On keeping your suitcases packed

I have always thought that curiosity about oneself is self-indulgent. Nothing bored me more than people that wanted to tell me what they had discovered about themselves in psychotherapy. Just get on with it, was my motto. I don’t care about your childhood, and you shouldn’t either.

The same went for Jews who are always picking at the Holocaust. I didn’t want to hear about it. They tried to kill us, they only partially succeeded, let’s eat. I never visited Yad Vashem; I skipped the trip provided by the absorption center in 1979. I don’t go to Holocaust movies, and the last book I read about it was André Schwarz-Bart’s The Last of the Just, which I read in the early 1960s. Who needs this stuff, I thought? I had contempt for those who were seeking emotional titillation at a safe distance from the horrors of 75 years ago, while ignoring the Arabs and Iranians that want to murder us today.

I thought I was a “new Jew” that had dumped all of that baggage.

But there seems to be something about the aging process that compels reflection. There are things that you did that you wish you had done differently, and things that you wish you hadn’t done at all. And I think I’m beginning to understand why people investigate their genealogy, or take trips to the places their grandparents lived. What was it like to live under the Czar? My grandfather could have told me, but it’s almost 50 years too late to ask him. I didn’t care then, but today I want to know.

I was born in 1942 and I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. My parents were born in America and were invested in being Americans. They weren’t interested in religion, in speaking the Yiddish they understood from their childhoods, or in joining Jewish or Zionist organizations. None of that had anything for them. They understood that they were Jewish, almost all of their friends were Jewish too, but when they looked for a house in the suburbs in 1950, they chose a non-Jewish neighborhood. They never talked about the Holocaust, at least not that I heard. In 1948 I asked my father about disturbing things I was hearing on the radio. He explained that there was a war going on “between the Jews and the Arabs.” But they were different Jews, far away and not connected to us.

My maternal grandparents, with whom we lived, were another story. They had emigrated (from here) in what is now Ukraine, before the revolution. They had relatives who had stayed behind in Europe, whom they kept in touch with until the war. Toward the end of it, they somehow found out that none of them had survived. I overheard conversations that I only partly understood, but I was aware that something terrible had happened.

My grandmother was one of the toughest and hardest-working women I’ve known, although she had a soft spot in her heart for her (then) only grandchild. She came to America at the age of 17 not knowing how to read or write, but already a dressmaker by profession. My grandparents both worked as sewing machine operators in the Manhattan garment district; someone told me that my grandfather, who was blind in one eye, had a job because they had to hire him to get her. I inherited my cynical, even slightly paranoid, attitude from her.

Their approach to life, far different from my “American” parents, was that of Jews who were always looking over their shoulders. The Holocaust was always present, as well as the pogroms of pre-revolutionary Russia. They were the kind of Jews that, at least figuratively, always had their suitcases packed. At one point when I was in college in the 1960s, I told my grandfather that I was thinking about making aliyah. He smiled and patted me on the back, and said “to help the Jewish people.” I was surprised. I doubt that my parents would have used the expression “the Jewish people” in any context.

I didn’t make aliyah until much later, but there’s no doubt that my connection to the Jewish people goes through my grandparents (but probably not my Judaism: the constitution of the Landsmannschaft to which he belonged contains a note that “the question of affiliation with a synagogue is never to be raised.” Not my conservatism either: he was a regular reader of the Yiddish Daily Forward and once even elected Secretary of his ILGWU local).

The Holocaust, the pogroms of Europe, and the anti-Jewish riots and massacres in the Middle East and North Africa are unfortunately part of the Jewish people’s collective soul. So are the thousands of years of discrimination and ghettoization. There’s no escaping them, even if we pretend to be “new Jews” for whom history started in the 19th century here in Israel with the arrival of the first Zionists.

