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Should Jews Apologize to Turkey or Go Back to Poland and Germany?

June 5th, 2010 - 8:47 am

(If I were Greece, I would be somewhat anxious: its bankruptcy will mean a cut in military forces quite soon; it has gratuitously offended the Northern Europeans who will not be eager to lend it any more foreign aid, military especially; for 30 years anti-Americanism has been the mother’s milk of Greek politics, so Americans have come over to the Greek way of thinking that our shared NATO heritage is, well, at best a Cold War anachronism and at worst an embarrassment. And all this transpires at a time when an ascendant Turkey wants to carve out a new radical identity and seems to increasingly brag about its Ottoman past [note to Greeks: violently protesting against Israel will not impress Turkey, should it plan on revisiting Cyprus or re-adjudicating the nebulous Aegean border.])

Postmodern anti-Semitism

Yes, yes, I know — faulting Israel is hardly anti-Semitism. But note the obsessive focus on Israel, especially from the left. So take any issue: occupied land? Why do we not evoke Ossetia, Tibet, or Cyprus? Or for that matter Prussia?

Take a divided city? How about Nicosia?

Take disproportionate force? Try the leveling of Grozny?

Targeted killing? Our own Predators have killed more than Israeli air attacks.

The killing of Muslims? India and China trump Israel.

Wait — the issue is U.S. aid? OK, are we “shocked” that Egypt gets billions and harasses human rights activists, stifles democracy, and tortures its own?

No, the issue is blockading Gaza? So Turkish and European flotillas are off the Egyptian coast?

No, no, the problem is the detention of third parties in international waters? So President Obama has ended, as promised, rendition (remember the movie?)? Hardly.

Yes, the Arabs have hundreds of millions, Israel seven. Yes, they have oil, the Israelis none. Yes, libel a Jew and it’s cute, libel the prophet and go into hiding. And yes, Israel is a surrogate often for anti-Americanism. But all that said, it is still strange that so many Westerners focus such antipathy and attention on Israel over precisely the topics that they otherwise ignore in other countries.

It is not anti-Semitic to discuss divided cities, occupations, the use of force, blockades, refugees, etc. It is, when all these topics mysteriously appear only in reference to Israel so as to suggest it is somehow singular in its transgressions.  I somehow know who Rachel Corrie is, but not any of the names of tens of thousands of Kurds in Turkey, or Chechens in Grozny, or Tibetans in China, or Egyptians in Cairo. Why? I know the rough square mileage of “occupied” Palestine, but not the acreage of Turkish-controlled Cyprus.

The doyen of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas, put it best when she wondered why the Jews didn’t just go back to Poland and Germany. Think of that for a second — a million thoughts spark: well, Helen, that’s where 6 million were gassed. Or, Helen, some Jews have been in “Palestine” from pre-antiquity. Or, Helen, some 3rd-generation Israelis have been in Israel as long as your family has been in the United States. Or, Helen, exactly how do you envision the process of removing them? Trains to Haifa, where boats head to “processing centers” in Bremen and Gdansk? Perhaps the Iranian quick way?

I realize Ms. Thomas is in her dotage, but had anyone else voiced anything similar about any other particular group, they would be banned from the White House press corps, rather than feted. Case closed.

NOTE.

1. I will discuss The Father of Us All today on Book-TV on C-span at 8:45 EST, and 5:45 out here in California — a small talk I gave at the Capitola book store near Santa Cruz.

2. I went to Huntington Lake to scout out our planned June 10 (next Saturday) hike to Kaiser Peak. The road to the stables, our starting point, was still not entirely cleared of snow. In fact, snow is everywhere. Locals cannot quite remember anything like the present landscape; the cool May and enormous pack conspired to turn June into April. The lake is not full, as flood releases empty it for the expected huge late melt. Snow is on both sides of highway 168. The ski slopes are still white. And I think many of the gullies and ravines on the route up will be blocked. All of which means Bruce Thornton and I will reschedule for July 10th, a Saturday. We will start at 7AM for Kaiser from the stables parking lot, and welcome any who wish to talk on the way up, at the summit, and on the way down (3-4 hours up, 2.5-3 down). In a month, it should be clear and dry. (Usually I go up around June 1 with no problem, but this isn’t any year, despite Sec. Chu’s prognostications that our farms in California are about to dry up and blow away.) Hope to see some of you on July 10, but think we would have been soaked if we tried next weekend.

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