The lethal moral confusion of saying kaddish for Hamas
The Hamas onslaught against Israel at the Gaza border fence has illustrated a danger for the Jewish people even more fundamental than the declared attempt to invade Israel and slaughter Jews.
This is the fallout among the Jews themselves.
In London, a group of young Jews assembled outside parliament to recite the kaddish prayer for the Hamas terrorists who were killed while attacking the fence in the most violent riots on May 15.
In the US, Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote: “It is a horrific tragedy that so many people have been killed and wounded at the Gaza border.”
Such sentiments produced a visceral reaction. The Jewish mourners-for-Hamas were variously described as disgusting little trolls, repulsive, scumbags, traitors and Kapos.
This reaction in turn produced remonstration from certain liberal Jews condemning such language and decrying the substitution of insult for civilized debate.
That point in itself is indeed important. Debate should always be reasoned and criticism should be free of gratuitous insults.
It was however, dispiriting that those condemning such insults voiced deep concern over the damage being done to the Jewish community – not by the mourners-for- Hamas, but only by those who were insulting them.
It was shocking and distressing to witness the Jewish mourners-for-Hamas endorsing the lies being used against Israel and lending succor to the enemies of the Jewish people.
Bad enough that the media failed to report that Hamas had pushed Gazan civilians to the front line as cannon fodder and human shields, concealing its weaponry of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), Molotov cocktails, firearms and flaming kites.
Bad enough that the media failed to report that the vast majority of those dead Gazans weren’t civilians but Hamas fighters.
But for Jews to regurgitate this cynical and malicious inversion of the facts and blame Israel for defending itself against murderous attack was beyond appalling.
And for some of them to proceed to say kaddish for the Hamas terrorists shot dead to protect Israelis from mass slaughter was felt by many Jews as an obscenity. By hijacking the kaddish in this way, it was more than an unconscionable attack on Israel: it was a desecration of Judaism itself.
Tragically, this moral perversity over Israel is not confined to a few rogue Jews. In Britain, and even more so in the US, an increasing number of young Jews are swallowing the lies and distortions about Israel promulgated by the Muslim world and the Western Left.
The reason for this lies much deeper than the Left’s default position which regards Israel as a colonialist project and the “Palestinians” as its victims.
It lies deeper even than the Left’s innate hatred of Jews, whom it identifies with money and power – hatred which now openly struts across the Western stage, wearing the fig leaf of anti-Israelism.
At root lies the article of Leftist faith that to support or promote western culture at all is racist.
Israel itself naturally falls foul of that dogma just by its very existence as the national homeland of the Jewish people (who are viewed, ignorantly, as Western).
But the problem lies deeper still, in how Judaism itself is perceived.
Some 70% of American Jews vote Democrat and are thus on the political Left. Around the same percentage belong to similarly progressive Jewish religious denominations.
Leftism revolves around universalism. It believes Western cultures are in themselves exclusive and therefore discriminatory and racist. It venerates instead transnational institutions and doctrines such as the UN or international human rights law which it believes enshrine values it says are universal such as equality, justice and freedom.
But these are not universal at all. They are particular to Judaism (and later Christianity) because they were given to the world through the Hebrew Bible.
Leftism cannot allow the Jews to stand in the way of its universalizing mantras. Judaism is the quintessential particularizing creed. This of course gives Jews on the Left a big problem. So in order to square their leftwing views with Jewish identity, such Jews pretend through their progressive denominations that universal values are Jewish values.
Yet this isn’t so at all. Jews believe everyone is entitled to equal respect as all are made in God’s image. Left-wing ideology, however, says equality means having identical outcomes regardless of behavior or circumstances. This undermines the moral responsibility at the heart of Jewish ethics.
Judaism embodies freedom created by rules of behavior which promote justice and the defense of the weak against the strong. Instead, left-wing ideology projects freedom as a kind of social anarchy which enables the strong to destroy or enslave the weak.
Judaism enshrines justice based on holding people to account for their misdeeds. In leftwing ideology, however, justice means dividing the world into Western oppressors and the non-Western oppressed, evening out the score between them by giving the so-called oppressed a free pass while blaming the West for everything – even when it is attacked by the “oppressed.”
In other words, the universalizing agenda of the left is diametrically opposed to Judaism. And in convincing themselves these are Jewish values, left-wing Jews put themselves on the side of those who would attack and destroy Israel and the Jewish people.
Worse still, they actually believe that by doing so they embody true Jewish moral principles and are even expressing their love for Israel – by saving it from itself.
Ze’ev Maghen wrote his magnificent (and hilarious) book, Imagine: John Lennon and the Jews, after he encountered a group of young Israelis dressed in saffron Hare Krishna robes at Los Angeles airport. They tried to convince him that promoting their own Jewish people – or preferring any nation, culture or ethnic group over another – was against world peace.
Maghen went away and wrote his book about how rejecting particular cultural, religious or ethnic attachments would produce not a Lennonist utopia but rather a tribal war of all against all. Of the Jewish people, he wrote: “We have perceived ourselves as an ’am, as a nation, as a commonly descended family and naturally-knitted tribal unit, for as far back as anyone can remember.”
The problem is far too serious and profound for insults. We need to work out why we are so catastrophically failing to instill in so many of our young people knowledge of and love for what Judaism truly is – and then, as a matter of the utmost urgency, to put that right.