First Person

Jewish World Review May 30, 2002 / 19 Sivan, 5762

What did you do while Israel was destroyed?

By David D. Perlmutter | When I was in college, an Armenian American acquaintance told me about his grandfather's obsession with the Turkish genocide against his people in the early part of the 20th century. To a comment of "nice weather, today," the old man habitually replied "What does it matter since our people were slaughtered?"

I wonder if I will be like him in forty years. Marcel Ophuls, creator of the "The Sorrow and the Pity," once said, "It's time to stop talking about the Holocaust and do something about it." I presume he meant doing a better job of uncovering and prosecuting war criminals--but what about the next Holocaust?

For the first time in my life I see the shadows of Israel's destruction, if not by Arab armies all at once, but by suicide bombers one Jewish child and mother at a time. I see an anti-Jewish European press sadistically attacking Israel's defensive measures. I see a clownishly hypocritical United Nations condemning Israel's bulldozing of a building while millions die in the Sudan or Tibet. I see my fellow academics musing and posturing in praise of demons who would cut their throats merely for being non-Muslims.

Small items, too, prick hard. I find myself getting irritated at a Jewish social organization I belong to raising its dues: why don't we send all the money to buy Israeli war bonds instead? I am furious when I read that some Jewish Hollywood Mogul just gave seven million dollars to the democratic party. Where is the opposition of our good friends in the Democratic party to President's Bush's persistent coddling of Arafat and the House of Saud?

So I simmer when I see Jews fighting everybody's battles--from the Civil Rights movement to the salvation of Bosnian Muslims--but when the hangman comes for us, we find ourselves standing alone. (Why, for example, does the Hebrew Union College use a picture of "Jews Oppose Police Brutality" is its advertising--isn't "Islamic Fascist Brutality" a most clear and present danger?"

Mostly, I cannot stand watching the news--with its tired cliches of "cycles" of violence. Today I see Arafat, sitting in his bunker, talking to "international activists" and proclaiming that the Israelis are just like Nazis. I wonder: did Hitler allow his enemies press conferences? I daydream--if only! If in 1948, 1956, 1967 or 1973 Israel had acted like the Third Reich then today Israelis today would shop, marry, eat pizza and play unmolested. And of course Jews, not sheiks, would have that Gulf Oil. In contrast, if the Arabs had conquered Israel does anyone think a single Jew would today be alive between the Jordan and the Mediterranean?

This is what I'm reduced to: thinking like a Nazi when an Arab accuses Jews of acting like Nazis.

I'm unhappy as well--especially since I teach political communication--at Israel's unsophisticated, unplanned media policy. Since the Lebanon War, the seven squabbling Israeli ministries that claim to control press relations have been notorious for either ignoring or failing to understand the needs of modern journalism. One journalist noted to me: "The Palestinians will go to the news bureaus each day and pitch stories, and go out of their way to help arrange interviews, suggest places to shoot. From the Israeli government, all you get is statements, silence or red tape."

A more ominous reason that the evening news is so laden with images favorable to the Palestinians is that they are chosen and shot by Palestinians. Israeli reporters are banned from working in Palestine areas; foreign journalists are subtly or violently pressured to either keep out or report with a pro-Palestinian bias. The result is that most networks and news bureaus use Palestinian stringers for spot news coverage and also for translations. So Yassir and his brown shirts are allowed to make statements like, "We are the only occupied people in the world" without an accompanying laugh track.

These are my dark thoughts and quiet desperations. Who will dissolve them? Who will silence the madness? Will I even be allowed to become an old, bitter man? Will any of us have chance to look back on these days beyond the mushroom clouds of the tomorrow?

JWR contributor David Perlmutter is an associate professor of mass communication at Louisiana State University and a senior fellow at the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs. He is the author of, among others, Visions of War : Picturing Warfare from the Stone Age to the Cyber Age. Comment by clicking here.


© 2002, David D. Perlmutter<