J Street’s Twisted Passover Haggadah
Like others who faced the challenge of holding a seder this year, my family resorted to Zoom to bring together my parents in Boca Raton, our older son in Houston, and our younger son serving in the IDF. We wanted to read from the same text, so I looked for a digital Haggadah that we could share on screen. I found traditional ones, do-it-yourself versions, and attempts at humor. I also stumbled across a Haggadah put out by J Street, which turns Passover into a holiday about Palestinian liberation.
The J Street Haggadah reads like one you would expect to be produced by the PLO. It proves the point Jackie Mason made in the article I cited last week — that J Street believes peace can be achieved “if only Israel didn’t do this or that.”
Curiously, many on the left decry paternalism except in the case of the Palestinians, who are portrayed as blameless for their plight, incapable of making their own decisions, and having no responsibility for their actions. J Street perpetuates Palestinian victimology, portraying them as innocent naïfs, while repetitiously asserting that Israel is mistreating them.
In the Haggadah, J Street equates the lives of Palestinians with Jews enslaved under Pharaoh. Indeed, roughly 98% of Palestinians are suffering under taskmasters — the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
The self-flagellation begins with Yachatz. Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg writes, “Israel grabs and settles territory out of fear that the enemy will return to decimate us. We are still victims.”
To the contrary, the triumph of Zionism is that Israelis do not allow themselves to become victims. The territory she refers to was not grabbed; it was captured in a defensive war and, if it were not for Israel’s strength, its enemies would have driven the Jews into the sea. Today, Hamas openly calls for Israel’s destruction while the people J Street considers “moderates” seek the same objective in stages. Goldenberg also ignores the Jewish connection to Judea and Samaria, and Israel’s legitimate claim to settle on it.
The Four Questions are posed by a J Street U student leader, who asserts that Jews have always sought justice but now “a portion of our people perpetuate injustice against the Palestinians.” She adds that Jews must seek forgiveness for mistreating Palestinians.
Who are these perpetrators, what are they doing, what reasons are there for their actions, and what do we have to be forgiven for?
The statements of the four children are bastardized by Rabbi David Teutsch to shoehorn in the Palestinian narrative. The “wise child” questions how Israel can be guided by its founding principles without recognizing the rights of the Palestinians. “The troubled child says, ‘How did you let all those settlements get built and how do you tolerate the mistreatment of Palestinians by settlers and soldiers?’”
These children are really the same and would more accurately be described as the ignorant child, who does not know history.
Teutsch calls the child who says, “I love Israel. What’s wrong with that?” the “simple one.” Actually, that child is the wise one.
To suggest that loving Israel is simplistic gets to the heart of the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby’s problem. Its members cannot love Israel because it fails to behave according to their preferences. This week, for example, they attacked Israel after the new coalition government, comprised of representatives from the left, right, and center, had the temerity to announce plans to consider annexing territory in the West Bank. J Street, however, has a paternalistic view of Israelis as well as Palestinians. Its raison d’être is to claim its leaders know better than the democratically-elected leaders of Israel, and the Israeli people, what is good for their nation. They are not content, however, to express opinions; they lobby US officials to force J Street’s views down Israelis’ throats.
The Haggadah, apparently speaking for J Streeters, claims they do love Israel and “understand all its complexities”; however, there is no evidence in the Haggadah, or in J Street’s literature, that it has the foggiest idea of the complexities. The lobby simply regurgitates the “end the occupation” mantra of the Palestinians, reflecting a total misunderstanding of the roots of the conflict and the reasons why this slogan is as meaningless as “land for peace,” as proved by the disengagement from Gaza.
Rabbi Toba Spitzer chimes in with the nonsensical notion of the intersectionalists that Jews are privileged and that our freedom “often comes with a price paid by others.” This idea that Jews enjoy “white privilege” is shockingly ignorant. Never mind the fact that not all Jews are white, suggesting that Jews are privileged requires the equation of individual successful Jews with the Jewish people, and ignoring Jewish history since our time in Egypt.
Spitzer refers to the “terrible price paid by the Palestinian people for the creation of the Jewish state.” Consider the price the Jews would have paid if they had lost the war. Most would be dead. Sorry rabbi if I am not going to apologize for Jews’ survival. It was the Palestinians who chose war over independence — and, while you may naively believe otherwise, they have not changed their desire for Israel to disappear.
By this point in the seder, it was no surprise Cantor Evan Kent would cook up a political list of plagues he attributes mostly to Israel. The first is “poor leadership.” Of course, he is referring to Bibi, but at least he acknowledges the Palestinians also have lousy leaders.
The second plague is “living in fear,” where he falsely equates the fears of Palestinians and Israelis. Cantor Kent, are you aware of the 10,000-plus rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, the 150,000 Hezbollah rockets targeting Israel, and the Iranian pursuit of a nuclear weapon while its leaders threaten genocide? He similarly creates another specious parallel in the ninth plague by asserting that violence “is used on all sides … to harm, intimidate, maim, destroy and kill others.” If Palestinians did not engage in terrorism, they would have nothing to fear.
His “plague of false narratives” is simply left-wing relativism, implying there are no facts and both sides’ claims are equally valid. I recommend he read my book, Myths and Facts, and my regular updates to learn about the inaccuracies of the Palestinian narrative.
Predictably, settlements are considered a plague. This is a myth, but there are facts to prove settlements are not an obstacle to peace and my recent column explains why a two-state solution is not viable despite the wishful thinking of J Street.
“The plague of lack of vision” is just a restatement of J Street’s objection to Israeli democracy not producing the results it wants.
Before the Shulchan Orech, J Street teaches that the three symbols of Passover “are the symbols we investigate to identify the wrongs which must be set right” in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Despite the plague of poor leadership, we are asked after the second cup of wine to accept the assertion that Yitzhak Rabin recognized that the “occupation” is not necessary for Israel’s security, and that a “better reality” would be a two-state solution. You would have to be drunk from the wine or an ignorant child to think that security was not paramount to Rabin. Moreover, two-state advocates ignore Rabin’s opposition to a Palestinian state.
Finally, Elijah’s cup is supposed to remind us of the “pain of the Palestinians,” which we must acknowledge “before we can fully taste the sweetness of the final cup.” The paragraph ends with the line about beating swords into plowshares. This was the same reference Rabin used at the signing of the Oslo agreement. Three years later, Yasser Arafat vowed, “The jihad will continue! You have to come, and to fight, and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem!” That’s how this Haggadah should have ended.
Of course, facts are beside the basic point that the conflict with the Palestinians has nothing to do with Passover. While J Streeters may look forward to celebrating next year in “Palestine” after Jerusalem is “liberated,” may the rest of us overcome COVID-19 and meet in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign policy analyst and authority on US-Israel relations.