Our cousin the Israeli professor who calls to boycott the Jewish state

It is our family's shame, but the old men in the family know that the professor is not protesting Israel's so-called injustice but is, rather, the third generation to display 100 years of family dysfunction.

Robert Harris

OpEds Jewish anti-Israel activists in the US
Jewish anti-Israel activists in the US

Why, my children ask, would our Israeli cousin be a traitor to his own country? 

In response, I try to explain about his illness, this most dangerous of hatreds, the eternal self-hate that some Jews have been infected with throughout our history.

But still, it is our family’s scandal, our shanda. 

Our cousin, an Israeli professor paid by the taxpayers of Israel, exploits his position as an “expert academician” to tour university campuses throughout the world to accuse Israel of racism and apartheid, and he even publishes articles advocating boycotts of Israel.

And we feel deep shame that our cousin is often quoted in anti-Israel media, such as Al Jazeera and other anti-Jewish publications and websites, where he happily allows those who seek to destroy Israel to use him as evidence of how wicked Israel is, for here is a Jew who “speaks the truth” about the "evil" Jewish state.

At gatherings, the younger family members spit out his name, calling him a traitor to the Jews and his family. But the old men quietly sigh and shake their heads, since they know the very ugly truth. 

For the old men share the knowledge that the cousin-professor’s self-hate has nothing to do with his screaming about "justice", or seeking to rectify "wrongs" or eternally protesting for the "underdog."

Rather, with complete certainty and heartbreaking pity, the old men know that the professor is acting out his deep, personal and emotional problems when he strikes out at Israel, since he can never acknowledge the true target of his rage, which is really his family.

The old men know this because the professor is the third generation of his family to hurl his rage-filled missiles at the greater family and the Jewish public. 

For nearly 100 years we have been drawn into his family’s emotional quicksand. We have had to witness their debilitating problems, which caused them to cut themselves off from sons, sisters, nieces, nephews and even tiny grandchildren.

We watched as the professor grew up in a home in which he was forced to witness his own father cast off his closest family members into oblivion. The father disapproved of their life choices, and then they were dead to him. And his children were forbidden to play with cousins, and there were no longer family simchas to attend.

How would this damage the anti-Israel professor, being a child who watched his father cut off sisters, sons and cousins?

The father, of course, was striking out at his own parents, as he screamed outrageous political statements in public. He even joined Meretz so he might be surrounded by like-minded luft-menschen, his fellow cracker barrel comrades.

My late mother could never speak ill of family members. It was just not in her DNA. But when she read in the local Jewish newspaper about her Meretz cousin publicly calling for the Prime Minister of Israel to have a heart attack and die, she dared to shout aloud.

For while the father and his son the professor screamed about Israel, my mother could only shudder when recalling the dangers the family members exposed themselves to while doing their part to help create modern Israel.

Always inside of my mother was the example of the parents of the Meretz cousin who left the comfortable United States to help settle Israel, where they suffered so many hardships. 

She also remembered her Uncle, who worked all day at one job, and then worked all night to collect money for the Jews of pre-state Israel. 

Yet that was not enough, so that uncle strapped a money belt around his waist and spent weeks traveling by boat from North America to Israel. And always unspoken was the personal danger he placed himself in, as he faced imprisonment for crossing borders with very large amounts of undeclared cash.

And my mother recalled our Canadian cousins who wore their county’s uniform for five years in World War II, only to change uniforms to fight with the Haganah in 1947-48, and continue fighting during the War of Independence. They fought wars for ten years!

She also never forgot our Israeli cousins, kissing their wives and children goodbye while marching off to war in 1948 and 1956. And my mother remembered their children, squeezing themselves into unairconditioned tanks in 1967 and heading into the desert to fight. And yet again in 1973.

While the Meretz father and his professor son villified Israel, my mother recalled her own mother spending half a day to take three buses to cross Chicago so she could deliver her pushke filled with coins to one or another fund for Israel. 

Unspoken among the family, but always present, is how dare these three generations of ungrateful Israelis, our genetic family, bring such shame upon us?
And what of my mother and her friends, all in their eighties, traveling across Chicago on freezing winter days--often minus 25 degrees farenheit---to raise money for Hadassah?

Meanwhile, my own son has earned a place among these sacred ancestors, when he left Chicago at 18 years old to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces.

Unspoken among the family, but always present, is how dare these three generations of ungrateful Israelis, our genetic family, bring such shame upon us?

And now we wonder, what of the other members of that tiny group of Israeli professors who teach hatred for Israel and the Jews? What motivates them? Are they also emotionally disturbed and acting out their unresolved problems by transferring hatred of family to the Jewish people and Israel?

With each hate-filled speech our cousin the professor delivers or newspaper article published, we in the family know that he must seek to outdo his father in his outrageous behavior. Though, pathetically, his actions are only muted screams directed at his father, as his rabid anti-Israel hysterics always mask his rage at his family.

And all of us in the family are left staring into this 100 year-old abyss, and can only pray that Hashem heals our cousin the professor and puts an end to his ravings.