James R. Russell
James R. Russell

On the edge of despair, in yet another war

A week ago, a gang of Arab Muslim citizens of Israel– people who have jobs, the vote, free education, and free health care like everybody else– rioted and rampaged through the town of Lod, you know, the town our main airport used to be named till they named it after David Ben Gurion. It’s not some fringe place in the Galil, though that wouldn’t matter. It’s the heart of the country. They attacked unarmed and defenseless Jews on the streets, threw firebombs into Jewish homes, and torched three synagogues. Lod had been a peaceful city with a mixed Jewish and Arab population. The mayor of Lod called the Arab riot “Kristallnacht”.

But this is how the BBC described those events today, in a report on the funeral of a man murdered by the rioters: “The funeral has taken place of a Jewish man who died after sustaining serious injuries during violence between Israeli Arabs and Jews in Israel’s central city of Lod last week. Mourners attended the service for Yigal Yehoshua, 56, who was hit in the head by a large rock or brick thrown by protesters while driving home in Lod, a city not far from Tel Aviv, on 11 May.”

Talk about reporting facts in such a way as to pervert those facts into barefaced lies. The violence in Lod was not “between” Arabs and Jews. It was violence by Arabs against Jews. The murderers were not “protesters” but rioters. Later on in its mendacious report, the BBC calls the events “clashes”. They weren’t clashes, they were an anti-Semitic pogrom.

Yes, I know. Any sane person who spends time in Israel is likely to experience “BBC shock”– the disconnect between plain reality and the deceitful hatred spewed by what some wags call the “Balestine Broadcasting Corporation” (Arabic has no “p” sound). I met some of these degenerates up close and personal once.

Twelve years ago an amiable Australian lady, a reporter in Israel, was unable to attend a farewell dinner for a fellow foreign correspondent and suggested I go in her place. She figured, what the hell, I was a professor of Middle Eastern studies at a very prestigious American university, maybe her fellow reporters might find me interesting, or even learn something about the ancient culture of the region whose modern politics they were covering. Besides, the dinner would definitely be a culinary treat: it was to be held at a beautiful, discreet, and very expensive restaurant in Ein Kerem on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where we lived. I arrived a little early and was walking around aimlessly studying the wallpaper and marble floor tiles when a fat BBC reporter– one of those bibulous types who age badly, like a wrinkled piece of rotting fruit– barged in and peremptorily bawled something like “Which way to the toilet, you?” as though one were some disposable lower-class servant at his London club. Maybe because of my Jewish face he thought I was a waiter. Certainly not a guest, a member of The Club.

Israel is, unlike England, an egalitarian society, and Israelis tend, for better or worse, to be direct. I told the gentleman to go f*** himself. He stepped back in shock. Don’t these people train their servants properly? Egad, Sir Cedric! Mr. BBC’s boyfriend, a predictably self-hating Tel Aviv liberal filmmaker, but a nice guy, came in shortly afterwards. I talked to him instead. BBC fumed. Ha ha.

I was seated at dinner, which was indeed exquisite, next to a horsey-looking, well-preserved, in fact very attractive woman of a certain age who engaged me in conversation about boarding school, her abusive father, her absent mother, and the other joys of an upper-class childhood in the leafy Home Counties of the Sceptered Isle. She had been in the Middle East for some years. An Arabophile, a Lawrence of Arabia type. We exchanged phone numbers. “No sex please, we’re British” is a myth.

The bulk of the English, the Scots, the Irish, and probably the Welsh (but who knows about the latter, who are sensibly furtive and speak their rich, melodious, poetic language only when nobody else is in earshot) seem generally to dislike Jews and would be very happy to see Israel perish. That is why any attempt at all we make to defend ourselves is either “disproportionate” or a “war crime”. We don’t get it. We’re supposed to DIE. Vide Goldfinger’s retort to Agent 007, infra.

But so what. Who likes us, anyhow? And look at all the nice things the British Isles have given to the world. Tea with milk in it. Shortbread biscuits. Guinness. Shakespeare. Jane Austen. Bagpipe music. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Red telephone booths built like tanks. “Hard Day’s Night”. (Nobody’s ever figured out how to play that first glorious, jangling chord.) Muddy country walks. And let’s not forget Sir Winston Churchill and the Battle of Britain. Orde Wingate. Colonel Meinertzhagen. Plenty of good with the bad. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll come to their senses.

And then there’s La Belle France. Oo la la. Paree, paree, paree. The burning of the Talmud in 1242, right in front of Notre Dame. Too bad smartphones hadn’t been invented yet: we could have had pictures of the conflagration in the background of selfies taken by happy Chinese tourists. The Dreyfus trial. The Vel d’Hiv. The recent court ruling that the African thug who tortured to death Sara Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish schoolteacher in Paris, while yelling Allahu akbar cannot be tried for murder. Why? Because he was high on weed at the time. If you want to kill a Jew in France and get off scot free, just remember to smoke a spliff first. Gotta love the frogs. Croissants. Camembert. Rimbaud. Debussy. The Louvre. Sorry, Gentiles only.

