Villainization comes to a ‘blue state’

The ‘Israeli War Crimes’ bus billboards were pulled just days before they were to debut.

January 8, 2011 21:32
2 minute read.
Harry Zeitlin

Harry Zeitlin 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The smoke has cleared and the good guys won, but rather than having any sense of seing justice done or witnessing a victory over evil, I’m tense, depressed and waiting for the other shoe to fall. In case you missed the news, the anti-Semitic “Israeli War Crimes” bus billboards were pulled just a few days before they were scheduled to debut here in Seattle.

Seattle is one of the most liberal cities in America, with almost limitless tolerance.

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It goes out of its way to be inoffensive. It surely tops 11 on the pc-o-meter. If you hadn’t already read about it, it was deliberately chosen (along with Albuquerque, Houston and several other cities) as a test market, purchasing side-of-bus and freestanding billboards depicting a presumably wardemolished building and terrified Palestinian children, along with the accusation that Israel receives $30 billion of US taxpayers’ money to commit war crimes.

SEATTLE, JUST because it is a bastion of free speech and relativism, seemed a perfect place to try to sneak vile hate-speech under the radar of those “freedoms.”

Although the county bus authority finally showed the courage to pull these ads, the episode revealed a level of hate I, naively, never imagined was possible in postwar, post-Civil Rights Act America.

That it was ever even conceived of as acceptable has been one of my life’s most painful moments.

Several good-hearted county council members had the courage to denounce these ads for what they were, but the decision to pull them only came when the threat of inciting local violence was invoked.

If, like all of us, you have a short memory, it was only a couple years ago that a local terrorist decided to kill some Jews and broke into the local federation office and started shooting, killing one woman and wounding several others.

I’m scared and depressed, unable to transform this article into something positive, as is my wont.

I’m shocked that any American entertained for even a moment the idea that this kind of public hate speech is okay. That this was initially approved, not to mention cancelled for any reason other than it was just plain unacceptable terrifies me. It’s only a matter of time until this sort of message pops up again and becomes acceptable as “a valid narrative.”

This, of course, is the reason a city like Seattle is such fertile ground. Going out of our way to be nonjudgmental, as radical philosophy dictates, there is no longer any such thing as Truth, only “competing narratives.”

Once you are able to camouflage your agenda as a narrative, it becomes equal to all other narratives.

It all sounds so polite, until you remember the ancient Jewish wisdom: “He who is kind to the cruel is cruel to the kind.”

Maybe not yet, thank God, but tomorrow our villainization will become an acceptable narrative, even here in America.

The writer is an independent Orthodox rabbi living in Seattle.

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