Remember the serial murderer who called himself “Son of Sam,” and whose unpredictable homicides terrorized New York City for twelve months some 46 years ago?
If you do, you’ll probably remember the public mortification that convulsed the Jewish world when the killer was apprehended in August 1977 – because his name turned out to be David Berkowitz.
“It was a dark week in New York City” for Jews, wrote Josh Nathan-Kazis about Berkowitz’s arrest in a 2019 retrospective. In fact, so eager were Jews to dissociate themselves from a homicidal maniac that when evidence surfaced that Berkowitz had been adopted as a child, Forward ran that discovery on its front page, exulting that the killer wasn’t really Jewish after all. (Unfortunately for Forward, it turned out that both of Berkowitz’s birth parents actually were Jews.)
I’m not a fan of this sort of bad-for-the-Jews kvetching. But at least it’s predictable. Who needs a murderer for a landsman?
That’s why I’m so flabbergasted about the Jewish celebrities who have taken to the hustings over the last few weeks not only to embrace Israel’s mass murder of the civilians of Gaza – a slaughter that makes Berkowitz’s eight homicides look like a practical joke – but have even insisted that all Jews feel the same way.
What do they think they’re doing? It’s bad enough that these Jews want to display their moral turpitude to the world. But do they really have to slander the rest of us into the bargain?
Actress-turned-Israeli-propagandist Mayim Bialik is typical of the bunch. Lecturing a social media audience on October 27, Ms. Bialik purported to explain to the world “what your Jewish friends are experiencing” whenever they see demonstrators calling for an end to Israel’s mass murder in Gaza, or for the liberation of over two million people from what the Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling called “the world’s largest concentration camp ever.”
And what did they experience?
Shame that such crimes were being committed in the name of a “Jewish” state? Relief that so many of the protesters (as, for instance, at Grand Central Station in New York City) were themselves Jewish?
No, according to Ms. Bialik, Jews weren’t fazed by the bloodbath in which Israel was drowning Gaza – a slaughter that had obliterated more than 6,000 lives, nearly half of them children, by the time she took to social media – but they were really, really upset about people who objected to the massacre.
Criticism of Israeli brutality, Bialik insisted, was “a strain of anti-Semitism that is alive and well.”
Unsurprisingly, given that the “facts” she reported came straight from Israeli propaganda, much of Bialik’s rant was sheer nonsense. (No one at UCLA, for instance, chanted “We want a Jewish genocide.”) But for the moment I’m more interested in the logical inferences to be drawn from her comments about “the Jews.” If objecting to Israel’s crimes against humanity offends “the Jewish people,” it follows that “the Jewish people” endorse those crimes.
And that can only mean one thing: that if Bialik is right, Jews are criminals. All of them. Just because they are Jews. Honestly, can there be a more anti-Semitic claim than that?
And just in case anyone missed her point, Bialik ended her homily by boasting that the State of Israel (her “homeland,” the San Diego-born Bialik called it) is now a cozier fit for Jewish consciences than a country where people are allowed to protest against genocide.
Wow. With friends like Bialik, why would Jews need any enemies?
Not to be outdone – and as the civilian death toll in Gaza passed the 10,000 mark – Batya Ungar-Sargon, deputy opinion editor at Newsweek, appeared on Fox News to lament that she was struggling in a “sea of anti-Semitic media and bigotry” and that all American progressives want to “kill the Jews.” (Like Bialik, Ungar-Sargon has had a remarkably successful career in a professional environment in which she claims that everyone hates her – but who’s counting?)
Egged on by her interviewer, Ungar-Sargon wasted no time seconding Alan Dershowitz’s asseveration that “liberal Jews” will never vote for anyone who doesn’t embrace Israel’s mass murder in Gaza.
So Batya Ungar-Sargon, like Mayim Bialik, has effectively accused all Jews – even “liberal Jews” – of supporting an openly-declared Israeli genocide policy. Another whiner about factitious “anti-Semitism,” Ungar-Sargon is actually spouting the real thing.
Even more unhinged in her bigotry was Allison Josephs, who runs an Orthodox Jewish website called “Jew in the City.” Ms. Josephs was invited to speak about anti-Semitism as part of a Los Angeles-based panel for Variety. But the tantrum she threw there may have surprised even Hollywood professionals, who probably aren’t used to being scolded for not reflecting enough Jewish influence.
And that was just the beginning.
“You have students on college campuses marching with Hamas,” a breathless Ms. Josephs hectored them. “They’re on the side of baby-beheadings, and burning Holocaust survivors [sic], and gang-raping women.” (Weirdly, Josephs blamed this on the movies – because, don’t you know, too many Jewish characters are “super-white” and affluent.)
Adopting the Nazi position that Jews are a race – “it’s in our DNA” – Josephs went on to claim that Jews cannot be “colonizers” of Palestine because they are “the indigenous people to the Middle East.”
What are normal people to imagine when a fuming wingnut who thinks antiwar protesters want to cut the heads off babies, and defends ethnic cleansing as a consequence of “Jewish DNA,” presents herself as an exemplar of “the Jewish people”? I can tell you this much: if her audience takes Ms. Joseph’s grotesque manqué of Judaism for the real thing, so much the worse for the rest of us.
All three of the women I have quoted describe themselves as religious Jews. And each of them, at some time in the past, has fidgeted about the public image of her coreligionists (who are also mine).
Yet all three have been guilty of venomously anti-Semitic remarks – and I doubt that they’re even aware of it. Such is the power of propaganda, and the need of a guilty conscience to scapegoat others when the alternative is an uncomfortable look in the mirror.
But please: let’s call things by their right names.
Propagandists like Bialik, Ungar-Sargon and Josephs are not only flacks for apartheid and genocidal violence. They are a disgrace to the things they claim to value most. By equating Judaism with crime, they are guilty of the very bigotry they claim to be opposing.
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