On Refusing to be a “Good Jew”
The “good Jew” is a common trope in Jewish history. A statement attributed to a variety of Nazi officials was that every German “knows one good Jew” — the exceptions that belie the general rule of Jewish mendacity, parochialism, ruthlessness, avarice, and evil. We should not be distracted. Meanwhile, within the Jewish community, there are those who assume they can escape anti-Semitism by becoming “the good Jew” — by assimilating into the gentile majority, by adopting the political and ideological convictions of the surrounding society, and often by publicly and viciously repudiating those signals and signs which represent the Jewish community in the public eye. Some anti-Semites offer the same deal: you can escape the wrath coming down on the Jews, if only you turn on your fellows. It’s hardly a situation unique to the Jews — Malcolm X’s “house negro” is the obvious analogue — it’s just our particular iteration of a common problem facing oppressed groups in societies shot through with racism.
The American poet Alice Walker had quote attributed to her, one that I’ve always found meaningful: “No one is your friend who demands your silence.”
Alice Walker also recently took a trip to Gaza along with Code Pink, and had some interesting things to say about Israel: