Steve Apfel is Director of the School of Management Accounting, Johannesburg. He is the author of the book, 'Hadrian's Echo: The whys and...
- 1.The Jewish Problem - From anti-Judaism to anti-SemitismTue Jul 22, 2014
Wed,Jul 23,2014 25 Tammuz 5774
Balaam attempts to curse Israel
It would never occur to Jody Ruderon, employed to write on Israel for the New York Times, that she was following in a prophetic wizard’s footsteps. No more would it have occurred to the many others who blamed kidnap victims while giving a nod to the kidnappers. This willful inversion of a capital crime slapped Jews in the face like a cold fish, coming in the wake of three yeshiva boys abducted by Islamists, today’s multicultural word for craven terrorists.
What is going on here? Recall the parallel crime when Islamists abducted Christian girls from a Nigerian school. “Bring back our girls” the world-wide slogan yelled, jamming up social media. No one spared a thought for the kidnappers, other than to execrate them; still less did they blame the girls spirited away. Could a contrast be sharper? The Jewish boys got what was coming to them: such has been the tenor of media reports and opinion. The gods of human rights, ever alert to what goes down in Israel, added their own sound bites. Than Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, there is no bigger god. After Twitter users pressed him to end his silence on the abducted boys, Roth half relented with a tweet:
“Attending school at illegal settlement doesn’t legitimize apparent kidnapping of Israel teens.”
Note the reluctance to accept that a crime against Jews was committed: “apparent kidnapping.” Note by contrast how Roth criminalizes the Jewish victims, who attended “school at an illegal settlement.”
The New York Met stages an opera dedicated to terrorism
So we are meant to understand that Israelis are on the wrong side of the law while kidnappers are noble fighters for a cause. “We are soldiers fighting a war. We are not criminals and we are not vandals, but men of ideals.”
Thus goes the aria sung by a PLO pirate in "The Death of Klinghoffer” playing at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. He is one of the pirates that seize the cruise liner Achille Lauro, hold hundreds of passengers at gunpoint, and take a 69 year old, wheelchair-bound Jew, Leon Klinghoffer, shoots the cripple in the head, then dumps body and wheelchair overboard. The libretto soars over the audience, all the while flirting with incitement, trafficking in hate speech, and romanticizing terror.
What indeed is going on here? Is it that the abducted boys were Jewish? Or is it that they were attending school in a place designated by those with a political axe to grind as ‘illegal Jewish Settlements’, and by others with a racial axe to grind as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’? Either way it was the Jews behaving badly that provoked the crime.
The hideous events turned Jewish thoughts to anti-Semitism. What else could it be? However those familiar with my work will peep behind anti-Semitism and spot the victim patent at work. Palestinians remember, are the victims. They own the brand, and a most valuable brand it has been for half a century, magnetizing billions in aid money and bringing untold diplomatic benefits through the Oslo Accords and beyond. Keep the plot tidy – Palestinians are the victims. Israeli teenagers cannot be allowed to muddy the narrative. The BBC will make a bus shelter a victim before it will let Israeli boys be the part.
So much for the open book. Israel haters are easy to read when they spin a yarn interspersed with snatches of human rights lingo. But if we reach back in time Israel haters grow more difficult and immensely important. Hardened and narrowed into everyday words, a spiritual contest emerges. It is a battle against evil. Like obsessed Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, Israel haters are warped by constant pursuit after their white whale. They hunt for Israel’s demerits; their one true happiness is to discover and enlarge upon the evil that the people of Israel do.
King Solomon tells us that nothing beneath the sun is new. Long ago Israel was a newly forged nation en route to a promised land. At Sinai they had entered into a divine covenant whereby they were to be a living example among the nations, a people distinguished by an exalted way of life. This unnerved the King of Moab, who wanted to stop the Jews from entering a land where they would actualize the covenant and become morally and physically indestructible. For the king was informed that spirituality lay behind Israel’s victories over the Amorite armies of Sichon and Og, which left his people hopelessly demoralized. They were willing to face an untrained army, but felt futile as long as Israel was able to call on its great spiritual reserves. The king reckoned to defeat Israel with a spiritual weapon of his own. So he enlists Balaam, the great spiritual master of the pagan world, to wage metaphysical warfare against the Jews. Balaam is a hit-man, hired to generate vibes bad enough to sink the enemy. He would be a sure-fire morale booster in the Moab camp.
The king could only profit by hiring the wizard curser, whether or not cursing proved effective. The main thing was to discredit Israelites in the eyes of the world. He would do this by uncovering moral lapses, by highlighting Israel’s moral flaws. Balaam would discredit and demonize Israel in the eyes of everyone to the extent that it would become just for everyone to go against it.
Today the pro-Palestinian camp has stepped into Balaam's shoes. They look to neutralize Israel's military might through bad press – the curse of negative public opinion. Whether or not they know it, the New York Times, the Independent and the Guardian, the BBC and CNN are children of the wizard curser. In the deepest sense blaming Israeli boys for being abducted follows in Balaam the wizard’s footsteps.
Tragically, modern Israel plays along with the cursing game. If only Israelis wanted to be clearly perceived as the direct continuation of the people that originated in Abraham; that stood at Sinai; that suffered through 2,000 years of exile without ever abandoning traditions and hope of return to a lost homeland. If Israelis would only insist on this tradition the world would have to recognize their moral claim to the land of Israel.
In fact modern Israel perceives itself as something new and different. Its people may be descendants of the Jews of exile, but they’ve made a fresh start. So Israel has more in common with modern nations than with its past. This is precisely what renders it vulnerable to bad press. If Israelis no longer associate their present with their past, how can they expect to derive moral justification from a past they no longer acknowledge? Why shouldn't Israel be judged within the narrow focus of present day events if it was born only in the 20th century? Why shouldn’t the world question the right of a newly created nation to exist?