“Jews have to stand up EVEN when — ESPECIALLY when — the wrongdoing is BY Jews/the Israeli government”

Sarah Silverman on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

All Jews are not Zionist (just as all Christians are not Zionists), but an awful lot of Jews are, especially in Israel, and that makes me generally suspicious of their advocacy for Palestine, especially if they are of the “liberal” variety.

What boggles the mind is that Zionists, whether in Israel or elsewhere, whether Jews or Christians, have absolutely no shame about it despite irrefutable evidence that Zionism is racism, that a Jewish state in Palestine or anywhere else in the world is an obscenity to those whom such a colonial state must dispossess and racially dominate to achieve and maintain its existence.

Here is Tom Suarez articulately on the subject:

In order to call itself ‘The Jewish State’, Israel ethnically cleansed much of the non-Jewish population and continues to block their return, keeps an entire population under a brutal military dictatorship in the name of Jews, and has reduced Gaza to a cesspool for lesser humans, in the name of Jews.

The question I have is this: When any Jew — let’s say American comedian Sarah Silverman — speaks as a Jew, what kind of Jewish identity is that person projecting to the world?

Sarah Silverman is described on her website as “an equal opportunity offender, entertaining and shocking audiences with her raunchy, politically incorrect comedy … with a knack for saying outrageous things.” There is no mention of Jewishness there.

But in a news story about one of those “shocking” things she says, Silverman is curiously described as someone “who is a Jewish descendant” — not Jewish by religion, but Jewish by descent — descended from — who knows … Palestinian Jews, perhaps?

I don’t know what kind of Jewish identity Silverman has, but a lot of Zionist baggage comes with the phrase “a Jewish descendant”. Zionist racial discrimination against Palestinian Arabs in their own homeland is based on the Jewish social and religious construct of “descent”.

The core objective of the Jewish state is to “benefit, directly or indirectly, those of Jewish race or descent”.

Here is Silverman talking as a Jew about Jews in the “shocking” tweet concerned with the Israeli imprisonment of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi:

“Jews have to stand up EVEN when — ESPECIALLY when — the wrongdoing is BY Jews/the Israeli government.”

To some activist anti-Zionist Jews, the phrase “Jews have to stand up …” or “the wrongdoing is BY Jews” are taboo phrases because they might lead to people conflating Jews and Zionists in their minds. Jews are not a monolithic group of people, so addressing them in this way plays into Zionist hands.

On the face of it, this reasoning is sound, but there is another way of experiencing it. This taboo against perceiving Israel as Jewish creates a serious obstacle in Palestine advocacy.

The establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine is at the heart of the Palestinian Nakba — in fact, the Jewish State is our Nakba by definition. The core purpose of Israel’s regime is to maintain itself as a Jewish State — i.e. to maintain Jewish supremacy in historic Palestine — “as expressed in law and the design of Israeli State institutions”.

Additional confusion arises because, in current discourse, it is acceptable to refer to Jews as Jews in a group sense when the group is about good, not evil. For example, “Jews for Palestinian Right of Return” or “Jewish Voice for Peace”. There are hundreds of Jewish organizations all over the U.S. You can call them Jewish as much as you like, the perception goes, but don’t call Israel in the same way a Jewish group.

The cognitive dissonance that caused Silverman to equivocate regarding her utterances about Ahed was paradoxically caused by both the pro-Palestine advocates who castigated her for addressing Jews as a group, as well as by the usual Zionist trolls who creep through social media like cockroaches.

If Silverman self-identifies as “a Jew by descent”, then her Jewish self-identity denotes Zionism in the American political/cultural context — albeit, a so-called “liberal Zionism”. Perhaps she is interested in freeing the West Bank and Gaza Strip from military occupation and siege while keeping sacrosanct the idea of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state in part of historic Palestine.

The emphasis on descent as opposed to culture or faith has its origins in the deliberate construction of a Jewish national identity.

As Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley explain in Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,

…direct lineal descent from antiquity is the main reason given by political-Zionist philosophers for why Jews today hold the right to self-determination in the land of Palestine. In this view, all Jews retain a special relationship and rights to the land of Palestine, granted by covenant with God …

Adding to the confusion is the common use of the term Diaspora to distinguish between Jews living in Israel and those living in other parts of the world. Many Jews and non-Jews continue to use the word Diaspora to create the idea that it represents the “scattered remnants” of the Jewish people “exiled” from their homeland in “Eretz Israel” — all without historical foundation. I don’t know anything about Sarah Silverman’s identity as a Jew — I am just speculating, trying to understand her equivocation regarding her Ahed Tamimi tweet.

So-called “liberal Zionist” Jews acknowledge the injustice meted out to Palestinian Arabs but accept it as the price to pay for the establishment of a “national homeland” for Jews worldwide in Palestine — i.e., “for the redemption of the Jews”. Their advocacy of Palestinians is only skin deep.


Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

Palestinian and righteously angry

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Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Palestinian and righteously angry

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