Another Tack: Edgardo and the quarterbacks

Fate inserts assorted unexpected subplots into our lives. Some months ago, a reader from Germany responded to a column of mine in so insightful a manner that I thought it merits acknowledgment. From there sprang forth a friendship by e-mail that still thrives. This non-Jewish German friend quickly explained that his unwavering support for Israel is by no means the bon ton of his Bavarian milieu and that his outspokenness on its behalf hardly enhances his popularity.

A relative of his, a philosophy professor who currently teaches in China, won’t hear of visiting Israel due to its “flagrant human rights violations.”

But aren’t Beijing’s abuses, pressed my Internet interlocutor, far more off-putting?

China, retorted the professor, “clearly imposes capital punishment according to the law. Hence any reasonable person must arrive at the conclusion that China is a Rechtsstaat” – a state of justice. Not so Israel, judges the professor. “What law anywhere permits bombardment of Hamas training camps? Israel therefore is a Räuberland” – robbers’ land. The professor stresses that he wouldn’t even dignify Israel with the title of “state.”

It didn’t end there. My friend wondered whether double standards, demonization and delegitimization of Israel don’t attest to anti-Semitism (as per Natan Sharansky’s three-D test). The professor stood his ground: “If you want to know why anti-Semitism is resurfacing, ask all those people who had lost money and whose living standards were lowered. You will then hear names like Goldman-Sachs and Lehman Brothers and you will know why.”

The Jewish collective is clearly held liable for the conduct of individuals. It matters nothing that publicly traded companies like Lehman’s and Goldman’s haven’t been necessarily or exclusively Jewish-run for years. Non-Jewish names like Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley obviously trigger no hostility.

My friend recently attended a family birthday party where one of the guests, a retired German judge, opined that “you can’t make peace with a Jew.”

Plain and simple with no reservations or elucidations. His flat-out ruling went unchallenged by any of the celebrants. It was axiomatic.

Those among us who still strive to pretend that Jew-revulsion isn’t a formative factor out there may dismiss these as irrelevant anecdotes. But they aren’t. They are crucial facts of life which many Israelis and Jews prefer to repress.

It’s more comforting to make believe that we don’t face bottomless blind hate which we cannot moderate. It’s distressing to recognize that underlying animus (even when camouflaged and rationalized) poisons minds and tilts the scales forcefully against Israel in the kangaroo court of world opinion.

It’s disagreeable to realize that de rigueur Israel-bashing has unleashed latent predilections which, despite their transitory apparent abeyance, festered beneath the floorboards of human decency. They aren’t really suppressed even in a country like Germany, where minimal introspection and circumspection (not just on the official level) may be expected.

Admitting that the cards are stacked against us, that there’s little we can do to make ourselves better liked, goes against the ancient Jewish instinct to ingratiate ourselves. We want the world to appreciate the real us – virtuous, liberal and altruistic to a fault.

It’s reassuring to assume, even if misguidedly, that everything hinges on our improving our behavior. That imparts a semblance of control. The reverse awareness, even though eminently accurate, is agonizing. It implies lack of control.

It tells us that even our best conduct can’t change the way we’re perceived. We cannot face-lift our image. We can explain ourselves till we’re hoarse and employ the most ostensibly effective and sophisticated PR, but it won’t make an iota of a difference. We’ll end up convincing ourselves, preaching to the choir and not getting so much as a polite hearing abroad.

THAT’S WHAT happened in the Gaza-bound flotilla’s case. We couldn’t emerge smelling sweet no matter how things were handled. Our hankering after good press is essentially what emboldened the Mavi Marmara terrorists to resort to homicidal violence against our commandos. We willingly fell for the illusory façade of “aid ships” ferrying pacifist, “Kumbaya”-crooning philanthropists.

We fell for their mendacious mantras because we desired to show restraint and to regard the Mavi Marmara’s Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood passengers in the same amiable light that their propaganda radiated throughout Europe and in America’s “progressive” enclaves. We wanted to be just as loved in those same quarters. We declined to delve into why terror mongers are endeared and why we, who seek to defend ourselves, are so vilified.

Refusing to look unpleasant truth squarely in the face, we sent naval units to a violent encounter armed with paint-ball guns. The shipboard Hamas-boosters promised nothing but passive noncompliance and we chose not to remember that even when Arabs blow up fast food eateries and lob rockets into a sleepy outlying town, they manipulatively resort to “human rights” and “resistance” terminology.

