I had an emotional breakdown in public today. I don’t even have those in private. But first let me give this some context…
Last night I rented “The Pianist,” starring Adrien Brody. It was extremely difficult to watch. Draining. The attention to detail is superb, and it is perhaps one of the most historically and emotionally aware/accurate films I’ve ever seen. It is set in Warsaw during the invasion of Poland in 1939, and follows one man – Władysław Szpilman – throughout his experience inside and outside the ghetto walls.
While watching this film, I was thinking about the research paper I am in the process of writing. It addresses this question: “Could America/Great Britain have done more to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust?” The answer is most certainly YES; but that is not what I want to focus on. Rather, I want to know: 1) where was the outrage AND 2) Why aren’t more people concerned about dispelling the ignorant beliefs that foster anti-Semitic attitudes? Do people even know what needs to be dispelled?
As I was watching “The Pianist,” with other historical events in mind, my frustration grew. The compliance of the general populace with the atrocities being committed made me want to pull my hair out. However, I was even more on edge because of the large and looming anti-Israel bias that is prevalent today… even after all this history.
Are anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism the same thing? Many would say no. However, there is a very observable correlation that cannot be ignored. According to recent research – not to mention my personal, nonchalant observations – anti-Semitism is on the rise. In fact, more global anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 2009 than any year since WWII. Much of this growing anti-Semitism is fueled by increasing anti-Israel beliefs and attitudes. It’s a dangerous situation with ingredients just waiting to be stirred. Ironically, this week’s “What Would You Do?” episode featured anti-Semitism. The results, while somewhat encouraging, were also tainted by the fact that you don’t have to go far to find historically ignorant and hateful people.
This morning I decided to visit Michigan Avenue (Chicago, IL) and see which new books were out at Borders. I had no goal in mind, but ending up purchasing “The Case For Israel” by Alan Dershowitz. I’ve done my own in-depth personal studies on this matter, starting my freshman year in high school when I gained an interest in Israel’s modern history. However, Dershowitz presents the arguments in such a clean, convincing manner that I decided it would be a much-used, helpful reference. I walked out of Borders feeling very adamant, mulling over arguments I’ve had with former friends and acquaintances regarding Israel, and whether or not the Jewish people have the right to their own nation (which is, by the way, the size of New Jersey).
As I was contemplating these things, book in hand, I cut through the Water Tower plaza area. The crowd changed. I came to the realization that I was surrounded by a line of people, on either side of myself, holding up signs. Mildly confused for a moment, I soon realized what was going on. A pamphlet was shoved in my face: “End the Siege on Gaza. Stop Atrocious Israeli War Crimes.” Another one said something about one Jew’s life not being worth the Palestinian nation. There were pictures lined all along the plaza of bloody Palestinian children – apparently mutilated by malicious Israeli soldiers. A man started yelling “we just want Salaam!” Another picture was shoved in my face. I shoved it away with an angry, “NO.” I stopped and turned around, standing in the middle of the crowd, wanting to yell something. But I couldn’t. All I could say was, “Stupid.” I was so frustrated my eyes were welling up with tears and my face was already bright red. The protesters noticed. Three men stopped their conversations and turned toward me with curious expressions. I just turned around and walked away, tears in eyes. I’ve encountered anti-Israel protesters many times before, but this was different. I was unprepared and emotionally primed. The timing was too perfect. I thought of all the ignorant shoppers, and how easily they could be convinced by the out of context facts, figures and pictures. Propaganda that could be likened to Hitler’s clever campaign.
Killing was justified in Europe because people believed the Jews were the cause of their financial troubles, etc. Strong religious anti-Semitic beliefs also ran deep, and it did not take much to bring them to life. Today people see Israel as an annoyance. There have been scads of books and articles written on how the Holocaust needs to stop being used as an excuse for the Jewish nation, Israel.
This is deeply troubling. I’m not saying the glass is half-empty or anything, because that would imply a misguided psychological interpretation of the situation. I’m simply saying this is how it is. These are the facts. This is what is happening. It’s unacceptable. No matter how scarce or prevalent.
A blind boy feels a relief of a map of Israel.
Photo by David Rubinger, “Witness to An Era.”
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