Tuesday, May 4 ,2016
A top news story today focused on recent statements by members of the British Labor Party against Israel. One after the other, these politicians said some of the most horrible and anti-Semitic things about Israel and the Jewish people. There was an accusation that Israel supports ISIS and was behind the terrorist attacks in France. Another statement alleged that Hitler had actually been a Zionist. Someone else suggested that Israel be relocated to the US, as that would not only solve the Palestinian issue but would be cheaper than the military aid given to Israel by the US each year.
Most of these politicians have since been suspended from the party but party leader Jeremy Corbyn has himself expressed support for Hamas. Is this a British problem? A British Labor Party problem? I think not.
For years now, anti-Semitism has gone from being universally unacceptable and only tolerated behind closed doors and in certain circles, to a newly transformed anti-Zionism and anti-Israel sentiment. Today, bold-face lies and astounding accusations have become common-place, not only on facebook and twitter but in statements by political leaders in civilized countries. For years, Arabs have accused Israel of poisoning Palestinian wells and deliberately murdering Palestinian civilians. And for years, most reasonable people recognized these accusations for the bold-faced lies they were and ignored them. Today, these accusations are repeated and publicized in some of the most reputable contexts and they are actually believed. I guess if you repeat a lie often enough people start to think it is the truth.
British Laborites are just part of a new and troubling trend.
A few days ago I read a magazine article that raised a fascinating question. At a time when information is available with astounding ease and unprecedented volume, how can we ascertain what is truthful information? When anyone can post an article on the internet, sounding authoritative and official, who can guarantee its authenticity? When personal posts on twitter and whatsapp can spread like wildfire, information dissemination can quickly become calculated disinformation. We live in a dangerous world indeed.
I don’t have any answers to this terrible situation. I don’t know how to combat the lies on a grand scale other than to keep doing what we are doing — putting out our own articles, our own messages, hoping that reasonable people will be able to discern the truth when they see it.
Personally, though, I draw comfort from the understanding that what we are seeing is classic anti-Semitism, albeit in a slightly different form. Although there is nothing positive about anti-Semitism, something about the familiarity of it all, enables me to put this all in context.
Just last week, we celebrated the holiday of Passover, beginning with the traditional Passover seder. We, like most Jews all over the world, gathered with family and read from the Haggadah, an ancient book that not only recaps the story of the Exodus from Egypt, but includes excerpts from post-Biblical classic Jewish sources that discuss and describe the Exodus and its effects on later generations. One of the most moving statements in the Haggadah is the following: “And this is what has stood for our forefathers and for us. For not just one has tried to destroyed us but in every generation there are those who have tried to destroy us. And the Holy One Blessed be He saves us from their hands.”
That statement, uttered each year at each Passover seder for close to 2,000 years has reminded Jews that since G-d rescued us from the Egyptians, we have been persecuted by countless other nations and individuals. And it is only G-d who can rescue us. And that statement was treasured and held by generations of Jews as they celebrated their Seder, often in the face of the persecution or anti-Semitism of their day. And today, we can hold on to that same statement as we face the lies and accusations that are thrown our way. This is the way of the world. And we know that G-d will, indeed, rescue us.
My own comfort lies also in knowing that G-d has blessed us. We have come back to the Land of Israel and He has multiplied us once again upon this land. As I enjoyed our Passover seder, in my own home, surrounded by most of my children, my new daughter-in-law, my grandchildren, my parents, sister, brother and their children, I bore witness to just how much He has multiplied us. And then during the week following the Seder, as we enjoyed the gorgeous outdoors together, had a BBQ together, played with my grandchildren, went out with my husband, I knew that I was surrounded by love.
Yes, there are so many who wish to destroy us with their hatred and their lies but we will not succumb to this evil. We have only ever wanted to live in peace with our neighbors, to raise our families and grow our communities for the good of many. We
dare not forget the dangers that surround us and that have always threatened us, which is the deeper meaning behind that statement in the Haggadah. But even as we cling to our faith, we remain positive and happy, secure in the love of our families and confident that the family traditions and cohesiveness that have kept us alive, that have kept the Seder going for centuries within our homes, will give us the strength and the fortitude to stand up against our enemies. As they always have.