The Silence Is Deafening

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Last week’s edition of the Forward features an article entitled “So a Soldier Goes Into Gaza . . .” The reader might well be getting the same queasy feeling that I did whern first I saw that title in the paper’s table of contents, but please read on anyway.

The piece begins: “The Gaza disengagement may be among the Jewish world’s most divisive and emotional events in decades, but for late-night TV hosts, it’s proved to be comic gold.” It then proceeds to describe at length the grand old time that Jon Stewart’s Daily Show had with the topic. And just so that any readers who happened to miss the late-night shows that week shouldn’t feel they’re missing out on the fun — I honestly have no other way to account for what I’m about to describe –the article concludes with the actual “jokes” uttered by Bill Maher, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, seven in all.

The closest the article comes — not very — to providing any sense at all that there was something morally egregious about what it was describing was in quoting the editor of a political humor website to the effect that comedians usually stay away from Israeli news “since it often involves bloodshed. But in this instance, he said, the situation offered ‘punch lines that fall on safer, less controversial ground.’ ” Makes sense, doesn’t it? No actual blood spilled, so let’s have some good clean fun with thirty-year-old homes, synagogues and businesses being destroyed, graves of terrorist victims being exhumed and Jews being dragged out of their homes by other Jews to make way for Ahmed Yassin City.

Words failed me on this one, so instead I went to the computer and e-mailed the following letter, which appears in this week’s edition of the Forward:

Editor:

I am simply incredulous at the absolute nadir of insensitivity to which the Forward descended in running an article covering American late-night comics’ jokes about the Gaza withdrawal.

That these comedians could bring themselves to use the deeply traumatic uprooting of thousands of adults and children from their homes and livelihoods of decades as a springboard for cheap laughs might not surprise; their nightly stock in trade is prompting otherwise caring individuals to chortle at others’ misery. But for a Jewish paper to blandly report on this moral outrage against fellow Jews without so much as citing a dissenting voice, and to then append a summary of the various wisecracks, seemingly for the readers’ amusement? I had trouble trusting my eyesight.

This transcends one’s personal position on the merits of the withdrawal or one’s feeling towards those evacuated — to treat so coarsely a national crisis over which hundreds of thousands of Israelis of all stripes have just wept hot tears calls for an apology.

The letter was printed, but any note indicating second thoughts, let alone an apology, has not been forthcoming.

Are we to conclude that being A Journalist means never having to say you’re sorry?

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6 Responses

  1. Netanel Livni says:

    AK,

    I am temporarly living in LA while I am, BE”H, building a house in Israel. And I do not consider America my home in any sense of the word.

  2. AK says:

    Mr. Livni,
    I.m curious, do you live in this “malchut shel chesed”, or in “the Land that G-d intended them to dwell in”?

  3. Netanel Livni says:

    Ori,

    1. The risk of a decision made by an individual has no relevance to the level of immorality of the crime against that individual. Someone who gets mugged while walking through south-central LA does not deserve less sympathy than someone who gets mugged while walking through beverly hills.

    2. The tragedy in Gush Katif was worse because it involved a tremendous chillul Hashem while Katarina did not.

    3. The halacha states clearly that you can give charity to the Jews of the Land of Israel even at the expense of your own city’s poor and definitely at the expense of non-Jews anywhere.

    4. This “malchut shel chesed” is encouraging Israel to repeat the crimes it perpetuated on Gush Katif. Further, the biggest tragedy of this “malchut shel chesed” is that it has apparently caused some Jews to forget that they are living in galut (exile) and not in the Land that G-d intended them to dwell in.

  4. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Shmuel Thomas,

    It is not so strange that Jews in North America have more sympathy to the people who suffered because of Katerina:

    1. By choosing to live in territory under Israeli control which was NOT annexed by the state of Israel, the people of Gush Katif took a calculated risk. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect that Israel might eventually withdraw (I think I remember reading somewhere that Israel wanted to give the Gaza Strip back to Egypt in the 1977 Camp David accords). Of course, you could claim that the people of New Orleans did the same by staying in a city that was under sea level.

    2. The tragedy, in the case of Katerina, is greater. The people of Gush Katif lost their homes. The luckier New Orleansians also lost their homes. Less lucky ones were stranded and robbed. Those worst off are dead, lost family members, or have to contend with the trauma of rape.

    3. The poor of Israel take priority over the poor of other nations. But the poor of one’s own city take priority over the poor who live far away (“Aniyey Ircha Kodmim”).

    4. The US is, to a large extent, “Malchut Shel Chesed”. Jews are treated as equal citizens, and as far as I can tell have always been treated that way (the first Jews to fight for the US did it in the revolutionary war, and at least one was an officer). Of course we reciprocate. To do otherwise would be ungrateful.

    Ori from Austin, TX

  5. Joel Shurkin says:

    Maybe they don’t think they did anything wrong. Maybe they don’t share your moral outrage. I don’t.

    j

  6. shmuel thomas says:

    What an outrage! I am finding Jews in North America have more sympathy and feelings for the plight of Katrina’s victims than they do for their fellow Jews in Israel. Part of the insidious affects of galus/Exile.

    That said, I commend The Forward for publishing your letter — a way of registering your criticism and admitting, albeit not fully, that you do indeed have a point.