Open Letter: Re: jewbitch ur a mental case?
The Masada 2000, is a web page that lists over 7000 individuals that
according to the site are self-hating Jews that are a threat to Israel.
My name, excerpts of my bio, two photos, portions of my poetry, a link
to my webpage and two of my email addresses along with rather vulgar and
vile attacks on my character, are posted to the list.
On Wednesday, March 10, 2004, I received the following email:
Subject: jewbitch ur a mental case?
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 22:37:52 -0200
From: David Gruner Reply-To: dgruner@e…
Organization: Lycos Mail (http://www.mail.eudoramail.com)
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Forgive me the informality, I was going to begin the letter, Dear Mr. Gruner, but given that you addressed me as jewbitch, I felt it safe to assume a certain informality. I believe your complete message stated: “jewbitch ur a mental case? (sic) your (sic) on masada2000 s..h.i.t.list what a jerk u r”
I understand that you found my email address on the Masada2000 website, a site that lists over 7000 Jews who are, according to the site, self-hating Jews, and traitors to Israel. My name seems to have, attached to it, quite a bit of information, most of it lifted by Masada2000, without respect to copyright, directly from my webpages. I know several of the other people listed, Many of them have served the cause of human rights with greater prominence and significance than I, and I hold them in great respect and am honored to be counted among them, which makes the amount of attention given to me by the diligent folks at Masada2000, a bit humbling. If the cause of human rights puts me on a S.H.I.T list, so be it, I certainly would have been offended had my name not been included.
I assume, with your interest in this list, the depth of your anger at me for having been so listed, and your German last name, that you too are Jewish. So I would like to ask you, what would compel a Jewish man to address a Jewish woman as “jewbitch?” This term is steeped in racism and misogyny. Is your hatred of Jews and women so deep and your ability to articulate your feelings so pithy that you have been reduced to such an epithet? Where is your love of your heritage, that you could express your displeasure of my work, in such a debased, dehumanized and clearly anti-Jewish terminology. I am a 45-year-old Jewish mother; I have raised a proud and capable Jewish son. Without having internalized the negative images of Jews and women that are rampant in our society, how else could you address Jewish womanhood this way? How could this ever be anything else but depraved hatred of yourself, your heritage and the women that have been the backbone of a battered and persecuted people? Where is your respect, for Judaism, for women and for yourself?
The Masada2000 list, provided you with excerpts of my work, that, though taken out of context, are not, for the most part distortions of my values. But I would recommend, before attacking anyone else simply because their name appears on a list, that you familiarize yourself with what they truly represent. Since you have already attacked me, I welcome you to familiarize yourself with my work, after the fact. I write extensively on human rights, social justice and against racism and oppression. Included in my definition of racism is what is commonly called anti-Semitism, which is, in all its aspects a deep and historical racism against Jews in general and Semites in particular, reflecting, (to borrow the terminology of the late, great, Edward Said) the orientalist attitude of Europe towards Jews, where we were always seen as foreign and dangerous.
Masada 2000 mistakenly affiliates me with Goebbels, the Nazi leader, responsible for the deaths of many Jews, including members of my own family, two of my Grandmother’s cousins. Nothing in my writings could have allowed a reasonable person to affiliate me with Goebbels. I am a human rights activist who understands that from the ashes of our own history of persecution must rise something greater than the mountains of skulls, the bars of soap made from the ashes of our people, the lampshades and purses made from our skin, the jewelry made from the stolen fillings in our teeth. It was Rabbi Hillel, 2000 years ago, who is quoted as having said “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now—when?” I take from this legacy, a profound belief in the universality of human rights and the imperative to fight for justice globally, seeking global solutions to issues of domination, oppression and genocide. I make no exceptions.
. Masasda 2000 also refers to me as a Tikkunite. While I am not a Tikkunite, (a member of the organization, Tikkun,) because I am not a Zionist, I do believe profoundly in the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam; the repair of the world, of the universe. Tikkun Olam calls for universal repair, not the repair of one individual, one nation, or one race, and certainly not the repair of one at the expense of the other, but rather, an allegiance to collective well-being. My human rights work is founded on a profound understanding of our responsibility to the world, to build it and to mend it. I believe in the commandment; “Justice, justice, thou shalt pursue”(Deuteronomy 16:20.) Perhaps what has angered the diligent folks as Masada 2000, is that my Jewish identity is infused into all of my writings. My concern for the future of the Jewish people is consistent with my concern for the well being of the planet and the world community as a whole. As such I do not come to the same conclusions as the folks at Masada 2000. I hope my work is informed with a wisdom their fear and hatred cannot begin to imagine. I am not a Zionist, because I do not support nationalism as a solution to the question of injustice or persecution. I am, Jewish of course, and from what I take from that heritage; a universalist. I believe that we need to create a just world, instead of holding out for pieces of a pie that promises, through a system based on greed, smaller and smaller portions. I believe that a nationalist solution within this system only produced a new set of perpetrators free to oppress, free to support the greater hegemony, and a larger body of oppressed people to trample, exploit and exterminate.
While I do believe that the self-hating Jew does exist, I don’t believe that any particular political ideology can be ascribed to this wounded entity. I know Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews who are extremely conflicted about their identity as Jews. How could we not be, like all marginalized groups of people, we are bombarded with horrid images of ourselves, perpetrated by the dominant culture to further rationalize their hegemony, as well as to co-opt members of our community in support of that hegemony.
