“Are Jews themselves responsible for the progression of anti-Semitism?” this was the question Helena Grool, a journalist for Sveriges Radio (SR) posed to Israel’s ambassador Isaac Bachman on Tuesday, February 17, 2015.
Her wildly inappropriate, “It’s the Jews fault” question was asked two days after Omar El-Hussein, a 22-year-old Dane of immigrant Palestinian parents, murdered a filmmaker in a cafe in Copenhagen and a Jewish volunteer guarding the city’s main synagogue.
When Ambassador Bachman replied to Grool, he stated: “I purely and simply reject the question.”
Not picking up on the Ambassador’s diplomatic hint to reject the question, Grool responded, “Why?”
Ambassador Backman: “There is no place for such a question to be asked.”
Sveriges Radio’s senior management stated on it’s website: We unreservedly apologize for the question. It is misleading and imposes guilt upon both individuals and a vulnerable group. The Jewish community has been subjected to terrible terror and has our full sympathy and support.
Even though Sveriges Radio issued an full apology and removed the clip to prevent spreading the anti-Semitic question, 1.09 BILLION people in the world today who harbor anti-Semitic attitudes don’t reject the belief behind that question, they embrace it.
The Shattering of My Naivety
After 9/11, my son, an Army Ranger, was sent to Afghanistan on his first deployment for Operation Enduring Freedom. To better understand the Asian and Middle Eastern worldview and the reasons contributing to the conflict, terror and war between East and West, I began reading foreign English online newspapers. Moving from right to left across middle earth, starting in Hong Kong and ending in England, I desired to understand the culture, politics and religious views in that region of the world. Reading newspapers from East to West became my daily ritual.
I compared stories on daily events written by western journalists with the same news reports written by Middle Eastern and Asian journalists. BBC and Reuters vs. Al Jazeera. Haaretz vs the Electronic Intifada. The Muslim News vs The Jerusalem Post. Many of the current events in mainstream media outlets reported pretty much the same facts, except when it came to naming conventions. Same facts. Different rhetoric. Western newspapers called the Americans ‘liberators.’ Middle eastern papers called the Americans ‘occupiers.’ George Bush was reviled.
When I hit the Gulf oil countries, their ‘news’ stories centered on photo-ops of their royalty glad-handing at non-newsworthy events, as if there were no stories other than their smiles and their wealth. Boring. And still I’d click on all their links to see if they reported on any kind of hard news. I gleaned an interesting oil fact here and there, but not much else.
One of the most hilarious stories I read was written by an Egyptian who’d lived in America. He made a valiant attempt to explain the beliefs galvanizing America’s fundamentalist religious right to the paper’s fundamentalist Muslim Egyptian audience. Talk about trying to explain the Christian version of jihadi — defined in this article as ‘the war or struggle against unbelievers’ — to Muslim Jihadists. LOL! Fundamentalist craziness at it’s best. How I wish I’d saved that article.
Even the newspapers in the West don’t understand how to explain the beliefs and mindsets of the religious right. But reading an explanation written by a person whose English seemed to be his second language — well, let’s just say — was beyond hysterically funny. At least, his attempt at fairness exceeded the rhetoric of American journalists who speak English as their first language.
Bizarre Blind Biases
As I clicked on newspapers from Indonesia to Hong Kong to Thailand to India to Pakistan to Egypt, I noticed a pattern in many of the ‘news’ articles published in Muslim-influenced countries. No matter whether the article was about a local or global event or issue, many articles ended with the same conclusion: “It’s the Jews fault.” Now mind you, many of the articles had nothing to do with the Jews or Israel, but still their conclusions? It’s the Jews fault.
I teach writing workshops and it’s always great when a writer can surprise the reader with a twist ending to make their readers think a little deeper or laugh out loud or emotionally move their hearts or conclude with a stomach-grabber-you-got-me-suck-in-the-breath ending. But their habit of ending with “It’s the Jews Fault” shocked me.
Talk about bizarre twist.
