Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hope is the thumb you suck waiting for things get worse

    Sharp-eyed readers noticed (okay, they didn't notice, or at least didn't mention noticing, but a guy can dream, can't he?) that I had two columns in the paper Friday. The first was about Rahm's ill-advised bragging about the busyness of O'Hare—proved all too true that day, when the place was shut down by a lunatic who set fire to the air traffic control center causing thousands of flights to be cancelled. Very busy airport, in a bad way.
     But there was a second column, that I wrote earlier in the morning, on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. I thought the airport column would replace it, but both ended up running.
     I didn't want this column to be overlooked, as I think it makes some good points, and am particularly pleased with the hope-is-the-thumb-you-suck line at the end. 

     Happy 5775, for those of you who celebrate Jewish New Year, if “happy” is the proper word to describe this particular, anxious moment in Jewish life.
     (“Really, the Jews are anxious?” quips the potato-nosed wisenheimer in my head. “As opposed to their usual tranquil state?”)
     Shhh, I say. I’m trying to be serious here.
     (“Oh, a Jew is being serious. Now we’ve really sailed off into uncharted waters ...”)
      Ignore him. Anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe. Jewish stores burn, Jews are killed in the street, Jewish centers attacked. Maybe not that much on historical terms, or compared to the massive horrors currently being inflicted in, oh, Syria, or South Sudan.
     But alarm can’t be written off to reflexive catastrophization either; ignoring deteriorating world conditions is not a survival mechanism for the Jewish people. To make sure it wasn’t just me being jumpy, I checked in with Richard Hirschhaut, founding executive director of the Illinois Holocaust Museum.
     “This is a moment of deep and lingering anxiety and frustration,” he agreed. “This was an ugly and sad summer. The world has gotten uglier in the past year.”
     Why now? That’s easy, no expert needed. The war in Gaza. Its leaders, the terror group Hamas, fired rockets into Israel, and Israel blasted them back, killing lots of civilians, to the shock of the world, which then let the beast of anti-Semitism off its chain.
     The logic appears to be, well, if Jews are going to attack people in the Middle East, well, we’re going to attack some Jews right here, give ’em a taste of their own medicine. Nuts, but there you go. Remember, to a bigot every member of the hated group is fungible, interchangeable, and if you can’t lash out at the bad Jews in Israel, well, this Jew walking down the street will suffice.
     Israel's actions are no more the cause of anti-Semitism today than a black person failing to doff his hat to a Southerner in 1935 was the cause of his being lynched. It might be the spark that touches off an explosion of hate, but the poisonous gas had to already be there, and for the Jews—spoiler alert—it's always there. A hundred years ago, when there was no Israel and Jews were isolated in villages in Eastern Europe (and, remember, in Palestine) that didn't keep the world from assigning world control to them, and cooking up blood libels and mad plots to rationalize hatred. What makes Gaza bloodshed unique is that it actually happened.
      The Palestinian tragedy isn't a cause of anti-Semitism; it's a result. If Israel's neighbors had not tried to destroy it in 1948, or in 1956, or in 1967, there would be no occupied West Bank and Gaza. Israel's neighbors didn't turn upon it because it was a new nation formed by the withdrawal of British forces (just like Iran, Iraq and Jordan, which somehow seem to be OK). It was because it was a nation of Jews.
     The sad irony of course is that Jews are deeply divided over Israel. No pro-Palestinian rally is complete without a contingent of "Not in My Name" Jewish traitors denouncing Israel for behaving like any country would. ("We're bombing the heck out of Syria right now, going after our enemies," the voice wonders. "Hitting any schools?") They remind me that in the late 1940s some Jews still found a way to stand with Stalin.
     The Palestinian conflict will end when the Palestinians are ready to form a country and live at peace. Don't hold your breath.
     "Hatred is so much easier than reconciliation," Lawrence Wright notes in his new book, "Thirteen Days in September." "No sacrifices or compromises are required."
     Thus the problem will come roaring back, if not in 5775, then 5776 or 5777...
     "Thankfully, this is a period of relative quiet now, but I don't think this is so much a day after as a moment in-between," Hirshhaut said. "The hostilities by all indications may come back, until the stranglehold Hamas has over Gaza is somehow changed. This does not mean there ought not be a cause of hope. There are moderate voices. We need to encourage them to make right choices."
     Sounds like something you'd say to a bunch of kindergartners, right?
     I told Hirshhaut that both ends of the Jewish spectrum—knee-jerk praise for Israel and dismissal of Palestinian suffering on one side, embrace of their cause and nullification of Israel on the other—mystify me.
     "You have to see the humanity," Hirshhaut agreed. "When seeing that humanity in the other takes hold and manifests itself, and begins to have traction in our daily lives, then I think there's hope."
     ("Hope," sneered the little smart-aleck voice, "is the thumb you suck when you realize things are about to get much worse.")


  1. This "Jewish traitor" (who are you to define who is a "traitor" Neil, you don't speak for all Jews) says victory for Palestine, which will be free from the river to the sea, by any means necessary and every means possible. No more "peace" talks, war without terms until final victory!

    1. I have zero doubt that you're a Jew, since a victory for the "Palestinians" would mean the death of every Jew in Israel.

      Plus, if you really want a war by any means necessary, then Israel will crush you. All the Arab countries combined have never been able to defeat Israel & they never will.
      And even if they managed to get nukes, the use of one on Israel would unleash Israel's Doomsday response, which I'm sure they've informed most of the Islamic world of the consequences, which are simple: They would wipe out Mecca & make it radioactive for the next 10,000 years!

      The only thing the "Palestinians" have been any good at, has been their PR, which casts them as the eternal victims of Jews, which any intelligent person knows is total bullshit. Since the rest of the Arab world doesn't want them in the countries, except the few in Saudiland & the Gulf as "contract workers", who are one baby step above being slaves, when push comes to shove, the so-called "Palestinians" will be abandoned once more by the Arabs.

  2. The treachery is there to see, on its face, plain to all. I'm only the guy pointing it out. And not necessarily treachery to the religion, but to humanity. Israel is already free, about as free as the Middle East gets, up to this point. Of course the quislings -- the word I originally used, but that wasn't ideal either -- would disagree.

  3. This op ed from what I read has gotten a lot of heat on line.

    1. I read that. It's an interesting piece, with some that is valid, and some that is dubious. How does Israel "profit from occupation?" How has it "never clearly defined its borders"?

  4. I like to consider myself a "sharp-eyed reader," but I wasn't aware of this column. And if I'd gone back later and been visiting your S-T page, I'd have probably assumed this 5775 piece was the same as your 5775 blog post. So, I'm glad you posted it here, too, Neil.

    I can understand folks of any faith or none being concerned about some of the tactics that Israel employs in its defense, but the attitude expressed in the comment above at 3:34, coming from a Jewish person of any inclination, is mystifying to me.

    Oh, and on a lighter note, thanks for the caption! Off the top of my head when I first saw the photo, I just assumed you'd taken a shot of your back yard in the leafy suburban paradise...

    1. I wish. But you're welcome. I try to be a full-service columnist.

  5. Re the nice line about "hope" you were, justifiably proud of, Francis Bacon once wrote "Hope makes a good breakfast but a poor dinner."


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