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Until I was 12 years old, the only time I gave any thought to the Jewish people was when I was sitting in a Sunday Bible class for kids at my church. The stories, in what Christians call the Old Testament, were standard fare for children of Christian families throughout the 20th century. But two things happened in my 12th year that sent the Jews rocketing into more of my continual awareness.
The first thing that happened was that I inexplicably volunteered to run the student council presidential campaign for my friend Jack Markell. I use the word “inexplicably” advisedly. I’m mortally averse to administrative tasks. I cannot fathom whatever possessed me to volunteer, but volunteer I did. (As I’m writing this, it occurs to me that I might have written about this before here on Ricochet. If so, bear with me. It will pass.)
Another student at school pulled me aside and asked me what I thought I was doing, working on Jack’s campaign. I thought the question was odd and, as I was not someone who was socially timid, I responded with an assertive “Why shouldn’t I?” The kid gave me a conspiratorial look, glanced left and right, then over his shoulder, and whispered, “he’s Jewish.” All of these secretive gyrations were mystifying to me, probably because I wasn’t all that interested in the disclosure itself. I didn’t give two hoots whether Jack was Jewish or Martian. I was probably mildly surprised that he was Jewish — I hadn’t any idea before my conspiratorial adviser let me know. But it was puzzling to me that anyone thought I was supposed to care whether Jack was Jewish. Honestly, I found the whole experience puzzling. Now, I am happy to report that Jack won the election, notwithstanding his unfortunate choice in campaign manager. However, those events did surface something that I would continue to chew on regarding the weirdly obsessive interest this other student took in Jack’s Jewishness.
Not long after that, the Summer Olympics took place in 1972. As a 12-year-old kid, I was outraged by the massacre of Israeli athletes at those summer games by Palestinian terrorists. As outraged as a 12-year-old could possibly be. It altered my whole perception of the Israeli/Palestinian question and imposed an unexpected dose of moral clarity on my early-adolescent mind. I loved the Olympics, was generally but not overly sympathetic toward Israel, but those events left me seething at the injustice of the athletes’ murders. The Munich massacre was…formative.
Over the decades that followed, I found myself generally sympathetic to Israel’s interests but, if I’m honest with myself, I was also reasonably balanced by the realization that no person, and thus no nation, is perfect. But, as the saying goes, I may have been born at night, but I wasn’t born last night. So I’ve never given any credence to the whole occupier/colonist/settler propaganda. It is, well, a stupid idea that the next-to-last people in a given geography have permanent claim and are entitled to eternal self-righteous umbrage. The whole colonialism schtick is a transparent manipulation, easily spotted by anyone with more sense than a gullible undergrad.
And the minute someone starts braying about the U.N. and international law, all such jibber-jabber immediately translates in my mind to “undemocratic rule by unelected bureaucrats.” It’s a total non-starter if they’re hoping to activate my notably limited reserves of empathy.
All of that being said, I’ve been generally tolerant of the claims of the Zionists when they say they need a country of their own to ensure against another Holocaust. But have I also felt a wee bit that, multiple generations post-Holocaust, their worries about yet another Holocaust were emotion-laden and not particularly reality-based. Outside of the Muslim world, I believed, no one really wanted to kill the Jews.
And then October 7th came. And I found myself even more outraged than I was in 1972. But even that didn’t alter my sense that the Zionist imperative was, while understandable historically, still perhaps a bit overblown. Hamas’ actions were unprecedented and barbaric, to be sure. But Hamas is still a finite organization that, though it will be painful to destroy, can be destroyed nevertheless.
But in the intervening days, as I’ve watched what has occurred — quite literally — all over the world in massive crowds numbering thousands of Hamas sympathizers; as I’ve watched the widespread vandalizing of the posters of kidnapped and missing Israeli innocents; as I have watched — even today — the Jew-hating mobs in Russia as they stormed the plane(s) arriving from Israel, I have utterly changed my mind about the Zionist cause. My thinking has transformed from being benevolent and humoring of Zionist concerns, to being in utter agreement with their belief in the feasibility of another Holocaust. I have come to believe that they would actually have to be mad not to persist in the Zionist cause. I have been sold by the size of the worldwide crowds, marching in the streets and baying for Jewish blood.
The Jew-haters have me convinced: the Zionists have been right all along.Published in