Many people have already written about the semblance of blaming the victim when we extol the bravery and determination of cancer survivors, thereby implying that those who don’t survive somehow haven’t fought as hard or had the right positive attitude. A recent article about the medical understanding of the quality of random-ness in the formation of most cancers - with the exception of those forms caused or exacerbated by external toxic agents (cigarettes) - is another indicator that individual efforts to stay healthy or recover from an illness may have less to do with sterling character traits than we give ourselves credit for. This thought came to mind while watching Wolf Blitzer’s one hour program focusing on four “Heroes of Auschwitz,” survivors who managed to get to America and create new lives after the war. Though there have been studies showing a correlation between survival and religious belief as well as a purpose in life , it surely is the ultimate chutzpah and dishonor to the millions of victims who were felled to pretend that survival was largely a factor of strong will and therefore within their control.
In watching “Night Will Fall,” the documentary made frm the British and American footage of the liberation of the concentration camps at the close of WWII, what struck me first was the irrationality of Nazis starving a slave population that was intended to work. How inefficient that was as people diminished to skeletal weight and racked by dysentery and typhus could not have performed tasks with even the semblance of purposeful activity. This only adds to the mystery of why the Germans went to the expense and bother of constructing and staffing camps and transporting victims to them, often from great distances, instead of killing people in situ as they frequently did in mass ditches dug by the victims at the outskirts of towns and villages. According to Daniel Goldhagen (How Auschwitz is Misunderstood NYT 1/25), it was to distance the killers from their victims. Though this was true for prisoners brought from all over Europe, it certainly wasn’t true for German Jews who were brought to camps in Germany which were in close proximity to their former neighbors. A look at the map that Alfred Hitchcock created for the original documentary shows camps dotting Germany, often within a mile of cities and villages.
For answers to why so many young Jews are disaffected about Judaism and uninformed and hostile towards Israel, consult The Jewish Week of Jan 23rd. The cover story addresses the meeting organized by Repair the World at a Martin Luther King Shabbat in Crown Heights where three community activists spoke about race, privilege and partnership. The panel included a black woman, Tynesha McHarris (director of community leadership at the Brooklyn Community Foundation; a black man, Mark Winston Griffith (exec. director of the Brooklyn Movement Center) and a white Jewish woman, Amy Ellenbogen (director of Crown Heights Community Mediation Center). A questioner asked how the largely white audience could become effective allies in pursuing racial justice. McHarris responded that people of color needed to be the leaders while white people could follow and support. Griffith disagreed and said that his aency offered leadership roles to everybody. Ellenbogen stated that whites needed to “shut up and listen, and when you’re done with that, shut up and listen some more.” When a question arose concerning the selective filtering of history in the movie “Selma,” Professor James Goodman (History, Rutgers) felt that it was perfectly legitimate to airbrush Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel from the film despite his enormous contribution to the Civil Rights Movement, his prominent position at the march (the iconic photo shows him in the front line) and his close personal friendship with Dr. King.
It’s nice that the United Nations General Assembly held its first meeting recently on anti-Semitism, but while there were some important issues raised, the thing was rife with irony.
The meeting “sparked calls for global action to combat the rising hatred of Jews and a surprising denunciation from the world’s 57 Islamic nations of all words and acts that lead to hatred, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia,” according to the Associated Press.
The denunciation by the Arab World — Saudi Arabia in particular — is indeed surprising, shocking, really, until you note that it threw “Islamophobia” in there, in a cynical effort to equate Israeli self defense and attempts to stop the Islamization of Europe, with murderous attacks against innocent, unarmed Jews in Israel and elsewhere.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, said the statement delivered by the Saudi Arabian U.N. Ambassador on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was “extremely significant,” especially since the United Nations has often been a venue to try to de-legitimize Israel, A.P. reported.
Clearly, Powers didn’t immediately catch on to the Saudi game, because she’s right — the U.N. has become a body focused almost entirely on bashing Israel, and I can’t believe the Arab world has suddenly seen the error of its ways.
