Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Dangerous fantasy

One day, during my junior year of high school, I was playing chess against a computer program during lunchtime, when a classmate named ------- Snow (I have no recollection of his first name, if indeed I ever knew it) approached me from behind and slapped me on the back of the head. I asked him what he thought he was doing, and he said, “I hate Jewish people.”

Inflammatory hyperbole

Inflammatory hyperbole: the cartoon that cried “genocide.”
[ Image Source ]

Informed that I wasn’t Jewish, he asked, “Then where did you get the big nose?”

“It grew,” I replied. “Where did you get the small brain?”

A lifetime of such experiences has left me vividly aware of what it must be actually to be Jewish in a world filled with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and assorted other bigots who are ever prepared to hate other people who have done nothing to them simply for having skin a shade too dark or light, a nose of the wrong size or shape, or similar apparently intolerable offenses against the bigots’ sensibilities. A lifetime of such experiences has also convinced me of something else, however: One will meet with injustice, but there are two ways to respond to it: to adopt the motto, “Shit rolls downhill,” and pass on the injustice by tormenting someone else, or to redouble one’s determination to fight such injustice wherever one finds it.

It seems to me that, having experienced xenophobia and persecution, Jewish people have divided into two camps, each adopting one of the above responses.

Traditionally, Jews have been minorities scattered across many lands, living all too plainly by sufferance: Their status, their livelihoods, their very lives have depended upon the goodwill of the majority. This has ennobled them through the bitter tuition of powerless misery, making of them the most liberal, rational and studious of peoples: unoffending scholars, tradesmen and professionals who have imposed themselves on none.

But since the founding of Israel, Jews have had a homeland in which — for the first time in millennia — they hold the balance of power. This has enabled the shit-rolls-downhill faction to assert itself, and it has done so with reckless ferocity, unleashing on the Palestinians whose homeland they annexed all the pent fury of a hundred generations of oppression.

Most Jews, I think, remain indissolubly wed to the principles of equity, liberalism and justice. But a vociferous Jewish-supremacist faction holds much power in Israel, with rabid rabbis preaching genocide and “cruel deeds” and xenophobes like the creator of this cartoon who willingly distort history to revile their detractors.

Examining the cartoon, we find that of the entities listed, only Nazi Germany ever mounted an attempt at genocide. This is not to say that oppression and frequent vicious pogroms were anything but a horrific reality in all of these places and more, but the reality is quite sufficient without hyperbole that appears to trivialize it; the horrors are real and need no embellishment, and enlarging upon them can only yield ammunition to those who would accuse Jews of imagining or exaggerating their sufferings.

Of course, the real purpose of this cartoon is to threaten Iran with divine retribution. But Iran has never espoused genocide: Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s widely reported advocation of “wip[ing] Israel off the map” referred to a desire to make it into a majority-Palestinian state, not to obliterate it; and even Ahmadinejad, for all his inferable prejudices, has never expressed hatred for all Jews, but merely for an aggressive and unjust Zionist regime. We can rebuke him for his rhetoric, but we cannot infer from it a desire on the part of all Iran to annihilate all Jews.

Originally published as an adverse review of a political cartoon. Update: As of 8 May 2015, this page returns a 404 Not Found error.

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