I assume your anger, expressed in the semi-literate rantings of your email, comes from a fear, a valid fear of Jewish persecution. I understand that many Jews feel that the entire future existence of the Jewish people depends on the existence of the state of Israel and therefore, to oppose the state of Israel, or any of its policies would be equaled to advocating for the destruction of the Jewish People. You are afraid that I am, in my small way, helping to bring down the demise of our people, that I am in part responsible for Jews killed on the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. I understand your fear, but let me remind you that it was in Europe where our people met the greatest persecution; it was in Europe where we were subjected to crusades, inquisitions, pogroms, humiliation, ghettos, discrimination, rape, slave labor and genocide. It was in the United States, an extension of European hegemony, and now, the empirical force in the world, where we were subjected to immigration restrictions, discrimination, witch hunts, red scares, executions,klan violence and false imprisonment. In this country, Jews fleeing Nazi persecution were turned back to Germany, to face certain death, while British children, and even British dogs (yes, some British sent their dogs) were given safe harbor to escape the bombings imposed on them during the war. During times of great repression in Europe, many Jews found it safer to escape to the Middle East where we never suffered in the way that we suffered in Europe, where we lived, for the most part in peaceful co-existence with Christians and Moslems. Animosity against the Jews in whole or in part, coming from the Middle East is not much more than a century old, in reaction to the imperialist intentions of Zionists such as Hertzl and Jabotinsky and the terrorist activities of Jewish groups such as the Urgun and the Stern Gang, who made clear their desire, not to simply resettle as immigrants or refugees, but to conquer. Opposition to Zionist hegemony, is not genocidal, it is reasonable.
I am not a Zionist because Zionism is unjust and as such, can never protect me. Zionism appropriates my history and my sense of justice for the purpose of perpetuating U.S. and European colonial hegemony, and when that fails in the court of world opinion, the Jews will be blamed. I am not a Zionist because I believe that if a Jewish child is sacred, so too is a Palestinian child, (many of whom are the descendants of the ancient Jewish tribes.) I am not a Zionist, because I understand that Hitler’s policy of lebensraum (living space, the policy of removing “impure races” so that there would be more room for Germans) is a form of genocide and a precursor to atrocities that we could wish were beyond imagination, and the Israeli policy of “transfer” is merely another word for this injustice. I am not a Zionist because I honor my heritage and to do so, requires that I not dishonor the heritage or lives of others in the name of my ancestry. I am not a Zionist because I believe in universal human rights and do not believe that the establishment of one more elite leadership based on nationalism, will bring about a more just world. I believe with all my being that an injustice to one is an injustice to all, that when one is oppressed, with each drop of blood that is shed, with each aspiration that is quashed, each of us is diminished in our capacities, each of us becomes more unsafe.
Israel, and the people of Israel, cannot find peace in armaments. Israel is now the fourth strongest army in the world, and by far the most dangerous state for a Jew to live in. Daily brutality against Palestinians, the denial of life, land, water, education, mobility, work and a future to millions of Palestinian children in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, along with diminished rights to those Palestinians living within Israel, and with the refusal to address the inequities in Israel’s right of return policies, will only result in the same desperation that besieged those brave fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, who, with their own lives, defended the ghetto against the Nazis longer than all of the rest of Poland.
The most important holiday in my home, is Passover, the celebration of liberation from slavery. I gather with me, a pantheon of local human rights activists who come from all over the world. It might surprise you, David, that among my diverse guests are many Arabs, both Moslem and Christians, including Egyptians, Lebanese and Palestinians, who join me as we crowd into my small living room. We pray together, sing, dance, discuss freedom, justice and tell the story of Passover. We compare our different traditions, marvel at the similarities, and truly love each other, aware of the possibilities represented in the gathering in my home one night a year. The children run around and find the afikomen, and while I do prepare a feast, everyone else also brings a dish and we have a glorious banquet while never forgetting that only through our work together can we find a solution to the conflicts that would otherwise tear up apart.
Perhaps my dreams of a world with justice and equality, free from military and political hegemony, are naïve, but belief in a military future has certainly failed the test of practicality and assuredly threatens all life on this planet. The more brutal a regime, the more desperate the opposition. The United States, colonialism (including Zionism) and neocolonialism have created for us and for all of our children, a world so tenuous, so fragile, that even for the most privileged, hope for the future seems futile. Perhaps there is no other path, and the present conflicts will destroy us all, but I cast my lot with the peacemakers, those Palestinians, Israelis and internationals who stand down tanks in the streets of Rafah, the volunteers of the International Solidarity Movement who declare with their lives the importance of a better world, the Israeli soldiers who have served years in Israeli prisons for their refusal to serve in the Israeli army, with Mordechai Vanunu, who rots after 18 years in total isolation in Israeli prison for breaking the silence about the Israeli war machine and nuclear weaponry. It may be an exercise in futility, but the company I keep exceeds by far the joy I could have in a life of consumer pleasure, or the futility and bleakness that comes from supporting an enormous war machine. Love and fear cannot be held in the same breath, and the wider the circle, the greater the possibilities.
Martin Luther King Jr., stated; ““I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” It isn’t hatred of myself or my people that draws me to this work, but a profound hope, and on a good day a tenuous faith that a better world is not only possible but a necessity.
With prayers for peace with justice, and above all else, love,