For several weeks, I’ve been uncomfortably perched at my desk staring at a blank Microsoft word page, mulling over whether or not I should inscribe the things that have been distressing my mind for some time. Wracked with a deluge of politicized data, and amidst the fallout of Israel’s decades-long PR spiral, how can one properly elucidate others on the particularly disturbing rise of contemporary anti-Semitism?
Before I begin to dispense any thoughts and information gathered during my scrutinizing journey, I imagine it would be best if I allow you access to my “daily custom.” Just about every day, my morning routine consists of reading vast and diverse online news articles and internet sources from reputable news outlets, both the left and right – The New York Times, The Huffington post, The Toronto Star, The Washington Post, The National Post, YNet, Ha’aretz, Al Jazzira and the Jerusalem post. This daily dive off the deep-end into data began for me during my days in college. At first, news was more a distraction. I used it as a tool of procrastination that allowed me some fascination with the moving world, instead of stuck discussing inert literature. Now the news no longer has an allure, so much as its relevance usurps any other sources of fascination. For me, and others, opinion is the boulder, and expression is an uphill climb; I am Sisyphus, and my bondage comes courtesy of the twenty-four hour news cycle.
Often labeled a contrarian, I prefer my debates served hot. Why muse superficially, producing nothing more than white noise, when I can – with a little willingness, and dare I say capacity – rattle a few cages and make my own music on subjects too many find taboo or treacherous. My parents lived under a communist regime, and at times expressed their unease with my audacity to employ my free speech rights. The whole of my literary contributions – articles, short stories, poems, directing short narratives and documentaries – have pertained to the Middle East conflict and extremism within Islamic ideology. A most pressing issue today is the sad kowtowing liberal expression has taken as a reflexive aversion to being called out for so called Islamophobia. I have taken various opportunities to exercise my democratic liberty, which an immeasurable amount of people in western civilization take for granted.
The truth is there was a time in my life where all I wanted to do was be an entertainer, and the idea of getting into a political quagmire was personally unthinkable. Like many Jews, it wasn’t until I went to college that I began to witness a furor of falsehood, injustice, fabrication, and intolerance toward my birth country of Israel. What was so disconcerting at the time was that the interjection of name-calling went habitually unchallenged. As the Middle East conflict stood front-and-center in what was supposed to be a safe haven institution.
From my first day, I found myself filling an empty niche – vocal support for Israel. It wasn’t long before I was labeled an apologist. School became a battlefield of detestation and a place for radicals to try and intimidate those weaker than them. At times I was so disturbed with what was going on outside my classroom that it seemed more relevant than the courses in which I was enrolled. During my years at school, I found myself taking on leadership roles not because I wanted to, but because no one else felt galvanized to do so; there is little more isolating a feeling than becoming standard-bearer by default. I am not sure how many people were actually affected by my ongoing efforts, but I knew I wasn’t entirely alone. If others were not quite so vocal, they were at least encouraging, and the discourse I carried on provided a kind of feedback; I was becoming a better advocate and more devoted to the cause.
I was born in 1979, the same year Israel signed one of their most significant peace treaties with their most prevalent enemy: Egypt. Land-For-Peace was the quintessential rhetoric, both within Israel and throughout the Diaspora. The Sinai was almost twice the size of Israel, and it held strategic value – a wide buffer, a satellite launching post, and enough resources to justify an oil independent state. Spirits ran high at the time, as seemingly intractable enmity seemed to dissipate. As David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister once put it, “to be a realist in Israel, you must believe in miracles”.
Most of my young life was spent believing that peace for Israel wasn’t so much a question of plausibility, but of time. The advent of an effective peace treaty incepted in the mind of the next Israeli generation that peace as an end might justify any means. Even after two intifadas, most Israelis still support a two-state solution, with borders fixed along lines that would contract the current state.
