State of non-shock

Joseph Aaron

Nothing shocks us anymore.

Did you notice that the first lady of Israel recently agreed to a plea deal in a fraud case in which she was accused of ordering $96,000 worth of meals from high-end restaurants rather than using the cook at the prime minister’s residence to prepare her food? In doing so, she violated the regulations that prevent those living in the residence from ordering meals from the outside when there is a cook on staff.

Sara Netanyahu admitted in court that she misused state funds. She now has a criminal record. Yes, the first lady of Israel used taxpayer dollars to order almost $100,000 in takeout food from fancy eateries and we don’t even notice. Yes, the first lady of Israel now has a criminal record and it doesn’t faze us in the least.

Did you notice that we recently celebrated the 90th anniversary of the birth of Anne Frank? Judaism doesn’t have saints but if we did she would be one. Imagine the impact this young woman, murdered when she was but 15, has had on the world, how many people have read, been affected by the incredibly eloquent words of her incredibly poignant diary.

One would think if there was one person who would be immune from being made fun of it would be Anne Frank. But evidently not. So much has decency left the world, so much are we beyond being shocked by anything that the Harvard Lampoon, a satirical magazine published at this country’s most prestigious university, whose students are considered the smartest of them all, actually published an image of Anne Frank’s face on the body of a voluptuous woman in a bikini. The text accompanying the doctored photo read “Gone Before Her Time: Virtual Aging Technology Shows Us What Anne Frank Would Have Looked Like if She Hadn’t Died.” Also: “Add this to your list of reasons the Holocaust sucked.”

And if that wasn’t nauseating enough, an episode of the new Netflix series “Historical Roasts” mocked Anne Frank with one-liners. Among the roasters of Anne Frank, played by actress Rachel Feinstein, were Adolf Hitler (Gilbert Gottfried) and President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jon Lovitz). All three performers are Jewish.

“Everyone knows you as a hero and a best-selling author, but to me you’ll always be little number 825060,” Gottfried as Hitler says to Anne. He also says, “Of all the accounts that I’ve read, Anne, your book is by far the most flammable.”

Anne’s character says life “sucked” in the attic, so, “I made dirty jokes, I mocked things, and through all that pain, I still laughed because that’s what the Jews do.” She calls on viewers to contact Netflix “and ask them why there are 5,000 documentaries about Hitler and none about me.”

I quote this filth in the hope it will shock you, but I am not counting on it. We are all today shockproof.

I have for years warned about the increasing disunity that is infecting the Jewish community. It’s gotten worse and worse year after year to the point we now just take it in stride. Indeed, disunity so much grips the Jewish world that Israel, for the first time in its history, has been forced to hold two elections in one year, one just months after the other, because Jews who seem to have so much in common couldn’t come to an agreement.

After the first election, the right wing parties had won 65 of 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, a clear majority. And so all they had to do was work out a coalition agreement between them. Easy, since they so much believe in the same things. Routine, in that it’s happened after every Israeli election ever held.

But not this time. This time even those on the same side of the political spectrum, Jews who have so much in common, could not find common ground. Instead they focused on the differences between them and in the end could not find a way to work things out. And so Israel is having two elections in one year, which should be a flashing red light of how bad disunity has become but which instead we just take in stride.

And so it is with the betrayal, backbiting, game playing, double crossing that is so much a part of Israeli politics. It’s become so pervasive that we aren’t shocked in the least by it.

And so you have former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who used to be the head of the Labor party, meeting secretly with Yair Lapid to talk about starting their own party. This comes just months after Lapid joined his party with Benny Gantz’s party and after together they did incredibly well in the election, winning 35 seats, the same as Bibi. And yet just months later, Lapid is looking to ditch Gantz in the hope of a better deal with Barak who himself was just weeks ago talking about running again to be leader of the Labor party. Jews behaving in such an underhanded, scheming way and yet it doesn’t shock us.

Nor are we shocked that Israel’s Supreme Court chief justice accused the country’s new justice minister of fomenting anarchy. Yes, anarchy. Israeli Supreme Court chief justice Esther Hayut said that after Amir Ohana suggested that not every high court ruling must be enforced if it goes against his view of what is needed to keep citizens safe.

Read that sentence again. Israel’s chief law enforcement officer said that if he doesn’t like a Supreme Court ruling he doesn’t have to enforce it.

To which Hayut responded that “every litigant can now, with the blessings of the justice minister, choose which judgment to uphold and which to not. I want to say only one thing about this: This is the short road to anarchy.”

