J.J. Goldberg

At Some Point During Shabbes I Apparently Became an Enemy of the Torah

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

Well, here it is, Saturday night. Some time around 8:30 I observe that Shabbes is over, so I crank up the old laptop to see what’s new and catch up with my Forward fan mail. My latest column on Palestinian statehood had some pretty lively back-and-forth going on as of Friday evening, and I’m eager to see what new pearls of Torah have been shared while I was off-line.

One comment sort of took my breath away, I must admit. A faithful reader named Howard informs me that I am “an enemy of G-d, Torah and Judaism.” This comes as a shock. I take the Good Book pretty seriously, as those who know me are aware, and I go to considerable lengths to stay on the right side of the Big Guy. It would be a drag to discover that all my efforts were so unappreciated.

But then I look again, and I see that Howard’s comment was posted 22 hours ago, or about 10 or 10:30 Eastern Time. Unless Howard lives in Hawaii, he’s been posting on Shabbes. So now I’m wondering, what Torah is he such big friends with that I’m not?

The truth is, I sort of know the answer. It’s no big secret that much of today’s Judaism consists not of Judaism per se but of political support for Israel. But not merely support for Israel. It’s the right kind of support for Israel. It’s commonly described as support for the government of Israel and its policies, but that’s not it either. The same mentality that attacks you if you criticize the policies of the Netanyahu government just as vehemently attacked you if you supported the policies of the Olmert government.

The bottom line is, you are judged not by how much you love Israel but by how much you hate its enemies. If you can see common cause or shared interests between Israel and the Arabs, you are a traitor.

Jeffrey Goldberg blogged the other day about Richard Goldstone, speculating on what made the judge recant. Among other things, Jeffrey asks, rhetorically, whether Goldstone was “really naive enough to believe that people in ‘his community’ wouldn’t be upset with him” for the accusations in the Goldstone report. To shed some light on this, take another look at Howard’s comment to me. There’s upset, and then there’s loony-upset. We all expect robust debate, even sliming, but as a wiser man than I once said, Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Does it surprise me that people in “my community” (why the quotes, Jeff? Is Goldstone faking his membership in the Jewish community? Do we need to see his bris certificate?) will get upset with me for questioning Israeli policy? Of course not. But we’re not talking about upset. We’re talking venomous hatred that gets tossed around in the name of defending Israel. Some of this stuff is repugnant and, no matter how often you see it, shocking.

And I see this stuff all the time, mind you. A lot of ordinary, mainstream, liberal Jews—probably most, my experience tells me—don’t spend enough time surfing the sewers of contemporary pro-Israel discourse to realize what sort of bilge passes for robust debate. When it hits you in the face, it is beyond shocking. Read Sivan Zakai’s essay in the Forward Forum this week, “Our Divisive Discourse,” to see what I mean. It’s very, very painful to be called names like this. It’s shocking if you’re expecting it; it’s horrifying if you’re not expecting it.

Not to mention the little matter of being told you can’t attend your grandson’s bar mitzvah. I can tell you from personal experience, being called a traitor and told you don’t belong in your own shul is no fun.

Again, for the millionth time, Goldstone is no mystery. He is a devoted Jew and passionate, lifelong Zionist, former world chairman of ORT, no less, and a former honorary life member of the Hebrew University board of governors (until he was kicked off last year) who thought his credentials as a world-renowned human rights jurist would help him to win Israel a better hearing than it would otherwise have gotten. He wasn’t expecting Israel to refuse to cooperate, leaving him only with the other side’s evidence. Having signed up for the job, he signed onto a report that drew the relevant inferences from the available evidence. And its primary recommendation, if you read it, was that Israel and Hamas, both having committed apparent (this was not a judicial verdict) war crimes should conduct investigations. Israel did so. Hamas did not.

And, no, Jeff, he never said he was surprised that Hamas killed people. He’s not that naïve. He was disappointed that Hamas refused to conduct any sort of investigation. Most organizations, even terrorist organizations, make some pretense of concern for the opinions of mankind. So yes, Hamas caught him off guard. Then again, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Not even enemies of the Torah like me.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Spanish Inquisition, Richard Goldstone, Jeffrey Goldberg, Debating Israel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.