Despite the incessant (and patently false) drum beat out of the Arab world that Israel is an Apartheid state, the real Apartheid is found in Saudi Arabia where Jews aren’t really allowed to be at all. By contrast, a large minority of Israel’s population is Arab — Muslims and Christians — and they have completely equal rights, serving in the Knesset and the military and as doctors and patients in Israeli hospitals and teachers and students in Israeli schools and universities.
Most sites on the issue of Jews in Saudi Arabia, however, suggest that if Jews deny being Jews, they might be allowed to visit the kingdom, but not if they have ever visited Israel. Israelis are verboten altogether, and no Jews have lived in Saudi Arabia since the creation of the kingdom.
This was not always so.
The so-called holy city of Medina was, in ancient times, first settled by Jewish tribes, according to historical references. Some scholars even suggest the roots of the virulent anti-Semitism in the Muslim world today, may be traced to the ancient Jews’ refusal to accept Muhammad as a prophet.
“One of the reasons for ‘this discrimination’ against the Jews is… because the Jews’ development of land and culture was a prime source of booty in the Arabian desert peninsula,” one source says. “Beginning at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam — from the expulsions, depredations, extortion, forced conversions or murder of Jewish Arabians settled in Medina to the mass slaughter of Jews at Khaibar — the precedent was established among Arab-Muslims to expropriate that which belonged to the Jews.”
So, unless the Saudis have suddenly seen the light, they are merely trying to do it again — to expropriate the fight against anti-Semitism, and turn it around to suit their purposes.
But, let’s examine the meaning of the two words — anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The one means the irrational hatred of Jews and the other means the irrational fear of Muslims. To my mind — and when held up to historic review and against today’s headlines — the one has no realistic basis and the other, kinda doesn’t seem necessarily irrational. The Jews have never deserved the periodic waves of attacks against them through the ages — the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust. But, one need not be Einstein to notice that Islamo-Fascists are wreaking havoc, slaughtering innocents, worldwide.
It is not irrational to fight to keep the irrational mindset that drives the Islamists from taking root in the West, because a world under the jackboot of Sharia Law would not be worth living in.
So, that Saudi/Arab announcement, seeking to equate Jew hatred with fear of Islamists, is going to be used against the Jews and the West in years, or maybe days, to come. I’m sure of it.
Part of the reason that Islamic terrorism continues to proliferate in the western world is that too many of our opinion-molders and interpreters have been hamstrung by not understanding that we are fighting a war which always means that certain freedoms need emergency adjustment. We all accepted the need for us to remove our shoes and submit to personal searches when airplane hijacking became part of our new normality. But we also submitted to the notion that blaming Islam for the murderous deeds of a minority was somehow a “phobic” over-reaction and unacceptable in our politically correct society. So we went out of the way to mislabel a terrorist attack at Fort Hood as “workplace violence” and to insist that not erecting a mosque less than two blocks away from the killing fields of Ground Zero was an assault on our freedom of religion. Some among us became enraged at the revelation of how much data the NSA had collected in its extraordinary surveillance, forgetting that the loss of some privacy may have been essential for increased security from terrorist acts. The tagline for Nicholas Kristof’s article in today’s Times is “Let’s not respond to extremists with our own brand of intolerance.” (1/8/15)
Remember your personal physician? He or she may not be yours much longer. And even if they are still your doctor, the odds are they are not really working for you. Soon, most doctors will have abandoned their private practices and become employees of hospitals, multihospital affiliations, or the Government. Only 35% of doctors currently describe themselves as independent, compared with 62% in 2008. This trend will undoubtedly continue; a doctor graduating from medical school today has little or no chance of starting their own solo practice. How did this happen, and why does it threaten patients?
It seems to me the Palestinians must be feeling pretty confident that the world has completely ingested the revisionist Arab narrative to take what even the A.P. called the “risky” step of trying to bring war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.