Thoughts on the Slaughter in Pittsburgh

Oct. 29 2018

Commenting on the bloody attack on worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue last Shabbat, and some of the reactions to it, John Podhoretz writes:

In a classic act of anti-Semitic violence, which is what this was, Jews hear the echoes of every violent anti-Semitic act that has preceded it in history. And we hear those echoes because they are there. That which motivates hatred of Jews today is what has motivated it from time immemorial—the poisonously attractive idea that Jews need to be extirpated because our existence is an offense or a threat to an existing larger order.

The blessing of Jewish life in America is that this notion has largely been consigned to the dregs from which today’s human malignancy rose. Despite the fact that most hate crimes in America are aimed at Jews, the actual number is vanishingly small—especially compared with France, from which Jews are now fleeing, and England, whose Labor party is in the hands of an actual Jew-hater. . . .

To those who object to the notion that more American synagogues ought to consider having armed guards, Podhoretz adds:

There are armed guards inside and around synagogues and Jewish institutions all over the place. Jewish day schools have armed guards. Besides which, many of us go to work in buildings with armed guards. Is it a wonderful or healthy thing that this is necessary? No. But the act of saying that it might be a good idea because there are lunatics who might otherwise do terrible things should be unobjectionable. . . .

In a time of horror, we should all look to the blessings of wisdom to save us from the moral idiocy into which we can fall, all too easily. “The wise will inherit honor,” says Proverbs. “Fools display dishonor.”

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More about: American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Jewish World

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat