10 September 2012

A small thought-experiment

Imagine, if you will (though God forbid it should ever actually happen), that there had been an outbreak of vandalism and arson against synagogues and Jewish community centres throughout some central European country (it doesn’t really matter which). It might be the case that these vandals and arsonists would take to spray-painting crude and violent messages and epithets like ‘Moses is a monkey’ and ‘Death to the Jews’ on the walls of synagogues, leaving next to no doubt that their motivations were anti-Semitic. Now imagine that the people suspected of perpetrating this crime were in favour of redlining and covenants that would segregate Jews into separate neighbourhoods and ghettoes, and were committing these hate crimes because they were upset that such policies were not being supported. Pretty ugly picture, right?

Now, suppose that the police, the government and the civil society of this central European country were turning, perhaps not a blind eye but a highly complacent one toward all of these acts. It may, for example, be the case that in the large cities of this country, Jews are often spit on in public. Suppose that in the parliament of this country, one of the legislators called for the Torah, the rabbinical literature and other Jewish writings to be burnt, and that another symbolically threw Jewish symbols into a rubbish bin and proclaimed that those following the Jewish faith should be relegated to the ‘trash can of history’. Suppose that yet another legislator called for activists who are aiding Jews (and other minorities) to be rounded up and sent to detention camps. Now suppose that although these legislators may have gotten some symbolic wrist-slaps from their colleagues in private, they were faced with no other substantive punishment or public censure for their hateful actions.

We would very rightly issue condemnations of such a government. Human rights groups would, of course, be livid. Perhaps we would apply diplomatic and economic pressure against them until their treatment of their own Jewish population improved.

But given that it is Israeli vandals, Israeli arsonists, Israeli civilians and Israeli legislators doing all of these things to the Christians and Muslims who happen to call home what is now the State of Israel, and the Israeli government which seems to be shuffling their feet on the issue, I suppose a different standard must apply. Of course, much to their credit, not all people seem to think so. A Vatican representative is attempting to give these recent issues a proper airing. Many American Jewish groups (like the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Anti-Defamation League) have called for apologies and action where they are needed.

The question is, will our government follow suit?

No comments:

Post a Comment