Nuts, crazy, insane

Joseph Aaron

Has everybody gone crazy? Is the whole world nuts?

And I’m not even thinking about Trump when I ask those questions. Even though it is a wonder to behold when U.S. senators, with a straight face, can deny that Trump said s—hole countries during a meeting, because in fact he said s—house countries. What would you say to your five-year-old if he tried to pull that? And it is a wonder also to watch Democrats and Republicans not care about what’s best for the country but only about how they can benefit politically from a government shutdown. And how each side can say the exact opposite of what they said just years ago when they were on the other side of another shutdown.

And I’m not even thinking about Bibi when I ask those questions. Even though it is a wonder to behold that his son was recently caught on tape talking about hiring prostitutes, pimping out his girlfriend and bragging about how his father had given a $20 billion sweetheart deal to the father of a friend of his. And a wonder also to watch as Bibi, under three separate criminal investigations, writes it all off to ‘fake news’ and a ‘witch hunt,’ mimicking exactly the words of his role model, the orange-faced moron.

No, when I ask if everyone has gone crazy, if the whole world is nuts, I am thinking about other people and other things. For starters, I am thinking about Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas recently gave one of the most disgusting speeches ever. In it, he, get this, denied a Jewish connection to Israel.

“Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Jews,” he said. Abbas alleged that once there was a state of Israel, its leaders could not convince Jews to immigrate to it. He also said that six million Jews preferred to be killed by the Nazis in Europe rather than leave for Israel.

He also alleged that Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion only grudgingly worked to force Jews in Arab countries to come to Israel after he determined that he could not fill the country with European Jews. He also said that “Israel has imported frightening amounts of drugs in order to destroy our younger generation.”

There was more, but you get the idea. Look, I understand he was not happy about Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Fine, so say that. But to deny the Jewish connection to Israel, that is insane, pure and simple. To say that Jews preferred Hitler’s Europe to the Zionist project in Palestine, that is insane, pure and simple.

I accept that the peace process I have been advocating for more than 20 years is dead. It will never happen with Trump around, even if he thinks the all-knowing Jared can pull off the deal of the century. It will never happen with Bibi around, believing as he does that time is on his side, when it is not. And it will never happen when Abbas talks total insanity, actually denies the Jewish connection to Israel. That is madness and makes me feel like the whole world has gone nuts.

As does so much more. Take Steven Miller, the Jew in Trump’s White House who looks and acts like a neo-Nazi skinhead. Miller, a Jew, is violently and viciously against immigration, not only illegal, but he also wants to drastically scale back even legal immigration, and basically even then limit it to Norwegian physicists with big bank accounts.

For a Jew to feel like that is absolutely nuts. Think of what immigration to this country has meant for Jews, consider that it is a Jew, Emma Lazarus, whose words are on the Statue of Liberty beckoning us to ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’

And then consider this. One of the things Miller insists on is that immigrants to this country speak English. Well, a Jewish journalist named Jennifer Mendelsohn found out that if English proficiency had been an immigration requirement a century ago, Miller’s own great-grandmother may not have been allowed into the country.

Mendelsohn is working on a project she calls Resistance Genealogy. Using public records and genealogical websites, Mendelsohn wants to show immigration hard-liners their own immigrant family trees. In Miller’s case, Mendelsohn tracked down his great-grandmother’s line item in the 1910 census. The entry noted that four years after arriving in the United States, she spoke only Yiddish, not English.

How insane is it that a Jew who has the ear of the president of the United States is not using his influence to advocate for a compassionate, humane immigration policy, in keeping with the Jewish admonition to ‘remember that you were once strangers in a strange land,’ but who instead wants to keep immigrants out, something that could not be more opposed to everything Judaism stands for. Adding to the insanity is the fact that his own great-grandmother would not have been let in if his policy was in place back a hundred years ago.

More insanity. Israel is to be a light unto the nations; Judaism is a religion based in the moral and ethical teachings of the Torah. The Israeli army credo is ‘tahor haneshek,’ purity of arms, meaning using force only when absolutely necessary to defend a soldier’s life.

And yet we have Michael Oren saying that if a Palestinian appears to be committing a terror attack, they deserve to die on the spot. Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, now a deputy minister in Israel’s Cabinet, says the Israel Defense Forces should change its rules of engagement, so that soldiers should “shoot to kill” suspected terrorists, instead of just incapacitating them.

