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Op-Ed

Let’s talk about Israel

December 10, 2021

In the days between Hanukkah and Christmas, our columnist — who was raised in both traditions, and neither — reflects upon Israel and the United States.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

To oppose Israeli policies, and call Israel an apartheid state — which it is — does not make a guy or gal anti-Semitic. Take me, for example.

My mother was raised as a Roman Catholic, and my father in the Jewish tradition, though, the family story goes, he was kicked out of temple during his first Friday school, for telling the rabbi that a whale couldn’t have swallowed Jonah because whales don’t eat like that. The rabbi told him not to come back until he accepted the word of God. He told his mom what had happened, and she left it up to him. He didn’t go back. He became a scientist.

So I was not born a Jew — as Judaism is matrilineal — though Kahn is a Jewish name, and I would have been Jewish enough for Hitler.

After World War II, as my father was earning a Ph.D. in pharmacology at the University of Chicago, he met an undergraduate working her way through college as a secretary in his department. She was the first member of her family to go to college. (Her tuition, she told me, was $50 a semester.)

They got married in 1949. After which, Mom told me when I was an adult, her father did not speak to her for 15 years.

That’s anti-Semitism. 

I do not recall that grandpa saying a word to me, ever, or to anyone else in our family.

We were closer to Oma and Opa, my Dad’s parents. They introduced me to Uncle Max, who was not really my uncle. He was a medical student in Hitler’s Germany when the Gestapo barged into his family’s home one night and searched it and found his medical bag, which contained syringes.

“Aha! A morphinist!” they said. “We’ll be back.” (This to me from Uncle Max.) His parents told him to vamoose, pronto, and he did.

Most of his family was murdered in the Holocaust. He managed to get to the United States, where a relief agency hooked him up with my Oma and Opa, who took him in and helped put him through medical school. (Uncle Max “paid them back,” if that’s appropriate here, by treating me gratis when I was a poor musician, and ill.)

My Opa told me about growing up with “restricted” clubs and areas and so on. So when I criticize Israel, as I am about to do, please do not call me anti-Semitic.

I am not anti-Semitic. I am anti-fascist. And Israel is and has been for many years a fascist state. I would call it racist, too, save that Palestinians are not a “race.” They are an oppressed minority, suffering under a fascist state.

The latest proof of this — aside from the daily police stops, bullet wounds, prisons and worse — is Israel’s sliming of six Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorists.”

Space prohibits an even part-exposition of Israeli fascism. The three links above provide a start.

I am not anti-Semitic. I am Semitic. I am not, as the cliché goes, a “self-hating Jew.” I’m not a Jew, nor do I hate myself. I am a rational human being. I know what fascism is.

Binyamin Netanyahu is a fascist. His successor, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, is a fascist. So is Bennett’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz. So, too, increasingly, is the Republican Party in the United States.

The fact that Israel, like the United States, has a nominal democracy, with nominally free elections, does not negate the fact that nominally democratic nations can elect fascists.

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