Shocking, right? No, not really. After all, Bibi appointed Ohana not because he’s qualified to be minister of justice of the Jewish state but because he is a Bibi loyalist who supports legislation that would grant the prime minister immunity from prosecution while in office. 

Oh, by the way, Netanyahu is facing indictment in at least three corruption cases against him. Something else that should be shocking, but isn’t.

And then we have a decision by the Israeli government that one would think is shocking. Israel and the United States are best buddies, the U.S. has done a whole lot in support of Israel, and right wingers would say that since Trump assumed office, this country has done an amazing amount for Israel.

And yet though this country is in a major trade war with China, is concerned about China’s hostile intentions toward this country, Israel is in the process of making a big financial deal with China despite the United States really not wanting it to.

It’s so serious that even the spineless cowards of the Republican-led Senate are upset by it. Indeed, a major spending bill in the Senate includes a veiled warning to Israel not to allow China to run one of its ports.

The National Defense Authorization Act includes a “sense of the Senate” passage stating that “the United States has an interest in the future forward presence of United States naval vessels at the Port of Haifa in Israel but has serious security concerns with respect to the leasing arrangements of the Port of Haifa as of the date of the enactment of this Act; and should urge the Government of Israel to consider the security implications of foreign investment in Israel.”

The reference is to the Shanghai International Port Group, which under a deal with Haifa is set to operate its port for 25 years starting in 2021. The U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet often docks at Haifa. Successive administrations and leaders of both parties see China as a security threat and are wary of any deals that facilitate its access to U.S. security.

And yet Israel is making a deal with China to run its port in Haifa. So uncaring is this for its good friend the United States that it was criticized even by Mark Dubowitz, the director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a pro-Israel think tank. “Israeli officials have to wake the hell up,” Dubowitz, who has consulted with top lawmakers and with the Trump administration on Iran policy. “This is serious and Israel’s strongest supporters are losing their patience.”

Should be shocking but Israel making nice with China, doing all kinds of financial deals with China, even when the U.S. has asked it not to, is nothing new, nothing shocking.

And then we have the words of an Israeli diplomat that are unlike any that Israeli diplomats to this country have ever said out loud. Diplomats are supposed to be, well, diplomatic, be very careful with their words. Israeli envoys to this country are not supposed to get involved in party politics, because one of Israel’s greatest assets in this country has been the bipartisan nature of its support, with both Democrats and Republicans supportive of Israel and so no matter which party is in power at any given moment, support for Israel stays the same.

And yet we just had Israel’s ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer politicizing support for Israel in a talk to the Republican Jewish Coalition. “There has been, for 40 years, a gap between Republicans and Democrats in their support for Israel,” he said. “This predates, by decades, Trump, Netanyahu, Obama and any other reason that Democrats would cite.” He noted “the enormous rise in support for Israel among Republicans. However, there is a rise in the American left-wing of anti-Israel sentiment. These are the same people that don’t believe America is a force for good …”

Israel’s envoy to America is supposed to appeal to both parties, not favor one over the other. Though considering all that Dermer has done since he got here, such as colluding with the Republicans to have Bibi address Congress to slam Obama’s Iran polity without even letting Obama know, it’s nothing shocking.

I could go on with the shocking non-shocking things taking place, but I’m almost out of space and so can’t really get into fact that Bibi just appointed to his Cabinet someone who believes Israel should be ruled by Torah law like in the days of King David, perhaps not noticing that Israel’s current leader is not exactly King David. For one thing, King David never got indicted and his wife never had a criminal record.

So let’s just leave it that what is most shocking about the Jewish world today is how not shocked we are by all the shocking things going on.

1 Comment on "State of non-shock"

  1. I am a second generation Chicago Jew but came on aliyah in 1973.
    During the time I have lived here, I’ve, thank G-d, built a large family and served in the army reserves for 28 years. All of my sons and son in law have and do serve in the reserves or professional army. In other words we are very rooted here in Israel.
    I read your column on line and respect your right to voice any opinion which you have, even if I don’t agree.
    I notice that you sitting in Chicago can voice week after week what here in Israel happens and I admit that we are far from perfect like those sitting in the “Windy City”.
    However, I fail to see your warnings to your fellow Jews of the rise antisemitism in Chicago and in America.
    Is it all connected to Trump?
    I remember when I was 21 there were a lot of incidents, in many ways, of Jew hatred.
    Maybe you should be the ostrich who pulls his head out of the sand and call to your readers to get out while the going is still good.
    Maybe instead of worrying how Sarah Netenyahu spend my money (which isn’t good) you should worry about the future of your community.

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