Culture, Identity, Israel, Politics, Sex & Gender

Rachel Azaria's Solution for Silencing "Antisemites"

You all know what I’m talking about. As much as Jews are working to combat Antisemitism, so do Jews love to refer to anyone who is rude to them or disagrees with them as an Antisemite. And now, as it turns out, anyone who is rude can always be implied to be a Hamas supporter who is also anti-human rights and definitely a misogynist.
Here’s the conversation as reported by the victim herself which took place on the subway in NYC:

“Are you Israeli?”
I instinctively answer: “Why are you asking?”
He insists: “Are you Israeli?”‘
I take a moment and think, why am I not answering, why am I being defensive I am a proud Israeli and I would shout it from the rooftops. “In fact, yes I am,” I answer.
He suddenly bursts into a tirade
“Go home, no one wants you here! Get out of this country!”
Completely and utterly shocked, I answer: “That is awfully rude!”
“You are rude!” he answers.
I look at him and say, “I got it, fine.”

Is it appalling, upsetting, and downright rude that this man spoke to Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Rachel Azaria in the way he did? Absolutely. To approach anyone in public or private, ask them about their race, religion or nationality, and then proceed to tell them they should “Get out of this country!” is harassment plain and simple. Just as people of all sorts of minorities or ethnicities are harassed on the subway every single day, it also pains me to see Azaria treated this way. It is disgusting and I wish people wouldn’t take out their political beliefs in such a mean way on women holding babies — or anyone.
And, I think it’s important for those of us who are thoughtful, compassionate people who claim to pursue peace to make a distinction between genuine nationalistic harassment and anyone who claims to disagree with you.
I’ve met Azaria and am actually a fan of hers. She cares about education, pluralism – all sorts of liberal values that we we have in common. And yet, this is one of my most upsetting articles I have read (that didn’t mention actual death counts) in weeks.
In this short article, Azaria summarizes everything I see as wrong with how generally progressive Jews demonize those to the left of them who have been opposing recent operations in Gaza.
While I am aligned with Azaria that anyone who experiences such mockery can often smile and ignore the perpetrator, her analysis of this man is just as bigoted (if not more) than his attempting to blame all of Israel’s problems on her directly (especially since it’s unlikely that he knew she was a government official, albeit at the city level). She immediately conflates his anti-Israel comment with Antisemitism and then proceeds to school the reader on how to deal with people like this in our lives.
She writes:

Here’s is the issue, as I see it: There are anti-Semites out there as there always have been. Many hide it in the more palatable anti-Israeliness. There is no way to change that.

Actually, there is a way to change that – the way many of us see it, ending the occupation is the BEST way to decrease world-wide Antisemitism. It is sickening to me to think that my religion is being threatened because the Israeli government is claiming to speak for all Jews – and that so many American Jews claim that we all must stand behind the Israeli government.
She goes on to remind us that we, the silent majority, are the bystanders who need her newly formed toolbox in order to stick up for Israel and combat Antisemitism:

But the important people in this story are the bystanders on the train. They are the silent majority and they are the people we need to focus on proactively. There is no way to convince the subway anti-Semite that he was wrong, but our obligation is to make sure that he and other anti-Semites feel uncomfortable to speak up and are seen as social pariahs

Really? We are obligated to do community organizing one-to-one in order to make this guy realize he’s in the minority and then maybe he won’t do such a mean thing again? Again, I totally believe this guy was genuinely harassing her – but…I’m going to lay this out for you, this is Azaria’s new strategy (that came to her as an epiphany after getting harassed in NYC, probably the least Anti-Semitic place in the USA) for combating Anti-Semitism:

Make sure that he and other anti-Semites (read: anyone who expressed anger about Israel’s policies and actions):
a. feel uncomfortable to speak up
b. are seen as social pariahs

Later in the piece she adds that we should also:

c. make sure that those who attack and blame Israel are perceived as attacking human rights in Gaza or anywhere
d. [and therefore remind them that] supporting Hamas is supporting the annihilation of basic human rights for their people.

