I wrote a story and posted it on Medium – somewhat of an experiment. It has to do with Yom HaShoah.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko died this weekend. This obituary is fair, I think, describing well both his courage and his limitations. Since most of us only have limitations though, I am less inclined to be critical of his decision to work within the Soviet system. He wrote ‘Babi Yar,’ and for that, we all owe him. I cannot read this poem without tears.
No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.
I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o’er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.
It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself.
The Philistines betrayed me – and now judge.
I’m in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I’m persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.
I see myself a boy in Belostok.
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.
I’m thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of “Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!”
My mother’s being beaten by a clerk.
O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.
I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The “Union of the Russian People!”
It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I’m in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other’s eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed – very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.
-“No, fear not – those are sounds
Of spring itself. She’s coming soon.
Quickly, your lips!”
-“They break the door!”
-“No, river ice is breaking…”
Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.
And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I’m every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.
No fiber of my body will forget this.
May “Internationale” thunder and ring
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.
There is no Jewish blood that’s blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that’s corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!
Rejoice, for there is Nikki Haley. Whatever concerns I have about President Trump – and there are many – I am thrilled with his selection of Haley as UN Ambassador. Listen to her here – such moral clarity, such good sense. Almost Moynihan-esque. Wish my brother were here, for many reasons, but in part because he would so love to hear these words.
The attacks started two years ago today. I say “started” because, of course, they continued at the Hyper Cacher a couple of days later. Here is a piece I wrote on the matter and on the left’s unfortunate need to calibrate and mitigate the crimes with “buts” and “what abouts” and all other manner of distraction.
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.
With Obama’s abstention on yesterday’s anti-Israel UN resolution (just another day the UN), the Western Wall and the Temple Mount are now declared to be “occupied” by the Jewish people. This was a dark, sorry decision from Obama, and as petty and ignorant of history as I knew him to be, I never imagined he would sink this low. He has brought the U.S. and the Democratic Party down to such depths, especially when you consider the greatness of a Daniel Patrick Moynihan on pretty much this same issue.
Is Obama an anti-Semite? Or is he just so personally vindictive and nasty that he wanted to kick Netanyahu on his way out the door?
I have doubts about Trump — many, in particular about his isolationism and his relationship with Russia — but at this point, January 20th can’t come soon enough. Heckuva job, Barack.
…it’s always rather horrifying. One place they meet is anti-Semitism. Another — and I’m noticing it a lot during this American election campaign — is the spot at which dwell these very bizarre Vladimir Putin/Aggressive Russia apologists.
I suspect the leftists who make excuses for Russia these days miss what they view as the halcyon days of the USSR (I think of Stephen Cohen here); those on the right? Maybe they just like strong-arm tactics.
At any rate, this American election cycle is massively depressing.
David Cameron is really impressive, and spot-on, here. So well done. And I think Corbyn actually has himself convinced he isn’t a bigot (like so many bigots I know).
Today is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Israel. Oh the occasion, Edward R. Murrow’s report from Buchenwald. Extraordinary.
The extraordinary 1975 Daniel Patrick Moynihan speech, in response to the madness of the “Zionism equals racism” resolution that had passed. There are no Moynihans now, I fear, and more and more fools who think that Zionism is racism. (I’m related to a few.)
Daniel Pearl’s father wrote a column a few years ago in which he lamented the “normalization of evil.” He was quite right, and as Significant Other said upon reading those words, “there is also the evil-ization of normal.” One normal thing now made to appear evil is supporting Israel.
Listen to this speech, the moral clarity, the understanding of history. It makes me so miss my brother Alan – he was one of the few people (and even fewer relatives) with whom I could have serious discussions about politics and history.
The column in question is ostensibly about why we should all become Jews. Of course, Cohen isn’t really suggesting we should, although Significant Other and I often say that we will have to join the Israel Army one of these days…if they would have two middle-aged out of shape folks.
It’s a column about the pathology of anti-Semitism and how far it is spreading, in particular its grip on much of the political left.
But consider how many leftwing activists, institutions or academics would agree with a politer version [of blatant anti-Semitism].
Western governments are the main source of the ills of the world. The “Israel lobby” controls western foreign policy. Israel itself is the “root cause” of all the terrors of the Middle East, from the Iraq war to Islamic State. Polite racism turns the Jews, once again, into demons with the supernatural power to manipulate and destroy nations. Or as the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström, who sees herself as a feminist rather than a racial conspiracist, explained recently, Islamist attacks in Paris were the fault of Israeli occupiers in the West Bank.
(Oh man, I know so many people — some to whom I am related — who buy such nonsense. Depressing. As my late brother used to say, “the ’60s have a lot for which to answer.”)
Cohen writes of his own experiences (his father was Jewish, not his mother) growing up with a Jewish name and in particular of the temptation — which he resisted — to become a self-loathing Jew.
He does suggest one pretend to be Jewish to see how people’s reactions to you change. It’s fascinating, because when I was in Italy in 2014, there was this awful woman who was always very mean to me and I remember one day she asked me if I was Jewish. I just knew that if I answered “yes,” she would have hated me even more, but I thought the fact that she suspected it (as though it were a crime) was revealing.