If you’re looking for a gift for the holidays, and want it to be meaningful, affordable, and appreciated, I ask you to consider the book Jew Face. The following link will send you to some reviews on the book as well as a link to “How to Buy the Book” which is now available on NOOK as well.
Monthly Archives: November 2012
If you are sitting in front of a computer reading this, with warm shelter and have food to eat, you have reason to be thankful. If you have people who you love and love you, you have reason to be thankful. If you live in freedom and don’t fear for your life, you have reason to be thankful. If the world you live in, even if it consists of difficulties and uncertainties still provides you with some degree of hope, you have reason to be thankful. If you are healthy, or if you’re not but have moral and practical support during the hardest times, you have reason to be thankful. If you live in peace, you have reason to be thankful. But most of all, on this Thanksgiving, if you’re not a turkey…..
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.
Occasionally when watching reports on the events in the Middle East I make an attempt at being objective. As a Jewish man, I feel anger any time I perceive Jews as being indiscriminately attacked. It is never pleasant to see any innocent people being hurt, but human nature is that we often feel most passionately when the attack is on one of our own. Be that as it may, I made every conscious effort to listen objectively to both Mark Regev and Hanan Ashrawi on CNN earlier today.
Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, naturally was on to portray the Israeli side of the conflict. He explained how the importance of this mission is not only to stop the missiles now, but to allow the southern borders of Israel to live in peace and security in the future. The subject of the “occupation” (not objective quotation marks) never was broached with him as the discussion was entirely about the direction the conflict could go and how to stop the missiles from flying. He made one very important point. Israel has a large Arab population and there is absolutely no way of knowing that these missiles will not injure or kill Arabs and Palestinians, the one group Hamas claims to be fighting for. I am still trying to be objective but as I was listening to Regev speak, I found it increasingly difficult to understand how any sane person would argue with anything he was saying. But then again throughout the ages sanity has never been in the forefront when it comes to assaults on Jewish populations. Objectively speaking.
I then listened to Hanan Ashrawi, who as everyone knows only tells the Palestinian side of the story. I have no problem with her doing this since after all, that’s her job, but after being painted into a corner by CNN’s Gary Tuchman, Ashrawi, as intelligent as she may be, in my estimation unwillingly displayed her approval of violence. Tuchman asked her what she expected Israel to do after being victim to hundreds of missile attacks from Gaza throughout the year. He drew the comparison to Florida being attacked by Mexico and rightfully so, said that the citizens of the United States would demand retaliation and that the President would almost certainly oblige his citizenry. Her response was to speak of what she sees as the underlying problem, which in her estimation is the “occupation”. At this point I put on my Mr. Objective hat and decided to consider the “occupation” the real issue here. But when Tuchman continued to push her on what Israel should do about the missiles, she replied something along the lines of, “go back to the negotiating table.” At this point, if my imaginary hat was real, I would have taken it off, lit a fire somewhere, and burnt it to ashes.
Ashrawi, who is supposed to be one of the intelligent voices of the Palestinian world, basically revealed the worldwide philosophy among Arab and Muslim leadership today. This philosophy is violently attack until the people you are trying to defeat know that it only stops if you adhere to their demands. Throw missiles at Israel until you get what you want and then cry to the world about how Israel is killing your people without restraint. Well let’s examine that as well. 40 people have been killed in airstrikes in Gaza since Wednesday. That is 4 days of Israeli attacks “without restraint”. It doesn’t take a genius, or even someone objective to realize that if there were 4 days of unrestrained attacks there would be a lot more than 40 deaths. In fact, the reason the number is not larger is because these attacks are focused on what is believed to be terrorist hideouts or bases of operations. When the Arab League gets together to discuss this do they also talk about the 17 civilians, many women and children killed the other day by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan? These people were part of a wedding party and were killed by a bomb placed by the Taliban, an organization like Hamas in its methods and intent. In October, 19 civilians were killed by a roadside bomb. Between these 2 bombings alone 36 civilians were killed. When you factor in the fact that the Israeli attacks are targeted and have killed Hamas operatives, it is pretty safe to say that more innocent people were murdered in 2 roadside bombs planted by the Taliban, a Hamas ally, than by the “unrestrained” attacks by Israel on Gaza.
