Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Anti-Semitism

I was at the White House shortly after the start of the latest Gaza war. I was holding a sign with a large, blue Star of David with the caption: "Read it and weep, POTUS. Am Yisrael Chai." I positioned myself across from the permanent anti-war display, and it was not long before the woman replaced her anti-war signs with anti-Israel signs, complete with that ridiculous picture that circulates on the Internet that purports to show how "Palestine" has shrunk over the years thanks to Israeli land-grabs. She also began waving her "Palestine" flag. I thought it was rather humorous. Anyway, what I did not know was there were several groups of Israelis visiting that week, and suddenly a group of teens walked up, gave me a fist-pump, and yelled "Am Yisrael Chai!". They scared me to death! I was not expecting it, and I was so dumb-struck the only thing I could manage to say in reply was, "Shalom!" Every single Israeli I met that day had his picture taken with me and my sign, and thanked me profusely for what I was doing. I found that to be bittersweet. Sweet because what I do is rather lonely, and the gratitude was much appreciated. Bitter because I kept thinking to myself, "This should not be." It should not be that Israel has to feel such gratitude. It should not be that Israel feels so alone. I know that the Prime Minister says, "We must accept the world the way that it is, not the way we think it should be". But, I am stuck on "should".
Lately I have been deluged with anti-Semitic, hateful messages on Twitter. It seems those who are pro-Israel are outnumbered at least a thousand to one. What is wrong with this world? I am not talking about the Islamists who are bred to hate. I am talking about people who should be intelligent enough to read through the rhetoric and reach intelligent conclusions. Yet, the propaganda is bought with little, if any, question. Israel "stole" the land. Israel is "ethnically-cleansing" the "Palestinians". Israel is committing "war crimes". Israel is committing "genocide". Israelis are "terrorists". The Prime Minister is a "baby-killer" and a "Nazi" (what I believe to be the most obscene accusation of all).
I do not mean to trivialize what is happening, but I often liken Israel and the Arab world to the schoolyard bully. Johnny punches Billy a dozen times. When Billy finally gets sick of it, Billy hits Johnny back. Johnny then runs to the teacher screaming, "Teacher! Billy hit me!" And, rather than taking the time to find out what happened, the teacher gives Billy detention. Absurd.
Yet, that is anti-Semitism in a nutshell. "Zionism" has become the code word for "evil". "Zionists" are the problem. Jews are OK, but "Zionists" are bad. Is this what is taught in today's universities? Are critical thinking courses extinct? Apparently, history courses are, because I cannot count the number of people who confront me with the "history" of the "Palestinians", and how it was their land until the Jews came along. Gone are the 3,500 years in which Jews have been continuously present in what is now Israel. Suddenly, the "Palestinians" were there for 3,500 years, and the Jews "invaded" them. Never mind the Ottoman War, British rule, the British Mandate...no. The "Palestinians" were robbed.
On that point, we agree. The "Palestinians" were robbed. They were robbed of their very identities. Yasser Arafat could not be more proud, albeit from the grave. His propaganda has taken hold in a way not even he could have imagined.
I wrote the following as a free-lance exercise a few months ago, and it seems to be timely so I am printing it here:
"The more I follow events in Israel, the more protective I feel of her and the more my heart breaks for her.
"Imagine a life where you are surrounded by people who want you dead, who do not believe you have a right to exist, who will lie about you, who turn every day into a fight for survival. Imagine a world that perceives your every move as having some ulterior motive, that you intend harm, that your very being is a threat to their existence. Imagine your life under a microscope, your every move scrutinized and criticized, feeling the need to explain every action and almost apologize for sharing oxygen with the rest of the world.
"Who can live under such strain, such unceasing and overwhelming pressure to conform to impossible standards imposed upon you by others who do not even impose those standards upon themselves? How does one learn to cope with such hypocrisy and unrealistic expectations without going mad?
"I cannot imagine it, and so I weep for Israel. Yet, she does not ask for my tears, only my acceptance of her. Somehow, miraculously, Israel not only survives but in fact thrives and sets an example for all to see if we would only open our eyes."
Am Yisrael Chai.
Shalu Shalom Yerushalaim.