Jews in the diaspora are now also an enemy for Israel – or why Richard Spencer, a Nazi, and David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador, celebrate Israeli racism

The Trump administration has presided over the emergence of anti-Jewish as well as anti-Muslim forms of racism/anti-semitism, along of course, with hatred directed at Latinos and ICE violence against immigrants, and increasing racism toward African-Americans, and violence toward Standing Rock protestors. The administration also tore at poor white folks in Trump Care but, because of protest from below at every town hall, went down in flames. Illustrating Pastor Martin Niemoller’s words, it is a dark all-around record, once again, one checked or defended against only by an uprising from below for democracy and decency.

One thread of Trump\Bannon racism is the revival of anti-semitism. Jared Kushner an orthodox Jew is, along with Steve Bannon, Trump’s go-to guy. Bannon says that good capitalism – a somehow moral view for white people supposedly of the sort that enriched him – comes from “Judeo-Christian forefathers.” And Trump and Bannon have the state of Israel and some pro-Israel rabbis – as well as “Christian Zionists” – lined up with them.

Yet with Eastern European and Putin “strong men,” Bannon, Sessions and Trump demonize George Soros and “soulless globalization.” And in Israel, some of the hate crimes carried out against Jewish Community Centers in the United States have been initiated by a young Jewish settler named Kaydar. Throwing piss and shit down threw the wires covering the destroyed central market in Occupied Hebron – see my account of this here – oppressing and forbidding movement of Palestinians from the Occupied territories except to drive them out – see here – now extends to attacks on Jewish children in America. And of course Trump’s personal lawyer and now ambassador to Israel, David Friedman spits on American Jews as “kapos.”

That the Netanyahu government has hitched its star to the Alt-Right and that Nazi-like incidents now emerge from Jewish “national Sovereignty” racists is, even across the dark history of a brutal, militarized occupation, something new and startling.

The first article from Mondoweiss below is on the Israeli arrest of the Kaydar accused of making the hundreds of bomb threats at American Jewish Community Centers. David Shasha, the author, explores the connection of what one might call Zionist anti-semitism – here demonizing “fake Jews” as opposed to all Jews, but otherwise similar, particularly in its violence – and the Alt-Right. Note how the American Nazi Richard Spencer hung a pro-Zionist rabbi out to dry about this issue in their debate last fall at Texas A&M. For he said, “we just want a White National America, excluding nonwhite people just like you want a Jewish Israel. You are not intending to intergrate a ‘one-state’ system.” The rabbi stood, silent, laid bare…

That apartheid – and ethnic cleansing – is the attitude of some Jews in Israel, nurtured by a racist Occupation and the Israeli government, is, to put it mildly, a problem (just as is the luxury and violence of the pink-roofed settlements up on the hills defended by the IDF against nonviolent and impoverished protestors down beyond a Wall or old men spitting on 8 year old Jewish girls for wearing the wrong clothes).

Shasha speaks of children evacuated from the JCC’s, cowering in fear, and names Kaydar’s Zionist sadism.

But did Kaydar make the threats in some over 400 cases…? Note: even the prize racist Jeff Sessions, hater of immigrants and blacks, met with Jewish Community Center leaders yesterday…

Kaydar must have been a busy bigot…

But Kaydar did not desecrate the cemeteries – Muslims joined with Jews in repairing the one in St. Louis; 20 rabbis were vocal protestors of Trump’s Muslim ban in Manhattan, and Jews and Christians have helped in Texas repair a mosque – nor did he concoct Steve Bannon and Trump’s last advertizement of the campaign attacking globalization and George Soros, along with Janet Yellin, head of the Federal Reserve, and Lloyd Blankfein, head of Golman-Sachs. Nor did Kaydar manufacture the horrific sentiment about Soros in Russia and Eastern Europe, part of the “international” “Tea Party” which Bannon sought to link up with at Breitbart (see his 2014 speech to reactionary, anti-Muslim Catholics).

