Jews must be feared rather than loved

Jews must be feared rather than loved

A short column like this doesn’t allow me to engage in the reasons for 2,000 years of antisemitism. And even if it did, we might never figure it out. But it does allow me to dwell on a question that is nearly as important. Whatever the reason for antisemitism may be, why are we Jews so bad at fighting it?

The answer is simple. Jews prefer to be loved rather than feared. No, that doesn’t go far enough. They are desperate to be loved. And all desperation betrays weakness and is easily detected by our enemies.

In his outstanding 1992 movie “Malcolm X,” director Spike Lee accurately portrays how the same need to fit in, to be accepted, to assimilate into the mainstream, affected and influenced the life of a young and criminal Malcolm Little. He straightened his afro hair, dated white women, and despised his blackness. But what the Nation of Islam gave him in prison was pride in being a Black man. He would become one of the transformational figures of the 20th century and till today our family is friendly with his daughter Malaak Shabazz, who has been to our home for Shabbat dinner many times.

Unfortunately, what the Nation also gave him was a hatred of white people and especially of Jews, something that he ultimately rejected once he saw through the hypocrisy of Elijah Muhammad about a year before his tragic assassination on February 21, 1965. He was murdered just as he was becoming a great man.

No one is suggesting that Jewish pride be accompanied, God forbid, by hatred of Gentiles in general or our Muslim brothers and sisters in particular. If there is one great teaching that the Torah brought the world, articulated in the very first chapter of Genesis, it is that we are all — Jew and Gentile alike — equal children of God.

What I am suggesting, however, is that unlike the Black community, which finally began to purge the self-hatred that comes from 300 years of slavery and Jim Crow, we Jews have never fully expunged the self-loathing that almost inevitably becomes internalized after 2,000 years of antisemitism and the Holocaust.

When the whole hates you for two millennia, rather than putting the blame squarely on the antisemites where it belongs, you start thinking, “Well, maybe there is something wrong with us.”

Here I am not referring to the obvious attempt at assimilation that was characteristic of many Jews prior to the Holocaust: changing their names, trying to marry Gentile spouses, converting to Christianity, or trying to be more German than the Germans.

No, I’m speaking of right now, in the year 2024, how even as we try and fight antisemitism, we do it without ever taking our gloves off.

When George Floyd was murdered by a Minnesota cop in May 2020, the Black community never thought of being loved. They focused on being feared. The message of Black Lives Matters was this: “We’re not going to take this crap anymore, of Black men being murdered by the police over $20 counterfeit bills.” There was rage in the street, and if you didn’t like it, tough. Change came about swiftly.

Contrast that to how weakly we Jews fight antisemitism. A classic example was the well-meaning but absolutely pathetic $7 million Super Bowl ad against antisemitism aired by Robert Kraft’s foundation #StandUptoJewishHate, which featured Clarence Jones, the former lawyer and adviser to the great Martin Luther King Jr. Rather than directly focus on the issue at hand, the tsunami of antisemitism and Jew-hatred that is engulfing America, the ad became a form of watered-down gibberish against Islamophobia and all other forms of hatred. Instead of punching the antisemites in the gut, the ad basically said, “You see, for all of you who hate us Jews, we’re not such bad people. We are loving and kind. Please, won’t you like us?”

Weak. Pitiable. Pathetic. What a waste.

Now, Robert Kraft is a great man, a committed Jew, and as the most successful team owner in NFL history, a brilliant marketer. So how could he have blundered so badly with such an instantly forgettable waste of $7 million?

Because he forgot what Niccolo Machiavelli said in the 15th century in his monumental book “The Prince,” written as advice to Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici as to how to rule Florence. It comes down to a simple axiom. “It’s nice to be loved. But it’s more important to be feared.”

Machiavelli has been attacked by centuries of ethicists for essentially writing a book for a Mafia godfather. But that’s not what he meant. Rather, if you are dealing with rational people who have a commitment to basic decency and ethics, then it’s obviously better to be appreciated, respected, and loved in your relationship with them. Fear need never be employed, just as America, as opposed to, say, Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, doesn’t try to scare its citizens into obedience.

But if you’re dealing with Nazis, Hamas, and Iran, then screw being loved. You have to be feared. Your enemies must know that they will be punished harshly for murdering your citizens or for physically assaulting Jews wearing yarmulkes in Times Square.

Autocratic killers like Vladimir Putin, who two weeks ago murdered the great fighter for liberty Alexei Navalny — while the world didn’t give much of a damn — have abused Machiavelli’s teachings to force a reign of terror on innocent civilians.

So why, Rabbi Shmuley, would you be advocating that we Jews follow Machiavelli’s thuggish advice?

Because we Jews should take Machiavelli’s advice only and solely when it comes to fighting the Islamist radicals and neo-Nazis with whom there can be no negotiations, no compromise, and no peace. They are dedicated to our destruction and annihilation, which is why, when FDR and Churchill met at Casablanca in 1943, they demanded nothing short of unconditional surrender from Hitler and the Nazis.

No negotiations. No compromise. No popularity contest. No being liked.

When Churchill carpet-bombed Hamburg, Essen, Cologne, and Dresden, he was not trying to win a popularity contest. When Harry Truman dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he was not looking to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, we Jews and Israel would never even consider such extreme tactics as the indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians. Israel has always employed surgical strikes and continues to lose hundreds of soldiers because of it.

But those who protect and enable Hamas’s genocide, like the utterly antisemitic and immoral United Nations and Qatar, must be resisted and their reputations destroyed. American abominations like Ilhan Omar and American Taliban like Rashida Tlaib must have their hatred, bigotry, and antisemitism attacked and exposed in the media nonstop.

They will never like us. Let’s make sure they fear us.

AIPAC should spend a fortune running opposition candidates against Israel-hating lawmakers. And that is true of all antisemitic American lawmakers like AOC, even if we know we can’t beat them. Give them a challenger who will attack their hatred nonstop just to show that we will never ever fear them and we will expose their bias.

One Sabbath I asked my Friday night guests, whom I love to challenge on historical and moral issues, a simple yet offensive question. If you lived during the Holocaust, and the Nazis were liquidating the ghetto and ordered you to get on the train, would you have gotten on or resisted?

My wife, Debbie, whose family was decimated in the Holocaust, was aghast and told me the question is utterly inappropriate. I apologized but persisted. “Would you get on the train, yes or no?” I asked the journalists, politicians, and professionals at our table.

Each guest answered differently, with the split being about equal between those who said they would obey the SS orders in order to protect their children, and the other half saying they would disobey even if meant being shot on the spot.

The truth, of course is, that it’s not only an unfair but a trick question.

By the time the Nazis get you to the train, the game is up. There is no resistance. You are going to die one way or another, either shot or gassed.

The objective therefore, in fighting antisemitism, is simple: Do everything possible to stay as far away from the train as possible.

When the edicts against Jews owning business start, get on the street in protest and raise hell. Don’t be silent and believe it will go away. When the racial laws start about who can marry whom, get your non-Jewish friends to protest in their thousands in the streets against the hate. And when Jews are mercilessly defamed in media, spend millions of dollars not attacking Islamophobia but attacking antisemitism.

Never ever ever allow yourself to get slowly pulled toward the train. Because by the time you’re at the tracks, the choice is no longer between life and death, but only between death and death.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Englewood is the author of “Kosher Hate” and “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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