For many years following the 1979 Peace Accord, Israel has had their share of problems with the Palestinian Arabs who were now used as pawns in the unyielding effort to destroy the only Jewish state. Yasser Arafat rose to the apex of regional influence, and accomplished a paradigm shift; where once the subject was framed as Israel standing against the tide of Arab assault, now the conversation was suddenly about the Palestinian minority cringing under the boot of Israeli occupation. Suddenly, the underdog no longer wore a Magen David Around their neck, but a keyed necklace.
The rise of international terrorism had culminated for some time. Subsequently, a brand of guerrilla warfare within the disputed territories, and in populated Arab cities within Israel-proper, meant that the lines between inter and innerstate warfare became ubiquitous. The Arabs were no longer attacking from outside. Instead, the Palestinian minority was revolting from within. The United States aided the discourse by officially recognizing the need for an independent Arab-Palestinian state. With world pressure abound, Israel’s leftwing Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin, worked on establishing a homeland for those Palestinians living in the west bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza region. He simultaneously agreed to deal with Yasser Arafat (notwithstanding him being a known terrorist) on a peace deal known as the Oslo Accord.
Unfortunately, this ray of hope did not last very long as the peace process proved to be nothing but a welcome mat for terror and instability in the area. Israel continued to negotiate, and it even appeared genuine in supplying resources and consultation for Palestinian infrastructure. Ultimately, the policy of outward support failed outright. The peace process called for a universal ceasefire. However, the years following Oslo saw record high bus bombings, hijackings, rocket attacks, which lead to the assassination of Israel’s Prime Mister Yitzchak Rabin by an extremist right wing Jewish activist.
Between the year 2000 and 2001, three critical moments set the stage for our present paradigm. The Israeli government decided to pull their troops out from Lebanon, in order to show that Israel no longer needed to protect its borders from the outside. Hezbollah, the terrorist organization, seized the opportunity to rebuild arms and prepare for another confrontation with Israel. Israel made its biggest gesture for peace by offering the Palestinian Arabs over 95% of the West Bank at Camp David, but Arafat’s refusal to compromise on “the right of return” meant a wholesale rejection of terms. This precipitated the infamous second intifada, which changed the rhetorical landscape.
The notion that compromise would drive a wedge between oneself and their hate was a dream with a rude awakening; terrorism became an everyday event. The reality in Israel seemed isolated, even if it spilled over into international affairs. Most experts predicted the next Vesuvius would happen closer to the Suez Canal than Canal Street… until one Tuesday morning when the world stared helplessly at the largest terror attack in history.
It is said that the world woke up, and that we all supposedly realized that Islamic terrorism is not just a Jewish problem but also a worldwide security issue. Pro-reactionary intelligencia blamed the world’s woe-in-vogue on extremists who – as part of their delusional aim to re-establish the caliphate – were exporting their Islamic civil war.
2004-2005 saw the beginning of the disengagement – Israel’s initiative to remove its citizens from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, in order to draw de facto stateliness between the Arab Palestinians and itself. The gesture backfired. Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic terrorist organization had won the election. It has since been removed from the European Union’s terrorist list. All the same, they proudly tout the brutal murder of hundreds of their own citizens in broad daylight, and have gone on killing sprees in hospitals and on Gaza’s streets.
Years of unprovoked attacks – from Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the North – precipitated Israel abandoning its years-long standard of withheld reaction and borderline stoicism, and mobilized a broad, frontward re-entry into Lebanon, and then into Gaza. We have beheld three more operations against Gaza since, with the current paradigm as seemingly intractable as its many predecessors.
It is not popular to vilify culture. We think multiculturalism carries a co-requisite with cultural relativism. A simple thought experiment dissolves this fallacy: what if my culture instills in me the notion that I need not bother respecting another’s culture? Then, cultural relativism is reduced to cultural insignificance, and one may eat the other. The truth is that Israel goes to war because it is required to do so, and not because it cannot tolerate others. Its supreme court upholds the uninfringeable right of any Arab to dissent and insult any Israeli institution, whereas Israeli – or any other – culture is anathema outside its wall(s). Its border is real, regardless of its many territorial disputes.
