Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hippocracy

My people are at war with an enemy who proudly boasts of killing civilians yet screams blue murder when the innocent Lebanese civilians they cowardly hide behind are, tragically, caught in the retaliatory fire. An enemy whose brave heroes shamelessly cheer on the street, fire weapons in the air and gleefully share out sweets when our babies are butchered. An enemy whose barbaric civilians dance for the local TV cameras holding aloft the limbs of our fallen. I do not therefore think now is the time for me to lob my peculiar brand of critique at the petty foibles of my own community. Instead I will take a departure from form and direct my ire at my other family and the democratic society that claims to represent my interests because I am part of it.

It was Israel’s best friend, the USA, along with best friend Britain that pressured her, against her much better judgement, to allow Hamas, who they themselves branded a terrorist group, to run in the Palestinian democratic election. Once the people had spoken and the duly elected government of our partners-in-peace had shown its true face (albeit behind a balaclava mask) our good friends suddenly recalled pressing engagements elsewhere and we were left to deal with repressing the rewards for our disengagement, alone.

In Lebanon the democratic parliament, enjoying the full support of all Israel’s best friends in red white and blue, has a minister and almost a third of its body coming from Hezbolla, for whom (Jewish) infanticide is part of the manifesto. Just so as to keep this farce fresh and exciting Israel is urged by the colourful black and white coalition of the Talking Heads Club to spare this ‘legitimate’ government, even as it may (grudgingly) wage a defensive war on its proxy who enjoys full control over Lebanon's border with the only real democracy in that part of the world.

Democracy, the doctrine that claims to allow the masses to determine the general direction of their governance, has replaced religion for many as the panacea for all the world’s ills. A peek at the Middle East today should be enough to shake even the dimmest of brains out of that reverie. Maybe an intrinsically good people would automatically fare better under democratic rule than the yoke of selfish and cruel opportunists but a democratic election alone will not serve to turn swordsmen into ploughhands. Clearly not all peoples are ready for rule by whatever majority, as much of the population in Gaza would admit if they dared.

Democracy, like socialism and theocracy, is an ideal that only works if those wielding it are responsible and worthy. A group of bloodthirsty savages, believers in the Ashariyya doctrine - that because all that happens is caused by God anyway it is legitimate to kill innocents, will not suddenly turn into cuddly lambs just because they were empowered through a ballot box. To think they might is as na├»ve as to believe that the US and its cohorts have suddenly seen the justness of Israel’s cause.

The sad truth is that the democratic experiment in the Middle East has failed miserably. The undemocratic governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are unusually mute in their criticism of Israel’s legitimate self defence this time because they themselves fear the democratic ambitions of these Islamist groups. Parties that have the support of the streets in their countries. Meanwhile the true democracies of the US and the UK, whose own forces are now within plucking distance of these same terrorists, are cynically pleased to have Israel act as their virtual warning bell.

Still, I am a Jew and I was taught that God rebuked the Israelites for celebrating when the Egyptians, who had enslaved and massacred them for centuries, were drowned in the Red Sea. I therefore feel the pain of the innocent in Lebanon, now cowering in their shattered cities praying that the next explosion does not finally, if accidentally, put them out of their misery. This despite the arguments I hear from those in my community who correctly remind me Hezbolla is an integral part of their freely and democratically elected government and it is only right that the entire people should enjoy the fruits of their chosen leaders' purposeful actions against their equally innocent neighbours across the border.

Democracy does not work any more than socialism or theocracy did. Thirty years of Israeli experience in the hallowed halls of the that uber-democracy the UN and hundreds of blatantly biased resolutions against her, can testify to that. So sometimes it is necessary for the David to resort to force to dictate justice and if the oppressed in other places learn from that to rise up against their repressors... we will just have to put it down as collateral damage.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Another Chip In The Wall

II must admit to being disappointed when Roger Waters, waxer lyrical in masterpieces of the rock symphony like The Wall, and the exquisite sarcasm in Amused to Death, whipped out his paint canister and celebrated his historic visit to Israel’s Separation Wall by spraying on in bright red capital letters the legend: WE DON’T NEED NO THOUGHT CONTROL.

We all know he can do better than that. Quoting the lines of one of his only songs recognisable to the great unwashed diluted the occasion and did much more to reclaim authorship to the lyrics than anything to influence (without control) the minds of all those who admire him so. With all the subtlety of an elephant with a sprained ankle he makes a crude associational reference to tearing down a walls by shrieking a criticism of postwar educational methods on the very wall portrayed as blocking children’s access to their school.

He did gain my avid approval though for his answer to the Press when asked whether that was his message to the Israeli people. (The reporter obviously had gotten that elusive message.) “No, Of course not.” He simply explained to the camera. “It’s got nothing to do with them. It’s a message to the Israeli government.”

Not many care enough to bother to make that distinction and I am glad but not surprised he did. It is a sad truth though that rock and film stars have more influence on the public than any leaders do and sadder still that most have hardly an opinion worth sharing between them. Without minimising the wonderful examples stars like Geldof, Bono and indeed Waters do set, they are in such a pitifully small minority that I think they must be what they are in spite of their fame not because of it.

It would be nice if I could go on and remind everyone how at least our Chassidic youth can look to their spiritual guides and teachers for instruction but that is unfortunately not true. Instead I believe most of us are still looking for their spiritual guides and teachers. Which is why Mobile phones are not allowed but everybody has them, the Internet is banned and Hyde Park’s Charedi Forums are the busiest in Israel. Our leaders, the cream of our society and the infallible who uniquely can transmit the word of God, find themselves stuck in the traffic behind the great technology juggernaught that is redefining our lives far quicker than they seem to be able to react and divine has become an adjective to describe that latest mobile phone.

For our leadership and community ever to amount to anything they are going to have to become relevant and learn to act instead of reacting. Learn to actually keep a finger on the pulse of both the Shtetl and the street. To stick their stiff necks out and earn their stripes, not to mention their keep. Because for the moment, in the stride between technology and Torah, the chip is in the lead, unlike within the leadership where it sits firmly on the shoulder.