Wednesday, June 30, 2010

If US Really Wants Mideast Peace, Confront anti-Semitism at its Roots

President Barack Obama needs to initiate a national conversation on one of the greatest moral failings of our time -- anti-Semitism. This soul-searching should have happened after World War II.  But it can never be too late to penetrate the veils of self-delusion, that keep us from seeing the role America’s home-grown anti-Semitism played in de-stabilizing the Middle East for more than half a century.        

In June of 1997, President Bill Clinton led the country in a national conversation on race. Critics pooh-poohed the idea at the time. But, there is no doubt in my mind that America's national conversation pushed this nation's deepest racial wounds to conscious awareness.  In so doing, it contributed to the political climate that elected America's first African-American President eleven years later.

But surely, Jews, of all American ethnic groups "have it made."   Or do they?   The stress points in the tensions between African-Americans and Whites at the time Pres. Clinton initiated his "conversation on race" involved issues of discrimination and the lingering economic effects of slavery.  However, a group's most painful stressor does not have to be tied to economic indicators.  It reveals its presence in whatever the collage of historical events that shapes its members’ collective nightmares.  The flash point for many American Jews is Israel, and their far from irrational fears for the safety and long-term survival of the 5.5 million descendants of the Biblical Hebrews, who live in that troubled nation.    

However, the greatest danger to Israeli Jews is neither Iran’s nuclear ambitions, nor Hamas.   It is rather the flesh-eating necrosis of the West’s own anti-Semitism.  When former White House correspondent, Helen Thomas lashed out at Israel’s commando raid on a Gazan flotilla that killed nine people, her words that Jews "get the hell out of Palestine,"called to mind one of the most repugnant eras in modern history. Ms. Thomas’s proposed venues -- Poland, Germany and the United States -- would no doubt welcome the upper middle class and wealthy Israelis, scientists, and maybe a few classical musicians.   But what about the remaining 95 percent of the 5.5 million Jews living in Israel?  The answer to that question may lay in the events of 1938.

On a single night in November of that year, roving bands of Hitler Youth, the Gestapo and the SS murdered 91 Jews,  arrested 30,000 others, and confiscated their properties.  Uncertain of their future in Nazi-ruled Germany, after this event that became known as Kristallnacht (The Night of the Broken Glass), Jews intensified their efforts to flee the country.  But the Western nations slammed their borders shut.  What happened  to the 937 passengers of the MS St. Louis was retold in a 1976 movie called "The Voyage of the Damned."   After being denied entry to Cuba, the ship sailed up the Atlantic coast of the United States, where the U.S. Coast Guard sent vessels to prevent a landing. Four months before, at a conference convened in Evian, France, the U.S. representatives had failed to persuade its own government and that of its allies to resettle Jewish refugees in their respective countries.  Adolf Hitler mockingly declared in a January, 1939 speech delivered to the German Reichstag:

"It is a shameful spectacle to see how the whole democratic world is oozing sympathy for the poor tormented Jewish people, but remains hard-hearted and obdurate when it comes to helping them."

 Even after the West learned of the slaughter of six million Jews in Nazi gas chambers, the best it could offer the emotionally-exhausted survivors of the Holocaust was resettlement in a former British colony in the Middle East, exploding with Arab rage.  In an act so self-serving that even the "civilizing mission" professed by 18th century slave traders pales in comparison, the West embraced Zionism as a means of ignoring Jewish petitions to resettle in the U.S., England or France, and partitioned Palestine, against mounting Arab protests.

Morris Ernst, who was a Jewish attorney and friend of the late president Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote in 1953:

What if Canada, Australia, South America, England, and the United States were all to open a door to some migration?  Even today [written in 1947] it is my judgement, and I have been in Germany since the war, that only a minority of the Jewish DP's [displaced persons] would choose Palestine.  So Far, So Good.        

Americans should have engaged in deep soul searching after World War II.  But, the shock of discovering the extent of the Nazi's genocidal lunacy, precipitated an amnesia so impenetrable, that any second-degree culpability the Allies may have felt on account of their own locked-borders disappeared from their collective memory.

However, it is still not too late to initiate a national conversation on anti-Semitism.  In fact, it can never be too late to penetrate the veils of self-delusion, that keep us from seeing the role America’s home-grown anti-Semitism played in de-stabilizing the Middle East for more than half a century.  

Friday, June 18, 2010

Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Jews Rally Against School Integration Ruling (VIDEO)


I fear that the fissures in Israeli society are widening in ways that no diplomatic gravel can fill. The unwillingness of the Ashkenazi ultra-orthodox Jews to de-segregate the schools and allow the children of non-European orthodox Jews to attend, is merely a symptom. Sixty years of warfare has generated an unsustainable level of emotional exhaustion among Israelis. It expresses itself in rigidifying beliefs and attitudes within the Jewish state itself and a bunker mentality towards the rest of the world.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

GAZA: an Omen

Every time I turn on the news, at least one notable talking head is babbling in search of reasons for Israel’s commando attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla, which left nine activists killed and dozens more wounded. But such experts who pride themselves on having high-level analytical skills find themselves unable to decipher Israel’s motives. The reason is that the Jewish State has reached a strategic dead-end, and its decisions and behavior will grow less and less comprehensible to the outside world, as a bunker mentality takes hold of its decision-makers and society.