Wednesday, October 27, 2010
When Jewish Windows Break
Several years ago a small group of notable British Jews, such as Anglican Atheist comedian Stephen Fry, Quaker writer Stevie Krayer and Claire Rayner, who once visited Israel and said she didn't like it because the people were rude to her which probably justified all those suicide bombings, put out a statement announcing that they were refusing to celebrate Israel's Independence Day. Rather they said, "We will celebrate when Arab and Jew live as equals in a peaceful Middle East. That the likes of Ivor Dembina or Selma James refuse to celebrate Israel's Independence Day is about as newsworthy as the revelation that David Duke will not be attending a Black Power rally. Considering that there is a neck and neck race between the far left and the far right over who hates Israel more and is readiest to blame any and all world events on a vast Jewish conspiracy, no one expects Mike Marqusee to wave the blue and white, anymore than we expect to find an undiscovered poem by T.S. Eliot in which he describes how much he enjoyed celebrating Chanukah.
What is interesting however, is that the likes of Harold Pinter make their ultimatum conditional on achieving a state of affairs that has never existed in the history of the Middle East for thousands of years.
If we take their demand, that "Arab and Jew live as equals in a peaceful Middle East" literally, then Israel can never have legitimacy until Saudi Arabia opens up Mecca to the Jews it slaughtered and expelled from there. Only when Yemen and Syria extend equality to Jews, and everyone tosses away their weapons, instead settling their disputes with nice and orderly chess matches or humus cooking contests, then Hilda Meers or Arthur Neslen of Al Jazeera, with his countless peace proposals that involve legitimizing Hamas, will stop by for a fireworks display and shed a tear for the dead.
Since then Harold Pinter has since gone to the great wastepaper basket in the sky, but the small petty malice of notable British Anglicans, Marxists and Quakers, who all turn out to be Jewish when there's a petition slamming Israel to be signed, a boycott to be arranged, or a flotilla carrying vital supplies of aging anti-war activists to Hamas to be sailed, goes on.
Israel stole the land, they declare. Whose land did they steal? The land of the people who stole it from them. This reduces Arab grievances to a farce in which an angry burglar phones the police to report that the owner of the looted property he stole had broken into his house and took it back. (The only possible reply is that time legitimizes theft, in which case the only difference between a racist occupying colonialist entity and a native inhabitant is a few generations.) Common sense renders such outrage ridiculous, but to the moralizer, the man who takes back what is his, is just as bad as the man who took it from him. Even worse. To the moralizer, the original thief was deprived, while the homeowner is depraved. The thief only took what he needed, but the homeowner is the oppressor who took away a deprived man's necessities, he should have just kept his mouth shut.
For over a thousand years, Jews in the Middle East were deprived of their land, their property and their lives. They were legal and social inferiors of the colonizers who had occupied their country. From the Arab mercenaries who fought for Rome, to the Bedouin bandits who raided the outposts of a decrepit Byzantium, to the Caliphs dreaming of glory and gold, they had lived under an occupation that makes the wailing of the Nakba into something laughable. And the moment they managed to gain their independence, they went from deprived to depraved. In an unprecedented turn of events, they became the occupiers of their own country. The settlers of towns and villages built over the ruins and remains of the old towns and villages where they had lived.
Suddenly the nation that had gained its freedom against the will and armed force of its British colonial occupiers, was deemed the colonizer and occupier. The state that curiously extended political and religious freedoms to minorities, in a region where such minorities are usually stamped out or herded into ghettos, became a racist entity. And one of the world's oldest peoples were denounced as foreign interlopers, on behalf of a mythical Palestinian nation that had never existed at any point in history, as anything but a Greco-Roman designation for a portion of the territory on their maps.
And who are these racist Israeli Zionists anyway? Is it the Israeli Druze, Circassian or the Samaritan? The Israeli Armenian or the Israeli Arab? Of course not, it is the Jew. Of course it always the Jew. Was it the Jews who had lived there since the last massacre that wiped out their kind? Is it the Moroccan, Ethiopian and Yemenite Jews who fled oppression and tyranny to find refuge in a land where they were not required to bow to Muslim Arabs and accept them as their superiors? Was it the European Jews who fled the Holocaust to return to the land from which Arab mercenaries had expelled them to Rome, and were forced to fight the armies of General Sir John Bagot Glubb?
They, the occupiers of their occupiers. The colonialists of their colonizers. The slaves who had become masters of their masters, yet treated them with far more decency than they themselves had been treated. A crime which can never be settled, until the balance is restored, and the slaves again become slaves, and Arab and Jew are once again equal. As they are today in Saudi Arabia. Then finally Harold Pinter and the rest of the heavenly choir of West End immortals will wave the white and the blue. Because there will be peace. The peace of the slave. The peace of the dead. The butcher's bill served to Israel for daring to be free.
