We’ve been thumbing the pages of the JC again, both on paper and online. Dirty habit we know. And while we might claim to be reading it in order to keep up with events in the Jewish world, this is much like reading Playboy for the celebrity interviews. No, the only good reason for reading the JC is to see who got married, who died and who looked like a complete schlemiel at some Jew do last saturday.
In our thumbings we wandered over to the ‘your blogs’ section, a rather ham-fisted attempt to move towards Web 2.0. There amongst a lot of rubbish, you can find regular blogs by a delightful character named Jonathan Hoffman. Mr Hoffman is the leading thug (sorry spokesperson) of the Zionist Federation and is frequently to be found engaging in vitriol, abuse and wild accusation (sorry ‘hasbara’). What is notable about dear Jonathan is his constant willingness to ‘go there’ – no pussyfooting around for him. So when others merely hint at it, Jonathan will happily declare that anti-zionism equals anti-semitism. He will have no hesitation about tarring all criticism, as ‘anti Israel’, and all opponents as either self-hating Jews or anti-semites. Naturally Jonathan declines to accept that the occupation exists, insists that Israel is a full democracy, that all its actions are 100% justifiable and that human rights campaigners are Islamists in disguise. Jonathan likes to turn up to left wing events and shout, heckle and genuine make an ass of himself. So far so good. But in his latest action Jonathan has surpassed himself.
On the JC blog site, Jonathan likes to abuse fellow posters, preferably calling them ‘trolls’. We can put this aside, perhaps this is standard conversational style in Woodside Park Synagogue. A particular poster, ‘Ben Abuyah’ however, got Johnathan’s back up. ‘Ben Abuyah’ was a critic of Israel, was pretty knowledgable, and, horror of horrors, worked for a Jewish communal organisation. How dare a community organisation employ someone whose views are not specifically endorsed by the Zionist Federation! Jonathan has been pretty clear – Jews who criticise Israel are a best not proper Jews and at worst not jewish at all. But how does one tell? In good rabbinic style, Jonathan devised a simple and straightforward test for ascertaing someone’s Jewishness, posting the following:
To the Jewish Israel bashers:
Please confirm the following:
1. Examples of active participation in synagogue services over the last six months
2. The number of mezuzot in your home
3. Fluency in reading/speaking Hebrew
4. Participation in rabbinical shiurim in the past six months
5. Positions held within the Jewish community
6. Extent of kashrut observance
7. Examples of active support for Israel in past six months
8. Frequency of synagogue attendance
Has ever such a list been produced in all of Jewish history? Maimonides had his 13 principles but this is a whole other level – no longer is Jewishness to be based on descent or conversion, according to JH it needs to be frequently tested to check whether or not it has lapsed. Some questions remain – do all 8 areas score equally? Or does no. 7 trump all the others? An do Jews who are not ‘Israel Bashers’ have to submit to the quiz or are they exempt? And what happens if you score less than half points? Will the men in black hats come round to put you in cherem?
What was it, one might wonder that led Jonathan to produce such a list? What had got his back up? A notable omission from JH’s list is shabbat observance, a very traditional marker of Jewish religiosity. It turned out that this was very relevant. Ben Abuyah pointed out that JH had been posting on the JC blog on shabbat. Hilariously, both the shabbat posts and Ben Abuyah’s flagging of them have now disappeared from the JC site. JH was obviously highly gefruntzled by this having his shabbat desecration pointed out ; it seemingly led him to do some research and then gleefully ‘out’ Ben Abuyah. At that point the trail goes quiet – though it seems likely that Hoffman will now try to make things difficult for ‘Ben Abuya’ in his communal organisation. (update: Hoffman’s questionaire seems to have also disappeared from the site – the moderators are zealous in their efforts to protect ZF spokespeople)
Its pretty clear from the above that Mr Hoffman is keen to initiate a Jewish inquisition with himself in the role of chief inquisitor. He both sets up a standard that Jews have to meet to be considered kosher, and tries to hound out a critic of Israel from their job in a Jewish community organisation. Throughout, he maintains that Jewish critics of Israel have no place within community.
Now at this juncture we could go all po-faced, condemn his behaviour, and call for the Zionist Federation to sack him. But that would be an error. Jonathan Hoffman is so extreme, so constantly dogmatic, rude, intellectually dubious and pig headed that he constantly brings the Zionist Federation, and his own cause, into disrepute. There can be only one explanation, that he is in fact an Anti-Zionist mole trying to bring down the British Zionist movement. At this, he is doing an excellent job. No other anti-Zionist has had such success in promoting the cause and making Zionism look ridiculous. Whether funded by Hezbolllah, or simply doing it as a hobby Hoffman is the anti-zionist activist par excellence. Jonathan, we salute you!