“Soldiers who catch terrorists while carrying out attacks must be ordered to shoot to kill not neutralize,” Oren tweeted.  Oren’s position contradicts the IDF’s own code of ethics, which instructs soldiers to treat civilians with dignity and to “do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property.” Asa Kasher, one of the code’s co-authors, said in response to Oren that “The terrorist’s attempt to kill or injure ought to be foiled, but killing him is sanctioned only if there is no effective alternative — only if it’s a last resort.”

Oren, a member of the government of Israel, wants it to be the first resort. Tell me that isn’t crazy, isn’t against everything Israel should stand for, how it should act, what being a light unto the nations is all about. Has the whole world gone crazy?

And then we had the recent vote in Israel’s Knesset where, by a one-vote margin, it approved a bill that will keep supermarkets and other businesses closed on the Sabbath.

Here’s my problem with that. Almost all stores and businesses in Israel are, in fact, closed on Shabbat. Partly that’s because Shabbat is Shabbat, and partly it’s because Sunday in Israel is a regular workday, so Shabbat is the only day off for most people.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that most places are closed. So why stir things up, why inflame religious passions by passing a bill? There is already so much animosity between the observant and non-observant in Israel, so much anger between the two sides, so much bitterness by so many non-religious Israelis that most religious Israelis don’t serve in the army, as all 18 year olds, men and women, are required to do, that why stir the pot, why make a show when it is not needed.

What to me is also insane is that while I personally believe that Israel as a Jewish state should observe Shabbat as a holy, special day, I believe that should be something people choose to do, not be forced to do.

It is human nature and especially Jewish nature, (remember the Torah calls us a stiff necked people) that if you try to force us to do something, tell us we can’t do something, well, let’s just say that doesn’t go over too well.

Just as I find it so sad, so insane, that on the one hand the government of Israel wants American Jews to make aliyah to Israel, visit Israel as tourists, and on the other, it so much so often emphasizes how much under siege Israel is, how dangerous things are, how surrounded by enemies it is, how Iran is this close to blowing Israel to smithereens. You aren’t going to get people to want to live there, to visit there, if you always and only paint such a bleak picture. To do so is nuts.

It is equally nuts to force shops and businesses not to be open on Shabbat, to make it against the law. Does that increase love and appreciation of Shabbat, give Israelis a sense of the beauty of Judaism, or does it do the exact opposite. To think you can force Jews to see Shabbat as special, instead of encouraging them in a positive way, is pure and simple nuts.

One final, personal thought. Due to an illness in my family – and other factors — I have been finding myself quite financially strapped the last year or so. And I have learned a very bitter lesson. Namely how vicious and unfeeling and uncaring people and businesses can be if you are late with a payment, miss a couple of payments, how quick and sick and unfeeling they are to threaten you and cut you off. You can do business with a place for 20 years, but if you are two months late paying a bill, they say sorry, no more service. Til you pay up.

That reality is new to me and it has frankly eaten away at my soul. I am feeling guilty that I wasn’t as grateful as I should have been all those years when I didn’t have such financial problems and I am feeling ashamed that I wasn’t as compassionate as I should have been all those years for people in such situations. I am disgusted with people and places for how they have treated me, and disgusted with myself that I never realized the hell that dealing with financial hardship is.

I am most saddened that so many – not all, but many — people I thought I could turn to, count on, ask for help, have been so quick to turn away, so callous in responding, perhaps mouthing insincere words, so often not taking sincere helpful action.

It has been a bitter lesson for me in many ways and has only deepened my sense that the whole world is crazy. We all said we would be different after 9/11 and after the crash of 2008, Judaism has always said we are to remember that all Jews are to care for one another. And yet most of the viciousness and uncaring I have faced has been at the hands of Jews. Yes, at the hands of Jews.

What a crazy sick world I have discovered this truly is.

1 Comment on "Nuts, crazy, insane"

  1. What a great editorial!! I have always felt that Israel was a place for refuge and a symbol of democracy. And that Judaism stood for what is right and fair even when it was difficult to do. Yet I see do many people in of Jewish heritage bend the meaning of fairness and justice for their own political or personal gain. Its important to keep in mind that they are the exception, and not the norm.

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