What follows is dedicated to all of you who asked me to replace KJR with a political blog. As always, you should be careful what you ask for. – Bob
When I was growing up, antisemitism was a joke, and the experience most of us in my community had with actual antisemites was on a par with our real-world experiences with Big Foot and the Yeti. I did once hear someone use “Jew” as a verb – a stereotype that from time to time I wished was more accurate – and in my college years once overhead an inebriated patron in a local bar complaining about f***ing k*** lawyers.
But everyone in earshot was content to ignore him, and he eventually went away.
I was in high school when, in 1967, in response to Egypt closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, Israel launched the so-called “6-Day War.” Most in my high-school community thought of Mideast policy in much the same way that we thought of the Chicago Cubs – a team to root for, even though we couldn’t articulate why. I had no idea what even a single Strait of Tiran was, but it didn’t matter. Israel was my team and I rooted for it.
My views on the subject have, I hope, become a bit more nuanced than that, and, on the grounds of my being Jewish, I’ve been asked about them. So here goes:
Where it started: WWII and the concentration camps, in which something like 12 million people were slaughtered, half of them Jews. One reason I stopped thinking in terms of MOTs (Members of Tribe) was how many of my fellow Jewish MOTs ignored or trivialized the 6 million or so non-Jews also murdered by the Nazis.
Regardless, public awareness of the camps led to a widespread perception that fair-is-fair: Jews deserved a homeland in which they could feel safe.
Which is why, in 1948, the Jewish residents in Palestine declared the founding of Israel as a modern sovereign entity, at which time, with no noticeable delay, the nations surrounding it launched an invasion with a goal of destroying it.
And it’s then that the historical record and assessments of cause and effect become confused. Some historians claim Israel expelled the Palestinians. Others assert that the Palestinians fled because they were urged to do so by the Arab leaders of the time.
What has been lost in the dueling narratives is that no matter the reason Palestinians left Israel, the nations they fled to – especially Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt – settled them into refugee camps and radicalized them rather than welcoming them and providing assistance.
Nor did Israel do anything to encourage the refugees to return.
Which is why facile good-guys/bad-guys storytelling is of no value in thinking through what should happen next. Nothing can excuse Hamas’s recent invasion. Read about Hamas and it’s clear it doesn’t represent the Palestinian community. It has more in common with an organized crime syndicate than a political entity.
Read about Israel’s response to the invasion and a cynic might think it’s Netanyahu’s way of maintaining his leadership position, not of creating a just peace.
Read about the war and its contribution to resurgent antisemitism. It has underscored, in no uncertain terms, that just as is true of all other forms of bigotry, all antisemites needed to crawl out of the woodwork was an excuse.
Far from being the jokes I thought antisemites were when I was a youth, they were just as much MOTs as I was, just members of a different tribe.
And most of them understood that, back then, belonging to that tribe was socially unacceptable.
Do I have a solution? Not hardly. I do, however, have a notion, for all the good having a notion ever has. It’s for the entertainment industry to take The Blues Brothers as an exemplar: Create entertaining fare that ridicules bigots of all tribes and stripes.
Not the earnest, preachy fare that’s usually paraded in front of us to “raise our awareness.” Entertainment.
Because raising our consciousness asks us to acknowledge that our consciousness needs raising, and to be willing to expend cognitive effort – work – to raise it.
Entertainment, in contrast, is, by definition, fun.
Maybe fun enough to embarrass the MOTs who are, for some reason, proud of their idiocracy.
Bob’s sales pitch: In a more traditional KJR vein, I’m keynoting OSICON 2035 this coming Wednesday. It’s free. If you happen to be in Toledo you can catch it in person. Otherwise, it, along with the rest of the program, will be streamed.