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2019-02-06 / Columnists

Just Bill

Not Anti-Semitic to Criticize Israel
Musings from the Mind of Bill Diem

I went into Paris to hear Delphine Horviller, a Jewish rabbi, talk about rising anti- Semitism in the world. Terrorist and anti-Semitic outrages are growing in Europe, and in Pennsylvania Robert Bowers went into a synagogue and killed 11 elderly men and women after shouting, “All Jews must die.”

Political America has been dividing into two camps that don’t speak much to each other. Since 2016 we’ve seen White Supremacist parades and more open division.

American Jews have felt safe, compared to those in Europe, said rabbi Horviller. When I was in high school in Ohio, many of my friends were Jewish. To me, they were kids that had another religion, like Catholics or Baptists. I was a Methodist.

Judy Genshaft’s father said I couldn’t take her to the prom because I wasn’t Jewish, so I suffered from the tribal attitude, but it was her father, not her religion. At college I joined a fraternity with a huge variety of young men.

Several years after graduation I heard the Chi Phis called “the Jewish house.” Yes, many members were Jewish, but that meant no more to us than the town from which they came.

The fact that Jews look like atheists or Methodists is one of the facts of anti-Semitism, said rabbi Horviller. People wonder, “Is so-andso a Jew?”

The rabbi said the difference between racism and anti-Semitism is that white racists feel superior to blacks, while anti-Semites are jealous of Jews. She said that has been going on for thousands of years.

Such prejudice was never worse than during World War II, when Nazis and their sympathizers in France murdered between five and six million Jews. Rabbi Horviller said things get worse when a nation loses its identity. She said that right now, the Jewish community in France feels loneliness.

I liked listening to her, because she is a rare female rabbi and because she is well educated. She was ordained in New York City.

I attended this event of the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris because a question on my mind is how to criticize the politics of the country of Israel without sounding like an anti- Semite. I believe that one of the world’s problems is Israel Palestine.

Many Israeli citizens think it’s OK to take land from the Palestinians, either for their own protection, or because they want the land. It’s the same argument that white Americans used against Native Americans during the push west. Our government ignored its treaties with tribes over and over again. Wounded Knee was a lot like Israeli snipers killing Palestinians throwing rocks.

I asked rabbi Horviller. Yes, she said, you can criticize Israel’s policies without criticizing Jews. She said she is in that box herself and gets hate mail from rightwing Israelis.

I think that Israel should retire from settlements it has appropriated in Palestinian territory. I think that Palestinians and other Arabs should accept the existence of Israel. Violence should end.

A few years ago it seemed like there would never be peace in Northern Ireland, and there is. Maybe the miracle will repeat itself.

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