Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

Being Stupid Is Its Own Punishment


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They say that confession is good for the soul. In Jewish law, it is a prerequisite to atonement. In other religions it is a sacrament. Since we don’t have sacraments, I’m not quite sure exactly what that involves, but it sounds pretty serious, and I’m glad I get to do mine with a fist to the chest in public and not in a dark confessional with another person listening.

In any event, it is not to be taken lightly, so please pay attention. I am about to confess.

Before I went to law school, I taught English, first at Yeshiva University and thereafter at Iowa State University. It now occurs to me that while I am in the confession mode, I should probably include those four decades of practicing law, but proper confession protocol requires a precise description of the sin being confessed and, being 76 years old, I’m not sure I (or any of you) have enough time. So I will stick with the specific teaching transgression I originally intended to confess.

Note that it’s taking me a bit of time to get there. Confession is not supposed to be comfortable.

Here goes: I gave some of my lower-achieving Freshman Composition students higher grades than they deserved. This was probably intellectually dishonest and a dereliction of duty, but I have defenses. Or at least explanations.

I was very young and I wanted them to like me.

The students at Yeshiva were all, it seemed to me then, pre-med and I didn’t want to be the reason they didn’t get admitted to medical school (note to young people–in those days, grades and other accomplishments actually counted for such things).

Truth be told, no one had ever taught me how to write, and certainly no one ever taught me how to teach writing, so I couldn’t be sure that my students’ poor writing wasn’t attributable to my own poor instruction.

But all those reasons paled next to the most important one: I couldn’t get past the strong belief that being dull and incompetent was enough of a burden. Life would be hard enough for them; they didn’t also need a “D” from me.

(The Director of Freshman Composition at Iowa State University–yes, there was such a thing–his name was Quentin Johnson–did not agree with my approach, but that is for another time and another story.)

What brought this all to mind some fifty years after I taught my last class of Freshman Composition in 1977 was an item in today’s Arutz Sheva. It seems that a writer for Ha’aretz (No–I am not going to mention her name; see the paragraphs above and note that lashon hara is a sin requiring confession) has suggested, in a tweet (or an X) that “IDF soldiers don’t rape Arab women due to racism.”

Pause. Let it sink in. So deeply felt is her antipathy for the IDF soldier that she is unable to imagine that their failure to rape women is derived from anything other than racial hatred. Because, she believes, there is and can be no good in them, any positive trait must be attributable to some malign cause.

There is, of course, no conceivable or rational basis for her claim. If there were a shred of decency or honesty in her as a journalist, imagine the empirical evidence she would have had to collect before proceeding to make such a claim.

Better yet, imagine the darkness in the abyss of her soul that compels her to think this way.

How can you give a person like that a grade? She has to go through life consumed by hate and bigotry. There aren’t enough letters in the alphabet.

Rape is a violation, a naked, brutal declaration of contempt and imagined superiority. It is aggression and violence. It is a savage and reprehensible crime.  Those who commit the act, like the perpetrators of the October 7 nightmare and their leaders who commanded them, should be reviled and condemned as the worst of criminals.

Those who would never contemplate performing such an abominable act should not be tarred with facile accusations of racism.

And consider the targets of her offensive rhetoric: quite simply, the best of us.  People who voluntarily interrupted their lives to fight for the survival of their just cause. Soldiers who went through hell, incurred injuries, and fought to be reunited with their comrades in this existential battle for the survival of a nation and a people. People who risk their lives to recover bodies, soldiers who put themselves in harm’s way to protect their country. Jews who love other Jews and who love Israel.  Wrongfully accusing anyone is a sin; wrongfully accusing these holy and pure souls is an abomination.

But there is no reason to subject her statement to thought or analysis. It is a thoughtless product of empty hatred and constant indoctrination. It is significant only in its revelation of the deep rot residing in the journals of the left, which have become parodies of themselves. It is not enough for them to take the side of the terrorists against the victims. No. The victims must be painted in the most gruesome way, as Nazis, rapists, occupiers, colonists, fascists, or, worst of all in their eyes, settlers.

In order to espouse the side of the terrorists, one must become a terrorist of language and judgment.

She probably didn’t even set out to say something outrageous. This is the way that she has been conditioned to think about the Israeli military. I will adhere (for the moment) to my self-imposed, temporary ban on lashon hara and not list the rogues gallery of Ha’aretz writers who have cast the Israeli government and military as Nazi monsters. Suffice it to say that this writer had many worthy (or unworthy) mentors.

It is one of the tactics in this terrible war–both the shooting war and the war for the minds of the public–to deny every atrocity committed by Hamas. These denials are often, illogically, accompanied by justifications for the acts that were denied. They didn’t do it; and they had every right to do what they did.

Worst of all, the most heinous criminal acts are then fictitiously ascribed to the Israelis.

But when, as in this case, the charge is totally insupportable–Israeli soldiers do not commit rape–then some gruesome reason must be concocted. They are racist. Q.E.D.

The intellectual poverty of the people who must make excuses for monsters reveals itself in positions that are laughable and unsupportable. The strain and stain on what remains of their meager souls force them into absurd accusations. These are the people on the side of the rapists and the kidnappers. These are the people who tear down signs of babies held hostage because the signs are constant reminders of the actions of the monsters with whom they have allied themselves.

You really can’t give them a grade. They need to go through their lives being themselves, viewing the world through a grotesquely distorted lens, living with that horror that is inside them. What greater punishment could they receive or deserve? 

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.
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