I have heard a few Palestinian spokespersons say that Israel should allow free movement in and out of Gaza. I have a simple response to that. Israel is currently being attacked by Fajr 5 missiles. These missiles are being supplied to Hamas by Iran, the nation that has publicly stated its desire to destroy Israel. With Iran in the process of attempting to construct a nuclear arsenal, and Hamas in alliance with Iran, allowing free access to Gaza would be the equivalent of cutting oneself and walking into shark infested waters. At this point it would be so easy you almost can’t even blame the shark anymore.
As someone who appreciates objectivity and hates violence, I welcome the true voices of honor and decency. But both objectivity and peace by definition can’t be one-sided. I am sure Hanan Ashrawi, a woman with multiple degrees in literacy is aware of this, but admitting this would be breaking from the strategy of force over reason and would put her in a position to do something not very politically expedient for her, which is be at peace with Israel.
As someone who loves Israel I sometimes wonder the morality behind my hard-line statements. In this post I will only refer to myself, because each person who speaks their mind about Israel may have done things to help the Jewish state that I am not aware of even if on the surface they appear to be just like me, an opinionated person who supports aggressive response without being in the range of retaliatory missiles. On top of that, I am not writing a post of judgment as much as I am putting a concept and question out there.
As rockets fly into Israel, no reasonable person questions Israel’s right to self-defense. There is not a country on earth that would sit by and allow their territory and their people be attacked without a response. But when this happens I will be one of the first to openly express my wish for Israel to crush the enemy. I do not say this out of lack of respect for human life. I say this out of respect for Jewish life that throughout the ages has been seen as expendable. But I say these things from a comfortable chair and from a computer in New York City. When Israel retaliates and missiles are fired all over Israel, I do not have to run for shelter. I do not run the risk of being killed in the middle of the night and I will not be fighting on any front line if the war escalates. Even as I believe the only way to combat this enemy is with stronger force and that Israel is 100% correct in handling it that way, one might say, as the phrase goes, “It’s easy for you to say David.”
No one has said this to me and I believe that Israelis appreciate the solidarity shown by supporters worldwide, but the question needs to be asked. Do we have the right to encourage violence, albeit justified, even if we do not suffer any immediate consequences? In a previous post I stated my belief that these missiles are aimed at all Jews. I still believe that. However, that reality is still more conceptual than actual. So in truth, as painful and disturbing as the situation is, compared to others, one might feel that it is easy for me to say.
The most important thing any Jew can learn from the lessons of the past is to recognize those who wish to duplicate it. This past month has seen my blog become my mechanism for discussing current issues that have serious consequences and are far more important than the sale of a book. In speaking of my book I discuss a time when the Jewish people faced an enemy unlike any other they had ever faced in their history. This enemy’s goal was to annihilate the Jewish people entirely. It is with great sadness and extreme concern that with my posts these days I recognize that current events have become increasingly more connected to the origins of my book and blog.
I live in New York City. Missiles are not being fired upon Jewish neighborhoods anywhere near where I live. Thousands of miles away, in the State of Israel, Jews are under attack. What I urge all Jews to recognize is that these attacks are indeed an attack on all of us. Do not rest on the concept of it being a political attack on a government that happens to be Jewish and far away. What this enemy has in common with Hitler’s Germany is that its ultimate goal is the same. The annihilation of the Jewish people.
I am not a sensationalist. I try to not see similarities. I try to see a situation where compromise leads to peace. But when hope takes the place of realism, good people die, innocent people die, and throughout history, Jews get murdered. I hope all good and decent people out there realize how their world is in danger as well, and I urge all Jews to recognize the danger we are all in and to not only show solidarity and support for Israel and its Defense Forces, but to realize that they are not only fighting for the residents of Israel, they are fighting for you as well.
