Jerry Seinfeld, after a visit to Israel, perfectly summed up the Israeli attitude towards everything;
If you ask an Israeli to do something, Seinfeld said, you get one of two answers. ‘No problem at all’ or Impossible, can’t be done.’
That’s it, there’s no middle ground, either something is absolutely not possible, no way, no how, or sure, no big deal.
Black and white, the great disease all Jews today suffer from. It’s either this or that, no grays, nothing in between.
I was thinking of that insightful Seinfeld observation during the whole tumult about the Virginia governor blackface scandal.
While almost everyone on both sides wanted to make it simple and clear cut, easy, no question, I’m not sure it or anything in life is like that. Yes, he dressing either in blackface or in a KKK outfit is beyond abhorrent. If it doesn’t bother you, then think of the governor of a state who would be dressed in a Nazi uniform or stand next to someone in a Nazi uniform, who would wear an exaggerated hook nose on his face.
When it hits closer to home, it somehow has more impact, doesn’t it? So let’s not debate how sickening it is. Jews are very good at being very offended at something that involves Jews but too many these days aren’t quite so upset when it involves blacks or women or Hispanics. If it ain’t us, somehow it doesn’t seem to bother us as much as it does when it is us. And no, that’s not right and not Jewish.
But to me, once we agree that what the governor did is disgusting, the question is how you react to it, how should we expect him to react to it.
The easy answer these days is that he should resign immediately, leave the stage and should never be heard from again. And I certainly can understand that point of view.
But I am concerned how much we have turned into a culture and society where it’s one strike and you’re out, where you do a wrong and then there’s nothing more to be said or to be listened to.
That’s not how Judaism looks at these things. We are all sinners and yet we should not have our whole lives be defined by our sins. There are questions to be asked. Does the sinner regret what he did, take responsibility for what he did, do tshuva, repentance, ask for forgiveness, try to right the wrong he has done, sincerely attempt to not do it again.
Yes, I know it’s not Yom Kippur but so why am I talking about such things. But one of the mistakes too many of us make is that we think about these things, do something about things only during the High Holiday season when, in fact, it should be, it must be a year around, 365 day job. We can’t store up all our sins and then wait for Yom Kippur to repent, seek forgiveness, try to do better, have an end of year cleansing clearance.
And so no I’m not of the school that the governor sinned and so off with his head. I don’t think we should look to do that to anyone and yet we do. And yes, I still think it was a huge mistake to force Al Franken, a force for real good in this country, to go into exile for a stupid joke and for some inappropriate tushie touching.
And yet, we are seeing time and again these days, a story breaks about someone and before you know it they have been banished, they vanish. I’m not saying that’s never justified, it certainly was justified for the likes of Harvey Weinstein, but I am saying that it is not always justified.
Not every sin deserves the societal death penalty. By the way do you think we’ll ever hear from Megyn Kelly again? She said she used to dress up in blackface to be Diana Ross for Halloween when she was a kid, and two days later, her career was over.
Our new system of to err is human, to forgive is definitely out of the question, really concerns me. For it so reflects a mindset of where we seem to judge everyone who is not like us, dismiss anyone we don’t agree with, impugn those who see and act differently than us with the worst motives, see no room for compromise, no room for understanding.
I see it permeating American life more and more and I see it permeating Jewish life more and more. Listen to how Jews talk about each other, watch how Jews treat each other, see how little interaction there is between Jews of different denominations, how no tolerance there is for Jews with different political points of view.
And I fear as bad as it is, it is only going to get worse. And yes, I know all the right wingers out there will roll their eyes and say here he goes again, but yes, I do fault Bibi, who should be our moral guide, who should be showing us the way, for setting the wrong tone.
And it’s just beginning. It seems almost certain that Netanyahu is about to be indicted in at least one if not more of the cases he is being investigated for. Israel’s attorney general has pretty much said as much.