And that’s not bad. My grandmother could spot a con a mile away. She was suspicious, but in her world, you had to be. She wouldn’t trust Mahmoud Abbas or Tzipi Livni as far as she could throw them. She understood that the world was a dangerous place for Jews, and you had to always watch your back. I completely understand her. I still look over my shoulder. It’s in my DNA. But there are some ways in which things have finally changed.

In Israel today, we face some very serious threats. We need to look over our shoulders, to Tehran, Gaza, Damascus, Beirut and Ramallah. But after several thousand years, our suitcases are finally unpacked.

Posted in Jew Hatred, The Jewish people | Leave a comment

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

S/Sgt. Hadas Malka, z”l, who was murdered on Friday in Jerusalem. She took this selfie some 20 minutes before an Arab terrorist stabbed her to death. She was 23.

S/Sgt. Hadas Malka, z”l, who was murdered on Friday in Jerusalem. She took this selfie some 20 minutes before an Arab terrorist stabbed her to death. She was 23.

Every time a Palestinian Arab kills one or two or 30 of us, we take measures to increase security or to deter the next potential terrorist. We deploy police officers and soldiers, we demolish the houses of terrorists, we reduce the number of permits granted to Arabs to work in Israel or to visit the Temple Mount.

We are doing all of these things this time, too. The terrorists that murdered Hadas came in with Arabs from the territories who were allowed to enter Jerusalem to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan. So they’ll be checked more carefully next time. Numerous illegal residents of the capital were rounded up and deported.

But all of these measures are like aspirin to a cancer patient. They are aimed at the symptoms. We need to treat the disease. So first, the diagnosis:

Israel, or at least many Israelis, suffer from a severe case of what psychologists call imposter syndrome:

Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. …

If it is not addressed, victims can develop anxiety, stress, low self-confidence, depression, shame and self-doubt . People [and nations– vr] who suffer from impostor syndrome tend to reflect and dwell upon extreme failure, mistakes and negative feedback from others.

The Diaspora experience seems to have left some of us believing that we are unworthy of living in the land of Israel and of being sovereign in Jerusalem. They believe that our victory in the 1967 war was due to “luck,” and that the “negative feedback” – great expression! – we receive from Jew-hating Arabs and Europeans is in fact correct.

The syndrome is more than just a psychological quirk. It has had and continues to have disastrous real-life consequences.

It is bad enough that we are so neurotic, like unhappy little Woody Allens, but when we broadcast our doubts and insecurity to the world, including our deadly enemies, it becomes a direct cause of events like the murder of Hadas Malka.

Some like to say that the cause of terrorism is that the Palestinian Arabs have lost hope, that there is no “horizon” in view for them. But this is exactly the opposite of the truth. What the Arabs hope for is to finally get rid of us, and analysis shows that terrorism increases whenever the Palestinians become more hopeful. So our failure to act like the conquerors we are doesn’t make the Arabs like us any better; it actually encourages terrorism.

A prime example of this was the surrender of the Temple Mount to the Jordanian waqf in 1967. Perhaps Moshe Dayan and others thought this would help bring peace, but it had exactly the opposite effect, sending the message that we hadn’t conquered Jerusalem after all, and giving the Arabs hope that they could reverse the outcome of the war.

There’s no question of what the Arabs would do in a similar situation, because they already showed us. In 1948 they expelled every last Jew from the part of the land they controlled, made stables out of our synagogues and turned our gravestones into urinals. They probably expected that we would demolish al-Aqsa and put a synagogue, or even a new Temple, in its place. We had every right to do so, as the original owners of the land who had reasserted their control over it.

But we didn’t, and over the years we’ve behaved as though we lost the war rather than winning it in a rather spectacular fashion. We have little by little allowed pressure from the West and terror from the Arabs to justify concession after concession, with the worst one being the Oslo decision to reintroduce the poisonous PLO into the land that we had won at great cost.

The Arabs, who should long ago have lost hope in the possibility of dislodging us, were encouraged by our weakness, our apparent belief that we really didn’t belong here. So naturally, they continue to push against our weak spots.