If anything, we were guilty only of wishful thinking. It’s therefore especially galling that Israel’s most ardent promoters of such wishful thinking and self-deception are our loudest Monday-morning quarterbacks, the ones who most vehemently let us know (in retrospect, of course) which moves the government should have made. Their hindsight, as always, is remarkably flawless.

But self-flagellation is fundamentally futile. There is no way Israel could have won or could win the world’s sympathy. In the recesses of too many minds within the supposedly enlightened international community dwells the notion that Jews are inherently to blame for whatever befalls them. It’s nothing new. It’s unrelated to any policy practiced by any Israeli government. It predates Israel.

It can be monstrous.

In 1858 Bologna the Papal Police burst into the Mortara home and abducted the Jewish family’s six-year-old son, Edgardo. The pretext was that sometime during his infancy, Edgardo’s nanny surreptitiously baptized him. The Vatican remained impervious to the widespread outcry and the distraught family’s entreaties. Pope Pius IX “adopted” the child and kept him cloistered in a monastery. Edgardo was never returned. In time he was ordained a priest and dispatched to proselytize Jews.

Yet Pius IX managed to blame the Jews for the outrage. He maintained the parents could have Edgardo back instantly, if only they would convert. When they refused, Pius cleansed his hands: Obstinate Jews inflict pain on themselves. All the Mortaras had to do was give in.

The identical message resonates today. Obstinate Israel inflicts pain. All it needs to do is voluntarily capitulate. Otherwise, it will be pilloried.

My late father used to say: “We will be condemned whatever we do, but to be condemned for nothing is stupid. We ought to at least earn the inevitable censure, deserve it just a bit.”

The sooner we come to grips with this reality – unlovely as it is – the better for our national psyche. We have to do what’s good for us and not view ourselves through lenses tinted by the prevalent likes of the above-mentioned professor and judge.

7 thoughts on “Another Tack: Edgardo and the quarterbacks

  1. What is so shocking is that so many in Israel thought anything had changed. That the human race had evolved overnight into a humane race.
    So much for the lie of evolution.
    The delusional dreams of a New Middle East ala Pied Piper Peres has been a major disaste for Israel.
    After what the Jewish people have been thru it is astounding how Israel so easily swallowed the lies and fell for the counterfeit peace process.
    The enemy could not defeat Israel by war and so by peace they have succeeded beyond their imaginations.

    The heart of man has never changed since Cain killed his brother Abel.The ongoing delusions about peace with an intolerant,bloodthirsty cult which worships death (with Israel’s death their chief goal) has been a waste.
    Gird up for the battle because there is no peace possible with Islam which the World has fatefully chosen to side with against Israel.
    God vs the World-Guess who loses.

  2. I am not particularly surprised by the German judge’s pronouncement. While working in Russia and Ukraine, I heard similar opinions on a regular basis. A question of ‘how many people work in that department?’ received an answer of ‘5 people and 2 Jews.’ Prior to a trip to Israel, I was regaled with opinions that Israel was not a legitimate country, as the Jews are not really a people and shouldn’t have a homeland where they ‘can do whatever the hell they want to others.’ This was followed up with an example of Jewish perfidy from the history of the foundation of the former Soviet Union: Father Gapon, the Russian Orthodox priest who led the march in St. Petersburg on Bloody Sunday, was a Jew, and in the end, he saved his own hide with the help of Rutenberg, a fellow Jew, while leaving Russians to perish – the moral of the story of course being that this was typical behaviour. So the Jews are not really a people, but the Russian Orthodox priest was a Jew: when I challenged such opiners, they were taken aback that their remarks were being construed in any way as questionable. We’ve got nothing against Jews, what are you talking about, you’re being oversensitive and politically correct in the extreme.

    From the large issues to the minutiae I wrote about earlier in response to an article in which you mentioned Michael Jackson’s use of “jew me, kike me,” the other day I was playing an online word game on a very popular game site (during my lunch break at work, of course) and was surprised that I was allowed to make the word “Jew” but not “Dane” or “Saudi” for points. Then it happened that the configuration would allow adding ‘-ing’ to Jew, and I thought – hmmm, I wonder. Indeed, I was allowed to make the word ‘jewing.’ I wrote to the internet site to ask for their definition of the word, because the only one I could think of was derogatory. I haven’t heard back. Although some may think that this is making a mountain out of a molehill, I believe that this insidious erosion of dignity is in its own way as alarming as the German judge’s remark that Jews cannot be made peace with and the Ukrainian ‘harmless joke’ that in that department there are 5 people and 2 Jews in that it encourages the everyman to either adopt an attitude of ‘I’ve got nothing against, it’s just funny, and after all, in every stereotype there is an element of truth,’ or to at least countenance the possibility that such an attitude in others is legitimate. The opinion of the everyman is important.

