|by Flemming Funch|
A few people responded to my previous post about an EU poll of which country would be the biggest threat to world peace, and hinted that I'm anti-semitic for posting it, and for voicing an agreement with the majority opinion expressed in it. And, well, that's a rather explosive thing to even try to discuss, but I'm trying anyway.
When I grew up in Denmark, the history of the German occupation and extermination of Jews was a big part of our education. And there would be no question about that we of course were on the side of the persecuted Jews and against the Nazis.
But it was also sort of an abstract thing. I didn't really know what a Jew was. Meaning, it would be sort of a puzzle to me why Jewish people were singled out. I couldn't really see any difference between Jewish people and non-jewish people. Did they have more crooked noses, or what's the deal? And why should that be a problem? I really didn't get it. I couldn't understand how it could be a racial thing when the people percecuted didn't look any different from anybody else.
When I moved to the U.S. it became a little more clear. In part because there's a lot of racism in the U.S. Let me clarify. In California I didn't experience much racism in terms of some skin colors being considered less than others. Maybe a little bit of looking down on Mexicans, but I didn't really understand that either, as I don't perceive hispanic people as being of any different race than I am. But the kind of racism I'm talking about is kind of in reverse. There was a lot of attention put on people's races. When I filled out public forms, I'd have to check off that I was "Caucasian", whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. And everybody's very sensitive about stating that somebody's african-american or hispanic or asian-american or something. And very afraid of offending anybody. I really found it rather tasteless to always emphasize races, when I'd really much rather have that we're all just humans, which is pretty much how I see it.
And it was in the U.S. that I first met people who would identify themselves as Jewish. My boss for a number of years, whom I was very fond of, was Jewish. As was a bunch of the managers. And I went to his son's bar-mitzvah. Which was enjoyable. The ceremony in the temple was really lively and down-to-earth. In my lunch break I would frequently go and eat fallafels in an Israeli food place. Every week there was a rabbi speaking to a group of people there, telling stories from the Torah and explaining what they meant. Which I found rather enjoyable too. And all of which only gave me a pleasant feeling about the Jewish culture and religion. And then there's the Kabbalah, which is a great source of wisdom.
Certainly nothing has given me any reason to conclude that Jewish people across the board would somehow be something to be against. I haven't found anything about Jewishness not to like. And the whole idea of being anti- some particular cultural or racial group, that's very foreign to me.
At the same time I do understand that various kinds of people might carry deep-seated grudges against each other. Cultural groups that have very stronly negative opinions about each other, often based on things that happened a very long time ago, but which somehow is part of the cultural heritage. Again, I have a hard time personally identifying with that, as I don't have any personal experience to relate it with. But I realize that it is different for some people.
I still get kind of puzzled and surprised when once in a while I run into Jewish people who have very strong opinions when the subject of the Israel-Palestinian conflict comes up. Or, rather, strong opinions do not surprise me, and would be perfectly understandable. Rather when what a moment ago what was a pleasant, relaxed, well-reasoned person suddenly is somebody apparently filled with hatred and anger and vengeance. Somebody going to great lengths to convince me that I'm an idiot if I don't understand that Palestinians, as well as all Arabs, are violent, lying, criminal sub-humans who aren't to be trusted. And that Palestinians don't deserve any land to live on, because it was never theirs in the first place, and there's really no such things as "Palestinians", and it would be easier to just mow down the whole lot anyway. And if I dare to disagree, that's around the time when I get called anti-semitic, and somebody will question why I've listened so much to Arab propaganda that I can have such an outrageous opinion.
Note, I'm not trying to generalize that all Jewish people see it that way. They most certainly don't. And I'm not trying to generalize that it is a particularly Jewish thing. I'm sure there are plenty of Palestinians or Arabs who'd prefer that all Jews would be wiped off the face of earth. For some reason they just haven't crossed my path much, other than on TV. And I'm sure there are plenty other groups that feel in similar ways about each other. Yugoslavia, Rwanda, etc.
But I can say with some confidence that that attitude certainly doesn't help in creating peace anywhere. Whatever past history of transgressions it is based on.
And I can say that it is my opinion that the Israeli government is going about the matter completely wrong, and probably is guilty of many war crimes.
And, sure, most likely Arafat is a bumbling idiot and has missed several great opportunities for peace laid out in front of him.
And, sure, strapping explosives to your body and blowing up innocent people in buses and shopping centers, that's a very bad idea. As is gunship attacks on people's homes. All of it is just escalating a conflict that didn't have to exist.
I happen to think the Israeli government holds most of the cards, and that it is playing them wrong. And I suppose the people in the Israeli government are Jewish. Does that make me anti-semitic? Not any more than my opinion that George W's government is illegitimate and corrupt makes me anti-caucasian or anti-christian or anti-american.
People and governments are different things. Individual people, such as government leaders, are different things than the country or race or culture they come from.
I usually can't recognize Jewish people unless they identify themselves as such. It doesn't matter to me if you're Jewish or not. Or whether you're Muslim or not. If you are and it is important to you, great. But I don't go around looking for signs that you're in some kind of cultural or religious group that I can then have a bias for or against. If you have a unique perspective or an interesting heritage, I might very well be interested in hearing it. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm a member of humanity, and so are you.