Last week, I was accused on two separate occasions and blogs of not issuing a “peep” and of a “deafening silence” about the Mumbai killings. One was even on a blog with nothing to do with international affairs. Meanwhile, the conservative blogs are in a bloody feeding frenzy.
But on the other hand, as the Hebron settlers rioted and carried their pogrom to the point that even the head of the Yesha Council has condemned them, the reciprocal silence has been interesting to watch. Jewlicious: nothing. Israelycool: one sentence. A hapless jaunt around the Jblogosphere results in more posts about the injustice (vomit) of the evacuation than condemnation of the rampages. It makes me sick.
Safeguarding Jewish universalism after these events is not easy. Mumbai has depressed all of us. Us meaning the progressive Jews specifically. And certain commentors have accused us of a guilty silence about it. Their implicit challenge is whether progressive Judaism has anything to say except to eat our words about coexistance, the Muslim world, and terrorism.
Yes, yes, we do.
First, our rejection of the media frenzy:
When Jews die somewhere in the world, it is a sensational news event, media fodder for Jewish publications around the globe to publish every gory detail, speculate endlessly about the culprits, and remind us why they hate us. I speak for myself, but I feel our contributors would agree that it’s an ugly form of self-interest. So many people died in Mumbai — to focus on just the Jewish deaths, as if only they mattered, betrays us. To unite with the mourners of India, to remember all victims (even our own), that uplifts us instead. That is the progressive thing to do.
And we do fear. We hate the truth of it, but fear and anti-Semitism unites us. The topic of hatred brought Jews together with a speed and power that our good deeds can’t seem to replicate. As Jews, we’re aware that terrorism is not spared from those with dovish commitments. And as progressives, we feel keenly the bullets that are shooting down our coexistance dreams.
And second, our rejection of Mumbai as right-wing prooftext:
The shrieks of outrage from Jewish blogs to date are mostly or almost entirely abusing the events in Mumbai to ratchet up support for their worldview. Which we cannot and won’t. I’ll not dance and sing with seeming joy around proofs that anti-Semitism isn’t dead.
Nuance and complexity are the first to die as universalism is forgotten. An ethnic-national conflict over territory and the terrorizing used by extreme actors within said regional conflict to achieve political ends, is suddenly, stupidifyingly simplified and blame laid: Islam. Muslims. Anti-Semites. Sounds familiar, except I’m talking India-Pakistan.
It builds our suspicion that those Jews who tout Mumbai as Jewish rallying point have nothing to build their Jewish identity upon except the witchhunt for the Jew-hater. They have no Middle East security vision except the superiority of Israel over her neighbors. And they have no values except saving themselves. A progressive Judaism and Jewish community have alternatives. And what outrages us is different, as a result.
Thirdly, their hypocrisy is as loud as their hatred:
The people of Israel have reacted in shock to the hooliganism of Hebron. The settler leadership has appealed to the Israeli security forces to help them control the monsters they unleashed. They have built a culture that values land over life, a piece of dirt over a peace of nations. The hilltop youth fought tooth and nail for an apartment building and, failing that, took out their wrath upon the Arabs.
As a religion, or a people, or a civilization, whatever we are, these youth are the epitome of the anti-Jew. The un-Jew. We have been taught that the Jew throughout history has been on the receiving end of this exact act. Burning homes. Shooting indiscriminately. Hate speech. Dispossetion of property. Looting.
So finally:
No, no, we’re not going to spend pages bending to the hysteria of Mumbai. And we’re going to focus squarely on the parts of our community that shame us the most. More than just Jews died in Mumbai and Jewish extremists just committed a pogrom in Hebron. These two events spell bloody and important lessons.
It is dependent on the progressive voices to prove to the world that Jews don’t only care for themselves and aren’t too hypocritical to bear a moral voice on anything anymore. As we see it, failing to do so re-commits our people’s greatest sin: despite being saved from persecution time and again by non-Jews, we still care mostly about our pain, our suffering, our Shoah.
It is not a part of the Jewish narrative that we may owe the world more than it owes us. I stun even myself with such a proposal. It’s totally against everything we’re taught about ourselves. “The Jews owe the world?” As progressives, we should behave so, even if it’s not true. But I believe wholeheartedly that it is.
In times of terror, safeguarding Jewish universalism is not popular. But we don’t do this to be popular. We do this to be right. It’s the only way to build a better world where someday we will put down our swords for plowshares.
X-posted from Judaism Without Borders.