Jews Remember

We Jews rely on memory. Our festivals: sukkot, pesah and shavuot are built upon memory. Other holy days, e.g.: Tisha B'Av, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Purim, are constructed upon memories both historical and ahistorical. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, we recount and repent the sins of the past year, and list the nation's sins as a single people. We embrace shared memories.

Among the Holocaust's most bitter memories, and a key to Israel's national narrative, is that Jews did not adequately oppose the Nazis. It is the reason for the slogan, "Masada shall not fall again." That narrative of going without resistance to the slaughter is largely untrue, but nonetheless, every post-Holocaust Jew has learned that we will not go quietly into the gas chambers again. In other words: we will fight and resist persecution whenever and wherever it rears it's snakelike head. Indeed, as demonstrated in Israel's wars and the incident at Entebbe on July 4th, 1976, Israel defends Jews against terrorism and persecution wherever Jews may live, as much as possible whenever needed.

Much of that same historical narrative came to fruition with the Black Power movement in the U.S. in the sixties. Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis and so many others said they would no longer silently tolerate white oppression. In contradistinction to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's non-violence, patterned on the teachings of India's Mahatma Gandhi, the Black Power movement insisted that they would no longer sit idly by and be victimized by white aggression. This attitude has been furthered in the last several years as police beatings and the deaths of blacks for no crime or on minor charges have become increasingly common. Most of the police attackers have not been punished, to the utter dismay of much of the African American community.

With this historical note, we come to President Trump's attacks on those who came to defend themselves against neo-Nazis and White Supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. President Trump and his defenders have equated those who came in self-defense against Nazi and White Supremacist terror with the Nazis and White Supremacists themselves. Trump's unconscionable attempt at a moral claim consciously ignores the history of terrorism and persecution that incited the opposition rally, as though history does not exist. Trump claims that both sides came ready for battle, and therefore both are bad. In other words, when potential victims defend themselves against historically recognized forces of evil who are determined to annihilate them, they must sit back and pretend that the threat does not exist. To prepare to defend oneself, President Trump contends, is the moral equivalent of hate based aggression.

This formula for disaster, of course, is only a ruse to protect those in Trump's base who are White Supremacists and neo-Nazis, whom he will not reject or denounce.

But the most troubling part is the willingness of so many Americans to accept this blather as though we Jews and Blacks should not defend ourselves against proven violent enemies who come armed against us.

If this narrative nonsense continues, the U.S. will not only return to its ugly history of racism, but will destroy the democratic base that has made us the greatest democracy on earth. Now is the moment of truth. Either Americans reject the President's acceptance of racism and neo-Naziism, or those anti-Democratic political forces of evil will insinuate themselves into the very foundation of the democracy they seek to destroy through race based hatred.

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