Peter Beinart also has an article criticizing demonizing the racisms of Trump and Bannon without clear cause from Forward (second below). Peter is absolutely right about examining each case with care. And some of what he says about Sebastian Gorka’s Nazism, the loud, reactionary Trump official and Bannon shadow, in favor of stepping on Muslims inside and outside the United States, is also right. Gorka is an opponent of globalization (his thesis advisor, now University President, in Hungary supports Viktor Orban who also campaigns against “Sorosization” and the three have roughly similar political inclinations).

In addition, the group whose medal Gorka wore at the Inauguration – Vitezi Rend – the order of Valiant knights memorializing the Crusades founded by the dictator Horthy in 1920 – did deport some 100,000 jews to Hitler and the death camps in 1944. I read Gorka’s own account of this in his remarkably short, anti-scholarly book about a “Christian” U.S. making war on Islam: Defeating Jihad: the Winnable War. The original reporting on Gorka was mistaken as the National Review pointed out; his father, Paul, was not in World War II…

Gorka celebrates his father’s Christian revolt against Soviet domination in Hungary, denounces his arrest and torture, celebrates his freeing through the Hungarian revolt in 1956…Still, the Vitezi Rend medal, awarded to his father by a pro-Nazi “nationalist” group in exile, is not something that deeper Christians would have taken, including many, perhaps most Hungarians. Further, the letter “v.” which Gorka has adopted in his name comes from this group, of which he is at least an affiliate. He has not yet said anything about the Vitezi Rend’s role in deporting Jews to the death camps.

It is no accident, however, that Steve Bannon took him on at Breitbart as a Middle East “expert,” and that they have the same vision of the Crusades and Valiant Knights then and now…(see my “Bannon as a Medieval Knight” here).


‘Negation of the diaspora’ as Zionist antisemitism: The JCC bomb threats came from an Israeli Jew
David Shasha March 28, 2017

The JCC bomb threat suspect, identified as Michael Kaydar by The Daily Beast, leaving court in Rishon Lezion, Israel, March 23, 2017. (Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

After many months of speculation, we have now learned the name and identity of the perpetrator of the JCC bomb threats. Michael Kaydar, a Jewish teenage resident of Ashkelon in Southern Israel, has been charged with the crimes. The announcement of the arrest caused immediate panic in American Jewish circles and, not unexpectedly, the American Alt-Right Nazis were thrilled to hear that the suspect is a Jew.

Also not unexpectedly, The Forward, with its intense Ashkenazi Jewish ethnocentrism, published a spate of opinion pieces which expressed great worry about the fact that the Anti-Semite was an Israeli Jew. There was even a “gradation” of Anti-Semites presented by Peter Beinart in the face of all the Trumpworld malfeasance. Forward editor-in-chief Jane Eisner gave herself the final word on the matter in a discussion that provides absolutely no insight into the matter and only adds to the moral confusion.

To be fair, it has been a really long time since America has experienced such a mass outbreak of Anti-Semitism, and the Liberal Jewish community has been deeply shaken by its re-emergence under Trumpworld domination. We should however note that the ditto-head Trumpjews were quick to say “I told you so” and demand an apology from the Liberals. It is interesting to note that Trump made extraordinary efforts to catch the perpetrator in Israel. It would seem that Trump is not completely unaware of his toxic role in the resurgence of Anti-Semitism in this country.

With all that we still do not know, it is clear that Kaydar’s antisemitic threats exposed the raw emotions on all sides of the American political spectrum over the explosion of racism in the wake of the Trump election and the ongoing White Christian Supremacist advances in many Western democracies under the banner of Populist Nationalism.

But one aspect of the JCC bomb threat story and its connection to an Israeli teen has not been discussed: the intense loathing of the Jewish Diaspora in classical Zionist thought.

Some years ago I wrote a lengthy review of the right-wing Zionist scholar and political pundit Yoram Hazony’s apologetic book The Jewish State entitled “The Nightmare of Diaspora.” The title referred to the important Zionist concept called in Hebrew Shelilat ha-Galut, Negation of the Diaspora. In the article I quoted from noted Israeli academic and educational leader Ben-Zion Dinur, designer of Israel’s 1953 State Education Law, who states the deeply distorted Zionist view of Jewish history succinctly and accurately:

… Jewish history was, in the main, the history of the Jewish people living in its own land. This is so in spite of three facts of cardinal importance: (1) the antiquity of the Jewish Dispersion, the origins of which may be presumed to go back to before the destruction of the Northern Kingdom; (2) the large number of Diaspora Jewish settlements and communities already existing in the time of the Roman and Byzantine empires (three hundred of them are known to us by name); and (3), the fact that, in this same period, the majority of the Jewish nation was living outside the borders of its own land.