As a Jew who cares about Israel’s well-being and as someone who often makes his voice heard, I often ask myself what is it that I can say that we have not already heard or read. I have a lot of company in my concerns and fears and by no means think there are things that I know that make me better informed than so many out there. All I can offer that is significantly different is how I feel and my personal perspective on events taking place.
As many of you know, I am the son of Holocaust survivors. There are those who would consider that irrelevant to current events. I wish it was the case, but unfortunately with the attitude and goal of Islamic extremists, it is sadly and dangerously relevant. Hatred, persecution, anti-Semitism are things that generally don’t take the same form when repeated in different eras, but the sentiment is never all that different. Jews are hated with passion by a people and many of these people wish us death.
I believe myself to be an optimist by nature and try to look at what is going on in the world and specifically Israel in an optimistic way. The best I can come up with is the hope that a strong Israeli military at least temporarily disables the enemy. The problem however is that now the enemy has gone from being more than a nation or even a group. The enemy has become an ideology. The ruling forces have ingeniously taken the people’s suffering and hopelessness and turned it into a fanatical hatred towards the Jews and the western world.
This is no longer about Israel. Israel is vitally important, not only to Jews but to people who love freedom all over the world. But this threat goes way beyond Israel and disputes over land. This is hatred for Jews and holds dangers similar to other times in our history.
As Jews we’ve seen those who hate us deceive us in order to catch us by surprise. The Nazis never said the Jews were going to Concentration Camps to be murdered. They were being “relocated”. Jewish traitors who helped the Nazis, thinking that they would be spared and even treated well, met the same fate of those they betrayed. Even when arriving at camps with gas chambers the victims were never told the truth about the enemies intentions. But let’s be real here. Anyone capable of murder will have no problem with lying.
I am a citizen of the world. As corny as it sounds, I want to love everyone. However, the hearts and minds of such a large percentage of the Muslim populist has been so poisoned by hate that feeling love and caring for these people would be tantamount to suicide. At best we can attempt patience and understanding, not to be nice but to maybe plant the seed of reason in a dangerously large percentage of the planet lacking this reason. Unfortunately it is unlikely this would even work because the corrupt and evil leaders of these people will do anything to stop optimism and hope, including killing their own in large numbers and certainly mercilessly attacking as many Jews as possible.
It has been said by so many in the past that as long as Israel exists, “Never Again” will be more than a hollow cry. Israel’s strength protects Jews worldwide. In my lifetime Israel has never been more important to the survival of the Jewish people as it is today, not just in Israel but worldwide, because it has never been more clear that the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is comparable to the difference between “relocating” and murder in the gas chambers.
And remember, this was written by an optimist.
I am an American, and truly believe that as a whole we’re a good bunch. With all my flaws I am by no means qualified to say otherwise, but since I don’t want my words to be misinterpreted, I happily begin by complimenting my fickle countrymen for their basic decency and kindness.
As we look back to the recent presidential election, I can’t help but sense that an election fatigue has set in. Going back to when the Republicans had what was close to a football team on the debate stage, till the final contest in which the incumbent President Barack Obama defeated his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the process has been so long I truly believe many are happy it is over. Even those on the winning side.
The good thing about the timing of the election was that it came just in time to help deal with Disaster fatigue. Please forgive me if this comes across cynical. That is not my intention. I do not believe that most people who felt bad at the peak of Superstorm Sandy no longer feel bad. I do however feel that many are less fascinated by the news reports than they were in the immediate days that followed.
All these stories not only continue, but they continue to be important and relevant. The presidential election in of itself is not as important as what gets done moving forward. Everyone knows we have a big mess on our hands and that the President, together with the Senate and Congress need to move into action and get things on the right track. But enough about the election now. It’s old news.
