September 27, 2009
Two Jews stand like bookends, with nearly a hundred years and six million murdered relatives in between.
At one end, it's 1911 and Zev Jabotinsky is writing an essay he calls, "Instead of Excessive Apology."
The neighbors live and are not ashamed....Do our neighbors blush for the Christians in Kishinyov who hammered nails into Jewish babies' eyes?
We immediately understand from his question that they did not... blush.
"Not in the least,-- they walk with head raised high and look everybody in the face; they are absolutely right, and this is how it must be, as the persona of a people is royal, and not responsible and is not obliged to apologize..."
In the face of this extraordinary depravity for which no shame is evident, Jabotinsky concludes that we, the Jewish people, "do not have to account to anybody" -- especially, I would guess, not to those who hammer nails into babies' eyes. Our babies.
"We are not to sit for anybody's examination and nobody is old enough to call on us to answer. We came before them and will leave after them. We are what we are, we are good for ourselves..."
Furthermore, he demands that we apologize "only in rare, unique and extremely important moments, when we are completely confident that the Areopagus in front of us really has just intentions and proper competence."
Fast forward now, to yesterday, when Bibi Netanyahu stood before the Nations -with sheaves of documentation in hand- and asked,
"Have you no shame? Have you no decency?"
It was indeed "a rare, unique and extremely important moment" -- but who in their right mind and of good conscience could have been "completely confident" in the "just intentions and proper competence" of the delegates of the Nations arrayed before him in the General Assembly?
Before we ever again dignify such a shameful gathering with a Jewish presence, we need to ask ourselves some Jabotinsky questions.
Who are we, to make excuses to them? Who are they to interrogate us?
What is the purpose of this mock trial over the entire people where the sentence is known in advance?
We are always on trial; just pick up any newspaper. Yet I do not mean to say that Netanyahu made excuses, nor did he apologize. He did nothing of the sort. But he explained.
Perhaps it is time for an essay on Excessive Explanation... to whatever Jew-haters, Cossacks or Hitlers are gaining power at any given moment in our unfolding history.
Caroline Glick, in one of her most brilliant moments, wrote that
.... the Holocaust, in and of itself, tells us nothing about Jewish identity.It only tells us about the rest of the world.... The group that really ought to be taking the Holocaust to heart is not the Jews, but the Europeans who two generations ago descended to the depths of human depravity by either conducting the extermination of European Jewry or enabling it.Sadly, Europe has avoided serious self-examination and instead has turned the Holocaust into a fetish. Holocaust memorials spring up like mushrooms after the rainfall throughout the continent. But what do they signify?.... Israel has a duty to recall the Holocaust for what it means to the Jewish people to have lost a third of our members. But we have nothing to gain from joining the Europeans in their bizarre Holocaust rituals.
She went on to say that "It is neither our right nor our responsibility to wash [their] hands of our brothers' blood."
I would take this a step further today, and assert that we Jews have no right to the shame of others. Just because the Nations "walk with head raised high and look everybody in the face [as if] they are absolutely right, and this is how it must be," does not mean that we should take their responsibilities onto our own shoulders.
I can see - anyone can see - that the Nations have no shame; Bibi's asking of the question is sufficient answer thereof. It is now just as it was a hundred years ago - and perhaps a thousand, two thousand, three thousand years ago - as Jabotinsky said... "The neighbors live and are not ashamed."
That's their problem. And they can answer to their G-d for that.
But what of the Jewish people? Are we not ashamed? Have we not become confused over millennia of death and persecution, into believing that somehow we are responsible for the depravities to which we have been subjected?
I think I touched on this unknowingly, briefly (and gingerly) in 2005, when I introduced with great sarcasm a post I called Move the Jews ...
Those Jews, they're always getting themselves murdered. And then evacuated because of it.
Here they are in Hebron in 1929 having to be evacuated by the British because the Arabs had rioted and murdered [them] and the Brits had done naught to stop it.
Palestine Facts: The Arab violence in Hebron was one of the worst atrocities in the modern history of Israel....
Arab violence, the "worst atrocities," mass forced expulsions throughout time and space, Nazi Nations attempting our genocide, wiping our people off their map in speeches, proposing with sick fascination a world without Zionists, incinerating busloads of Jews in the city of our ancient kings... This is a sickening history. And we have allowed these very Nations to persuade us that it is the history of the Jewish people.
In point of fact, however, it their history -- their violence, their depravities and atrocities, their nails, their ovens, their human bombs. It is a history that "tells us nothing about Jewish identity."
As far as I can see, the Jewish people have only one thing to be ashamed of, and that is that we have allowed others to obscure our identity, to bury it beneath their atrocities and replace it with their brutality.
We Jews need not be ashamed that they have hung us and beheaded us and butchered us and burned us alive and murdered us in every conceivable and inconceivable manner, from one end of the globe to the other. We need not be ashamed of the pogroms, the doors they closed to us, the Holocaust itself nor the fact that some would now deny it. We need not be ashamed that they leave Israel to stand alone.
We have no right to their shame, it is not our responsibility.
And so if, when, they continue to lust for our blood - hammering nails into our babies' eyes or blowing themselves up in our midst or sending missiles into our cities - we must no longer simply notice with amazement their confounding ability to walk away "with head raised high and look everybody in the face."
If our neighbors are to live and not be ashamed, not assume their moral responsibilities nor their ethical obligations, then let it not be because we have assumed these for them. Let us begin to write our own history, one that does not enable the depraved to outsource their shame onto us, but rather establishes our own simple and true Jewish identity.
Instead of standing before the Nations, explaining our dead grandparents, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins to them, let the murderers explain to us. Instead of us wringing our hands or explaining to them -perhaps excessively- their own hideous history, let us demand that at long last, they must wash their own hands... of our blood.
"We are what we are, we are good for ourselves..." Jerusalem is not Kishinyov. And we are not ashamed.
Anne Lieberman is publisher of Boker tov, Boulder!