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To Kill a Messenger

abc.net.qu

abc.net.qu

No, this is not another critique of Harper Lee’s new/old book “Go Set a Watchman,” and its relation to her classic novel “To kill a Mockingbird.” Though, in a twisted sort of way, there is a connection. So much so for convicting the wrong man. It is more of a rebuttal, albeit a limited one, of another book – “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide,” by Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to America – and the trend it represents. In other words, and according to the many reviews of the book (full disclosure: I had not read it, nor do I intend to), it criticizes, among other things, America, President Obama, and Jewish Americans – talking about throwing a stone into the well you had drunk from – who dare to criticize Israel’s actions and political leaders, and seemed to be calling on us all, from J Street to the New Israel Fund, and other local organizations fighting for peace and understanding; from the op-ed pages of the New York Times to bloggers and blogs – such as Good4Jews – to stop criticizing Israel.

“He complains, for example, that ‘The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, both Jewish-edited, rarely ran nonincriminating reports on Israeli affairs. The odd formulation ‘Jewish-¬edited’ suggests that Oren views everything through the lens of ethnic identity. In addition, Oren hastily dismisses the historian Tony Judt as someone who ‘opposed Israel’s existence.’ If anything, Judt’s apprehensions about Israel’s future seem more cogent than ever.” So writes Jacob Heilbrunn in a scathing review of Oren’s book in the NYT Sunday Book Review. And he poignantly continues: “To criticize Israel is not tantamount to being anti-Israel, a tiresome tactic that too many of the country’s would-be defenders have adopted. Might it not even be pro-Israel, in the sense of pointing out failings that any Israeli government would be prudent to rectify?”

Put another way, the detractors of the well-intentioned criticism say: Don’t criticize Israel if you don’t live here. Come join us, then you can criticize us. There is, of course, nothing new about this hollow argument. I can be the first witness of it. And yet it is foolish nonetheless, while at the same time barking on the wrong tree. But before analyzing the stupidity of this demand, let me step back a bit and demonstrate what at stake here from a different angle altogether. I had lately watched a television program on CNN – “The Hunt with John Walsh” – which I hadn’t watched before. You know, hot, lazy summer days, nothing of substance is on. This particular program dealt with one of those nutcases who proclaimed themselves “Sons of God.” Yet this “New Jesus” was able to control and manipulate a whole congregation of seemly normal people in Washington State. He picked up ten “maidens” from the congregation, girls as young as twelve, who then became his sex slaves. He repeatedly raped and abused them, spreading his venom also to married women of that community. When word began to spread among congregates, they kept mum about it, as one of them said: “We kept it in a ‘lock box’.” Nobody heard, nobody knew what went on inside. When word began to leak to people on the periphery, they either turned their heads the other way, saying this is none of our business, or when one or two complained to the police, they were dismissed and ostracized.

Talking about killing the messenger. Now, I don’t compare Israel’s wrongdoings to the crimes committed by that “New Jesus” guy – who, by the way, got away scot-free – but in essence, and as metaphor, the lesson applies here. Of course, those who aim their “guns-with-silencers” say, we don’t tell you not to criticize Israel, no way will we do that; after all, we’re a civilized people. But please, shut up about it when you are outside the country. Why, exactly? Didn’t your Prime Minister come to the Congress here in the middle of an election campaign back home and criticized our president and his policies in the strongest terms possible? Don’t you now mobilize all forces, resources, and means of public opinion in order to influence Congressmen and Senators against the Iran Nuclear deal, signed already by the P5+1 nations and approved unanimously by the UN Security Council? What set you apart from us in this regard, may I ask?

It increases anti-Semitism, I hear them say. Well, let me tell you something: What increases anti-Semitism, among other things, is Israel’s actions, not the criticism of it. Moreover, if Israel is the homeland of all the Jewish People, then all the Jewish People can praise it, and yes, criticize it as well. It might well be our home one day soon. Why wouldn’t we want it to be a better, more human, and just home? And while at it, some of those who criticize us for criticizing Israel, when something comes along that infuriate them – let say some religious issue in Israel, as it had happened lately – then suddenly all hell breaks loose, letters of complaint to the president of Israel, full of criticism of Israel and its policies regarding this particular religious issue. But when it comes to peace, politics, and security – no way Jose. This is the height of hypocrisy!

Not to mention that their basic demand to come live in Israel first, and only then criticize it, is nonsocial at best. As if in Israel there isn’t a campaign to silence those who criticize its policies and political leaders. As if some major, famous artists had not been violently attacked after the last elections for trying to raise voices of dissent. As if some Israeli politicians had not suggested already to bar, by law, those voices of dissent from voicing their opinions. Some of Israel’s better, more conscientious journalists, do live with this kind of a threat day and night.

So come off it, all you “supposedly” righteous people, Jews and Christens alike. You are just protecting your own policies and points-of-view, that’s all, and are trying to prevent others from doing the same. This fits a totalitarian regime, not a democracy. More importantly, though, it is most definitely good for Israel and its future to have criticism level against it. It can only improve things. Otherwise – it is chaos. It is kept in a “lock box.” Because, you see, the bottom line is, to paraphrase Bill Clinton’s election slogan: It’s the actions, stupid, not the criticism. That’s what mattered most. So change the message, why don’t you, instead of killing the messenger.