Dinur’s view of Jewish History is predicated on land and settlement rather than religious values and knowledge. Jews were only really Jews when they lived in the Land of Israel and not when they lived in the Diaspora.

The Israeli scholar Uri Ram unpacks the assertion in the following way:

In the invention of the Zionist national tradition the Bible played two pivotal and complementary functions. On the one hand, it attached Zionism very convincingly to Jewish history and culture while, on the other, it enabled Zionism to skip almost two millennia of Jewish Exile and reach back in time to the period of the alleged source of the nation. This was accomplished, first, by singling out the Bible, rather than exilic Jewish literature (the Talmud and other commentaries) from the corpus of Jewish traditional literature, and, second, by the pertinent selection of sections, and the biased interpretations of themes, from the Bible itself.

Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi also provided a perceptive conceptual analysis of modern Judaism and its relation to the Jewish past:

The modern effort to reconstruct the Jewish past begins at a time that witnesses a sharp break in the continuity of Jewish living and hence also an ever-growing decay of Jewish group memory. In this sense, if for no other, history becomes what it had never been before – the faith of fallen Jews. For the first time history, not a sacred text, becomes the arbiter of Judaism.

In the penultimate chapter of his classic book Zakhor, Yerushalmi wisely cites Haim Hazaz’s Hebrew short story Ha-Derasha, The Sermon, which provides a precise articulation of Shelilat ha-Galut:

Those Jews who are still within the enchanted circle of tradition, or those who have returned to it, find the work of the historian irrelevant. They seek, not the historicity of the past, but its eternal contemporary nature. Addressed directly by the text, the question of how it evolved must seem to them subsidiary, if not meaningless.

An anti-historical attitude of a very different kind is expressed by those who have experienced modern Jewish existence as something so totally new that it demands the past be either forgotten or demolished. The deep ambivalence of modern Jews to the past is perhaps best discerned in modern Hebrew literature, which, even more than Yiddish or Anglo-Jewish letters, reflects the widest spectrum of modern Jewish sensibility. Here we find, on the one hand, the fiercest antagonism to the Jewish past, not as a personal idiosyncrasy, but a major theme that runs from the Haskalah to the present. One of the purest instances will suffice:

In the explosive short story by the Hebrew writer Haim Hazaz entitled Ha-Derashah (The Sermon), a meeting of a kibbutz is held at which Yudka, who never speaks on such occasions, startles everyone by rising to unburden himself of thoughts he can no longer contain. Haltingly, at first he declares what has been gnawing at him:

“I want to state,” Yudka spoke with an effort in low, tense tones, “that I am opposed to Jewish history.”
And then, when his stammering gives way to an articulate fury: “I would simply forbid teaching our children Jewish history. Why the devil teach them about our ancestors’ shame? I would just say to them: Boys, from the day we were exile from our land we’ve been a people without a history. Class dismissed. Go out and play football.”

The figure of Yudka, with his primal antipathy to Diaspora Judaism and its cultural legacy, is echoed in the offensive pronouncements of the iconic Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua.

Yehoshua believes that only Israelis are “real” Jews. Diaspora Jews are just “partially” Jewish. In comments made in a 2013 Jerusalem lecture Yeshoshua could not be clearer:

A Jew is an “empty definition.” To fill that definition with substance one must live a Jewish life, and the only way to do that fully, he argued, is to be Israeli. “Israelis are the total Jews,” Yehoshua proclaimed. “The empty definition of Judaism fills up simply by being here… Everything around me is Jewish! Just like everything in America is American.” Every ethical question confronted by an Israeli—say, by an IDF soldier at a West Bank checkpoint—is a dilemma as inherently Jewish as a sugya in the Talmud. “Our values are Jewish values, because we live here. It’s not what the rabbis say that defines Jewishness, but what we Israelis do every day—our actions and our values.” With this he reached his now infamous conclusion: “This is the reason I say to American Jews: you are partial and we are total… If you really want to be Jewish, come here. It’s not easy, full of questions, your nice warm Jewish identity in your community will be over. But this is real and not imaginary.”

