It’s like deja-vu all over again

There are layers of horror in what we’ve been witnessing over the past few weeks.  There is horror in seeing a kid, a young man, a woman, morph into a sort of murderous zombie that picks up a knife and starts stabbing anyone they can get their hands on or loads up a car with gas bombs and goes looking for some wholesale style killing action.

Then, there is the additional horror of knowing that these grisly scenes, with some specifics changed, are not really new.  We’ve seen this ugly movie before.  We saw it during the so-called second intifada, which those of us who found our families and friends at risk often refer to simply as the Terror War.  We saw it when Israeli kids were blown up for the crime of living and enjoying a night out at the old Dolphinarium club in Tel Aviv.  We saw it when a young Israeli girl, dressed up in her mother’s wedding gown for a joyful holiday costume party, ended up bleeding and dead in that poor mother’s arms after an attack.  I am a mother, and the complete cruelty of that scene is burned indelibly into my brain, though it happened years ago.  And just a couple of short weeks that feel like a year ago, a mother and father on a family outing shot to death in their car and then shot again at close range in front of their children – who, it turns out, were only left alive because one of the men who was busy doing the killing accidentally shot one of his companions.  Sometimes, the incompetence of thugs can leave a small space for a miracle to slip through.

And there is yet another aspect to all of this horror.  The babble of voices viciously or idiotically equating all sides, mixed with an endless litany of brazen lies about holy places sullied and revered figures insulted, sounds like a repeating tape loop.  The flood of inane, confusing, and ultimately vicious headlines that manage to evade the basic fact that one or more human beings were hurt or killed by someone intent on hurting and killing them. (By the way — ever notice how the names, ages, life details of victims in these terror attacks are generally left out of the reporting?  It has a really terrific dehumanizing affect.  About the only time we are told anything more personal about an Israeli who is at the wrong place at the wrong time is when they can be labeled a “settler” – apparently that makes their injury or death something that “makes more sense”.) Then there’s the utterly hypocritical drivel about “proportional response”.  The baying threats to “boycott and divest” and the droning on about “occupation” from a chorus of the eyes wide shut who completely disregard what happened when Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza and the population there not only tore the homes and businesses left for them to take over to pieces, but proceeded (thanks to the infinite wisdom of George Bush, Condoleeza Rice, et al. who dictated that democracy must spring forth like manna from heaven in the form of a popular vote) to elect none other than Hamas – and gee, folks, it was one of those one vote, one time scenarios all over again. Kind of like Munich, only different.

Last but not least, definitely not least, is the horror of seeing this from the other side of the Atlantic and knowing that, once again, most Western so-called leaders, never mind ordinary people, are completely failing to get it. So this leaves some of us with struggling with an almost existential case of nausea – that sickening feeling that comes with knowing that the mentality that tells people to turn into zombies and go wield those knives, shoot those guns, use those cars and trucks as ramming devices, build those bombs and fire off those missiles – that mentality is NOT only aimed at Israel or Israelis, or even at the larger circle of Jews, nor (much as some might hope to the contrary) will the appetite for blood and “revenge” be sated with Israeli blood or Jewish deaths.  It will only be whetted.  Israelis and Jews are the appetizer, folks.  The main course is Europe, the United States, and anything left that resembles either of them.

Which, of course, brings us to the infamous day known as 9/11.  I was at work when the first plane went through that first tower, and I was busy – had no clue what was up.  A colleague came rushing up to my desk to tell me, “A plane accidentally flew into a World Trade Tower!”  I froze. “What kind of plane?” I asked.  “A passenger plane!”  “That’s not an accident,” I said sadly.  “It’s them.”  And I saw my poor colleague’s struggle with pity, compassion, downright incredulousness  – I’d been saying that terrorists wanted to see America hurt, and she was convinced that I had finally, finally gone off the deep end.  “That is not an accident,” I insisted. “It’s a terror attack. Let’s turn on the TV.”  And we did – just in time to see the second plane hit its mark. I spent the rest of that miserable day trying to find my family and trying to comfort my poor colleagues, some of whom just melted down with shock.  I had a kind of awful emotional “advantage” — I wasn’t shocked.  Miserable. Frightened. Angry. Disgusted.  But not shocked.  Not at all.

Just as in the run-up to 9/11, somehow the Western media and most Western politicos are completely failing to put the facts together to see the pattern.  They either don’t want to get it or they just don’t get it or they do get it and are so bought off and corrupt or cowardly that they just look the other way.  So I’ve got that sort of reeling “Groundhog Day” feeling coming on, but I’ve still got to say what I see in front of my face.  The forces and intentions threatening Israel and the forces and intentions threatening to engulf the Middle East in violence are the same forces and intentions that are reaching out to harm the West and, if possible, push it into oblivion. How many times does the same bloody lesson need to be demonstrated before people on the US side of the Atlantic get wise? How long before the Europeans figure it out? How long before the liberal intellectual chattering classes figure it out? The only thing that is really different is that the stakes seem to be getting higher and a whole lot of people are suffering while folks in Washington and elsewhere are busy fiddling and trying to blame Israel or the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” or “settlements” or some variation of the same old, tired theme rather than doing anything effective, let alone humane, about it.  Actually, never mind humane.  I think I’d settle for a little good old enlightened self-interest, a little will to survive.  Even that would go a long way toward adding some clarity to questions such as who’s busy killing who in the streets of Jerusalem, and would brighten the prospects of actually seeing these vicious messes end at some point in a scenario that didn’t resemble a replay of Afghanistan (only worse) or a rerun of “Operation Shock and Awe” (only perhaps with more carnage, if that is possible) when a thoroughly alarmed and angered West, with all its tremendous force, finally is jerked out of its sleep by some unspeakable act that truly does succeed in crossing the “red line”. And trust me, folks, anything like that will NOT be brought to you by the much-maligned Israelis — who, perhaps naively, continue to worry about things like whether they are being ethical and what everyone is saying about them.

I usually try hard to see the beauty in situations and in people.  It keeps one from overbalancing onto the dark and hopeless side of things.  But this blog isn’t about beauty – I wish it could be, but there’s been just too much ugly going on.  I guess I will end this with the last lines of a poem that I wrote years ago, before 9/11 – because, sadly, the message is so current.  It is called “Connect the Dots”.  The last lines are:

Connect the dots
Connect the dots
Connect the bloody dots
Before they connect YOU.

About the Author
Rena Cohen is an Israeli American. An entreprenuerial generalist with a background in communications and biotech, she is also a writer and community organizer, and was awarded the Hadassah Myrtle Wreath in 2004 with her sister, Jade Bar-Shalom, Z'L, for founding the Books for Israel Project.