03 September 2019

Max J. Bleich hates this question. With reason.

My virtual acquaintance with Max J. Bleich ("Writer, Teacher, Socialist", as he brands himself) started with the slightly discombobulating headline of his article in ToI:

Am I pro-Israel or anti-Israel? I hate that question!

To be frank, if I have seen that "Socialist" self-designation immediately, I might have hesitated to click through, but the headline was so mysterious. Anyway I have seen it, but it was too late.

The article starts with subjects not directly involved with Israel: Jews in US are exhausted, GOP bad, Orange Sheikh bad etc. The litany is accompanied by the tired canard of Trump accusing Jews of double loyalty. No, Mr Bleich, even while yours truly is not a great admirer of the tongue-tied POTUS, the POTUS didn't accuse the US Jews of double loyalty. Just the opposite - he accused them (those who vote Democrats) of lack of loyalty to Israel, as he made clear in "doubling down".

The first mention of Israel, after the above mentioned litany, starts with:
Simultaneously, there is a fundamental misunderstanding that assumes criticism of Israel is inherently anti-Semitic.
It is unclear where this fundamental misunderstanding is lodging, how it spends its nightmarish nights, and who exactly are its proponents. Nor would it become clear from the rest of the article. But the straw man is created and will be thoroughly demolished, don't you doubt it. The article comes to a crescendo with this eruption:
For the first time since the emergence of Zionism, it seems that members of the diaspora Jewish world are facing a politically manufactured choice: are you pro- or anti- Israel? I find this question detestable, suspicious, and misinformed at best, and manipulative propaganda at worst. I hate this question.
Maybe this part of the following sentence could be a hint about the thought processes of the author: "Presenting a complex, non-binary issue in such explicitly binary terms...". Yeah... non-binary issue. Sign of the times, I bet. And you thought nothing could be simpler than to say "I support Israel, but I have the following criticism.....". You are wrong, apparently.

But then you get to the following pearls:
While we argue the right of Israel to exist (which, at this point should be settled)...
[Who is "we" and why should we argue this right at all is unclear, but who knows...]
Does Judaism not teach us the importance of repairing the world through acts of loving kindness? Does Judaism not teach us to pursue justice at all costs?
[At all costs? Not exactly. Judaism also teaches us "הבא להורגך השכם להורגו" (If someone is coming to kill you, hurry to kill him).]
The notion that Jews must maintain loyalty to the state of Israel is itself antisemitic, even if it is what the Jewish Right believes to be true.
[Now this one made me speechless, so no comment. Emphasis mine, by the way.]

But then you notice additional telltale signs, like:
Groups like J Street U, Breaking the Silence, and New Israel Fund are working tirelessly to provide a more nuanced and critical understanding of the geopolitical dimensions of the conflict than the one promoted by Taglit Birthright Israel and others who seek to delegitimize Palestinian claims and ties to the land.
Groups that stand with one foot at least in the BDS camp, and I wonder why the author passed over the ridiculous If Not Now...

And then, from the author's bio blurb you learn that the author himself "founded J Street U Cincinnati", and the picture clears a bit. Not that you get an answer to the "pro-Israel or anti-Israel", cause it is antisemitic, as you have learned, but at least you know the direction of the wind.

Too bad.