Bad news about good news

Joseph Aaron

I know. There’s nothing harder for Jews to accept than good news.

Even though the last couple of decades have been full of good news, we still never really believe it, don’t trust it, go out of our way to make too much out of any piece of bad news that comes our way.

Our resistance to good news is very strong. It’s unfamiliar, makes us nervous, we fear we will be lulled into kvelling and so lose our edge, fail to be on guard for what we are sure is the inevitable disaster about to befall us.

As Donald Trump would tweet, ‘sad. very sad.’ It truly is. It is very sad that we can’t take in and enjoy all the good Jewish news there is every single day, sad we can’t take comfort in it, truly accept in our hearts that happy days are finally here, that the bad stuff is behind us, the need to worry and fear is behind us. That now is the time for us to feel secure, to focus not on defending ourselves but on building up Judaism, to enjoy that we have the privilege of living at a time when there is a strong and sovereign Jewish state that has diplomatic relations with every important country on the face of the earth, that every single Jew on the face of the earth is living in freedom and is free to live as a Jew.

We have waited more than 2,000 years for the era of good news to arrive and now that it has, we don’t want to hear it, refuse to believe it, fail to make the most of it.

That is truly a Jewish tragedy. And that is why I like to take a breather from time to time and step away from my Bibi bashing and Trump dumping and point out just some of the good news going on, news that is very real and very stunning for those who know anything about Jewish history.

And so, I ask you to please, for just a few minutes, put aside your neuroticism and paranoia and feeling of being under attack, your sense everyone is out to get you and nobody is on your side, and try to marinate just a bit in the wonder of the following good news.

And just to give you some incentive to hang in there during the painful look at good news, I promise to end with some bad Jewish news, even if the source of that bad news are the Jews themselves.

Okay here goes.

Let’s start with some really ‘bad’ good news, meaning news that really twirls Jewish heads around, because it goes against everything Jews really want to believe, feel in their kishkes is for sure true, even though it is not.

Violent anti-Semitic attacks worldwide directed against Jewish communities, Jewish people and their property decreased by about 9 percent in 2017, according to an annual report.

Yes, you heard right, decreased. Not what you expected right? But in fact there were 327 cases in 2017 compared to 361 in 2016, according to the annual “Anti-Semitism Worldwide” report by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University. The report is a global overview combining surveys from recognized watchdogs from dozens of countries, including nearly all European Union member states.

During the years 2006 to 2014, the violent cases worldwide numbered between 600 to 700 per year, according to the report, but have decreased in recent years to between 300 to 400.

Yes, I really hate to be the one to break it to you, but violent anti-Semitic attacks worldwide have been basically cut in half. I can hear them crying over at the ADL, and I can see the shocked faces of Jews all over Chicago who just can’t believe it can be true. Okay let us proceed.

*The words “Holocaust Never Again” in Portuguese were projected on Brazil’s iconic National Congress buildings to mark Yom Hashoah, or Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. The green block letters covered the 300-foot tall facade of both twin towers of the Congress, Brasilia’s most famous landmark.

*There’s an unsettling debate underway in Britain about whether the right or the left is more anti-Semitic. J.K. Rowling, the non-Jewish author of the Harry Potter series, decided to weigh in, defining anti-Semitism for her 14.4 million Twitter followers. She posted a screen grab of a non-Jew gentile-splaining what Judaism is — “Judaism is a religion not a race” — and gently explained why this is hardly relevant to defining anti-Jewish bias.

“Most UK Jews in my timeline are currently having to field this kind of crap, so perhaps some of us non-Jews should start shouldering the burden,” she said. “Anti-Semites think this is a clever argument, so tell us, do: were atheist Jews exempted from wearing the yellow star? #antisemitism.”

*More than 300 French signatories, including former prime ministers and other elected officials, intellectuals and artists, signed a manifesto denouncing the “new anti-Semitism” in France.

In the manifesto published in LeParisien, the largest circulation newspaper in France, the signatories condemned what they called a “quiet ethnic purging” driven by rising Islamist radicalism particularly in working-class neighborhoods.

