Evan Tucker

Survival vs. Pride: Day 7

I planned on these ‘essays’ being full of historical context (which is my thing…) book quotes (kind of my thing…), statistics (which I’m pretty good at), and geostrategic analysis (at which I get everything wrong). I want to be even-handed, I want to be impartial, I want to value both narratives, but I’m too busy mourning everything I believe in, everything I value, everything I love.

I believe in America. I believe in Israel. I believe in liberalism. I believe that without that tripartite cement holding together a house of brick, there is a perpetually threatened Jewish people, and I’m sitting shiva for all three. I feel like ripping my clothes, covering the mirrors, going unshaved. I’m not mourning any person, I’m mourning a world where Jews can breathe free.

I was already mourning it until I heard just tonight: THREE close cousins, ten to twenty-five years my junior, were recently harrassed for their identity as a Jew. For the youngest one, the teen, it was simply assumed that he was a Jew in spite of no obvious indication.

In today’s climate, no other minority group would have to take this without immediately shouting its unfairness from the rooftops. but it is the new normal at institutions all around America, particularly colleges, where the march of hundreds against Israel happened with numbing frequency before this war, and have became de rigeur this week at universities of particularly progressive ideology, and if you can’t hear the antisemitic dog whistle, we can and it’s deafening us.

Today, a columnist I inordinately esteem made a long post saying that Netanyahu let this attack happen with full knowledge of what would transpire, and to believe otherwise is to be insensible. So highly do I esteem this guy that my brain went off and for fifteen minutes, I believed him. Then I realized: if Netanyahu did it, he’s a dead man – politically, maybe even literally. World history will never let anything else be his epitaph.

But whether or not Netanyahu let this attack happen (and if he did, then he’s more incompetent than the stupidest member of the Trump White House), I can’t imagine a future when he isn’t accused of it, and if history is any indication, such an accusation could spread like a cold.

Antisemitism is not the same as racism. Racism is a gut level prejudice or disgust. There is certainly an element of gut-level disgust in antisemitism, but antisemitism is fundamentally a disease of paranoia: seeing in everything Jews, Jewishness, Jewish power, Jewish culture, Judaising. The purest form of antisemitism is seeing the power and influence of Jews everywhere, all the time, a condition that cannot be escaped. In this way, the closest bigotry to antisemitism is homophobia. One could almost call antisemitism a kind of schizotypal disorder in how it perceives patterns in things which are not there.

And this is the reason the Netanyahu theory scares the ‘bejeezus’ out of me. A conspiracy like this could absolve Hamas of the worst antisemitic act since Stalin’s Doctor’s Plot (and arguably since the Holocaust itself). I suppose there’s a very very small chance some version of it has a little bit of truth, but even were it true, why does the Middle East exist in a condition where such attacks are ever possible? Attacks like these could only be perpetrated if Palestinians so place their resentment at a value above their survival that they willfully voted themselves into a totalitarian dictatorship, and at any point could show equal resentment for their dictators to their occupiers. And yet after 20 years, Israel, not Hamas, remains their eternal enemy #1.

How did Israel become successful? Because they swallow every humiliation and resentment so they could go about the process of living. In 1948, while Arab states and tribes rejected the idea that any small part of the new Middle East could be controlled by anyone but Arabs, David Ben-Gurion said that Zionists would accept Israel as a state the size of a postage stamp. If Israel ever falls, it will be because Israelis too come to prize their resentments above their survival.

If there is anything we can impart to the new generation, it’s this: survival is everything, and pride is nothing. Valuing survival does not mean that everybody has to live the longest, and devaluing pride does not mean that everybody shouldn’t fight for their rights or dignity. Survival means that you valued your responsibilities more than your rights, pride means you valued your rights more than your responsibility. Survival is more important because without responsibility, rights disappear.

Just like there is no democracy possible without rule of law, there are no rights possible without doing the necessary things to maintain rights. What ultimately leads to a more fulfilling life? Fighting for your rights or doing the necessary things to build a good community and family? It’s easy enough to say that you can have a fulfilling life by doing both, or that by fighting for your rights you’re building a better community, but without a worthwhile community whose institutions are pre-built, how can these rights last more than a few years?

I’m mourning a world where Jews can breathe free, but a world where Jews can breathe freely is not a world where Judaism means much at all. Maybe the ‘here and now’ is all there is, and if it is, then we may be losing everything worthwhile. But nobody afflicted looks to the easy times for inspiration, and there are only easy times after the people in hard times look to past hard times for inspiration to keep going. Perhaps all this new oppression is a brief blip and Jews will go back to the relatively carefree life we seem to you to live, but it is not Jews from the easygoing generations who are looked to for inspiration. It’s the Jews who survived the worst circumstances to help build for a new generation.
And from situations like that, there is no greater reason for pride in all the world.

About the Author
Evan Tucker, alias A C Charlap, is a writer and musician residing in Baltimore. He is currently composing music for all 150 Biblical Tehillim. A Jewish Music Apollo Project - because "They have Messiah, we have I Have a Little Dreidel." He is currently on #17. Evan also has a podcast called 'It's Not Even Past - A History of the Distant Present' which is a way of relating current events to history and history to current events. Most importantly, he is also currently working on a podcast called Tales from the Old New Land, fictional stories from the whole of Jewish History. The podcast is currently being retooled, but it will return.
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