Varieties of anti-Semitism

Joseph Aaron

Let’s discuss some different kinds of anti-Semitism, shall we.

Let us begin with soft anti-Semitism. The kind practiced by one Donald J. Trump.

Do I think Trump is an anti-Semite? No, not in the sense that he hates Jews or wishes them ill. I do however think he is guilty of soft anti-Semitism. Meaning he thinks Jews are shrewder than other people, are much better at making and handling money than other people. Meaning he admires us, but it’s an admiration based on classic Jewish stereotypes.

Have you noticed that pretty much every lawyer Trump has is Jewish? That’s been true of his personal and business life like forever. Indeed he began his career under the tutelage of Jewish lawyer Roy Cohn. More recently his personal attorney has been and is Michael Cohen. The Trump organization’s top lawyer is Jason Greenblatt. The guy Trump turned to every time he filed bankruptcy was David Friedman. When Trump was elected, he left his two sons in charge along with one other guy, name of Allen Weisselberg.

And now that he’s under investigation by the FBI, among others, he has Jewish lawyered up. His top lawyer handling the investigation for him is Mark Kasowitz. His public face in the media is Jay Sekulow. Which tells you something about the soft anti-Semitism at the heart of the Donald.

It’s also at the heart of his entrusting so many things to Jared Kushner, who is clearly not qualified to handle any of them. But he’s one of those smart Jews, so Trump trusts him like he does no other aide. And have you noticed that the people the Donald appointed to the top two posts in dealing with the economy, namely secretary of the treasury and chairman of the national economic council, are both, you guessed it, Jews. Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn. Who better than Jews to give you advice on financial matters.

Again it’s not hate of Jews but love of Jews but for the wrong reasons. Which is why though he is surrounded by Jews, he can be so callous as to forget to mention Jews in a statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

So that’s soft anti-Semitism at work. Hard anti-Semitism is what we just recently witnessed right here in sweet home Chicago at the Chicago Dyke March.

What happened is that three Jewish women were not allowed to march because their rainbow flags had a Star of David on them.

Now for starters you should note that the Dyke March is separate from Chicago’s main pride parade because its organizers say it is “more inclusive,” more “social justice oriented” than the main parade.

And yet it told three Jewish women they could not take part in the parade because their flags “made people feel unsafe,” said the white Star of David in the center would be a “trigger,” or traumatic stimulus, for people who find it offensive.

What in the hell does that even mean? How could a pretty rainbow flag with a magen david make people feel unsafe? There is nothing threatening about it and I can assure you there were far weirder, creepier things being carried at the march.

The only way that flag could make people uncomfortable is if they hate Jews. No other reason. Sure you can have political differences about Israel, disagree with Israeli policy, be supportive of Palestinian rights, but how does that justify excluding people from a march explicitly held in the name of inclusion, in the name of diversity, in the name of not labeling people for who they are, for what they believe.

In a statement explaining their decision, March organizers said the women were told to leave the March “after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism.”

As if that is some kind of crime, something beyond the pale. No sane or rational person can feel people, Jews, should be thrown out for expressing support for Zionism. Again, disagree all you want with Israeli policy, but to make out like someone who expresses support for Zionism deserves to be shunned is nauseating in any context by anyone, but especially so from people holding an event dedicated to saying people should not be shunned or judged or dismissed simply because they are something not everyone agrees with, finds acceptable, is tolerant of.

And then in the classic ‘tell’ that someone is an anti-Semite, doing something anti-Semitic, the organizers in their statement said they are “explicitly not anti-Semitic, we are anti-Zionist.”

Oh really. Well those women were not carrying the flag of the Zionists, namely the Israeli flag, they were holding up a symbol of the Jewish people, the Star of David.

Which is what makes this very hard, very sick, very nauseating anti-Semitism.

And, of course, you have the irony that Israel is one of the most gay tolerant countries on earth, with Tel Aviv consistently voted one of the most gay friendly cities in the world, let alone in the Middle East. Tel Aviv hosts a huge gay pride parade every year. There is no city in the Palestinian territories that does so; indeed any of the organizers of the Chicago Dyke March who would try to lead a dyke march in Ramallah would very fast understand what it means to be made to feel unsafe.

