Jewish paranoia, narcissism or chosenness?
By Nureddin Sabir,
Editor, Redress Information & Analysis
Do you know of anyone who has been wrongfully imprisoned anywhere in the world, let alone in the United States, for their “Jewishness”?
The answer is probably no, but not as far as one Jewish group in the US is concerned.
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), “a new legal defence fund for Jews seen as being held wrongfully because of their Jewishness” has been set up, and already tax-deductible – i.e. taxpayer-subsidized – money has begun to flow into it.
The fund’s founder, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, cited the Jewish value of pidyon shvuyim, or redeeming the captive, as the motivation behind it.
An American Jew serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba is poised to be the first beneficiary of the fund. He is Alan Gross, jailed in December 2009 for “crimes against the state” while working on a contract for the US Agency for International Development “to help connect the island country’s 1,500-strong Jewish community with other Jewish communities via the internet”, the JTA says.
The new fund is already being deployed on his behalf, financing advocacy work and, strangely, “spearheading legislation” to help free him.
While on the face of it setting up a publicly-subsidized fund to help free prisoners thought to be wrongfully convicted may seem an innocent, humanitarian endeavour, it raises several worrying questions.
The first clue for concern is found in the words used by the JTA: a legal defence fund “for Jews seen as being held wrongfully because of their Jewishness”.
Are we to conclude that every convicted Jew was convicted because of his or her “Jewishness”, or that, because he or she is a Jew they must therefore be considered wrongfully convicted? What if Mr Gross had been of another faith or none: would he still be seen as wrongfully convicted?
These are not just rhetorical questions. Many non-Jewish Cubans have been convicted and jailed in Cuba because of their activities on the internet, which the Cuban authorities view as a potential means of espionage. The cases below are but a small sample, and they were certainly not convicted for their “Jewishness” – they are not Jews!
Furthermore, how would the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington – or any other Jewish organization – view a Jew who is judged by his or her peers – i.e. a jury – as having committed a crime and is convicted of that crime? Would the Jewish organizations consider him or her ipso facto wrongfully convicted because of their Jewishness?
Again, this is not a rhetorical question. Recently, the British police arrested a 54-year-old rabbi, Chaim Halpern, on suspicion of sexual assault, and three other members of the Orthodox Jewish community in north London on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
Will the Board of Deputies of British Jews argue that they had been arrested because of their Jewishness, not because they are suspected of being predatory perverts, and campaign for their release?
The question may sound farfetched but, sadly, it is not. In 2011 a religious counsellor and respected member of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, Rabbi Nechemya Weberman, 53, was arrested after a 16-year-old girl accused him of molesting her during years of counseling sessions dating back to when she was 12.
The Jewish community responded by raising funds for him and harassing the victim and her family on the grounds that they were harming Jewish community cohesion.
Luckily for the victim and for society as a whole, the perverted rabbi was convicted of child sex abuse and sentence to 103 years in prison.
One wonders if Rabbi Weberman will be the next beneficiary of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s fund to help Jews “seen as being held wrongfully because of their Jewishness”?
It is hard to say whether the absurd notion of “Jews seen as being held wrongfully because of their Jewishness” is a symptom of Jewish paranoia, Jewish narcissism or Jewish chosenness and exceptionalism, which considers Jews as a cut above the rest of humanity and exempt from the normal rules of civilized human relations.
We may never know the answer, but in the meantime Jewish communities the world over would do themselves great credit to follow the advise of the musician and writer, Gilad Atzmon, himself an ex-Jew.
In a blogpost, Mr Atzmon called upon the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington “to launch a fund that will help cover the legal defence of millions of Palestinians who have been wrongfully imprisoned by the Jewish state in the name of the Jewish people”.