Via Elder of Ziyon I came to the article, You have the right to feel offended, by Judea Pearl, father of Daniel Pearl (HY"D). Like Elder, I think the article makes some good points yet don’t agree with everything. The reason I see it fit to write a whole post about this article is that I have a fundamental disagreement with it—a difference of opinion about its very root thesis, not just about its specifics.
Professor Pearl rightly tells of the vile slurs that the anti-Zionists heap on us, though he mars his point by saying, “Zionophobia is no less revolting than Islamophobia” (because a phobia is an irrational fear, a fear not founded in fact; Zionism is accused of being a Jewish plot to rule the world, which has no basis in fact, while Islam’s goal of world domination is expounded clearly in the canon of the religion, and stated unabashedly by multitudes of Muslims worldwide). He observantly points out the offense of the libel of portraying Zionism as something that was created in 19th-century Europe from scratch:
Some claim that Zionism is not entitled to such defense, since “Zionism is a political movement, not a religion”, or “Zionism is a recent phenomenon, a product of 19th century European nationalism”.
These claimants know little about Jewish history or Jewish identity or how Jewish history and identity were shaped for centuries by the Zionist idea of the “return of the exiles”. They certainly have not read the Mishna, or Nahum Sokolov’s "History of Zionism (1600–1919)" or my grandfather’s siddur (e.g., Veholichenu Kommemiut Leartsenu—“and thou shall walk us in sovereignty to our country” [Birkat Hamazon]).
That is an act of historical negationism more dangerous than any Holocaust Denial, and cultural theft every bit as pernicious as New Age appropriations of indigenous customs. Pearl is to be praised for raising this issue, which is far too often neglected by those who would rather focus on outdated and nearly impotent threats such as the classical anti-Semitism of the White Aryan Nations. But I opine that the central weakness in Pearl’s article lies in the following quote:
We, as Jews, have been grossly negligent in permitting the dehumanization of Israel to become socially acceptable in certain circles of society, especially on college campuses. Our silence, natural resilience to insults and general reluctance to confront colleagues and friends have contributed significantly to the Orwellianization of campus vocabulary and the legitimization of the unacceptable. Most of our assailants are even unaware of the shivers that go down our spines with utterances such as “apartheid Israeli regime” or “brutal Israeli occupation”. [Both emphases mine. —ZY]
I have said it before, that the problem with talking about “being offended” is that it shifts the discussion from objective (even if debatable) realities into subjective feelings. Once feelings are brought into the mix, there is no possibility for discussion, and there is no end to the demands that could be made. “This offends me” is not a good basis for either discussion or action. Schoolkids beat each other up because of swear-words, until they grow out of it (not a very common occurrence in our age of “self-esteem”, but I digress), while grown-ups use their “feeling of being offended” as the basis for litigation, for the defamation lawsuits that are the blight of Western civilization today. And let us not forget the masters of overreacting at feelings of offense, the Muslims—“Mohammed Cartoons”, and not another word needs to be added.
Once, I stumbled upon a provocative photo of a tzitzit wrapped around bare female legs. I was offended. More than once, I have read the anti-Zionist abuse on left-wing sites like Daily Kos. I am offended, no question about it, but more than I am offended, I am distressed. There is a world of difference between my reaction to that tasteless photo and the anti-Zionist libels. I can dismiss the former with a retort in my head, saying, “Grow up, already”, while I cannot react in such a way to the latter. Why? It has everything to do with the distinction between swear-words and death threats.
I support free speech and open discourse nearly absolutely. Even Holocaust Denial, as well as the anti-Zionist vitriol I read on lefty websites. But while things that are merely offensive, blasphemous photos and other such equivalents of schoolkids’ swear-words, can be shrugged off as people’s misuse of their right to free speech, the anti-Zionist sentiments cannot, for they are the equivalents of death threats. I support the right of the anti-Zionists to say what they say, but as with death threats, I hold that there should be consequences for saying them.
Look at this choice collection of comments from the article Boycott Movement Targets Israel by George Bisharat, on Common Dreams. First:
Takamine2002 August 15th, 2007 6:42 pm
why do we allow dual citizenship, dual nationality passport holders to hold political office in the USA?
jaalle August 15th, 2007 7:35 pm
Israel is a blot on the collective conscience of Mankind. […]
citizen1 August 15th, 2007 10:11 pm
It’s about time. Israels [sic] is a racist and genocidal country. I never, ever buy anything from Israel. [Your computer is probably powered by a chip that is the fruit of both Israeli research and production. —ZY]
But you know what? No one ever talks about the other Israeli occupied territory, which is the US Congress.
Fourth, and definitely the winner (of the Golden Swastika Medal):
truthteller August 15th, 2007 10:39 pm
How right you are. The entire leadership of the U. S. Congress is full of sops for Zionism, both parties. They go to the annual AIPAC convention to perform acts of contrition to their masters and beg for more funds to continue in office to support more of OUR tax dollars going to Israel. It is past high time to call for an end to ALL U. S. government support (military and financial) to the Zionist fascist state of Israel. We support genocide against the Palestinian people every bit as wrong as what white European settlers did to native Americans.
Maybe by cutting off Israel’s sources of funding and arms their neighbors will finally have a chance to drive all of them into the sea where they belong. [Emphasis mine. —ZY]
These comments are typical of every thread on Common Dreams, Huffington Post, TruthDig and other such sites that discusses the Israel/“Palestine” conflict. So it’s not that I’m surprised by those comments—take them as vindication for Judea Pearl’s observation that the dehumanization of Israel and Zionism has become all but acceptable.
Do I find the comments offensive? Extremely. But that’s not the point. Not the point at all! The point is that the comments are dangerous. They’re one with the genocidal comments of Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah (may they both go to hell soon, amen) in saying that it is right and just to kill Jews (God forbid).
The entire portrayal of Zionism as a “19th-century European White Colonial Settler Movement” is not just an offense, a smear, a swear-word writ as an intellectual thesis—it is a death threat. It says, “You Jews have no right to be on that land, and the human race will be better off when the Palestinians wipe you out there”. It is a underhanded, acceptable-sounding way of expressing agreement with the Hamas Charter: “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. […] The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished […]” [Emphasis mine. —ZY]
Hamas logo. Supporting the “Palestinian Right of Return” means supporting their genocidal goal, even if that’s not the intention.
Let us stop treating anti-Zionism as an offense, as something that hurts our feelings, and start treating it for the threat to our lives that it is. I support the right of the anti-Zionists to say what they say; I call for a future, truly Jewish administration to bring them to justice for that, to the hangman’s noose. To treat anti-Zionism as a matter of offense feeds the global fashion of elevating subjective feelings above objective reality—the core of the very postmodernism, multiculturalism and Political Correctness that is being used as a club against Zionism in particular, and by the Muslims against non-Islamic states in general. If framed as a matter of guarding our lives instead, it both achieves the benefit of countering the threat of this latest form of Jew-hatred and avoids doing the damage of giving strength to the Legal Jihad of the Muslims against the West.
It’s not about our feelings, it’s about our lives. “Rise up early to kill him who rises up to kill you”, said our sages of blessed memory.