* Published originally on “The Times of Israel.”
** The “Leave a comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

Halle Berry & the Jewish Problem

inflexwetrust.com

inflexwetrust.com

So what Halle Berry got to do with the “Jewish Problem,” you may ask. And with the Jewish people, while at it. And what is that problem, anyway? Please trust me on this, and stay put as I explore this strange connection. Halle Berry of course, to those of you who have been living on Mars for the last twenty years, is the talented, beautiful, Oscar winning black actress. Mix-race parents, though, white mother and black father, like President Obama, and not Jewish. So where is the connection?

It all started on the road, some years ago. I was listening to an interview with Ms. Berry on the radio, not really paying close attention until I heard her saying something that almost caused me to run into the car ahead of me, or drive off the road altogether. I was surprised also that, whoever was doing the interview with her, did not reproach her on the outrageous statement she’d just made. And for that reason I suppose, and so untypical of me, this short segment of the interview had stuck in my mind all these years since then. It reminds me now a specific, disturbing problem I see in the attitude of some Jewish people I know – and others I don’t know, for that matter – here in America. However, in order to do justice to all concern, I researched that radio interview, and thanks to the Internet had no difficulty in finding it.

So first, here’s this segment of the interview as it was broadcasted on December 31, 2010, on NPR’s “All Things Considered” with Audie Cornish. BERRY: “And being a mother myself, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my daughter, whether it be legal or illegal. (Soundbite of laughter). CORNISH: She’s only like, what, three right now, so that can’t – hopefully you won’t have to test that. BERRY: No. But I can tell you, as sure as I’m sitting in this chair, if she killed somebody, I would help her bury the body. (Soundbite of laughter). And I would try very hard to protect her in any way that I could, and I think that’s just an instinct of a mother. And that’s probably wrong and people will probably – you’ll probably get mail that Halle Berry said she (unintelligible) and she blah, blah, blah. (Soundbite of laughter). But I don’t care. That’s my daughter, and I would take a bullet for her. I’d go to jail. I’d end my life. I’d do whatever it took to protect that little girl. I don’t care what she did, and that’s what I said and I said it.”

Wow. One can admire her for this kind of unquestionable love and devotion to her daughter. But what about this line: “…if she killed somebody, I would help her bury the body.” No questions asked; no explanations needed; no need to call the police; there’s no justice, or morale principles involved, when it comes to my daughter. “I don’t care what she did… my daughter, whether it be legal or illegal.” As I said, I couldn’t shake off my head these statements, and lately they came back to visit me in connection with the attitude of most (not all, though) Jewish Americans – yes, I know, it’s a stretch, but hang on a bit – towards Israel. They seem to be afflicted with this “Jewish Problem,” or even a syndrome of sorts. Let me try and explain this strange connection and problem.

Imagine, why don’t you, an average American Jewish man. Give him a name – whatever name you fancy. He’s an adult, of course – give him an age of your choice, whatever floats your boat. He is well educated – determine how well and in what field yourself. He’s married, and a good family man – determine how many kids he has yourself. He’s not overly religious, but nonetheless he’s a member of a religious congregation in town – determine the town and the religious affiliation yourself. He’s quite successful at his profession – determine his occupation yourself. But this I have to tell you about him: He’s probably a democrat, who’d voted for President Obama at least once. He’s quick to volunteer whenever there’s a need, or when the Rabbi requests that of the congregation. When evil strike, as it just did recently at the Church in Charleston, S.C., he’ll be the first to go to black churches in town and offer help and sympathy. He will demonstrate with them against injustice and racism, and will invite them to his congregation for services. If there’s famine in Africa; if there’s an earthquake in Haiti: if there’s a tsunami in the Far-east; our enlightened man would be the first one to stand and deliver. In short: he is an exemplary citizen.

And yet, when it comes to Israel, all his principles and senses seem to leave him. They simply disappear, as if by magic. If Israeli soldiers shot a missile that killed four innocent Arab boys playing soccer on the Mediterranean beach in broad daylight, so be it. Bad stuff happens in war. And why did they play there anyway, when there’s a war going on? If an F-16 fighter aircraft drops a huge bomb on an apartment building in Gaza, wounding or killing one Hamas terrorist hiding in the cellar, but also killing scores of families, women , children, babies and elderly men, so be it. They started it. If olive trees, which stood for millenniums are uprooted by settlers in the West Bank, sheep are slaughtered and mosques are desecrated, so be it. Why are they there, anyway? It’s our land. Read the bible, man. If the occupation continues now for almost 50 years, it’s not Israel fault; we just want peace. If there is a big separation wall, and roads designated only to be driven on by Israelis – in short, apartheid on the way – he, who had demonstrated (or his parents) against the white South African regime so fiercely, will surely turn his eyes away and will blame you for being Anti-Semitic. Or worse. No matter the crime committed by the Jewish state – he will turn gooey-eyed, will start waving the Israeli flag, will sing “Hatikvah” and dance the hora. In other words, when it comes to Israel, he will help it bury the body. No matter the crime. No matter whether it’s legal or illegal.

Case in point: The aforementioned recent terrible mass-murder in Charleston, S.C., where nine black parishioners were gunned down in cold blood by a white young man. According to reports, when the father of the murderer saw his son’s pictures on TV – he was still on the loose then – he called Charleston’s police to alert them; he identified his son and the car he was driving, even gave a description of the gun he was carrying. It doesn’t mean he loves his son and less than Halle Berry loves her daughter – or, for that matter, any less than our imaginary American Jewish man loves Israel – yet the father did the right thing. Otherwise, there’s no justice – only complete chaos.

* Published originally on “The Times of Israel of Israel.”            ** The “Leave a comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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