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Jewish World Review Feb. 18, 2000 /12 Adar I, 5760

Julia Gorin

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No one likes a
hater without a cause --
I WAS LISTENING to New York City morning radio talk show host Bill Mazer recently, when he paraphrased Ehud Barak’s condemnation of the inclusion of Joerg Haider’s Freedom Party in Austria’s ruling coalition. Mazer said, "Barak, who deals with Hafez Assad, of Syria, and Yasser Arafat, said that every Jew should be afraid of this man."

I smiled approvingly and thought, "I see where this joke is going." But there was no joke. Mazer had finished his thought. He took the words at face value, mistaking the man who spoke them for a wise leader rather than a politician bearing his teeth at a toothless enemy.

That pillar of humanity, Europe, likewise has been up in arms since Haider’s ascendance in big, bad Austria. Bravely, the French boycotted a recent meeting of social affairs ministers in Lisbon; the Belgian envoy to the same meeting promised she would act as though the Austrian minister were "non-existent;" and everyone else is talking isolation for Austria. Israel, meanwhile, recalled its ambassador from Vienna, and the U.S. called back its own temporarily for "talks."

After all, there’s no political risk in castigating a white guy in Europe on whom nothing hinges. No one needs his signature for anything groundbreaking in the Middle East.

Yet even without benefit of Haider’s party, Austria has recognized the PLO since 1980. This has never raised any eyebrows. And why should it? The rest of Europe was way ahead of Austria on that front. (In fact, if you called the U.N. as early as 1980, and ordered its guide to Middle Eastern politics, at the back of the pamphlet you’d find an address of where to send contributions to the PLO. At least the Nations are honest about what they’re United against.)

Last November Joan Rivers broadcast Joerg Haider’s NYC marathon number on her radio show, for anyone who might want to throw trash or spit in his general direction. But a few years ago, when Mayor Giuliani had an uninvited Yasser Arafat escorted from an event, it caused major waves, and the action was characterized by many as pandering to Jewish voters.

European leaders have said in recent weeks that they fear that the rise of Austria’s xenophobic Freedom Party may harken back to a "dark past." But perhaps a reminder of the past is exactly what they need --- so that they might recall why it was so important to found a strong Jewish state.

Instead, they put daily pressures on Israel to make concessions compromising its very existence, and advocate a policy of restraint every time it gets hit by Hezbollah or a Palestinian suicide bomber. In the case of Hezbollah’s Katyusha rockets, for example, the most Israelis are allowed to do is run for cover. When this happened a couple weeks ago, Barak -- as courageously as with the Haider issue -- visited settlers in the bomb shelters and distributed mint tea to the adults, patted the children’s heads and said, "You might have to stay here for a few days."

Somehow the Prime Minister manages to keep such attacks — as well as six or so dead soldiers — in a separate lobe of his brain from the one holding the goal of getting Syria and Lebanon back to the negotiating table.

Is it just the Nazi thing, then, that’s creeping everyone out so much? If so, it might be worth noting whom it was the Arab world aligned itself with in WWII. Wasn’t it the uh, er, um…Nazis? Only unlike Austria, to this day Arab nations give us regular reminders as to where they stand.

Well-intentioned people are talented at recognizing historical mistakes when they have the luxury of 20/20 hindsight guiding them. But they are inept at acknowledging dangerous history in the making. In the case of the Middle East, specifically, they seem to have an automatic erase button.

Has Haider killed any Jews? No. Is he ready to be friends? He says yes. Has Arafat killed any Jews? Yes. Is he ready to be friends? He says yes. (Except for every few weeks when he raises Arab spirits by reminding his people that the peace accords are nothing more than the first major step in the ultimate goal of a purely Arabic Middle East.) So why do we give the benefit of the doubt to a Jew-killer when he says he wants to be friends but not to a non Jew-killer who says the same?

"Because," the optimists urge, "we have no one else we can deal with over there."

"But what about that stuff about Israel poisoning the water supply?"

"She was just kidding."

"How about the Palestinian kids being taught that Israel has no right to exist and that this should be made clear with ‘stones and bullets’?"

"Isn’t that just a summer-camp ditty?"

"And last year’s spiel by one of Arafat’s deputy prime ministers that Israel aims to destroy the Palestinian people?"

"Don’t they?"

"And all those times they’ve breached the various peace accords?"

"They don’t mean to."

"What about ‘Mein Kampf’ hitting No. 6 on the Palestinian bestseller list?"

"It probably means something else in Arabic…There’s a Palestinian bestseller list?"

"At least admit they have yet to change their constitution, which still alludes to Israel’s eventual elimination."

"Oh, they’re busy with peace talks."

To their credit, the Palestinians do let us know exactly the sort of peace they want: a piece of Jerusalem, a piece of the West Bank, the entire Golan piece, and all the pieces of Gaza.

Either way, how is forcing a signature out of Haider agreeing not to dislike anyone going to serve the cause of democracy and plurality? Dare we forget that anti-Semitism was officially illegal in the Soviet Union?

So while they’re sacrificing the Jewish State to score points with the Arab world (even though you can’t score points with the Arab world—the British tried this before when they closed Palestine off to Jews fleeing the Holocaust so as to appease Arabs out of siding with the Germans), they’re alienating a government that’s given no indication that it’s unwilling to adhere to the rules of fair play.

(NEWSFLASH: The next Holocaust ain’t coming from Europe.)

One of the many superficial anti-hate campaign slogans in the U.S. belongs to the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance. It says, "Hate, Racism, Anti-Semitism: They survive when good people look the other way."

By pointing its finger at Austria, the world is again doing just that.

So what is this not-so-fine line that's being drawn between Austria and Arabs? Is it that we just don't take Arabs killing Jews personally? Has everyone convinced himself that our Semitic rivals aren't doing it because of what we are, but because they want something from us?

Advice to Haider: If what they say is true, and you're a "hater," convert to Islam. Because it's just not the same if you're fair-skinned and hate without a cause.

JWR contributor Julia Gorin is a journalist and stand-up comic residing in Manhattan. Send your comments to her by clicking here.


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©1999, Julia Gorin