Okay, before proceeding to the bad Jewish news, let me note my favorite piece of good Jewish news, of the world standing up for us, watching out for us, standing together with us.

*A Scottish man who taught his girlfriend’s dog to do the Nazi salute was found guilty of a hate crime. Mark Meechan, 30, was convicted in Airdrie Sheriff’s Court in Scotland. He taught the pug, named Buddha, to respond with the Nazi salute when prompted by statements such as “Heil Hitler” and “gas the Jews.” Meechan posted videos of the dog performing the trick on YouTube.

Sheriff Derek O’Carroll said that Meechan “knew that the material was offensive and knew why it was offensive. He would have known it was grossly offensive to many Jewish people.” O’Carroll said he took freedom of expression into consideration, “but the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility.”

Okay, enough good news. Let’s get to the bad Jewish news. Now even with that, the good news is that bad Jewish news used to be the work of non-Jews, of the society around us. But these days the world isn’t doing very much bad to us at all. So Jews have picked up the baton and are doing it to ourselves.

My personal favorite was the news that Michael Cohen, the lawyer under federal scrutiny for his role in paying off a porn star who said she had an extramarital affair with Donald Trump, arranged a $1.6 million payment to a Playboy playmate who had an affair with a top Jewish donor to the Trump campaign.

Elliott Broidy confirmed that Cohen had arranged for the payout to the woman, who said she had been impregnated by Broidy. So we have a Jew, Michael Cohen, paying off a Playboy playmate on behalf of a Jewish rich guy big macher with the Republican Party who had an affair with and impregnated a playmate. Talk about Jewish pride.

But let’s get to the really bad Jewish news. And that is how way too many in the Jewish world have viciously attacked a Jew, an Israeli, an Oscar winning actress just for expressing her political opinion of one Bibi Netanyahu (see you knew I couldn’t go a week without at least some Bibi bashing)

Natalie Portman, who was born in Israel and speaks Hebrew fluently and has a lot of family who lives in Israel, said she would not be coming to Israel to receive an award because she is unhappy with Netanyahu and some of his policies, such as working really hard to force out 40,000 African migrants who found safe haven in Israel after escaping hell in their home countries. Not to mention Bibi being under four criminal investigations for corruption.

I won’t quote all the horrible things said by self-proclaimed Israel lovers because Natalie was expressing a view shared by at least half of Israelis and half of American Jews. I will quote who was worst. It was, of course, a member of Bibi’s Cabinet, by the name of Miri Regev. Miri said Portman has “fallen like a ripe fruit into the hands of the BDS movement supporters” over her refusal to come to Israel to receive an award. Miri added that Portman is “joining those who treat the story of the success and the miracle of Israel’s revival as a tale of darkness and darkness.”

Now that is bad Jewish news. How nauseating that a Cabinet minister would say that Natalie is a supporter of the BDS movement when Portman made very clear she is not. Indeed when it was announced she had won the prize, Portman said she is “proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage.”

Portman said her choosing not to come to receive the award is all about Bibi and not at all about BDS. “I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony. By the same token, I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it,” Portman said.

“Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation,” she said. “I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance… Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.”

Look, you don’t have to like what she said or agree with what she said. But to call her a supporter of BDS is nauseating. You don’t have to like what she said to understand that she does have the right to say it. That’s what Judaism is all about, what democracy is all about.

It is bad Jewish news to see the vicious attacks on Portman. Bad Jewish news to see that so many Jews have called her all kinds of ugly names, that an Israeli Cabinet minister felt the need to lie about her, label her as BDS when saying that is nothing but BS. Criticize Portman, fine. But why the need to demonize her, lie about her, verbally destroy her?

Jews worry about a lot of things they don’t need to. We don’t worry enough about how intolerant a place Judaism has become and how quick Jews, including Jewish leaders like Miri Regev, so savagely attack other Jews, like Natalie Portman.

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