Anti-Semitism and Holocaust

Deep Shocks to the Psyche
The Rejectionist Palestinian Riots of 2000 brought with them a number of severe shocks to the Jewish world and to the Jewish psyche. Some 10 weeks after the riots began, Jews, in Israel and in the Diaspora, are still deep in the throes of those shocks.

To try to better cope with them, we should identify what they are. To do that, let us recap some of the events and developments of the past 10 weeks.

  • The timing of the riots. While the violence actually began in Gaza a week before the start of the Yamim Noraim, the orchestrated Temple Mount "eruption" occurred on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.
    For most Jews, of course, this is a special time of year, a very serious time of year, more reflective, contemplative, introspective, a time when we speculate upon life's uncertainties and ponder specifically the unknowability of our own future. It is a time when we feel, in a certain sense, vulnerable.
    It was during this time, when we were feeling most vulnerable, that the violence began, stirring, as it were, our individual feelings into a collective national mood.
  • The "spontaneity" of the riots. From the very first moments of the riots, it was obvious that it had been planned, directed and maintained under the instructions of Yasser Arafat and his lieutenants. The stones had been gathered into piles on the Temple Mount; guns and automatic rifles had been distributed to the Tanzim; schools had been closed; the Palestinian media had begun delivering militant, martial messages well before Arik Sharon's "stroll" on the Temple Mount.
  • Abuse of children. The celebrated use of children by the PA on the front lines and, conversely, the deliberate shootings aimed at Israeli schoolbuses or private vehicles carrying children has been simply shocking. The PA's goal was to ensure children on both sides would be killed.
  • Jerusalem, but not for Jews. Virtually simultaneous with the rioting on the Temple Mount was the launching of a public campaign by PA leaders questioning the existences of the First and Second Temple and "warning" against the attempt by the Israelis to "Judaize Jerusalem." Thus the PA realigned the conflict. It was no longer against Israel but against the Jews; it was no longer against a competing territorial claim but now against Judaism itself.
  • Muslim anti-Jewish intolerance. Muslim religious leaders have been among the most vitriolic and venomous inciters of hatred against the Jews of Israel. The fiercest rioting occurs regularly after Friday prayers.
  • Worldwide, anti-Jewish intolerance. Like a callus that we hardly feel any longer but know is still there, Jews are not surprised by the occasional expressions of overt anti-Semitism. But the anti-Semitism that erupted around the world in the wake of the rioting, especially in the West, was truly shocking. And the incidents continue. The following was reported merely last week: Australian police defused a bomb that was found in a Sydney-area synagogue; about a dozen Jewish-owned stores in a suburb of Rome were vandalised; 17 gravestones were damaged in a Jewish cemetery in the German town of Saarbrucken; nearly all of the graves in the Jewish cemetery in the town of Lichtenburg, South Africa were damaged. That was only one week of reported incidents.
  • The silence of the Christian world. Even acknowledging, for the sake of argument, the reluctance of the Church to support the justice of Israel's claim in the territorial aspect of the conflict, no Church leaders have commented upon, let alone condemned, the breathtakingly harsh, anti-Jewish nature of the conflict on the part of the Palestinians and their allies.
  • The hypocrisy of the West. Western governments - including Canada, alas - have reverted to the same tired, dangerous, unhelpful Israel-bashing policies at the United Nations that characterized the nightmarish, morally-inverted days in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War.
  • The toll of the dead. All of the deaths, some 300 to date, were avoidable. The rioting need not have been ordered, need not have persisted, need not now continue. No one should have died.
Thus, given all that has happened since Rosh Hashanah, how could the Jewish psyche not be deeply shocked? We struggle to find answers to troubling, even numbing questions.

The first, and perhaps only true question, is: why? Why is the perpetuation of hatred seemingly embraced so much more enthusiastically by the Palestinian leadership than the attempt to foster understanding? Are the Palestinians irredeemably opposed to any Jewish state in the Middle East? If so, what was the point of the Oslo process? Was it simply a ruse by Arafat, as the Oslo opponents always said? Is there an alternative to a peace process with the Arafat-led Palestinians? Is there an alternative peace "partner" to Arafat? Can the two clashing cultures, societies, ways of life and sets of values ever be reconciled? Why, in the year 2000, do we still see and hear the same ignorant, malicious, attitudes towards the Jews as were heard in medieval times?

Mordechai Ben-Dat
Editor - Canadian Jewish News
December 14, 2000.

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