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Jews Who Don't Support Actions of Israeli Government Increasingly Demonized

Cross-posted onTikkun Daily. by Peter Marmorek This is a story I have always known, a story I grew up with. It is the story of how in Germany on Kristallnacht, Nov 9th, 1938 the mob which was destroying the houses of all the Jews in Mainz came to the house in which my Jewish grandparents lived. There they were met by Maria, my family's Catholic cook, who faced the mob and said, "Why are you here? You know these people and you know they have done nothing to harm you." And the people left the house untouched. Nor was this the only story my grandmother told me of such kindnesses. I heard of their gardener, who had to be let go because Jews were not allowed to keep Christian servants, and who became Hitler's gardener, and managed to get vegetables to my grandparents during the first two years of the war before they were able to escape. And when they did leave, the butcher gave them a smoked beef tongue, which they ate while riding the trans-Siberian railroad till they got to Vladivostok, where they took a ship which got through Japan before Pearl Harbor, and eventually landed in Seattle, where they were able to tell me these stories as I grew up. My grandmother told me the stories to teach me that not all Germans were bad. I remember that she said the Holocaust could happen anywhere; it could happen in Canada, or in the United States. And with that absolute sense of certainty about the world that teenagers have, I claimed that it could never happen here. Now, forty plus years later, I believe she was right and I was wrong. But sadly, I cannot tell her that in person. I can only show her that through what I do in the world. Michael Lerner andTikkun Magazine led directly to my involvement in Tikkun Toronto, and to Tikkunista, the weekly magazine I edit and publish online. Recently he has supported Judge Goldstone (author of the report critical of many Israeli actions during "Operation Cast Lead") against those who threatened to disrupt his grandson's bar mitzvah. Two nights ago Rabbi Lerner's house was vandalized, with posters accusing him of being an Islamo-fascist. Phone calls to Tikkun Magazine have said, "Rabbi Lerner is dead", and "We will kill all of you". I wish I could say I were as surprised as I am horrified. But increasingly those Jews who do not support the actions of the Israeli government are being demonized, called anti-Semitic, or self-hating Jews. And as the number of Jews critical of Israel continues to grow, the vehemence with which they are attacked increases. In some ways, this is a positive sign: I think of Gandhi's saying, "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win ." We have clearly moved up to the third stage. I drifted into this debate by chance. On Sept. 6th, 2001, as I was starting into the landing approach that would take me out of teaching high school, two young women persuaded me to become the staff advisor for the Muslim Student association at my school, explaining that all I had to do was find classrooms for Friday prayers, and explain to other staff what that was about. I was the only Jewish teacher in the school, but I taught World Religions, and they knew I knew about Islam and was unbiased. I accepted the next day, and four days later it was September 11th, and everything changed. I helped to put on school wide presentations about what Islam was and was not. I helped organize a presentation on the history of the Middle East, with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish speakers. I helped put on an Iftar, a dinner to break the Ramadan Fast that drew 500 students, 250 not Muslim. And as I did this, I learned a lot about my own prejudices along the way. (The marvellous thing about teaching is that if you're doing it right, you learn more teaching than your students do.) A year later, when I was told about Tikkun Toronto, and its political actions to build a bridge between Jews and Muslims and to try and heal wounds, I realized that as a Jew my voice mattered in this discussion more than in so many other worthy fights for justice. It is hard, and dangerous to speak truth to power. Power doesn't like those people who stand in its way. Sometimes they get run over by a steam roller; more often they are made to recognize the cost that they will have to pay to continue to speak out. I am not Muslim; I am not Palestinian, so why should I speak out? Perhaps because I grew up hearing Martin Niemöller's famous statement: "They came first for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up." Perhaps because I remember Edmund Burke's, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Perhaps I should speak out because I remember hearing about Maria standing up against her people, and knowing that may have been why my grandparents survived the Holocaust. It would be a lie to say I don't feel personal fear when I hear of Lerner's house being attacked. But it would be worse than a lie if I let that fear silence me. I owe it to my history to speak out. For more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun’s daily digestor visit our Web site.