November 19, 2014

Adding intellectual insult to physical carnage

There are no new debates and no new lessons to be learned from yesterday's wrenching, horrific, disgusting and barbaric attack in Jerusalem. I stopped being surprised a long time ago. The problems and the solutions are neither easy nor mysterious, and suggesting otherwise adds to the difficulty. May the families and the entire community find the comfort and courage to move forward in every way.

In the car yesterday morning, I listened to BBC's coverage of the synagogue attack, via our much-maligned public radio network, including an extensive chillingly vivid account by an Israeli first responder who literally jumped right into the unfolding carnage. I found his account, and the entire BBC report, to be deeply meaningful and illuminating, and couldn't have imagined a more appropriate or objectively sympathetic frame for the immediate aftermath of such an unthinkable tragedy. 

Right or left, the wasted time and effort pillorying the news media (and trumpeting every graveyard-shift breaking-news error) for supposedly biased coverage is a distraction from the real tragedy and from the real dilemmas facing Israel and the region, and the Jewish people. "All hands on deck" is a call for discipline, ingenuity and clarity of purpose, not recitations of talking points and easy answers, running around in circles, or blaming each other as our ship nears the reef.

The persistent effort to discredit open discussion and dissent within the Jewish community is beyond wasteful -- it's destructive to the very mission and purpose of the sacred enterprise. It advances the very goal of such awful but strategically irrelevant attacks, which -- beyond provoking the sort of retaliation which further alienates Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as well as in Israel proper -- is to break the Jewish spirit and open discourse. Those who respond to external attacks by attacking other Jews are no less "self-hating" than those whose Judaism they impugn.

As I mentioned above, this is all a play that's been repeated too many times, and despite a few heroic attempts we have yet to see either progress or a dramatic shift from the same thinking. 

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