The Jews have been served with such bills before. After Kristallnacht, when the Nazi thugs had gotten through looting and smashing Jewish shops and synagogues throughout Germany, the Nazi regime presented the Jews with a bill of 1 billion Reich marks. For the damage that the Jews themselves had suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Today when there is broken glass and charred walls to be found in Sderot or in a family car overturned on the road to Hebron, it is still the Jews who must pay for it in the form of territorial concessions. Some 72 years later, when Jewish windows are smashed, it is still the Jews who must pay.
But this is not about the facts. Facts are cold, dead things that stir no souls. It is emotions that do this. Hate is one of the strongest of these.
I have seen several anti-Jewish outbreaks in Germany during the last five years, but never anything as nauseating as this. Racial hatred and hysteria seemed to have taken complete hold of otherwise decent people. I saw fashionably dressed women clapping their hands and screaming with glee, while respectable middle-class mothers held up their babies to see the "fun".
So wrote the Daily Telegraph of Kristallnacht. There are occasionally similar articles in the Daily Telegraph today, but the paper and its articles are denounced those same "otherwise decent people" who don't want their fun of breaking Jewish windows spoiled. Because once you look past the veneer of respectability, they aren't decent people at all. They never were. And once the windows start breaking, once they are given permission to clap and join in the fun, then the masks begin to come off. All it takes is an excuse. A whistle that starts it all.
Excuses are often rational facades for irrational emotions. But where reasoned principles are absolute, emotional principles are selective. And that selectivity is rationally unjustifiable. When it is challenged on rational grounds, it replies on emotional ones. Ask about the Kurds of Turkey, the Copts of Egypt or the countless other minorities in the region deprived of civil rights on an elementary level that is unimaginable in Israel, and you will get photos of smiling or mutilated children in Gaza thrust at you. Because there is nothing like using children as a primal emotional lever to bypass the minor question of principles.
Goebbels formulated the question neatly enough. It was not about whether Jews had rights, but whether good Germans were willing to stop Jews from preying on the children of Germany. Substitute in the children of Palestine and the same question is being asked of Europeans by smiling decent people who can't wait for a chance to clap their hands and join in the fun. The boycotts are already here. There are Jewish cosmetics and Jewish vegetables to ban and burn. Next it will be Jewish books. Some British authors have already declared that they refuse to be translated into Hebrew. Damaging stores or factories has already been deemed legal by courts, so long as the target is one particular Hebrew speaking country. For the children of Gaza of course, never for the pleasure of clapping their hands while stones fly through windows. Never that.
The only difference, is that the far left has always understood that the people who are most enthusiastic about leading assaults on Jews, are other Jews. In the Soviet Union, Jewish Communists were given the chance to purge Jewish religion, culture and Zionist-- before being put up against a wall themselves and shot. Being a minority does interesting things to the psyche of a nation. Some are ennobled by it and learn to stand tall. Others grow misshapen, with poison lurking in their hearts and a snarl forever creeping up into their teeth. Yet slavery was no less racist, despite the complicity of Africans in it. Nor was the Holocaust any less racist, though there were Jewish Kapos and Jews who had secretly managed to insert themselves into the machinery of the Third Reich, including one George Soros. The "hatred and hysteria" that is directed at Jews and their land today is no less racist, no matter if the oppressors line their ranks with select members of the oppressed.
There will of course be no new dawn of peace and equality through the Middle East. The best testament to that can be found in the status of minorities through the Middle East and the Muslim world. When even the most moderate Arab Muslim countries cannot respect the rights of Arab Christians, let alone the rights of Zoroastrians or Kurds, when even among Muslims, Shiite and Sunni bar their teeth at each other, there will naturally be no peace. There may be the occasional treaty or handshake, but these are things that governments do to and with each other. It has to do with the basic attitudes of the man on the street, his culture and religion. His need to believe that however few rights he has, his way of life is still best.
And the best testament to Israel's own status is this. After its founding, the vast majority of Jews in the Muslim world fled there. Today there are millions of Jews in Israel. And millions of Arabs. Because the Arabs for the most part stayed in a Jewish country, despite plenty of Arab countries they could have fled to. While the Jews fled the Arab Muslim lands as soon there was another option. Today Sudanese refugees from genocide in a Muslim war, cross through Egypt to get to Israel. It is almost as if Israel is actually not the worst place in the Middle East. Almost.
But it is not about the facts. Hate is not factual, it is an emotion. It is not a creature of reason that strides out of the gray matter with a top hat and a cane, but a creature of nightmare and id, a lurking thing that slithers out of the dark side of the human mind. One can psychoanalyze hatred and read psychoanalytic texts to it night. One can try to soothe or shame it, but it will always rise up again. In "otherwise decent people" who cheer and clap when windows are broken, it tugs always toward the id. The madness of the mob. The scent of violence let loose upon the air. Then the chant was Heil Hitler. Today it is Allah Akbar. The details do not matter much. Words fall away when the drumbeat begins. When the mob stirs. When the windows break.