By Larry Gordon
As the Torah and our prophets tell us, the Jewish nation is destined to, or perhaps by design must, live apart from the other nations of the world. That doesn’t sound too bad, actually, when you see what is going on in the rest of the world. Yet apparently the general Jewish desire is to achieve the exact opposite.
This has not been the Jewish objective over the centuries. For hundreds and maybe even thousands of years, Jewish communities were content and even pleased to live apart from their non-Jewish neighbors–a major and important ingredient in our ability to survive as a people.
But then maybe a hundred or so years ago something happened that reversed this trend, and today it is worse than ever. Even more so, one gets a sense that there is some kind of communal guilt about having survived against all odds and even flourishing as a worldwide community that contributes on a global level.
The current spate of terror attacks that has killed over 20 Israelis at this point should be, if nothing else, considered an official rejection of the notion that there is a viability to this idea that Jews or the Jewish nation, Israel, can be dissolved in such a fashion as to blend into the universal backdrop of the community of man.
And it’s difficult to have to write that this rejection is not just something that is signaled to us by the murders, which are tragic and devastating to the families and to all of us.
It is about the world reaction to these wanton and sickening murders. And this extends from the murders of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in front of their four children a few weeks ago to Ezra Schwartz, the 18-year-old yeshiva student from Sharon, Massachusetts, who was killed last week. And more than anything it is punctuated by the alternate set of rules that have been imposed upon Jonathan Pollard after his release from 30 years in prison last Friday, from the unusual and unprecedented length of his imprisonment to the way he was treated during those three decades of incarceration.
More than anything else, these terrorist acts committed by Palestinian Arabs living free in Israel have, until yesterday, been reacted to with absolute silence, a lack of emotion, and the absence of common human decency on the part of the U.S. government.
The silence has been deafening on a multiplicity of levels. And that is because, as media commentator Glenn Beck says, “Not speaking up about these dastardly acts is speaking up.” The silence speaks volumes. It says clearly what Secretary of State John Kerry said last week about the ability to distinguish between the murders in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine last year and the recent attack at the Bataclan theater. He said those murders of the editors and writers were somewhat “legitimate” and that there was a “rationale” for those murders. But, Kerry said, the killings at the Bataclan theater two weeks ago are inexplicable.
Those remarks were just plain stupid. That’s not a classy characterization, but in simple terms that is what it was. Kerry tried to walk back those remarks, but they were expressed after a thoughtful pause. He can rewind the video, edit it out, explain himself, and apologize. It doesn’t matter; he said it and it’s out there. That’s the way he feels and that is the way President Obama feels.
The administration was at ease in maintaining its position of offering no comment at any level when an American citizen is murdered in Israel. The reason for that? Maybe they feel that there is a rationale or some air of legitimacy if Jews are murdered by Arabs. It’s an awful and disturbing thought, but how else can the eerie silence be explained?
It took an unfortunate jolt to maneuver the U.S. out of its obdurate determination to comment about terror attacks elsewhere while maintaining silence on attacks of that nature in Israel and against Jews. But that’s what it took–a massive terror attack in Paris and then another in Mali a few days later.
And this is really nothing new. Just take a look beneath the surface at how the U.S.–and most notably this U.S. administration–has been handling the release of former spy Jonathon Pollard. A further reading of the latest news indicates the administration is just as determined to apply onerous conditions to his release as it did to his three-decade imprisonment. Despite all those times that Prime Minister Netanyahu and others requested that the U.S. free Mr. Pollard, until last week the president took no action whatsoever. Pollard was a nonentity. Not even a subject that deserved comment. There was silence not dissimilar to the silence from the U.S. when Ezra Schwartz, an American kid, was killed last week by Palestinians in Gush Etzion.
On Monday, after intense pressure from right-thinking people and most likely the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, Secretary Kerry phoned the Schwartz family in Massachusetts. It was an important and proper gesture. But even though it was just four days since the murder, there was a sense that this was not really about expressing condolences as much as it was about being ashamed and humiliated by their inactions.
At a ceremony Saturday night in Israel, as Ezra’s body was being shipped back to the U.S., a spokesman for the ambassador said that he was there “to express the sorrow, pain, and anger at this act of terror,” and “we condemn this with all our strength.”
Frankly, I have to say that I am really not sure what those words mean. Condemning these types of savage killings with or without all of one’s strength is essentially meaningless. These are empty diplomatic expressions that are devoid of substance. Their lateness just exacerbates the matter.
On Monday, Secretary Kerry was trying to make amends for his and the administration’s insensitivity. Of the shooting death of young Ezra Schwartz, the secretary said, “It happens almost every day over there and it’s terrible, and too many Israelis have been killed and too many Palestinians.”
Kerry is trying, but there is a problem with that statement. And it is obvious–and should be obvious to John Kerry–what that issue is. The Palestinians being killed have perpetrated a murder or had attempted to kill someone. They were killed in self-defense while on a mad spree to murder. The Palestinian deaths are justified. The Jewish deaths are not. Kerry knows that, as does Mr. Obama; they just can’t bring themselves to say as much.
Ezra Schwartz and so many others who have been murdered over the years did not have to die. These deaths are the punctuation at the end of political statements that are mostly corrupt and dishonest. At the same time, had there been any honesty in the process, Pollard would have been out of prison 20 years ago and residing in Israel today. One cannot help thinking about the time that Mr. Pollard’s father lay dying in Indiana, harboring the hope of seeing his son one more time before he passed away. All that was required was presidential intervention and the granting of a 24-hour furlough to see his dad and to attend the funeral. President Obama refused to act.
Now, at least–though it is after 30 years–Mr. Pollard has another chance at life. Ezra Schwartz, sadly, does not. May his family be comforted in their loss amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.