And Bibi knows it. Which is why he’s already been attacking. I don’t have any problem with him proclaiming his innocence, making his case, defending himself. I do have a big problem with his strategy, which comes right out of Trump’s playbook. Attack the law enforcement authorities. Of his own country.
It is beyond shameful that Bibi has echoed Trump exactly by declaring the investigations into his behavior ‘a witch hunt’ and by saying media reports about the investigations are ‘fake news.’ It is so vital that the institutions that administer justice in Israel are held in respect not contempt and the last one who should be denigrating them is the guy elected to defend them.
But Bibi has slammed the Israeli police as corrupt and out to get him and unprofessional and with a political agenda and he has done the same with Israel’s justice system. Just this week, when the attorney general said he would be soon announcing his decision on whether to indict Bibi, Bibi said this: “The attorney general seems to have succumbed to pressure from the left and the media to file an indictment at any cost.”
If you don’t see how wrong that is, even if you are the biggest Bibi fan, I fear not only for your soul, but for the soul of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
The prime minister of Israel is accusing the attorney general of Israel of not administering justice fairly and impartially and professionally, but giving in to pressure from the ‘left’ whatever that is and means, and pressure from the horrible media, and so indicting Bibi not because he has conducted a thorough investigation for more than a year now, an investigation in which Bibi has had nine separation occasions to make his case, but because he can’t take the heat from peaceniks and media types determined to get Bibi.
First, and yes I know I am biased here, but Bibi and Trump don’t seem to understand the damage they do when they undermine trust in the media. The media is out there every day doing their watchdog function, being your eyes and ears. Imagine the stuff Trump would be doing if there wasn’t the New York Times and Washington Post and their superb reporters keeping an eye on him.
But not only does eroding trust in the media erode one of the most important institutions in a democracy, but accusing the guy charged with being the arbiter of justice of being vulnerable to pressure, does damage to what keeps a country from going falling into chaos.
What now is to stop everyone who gets accused of a crime in Israel from believing that the attorney general was just out to get him for whatever reason. And if Bibi is found guilty or innocent, why will those on the disappointed side of things believe it or accept it since they can say the whole system is tainted.
Oh, just for the record, the attorney general was appointed to his job by Bibi, the attorney general was for several years Bibi’s Cabinet secretary, sitting right next to him at Cabinet meetings, and oh, most of the judges in Israel, as well as Israel’s justice minister, were appointed by Bibi, who has been in office ten years now. So he is saying all those who he put in charge of justice can’t be trusted.
This stuff matters. Justice is not about immediately forcing someone off the stage with no possibility of grace, nor is about assuming if the guy being charged is your guy then it must be biased and wrong.
Morality matters. Which is why love Trump all you want, the damage he has done to honesty and integrity and morality in this country will long outlast his time in office; and Bibi’s denigrating of Israel’s justice system in the Jewish country, which is rooted in the Torah’s admonition that ‘justice. justice shalt thou pursue,’ will long outlast him.
One more thing. I have written before of how Bibi has debased the essence of Israel’s morality by kissing up to thugs and dictators. Just this year alone, he has warmly welcomed Philippines’ strong man, who kills his foes without trial, for a visit to Israel, he has warmly welcomed Hungary’s prime minister, who has basically dismantled democracy in that country, for a visit to Israel, he eagerly attended the inauguration of Brazil’s new president, who favors torture, and he has several times run over to Moscow to play footsie with Putin. He’s going again in a few weeks by the way.
But even with all that, I was shocked to read that Israel continues not only to maintain a cozy relationship with Myanmar, but is continuing to sell arms to that country, which has been slaughtering members of an ethnic minority.
Jews used to care about the attempted genocide of a people. As you may remember, we have some personal history of what that’s like. But even as Bibi undercuts the judicial system of the Jewish state, he stains Jewish honor by selling weapons to a brutal dictatorship that uses them to slaughter people it doesn’t care for.
No, not everything is black and white, indeed most things are not. But some things are.