Opinion

So Easy for U.S. Jews to Disown Stephen Miller

What a simple and great idea. To disown and keep one’s distance from any senior Jewish official whose actions contradict Jewish values as understood by quite a few members of the American Jewish community

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller listens as President Donald Trump speaks at a cabinet meeting last week.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Here’s a good reason to envy Americans. A great wave of protest rose in the United States over the separation of children from their parents who are trying to cross the border from Mexico without the necessary permits.

The editor in chief of The Forward, Jane Eisner, wrote that the American Jewish community should disown senior White House adviser Stephen Miller because he defends this policy “without a hint of hesitation or misgivings.”

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This is not Jewish, she wrote. No official excommunication is necessary, she wrote; it’s enough to keep their distance from him, to say, “You are not one of us. Not when you promulgate dehumanizing policies that violate Jewish values.”

What a simple and great idea. To disown and keep one’s distance from any senior Jewish official whose actions contradict Jewish values as understood by Eisner (and apparently quite a few members of the American Jewish community).

Miller is constantly prodding the United States to promote white nationalism, Eisner wrote in disgust, noting that his family fled persecution in Belarus and immigrated to the United States in 1903 and paved their way to the upper middle class through the chain of department stores they established. Miller’s dangerous rise to political power is steeped in hypocrisy, because he willfully ignores his family’s history, Eisner noted.

“Being a Jew is about respecting historical memory. It is about exercising responsibility to each other and, by extension, to others who require empathy and assistance. We are admonished to protect the stranger, to recognize that there is one law for residents and aliens alike, to treat others as we wish to be treated,” Eisner wrote. This is the shared foundation of all Jews from across the political spectrum, in her opinion.

Miller did more than “support” Trump’s policy. “A series of articles (in American newspapers) revealed that the 32-year-old Miller is the person who urged Trump to adopt the cruel policy from the outset,” wrote Taly Krupkin in Haaretz (Hebrew edition, June 17). But Eisner is right in “diminishing” his role. In the end Trump is president and he decides.

White nationalism, separating children from their parents, denying the rights of others, erasing historic memory, all of this is not Jewish, Jane Eisner wrote. One can argue with her over her essentialist approach, which reveals a certain sense of superiority:

We are moral, and have been throughout all of history, because we are Jews. Period. One can argue in principle over the disconnect she makes between the place and standing of a certain group in all phases of history and the values and positions it adopts, and their transformation.

One can also argue over the generalization, which fails to distinguish between different people from different classes and backgrounds within the Jewish community. But these shortcomings have one major virtue: The message that is behind them makes demands on every member of her community not only on Jewish Americans.

The obvious conclusion is that Eisner and her ilk in the American Jewish community must vigorously and publicly disown all Israel’s government members, military heads and advisers and officials who implement a policy that embodies everything that is not Jewish, as they call it. In Gaza, in Hebron, in Area C in the West Bank (60 percent of that territory) and in East Jerusalem, Israel separates families, expels people from their homes and lands, promotes a policy of white-Jewish supremacy and impoverishes others while dehumanizing them. Within Israel’s borders, non-Jews are discriminated against and persecuted.

Thousands of Millers live in Israel, and they have thousands of willing and enthusiastic collaborators along with hundreds of thousands of passive collaborators – all of whom are violating Jewish values as Eisner understands them.

In memoriam: Felicia Langer

Attorney Felicia Langer died on Thursday. Born in Poland, she came to live in Israel in 1950 with her husband, a Holocaust survivor. They joined the Israeli Communist Party, and Langer was a member of the party’s central committee.

She completed her law degree in 1965 and beginning in 1967 she represented Palestinian activists against the occupation, and thus was a pioneer who paved the way for others. Langer was a member of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, and the obituary by the Israeli Communist Party says that she was the deputy of the League’s president, Israel Shahak.

The Sisyphean work wore her down and she moved to Germany in 1990, where she died. Word of her death spawned an outpouring of mourning and condolences in the Palestinian media. I recall what a friend, one of her many “clients” from the 1970s, told me. He is from the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip; his family is from Majdal (now Ashkelon).

“I didn’t know what the left wing was,” he told me, “but I wanted to fight the occupation.” The Popular Front suited him. When he was not yet 18 years old, he joined a cell that planted a bomb in an Israeli city, whose members were quickly apprehended. Langer represented them.

The nickname of one of the cell members was “Hitler,” he told me. “Langer refused to represent him,” he said. And that was among his first lessons in leftist political thinking.