Hurricane Sandy in many ways is two stories. The first story was the immediate storm and the drama and serious impact it had. The second story, the more serious one, is the story of the people who have suffered and still suffer as a result of the storm. This is a story that unfortunately will continue for quite some time. People are homeless, hungry and cold. They are frustrated and despondent and will be needing help for a very long time. But the story of the storm itself, the floods, fires, storm surges, well that’s old news now.
Gas shortages and long lines is becoming old news as well. Unless of course fights break out while people wait in line. Then the news becomes exciting again. We are a sensationalist society and when the story loses its sensationalism the public loses some interest. That doesn’t mean we become uncaring. There are so many good people, people better than me, who give so much time to help those in need. It’s just that unfortunately people’s suffering is never really news. It doesn’t go away and being that it is a constant, loses its headline status.
Part of the biggest challenge facing us is to see to it that when these stories lose front page stature they don’t lose their importance. It is incumbent on anyone with any audience, even a small one, to seek out and find the stories of those who need help. That way we can continue to be the sensationalist society we obviously and honestly want to be, while not turning away from those who truly need our help.
If any of you have stories of people in need that you wish to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sometimes the greatest help starts from the most unlikely source.
More fun travelling through storms yesterday. I got on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR)train at Rockville Centre just as the Nor’Easter Athena(apparently they name them now as well) was in full force. The train which was already 10 minutes late, did not leave the station right away. As I moved to a seat closer to the front of the train, pausing near the open doors, a woman in a seat nearby commented on the train’s status. Realizing this could end up being a long and boring trip, I sat in a seat nearby and continued our conversation.
The woman was reading updates on her phone and was kind enough to share them with me. What she was reading was that the LIRR was temporarily suspended due to overcrowding at Penn Station. When we began to move, and the conductor came by to collect our tickets, she asked him if this train would be remaining in service. He jokingly replied, “when I told them you were on the train they had no choice but to continue the service”. At first I thought the conductor was just being flirtatious, the woman was definitely flirt-worthy, but then he asked me if I knew who the woman was. He told me she was a reporter for NBC 4 in New York, at which point she introduced herself to me as Pei-Sze Cheng. I shamefully confessed that I do not generally watch NBC which caused her to inquisitively ask me why. A word of advice. If you ever meet a reporter, don’t tell them you don’t watch their station. There really is no good answer.
Although nothing she told me was particularly private, I will still give her that basic respect and not recount everything that she did tell me. I will say that I was somewhat taken aback by how down to earth and pleasant this woman was. We spoke of the storm, some of the issues facing the city, and debated as to what was the best way to make into Manhattan. At this point nothing was certain because we were stuck outside Jamaica station for a solid 15 minutes and still seeing reports of system-wide suspensions. When I commented on how we are the lucky ones, she smiled sincerely and said something along the lines of how we certainly need to constantly remind ourselves of that fact no matter how frustrating or inconvenient things become.
After 2 1/2 hours in transit I finally made it home. My encounter with a local celebrity just another result of one of the strangest times I’ve experienced during my time in New York. This would almost be fun if not for the fact that for so many people yesterday’s storm was a lot more than a delay on a train. For so many others it provided the challenge of finding enough food and shelter to survive another day.
I could not have written the book Jew Face without a basic appreciation and empathy for what my parents’ experienced between 1940 and 1945. These past few weeks in New York put things in an even clearer perspective. Imagine a 5 year period of, at best, uncertainty. Imagine not knowing where you are going to sleep, if you are going to eat, and what natural elements will cause you even greater obstacles to finding life’s most basic needs. And oh yes, add to this the fact that your life is constantly threatened by the most hostile enemy imaginable, and you have their life over those 5 years.
I want to thank Pei-Sze Cheng for the short and pleasant company and acknowledge her wonderful perspective on the situation. More importantly, I know we all hope that those suffering today get relief soon and have the opportunity to rebuild their lives with safety, dignity and a secure future.