspora Jews who are enabling and approving Israeli behavior — “Israel’s patrons.” Certainly it’s reasonable to oppose these enablers, and he did not mention all Jews.

No matter. Despite some groveling, he was forced out of his position, yet another casualty of the scorched earth policy of removing critics of Israel from elite institutions. (It’s not that long ago that Yale was a stronghold of the American Protestant elite, but now an Episcopal minister is purged because he offended the Jews by making reasonable statements implying a connection between some American Jews and Israeli behavior.)

So we should add one another must-believe fiction to the many others that are articles of faith in the West on pain of severe sanctions (such as “Jews in the media do not act as Jews,” or the ADL’s slogan: “diversity is our strength” [n.b., applicable only to the West and certainly not Israel]): There is absolutely no connection between diaspora Jews and the behavior of the Israeli government, and anyone who makes any connection between diaspora Jews and the behavior of the Israeli government is guilty of the crime of anti-Semitism.

Believe it, or else.

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