Israel’s Skokie

Israel’s Skokie

Many of you are old enough to remember the Skokie incident — the 1978 legal confrontation in which Illinois Nazis of the National Socialist Party of America petitioned for the right to march through the northern Chicago suburb where many Holocaust survivors lived.
The Jewish community was deeply alarmed by the issue, especially after the American Civil Liberties Union interceded in behalf of the Neo-Nazis. In the end a Cook County judge, ruled that the presence of the swastika, the Nazi emblem, would constitute deliberate provocation of the people of Skokie; however, the Court also ruled that Skokie’s attorneys had failed to prove that either the Nazi uniform or their printed materials, alleged the Nazis intended to distribute, would incite violence. The Nazis ultimately held their rally in Chicago, but the incident remains in the Jewish conscience to this day.
We can’t help but think of the Skokie incident when we read about Israel’s Supreme Court ruling this week allowing two right-wing activists to lead a march through an Israeli-Arab city.
The court on Wednesday accepted the petition of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, who had appealed to the court after police rejected their request for a permit to march in Umm al-Fahm. Several public officials, including the city’s mayor, warned the march would legitimize racism.
Like the ACLU in Skokie, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel supported the right demonstrators to march noting that such an act must be permitted in a free society, despite the anger and humiliation it may cause among the residents of the neighborhood.
In Jerusalem, as in Skokie, the conflict is between the legal rights of the residents to feel secure in their homes versus the free speech rights of the demonstrators.
Like Skokie, memories of this issue won’t fast disappear either.
The court ruling has a message for American voters as we prepare to go to the polls next week: As we have reported here in our pages and on our blogs, this has been a rhetorically brutal campaign. America and American Jews are divided perhaps as never
While much of the rhetoric that transpired in this election was legal, it was also hurtful, just like the Skokie and Umm al-Fahm cases. And the hurt won’t soon go away.
What can we do? Vote our consciences next week, respect the outcome and heal. That’s easier said than done, but it can’t be done at all if we don’t try.
There are no candidates in this race who are anti-American or anti-Israel. They all want what is best for this country, regardless of their views. Let’s remember that the day after the voting.