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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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Examining the Jewish world

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Last month in its edition of July 28, The Economist published a 12-page special report on the subject of Judaism and the Jews.

The report comprised six discrete essays on subjects the editorialists of the prestigious, London-based, weekly news magazine felt would provide a sufficiently broad overview of the condition of the Jews in the year 2012.

It was not clear why the magazine chose at this time to dedicate a special section to Judaism and the Jews.

Israel – and the Jews – are a permanent preoccupation for European media. Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians seems to be the only yardstick by which the Jewish state is measured in many quarters in Europe. And, of course, by that yardstick, given the jaundiced attitudes and distorted coverage of the conflict that dominate there, Israel emerges as an ogre-like monster of giant malevolent proportions.

The six essay subjects were “Alive and well,” an overview of the modern Jewish condition; “Judaism in the Diaspora”; “Judaism in Israel”; “Israeli politics”; “Ideological divisions,” and “Looking ahead.” There was also a small sidebar on the phenomenon of the proliferation of Chabad houses around the world called “Hospitality abroad.”

Despite the inclusion of the term Judaism in the title of report, most of the reportage kept returning to the myriad ways in which Jews relate to Israel and to the myriad ways in which Israel affects the lives of the Jews of the world. This was quite evident from the very beginning of the report in which the following summary subheading appeared: “Judaism is enjoying an unexpected revival.” But in the very next sentence it adds the caution: “There are deep religious and political divisions, mostly centred in Israel.”

The special report was generally free of the obsessively, one-sided, hostile treatment of Israel we have come to expect from most British media. That’s because a great deal of the report deals with the behaviour of Jews outside of Israel. Nevertheless, the magazine’s disdain for the policies of the centre-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quite evident throughout the report.

For example, in the essay on Israeli politics the writer pens a wildly generalized, unfair assessment of the Israeli government’s response to current anti-Israel developments throughout the world.

“For the Israeli right and for many Jewish communal leaders in the Diaspora, an undifferentiated axis of evil (my emphasis) extends from the Iranians to the Palestinians and on to antisemitic thugs on European streets. Rising antisemitism is lumped together with growing criticism of Israeli policy and hyped by Mr. Netanyahu’s government into what it calls a campaign for the ‘delegitimization’ of Israel.”

The magazine implies that the campaign for the “delegitimization” of Israel is some cynical, opportunistic concoction by the prime minister of Israel to rally his hordes of right-wing supporters. The writer uses the phrase delegitimization in an ironic sense, placing it in quotation marks suggesting there is little truth in its use. Or that at least he or she does not believe it to be true.

In truth, of course, the campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state has been active at least from the mid-’70s when the infamous “Zionism is Racism” was passed and adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Even though the resolution was subsequently rescinded by the UN, it has transmogrified into the even more sinister, more dangerous poster slogan “Apartheid Israel” and spawned the equally dangerous and notorious BDS campaign that advocates the boycott of, disinvestment from and sanctions against Israel.

The first UN-authorized anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 breathed its hateful, foul life into the free-coursing sails of the apartheid, BDS cutter.

Among the first individuals to warn against the delegitimization of Israel were human rights champions such as Harvard law professor Allan Dershowitz and Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.

Netanyahu has every right today, many years after the term was first coined, to warn the world against this menacing threat to his country. To accuse him of pointing to an “undifferentiated axis of evil” is inaccurate and unfair. He – and the many Jewish communal leaders the magazine lumps in with him – have been quite precise in identifying those who pose the greatest threats to the existence of the Jewish state.

The Economist’s special report on the condition of the Jews was a superficial skimming across a complicated surface by journalists purporting to add depth to a story. But, for them, it remained still merely only a story. Nothing more important.

A short time before The Economist’s report was published, the Jewish People’s Policy Institute (JPPI) – a body established by the Jewish Agency for Israel – published its annual assessment for 2011-2012. The JPPI report is not a journalistic work. It is a work of serious research by a group of individuals concerned about and dedicated to helping steer the Jewish People to a thriving future. More on the JPPI report next week.




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