Israel as a state is seen in the strictest Zionist terms as the “True Judaism” as it negates the lengthy and complex process of Jewish history in its myriad iterations.

This means that to be Jewish is not to be “adulterated” in any way by the Gentile world.
The “Negation of the Diaspora” is connected to what Zionism sees as Jewish weakness; a defect that is rooted in Diaspora adaptation to the non-Jewish world.

Diaspora Judaism from the Babylonian and Hellenistic periods to Medieval Spain and Modern Europe has been seen by Zionism as an adulteration of the “pure” Jewish identity which is militaristic and xenophobic.

Michael Kaydar was raised in an Israel which holds to the dogmas expressed by Yehoshua and his predecessors like Dinur. It is taken for granted that the State of Israel is a superior country that represents “authentic” Judaism.

In contrast to the weak and pusillanimous Diaspora Jews, the Israelis, calling themselves Sabras, after the fruit with a prickly exterior and sweet center, are Macho Jews who fearlessly call the shots.

It is certain that Kaydar saw the images of cowering JCC students and their teachers which were broadcast on news reports all over the world. His Zionist sadism is a product of an internal Israeli Jewish hatred and contempt for those who are viewed as weak and unable to defend themselves.

We can note here the fact that Kaydar, who suffers from a brain tumor, was rejected for his compulsory military service. This rejection appears to be a critical factor in his decision to threaten American Jewish institutions.

And while it has been reported that he also threatened Israeli institutions in more recent months, the preponderance of his crimes remain tied to the American Jewish Diaspora; that place which has been vilified and demonized by Zionists for so many years.

American Jews are loath to raise the issue of Shelilat ha-Galut; an idea which presents the ways in which Zionism has sought to usurp Jewish identity by creating a rift between those Jews who live in Israel and those who do not.

What is in question here is what Judaism really is and who gets to represent it.

Going back to Haim Hazaz and his provocative short story, the Hebrew word used as its title, Derasha, is very much connected to this question. It is ironic that Hazaz uses the word at the very same time that he seeks to erase the very rabbinical tradition which created it.

The Jewish Sages of the early Diaspora period, after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, conducted a massive organizational effort which transformed Judaism from its Priestly Temple-based nationalist caste into a scholarly-academic religion, increasingly marked by universal values and concerns, which promoted the quietist practice of rituals and the intense study of sacred texts.

It marked the beginning of Jewish Humanism as the defining Judaic ethos.

The rabbis, those castigated in the most debased and ignorant terms by the anti-Jewish bigot A.B. Yehoshua, produced a canonical collection of texts which became the Hebrew Bible. It was this act that inaugurated the People of the Book as opposed to the People of the Land.

It is not that the rabbis eliminated national identity or the restoration of the Jewish people to their homeland, but shows their pragmatic acceptance of the new reality created by the Roman conquest and their reliance on God for the future Redemption.

The loss of national-territorial autonomy did not kill off Judaism as the Zionists contend.

On the contrary, Judaism was reinvigorated and strengthened by a new openness to the world and to its own literary-religious traditions by the practice of Derasha, or canonical exegesis.

Zionism has sought to literalize ancient Jewish tradition by valorizing an atavistic reading of the Hebrew Bible which was shorn of these rabbinical interpretive accretions.

The process of Derasha has been a means to make the Biblical text relevant to contemporary values and to changes in culture, science, and history. The Hebrew Bible became a dynamic work rather than a static record of what happened in the past.

I have provided a brief overview of the Midrashic process in the following Huffington Post article and in a subsequent article I examined the problem of Monolingualism and the static nature of Western Civilization.

Zionism was an outgrowth of Western nationalism rather than a product of the classical Jewish tradition.
The very mechanisms inherent in the Zionist project were adopted from 19th century European philosophy, particularly the ideas of Hegel.

