Inside the Birthright protesters

Liza Behrendt interrupts Steven Pease, who looks on bemused in the background

Liza Behrendt interrupts Steven Pease, who looks on bemused in the background

Yesterday I wrote about how a Birthright reunion in New York was disrupted by anti-Israel demonstrators. If you haven’t seen the video, watch it now. Far more unsettling than the accusations they hurled at Israel — by now I’m used to the lies and expressions of hatred that accompany such protests — was the combination of robotic “mic check” chanting along with the expressions of glee, even laughter, from the antisemitic — yes, I said antisemitic, and I will support this — activists, as they interrupted a talk by author Steven Pease, doing their best to impose their totalitarian vision of what may and  may not be heard on the audience.

So who were they? They were members of “Young, Jewish, and Proud” (YJP), the “youth wing” of the Jewish Voice for Peace organization, the only Jewish organization to make the ADL’s list of the top ten anti-Israel  groups in the nation.

As I mentioned yesterday, the male speaker in the video is Max Blumenthal, left-wing ‘journalist’ and videographer who is known for baiting pleasant evangelical Protestants and drunken students. Blumenthal has been responsible for some vicious anti-Israel slanders, including an incredible 2010 article which asserted that the use of deadly force on the Mavi Marmara was planned and intended in advance, in order “to lift the morale of the Israeli public while intimidating Iran and the Arab world.”

Another was Kiera Feldman, who wrote a snarky piece in The Nation about her own Birthright trip, suggesting that the main idea was “promotion … of flings among participants, or between participants and [Israeli] soldiers” as a form of Zionist mind control. Birthright sponsors admitted to her that bringing together young Jewish people tends to encourage marriage between Jews, which they think is a good thing (Feldman apparently doesn’t).

Her article is full of the usual clichés (Gaza is “the largest open-air prison in the world,” “illegal occupation,” etc.), and there is an air of dishonesty about it — she obviously played a friendly role when she interviewed the sponsors for her article, and of course she happily accepted her free ticket to Israel while planning to ‘expose’ the Zionist plot.

Feldman describes the events at the Birthright reunion in a blog post called “Consider Birthright Israel Occupied.” She seems to revel in deception, even when it’s unnecessary:

I did my best to smell and look expensive, like someone who would normally come out on a Monday night to hear “venture capitalist and turn-around CEO Steven Pease,” author of a 622-page book called The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement…

“Watch out for the microphone,” Steven Pease told me as I stepped over the cable, en route to the food table. He is a kindly gray-haired man, with a pair of glasses perched atop his head. “Aren’t Jews very accomplished at everything?” I goaded him on. “I thought we were the best at not tripping.” He smiled and answered, “Basketball, the Olympics—very good.” This man apparently cannot be satirized.

Birthright provided food for the attendees, and the gang happily abused their hospitality, in a way completely at odds with Jewish (or Arab, for that matter) tradition. They seem to count this as points for their side on the grounds that they are, or at least represent, the oppressed Third World; and therefore deception, theft, almost anything, is justified.

Feldman and Blumenthal, of course, have highly privileged backgrounds. Kiera Feldman graduated from Ivy-League Brown University in 2008 (in 2010, the total cost of a year at Brown was $51,360. No wonder she smells and looks expensive!) And Max Blumenthal is the son of Senior Adviser to President Clinton Sidney Blumenthal.

Then they began their chanting, which went on until they were, as Feldman says, “gently” removed.

Proud and happy about having made their point by silencing the opposition like fascist Brownshirts, they continued their protest outside, until the shoe was placed on the other foot:

Soon, we acquired a disgruntled passerby, an ultra-Orthodox man getting in our respective faces. He shouted down the human mic’s solo shouter, demanding a “dialogue” none of us wanted, utterly derailing the repetition by turning us into a confused clamor. In this way, the human mic is only human.

Chanting half-heartedly, we asked one another if it was time to go home. What’s the point now? Something hard and angry flashed within me as the shouting grew intolerable. As if I were watching an out-of-body experience, I saw myself jump the ultra-Orthodox man, but didn’t. Never before have I fantasized violence…

I suggest that it is telling that the man she so wanted to hurt was “ultra-Orthodox,” that is, someone whose Jewishness was out in front of him, a symbol of what Feldman, Blumenthal and the others so much don’t want to be. Do I assume too much? Listen to their chant:

We will not be fooled
by corporate CEOs
telling us
we are the Chosen People
and reinforcing
Jewish stereotypes.

Throughout history
Jews have been persecuted
as scapegoats for powerful bankers.
These memories
give us responsibility
to speak out
against corporate exploitation
and human rights violations.