It will be a long a difficult journey, but we can reverse the process. One good place to start is the place that our neurotic surrender started on the day of our victory in 1967, the Temple Mount. We should reverse the process whereby a “status quo” has been established in which the Muslims act like the owners of the property and Jews can visit only by their sufferance. It is not acceptable that Jewish visits to the Mount should be so sharply limited, while Muslims can come and go and even play football there if they wish. The absurd and humiliating regulation that Jews may not pray, lift their hands, or even cry on the Temple Mount should be revoked. Ultimately, a synagogue should be constructed on the site, as former IDF Rabbi Shlomo Goren wished.

The response to suggestions like the above is always that “it will inflame Muslim anger” and make the situation worse. The “status quo” is treated as untouchable (although it seems to inching closer and closer to excluding Jews altogether). But Muslims are quite capable of inflaming their own anger, and the more it is indulged the more inflamed it gets.

Another area in which our behavior needs to change is our perennial cooperation with failed attempts to negotiate a “two-state solution” with the PLO. Our Prime Minister and even Yitzhak Herzog have had moments of clarity in which they admitted that the idea is chimerical. And yet, we keep giving US Presidents and Secretaries of State hope that we can get them the Nobel Prizes they believe they deserve (and giving the PLO hope that it can weasel new advantages out of the process). Enough.

The struggle we are in is a struggle of wills as much as a military one. Terrorism can’t be stopped by force alone, because we share the same piece of land with Arabs and we are not going to wipe them out. It can’t be stopped by concessions, because they simply encourage the enemy to push harder. The only practical solution is to eliminate the terrorist’s will to fight, by proving to them that no matter what they do, we will not retreat, that continued violence will only make life for their people harder and move them farther from their goal.

The same policies that will preserve the country in the diplomatic and military arenas will ultimately end terrorism. Our actions should always be aimed in the direction of more sovereignty, not less. We must never give up territory, never release prisoners before the end of their sentences, and always respond to violence with disproportionate force.

No one who has not lost a child really knows what it is like, but every time someone’s child like Hadas is lost, it is painful for the whole society. It is every parent’s worst nightmare. Stopping the nightmares won’t be easy or quick, but no magic is required; just an understanding of what has to be done – and a will strong enough to do it.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism | 4 Comments

Illuminating Gaza

Gaza’s electricity shortage has recently become critical. Gaza gets its power from Israel and Egypt, and has a small power station of its own. But due to a decision of the Palestinian Authority to further reduce the amount it pays Israel  for electricity, the 3-4 hours a day during which Gaza is illuminated will be reduced by another 45 minutes or so – unless money is found somewhere.

Hamas is threatening that there will be an “explosion” unless something is done. It is a big problem for the population, because food is not being refrigerated, sewage is not being processed, water is not being pumped, and hospitals are unable to operate. And the weather is getting hotter.

Israel presently supplies Hamas with about 125 megawatt-hours (MWh) per day, and Egypt provides a smaller amount. Gaza’s own power station is presently not operating due to lack of fuel. It’s estimated that a 24-hour supply of electricity would require 400-500 MWh per day.

Negotiations are under way (Wednesday) for Western and Arab countries to pick up some of the slack. After all, think of the children. And nobody wants an “explosion.”

But there is a solution that nobody seems to have proposed yet. Let’s begin by asking a question: why doesn’t Hamas have money for electricity? After all, it levies heavy taxes on goods coming into the strip (both legally via the crossings from Israel and illegally via tunnels from Egypt) and on almost every other form of economic activity. It got money from Qatar until recently, and has now started receiving aid from Iran again. International donors pledged large sums for reconstruction after the 2014 war, although there was very little rebuilding done. Where did the money go?