Jonathan Boyarin has brilliantly discussed the matter in his seminal essay “Hegel’s Zionism?”. Zionism has indeed rejected the classical rabbinical tradition, and put in its place a barely-modified Spartan identity that it has identified with the age of the Israelite commonwealth, as I have written in my article “Sparta and Jerusalem: The Zionist Transformation of Jewish Identity.”

The issue of violence looms large in this discussion.

In Michael Kaydar we have a troubling example of the Israeli Spartan ethos gone haywire. He apparently embraced the military ethos of the Zionist protocol and was comfortable making threats against Diaspora Jewish targets which then cowered in fear at the possible danger to their security.

Kaydar thus fits into the larger Trumpworld pattern that has shown us how the Alt-Right finds a commonality with the Zionists:

In a “debate” conducted last December at Texas A&M University between its Hillel rabbi and Alt-Right Nazi leader Richard Spencer, the Zionist issue took on a very troubling cast:

During a question-and-answer session, Texas A&M Hillel’s Rabbi Matt Rosenberg stood and invited the white nationalist to join him in Torah study. Rosenberg’s invitation, and Spencer’s response, were captured on video by The Eagle, the Texas A&M student paper, and viewed widely on Twitter.

“My tradition teaches a message of radical inclusion and love,” Rosenberg said. “Will you sit town and learn Torah with me, and learn love?”

Spencer declined the invitation, but used it as an opportunity to suggest that the objectives of Zionism and Jewish continuity were close to his own goals for white people.

“Do you really want radical inclusion into the State of Israel?” Spencer said. “And by that I mean radical inclusion. Maybe all of the Middle East could go move in to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Would you really want that?”

Rosenberg, who later admitted he is not a good debater, stood silent.

“You’re not answering,” Spencer said.

“I’m not answering,” Rosenberg said.

Spencer’s positive spin on Zionist Jewish supremacy sought to link his own racist movement to that of Israel.

The rabbi, as we see, was unable to respond to the point.

And, indeed, the figure of Michael Kaydar has served to trouble many American Jews as it puts into serious question the way that Israelis see Jewish identity and the relation of their country to the Diaspora. They are finding it difficult to explain why he would do such heinous things.

A.B. Yehoshua has not called for threats to Diaspora Jewish institutions, but his hurtful words represent a dominant strain of Israeli culture which holds the Diaspora in utter contempt.

It is not really that far a leap from Yehoshua to Kaydar as we might think.

Words and ideas have real life consequences and the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 has forced a major transformation in Jewish identity and its relationship to traditional Judaism and its rabbinical heritage as embodied in the Talmud and the Midrashic literary texts.

The Zionist idea has sought to “move” Jewish identity away from the pluralism of the Talmudic tradition and its acceptance of the larger reality of Gentile civilization, and replace it with a militant Monolingualism that is, paradoxically, a reflection of those very Gentile values.

Michael Kaydar has opened a chasm in the relationship between Israelis and the Jewish Diaspora and reignited the most elementary questions about Jewish identity in the supercharged atmosphere of Trumpworld Fascism and its intense racism; a racism which is not limited to White Christians, but is also present in their Israeli Jewish counterparts.

About David Shasha
David Shasha is the director of the Center for Sephardic Heritage in Brooklyn, New York. The Center publishes the weekly e-mail newsletter Sephardic Heritage Update as well as promoting lectures and cultural events. His articles have been published in Tikkun magazine, The American Muslim, the Christian Progressive and other publications. To sign up for the newsletter visit the Sephardic Heritage Google Group at
Other posts by David Shasha.
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Who You Callin’ Anti-Semite? Reserve The Term For The Worst Offenders
Peter Beinart March 22, 2017

We’ve been playing this game for months now. First with Michael Flynn. Then with Stephen Bannon. Now with Sebastian Gorka.

Liberals accuse a Donald Trump adviser of having ties to right-wing anti-Semites. Trump’s Jewish supporters defend him. And, not content to stop there, they throw the charge back in the accusers’ faces — claiming that they have ties to left-wing anti-Semites.

