Yossi Klein Halevi, a noted Israeli author and journalist, recently told a university audience that anti-Semitism is inevitable.
His message was get used to it, and for Jews to stop fighting amongst themselves. In the aftermath of the infamous anti-Semitic cartoon offered up by the New York Times, and considering all of the investments being made in initiatives designed to undermine and ultimately destroy the Jewish state, his rather bald statement requires serious focus.
The issue is ever more complicated because of the manufactured confusion between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism (hatred of Jews and hatred of the Jewish state). There should be no confusion- the two are one and the same.
The Israeli flag has become an inappropriate symbol in far too many venues. Even among some Jews, it has a political connotation that reportedly offends some, and makes others uncomfortable. There are many instances of Zionists – Jewish or not – showing up at an event, and being told that the Israeli flag must be removed. Meanwhile, a Canadian or U.S. flag is generally accepted, and a flag of Belgium, Germany, Spain or Portugal would be just fine.
Yet, all of those nations, Canada included, have a history – and in some cases a present – of subjugation, discrimination or genocide. Would we object to a Chinese-Canadian hoisting a flag of China, despite China’s human rights abuses, and remarkably aggressive conduct around the globe; or the flag of a Russia that has effectively reinstated the Cold War?
I will accept that displaying the flag of Iran or North Korea might generate some negative reaction (if either flag were recognized, but by any “objective” standard, there is no relationship between the behaviour of Israel and that of Iran or North Korea).
The problem is the word “objective,” because those who judge the Jewish people and criticize Israel do not display any objectivity. They treat Jews differently, just as they treat Israel differently, because it is the Jewish state.
So if Halevi is right, and I think he is, then we need to move on from the incredulity, surprise, disgust and fear that arises when established institutions like the New York Times express publicly what many consider factual – that Jews are the scourge of humanity, and Israel is the major problem of the world today, because of its Jewishness and the things it does to ensure it is not destroyed.
If Israel’s prime minister, regardless of who it might be, advocates in Washington against the true scourge of the world, Iran, or advocates for the positive treatment of Israel for what it is- the most loyal and useful ally of the United States, that should be accepted as normal and appropriate.
When America’s president finally has the courage to do what his predecessors failed to do – whether it be moving the embassy to Israel’s capital, or refusing to support anti-Semitic elements of the United Nations, or eliminating funds used by the Palestinian Authority to reward the families of terrorists – surely the values of the West should generate a chorus of applause, not criticism, particularly among the Jewish people.
I refuse to accept that my connection to the Jewish homeland is too “political” to be shared publicly. And I refuse to accept that it is in any way moral or appropriate that Jews and the Jewish state be treated differently than anyone else. If anything, given our record of achievement as a people, the opposite should be true. No, I am not suggesting that we are better than any other people, but we are not worse either, and we deserve equal treatment. And that, we do not get. So get out your Israeli flags and show them proudly!