The answer is simple: some of it enriched Hamas insiders, but most of it was used to dig tunnels, to manufacture rockets and for other weapons and military infrastructure. Hamas officials were ready to see their children (well, the children of other Gaza residents) hungry and wading in sewage if it advanced their project to destroy Israel.

In effect money was converted into weapons. And that provides a way to solve the problem: we can convert it back.

For example, what if Israel agreed to provide Hamas with 2 MWh for every stockpiled Qassam rocket turned over to us? They have thousands of these, which could keep the lights on for weeks. Not to mention longer-range rockets, which would be worth more. And tunnels – I’m sure we would be happy to give them a whole day’s worth of electricity for the precise location of a terror tunnel. Just give us the coordinates and we’ll do the rest! Anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons are valuable, too. A nice shoulder-fired SAM is probably worth 10 MWh. Even rifles and mortar shells could help keep the juice flowing.

You get the idea. From Israel’s point of view, it would be far cheaper than the tamir rockets used by Iron Dome to shoot down the Qassams ($50k -$100k each!), and the amount of effort needed to find the tunnels. Hamas would get its electricity – and we would get some peace and quiet for a change.

I’m calling it the Watts for Weapons program. I’m sure they’ll go along with it. Only someone who prefers killing Jews to keeping his own people alive could possibly turn it down.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism | 2 Comments

A bug, not a feature

Can you guess what's missing?

Can you guess what’s missing?

Dear Apple CEO Tim Cook,

I am writing to report a bug in the Clock application of your iOS operating system (10.3.2), found on my new iPad.

Somehow the country associated with Jerusalem seems to be missing!

Almost every other city, even Ittoqqortoormiit, has a country. But Jerusalem does not (Taipei also lacks a country, but I will leave that to someone else to argue about).

I know this has to be a bug, because Jerusalem is in Israel! Not only is Jerusalem in Israel, it is the capital of Israel, and has been since the modern state was founded in 1948 (it was also the capital of David’s kingdom, back around 1000 BCE). Israel’s Knesset meets there, its Prime Minister’s office is there, and there are even several authorized Apple dealers there. So how can you not know?

I thought this was a new thing, but apparently the bug has been around since iOS version 7 in 2013! Surely it would be easy to fix.

I’m beginning to think that this isn’t a bug, but something that some of your people think is a feature. Believe me, it’s not. It’s a political statement that most Israelis take as offensive and insulting, whether it comes from the US State Department or Apple. If Jerusalem isn’t in Israel, where is it? On Mars?

The suggestion that Israel isn’t sovereign in its own capital is outrageous. It is really a way of saying that the legitimacy of the Jewish state is still tentative, after almost 70 years. Don’t pretend that it is anything less than that. Yes, we know that some people don’t think the Jewish people are a people, or that they should have a state. But is this the position you want your company to take?

I suspect you make a lot of money selling iPhones and other gear here. Israel came in third in the world for smartphone penetration in 2015 (74%, more than the US) and my guess is that it’s significantly higher today.

More importantly, Israel is one of the most advanced centers of technological development in the world, maybe the most advanced. Intel just bought an Israeli company for $15 billion. With a ‘b’.

Your competitor Microsoft has a big presence here, and so does Google. You don’t even have a company-owned store. Don’t you want us to use your stuff, write software for it and integrate it into our cutting edge developments in such things as medical technology and robotics?

We don’t have to, you know. We don’t even have to buy your products, and frankly, since you have been pretending at least since 2013 that our capital city is on another planet, I don’t see any reason to continue to do so.

So I am personally, in my small way, going to do my best to show you how we feel. I will start by explaining to as many Israelis as possible why they should choose an Android phone or tablet over an iOS device and a PC over a Mac. My next device will be an ABA (Anything But Apple).

Probably stockholders should dump their shares too. Your decision to take a side — the wrong one — in the conflict over our right to exist may have temporarily helped your sales in some markets, but in the long run will prove to be shortsighted.

