Not normal

Joseph Aaron

I feel like we’ve forgotten what’s normal.

We’re living in such crazy times, where so much crazy is going on, so much that is not normal, so much that would have shocked us but a few years ago, that we’ve become numb to it,  aren’t affected by it, don’t stop for a second to consider how insane things are.

We watched as a lawyer, son of a Holocaust survivor, sat before Congress and showed a check written to him by the sitting president of the United States reimbursing him for a hush money payment made to a porn star to cover up an affair, and we just yawn.

We watched as the prime minister of Israel welcomed into his political embrace a party that includes terrorists who are banned from entering the United States and it doesn’t faze us in the least. And we watched as only a few days later, the attorney general of Israel announced his intention to indict that same sitting prime minister of Israel on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, and we just continue about our daily lives as if nothing happened.

We watched as a major philanthropist to Jewish causes, who has a stadium named for him in the holy city of Jerusalem, the owner of the most successful franchise in football, was arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitutes thanks to his visits to a massage parlor in a strip mall and we don’t bat an eyelash.

We watched as the most famous Jew in the country was shown to be a liar for the entire world to see. The day it was revealed that Trump ignored the advice of the CIA, the FBI and career professionals versed in such matters, and ordered, over the objections of both his chief of staff and White House counsel, that his son-in-law Jew Jared Kushner be given top secret security clearance, we saw a video from just a month ago in which Princess Ivanka is sitting there, her pretty little icy self, saying that her father “had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance, zero.” Liar, liar, five thousand dollar dress on fire.

Michel Cohen and Allen Weisselberg and Robert Kraft and Benjamin Netanyahu and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, one Jew after another in the news in a shameful way and it means nothing to us, doesn’t divert us from tut tutting about the latest crazy thing to come out of the ayatollah’s mouth.

I feel like in terms of morality and decency and Jewish values, the Jewish world is on fire, is upside down and we don’t seem to care, don’t seem to be doing anything about it. Other than take it in stride.

I’m a big believer in not overreacting, not exaggerating, keeping perspective but there is a time to worry, to be concerned, to act, to do some serious self-reflection. Too many Jews are doing too many not Jewish things, are spitting on the teachings of the Torah, are desecrating Jewish traditional principles and behaviors.

While it is true that Bibi is the first sitting prime minister of Israel to face criminal charges, that blurs the real story. Namely that two recent presidents of Israel, Ezer Weizmann and Moshe Katzav, were forced to resign — Weizmann for taking bribes and Katzav who was found guilty of and did jail time for rape. Yes, rape. Namely that a recent prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, was forced to resign before being found guilty of and doing jail time for fraud and breach of trust and bribery.

It is funny but not at all funny that a popular joke in Israel is that when you ask an Israeli politician for his cell number, he isn’t sure what you mean.

Judaism is supposed to stand for something, Jews are supposed to act in a way befitting the Chosen People. Israel is supposed to stand for something, the Jewish state is supposed to act in a way befitting a ‘light unto the nations.’ Both are falling way short and yet it doesn’t seem to bother us. Which is what should really bother us.

While I’ve made this point before, and will continue to do so because I think it should be at the very top of the Jewish agenda, and in the hopes that maybe one day some of us will actually give a damn about the unbelievable things we are seeing every single day, I would like to say a few things about a few things that aren’t the usual points I make.

Number one. I believe that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Surprised you, right? I have been a frequent critic of the policies and behavior of the Israeli government and yet I think it’s pretty clear that I am not an anti-Semite. Okay, maybe it’s not so clear to some of my wacky right wing critics, but I think spending 40 years of my life toiling in the vineyards of Jewish journalism should be proof enough that I’m not an anti-Semite. Okay, maybe not to my wacky right wing critics, but this isn’t about me.

Yes it’s fine, even noble, and very Jewish to criticize Israel when warranted. Indeed, American Jews need to do more of it, not give Israel such a free ride when the government is systematically destroying democracy today and laying the groundwork for big tsuris tomorrow by fantasizing that the Palestinian issue will just disappear. But it’s one thing to criticize Israeli policies and politicians, and quite another to question Israel as Israel. Indeed, I believe too many anti-Semites use anti-Zionism as a cover, a ruse to justify their hatred of Jews.