How can a local story about a pet goat in Pakistan be the Jews fault? I made the story up about the pet goat, but that’s how I’d describe the end of their stories — made up. Whether the Jews had any connection with the pet goat or not — it was . . . guess? The Jews fault.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that scapegoating Israel or the Jews seemed a convenient way to end a story. And it also didn’t take me long to figure out that their politics or culture or religion or superstitions or whatever informs or misinforms their ‘critical’ thinking — or lack of — depending upon how you define ‘critical’ thinking. Concluding any article on any topic unrelated to the Jews or Israel? You could pretty much bet, the conclusion remained the same: It’s the Jews fault.
I live in such a cloistral world. The raw, blatant hatred and anti-semitism shocked me, reminding me of the illogical, crazy claims made against the Jews throughout history.
I recall the first time I heard a friend in high school say, “He’s a Jew.” I didn’t understand my friend’s sinister undertone. His body language and the tone of his voice meant ‘Jew’ was bad, I just didn’t know how or why. I really liked the ‘Jew’ he referred to, who seemed normal, just like you, just like me. My minister father rented office space from a Jewish man, one of the kindest men I’d ever met. I worked in a clothing store owned by Jews, who treated me like their daughter. All my interactions with ‘Jews’? Positive.
The only other Jews I knew were people in the Bible and Jesus. Since I loved the Bible and Jesus, I loved Jews. I know, rather simplistic. My parents taught me that Jesus’ Daddy loved everyone, so my parents taught me to love God with all my heart, mind, soul and spirit and love others as myself, regardless of (gasp!) religion or race. But even as a child, I knew not everyone who claimed to follow God loved others as themselves or even loved themselves.
As the daughter of a minister, I grew up in a home where my parents talked about how Jesus changed their lives. When I was two years old, the power of “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, NASB) radically changed my parents. Their lives celebrated God’s power to bring personal peace and forgiveness, dissolving long-standing hatreds. Inner transformation and peace lived from the inside out — that’s what I thought defined ‘normative’ Christianity.
What my parents modeled produced an observant offspring harboring a built-in BS detector. My hypocrisy detector often flustered my parents. I’d naively blurt out to Mr. or Mrs. Tartuffe the disconnect I noticed between what the impostors said and how they lived — to their faces, no less. For peace and political reasons, of course, many church people resorted to gossiping behind the Tartuffe’s backs, lacking the courage to say what a guileless child unmasked to the embarrassment of all present.
My parents taught me that the Almighty God sent Sar Shalowm, the Prince of Peace, through His Jewish lineage to live, to die and to rise again to purchase and to procure peace between God and man, between man and his conscience, and between man and man. The Prince of Peace came to heal the diseases of the heart, the mind, the mouth, the soul, the spirit and the sectarian and religious divides between people.
To Jews, Jesus was a Torah observant Jew and teacher.
To Christians, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is a heart, life and game changer.
To Muslims, Jesus was a prophet and messenger from God.
One Jesus. Three understandings.
While the three Abrahamic religion’s theologies differ, all claim to believe in the moral essence written in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. And Judaism, Christianity and Islam all three agree on the Golden Rule that defines all people as equal and worthy to be treated with mutual kindness and respect.
Judaism’s Golden Rule
- “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18)
- “What is hateful to you, to your fellow don’t do.’ That’s the entirety of the Torah; everything else is elaboration. So go, study.” (Talmud, Bavli Shabbat 31a/I.121)
Christianity’s Golden Rule
- “See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another.” (Tobit 4:16)
- “Judge your neighbor’s feelings by your own, and in every matter be thoughtful.” (Sirach 31:15)
- “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
- For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
Islam’s Golden Rule
- “None of you have faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.” (Sahih Muslim)
- “Whoever wishes to be delivered from the fire and to enter Paradise . . . should treat the people as he wishes to be treated.” (Sahih Muslim)
- “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” (Hadith in al-Bukhari)
- “Seek for mankind that of which you are desirous for yourself, that you may be a believer.” (Sukhanan-i-Muhammad)