Sincerely,
Abu Yehuda

Update [1526 IDT]: A reader has informed me that Apple has recently opened a development center in Israel. So they have apparently decided that they can benefit from the talent available here.

Possibly someone there knows what country Jerusalem is in and can fix the bug in iOS.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Millwall 1, Islam 0

If you haven’t heard about Roy Larner yet, he’s the British football fan that is being called a hero for his actions last week at the Borough Market near London Bridge. When three terrorists entered the Black and Blue Steakhouse waving knives and shouting “Islam! Islam!” Larner charged them, throwing stools and glasses and swinging at them with his fists. Ultimately they left the restaurant, with Larner in pursuit and bleeding from at least 8 stab wounds (he is presently recovering in hospital). He may have saved numerous lives by his actions.

Larner wasn’t the only unarmed civilian or police officer that fought with the terrorists, who killed 7 and injured 48 before they were finally and permanently stopped by armed police. But what seems to have placed Larner in the eye of the media is what he said to the terrorists:

“I took a few steps towards them and said, ‘F*** you, I’m Millwall’. So they started attacking me.”

Mr Larner added: “I stood in front of them trying to fight them off. Everyone else ran to the back.

“I was on my own against all three of them, that’s why I got hurt so much.

“It was just me, trying to grab them with my bare hands and hold on. I was swinging.

“I got stabbed and sliced eight times. They got me in my head, chest and both hands. There was blood everywhere.

“They were saying, ‘Islam, Islam!’ I said again, ‘F*** you, I’m Millwall!’

Millwall is a football club in South London whose fans are known for their pugnacity, a nicer word than “hooliganism,” of which they are sometimes accused.

On Good Morning Britain, presenter Piers Morgan, a fan of rival London club Arsenal, told viewers: “Millwall fans get a very bad rap, a lot of it very deserved, but there are times when you really want a lot of Millwall fans, and that was one of them.”

So, do I think that the solution to Islamic terrorism is to deputize or even arm English football fans? Not necessarily, although civilian response to terrorism has sometimes saved the day here in Israel. But there is an important clue in Larner’s statement to the terrorists.

“I’m Millwall,” he said. Or in other words, I’m from here, standing my ground and protecting my people on my land. Don’t come in here with your knives and your Islam crap, not on my home turf.

Part of what motivated Roy Larner to risk his own life and limb, perhaps in addition to the “four or five pints” he admits to having consumed, was the very basic human drive to defend one’s home and family against foreign invaders; the tribal instinct, so disapproved of by the post-modern John Lennon fans who moved to the back of the restaurant when Roy confronted the terrorists.

As long as Western society tries to suppress the tribal instinct, which provides the emotional drive behind nationalism, patriotism and national solidarity, we will continue to be defeated and humiliated by the Islamic jihad, which is also strongly tribal (although it sees itself as a conqueror rather than a defender).

So-called “populist” leaders, like Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders, Donald Trump and others, have in common an appeal to tribal feelings, regardless of the details of their programs. And one of the reasons people find them attractive at this historical moment is because they see it as a powerful response to the threat of the Islamic jihad against the West.

In order to protect herself from the jihad, Britain (and the rest of Europe and ultimately the US) will have to adopt tribalist policies, such as limiting immigration from significantly different cultures – in this case, Muslim ones – and perhaps expelling the known bad actors among imams, activists and politicians. Maybe the most radical mosques should be closed altogether. The UK should probably arm all of its police officers, too. But in the end, no number of police on the street, armed or not, can prevent terrorism, only respond to it more quickly. Only the elimination of potential terrorists from the population can actually end it.

Here in Israel one often sees T-shirts with nonsensical, silly or embarrassing things written on them in “English.” Today we saw one that made a lot of sense, and I think Roy Larner would agree. It read:

DEFEND YOUR TURF

Have another pint or five, Roy. You’ve certainly earned it.

Posted in Terrorism | Leave a comment