Below you will find my sermon from Friday, March 24. At the end is the URL that will take you to the paper itself. I expect to write more on this topic soon.
Will Eisner was a cartoonist who had a number of different incarnations in his long career. He drew popular comics, including "The Spirit," one of the most enduring characters in newspaper circulation. Eisner believed the comic could be used to tell stories that were more than diversions, and he pioneered what became known as the graphic novel. One of his earliest, A Contract with God, is a remarkable combination of sociology, theology and cultural history.
As he reached his eighties, Eisner turned his attention to one of the most vexing pieces of literature in modern world history. It was a fabrication that was fabricated from another fabrication - proved to be so by scholars around the world. Yet it was devoured with gusto as truth and caution by Europeans, Asians, Australians and people in both Americas, serialized in newspapers, dramatized on television and promoted by government. The book is called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and it presumes to be the master plan of the Jews to take over the world.
Eisner's expose of the Protocols was completed just before he died last year. It is not his best book, neither artistically nor as story. But it is a thorough debunking of the document and an examination of its ability to resurrect itself wherever people hate the Jews, which is to say just about everywhere. We like to think that these handbooks of hatred are circulated among drooling idiots with leather fetishes and parents who are first cousins. We like to think that sophisticated power brokers, who know that the Protocols are bogus, make them available to distract the proletariat from examining their own nefarious plans to take over the world.
But a document was published this month under the initial imprimatur of the University of Chicago and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University - both of which subsequently distanced themselves from the work - that continues the work of the forgers of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the name of two prestigious professors with credentials as long as your arm. The institutions that produced Mortimer Adler and Henry Kissinger and Bruno Bettelheim and Alan Dershowitz - who all happened to be Jewish - have produced two men with similar credentials who purposely misread documents to prove that the Jews, using the State of Israel and an undefined power base in the United States known in the paper as "The Lobby," are seeking to control US foreign policy and domestic politics for their own selfish benefits.
I know that sounds ridiculous. I know it sounds like the opening of one of those fundraising letters that tries to scare you into believing that evangelical missionaries have targeted YOUR CHILD SPECIFICALLY to be converted to Christianity and accept responsibility for the death of Jesus. Frankly, I couldn't believe it myself. But I actually went to the web site and downloaded the paper, all 82 pages of it, and I could not believe what I read.
I am not going to spend a lot of time reading from this document tonight. In fact, I only want to share two sentences. Now, of course the problem with taking two sentences out of an 82-page paper is that it is going to make them sound like they are out of context. So I want to tell you the context. These two sentences are taken from a four-paragraph section that is part of a longer critique about the relationship between the United States and Israel entitled "A Dwindling Moral Case." This section, called "Aiding a Fellow Democracy?" (note the question mark), seeks to show that Israeli society and American values are more at odds than on common ground. Here is one such comparison, virtually in its entirety:"The United States is a liberal democracy where people of any race, religion or ethnicity are supposed to enjoy equal rights. By contrast, Israel was founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship."
Now I will be the first to admit that the standards under the Law of Return are not consonant with American democracy. But only someone thoroughly unfamiliar with Judaism, or willfully ignoring the process of naturalization that parallels a foreign national becoming an American citizen, can assert that blood kinship is the basis of the Jewish state. And only someone unfamiliar with the emergence of nationalism in Europe in the 19th century would overlook the fact that Israel's foundation was the same as nations in Europe and Asia - including the surrounding Arab states - where citizenship was automatically extended to the children of existing citizens: the French, the Germans, the Poles, the House of Fahd, the Hashemites - and automatically excluded for others, including the Jews. Only someone who was asleep during the 1980s and 1990s could have missed the offers that were made to Americans like Zbigniew Brzezinsky and Madeline Albright to reclaim citizenship in emerging European democracies that they had never asserted and become members of the government and diplomatic corps.
And what is the proof that these two professors use to prove their claim that Zionism is racism, which is all that the two sentences seek to affirm? The reference in their footnotes three articles from the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz on the subject of intermarriage and the aversion of even secular Israelis to it.
This not-so-subtle promotion of the idea that Jews are part of a blood cabal that stands in opposition to the values of real Americans - that is, that we oppose equal rights regardless of race, religion or ethnicity - is exactly the point of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Throughout the rest of the paper, taking quotations out of context and interpreting them at their will rather than as intended by the speakers, the professors paint a picture of a monolithic interest group, actively working against the interests of the United States. They name AIPAC as part of "The Lobby," but seem to include everyone from the Zionist Organization of America, one of the most right-wing associations around, to The New Republic as agents of this Zionist conspiracy, along with conservative Christian groups. Though they note the disagreements within "The Lobby," they contend that they are all variations on a theme, not genuinely at odds with Israeli policy.
In fact, the existence of "The Lobby" itself is seen as proof that Israel and the US are at odds. They make the absurd statement that if our aims and values were really the same, there would be no need for an Israeli lobby. Apparently, the ACLU, the NRA, oil lobbies, The National Organization for Women, the NAACP, the Girl Scouts, Major League Baseball, the American Bar Association and the Congressional Black Caucus are in a similar boat since they all have lobbying efforts for what they identify as American values that are often in danger of compromise.
So what is there to do? If we rise up against this paper and these two professors, who assert that dissent from "The Lobby" impedes one's professional life and gets one branded an anti-semite, they will point a finger at us and assert that we are proving their point by objecting to it. It is a favorite tactic of propagandists and hate-mongers: assert disproportionate and unfair power resides with a minority, assassinate their collective character, and ascribe cowardice or intimidation to anyone who takes their side.
The answer is not to fall for the tactic. You have heard me criticize the bullying of legislators that sometimes goes on at the hands of some members of our community I have long believed that we would eventually pay for those few examples of excess. If this is payback time, so be it. Our own embarrassment at the voice we have cultivated is our issue, not anyone else's. As the Book of Esther says, "Who knows; maybe it is for a moment just like this that we have reached this position."
The professors have names, of course, and I mention them now in the hopes that they will stick in your head through Shabbat. John J. Mearsheimer is in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Stephen M. Walt is at the Kennedy School at Harvard.
Mearsheimer and Walt. They are not cartoons. Don't forget.