You’re an anti-Semite! No, you’re an anti-Semite! It’s not doing anyone any good.

Both sides deserve blame for this dialogue of the deaf. Conservatives need to stop pretending that “supporting Israel” (by which they really mean “supporting the Israeli government”) exonerates Gorka, Bannon, Flynn or anyone else of anti-Semitism. It’s entirely possible to admire Benjamin Netanyahu’s government because it is nationalistic, militaristic and religious and to revile American Jews because most of them are cosmopolitanism, dovish and secular. It’s also possible to love Jews when they’re in their own country, because that means they’re not living in yours. As Yale historian Timothy Snyder details in his book “Black Earth: The Holocaust As History And Warning,” the Polish government was fervently Zionist in the 1930s, since Zionism offered a rationale for moving Poland’s Jews somewhere else.

If Zionism can coexist with anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism can co-exist with philo-Semitism. Satmar Hasidim read the Talmud as prohibiting Jews from using force to restore Jewish sovereignty. That doesn’t make them anti-Semites. In the mid-20th century, Judah Magnes, founder of Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah; the Jewish philosophers Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem, and Albert Einstein all supported a binational rather than a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. They weren’t anti-Semites then, and their contemporary followers, who include my friend Chip Manekin, an Orthodox professor of Jewish philosophy at the University of Maryland, aren’t anti-Semites now.

But if the right errs in using Zionism as a shield, and anti-Zionism as a club, in the Trump anti-Semitism wars, both the right and left err in a different way. They employ guilt by association. Journalists at the Forward and elsewhere are entirely justified in investigating Gorka’s associations with anti-Semites in Hungary. But liberal commentators are wrong to suggest that this reporting, in and of itself, proves that Gorka is an anti-Semite.

People associate with people whose views they oppose — or even abhor — all the time. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, after all, officiated at Barack Obama’s wedding, baptized his girls and provided the title for Obama’s second book. That doesn’t mean Obama agreed with Wright’s political views. Obama found in Wright an authentic link to African-American Christianity. In some of the Hungarian anti-Semites he knew, Gorka may have found a link to the nation his parents fled.

It’s easy to demand that other people apply ideological litmus tests to their relationships. It’s harder to do so in one’s own life. If people judged my politics by the synagogues I’ve attended, they could draw some disturbing conclusions, too.

Associations are useful in understanding someone’s life. But when it comes to charges of anti-Semitism, or any other form of bigotry, I’d suggest this simple test: Has the person made two statements that suggest animus toward a specific religious or racial group? We live in the internet age. The public record isn’t hard to find. Enterprising journalists can uncover the rest. Sebastian Gorka may be guilty of all kinds of things. But, to my mind, unless someone unearths evidence of him having written or said disparaging things about Jews qua Jews, he’s not guilty of anti-Semitism.

I understand why liberals are tempted to hurl charges of anti-Semitism at Trump officials. The policies they are pursuing are genuinely frightening. Yet in American political discourse today, accusing some of contempt for liberal democratic norms often elicits a yawn. Accusing them of anti-Semitism packs more punch. But in so doing, liberals replicate the tactic that conservatives have for years used against us.
Conservatives long ago realized that the most effective way to undermine liberal critics of Israel was not by calling them naive or illogical or ill-informed. It was by calling them anti-Semitic. The slur works; many commentators have muted their voices for fear of being tarred with it. Which is why Breitbart is employing it again in its response to the critics of Sebastian Gorka.

Liberals cannot in good conscience protest this intellectual promiscuity if we practice it ourselves. As someone who has read Gorka’s book “Defeating Jihad,” I can say with confidence that the author is a poor student of American foreign policy. As someone who has surveyed Gorka’s views about Muslims and Islam, I can say with confidence that he doesn’t know much about those subjects, either.

But I can’t accuse Gorka of anti-Semitism, because I haven’t seen the evidence. Liberals should set the bar for anti-Semitism high, not just for Sebastian Gorka’s sake but also for our own.

Peter Beinart is a Forward senior columnist and contributing editor. Tune into his podcast, Fault Lines, a robust conversation about Israel and American Jews with Daniel Gordis.

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