Speaking of the Middle East, let us now turn to another form of anti-Semitism, namely Jewish anti-Semitism. Jew hatred of other Jews, internal anti-Semitism.

The Western Wall is the holiest site in Judaism. All Jews agree on that, and agree on how sacred a place it is. Which is why so many Jews wish to pray there.

The thing is different Jews pray different ways. Some keep men and women separate during prayers, some do not. Some would never permit women to wear a tallit or carry the Torah, while others are fine with it, some even encouraging it.

So it always is with Jews, a range of Jews with a wide variety of viewpoints and ways of being Jewish. But no matter how you are Jewish or what you believe or the form your worship takes, all Jews believe praying at the Wall is a very special thing to do.

But because there are those differences in how different Jews pray, about five years ago, the Israeli government set up a group to see how all Jews could be comfortable praying at the Wall, no Jews would be made to feel uncomfortable at the Wall, how it could be a place where all Jews got along, all ways of being Jewish could be respected.

The group included representatives of all parts of Judaism, including the Orthodox management of the Wall under the office of the chief rabbi of the Wall. And they all worked very hard in a true spirit of Jewish unity to come up with a solution. And miracle of miracles they did, something that respected all Jews and Jewish ways, respected the feelings of all Jews, gave all Jews equal access and equal rights, made the Wall a truly Jewish place of solemnity and unity.

Everyone in the group agreed to the plan. And so it was decided that the plaza in front of the Wall would keep things as they have always been, with men and women praying separately and with traditional Jewish practices observed. At the same time, a new plaza would be built that would be open to egalitarian services, to non-Orthodox services. Each stream having their own place, able to do their own thing without infringing on or disturbing the sensibilities of other Jews.

At the time, Netanyahu called it a “fair and creative solution.”

That was then, this is now. Indeed, immediately after the agreement was announced — after all those years of hard work, all the people involved, everyone agreeing to a very sensible solution — the right wing super Orthodox crazies went, well, crazy, saying the ugliest things, doing the ugliest things, vowing that the agreement would never be implemented.

And because they have inordinate political power and will employ every and any tactic to get their way, after about a year of kvetching  and threatening and insulting, they finally got Bibi to betray the vast majority of the world’s Jews and betray the very essence of Judaism and the notion that all Jews are one. He announced that the agreement was being “frozen,” whatever that means. What it means in reality is that the deal is dead and the crazies have won and most Jews and Judaism itself has lost.

Just like those anti-Semitic Dyke March organizers who insisted no, they are not anti-Semitic, Bibi too played games, saying he had appointed a new commission to come up with a new plan that would be acceptable to the Orthodox parties but still address concerns of the other streams of Judaism. Of course, there will never be a plan that the Orthodox parties will okay, and Bibi knows it, but doesn’t have the guts to say it. Instead he pretends, telling the majority of the world’s Jews he’s still on their side even as he has just stabbed them in the back.

As Natan Sharanasky, a Jewish hero and the guy in charge of the negotiations that led to the agreement, said, “Five years ago, the Prime Minister asked me to lead a joint effort to bring about a workable formula that would transform the Western Wall into, in his own words, ‘one wall for one people.’ After four years of intense negotiations, we reached a solution that was accepted by all major denominations and was then adopted by the government and embraced by the world’s Jewish communities. Today’s decision signifies a retreat from that agreement and will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more difficult.”

Donald Trump thinks Jews are smarter than everyone. Soft anti-Semitism. Those Chicago Dyke March organizers think a rainbow flag with a Star of David on it makes people feel unsafe. Hard anti-Semitism. But what we have just seen in Jerusalem, 90 percent of the world’s Jews being told that no, they may not have equal access and equal rights at the Wall, no, they may not practice their Judaism as they wish in the Jewish state at the holiest of Jewish sites, is Jewish anti-Semitism. And that by far is the worst kind of anti-Semitism there is.

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