RHETORIC page 5
Jewish Life Moves
In The Fast Lane.
An example: Arnold Wiznitzer
is cited in a footnote as writing
that "Jews dominated the slave
trade." Wiznitzer actually wrote:
"It cannot be said that Jews
played a dominant role in Dutch
Brazil." It seems unlikely that any
readers will check the accuracy of
such quotations or footnotes.
From 12 to 15 million Africans
were forcibly shipped to the At-
lantic sugar islands from the
mid-15th to the mid-18th cen-
turies. Millions more perished at
sea or in African wars for slaves.
Africans were exploited by Arabs,
Berbers, African ethnic groups,
Italians, Portuguese, Spaniards,
Dutch, Jews, Germans, Swedes,
French, English, native Ameri-
cans and even New World free
blacks. Catholics, Protestants,
Jews, Muslims all sanctioned.
Jews occupied at best a very
marginal place in the slave trade.
Perhaps what's most disturbing
about The Secret Relationship is
the willingness of some univer-
sity faculty to grant it a scholar-
ly platform, to actually address
the book as a potential work of
scholarship. They correspond to
university administrators who
grant speaking platforms to the
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to me underscores what most
Israelis feel about religious plu-
ralism. Would it not seem strange
to many Americans if an Israeli
leader was to advocate for
mandatory Army service for all
U.S. citizens? We are a democra-
cy and if there is a will on behalf
of the constituents, the laws can
be changed to accommodate.
Reform Judaism was started
by Jews living in the Diaspora in
an attempt to allow Jews to prac-
tice their religion and, at the
same time, integrate more easi-
ly into a foreign society. There-
fore, for Israelis, the idea of
Reform Judaism should be a
moot issue. It is a Diaspora phe-
nomenon. When Rabbi Yoffie
speaks of the "politicalization of
Judaism," he has hit the nail on
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the head in terms of the essence
of the argument. This is a prob-
lem unique to Israeli society, the
solution to which will have to
come from within.
I am by no means saying the
system in Israel is perfect. I am
saying, though, that the issue of
religious pluralism should be de-
cided by Israelis, the people who
will be the ones directly affected
by any change in the laws. Just
as Israel has found a solution to
its military, agricultural and so-
cietal problems, so, too, will it find
a home-grown solution to its sec-
Israel Consular General's Office,
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book's supporters, like Mr. Mar-
tin, Mr. Muhammad and Mr.
As with Holocaust deniers, it
sometimes may be necessary to
decline to engage in dialogue over
some factual questions — like de-
nial of the Holocaust, the argu-
ments that rehabilitate collective
fantasies of Jewish conspiracies
and "racial" theories might be
perceived as too absurd for ra-
tional response. As with deniers,
exposure of motives and identi-
ties of the speakers may be more
While it may not be clear how
much it affects African Ameri-
cans, the new, more vitriolic anti-
Jewish rhetoric most assuredly
has affected Jews — the fright-
ened student was not alone in
her panic. Jews may now be tak-
ing more aggressive measures to
combat this old-style castigation.
Given the pseudo-scholarly ba-
sis to this decidedly dated atti-
tude, we should begin from a
position of informed rational dis-
course. Blacks and Jews have
plenty of tragic history, some of
which they share. There is
enough real past to confront and
assimilate, and no need to fabri-
cate some other one. ❑
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