How surprised should we be?

A very readable, short essay called One Mean Jewish Settler, by Judah Ben-Yosef who gives tours for German tourists and journalists in a large Jewish settlement in the West Bank. I like this section especially:

A not unattractive lady journalist asked me how I feel when I read the kind of things that are written about Israel. The question was not especially provocative, but maybe I was just in a bad mood. Maybe my advancing years had made me lose my patience. For whatever reason, on that day, I didn’t feel like playing games. For once I’d say what I really felt.

“It reminds me of the story of the man who comes home unexpectedly one day to find his wife in bed with the neighbor. He was shocked! He was shocked….. but he wasn’t surprised. (laughter – timing the punch line is everything.)

Am I shocked? Am I shocked when I read the reports? Of course I am. Who could read such lies and not be shocked?

Am I surprised? Am I surprised that the grandchildren of the monsters who dragged by great-grandfather into a gas chamber or buried him alive write articles that are critical of Israel? How surprised should I be?”

(a conversation I had last Saturday when I exercised a great deal of restraint, reminded me of this bit, and so I took the opportunity to put it up.)

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4 thoughts on “How surprised should we be?

  1. I can understand your frustration with contemporary Germans who voice disapproval of Israel, and certainly there is distorted news coverage on both sides, some favoring the Palestinians and some the Israelis. Nevertheless, I imagine that many Germans are so far removed from the Holocaust that they feel they can make unbiased comments on Israel. What is at issue is cultural sensitivity more than truth. In the realm of national stereotypes, Germans are not known for their sensitivity.

    On the propaganda end of the discussion, I have to say that I am completely sick of Holocaust rhetoric. I live in a heavily Jewish area, with a Holocaust museum only a couple of miles away. The bias is so skewed towards Israel in the U.S. that the Palestinians have been unfairly marginalized by American foreign policy.

  2. But the Shoah is relevant. There is no single other prejudice and hate that is so prevalent and constant not just aming Western civilizations, but also among Asians. It’s THE universal prejudice and it has led to mass murder not once or twice but many times over. In any discussion of the conflict, this is important and central. Maybe it’s me as German, but I feel that for my nation, it’s deeply shameful that we don’t stand by Israel, that we single out Israel for blame, that we attack Israel for things we consider perfectly ok in Europe. Think: when ca. 15% of Austrians have voted for a right wing party, the whole of Europe was for sanctions against Austria. The right wing party is moderately right wing. racist, yes, but carefully so. Inhabitants of Gaza have voted for Hamas. This is in their charta “I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill”. ANd yet we fault Israel for not talking nicely with a party of self-confessed murderers. We would not demand the same of any European company. There are many many many more such points.

  3. When you get right down to it, the human race is completely brutal when it comes to the elimination of foes, real or imagined. The only things that stand out about the Holocaust are the scale of the slaughter and the precision with which it was executed. Though I’m not an expert on genocides, some aspects of the Armenian genocide may have been worse than the Holocaust. In the Armenian genocide of 1915, most of the men were immediately shot, but the women and children kept marching for months. While they were marching without food and living on grass or anything they could eat, the women were robbed of all their possessions and raped by Kurdish bands and local Turks. The marches lasted for so long in some cases, that the raped women gave birth following the rapes, and the babies subsequently died. Conditions were so bad that many women drowned themselves en masse when they marched by a river.

    I agree with you that Germans have no business saying anything against Israel, and that other Europeans are often inconsistent in what they consider unacceptable in other countries. However, the balance of power in the Arab-Israeli conflict has been so lopsided in favor of Israel that it is difficult for many to sympathize with the Israelis. If it were me, after 62 years of disastrous relations with my neighbors, I would either negotiate lasting settlements with them or leave the neighborhood. As far as I’m concerned, the Promised Land idea is an arbitrary and obsolete myth with no place in modern civilization. The truth is that we all come from nomadic backgrounds and the soil on which any nation is built has changed hands throughout history.

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