Jewish Journal

When Friends Become Anti-Semites

by Dr. Afshine Emrani

July 23, 2014 | 6:05 pm

Give me a knife and I will cure you. Give it the wrong person and you'll be killed. So goes religion.

This week, all diversity training and tolerance enhancing programs failed.  It’s like when you prepare for an earthquake with a drill, but don’t really care.

We are all guilty.  We all whisper words of bigotry in the privacy of our homes.  But, in today’s social media, we have invited everyone into our bedrooms to eavesdrop.  Opinions hit us like a ton of excrement and our stomachs turn. These anti-Jewish remarks are sometimes overt such as those by Mel Gibson for which he was chastised during his DUI arrest in 2006, those by White House reporter Helen Thomas who was pressured into retirement, and those by CNN anchor Rick Sanchez who was fired.

However, modern anti-Semitism is far more subtle and reveals itself amid condemnations of Israel.  There are those who truly feel for the suffering of innocent Palestinians and donate time and money to their aid, as do Jews.  Then, there are those who exert their power by expressing hatred for the Jew camouflaged under the cloak of the protectors of human suffering.

Last week I posted “To My Dear Muslim Friends, what I desperately wish from you is an outcry over the death of children in Syria which is far more than those in Gaza. I wish for you to speak against the Muslim-on-Muslim violence in the world as we are witnessing in Iraq. I wish for my Iranian friends to speak against the random acts of violence against thousands of Muslim youths who dare speak their minds.  You see, if you become active in the human rights debates and only speak against Israel's destruction of terrorist Hamas and ignore other human suffering, then your intentions will be misinterpreted as  anti-Semitic rather than loving.”

The posts continue.

There are those who misuse of the word “apartheid” to describe the plight of the Palestinians in Israel. For their knowledge, the apartheid system in South Africa was law-backed racism.  Arabs in Israel enjoy rights unheard of in their own countries.

All of us who genuinely desire peace are guilty of posting hateful articles (myself included.) If Facebook news makes us bitter and harsh then we have become worse human beings. What we read from those who oppose our views should shatter our hearts so that we enlarge and can hold more inside, not become narrower but dilate and open. Only through empathy for those whose views rub us the wrong way can we find peaceful solutions. To rehash the same tired reasons that support only our side and expect peace is akin to madness.

That all Jews should support and stand with Israel is obligatory to our survival; that we should not question the process, absurd; that we should stop searching for a road to peace with our neighbors, immoral.

Give me a knife and I will cure you. Give it to the wrong person and you'll be killed. So goes religion.  I have spent my life training to save lives. Fifteen years in emergency rooms, from county hospitals to Veteran's Affairs, I took care of many who thought I was Arab and spat in my face while I sutured their wounds. I performed angioplasty and life saving measures on self professed KKK members and those with anti-Jewish symbols tattooed on their chests. Both my blessed profession and blessed religion teach me to sanctity life above all else. Never glorify death. God's breath rests in all things alive.

So, what to do when your best friend shows signs of anti-Semitism?  I have now taken the attitude of an educator.  Those who are rude or divide and cause anger are blocked.  Those who are tolerant of my views, I tolerate in return, both of us learning from one another.  I desperately avoid allowing them to cause me to have increased hate toward them and still hope one day we will be brothers and sisters again.  Maimonides wrote that the world’s good and evil rest on pans of an equally balanced cosmic scale, and one positive individual act tips the scales to the good, thereby saving the world.  When I see hatred of the Jew, I go into Jewish revenge mode: I love more.  I pray more.  I talk to God and sit in silence awaiting an answer.  I light an extra candle and yes, I donate more to charity.  I pray with my community.

Today, I'm grateful to hatred for making me realize the value of love. I'm grateful to God for allowing darkness so I can see light. I thank the universe for the ugly which makes beauty more magnificent. I am thankful for the friends who walk the same path of love, of beauty, of mercy and justice and the deep burning desire for peace.

I surrender the outcome to The Merciful God.  In the end, what I do is between me and my God.

I pray that next Shabbat is Shabbat Shalom- Sabbath of Peace for the entire world and all of God's children. Amen

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Afshine Asher Emrani is a Persian Jew who loves God passionately, and as a result loves the path of healing, loves life, loves love and loves to share what he loves!  He is a...

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