‘My daughter, are you laughing or crying?” asks Chava Alberstein in a song that was popular just after the Six Day War. Israelis can be forgiven for asking the same question today.
Although Operation Protective Edge has not been declared a war there is no doubt that most of us will remember it as such. Apart from the signs obvious to outside observers – the massive call-up of reserve forces, the 64 fallen IDF soldiers, the images of death and destruction coming out of Gaza, and the missiles that rained down on this country – there are other peculiarly Israeli indications that this is a war: Songs have been written commemorating the soldiers and a decent satire show starring Eyal Kitzis is keeping audiences amused.
One of the songs going viral on the social media is Hamas’s short clip which was meant to strike fear into the heart of Israelis. Nonetheless, with a catchy tune and lyrics in laughable Hebrew, “Attack! Carry Out Terror Strikes!” has been repelled by Jewish humor, a favorite means of self-defense over the centuries. Parodies include versions “a la Smurfs,” “a capella,” and a cute Lion King cover.
But who needs satire when the reality is so absurd.
Among the many emails I received this week was one from a group called BDS Italy. The self-righteousness of the far Left made me laugh so much I feel compelled to share the bad joke with readers: “BDS Italy expresses its unequivocal and absolute condemnation of the shameful posters plastered around the city of Rome by the neo-fascist group Militia, as well as the general co-optation of the Palestinian cause by the extreme right to spread anti-Semitism,” it read. “BDS Italy denounces anti-Semitism as racist and reactionary ideology and condemns the use of Palestinian suffering as a pretext and tool for spreading this vile ideology. In particular, we condemn the fascist call to boycott Jewish-owned businesses, a call which includes an appalling ‘blacklist.’ “BDS Italy notes that the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel... has nothing to do with the odious and despicable maneuvers of fascists new and old.”
Well, thanks for clarifying that. I’ll sleep much easier now, missile alerts permitting.
While so many of us are wondering if Europe has returned to the pre-World War II era, it is clearer than ever that the existence of Israel (albeit under fire both physically and figuratively) has made a difference. When Jews hear calls to “Get out!” and “Go home!” they at least have a homeland to go to. That could have altered the shape of Jewish history had it been the situation in the 1930s and the first half of the 1940s.
I’m waiting for the BDS-ers to wake up and realize who else is lying in the same bed with them: radical jihadists.
These are fanatics whose idea of human rights does not extend to the female 50 percent of the world’s population and who negate even the rights of millions of Muslim men, if they fail to practice the religion according to the strict interpretation of their own particular stream.
Obviously the tremendous rise in anti-Semitism is making some people in high places uncomfortable. It’s one thing to bash and boycott Israel and evidently it’s another to physically beat up and sideline Jews. That’s so old-fashioned. It reminds people of things they’d rather forget.
Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was moved to issue a statement denouncing anti-Semitism earlier this month. It also made me laugh.
Ban reportedly “deplores the recent upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks, particularly in Europe, in connection with protests concerning the escalation of violence in Gaza.
The Secretary-General emphasizes that the conflict in the Middle East must not constitute a pretext for prejudice that could affect social peace and harmony anywhere.”
I’m thinking of asking the secretary-general’s office to email me the names of places where “social peace and harmony” exist: It shouldn’t take much of their time; I’m sure the list is short.
But of course Ban’s office is busy with other things, many of them fostering the same anti-Semitism he professes to deplore. Among this summer’s jokes in very poor taste is the appointment of the United Nations Human Rights Council panel to investigate possible human rights violations in Operation Protective Edge.
Correction: Israeli human rights violations. Evidently Hamas’s use of human shields to fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli citizens does not count as a war crime if you’re sitting in a comfortable chair in a UN office a world away from Tel Aviv.
Early on in the war I was asked by a British radio interviewer whether Israelis were surprised by the UNHRC condemnation. The answer is not in the least. It’s part of the ritual. We would have been surprised had the UN for a change stood by this particular democratic sovereign state under fire.
However, I would have liked to have seen a real effort by the UN to investigate the abuse of its own facilities in Gaza. As Hamas’s tremendous network of tunnels shows, one of the goals of the terrorist movement is abducting Israeli soldiers and citizens. And Hamas has managed to hijack something precious: world opinion and the UN.
The reports and images coming out of Gaza served Hamas’s needs, although the Foreign Press Association in Israel this week issued a statement protesting “in the strongest terms the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month.”
As many of us suspected, the press in Gaza was free to report only what Hamas wanted it to and showed it.
Only a UN being held hostage would ignore the fact that its own schools housed stockpiles of rockets and weapons (and we are still waiting to hear conclusively that, contrary to the evidence, UNRWA didn’t hand at least some of these rockets back to Hamas).
In an interview with the same radio station this week I was asked for the Israeli reaction to the decision by the British government to suspend some of its arms exports to Israel if hostilities resume in Gaza, due to concerns that the products could be used by the IDF.
Talking just over 24 hours from the likely expiration of the cease-fire, I didn’t feel comfortable at any level – although years ago I lost my expectations of the once cherished British sense of fair play.
The UK – like the UN and the BDS-ers in Italy and elsewhere – officially decries the rise in anti-Semitism, of course, but when Israeli performances are removed from cultural events, a Jewish entertainer expresses his fears of having been blacklisted, and the Palestinian flag flies in places ranging from Glasgow in Scotland to Tower Hamlets in London, the situation is serious.
The declaration by MP George Galloway that his constituency of Bradford is an Israel-Free Zone, where Israeli services, goods, scholars and tourists are not welcome, met with a wry laugh over here and a funny skit on You- Tube portraying Israelis infiltrating the Israel-rein area to distribute our favorite snack, Bamba. But it’s no laughing matter.
The world does not understand the jihadist threat and fails to see Hamas as part of it.
As Israel’s ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor put it in a brilliant speech on August 6: “It might be too much to ask you to stand on our side in this battle between civilization and barbarism. But at least have the decency to swallow your selective outrage as Israel wages war against the extremist groups seeking to eradicate the values that we all hold very dear...
“Israel is on the front-line of the war against radical extremism. The battle we fight today is the same battle that you all will fight tomorrow. Hamas, like ISIS and al-Qaida, shares a disdain for democracy, a contempt for modernity, and a willingness to target innocent civilians.”
Promising to take action against Israel if Hamas resumes its attacks on the Jewish state is a very sick joke. It’s the sort of joke that could end up with millions of people being killed – starting with Jews but not ending there.
The writer is editor of
The International Jerusalem Post.firstname.lastname@example.org