Jewish Humor Against the State

Around the world, it’s a strange time to be a Jewish leftist. In Germany, three members of Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle East), two Israelis and one Palestinian, are facing trial for organizing for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. A facebook post by supporters, Jewish Antifa Berlin quipped:

“After already shutting down a bank account of Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost in 2016 and re-opening it in 2017, Bank für Sozialwirtschaft will now conduct a ‘scientific review’ to decide whether a German-Jewish group that supports Palestinian rights is anti-Semitic.

Well, we recommend to check, of course with the help of the progressive German science, whether those Jews are even real Jews! We’ve heard that the head-measuring tool could be of help in this case.”

Meanwhile in Israel, Noam Schuster-Eliassi, a Jewish comedian and peace activist of Iranian descent blew up Arab social media when she made a joke about forming a new political party, and wanting to marry Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, in Arabic. Days later, Netanyahu was at in Warsaw where he discussed relations with Arab leaders. In a response video, Schuster-Eliassi explained:

“It’s my dream to use jokes to shift the power dynamics. But on a really personal note, my grandmother was upset that I went for a Saudi instead of an Iranian man. And on a really, really personal note, if Israel is warming up relations with Arab countries at the expense of the Palestinian people, I’m simply against it. And I’m definitely going to joke about it!”

In France, leftist and antizionist Jews used beautiful, satirical prose to articulate their struggle against the machinations of the State. In response to French president Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to legally define antizionism as a form of antisemitism, part of a larger power move to smear the Gillet Jaune protests as ‘antisemitic’ Union Juive Française pour la Paix (UJFP) in response to a mainstream Jewish umbrella organization, fired back:

“The real fight against antisemitism works through the search and sanction of those responsible. It must spurn the pyromaniac firefighters and must always unite with the antiracist political struggle. Racism in all its forms is our common enemy, and together we must build emancipatory solutions.” (Translation by Ben Ratskoff)

In the United States, pyromaniac firefighters went to work. Politicians and pundits attempted to extinguish Rep. Ilhan Omar’s criticism of Israel and AIPAC by denouncing her as an antisemite while fueling a racist, sexist, and Islamophobic firestorm which dehumanized Omar and derided the Palestinian struggle, simultaneously misrepresenting the needs of feelings of Jewish Americans, especially those who share Omar’s criticisms.

Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley cut to the heart of the absurdity with his now viral drawing of Meghan McCain, who cried on television because Omar’s “antisemitism” was so scary to her. Like in Germany and France, reality outdoes satire, which would be humorous if it wasn’t so dangerous. McCain responded that it was Eli Valley’s depiction of her was “one of the most antisemitic things she had ever seen.”

These recent examples are reminiscent of the now infamous Jeremy Corbyn attendance of a seder hosted by diasporist troublemakers in the UK, Jewdas, last year. Throughout the (to be expected) media outrage cycle that followed, Jewdas kept cracking jokes. Their social media following soared, and despite the craven and opportunistic desires all around them, Jewdas proved to be a problem that would not go away.

A dark sense of humor and a deep understanding of history and power show themselves to be more than a common denominator amongst formally disconnected Jewish leftists. In fact, humor may be one of our most potent weapons in the struggle for justice in these absurd times.

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