The first verse refers to Steven Pease’s book, which suggests that Jews are disproportionately represented in many areas of human achievement. They can’t bear to hear this, because they are afraid it will make the antisemites angry. The Jew must keep a low profile. Despite their claimed ‘Jewish pride’ they actually have none — they accept the antisemitic stereotype of the Jew as a worthless creature and live in fear of the goyim.

But in the second verse, they accept the other antisemitic stereotype, that Jews are enormously powerful, especially in finance, and use their power to exploit the non-Jewish poor. For this reason they become crusaders against exploitation, including of course the ‘exploitation’ of innocent Palestinian Arabs. They will be better than these Jews and perhaps, they feel, the antisemites will see that they are not like other Jews, such as the “ultra-Orthodox man.”

Although they say they are struggling to prove the stereotype wrong, their fact-free approach to Israel, the way they are prepared to believe absolutely anything ugly about Jews, Israel and Israelis — viz. Feldman’s article about Birthright and Blumenthal’s fantasy about the Mavi Marmara affair — is evidence that they nevertheless believe the irrational stereotypes.

Their behavior fits precisely the description of a Jew in the grip of the Oslo Syndrome, as explained by Dr. Kenneth Levin in his book of that name. I summarized Levin’s thesis in a post last year:

…anti-Jewish attitudes in oppressed Jews result from a) internalizing  and coming to believe the antisemitic canards of their oppressors, and b) an unrealistic delusion that they have the power to change the behavior of the antisemites by self-reform — by ‘improving’ themselves so as to no longer deserve antisemitic hatred.

These mechanisms have led to an attenuation of Judaism itself, in which the focus on God, the Jewish People and the Land of Israel in traditional Judaism has been replaced with a universalist doctrine which minimizes national, ethnic and cultural divisions and espouses abstract ‘justice’ for all humankind as its highest goal — and which sees a transnational utopia as the ultimate Jewish goal.

Proponents of this universalist ethic see it as an evolution in Jewish ethical principles, a progressive improvement from a particularist and parochial past to a more modern, ‘higher’ form of ethics. But often — as when Jewish left-wing activists call for ‘justice for Palestinian Arabs’ while ignoring the context of the intermittent war being prosecuted against the Jewish state by the entire Arab world and Iran — universalist ethics provide a cover for anti-Israel positions.

This explains their contention (expressed by Blumenthal and another woman in the video) that a Jewish state cannot be democratic, and must be ‘racist': particularism is bad, universalism is good.

And it also explains Feldman’s sudden fury at the “ultra-Orthodox man” — precisely the kind of Jew that excites hatred among non-Jews, that hatred that Feldman fears so much that it has pushed her into the arms of the antisemites themselves.

So in a sense, these ‘proud Jews’ are nothing of the sort. They are fearful Ghetto Jews, who have swallowed the antisemitic stories of their oppressors hook, line and sinker, and who are engaged in the (impossible) task of trying to prove themselves worthy to those who would as soon as murder them as look at them.

Update [15 Nov 1724 PST]: The woman in the picture, whom I had misidentified as Kiera Feldman, is apparently former Brandeis University student and JVP activist Liza Behrendt (she may be a Dostoyevsky fan, since her picture appears on a Facebook page as ‘Lizaveta Prokofyevna’). The real Kiera Feldman appears at 3:50 into the video.

Here’s another video of Behrendt and friends doing their thing, heckling Avi Dichter at Brandeis in April. They certainly believe in free speech, don’t they?

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2 Responses to “Inside the Birthright protesters”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I have seen it time and time again. Jews worry about the ‘other’ and show apparent great concern for them and sympathy for them. At the same time they are totally insensitive to the hurt suffered by fellow Jews, including that which they themselves cause. I think what is most abominable in this, and again I have seen it and felt it time and again even from people who are basically decent in other things, is their total inability to sympathize emotionally with Jews who have been victims of the terrorists, the enemies which these ‘universal Jews’ support. It also seems to me that many of the extreme radicals shown in these videos are not the kind of ‘decent leftists’ I am referring to. These people seem far more arrogant and ignorant than the good old time Liberal Lefties I am thinking of.

  2. juvanya says:

    I had no idea Blumenthal was that young. He always seemed 40 or 50.

    Oslo Syndrome sounds a lot like Never Again, which I had the pleasure of reading this summer. Thats exactly what Kahane said 40 years ago: Jews internalize what is said about them and seek to be good, quiet Jews.

    I think I was invited to this presentation thing and shabbat. Those tools are lucky I was not there.