Words matter

Over the weekend, I was getting ready for Purim (happily) while following the news from Israel (not so happily.)

I read about the “mistake missiles” scenario and Israel’s response. I also read about the terrorist attack at Ariel Junction on the West Bank. And then I read about the Palestinian response to deaths of two Israelis and the wounding of others:

The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, on Sunday hailed the “heroic” anti-occupation shooting operation near Ariel settlement in Salfit earlier in the day.

Hamas said in an official statement that the attack came in response to the Israeli crimes against the Palestinians and the latest attacks on Palestinian worshipers at al-Aqsa Mosque.

“This courageous and bold operation affirms that resistance, in all of its forms, is the most powerful and successful option to deter the occupation, foil its plans, and protect and defend our people’s rights and holy sites,” Hamas said.

The Palestinian resistance group saluted the “heroes in the revolutionary West Bank” and stressed that the Israeli occupation will never succeed in undermining the Palestinian people’s determination.

Two Israelis were killed on Sunday morning and two others injured in a Palestinian stabbing and shooting attack near Ariel settlement in the West Bank province of Salfit.

Palestinian Information Center: Hamas Praises Salfit anti-occupation attack

The two Israelis who died? A young soldier defending the crossing, and a rabbi who turned around and came back to throw himself into harm’s way to protect others. What did either of these two people do in that moment to warrant murder? When I read stuff like this from a Palestinian source, I gotta wonder who in their right mind thinks this is part of a resolution to the conflict? Their words and the actions match perfectly: they bomb, they hand out candy and stipends. They celebrate death.

Their words matter.

Belén Sisa, a member of Bernie Sanders’ staff, is a woman without US citizenship and protected by DACA. She wrote on Facebook:

This is a serious question: do you not think that the American government and American Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel? I’m asking not to rule out the history of this issue, but in the context in which this was said by Ilhan.

Really? Does she think Bernie has dual allegiance because he’s Jewish? Or is she just suggesting, like Ilhan Omar, that Jews are suspect because they believe Jews are indigenous to Israel? I wonder how she feels about the indigenous peoples of Argentina: the Aonikenk, Kolla, Qon, Wichi, Diaguita, Macovi, Huarpe, Mapuche, or Guarani.

Her words most certainly matter.

This reminds me of something I didn’t understand when I was a kid. A really handsome guy with red hair was running for president, and there were some people who said he couldn’t be president because he was a Catholic and that everyone knows Catholics’ allegiance is to the pope in the Vatican, and if one of them got elected, he would be the puppet of the pope. There was some pretty heated debates about that, and people said some terrible things about Catholics.

Now, all things considered, in my world there were only two kinds of people: Jews and Catholics. I didn’t know any Protestants even though my Girl Scout Troop met in a Methodist Church. No one I knew went there. I knew some of my friends believed the pope was the last word on a lotta things, but then again, our rabbi was the last word on a lotta things, too. it never occurred to me that thinking that would prevent someone from being President of the United States.

I asked my father to explain it and he did. Pretty thoroughly. He explained prejudice. And how discrimination worked. And how we were slaves in Egypt and that Torah explicitly said we had to remember that and welcome the stranger and the newcomers to our country. This was a Republican talking, by the way, and this was my introduction to Civil Rights.

John F. Kennedy, that guy with red hair, faced the opposition head on. At a meeting with ministers in Houston, he stated:

I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.

His words mattered. A lot. He got elected.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the shooter in Sunday’s New Zealand massacre, published a 74-pate manifesto, including a “self-interview  before streaming his actions on social media:

Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump?

As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no.

His words matter, too; they are the gates of hell.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to that act of pure evil:

As a cabinet, we were absolutely unified and very clear. The terrorist attack in Christchurch on Friday was the worst act of terrorism on our shores. It has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws. The clear lesson from history around the world is that to make our community safe, the time to act is now…. Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer.

I want to believe her words will matter and the Kiwis will rid the streets of automatic weaponry.

On the other hand, this was the most genuine of the responses from the President of the United States…via Twitter, of course:

The Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand. They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So Ridiculous!                                                                             [March 18, 2019]

A man who refuses to recognize racism and ethnic hatred fuels this fire; he owns a piece of the end result. A man who insists there are “fine people” among those promoting violence owns a piece of the end result. A man who will not speak out to denounce violence and hate crimes owns a piece of the end result.

There is a lot of unjustified hate in the world right now. Jews are easy targets just as Muslims are. As long as the White House refuses to step up to recognize that these are hate crimes committed by White Supremacists, they will continue to happen. How many more Charlottesvilles and Pittsburghs do we have to endure before the White House steps up the plate?

Silence is not golden. It’s pretty much the same as condoning the action. I do not think there is a shred of doubt where this president stands on hate, racism, antisemitism, and truth. None of those terms are familiar to him.

Those words matter most of all.

About the Author
New York born, but living in Minnesota, S. J. Schwaidelson is a political blogger and novelist. Her own blog, The Wifely Person Speaks, appears weekly and is followed world-wide. Information about her novels, DREAM DANCER and LINGUA GALACTICA, can be found on Goodreads and at Amazon.
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