They say vile things about Israel, make analogies that are absurd, charges that are baseless, call into question the very being of the state and then act all innocent and pretend they aren’t attacking the very idea of Jews having power, having their own state. Yes, Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite. And yes, Ilhan Omar is an anti-Semite.

Number two. I’m going to criticize the Democrats. I know I’ve been accused of being a leftist, a Trump hater, an Obama lover, who attacks the Donald obsessively and gives the Democrats a pass. Well, here’s another surprise for you. I think the Democrats are very wrong not being much more forceful in denouncing Ilhan Omar, the new Congressperson from Minnesota.

You know I’m for the peace process, but at the same time it continues to amaze me how self-destructive and idiotic Muslims can be. Palestinian President Abbas’ insistence, for instance, that the Jews have no claim to the Temple Mount. And now we have the first Muslim woman in Congress who, you would think, would go out of her way to show herself responsible and sober, making one anti-Semitic remark after another. Forget the tweet she sent a few years ago before being elected in which she said Israel “hypnotized” the world. Since she’s been in office, she sent one tweet that said that pro-Israel lobbyists pay off lawmakers for their support; and after retweeting another tweet which said that “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans,” she added “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” And most recently, at a town hall, she said that supporters of Israel are demanding “allegiance to a foreign country.”

While Nancy Pelosi has pushed back somewhat, she hasn’t pushed back hard enough, often enough. And that too full of herself Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez actually defended Omar and attacked those Democrats who have criticized Omar.

This just ain’t right. Why a Muslim woman wouldn’t have the brains to watch her words regarding Israel is beyond me and does make me suspect she is not just anti-Zionist but anti-Semitic. And that Democrats are putting up with this, not stripping her of her committee assignments, makes me feel that yet again the good guys are acting very badly.

Number three. I’m going to defend Bibi. Surprised you again, right? While I bow to no one in my absolute contempt for how he has behaved as Israel’s leader, how much permanent damage he has done to the Jewish health and wellbeing of the Jewish state, I think the investigations into him have been run by the Israeli version of the Three Stooges and have shown that while, on the one hand, Israel tolerates political corruption to a shocking and shameful extent, the way it conducts investigations is absurd.

Consider the charges against Bibi. That he took gifts of expensive cigars and champagne from machers he did favors for. And that he tried to get media big wigs to give him favorable coverage. I mean it’s not so simple, but that’s the essence of it. A politician wanting to get good press and those who he does favors for giving him some nice presents. Stop the presses.

I think it’s nuts that Israel has spent years investigating this stuff when there are far more serious wrongs that Bibi has done. I think it’s nuts that the attorney general announces his intent to indict during the middle of an election campaign. And I think it’s really nuts that instead of just indicting him after compiling evidence for two years, the way the insane justice system in Israel works, Bibi gets a hearing to rebut the charges which could take up to a year before he would actually be indicted. Trials are for the accused to make their case. Indict him and proceed, but no, first they announce they want to indict but he can try to talk them out of it and he can delay for a year until they actually indict and then who knows how many more years before there is a trial. There is such a thing as too much justice, meaning dithering too much before making a decision.

Finally, one personal note. One thing my father, a Holocaust survivor, always insisted on is that I and my four brothers and sisters always eat everything on our plates. Nothing, and I mean nothing, would make him more angry than us ‘wasting food.’ It drove him crazy.  Having been in Auschwitz and a couple of other concentration camps, the idea of not valuing having food to eat, of not eating every bite you were given, was understandable.

Which is why I find it so not understandable that a recent report just showed that Israeli households are the second most wasteful as compared to the EU-27 countries The Food Waste and Rescue Report revealed that food loss in Israel this year amounts to 5.5 billion pounds, 35% of all food produced. Almost half of this loss is rescuable. This in a Jewish country where a third of all children, and almost half of elderly Holocaust survivors, live below the poverty line. Thinking of my father, reading that report made me cry.

Back to business. So in this column, I’ve attacked Democrats, defended Bibi and called people anti-Semites. Not what you’d expect from me.

I told you that nothing is normal anymore.

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