Terrorism in 2015 seems to stay true to the current paradigm: ubiquitous increase. Free speech is pilfered on Parisian streets, and entire states rain hellfire on their own citizens. International concern shifts its verbosity from seemingly insurmountable cultural eruptions to rallied outcries against Israeli aggression toward the victimized Palestinians. As Israeli spokespersons are steadily available, the question of Palestinian partnership in peace never comes up. Where within the Palestinian authorities is there a competent government willing to negotiate for peace; willing to crackdown on terrorist groups; willing to abide by its promises to allocate international resources toward infrastructure instead of intifada?
Amongst liberal discourse, there seems little attention to accountability. Instead of standing for liberal values – freedom of expression, banning of violence, women’s rights, civil central government, etc. – liberals prefer to regurgitate condemnation of the only western state in the surrounding subcontinent. Where is the call for a real democratic Palestinian government, with a transparent budget? Where is the once proud liberal rhetoric against fascism, instead of the quisling appeasement of psychopathic non-state actors? Why do we hear excuses and justifications for wholesale violence, as though touting murderous mayhem as rage against the machine was appropriately prima facie? Here, the lines blur. When the most violent seem to represent the most downtrodden, regardless of geography, we can be made to recoil from reason. Why be called out as Islamophobic, which can carry a death sentence, when one might only be thought of as anti-Semitic, which carries no threat to personhood?
Israel almost seems guilty, as the whole of its public relations seems to amount to nothing more than pouting at its reputation. What was once Israel’s proud rhetorical style, hasbara (explanation), has been reduced to malaise. What’s lost in the submission to the fiery status quo is some semblance of perspective and proportionality. If left alone, Israel would be content to live in peace. Ideology versus reality is the real subtext, and Israel sits on the frontline, because geography is still relevant. But in reality, ideology crosses borders, and the current paradigm is that the frontline is everywhere. The battlefield is no longer merely in Israel, because the current crisis is not made by regional conflict. Those who wield rockets label the whole western world Zionist controlled.
In the free world, liberalism now means the right to encourage hate and boycotting as a tactic against Israel, now absurdly likened to an apartheid state. Dissent from Israel’s actions is not anti-Semitic outright. It would be ridiculous to reduce all disagreement to prejudice. For instance, the notion that Israel should intercept Iranian ships in international waters is an important discussion, and taking an anti-Israel stance reflexively glosses over a nuanced analytic landscape involving several alliances in the area. The lines blur when disagreement becomes rigid and employed without context. Israel can be vilified prior to context, as with the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions). The tactic is unlikely to yield material economic results, as Israel boasts a powerful tech sector and a GDP of quarter trillion dollars. The movement is symbolic. When Jews send more money than support, words are converted into a type of currency with a high exchange rate.
Should we have to apologize for living? This is where the issue begins to spiral into complexity. The division does not simply run across ethnic or religious lines, but also fractures within the scope of internal politics. For instance, Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky call themselves proud Jews as well as anti-Zionists. The word “Zionist” has become the politically correct way of saying dirty Jew. Essentially, every Jew is a Zionist as Judaism is rooted in Israel; Jews are all connected through Israel; fundamentally, Zionism and Judaism are the same thing. For without the existence of Israel, we Jews would be in greater danger. That is the reason why so many Jews today are fleeing – France, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Hungary, England, etc. Today we are mourning the lives of four Jewish Parisians who were gunned down by Islamic terrorists not for being Israelis, but for being Jewish.
70 years ago, we uttered the words “never again” and “may the world never forget.” Presently, we seem to be forgetting that while history may not precisely repeat itself, it does rhyme. As a grandchild of holocaust survivors, I can’t help but think how we aid the enemies of peaceful coexistence with our apathy, even our silence. It is up to us to amalgamate and do all we can to make sure we never forget what we stand for or whom we stand for. “The nation of Israel is alive and well”.
AM ISRAEL CHAI VE KAYAM!