Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Chosen People

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Tevye: I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?—Fiddler on the Roof
As a child I never understood how it could be fair that God, creator of the world, could choose a single people to be “above” everyone else. Granted, the biblical pact with Abraham, who first figured out 4,000 years ago that there was one entity beyond us all—the “force” in an eastern mythological sort of way—solidified his lineage as favored among humans. But still, it didn’t seem fair to me. Was every one else “not chosen?”

Then one day, as I, Jewish, was taking lessons on how to become a good converted Jew in place of my ex-wife-to-be who was busy orchestrating her bridal registration at several department stores in Boston so she couldn't attend these classes herself, I was told an amazing consciousness-raising point of view by the reformed Jewish rabbi who conducted the classes: “chosen” doesn’t mean “special,” or “unusual.” It means that when Abraham saw the immorality of the lifestyle of the ancient nomadic peoples—human sacrifices, not valuing life itself, worshipping clay figurines as if they were powerful--and wanted his family to be separate from all that, his agreement with God to stand apart in a higher ethic code made him and his descendents “chosen” to bear this burden of responsibility, of setting the example for everyone else. The Jews are supposed to set the moral example for the rest of the world.

I was quite moved. And I was in disbelief. I didn’t see this great moral “cut-above” in the community of Jews I knew, let alone in the general community at large. But the idea of the lesson stuck, and I was intrigued—it must have stuck since it’s thirty years since I heard it.

Point-at-hand: Israel, at almost 60 years of existence as an independent Jewish State, fighting for its life since day 1, has been invaded by militia from the bordering country of Lebanon, and has reacted to defend itself by bombing that country and sending in troops to root out the harassing militia—Hezbollah. In so doing, protecting its people and trying to neutralize the offenders, Israeli forces have inadvertently killed innocent people, many of them children.

Jesse Kornbluth, eminent writer and fellow observer of this horrible state of affairs in the Middle East, makes some powerful points:

My pro-Israel friends shrug off this kind of revelation. They tell me, "The Arabs do worse." And so they do. But since when is the bar set by the worst offender? Is Abu Ghraib okay because at least our soldiers didn't use electric drills on their victims' eyes? As long as Israel doesn't decapitate Arab prisoners, should we speak of Israel's "mercy"?

As I write, there is a scandal about Israel's most recent atrocity: a couple of dozen children dead in Lebanon, some of them all the kids in a family. The Israeli line is that Hezbollah used this apartment building to hide bombs, that the residents were warned several times. Yet, oddly, no one seems to have left. The reports suggest that residents felt safe moving to lower floors. And so the bombs killed hem as they slept.

Zionists who froth at the mouth--I'm thinking of Alan Dershowitz--say this is all Hezbollah's fault for using civilians as shields. Even if you agree, so what? People who bomb kids get hated for it, period. As even Israel should know. You want to create sympathy for people you call terrorists? Kill kids. Works every time. (Of course, it is disingenous to argue that civilians are not the target of modern wars?they are.)

I have been complaining about the lack of my country’s response in the face of this travesty—I honesty don’t care if the dead or injured child, or innocent civilian for that matter, is Moslem, Christian, or Jewish—the killing of modern warfare, which by virtue of the participants’ behavior--hiding in hospitals and school buildings etc--causes the agony of non-participants—is worth the involvement of the leaders of my country, the United States of America, with all the money, arms, and where-with-all to stop this ongoing violence. The inaction of the leadership—Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney—is indicative of the lost morality, the abrogation of the moral upper-hand—the reason that the fighting goes on, and that these leaders need to be replaced, removed, and that the moral authority of this country needs to be reasserted by another group, whoever that may be, elected hopefully—to get the present conflict stopped, and the troops out of Iraq, and a peace plan in order for the Middle East.

