Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Jewish Lament


“If a man has his eyes bound, you can encourage him as much as you like to stare through the bandage, but he'll never see anything.”
Franz Kafka, The Castle (1926)

I might be losing my mind. When terrorists attack Paris and indiscriminately kill 130 persons (including a number of Muslims) and wound 368 others, the world shows support for the French nation. Even Hamas and the Islamic Jihad condemn the actions of the individuals who committed this heinous crime, as does Iran. No sane person would disagree. This is, after all is said and done, a sensible moral statement of defending the good.

But when Jews in Israeli are stabbed, shot at, hit with rocks, and rammed with vehicles with the intent to murder—a regular occurrence—hardly a word of condemnation from the international community, even when an American is killed. On Thursday, an Uzi-wielding Palestinian murdered three persons (and wounding five others), including Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old student from Sharon, Mass., volunteering in Israel for a year before starting university. “The White House, President Barack Obama, and Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro did not release specific statements about Schwartz's murder as of Friday morning, more than 12 hours after Schwartz was identified as the victim,” reports Arutz Sheva, Israel national news.  A deafening silence.

Yet, there are words of condemnation, from the U.S., the E.U., and the U.N. regularly and predictably directed against Israel for using “excessive force” when the police, the I.D.F. and the various security forces protect its citizens from the actions of individuals intent on murder. No such voices of censure against other nations which act similarly. Or worse.

The foreign minister of Sweden has even made the remarkable claim that the Paris attacks were the fault of the Israelis in that they have failed to make peace with the Palestinians. Even if we see the fiction and narishkayt of this particular statement, it is made within a larger narrative of victimhood. Does this woman actually believe that the Palestinians today want to make peace with the Israelis? Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, sadly, I think she does. She has the freedom to say such things, because she is not alone in her thinking.

This minister has company. The leaders of western Europe in particular, but also at times the United States (Canada has been an exception of late), have at one time or another condemned Israel for what it has been doing to survive since the Jewish state’s declaration of independence in May 1948. Although dozens of other states have made similar declarations after 1948, some with dubious human-rights records, the world assents to these statements of nationhood without any protest. Not so for the only Jewish state in the world.

The Jews, for some reason, are not permitted a state of their own, are not permitted the kind of self-determination that others take for granted, and are not permitted the right to safety & peace that others have long enjoyed. Moreover, according to the internal logic of the international community, best represented by the U.N., Israel can’t do anything right; it seems that at the very minimum it has no right to defend itself, as other nations do. On the face of it, this is more than a double standard; it is an absurd scenario straight out of one of Kafka’s novels, most notably, The Castle (1926).

So, it must be that I am losing my mind. It can’t be that all these wonderful good decent educated people think it is morally wrong to kill French citizens, or British citizens or Spanish citizens or American citizens on their soil, but it is morally acceptable to kill Israeli Jews in Israel, on the very soil where Jews have been walking and settling for thousands of years.

No, this can’t be; civilized people do not think and act like this. So, the only possible conclusion is that it must be me that is losing my marbles, losing my mind. This is 2015; it is not 70 CE or 1096 or 1290 or 1492 or 1648 or 1938. It is true that I can easily and randomly pick from a list dating from 250 CE dozens of other years when Jews residing in European lands were tortured, slaughtered, burned at the stake, expelled from lands, forced to pay special taxes, forced to wear identifying badges, and forced to convert— either by mobs or by state decree—without any opportunity to defend themselves.

Today, when Jews in Israel have the military might and the moral right to defend themselves, the world is outraged. Do they want blood, perhaps of the sort that the term “blood libels”conjures up?

Wake me up when this nightmare is over. Wake me up when the international community starts to remove the bandages covering its eyes. Wake up; wake up. Awaken from your slumbers.

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