Then there’s the krauts. There was an Anti-Israel demo in Berlin over the weekend. I saw a picture of it. One straw-haired young aryan female is holding a sign, thoughtfully printed in English (Berlin is so hip, so cosmopolitan, so gemütlich): “From the river to the sea/ Palestine will be free.” It’s in verse, don’t you see? Deutschland is the land of Denker und Dichter, thinkers and poets. Let’s do a close reading of her inspired poetical slogan. It means, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. But isn’t Israel, even Israel-within-the-1967-cease-fire-lines Israel, inconveniently there, with its nine million people? Free how, exactly? Why, free of Jews of course! Judenrein, as they say in German (what an admirable language, with its Indo-European genius for compound words). And how’s that to be accomplished? No worries, we have a German word specially invented for that: Endlosung, final solution. This way to the gas, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m trying to think of some redeeming feature of Germany. It had some great painting, literature, and music once, but whatever wasn’t thrown on the book burners’ fires (in Berlin, of course, die Mittelpunkt der Welt) was torn up as Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) later on. Schoenberg and Mann had to flee. Anybody who stayed, rallied round the campfire (fed by Freud, Einstein, Kafka, Marx, Werfel, “Buddenbrooks” and “All’s Quiet on the Western Front”). The campfire, yeah, and the crematoria. I know some nice German scholars who know Hebrew much better than I do. But why aren’t they demonstrating, confronting the left-wing Nazis, in support of us?

Waiting for the conscience of the world to speak up is kind of like waiting for Moshiach, the Messiah. There’s a Yiddish anecdote Isaac Bashevis Singer told in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. In Chelm they heard the Messiah was going to come any minute and didn’t want to be left out, so they put a chair at the city limits and hired a fellow to sit there and be on the lookout. The punchline: It didn’t pay much, but it was a steady job.

Hamas is saying what a lot of the world is thinking: eliminate Israel completely, finish the job Hitler began, and kill all the Jews everywhere else, too. No wonder that they are the darlings of the BBC, National Public Radio, and the various left-wing American night-time talk shows. Of course anything at all that Israel does to defend itself is “disproportionate”. Hamas shoots what, three thousand rockets in one week at Israeli cities (but who’s counting). Israel fights back, trying to target only Hamas, and warning civilians before a pinpoint strike to vacate the premises. Not good enough. Do you remember the movie “Goldfinger”, where Sean Connery is the captive of the evil German villain? “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to DIE.” And Israel, just like Double-Oh-Seven, obstinately refuses to.

I’m been amazed over the last week or so by the silence of most of my “friends” and “colleagues”– the death-like Silence of the Lambs, no, the Gentiles, throughout this latest, monstrous war. For the most part, the very few words of greeting, of solidarity (or at least of friendship beyond politics) have come, not from the academics and sophisticates in the west, the post-truth, critical race theory, politically correct, woke west, but from the former Soviet Union— Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan. And some of those greetings have come from Muslims. But what’s to be amazed about. The USSR experienced the Nazis for real and beat them at a cost nobody else can even begin to imagine. Russians are not “woke”, just plain awake. They see things for what they are because they have to. Hamas are the same folks that brought you Chechnya. And the Twin Towers, too, actually, but Americans still enjoy the luxury of sleepwalking.

It’s encouraging that Israel is not interested in the cynical calls for an immediate ceasefire and truce. But it has to stay not interested. Because few more days of hunting the Hamas terrorists in their tunnels will not finish the job. It would be a better idea to end Hamas and Islamic Jihad and their ilk altogether and then to come to some arrangement with, say, the Egyptian army about keeping peace and letting people in Gaza go on with their lives. Sooner or later Lebanon will have to be relieved of Hezbollah, too. Unfortunately I do not think that will happen: politicians prefer to kick the can down the road and hold on to their cushy jobs. If Hamas is allowed to survive this, there will be another war and it will be even worse than this one. And if you think Hamas has rockets, just wait for the “Party of God” north of the border. And that’s all we’re doing right now. Waiting. Waiting for what, for Haifa to become a memory? Because there’s no way the Iron Dome can stop enough of 150,000 guided missiles for the country to survive.

In the “Palestinian” Authority, there’s the only slightly less fanatical Fatah. Abbas was elected in 2004 for a four-year term that has lasted… till now, 2021. Israel has four elections a year; “Palestine” has one four-year-term election once in a generation. But hey, maybe Biden and Abbas are in a competition to see who can be a more senile ruler than Brezhnev, who set the gold standard for stagnation. May the best man win.

Jewish-Arab coexistence looks finished, done, over in Acre and in Lod. I don’t know how a democratic country with the rule of law is supposed to deal with citizens determined to exterminate it. Here in the USA, the response of the media, the universities, the Democratic Party, and the Big Tech monopolies to such seditious citizens (BLM, Antifa, and other internal enemy combatants) has been to pitch in and help the country commit suicide. People wonder whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. I hope there is, because it is nearly extinct on this planet.

A prayer concerning the pogromists who burned down synagogues in the heart of Israel, invaded and firebombed Jewish homes, and murdered Yigal Yehoshua: “May the Lord avenge the spilled blood of His servants.” Yeah, like He always does. As the Yiddish saying goes, “Imru l-Adoshem (‘Profess Ye unto the Lord’)– and talk to the wall!”

Have a nice day.

About the Author
James R. Russell is Emeritus Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard University, and has served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Associate Professor of Ancient Iranian at Columbia, and part-time Lecturer in Jewish Studies and Biblical Hebrew at California State University, Fresno. He is at present Adjunct Professor of Iranian Religions at the Daneshgah-e Adyan va Mazaheb, Qom. He is on the Editorial Board of the journal Judaica Petropolitana, St. Petersburg State University, and a founding member of the International Association for Jewish Studies, chartered in the Russian Federation. His PhD is in Zoroastrian Studies, from the School of Oriental Studies of the University of London. His recent books include "Poets, Heroes, and Their Dragons", 2 vols., UC Irvine Iranian Series, 2020, and "The Complete Poems of Misak Medzarents", CSU Fresno Armenian Series, 2021.
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