Natan Sharansky, formerly a Jewish refusenik in Russia championing civil rights and present-day Likudnik director of the Jewish Agency, flashed his crown as “unofficial” head of Soviet bloc human rights activists at the annual Jewish federations convention, the General Assembly. It’s a shame the crown is tarnished with a decade or two of being one of Israeli’s preeminent hawks and a pillar of Israeli Jewish-only nationalism. His words coming from anyone else would be soaring and inspirational, connecting the history of global Jewish tikun olam to the future:
“In the post-nationalist, post-identity world where people are once again asked to make a choice. Do you believe in the universal value of human rights you are told why do you hold onto individual nationalism. Do we really want to shelter ourselves in the cocoon of a Jewish state?” he asked. “When one young Jew believes he or she must make a choice that he or she cannot belong to both, then they make the choice in favor of universalism, then assimilation erodes our community. Our detractos sense our weakness and our hesitation.”
[…] “Identity strengthening is the best answer in the struggle for the freedom of Israel,” he said. The most important thing today, like yesterday, 20 years ago is the return to our Jewish roots. Rebuilding our Jewish identity can allow us to fight for tikun olam everywhere, for justice and for freedom for everyone. (JTA)
How lovely indeed. But in the words of MJ Rosenberg, “The test of whether one is a human rights activist or one who simply uses the issue for political ends is that person’s willingness to apply the human rights measuring stick to his own people. It is pretty easy to limit your calls for human rights to nations other than your own. For Sharansky, concern for Palestinians is the test of whether or not his claim to the mantle of human rights activist is genuine…he fails—big time.”
He has shared podiums with politicians advocating disenfranchising Israeli Arabs, opposed a Palestinian state at nearly every turn, opposed the Disengagement on the grounds of giving up any land, illegally confiscated thousands of dunams of Jersualemite Arab land (since overturned by the Attourney General), and so on. He supports his party, Likud, in policies that stripped the social safety net and minimized the civil rights of non-Jews.
Some legacy. And the American Jewish community — being none too steeped in hypocrisy themselves — eats it up. May the big wigs at the General Assembly continue to eagerly lap up Sharansky’s cynical use of human rights language. It will assist their disenfranchisement from the bulk of American Jewish young people all the quicker.