Stop Holding U.S. Jews Responsible for Israel

The nonsensical conflation of Jewry with Israel has hit Hampton Roads. As my favorite Canadian columnists would have put it, “Hijinx ensue.”

It all started with an offer from a local rabbi (WaPo).

(Chabad Williamsburg Rabbi Mendy) Heber had hoped a menorah lighting this coming Sunday, the fourth night of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, during an arts and music festival in Williamsburg, Va., would be a chance to highlight the message of light amid darkness, without emphasizing religion.

The festival occurs on the second Sunday of every month from March to December, with more than 150 artisans, musicians, street performers and food vendors.

However, Heber’s proposal was ultimately rejected. [Shirley] Vermillion, the organizer, said in a statement to The Washington Post that the festival has never included religious events and told the Virginia Gazette that the organization has also denied past requests from Christian and other religious groups to perform.

Had the festival, known as Second Sunday, simply left it at that, we could all have moved on. Whatever one thinks of the policy, it appears to be fairly consistent and non-discriminatory.

Unfortunately, Ms. Vermillion did what so many of us do, but shouldn’t: she kept talking (same link).

She also said in a private message to Heber — which a local Jewish group shared with The Post — that organizers were rejecting the proposal “unless we could get an Islamic group to participate at the same time. We are about Peace, Love & light… don’t want to make it seem we’re choosing a side — supporting the killing/bombing of thousands of men, women & children.”

Heber replied: “This would not have anything to do with Israel! Nothing to do with Zionism. Everything to do with adding light in the world.”

Ultimately, Vermillion proposed another option: “Our board members said they’d be ok with proceeding if you’d do it under a cease fire banner.”

Where to begin?

For starters, Vermillion et al basically blew up their previous non-discriminatory policy. Having told Christians, “no,” they’re now looking to Jewish and Muslim groups and saying, “Yes”? This leaves them wide open to questions about why a festival named for a day on the Christian calendar seems to accept any religious participation except for Christians.

… and that’s nowhere near the worst of it.

Second Sunday’s assumption that allowing a menorah would “make it seem we’re choosing a side” comes dangerously close to a black-and-white example of anti-Semitism as listed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. To wit (emphasis added):

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

One could easily understand why Rabbi Heber was so flustered. However, the “board members” and Ms. Vermillion proceeded to make matters even worse by proposing Heber “do it under a cease fire banner.” How ignorant are these people?!

Clearly the folks at Second Sunday need a quick primer on how democracies work. American Jews, like American everyone-elses, can have impact on American policy as voters and citizens. However, American Jews cannot vote in Israeli elections and thus have far less influence on Israeli policy than those who can vote in Israeli elections.

… and this might come as a shock to Ms. Vermillion et al, but among those with greater impact on Israeli policy than American Jews are Israeli Arab voters and Members of the Knesset (I’m wondering if the Second Sunday crew is even aware such voters exist).

A menorah is no more representative of the IDF than a crucifix was of the IRA back in the late 20th century, or than a Quran is of Al Qaeda or Daesh. Period, end of paragraph, last page in the book.

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