Chesler Chronicles

Sleepwalkers in Dangerous Times

I am intimately surrounded by enemy propaganda and I’ve only myself to blame. For example, I have been reading Publishers Weekly (PW) for a very long time. I don’t have to but I won’t give it up. Yes, I have noted the leftward drift of their reviews but, like the New York Times, whose editors and book reviewers have drifted similarly left-ward, PW remains a “must” for all those who want to read reviews of upcoming book titles and who want to know what publishing deals are in the works.

In their March 10th issue (I am behind this month), there is an image on page 66 and a glowing review on page 74. The photograph is titled “Palestinians waiting to be processed at an Israeli checkpoint, West Bank.” Yes, another image, another work. The book is titled Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation. The anonymous reviewer finds the book “urgent,” and focuses on how many Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli military operations–as if Israelis planned to kill the children.

This image, this idea, this reality has been burned into Western and Eastern brains. The Chinese Occupation of Tibet, the Sudanese genocide, the thousands of Muslim on Muslim atrocities and Islamist acts of terrorism all pale by comparison. The “Israeli checkpoints” was an accusation hurled at me when I spoke at Barnard in 2003. As I described the features of Islamic gender and religious apartheid, (honor killings, arranged marriage, polygamy, forced veiling, female genital mutilation, etc.) the assembled feminist crowd kept yelling at me to “admit” or to “focus on” the checkpoints. No matter what I said, they shouted back: “What about the humiliation at the checkpoints?”

They were very noisy for “sleepwalkers.”

Here is how one of Doris Lessing’s characters in the novel The Four Gated City viewed others going about their daily lives:

“They all looked half drugged or half asleep, dull, as if the creatures had been hypnotized or poisoned…as if they were not conscious of their existence here, were somewhere else. But the most frightening thing about them was this: that they walked and moved and went about their lives in a condition of sleepwalking: they were not aware of themselves, of other people, of what went on around them..they were essentially isolated, shut in..”

Ah, yes. But today, our “sleepwalkers” have more of an edge. If anyone interrupts their “sleepwalking” they angrily turn on them, call them “racists,” “alarmists,” “provocateurs.”

Dutch politicians blame and wish to hold only Geert Wilders liable in case his film, “Fitna,” leads to riots or to any boycotts of Dutch goods. They do not condemn Muslim acts of violence in the name of Islam. Left European groups blame the Danish cartoons and Ayaan Hirsi Ali for unecessarily “provoking” Muslim rage and endangering both Holland and Denmark.

Those Americans who are voting for Obama honestly hope that his shadow, blended Christian-Muslim and person-of-color identity will usher in a diplomatic love affair between Obama’s America and the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al-Qaeda. Those Americans who are (Just Make My Day) waiting to vote for McCain, believe that it is World War Two again and that a John Wayne war hero will win the day for America and the West. I am no longer sure what Hilary Clintons’ people dare to fantasize,

All attempts to explain the precise way in which Islam is different from other religions–that it is not just a religion but is, rather, a political ideology or at least, it is not only a religion–falls on absolutely deaf ears. Document the genocidal history of Muslims towards non-Muslims (and towards each other); document Islamic gender apartheid and the tragic fate of Muslim women–and it is as if nothing has been said. More: It is as if one has spoken out of turn, with malice aforethought.

In response to the Islamist death-eaters of today, the “sleepwalkers” say: “But we have also had Crusaders, (but they were trying to take back Christian lands from Arab Muslim invaders–but why quibble?), a Christian Inquisition, an American genocidal extermination of native-Indians, ancient Israel was commanded to murder all the pagans in the Holy Land, (but they did not do so–again, why quibble), etc.” Others say: “America is the New Crusader, 9/11 was our own fault–hey, that’s what Obama’s Pastor, Jeremiah Wright, said and it is deemed…uncivilized, unfair, boring, and racist to harp upon this.

One might as well howl right into the wind.

Let me try to say this in World War Two terms one more time. But please remember that we live in far more dangerous times.

The rise of Islamist suicide terrorism and Big Lie propaganda is equivalent to Hitler’s rise. At the end of the day, it did not matter that individual Germans were very polite, or personally peaceful, or that they loved music. Their refusal to stop Hitler led to eleven million deaths and great suffering.

But this knowledge demands that one gird up one’s loins and Do Something, even something educational and non-violent. And our “sleepwalkers” have been too heavily propagandized or are too busy dreaming of peace.

And I have a nasty virus and face surgery and can but write this fevered column, my daily note-in-a-bottle, meant for you.