Raymond M. Berger
Raymond M. Berger
Real Bullet Points

Kyle Rittenhouse is Israel

There is a striking parallel between the roles played by the Chorus in both the Rittenhouse case and that of Israel.

In August 2020, riots transformed normally staid downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin into an urban battlefield.

Kenosha police officers had shot Jacob Blake, a black man, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The riots, ostensibly triggered by the shooting, quickly spiraled out of control, with pitched battles between left-wing protestors, right-wing militia members, and assorted rioters who sought to get in on the action.

A Fateful Decision

Kyle Rittenhouse was a 17 year old who lived 20 miles from the scene of the riots. His father was a Kenosha resident. Rittenhouse’s posts on social media expressed support for the pro-police group Blue Lives Matter.

After hearing reports of property damage and fighting, Rittenhouse decided to drive to Kenosha. Asked later why he came to Kenosha, he said he wanted to protect a large car dealership that had been significantly damaged earlier in the riots. He also said he wanted to render medical aid to the injured. He had taken First Aid and hoped to become a police officer or paramedic.

Rittenhouse was armed with an AR-15 style rifle for protection and had participated in police cadet programs. His friend had bought the rifle for him.

Rittenhouse’s first deadly encounter was with Joseph Rosenbaum, a 36 year old protestor with a troubled past. Rosenbaum had spent most of his adult life in prison. His history included homelessness, a suicide attempt, a sexual molestation offense, an assault against his fiancée, and use of methamphetamines and heroin.

In the course of the riots, an unarmed Rosenbaum tried to engage Rittenhouse, lunging at him. Rittenhouse tried unsuccessfully to get away from Rosenbaum. According to Rittenhouse, Rosenbaum threatened to kill him and tried to seize his rifle. Believing his life was in danger, Rittenhouse shot and killed Rosenbaum.

Within minutes, a group of about a dozen rioters began to chase Rittenhouse down the street. One knocked off Rittenhouse’s hat. Rittenhouse fell to the ground.  Rioters called out “Get him.” One rioter jump kicked Rittenhouse. Rioter Anthony Huber hit Rittenhouse’s shoulder with a skateboard and attempted to seize Rittenhouse’s rifle. As Huber pulled on the rifle, Rittenhouse fired and killed him.

As Rittenhouse ran from the scene, Gaige Grosskreutz, an observer for the ACLU, ran alongside Rittenhouse. At some point Rittenhouse found himself lying on the ground. Grosskreutz advanced toward Rittenhouse and pointed a handgun at him. Rittenhouse fired at Grosskreutz, injuring the latter’s arm, but not killing him. Rittenhouse then got up and walked toward a group of police officers with his hands up.

By the end of this violent sequence, two rioters lay dead and one wounded, all as a result of shots fired by Rittenhouse.

When Rittenhouse travelled that night the 20 miles from his home to downtown Kenosha he could not have imagined the events that were about to rivet the attention of the entire nation and change his life forever. At Rittenhouse’s trial this November, he was acquitted of all charges. Jurors unanimously concluded that he had acted in self-defense.

Parallels

How does all this relate to Israel? The answer has to do with the role of news media, politicians, and social commentators. This collection of societal influencers can be called the Chorus.

There is a striking parallel between the roles played by the Chorus in both the Rittenhouse case and that of Israel.

  • The Chorus has claimed that Rittenhouse had no right to be where he was the night of the events. Although he lived only 20 minutes from the scene of the riots, his home was in another state. The Chorus was unimpressed that his father lived in Kenosha. The anti-Israel Chorus levels a similar charge: Jews have no right to be in “Palestine.” They are unimpressed that Jewish forefathers lived there.
  • Both Rittenhouse and Israel faced violent and unprovoked attacks.
  • The Chorus blames both Rittenhouse and Israel for attacking in self-defense.
  • The Chorus has demonized both Rittenhouse and Israel for its own purposes. In both cases, the media falsely adopted a narrative that the victim was the aggressor. This served the purpose of satisfying their base and lending moral legitimacy to their good guy-bad guy narrative.
  • Both cases exemplify a dishonest media that misreports events and motives. Some media reported that Rittenhouse came to Kenosha to hunt people down. Some international media report that Jews deliberately forced out an entire people to make way for a Jewish state. The Kenosha Chorus and the international media both impugn the motives of the actors they dislike. In Kenosha, the media suggested that Rittenhouse was a “right-winger” and a racist, out to get the rioters. Israelis are similarly castigated as racists who hate Arabs.
  • In both cases the Chorus blames the true victim for arming himself—-this, despite the overwhelming danger presented by violent elements. The Chorus does not believe that the true victims here—-Rittenhouse and Israel—-were in danger of attack. According to the Chorus, the fact that they have armed themselves is proof of their culpability.
  • The bias of the Chorus is evident in the way it characterizes the parties it dislikes. It assigns to them those characteristics that are most despised by their reference group.
  • For the radical left, the worst thing a person can be is a white nationalist. So for them Rittenhouse became a white nationalist.
  • The anti-Israel Chorus levels the same charge against Israelis. In the case of Israel this is a particular distortion of the facts: over half of Israelis and their forbearers came to Israel from Arab countries, and thus are not exactly white. And while Israelis generally are proud of their country, many of Israel’s pioneers were victims of European nationalism. Unlike nationalist states, Israel guarantees the rights of all its citizens, irrespective of the origins of their forebears.
  • In both the Rittenhouse and Israel cases, the rhetoric of the Chorus is often deranged. It is irrational to believe that a 17 year old kid with decent motives, or a country founded on democratic ideals, is uniquely evil. Yet that is what the Chorus says.

Why does the Chorus do what it does? 

One explanation is tribalism. People decide for example, that they identify with the far-left or the far-right. Or with Jews or Arabs. They then see the world through those lenses. There is a universal human need for villains and heroes and the Chorus gets to decide who is cast in each role.

Resentment has fueled both those against Rittenhouse and against Israel.

In the case of the Kenosha rioters, an often overlooked cause for the unrest is economic dislocation due to globalization. Today’s rioters compare themselves to their parents, who, with similar levels of education, had jobs that supported middle class lives. Today those jobs are gone. Poor economic prospects have alienated and angered an entire generation of young people. Some respond with violence.

The most profound cause of Arab-Israeli discord is the humiliation felt by Arabs. In the past, Arabs ruled a great part of the world and governed over Jews and Christians. They saw themselves as morally and physically superior. But once the Jews restored their nation, and certainly after they defeated Arab armies, Arab humiliation flared and continues to burn hot.

It is perhaps not surprising to find parallels between disparate events such as the Rittenhouse case and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East. Both reflect the same forces that propel human groups into perpetual conflict.

About the Author
The author is a life-long Zionist and advocate for Israel. He believes that a strong Jewish state is invaluable, not only to Jews, but to the world-wide cause of democracy and human rights. Dr. Berger earned a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has twenty-seven years of teaching experience. He has authored and co-authored three books as well as over 45 professional journal articles and book chapters. His parents were Holocaust survivors.
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