Tuesday, December 13, 2005

War Crimes

The western news media, having been made to realise that their anti-Israeli slant in the last years has led to a raised anti-Semitism, are suddenly carefully ensuring that their pro-Jewish content quota are filled. The BBC, in a clumsy though welcome change, again aired an extremely good Auschwitz TV series which sensitively but factually takes the viewer through the rise and fall of the Nazi regime and shows, in simple words and images, more of the horror than the all grandiose cinematic understatement of Schindler’s List ever could. In the last film in the series I saw some very real and serious issues raised and was made aware of some very disturbing truths about injustices to some victims and the privileges of some perpetrators that are still currently being tolerated or ignored by all - including us.

I chose the word clumsy before some of the other words that jostled to fill that space because I am giving the Beeb the benefit of my doubt. I feel they are impetuously rushing in, with knee-jerk, quick fix solutions to a perceived negative image of Jews in Britain, caused partly by their anti-Israeli propaganda, to play their trump, the Holocaust card, with the stated aim to show the youth how dangerous racism and anti-Semitism can be. The intended mechanism is to try and rekindle some of the sympathy the world used to have for the Jews as they watched them recovering from the horrors of WWII.

It might be partly our own fault that the goyim feel the need to dance around us as if on eggshells. Our brethren across the pond seem to have managed to find a equal, even proud, place in what is fast becoming the new Terra Sancta. Meanwhile we, the Jews of Western Europe have for so long milked the holocaust for all it is worth that it is small wonder that in the eyes of the gentile, victimhood has become our defining characteristic. The British are so afraid of offending our touchy community that even a hard-hitting and in-your-face, obnoxious comedy show like Little Britain, famous for its outrageously offensive caricatures, declines to poke fun at Jews. A glaring omission when you remember that one of the writers of the show and main actors is Jewish.

The problem is two-fold and we ourselves are partly to blame for both. The first is our insistence that being anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish are the same. In a special BBC program from a mosque in London a certain Sheikh Mansour, asked whether Jews and Muslims can get on, is quoted as answering: "I believe that the two can live in peace - but at present not in a natural state. If the weak people, the Palestinians, are forced to do something they oppose, it may work, but it cannot last if it is unnatural." An outrageous answer coming from the Sheik of a mosque in London talking about London’s Jews, yet the editor, tellingly, saw no reason not to choose that particular quote to publish.

The second is the fault of all the Jewish personalities and celebrities who hide or downplay their Jewishness in a tacit acceptance that a foreshortened member is not something one makes a big song and dance about. I cannot think of many current Jewish personalities or stars in Gt. Britain who do not either negate their roots or bend-over backwards to prove how Goyish they can be, only to spring up when the holocaust is mentioned to claim their part of that sympathy vote.

We British Jews are citizens of the UK, conceived and born here. We have our businesses, our jobs, our families and homes here. We should not have our positions or our fate automatically determined by either a state run by people who happen to be of the same race as us or an event in not too distant past - whatever its magnitude. While we might fervently support the State of Israel (or not) that too is but a mere opinion and the right to the holding of these is today the inalienable right of every man (or woman), is it not?

If the state-sponsored broadcaster wanted to create a more positive image of the practicing Jews in London they could be coming to ask us what we think we would like to show. Maybe a film showing how scared a 13 year chassid can be to ride the tube alone or walk home from school in his distinctive garb might be more to the point? Maybe a program showing something of the contribution made to Britain over the last few decades by Jews despite their mistaken wish to downplay their Semitism?

In any event forcing me to buy my equal and fully deserved rights with guilt makes me a lesser human being and that is the true anti-Semitism.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Iron, Lion, Zion: Black Hatted Rebbegae

Reggae is not the music of choice for the standard orthofunction, or, it wasn't...
In my father’s eyes it is not music at all. When he found a Bob Marley cassette in the music stash hidden in my sock drawer my old man, before throwing it out, asked me with tears in his eyes how his own son could listen to a shvartze making animal noises. A rhetorical question I had no inclination to explore at that time and he patently expected no answer to as he proceeded to dispose of my albums of grunt.

As I proceeded to replace them, I am sure I pondered, as I often do today, how comes I am indeed so comfortable in my own little place right on the edge of the gefilte-fish cradle. With the shimmering jellified comfort of soulless shtetility just within reach and the soothing, pounding reggae sound beating its own version of sanity in through the background. In an ironic twist, now it is my own daughter who wants me to order her a Reggae album from the Sonymusic website. To further the irony it is a religious young man’s sweet sound and cherubic good looks that have taken her. The rebberap sound we already have gotten used to from
Lipa Shmelzer is now being surpassed in the adoration of a budding generation of orthofannettes by Matisyahu’s rebbegae.

This young man, religious enough to go onstage without his glasses because he does not want to see the girls, should pose no harm to my daughter, though pose he certainly does. Yet as I indulge her unconscious pheremonal desires I am aware, as he is probably not, that I am observing a very slippery slope. His being featured on MTV helps him to overcome the very real hurdle in these girl’s eyes, of being a Lubavitcher and provide a legitimate, fully kosher menu of gyrating, middle-clutching, shadow playing, finger pointing, hip hopping, back bopping, black sounding music. No wonder they love him and I am convinced the happily married young man who has just had a baby hopes they will all learn from him to love his religion and his God.

Alex Strom, with whom I do not always agree, rues in his column this week the lack of entertainment opportunities for the Haredi young male. He makes a valid point, if we overlook the fact that he seems consider the excruciatingly infantile entertainment, that The Aguda he used to lead produced, worthy of promotion. However unlike the weddingsinger stars and very amateur dramatics, the Cheapendale Chevres' overdubbed electronopop to illfitting lyrics and the soulless choirs of overproduced yingelech that we excused as Heimishe entertainment, finally God seems to have blessed us with a Matisyahu.

Matisyahu could be the answer to my dreams. A role model to the artists within the haredi community who have until now felt you have to either suppress it or chase it outside. He can, if he plays his hands right (pun intended), prove to us that it is indeed possible to serve God in many ways and that Lubavitch might in fact have gotten that right.

And wat could be more ironical den dat man?