Jews are good to eat kugel with, opined that notorious anti-Semite, Sholom Aleichem, and he added, that is all they are good to do with. This maxim came to my mind, as Chicago hosts the ‘Junity’, or Jewish Unity for Just Peace conference. Maybe Sholom Aleichem was too harsh. He spoke without knowing any Sephardi Jews who would rather die than touch kugel. But even forsaking this sticky delicacy, I can imagine few things Jews can meaningfully do together, – for example, pray. Political struggle for equality in Palestine does not call for a separate Jews-only discussion.
Moreover, it is a self-defeating course. The concept of Jews for Justice, Jews for peace and other separatist all-Jewish groups in pursuit of common goals appears to me about as justifiable as that of Whites against Apartheid. Equality in South Africa was achieved by overcoming such dubious groupings, by the color-blind force of the ANC. The civil rights struggle in the Southern states was carried out by Blacks and Whites together. It appears that the case of Palestine should not be different. Why, then, the Jewish Unity instead of the Human, all-American conference?
This question has an answer. Many American Jews have come to object the mistreatment of non-Jews in Palestine. Their numbers are limited, as is their influence, but the process is important and desirable. Maybe they do not change the world, but their honorable position has a profound impact on them. They find marvelous new friends, their fellow Americans, and discover the human warmth outside the all-Jewish environment. They break with the tribal tradition of ‘Jews hanging together’, and discover the way to join their countrymen. They become better human beings; they achieve ‘tikkun’, the mystic correction of soul.
Such a man is Bob Green of Vermont, a psychoanalyst, a nephew of the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, and a scion of the illustrious Aharonson family who added many pages to the history of Palestine. His best friends are Mousa, a computer expert for IBM, an American Palestinian from ancient Aboud, and his wife Kristin, an American of Norwegian extraction, the brilliant translator of Arab literature. I met them in Vermont and was blown away by their friendship, based on love to humanity. They are a paradigm of brotherhood: when other Jews follow the way of Bob Green out of separatism, the present policies of the organized Jewish community will come to an end.
That is the last thing the bosses want. I would not be amazed if they discussed it yesterday, when they met in the Edgar Bronfman mansion in Manhattan. The head of the World Jewish Congress hosted a meeting of the fifty richest and most powerful Jews of the US and Canada. There was no press coverage, no limelight, just a few lines in the newspapers. The gathered multibillionaires discussed the ways to achieve Jewish unity, and strengthen the Jewish identity of American Jews, tersely reported Shlomo Shamir for Haaretz. They also agreed to launch a PR program under the Orwellian codename of ‘Truth’ with the purpose of influencing American public opinion regarding Israeli policies.
The megabucks call themselves ‘Mega group’. This name appeared in the media a couple of years ago, as a name for the secret Israeli mole in the upper reaches of the US establishment. It came up in an overheard phone conversation, later denied by the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC. The newshounds and spook watchers got it wrong. ‘Mega’ was not an agent, Mega was the boss.
It is a favorite subject of many columnists and analysts, whether the tail (Israel) wags the dog (the US) or the other way around. Here I have to disappoint the conspiracy seekers. In my opinion, Israel does not dictate American policy. Our small and poor state with its motley population commanded by old generals is quite unable to do that. By no flight of imagination can I see in my country the forces able to swing world public opinion. We have not the money, nor the spirit to do the trick. Megabucks influence us, even more than they influence the US. Our politicians are as weak and corrupt as America’s, and they are easier to swing. Even relative small-timers can cause eruption and bloodshed, like the Californian bingo-parlor owner Moskovitz who pushed our ex-prime minister Netaniyahu to open the tunnel near the Haram al Sharif. That is why we have a parody of democracy, instead of a democracy.
The Megabucks can buy Israel with their spare change. If they wish, we would have peace in Palestine today. But they are not interested in Israel per se. Israel for them is only a means to Jewish unity, on a par with the Holocaust propaganda. The idea is to keep Jews together, away from hanging with other folks. The heads of the American Jewish community need it, as they have a fair chance to find themselves without soldiers, all chiefs, and no Indians.
In a new book titled The Jew Within [i], Steven Cohen and Arnold M. Eisen, write: ‘The organized American Jewish community has issued various alarms in recent years about assimilation, intermarriage and diminishing population’. The book was reviewed by Dr Bill Friend, who added, ‘Only one third of the US Jews still belong to the organized community, intermarriage is over 50%, and less and less people identify themselves as Jews. The leaders of the organized Jewish community are scared by the loss of identification with the state of Israel, as the less the Jews of North America identify with the State of Israel, the less power ‘the Jewish Lobby’ can exert on U.S. foreign policy with regard to Israel’.
The prolix Dr Friend just missed the point. For him, the Lobby exists for the sake of Israel, and Zionism is the corrupting force. This opinion presumes a lot of altruism in the hearts of the Jewish community leaders. In my opinion, the Megabucks care for themselves, and they need Israel in order to keep the American Jews together, supporting them. That is why they do not mind bloodshed in Palestine, and even a bloody regional war does not scare them. A war, and multiple casualties in Israel would just give a boost to the desired Jewish Unity in the US. Zionism, this bogey of Dr Friend, is an old and toothless beast, while Israel is not the Evil Empire, but a poorly scripted and staged soap opera for the American Jewish audience.
Israel is populated by real but bewildered men, who can not understand the ideas of the script writers. Our heads spin with the limelight and attention. The generous gifts make us dizzy and infect us with smug self-importance. When Bill Clinton was on his way to visit Israel, our Rabbi Yosef suggested the American President should kiss the feet of the Jews in supplication. Cabbala teachers multiplied and Israeli ministers ask their advice and guidance. The Haaretz newspaper even published a short story about an American president overthrown for failing to comply with Cabbalists’ decision.
In my opinion, Megabucks, rather than forces of Cabbala, move the events in the Middle East. It is not magic, just money, – but a lot of money. They do not rule America or Israel, but they exercise a lot of influence. Fifty multibillionaires united in one framework present a very real force in the world. And they want to preserve their community by all means.
They are quite tolerant to a bit of dissent. You may support Israeli policies or reject them, as long as you do it in the separate for Jews-only groups, they do not mind. Jewish Unity for Just Peace, or Jewish Unity for Holy War are quite the same, as long as there is the idea of Jewish unity. I would choose the idea of human unity and leave the megabucks stranded.
History repeats itself. Over a hundred years ago, the Russian Jewish socialists, Bund, asked Lenin for permission to join his new movement as a separate collective member. ‘Everyone of you is welcome to join the common struggle of workers against Russian and Jewish moneybags, but as a separate group you would just split our forces’, he replied. Eventually many Russian Jews joined the movement of Russian workers, and together they changed the course of history. The Bund withered, some of its members drifted to Zionism.
In a way, Lenin followed Paul in his dispute with Peter [ii]. In Antioch, Peter behaved like a brother to Gentile Christians until the emissaries from Jerusalem arrived. Then he got cold feet and separated himself from Gentiles. The other Jewish brothers also started acting like cowards along with Peter, until Paul, this learned Jew from Tarsus and lover of Israel, opposed him in public and turned the tide back. Lenin and Paul were right: in the great new movement, there is no need neither place for the separatist streak.
We should create an international non-exclusivist movement, let us call it “Together (Yachad, in Hebrew, Sawa in Arabic) Network”, uniting people of all opinions for the true democracy and brotherhood in Palestine.
[i] THE JEW WITHIN: self, family and community in America, Indiana University
[ii] Galatians, 3