For anyone reading this who has similar politics to mine, you’ve probably already heard of this tactic. It usually plays out something like this:
Action: Person A [not a harasser on the train who may or may not actually be Anti-Semitic, but is certainly a mean, angry person and has serious problems with Israel] posts something on FB or says something in passing about empathy for Palestinians.
Reaction: Person B, who disagrees with person A, takes no time to ask person A more about their statement, article, etc. Person B immediately throws person B in the same bucket as “train harasser” – except in this case, person A wasn’t harassing anyone; person A was just posting their opinion on their own Facebook page or sharing it among friends. In response, person B conflates you with the harasser and then rants at you with one of the above statements, or a similar one.
No matter what I’ve actually posted or said, the other only hears: “Ah! You obviously support Hamas! Let me recite to you all the reasons why that is wrong and obviously you will be convinced immediately. I don’t need to actually hear anything you are saying – as soon as you imply any criticism for Israel or empathy for Palestinians, this is my cue to rant at you with these statements I have memorized.” And then I’m silent because I have no interest in talking with someone who talks at me like this.
Now I know where these folks are getting it from. Thank you Deputy Mayor Azaria for inspiring so many to take on these tactics against your fellow progressives.
Whether or not you are Israeli, if you actually care about human rights, actual rights of all humans even if they are a different race or religion than you, there is actually a way to be pro-human rights for the entire region. Sign this petition from B’Tselem בצלם. Follow them on facebook. While there are many others, this is the one that I see truly holding human rights as the highest priority.

3 thoughts on “Rachel Azaria's Solution for Silencing "Antisemites"

  1. While Azaria is one of the last secular, not settlement promoting council members, is big on education (in israeli neighborhoods), she may be perceived by some as progressive. to not lose votes she does not speak up about the human rights violations in palestinian neighborhoods of jerusalem, israel barely provides services there anyway. However, one would expect a level of compassionate leadership over the last bloody month in Gaza. Jerusalem reached its highest levels of racial tension ever, all she and Mayor Barkat had to contribute to the conversation was ‘we remain united in supporting our troops’ (Rachel Azaria also aupported the troops mothers), typical of any cowardly politician not leading by example but joining the mob. Nothing was said about the horrific Abu Khdeir murder, the lynch mobs patrolling our streets or the hate groups now regularly selling shirts and stickers at booths across town promoting racism as if it were a football team… Disappointing on not only jewish but human levels is an understatemnet. Thanks for writing the post.

  2. (i) While Israel criticism isn’t the same as anti-semitism, I’d bet a lot of money that person was an anti-semite. The idea that it is somehow offensive for Ms. Azaria to make this assumption is incredible. Only a racist, frankly, shouts at a woman and their kid who happens to be speaking in Hebrew. The idea that a person who is identified of Israeli heritage has to choose between rejecting Israel or getting harassed is obviously anti-semitism. It would indicate extreme bias against any person of any nationality. (I have a lot of experience here with an Israeli mother who got it from both sides, including being forced by Jews to choose Israeli hawkishness or be understood as self-hating, which is also a kind of traditional anti-semitism).
    (ii) In New York, nationality is never rightly understood as determining what a person is and how a person feels. This is foundational. We don’t know why a person is here, and we don’t know her story. We don’t need to know, and they are welcome to speak to their kids in whatever language they want.
    (iii) Most of Azaria’s essay (and this one) is a gigantic non-sequitur. What happened on the subway has nothing to do with Israel or Hamas, or politics, or anything. Anger at what is going on in Gaza (war crimes IMO)cause anti-semites elsewhere to act out their anti-semitism. That is all there is to say about it. Anger at what is going on in Iraq causes racists to attack Sikhs. For all the harasser knew, Azaria had as much to do with what is going on as a Sikh in Iraq. There is not much to say about either case, except about the need to protect people who need protection. (If the “progressive” had identified Azaria as the deputy mayor of Jerusalem and berated her about policies there, that would still be rude, but very different.)
    (iv) I think that New Yorkers handled the problem on the subway in exactly the right way. There’s no need for any change at all. Ms. Azaria can stuff it when she condescends to tell us how to behave. She seems to want escalation when none is necessary. If that’s her attitude, I do hope she leaves New York City. We don’t need that.
    (v) If that dude is a progressive then progressivism sucks. Fellow what? Seriously? Come on…

  3. Demonizing and delegitimizing Israel and holding double standards for Israel versus any other country in the word are the modern form of anti-Semitism. When Israeli children can be shot at, rocks may be thrown that kill Israelis including children, Israeli citizens can be purposefully run over when walking down the streets, youth may be kidnapped, men praying in the synagogue may be slaughtered with axes – can this be legitimate? Where are your voices? Why are they only heard for one side when the tragedies on the Israeli side are committed on a constant basis. Why the double standard?
    I do hope that you allow this to appear even though it differs from your ideas and I am not attacking Rachel Azaria.

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