    It is unfortunately probably true that Jews will be condemned no matter what they do, and it will be interesting to see how Israel meets its current challenges, especially since its closest international allies are appearing to waver in their support.

    Thank you for another insightful article.

  3. Ms. Honig,

    I admire your writing! You are the best writer out there right now in my opinion.

    Gil Ronen

  4. Hi –

    Thanks for another great article.

    A critic, whose name escapes me, once wrote that author William Gaddis had managed to produce the rarest of literary creations: “serious comedy”.

    This critic’s phrase comes to mind each time I see pictures of our soldiers boarding the Turkish flotilla brandishing their paintball guns.

    The idea that antisemitism is, somehow, a part of Natural Law seems to be the hardest pill for Israeli’s to swallow, even for many who are otherwise clear-sighted in trying to advance our nation’s interests.

    Unfortunately, this country will never be able to adequately defend itself until our leaders reconcile themselves to the fact that antisemitism is a permanent fixture, that the previous 2000 years of hatred is not some aberration we have now escaped from.

    To have our leaders pretending that antisemitism is not an immutable part of this world’s terrain is like sending the IDF into battle without a map.

    Until our leadership brings itself to swallow this bitter pill, we will continue to produce, for the world’s derision (and, no doubt, amusement) such deadly serious comedies as the Turkish flotilla episode.


    It’s Sunday morning in the US West Coast. People have a little extra time to browse Israeli news websites, such as the widely read Jerusalem Post. But where’s Sarah?

    She’s not on the Home Page of the Post. So I click on FEATURED OP EDS. It takes me to the OP ED page. Nothing. So I click again on COLUMNISTS. She’s got to be there somewhere.

    Ahh… There she is, hidden in the dungeons of the Jerusalem Post website. Unless you are an established fan of Sarah and actually search for her, there is no chance that a casual Jerusalem Post reader could find her.

    Sarah – this is so frustrating.

    WHAT DRIVES ME CRAZY is how the left cries crocodile tears whenever they are inconvenienced by anti-Semitic insults and boycotts abroad.

    Oh, those poor leftist Israeli academics, they were not invited to some international conference. Oh, poor Ms Livni, threatened with arrest in the UK.

    However, the left uses all their energy to portray Israel as an occupier, as an oppressor of the Arabs, and those Jews who dare to defend Israel’s right to the land are characterized as religious fanatics whose towns should be razed to the ground.

    Even “centrist” websites have staff who write anti-Israel columns REGULARLY – and who are always quoted by the foreign media as “average, middle of the road” Israelis.

    Dear Sarah, I haven’t read the above column yet. I’m sure is great like all the others. I was so incensed by the way you’re treated at the Post that I had to write to you immediately.

    I URGE EVERYONE to disseminate Sarah’s BLOG everywhere you can.

  6. the world has a problem, now they cannot blame the occupation in gaza and lebanon, today a “palestinian” state is more evident wont stop arabs to attack jews, so now some leftists are focusing on al fatah and their new messiah mahmoud abbas and others like helen thomas are focusing directly on the real problem, while there are jews in israel the arabs never will be in peace…

    meanwhile israel, like a nerd, is doing the job al fatah needs in gaza to build a state in the west bank under all al fatah requirements

  7. What happened to the Jerusalem Post ?
    It’s become another Haaretz,YNET.
    Israel National News has taken a dive also.
    They have all become so proper and politically correct on their way to the Ovens of Peace.
    The cowards won’t post my talkback but they will post the lies and hate filled venom from Palestinian’s,Turks and assorted ANTI-ISRAEL propagandists.
    Something is seriously wrong with the Israel media and I have no doubt that it’s roots are spiritual,the lack therof.
    Most of the men have turned into gutless wonders, little sissey men and the women have to carry the heavy load because they won’t.

    Israel thy name is appeaser

    Why do you play the goyims games always rigged for Israel to lose ?
    Don’t you have enough sense not to place yourself in their vise every time they cry ?
    What about Sudan’s al-Bashir and his crimes of genocide in Darfur ? They did nothing.
    What about Syria’s Assad and his part in the assassination of PM Rafik Harire of Lebanon ? They did nothing.
    You should have refused any inquiry until these matters were settled by the world body of hypocrites.
    Why are your leaders so weak and so stupid ?
    Is it because they have no faith in the Lord ?

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