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Jews, Be Jews By: Myles Kantor
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, July 05, 2004

It’s obscene to blame the victim, but one can condemn being a victim.

On June 4, an Arab stabbed 17-year-old yeshiva student Israel Ifrah in the Parisian suburb of Epinay and shouted, “Allahu Aqbar!”  On May 30, a group of men attacked a rabbi’s son in the suburb Boulogne-Billancourt.[1]

Dutch journalist Joshua Livestro recently observed:


In Amsterdam, a Turkish man, apparently mistaken for a Jew, was verbally abused and beaten up by two Arab immigrant youths. A Jewish retirement home was firebombed. Observant Jews no longer feel safe wearing yarmulkes in public. [Emphasis added.] Anti-Semitic slogans appear on Jewish graves and synagogue buildings.[2]


This is part heartbreaking, part infuriating. 


After the 1903 Kishinev pogrom in Moldova, Israeli poet Chaim Bialik wrote “In the City of Slaughter.”  It states at one point:


...the heirs
Of Hasmoneans lay, with trembling knees,
Concealed and cowering—the sons of the Maccabees!
The seed of saints, the scions of the lions!
Who, crammed by scores in all the sanctuaries of their shame,
So sanctified My name!
It was the flight of mice they fled,
The scurrying of roaches was their flight;
They died like dogs, and they were dead!


It was a terrible image for a terrible condition, and the monstrousness of the crime made self-defense that much more urgent. Bialik’s poem inspired Jews in Gomel (White Russia) to establish self-defense units that resisted a pogrom in September 1903.[4]  Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky was a young journalist in 1903 and had done likewise in his native Odessa.[5] 


Similarly, Jewish Defense League founder Rabbi Meir Kahane—murdered in 1990 by an Egyptian linked with the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing[6]—remarked in a discussion of Zionists who in May 1947 freed peers held by the British at Acre fortress in northern Israel:


Jews!  Members of a people that the world for 2,000 years had equated with weakness.  A nation that had become synonymous with fearful timidity, passivity, and—yes—cowardice.  A people that was beaten and did not beat back; that was trampled upon without response; that was Chosen, chosen for slaughter.  A people that had, just two years earlier, completed the mostly grisly chapter in its history, a chapter that saw six million die in gas chambers and other products of European culture.[7]


There was fury in Bialik and Kahane’s words: the fury felt upon seeing one’s brethren degraded with impunity and inaction.


In the Book of Jonah, the prophet is asked who he is and answers, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.”  The next verse begins, “Then the men were exceedingly afraid…”[8]


Jews today (at least those outside Israel) are a long way from this, and Jewish comedian Jackie Mason’s joke comes to mind: “I never saw four black people walking down the street saying, ‘Watch out, there’s a Jew over there!’”[9]


Jews don’t need to be bullies.  They just need to defend their dignity.


They just need to be Jews.




[1] Michel Zlotowski, “”Paris protests Jewish youth stabbing,” The Jerusalem Post, June 5, 2004.  These crimes bring to mind a December 3, 2003 story in The New York Times by Elaine Sciolino, “Attacks by Arabs on Jews in France Revive Old Fears.”  It began, “The boys hide their skullcaps under baseball caps.  The girls tuck their Star of David necklaces under their sweaters.”  These Jews are from the suburb Gagny east of Paris.  Their concealment followed the arson of a Jewish school in their area.

[2] Joshua Livestro, “Arab Jew-hatred in The Netherlands,” The Jerusalem Post, May 6, 2004.

[4] See David Aberbach, Bialik (New York: Grove Press, 1988).

[5] See Shmuel Katz, Lone Wolf: A Biography of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky (New York: Barricade Books, 1996), pp. 44-46.  Self-defense became a cornerstone of Jabotinsky’s Revisionist movement.  He wrote to young Polish Jews in 1927, “The Galut [Exile] has weakened our bodies, has undermined the foundations of our vital force…Gather in your heart the language [Hebrew] and all its treasures, and teach your muscles courage…”  Lone Wolf, p. 1021. 

[6] See John Miller, The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot, and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It (New York: Hyperion, 2002), pp. 38-68.

[7] Meir Kahane, Listen World, Listen Jew (Jerusalem: Institute for the Publication of the Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane, 1995), p. 124.

[8] Jonah: 9-10.

[9] Jackie Mason, The World According to Me! (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), p. 42.  He also notes, “Everyone is amazed at the unbelievable might of the Israeli army.  It’s a direct contradiction to the image of a Jew.”  Ibid.  Rabbi Joseph Telushkin includes a joke with a point similar to Mason’s in Jewish Humor (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1992), p. 77: “Two Jews are dragged by antisemites before a firing squad.  The first one cries out: ‘Stop!  Stop!  You’re murdering an innocent man.’  ‘Sh…Sh…,’ says the second.  ‘Don’t make trouble.’”

Myles Kantor is a columnist for FrontPageMagazine.com and editor-at-large for Pureplay Press, which publishes books about Cuban history and culture. His e-mail address is myles.kantor@gmail.com.

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