Jews are the chosen people, but over the past century they have become victims. There’s only so much you can ask of one group to manage, to take personally, to try to survive—really I think the Jews have about had it. In the response, which many diplomats and pundits consider an “overreaction,” of the Israeli forces to the invasion across the northern border by the terrorist militia Hezbollah, Jews were doing no less than any other sovereign country would do. Yet as Swami explains in his articulate blog entry, the killing of children is never reasonable.

If the Jews are supposed to inhabit the higher moral ground, what about the United States of America—shouldn’t the most powerful and “moral” democracy in the world be responsible for carrying the highest moral banner? Yet instead of acting as peacemaker for the past several weeks, Bush and Rice have been goading the Israelis on to fulfill some sort of imagined mission of ridding Lebanon once and for all of every member of the Hezbollah ranks—as if that could be done. It can’t, and they all know it, and that’s why there the moral element is lacking in the Bush policies, and the Israeli response. Never mind the Hezbollah—they’re beneath discussion of moral grounds. Artificially set-up by the Iran megalomaniacs, Hezbollah is in the class with Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, even Arafat—those who need a cause to justify their raison d’etre. Pathetic is the best label for Nasrallah and his ilk.

The irony is that these news stories are not new—Mel Gibson froths off at a Jewish policemen who’s arresting him for drunk driving—Mel probably knows the guy -- he starts screaming “F***king Jews” and “Are you a Jew?” You think that came out of nowhere, or because Mel had one too many drinks? He knows these cops in Malibu—it’s not that big an area to patrol. Ya think there’s no more anti-Semitism in our enlightened age? Mel’s a big mouth for the ambient word that’s out there. Hatred is all over the place—Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, African Americans, Muslims, Gays, Lesbians. Liberal Media. Thin, White, Pure… Unless you’re Bill O’Reilly, you’re not accepted anymore.

No these stories aren’t new—here is a bit of dialogue from the movie, Exodus, about the original transition of Palestine from British protectorate to Nation State of Israel. This conversation is between Ari Ben Canaan, who is working to get the United Nations to recognize Israel and have the British leave, and his uncle, Akiva, of the terrorist group Irgun, which not unlike today’s terrorists tries to bring attention to a cause:

Ari: I think these bombings and these killings hurt us with the United Nations. A year ago we had the respect of the whole world. Now, when they read about us, it's nothing but terror and violence.

Akiva: It's not the first time this happens in history. I don't know of one nation, whether existing now or in the past hat was not born in violence. Terror, violence, death. They are the midwives who bring free nations into this world. Compromisers like the Haganah produce only abortions.

Ari: Before you have a country, you have to have people. That's the job we've done. Tens of thousands of people smuggled in with the whole British Navy blockading the coast. The population we've built is our most valid argument for independence. How can we ask the UN for a just decision when we keep blowing up things like a bunch of anarchists?

Akiva: You have just used the words "a just decision." May I tell you something?

Firstly--justice itself is an abstraction completely devoid of reality.

Second--to speak of justice and Jews in the same breath is a logical uncertainty.

Thirdly--one can argue the justice of Arab claims on Palestine just as one can argue the justice of Jewish claims.

Fourthly--no one can say the Jews have not had more than their share of injustice these past years. I therefore say,

Fifthly--Let the next injustice work against somebody else for a change.

Ari: You just changed the subject on me.

Today, US Secretary of State Rice has delineated elements of a cease-fire resolution for the UN to vote on, 60 years after the above supposed
conversation above took place. One of the items in the resolution:
Disarmament of all militias in Lebanon and the deployment of the Lebanese army throughout southern Lebanon, which is now controlled by Hezbollah.

Now who’s going to police that and how? Isn’t it about time we Americans woke up to our responsibilities, instead of watching this “war thing” on CNN and wondering if our gas prices will be affected?

It’s us! We need to take the higher moral road. We are the chosen people, like it or not. We have the power, the money, the means to feed the whole world. We can end poverty, hardship, and we have the tools—don’t believe me?—It’s the TRUTH! We better get a handle on that for our own sakes!

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