Radical groups that reflect the views of almost no significant American Jewish constituency, have jumped in to fill the void. And owing to the absence of a clear, strong message from key components of the community, they are making headway in their goal of unraveling and disempowering the Jewish community of America.
Consider the organized opposition to the Metropolitan Opera of New York’s decision to produce the harshly anti-Semitic opera The Death of Klinghoffer.
On Monday some 3,000 people attended the mass rally to protest the prestigious opera house’s decision to produce the opera that demonizes Jews and glorifies Palestinian terrorists. It was an impressive turnout. This is particularly true because very few of the major Jewish organizations agreed to participate in the protest. The American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation of New York and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs were particularly conspicuous in their absence.
It’s not that all these groups think that the Met’s decision to mainstream hatred of Jews, dehumanization of Jews and delegitimization of the Jewish state is acceptable.
In a press release published on September 19, the AJC for instance excoriated the Met’s decision to produce the opera and highlighted the anti-Semitic positions of the opera’s composer and librettist.The situation is more or less the same here in Canada, one big difference being that we have a prime minister who is second to none in his unabashed and vocal support for the Jewish state. That may well change, of course, should Justin the Mosqueteer (who has the support of many left-leaning Jews) win next year's election.
AJC Executive Director David Harris said, “Today, with increasingly virulent anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel terrorism, all reminiscent of the cruelty perpetrated against Leon Klinghoffer, we should not rationalize or humanize acts of terrorism or terrorists.”
But then, at the end of the press release, Harris turned his guns on the Jews who organized the protest against the opera, which he refused to join.
Harris said, “We call upon all who are planning to protest the Klinghoffer opera to do so with civility, so that the focus of public criticism may remain, as it should, on the opera’s totally inappropriate and insensitive messages.”
Harris’s position regarding the opera is substantively indistinguishable from the positions of the 52 organizations that sponsored and participated in the protest. Those included StandWithUs, the Zionist Organization of America, CAMERA, Americans for a Safe Israel, JCCWatch, Endowment for Middle East Truth, several major synagogues and Jewish day schools, and the Catholic League, among many others. None of these organizations gave anyone the slightest reason to believe that they would do anything but focus on the anti-Semitic, pro-terror message underlying the opera.
So why did Harris treat them like irresponsible children who cannot be trusted? And why, given the commonality of views, and his own concerns, did he not ensure that the message would be effectively delivered, by delivering himself, as a participant in the rally?
By standing on the sidelines and drawing distinctions between the supposedly responsible AJC and the supposedly irresponsible organizations that participated, Harris weakened the campaign to fight anti-Semitism. Not only was this an irresponsible thing to do, it was deeply destructive, not least because it expanded the polarization of the Jewish community.
Peter Gelb, the Met’s director, is Jewish. And many defenders of the decision to produce The Death of Klinghoffer have argued that Gelb’s Judaism makes it unacceptable to point out that by producing an anti-Semitic opera, the Met is mainstreaming anti-Jewish bigotry.
But the sad fact is that a growing number of radical Jews, who reject the very notion that Jews have rights, including the right to support Israel and defend the Jewish state, are filling the void left by the Jewish leadership establishment that would rather attack activists whose agenda they share than cooperate with them.
Even so, it is heartening to note that Jews who support Israel aren't waiting for Official Jewry to take the lead. Indeed, the Zionists have taken it upon themselves to seize the initiative and do something productive--and have left the O.J.s in the dust.