The Fate of ‘Righteous Jews’ and the ‘New Afrikaners’

One popular lecturer, who speaks frequently on California university campuses, likes to teach students the difference between “good Jews” and “bad Jews.” Bad Jews, who support Israel, are the source of global problems. Good Jews, who attack Israel, are worthy of praise. The distinction is important because it shields even the coarsest attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions – verbal, physical or violent – from accusations of hate or bias. Indeed, it gives anti-Semitism the moral high ground by camouflaging it as human rights advocacy. Late last month, in a prominent lecture in Washington, D.C., University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer attempted to provide this distinction with a modicum of respectability. This month, in an equally prominent exchange in San Diego, a shocked audience learned why it has none.

For his Sharabi Memorial Lecture at the Palestine Center in Washington, D.C., Professor Mearsheimer addressed “The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners.” Mearsheimer is best known for his work with Stephen Walt on “The Israel Lobby,” which lent academic credibility to a different anti-Semitic concept, i.e., the notion of Jewish conspiratorial power. In his Sharabi Lecture, Mearsheimer conjured the figure of the “Righteous Jew.” This mythical figure and its supposed counterpart are no less dangerous than the other stereotypes which Mearsheimer has previously espoused.

Mearsheimer’s new theory has a familiar ring to it, because “Righteous Jew” echoes the traditional notion of the “righteous gentile.” The “righteous gentile” is neither a self-hater nor an anti-Christian, but a non-Jewish person who adheres to the laws of Noah by committing various good deeds. Mearsheirsheimer’s “Righteous Jew,” by contrast, distinguishes himself by his opposition to the allegedly “apartheid” Israel. If Mearsheimer’s use of the discredited “Israel-as-apartheid” myth does not make his point transparent, he helpfully clarifies it with some examples. Mearsheimer’s “good Jews” includes prominent anti-Israeli activists such as Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, and Richard Goldstone, as well as “many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace.” For Mearsheimer, as for many in today’s anti-Israeli camp, Jews are acceptable only to the extent that they are useful in undermining the Jewish state.

Mearsheimer puts Jews who support Israel in a different category: “the New Afrikaners.” These bad Jews supposedly support Israel unconditionally and uncritically. Mearsheimer’s stratagem extends the moral opprobrium implicit in the “apartheid” canard to those American Jews who merely support the Jewish state. Mearsheimer provides a hit list of these wicked Afrikaners. It includes officials of such mainstream Jewish institutions as the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the World Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee, and the Zionist Organization of America. In fact, Mearsheimer adds in classic McCarthyite fashion, it “would be easy to add more names to this list.”

Earlier this month, a public discussion at the University of California at San Diego demonstrated that the distinction between “Righteous” and “Afrikaner” Jews, while temporarily expedient, does not reflect the views of today’s hardcore anti-Israelists. In the Middle East, it has long been clear that extreme anti-Israelists do not exempt “Righteous” Jews from their condemnation. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, for example, once infamously announced that “If all the Jews were gathered in Israel it would be easier to kill them all at the same time.” Conservative writer David Horowitz demonstrated this month that Nasrallah’s view is also making inroads on American campuses.

In a videotaped exchange which has now gone viral on YouTube, Horowitz was asked a question at a public lecture by a member of the university’s Muslim Student Association. In response, he asked the student whether she would condemn Hamas for its terrorist practices. The student refused to do so, insinuating that she supports the organization. Horowitz then asked her if she agreed with Hizbollah’s genocidal anti-Semitism. The student very clearly stated her agreement. The exchange went as follows:

Horowitz: If you don’t condemn Hamas, obviously you support it. Case closed. I have had this experience at UC Santa Barbara, where there were 50 members of the Muslim Students Association sitting right in the rows there. And throughout my hour talk I kept asking them, will you condemn Hizbollah and Hamas. And none of them would. And then when the question period came, the president of the Muslim Students Association was the first person to ask a question. And I said, ‘Before you start, will you condemn Hizbollah?’ And he said, ‘Well, that question is too complicated for a yes or no answer.’ So I said, ‘Okay, I’ll put it to you this way. I am a Jew. The head of Hizbollah has said that he hopes that we will gather in Israel so he doesn’t have to hunt us down globally. For or Against it?

MSA member: For it.

This MSA member’s endorsement of anti-Semitic genocide is more extreme than much of the anti-Israeli invective which is now frequently heard on American campuses. The willingness of college students to express such views publicly, however, is yet another symptom of the changing climate on American campuses. More specifically, it should be a wake-up call to those “Righteous Jews” who think that they can expect genuine friendship from extreme anti-Zionists. In its purest form, the anti-Israelism which Mearsheimer admonishes his “Righteous Jews” to espouse leads not to peace but to Nasrallah’s solution.