Adelson’s Israeli Deputy Editor compares J Street to Jewish Nazi sympathizers
Trachtenberg goes to Washington
Who are those sweaty Middle-Eastern Jews because of whom Jews in fashionable khaki pants can no longer stroll under the shady, golden-leafed trees along red-brick town houses of the American campus without being sneered at by their colleagues?
Column, Gonen Ginat [Deputy Editor], Israel Hayom Friday Political Supplement, November 20 2009
If only those sweaty Middle-Eastern Jews vanished from their lives, it would all be different. Who are those sweaty Mid-Eastern Jews because of whom Jews in fashionable khaki pants can no longer stroll under the shady, golden-leafed trees, along red-brick town houses of the American campus without being sneered at by their colleagues? That night, sitting in the hall with all the J-Street people, there was no longer any need to feel ashamed. Without explicitly stating that, it was clear that this conference was meant to create a clear distinction between the campus Jews and those sweaty Middle-Easterners who, regrettably enough, carry the same genes. Without words, they said: We have nothing to do with those guys who keep exploding in Jerusalem.
The fact that Trachtenberg did not make it to the J-Street Convention was not surprising, but if he were alive, he could easily find his place there, enveloped in smugness and a cloud of fine perfumes and aftershaves, smiling contently as if he knows the truth. He knows, for example, that if only the Israelis could kick their habit and stop murdering Palestinian children and blowing them to smithereens twice a day with their Qassams, everything would be fine. Most importantly, the conference attendees could again walk among those townhouses and golden-leaf trees on campus and no one would stare at them. It would all be as it was before. Yes, Trachtenberg would have felt right at home there.
He could totally sympathize with the J-Street decision to oppose the Congressional initiative to condemn the Goldstone report, which established that the IDF deliberately murders civilians. Just like the J-Street members, Trachtenberg too would not be able to understand what is wrong with the fact that Jews are being shelled daily. Like them, he too would state that “it is hard to determine who is right and who is wrong and take sides” in the confrontation between Israel and Hamas. He too would have refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, as they did, and would have enthused about Holocaust-denier Abu-Mazen. He too would have been against imposing sanctions against Iran, which is developing nuclear weapons with a declared intention to annihilate the State of Israel. J-Street was against boycotting blunt anti-Semitic expressions and was all for bringing them up in the name of the freedom of speech. Trachtenberg would have excitedly said that this is the right way to go. Ahh, where is Trachtenberg?
Alas, Trachtenberg (not the mathematician) is no longer with us. I came upon his name reading a short article that the periodical Nativ carried in 1995. The article reviewed the German Jews’ behavior on the eve of World War 2. On 3 April 1933, the CV-Gazette of “The Central Union of German Civilians of Jewish Descent” carried an article by Trachtenberg. That was 2 days after the Hitler regime declared an economic boycott against the German Jews. Some three and half months before, riots against the Jews there started, following the chancellor’s orders. Jews were fired from their positions, their shops were plundered, they were beaten on the streets, and some were even murdered.
An international wave of protests started. Jews in every community expressed concern for their brethren, but Trachtenberg, who owned a publishing house in Berlin and was an active member of the Jewish community there, was certain that Jewish attacks against the Nazi regime must be toned down. Just as there are those among us who try to understand the Palestinian murderousness, they too had their narrative. Trachtenberg felt that Jews were reacting “hysterically and disproportionally,” if I may borrow the favorite expression of the J-Street members when they refer to Israel’s warnings about Iran.
Trachtenberg initiated a manifesto in that German-Jews’ paper, where he wrote: “Recently, the German nation was called upon to launch a crucial struggle against the smear campaign and horror stories about acts supposedly taken against the Jews. We, the German Jews, stand shoulder to shoulder and without hesitation next to our German brothers to repel the wave of lies. All the major Jewish organizations and unions — primarily the National Union of Germany’s Jews, the Zionist Federation, the Federal Organization of Jewish Communities, and countless large and small Jewish communities — published statements completely denying the baseless horror stories.” The paper further stated: “We, 565,000 German Jews, wish to express our strong protest against this anti-German smear campaign, which refers to baseless horror stories on things allegedly done to Jews in Germany that are distributed worldwide. We, the German Jews, ache like our German brothers with every word that is said and written against the fine reputation of our country, the homeland of our fathers and the land of our children. Our union pioneered the German ideal of love for the homeland. We call on the tens of thousands of German Jews to raise the banner of our homeland and spread the German word in thought and deed.”
In Auschwitz, they were already preparing the ovens, but the German Jews did not let the facts confuse them, showing traditional Jewish stubbornness, just as they did in J-Street. Until the end of April, long after German laws revoked the civil rights of Jews and the economic boycott against them was in effect for several years, many German Jewish leaders heeded Trachtenberg’s call. They published their own letters and articles where they clarified that the fear of annihilation threats made against them was merely a reaction to hysterical and baseless propaganda. J-Street used almost the same words when referring to Iran today.
Leo Beck was one of the most prominent German Jews at the time. He was an intellectual, a Reformist rabbi, and the president of the Rabbis Union. He wrote an article supporting Hitler’s regime that stated, among other things, that “The German revolution… is struggling… for the rehabilitation of the German homeland…. Reviving Germany is a supreme ideal that all of the German homeland Jews accept. There is no other European country where the ties between Jews and their homeland are so strong and intimate.”
Leo Beck was not the only one. Even the Zionist Federation in Germany stated then, “We raise our voice in unequivocal condemnation of anti-German propaganda…. We stand in protest against the false tales of horror acts that were supposedly perpetrated against Jews.” The German Jews’ Union established that “everything must be done to frustrate this lie campaign by those whose criminal intention is to besmirch German abroad.” The president of the Union of Sephardic Jews in Berlin stated, “Our members keep enjoying German hospitality, which is the most generous possible.”
The next time the all got together was in concentration camps. Not too many years later, J-Street members too fail to understand what is wrong with hosting anti-Semites and drooling over Holocaust deniers. Perhaps they are right, and only we here fail to see the advantages of strolling among golden trees and red-brick houses. They may be right, of course. On the other hand, when J-Street finds it hard to determine who is right in the Israel-Hamas Middle-Eastern conflict, it becomes really, really hard to distinguish between the late Trachtenberg and J-Street members, may they live a long a prosperous life.