Saturday, July 26, 2008

The secret life of a sneer

Norm Geras, the Obi Wan of the Internet, has this post in which he quietly points to the new low to which the British paper "The Guardian" has sunk in this editorial:

When a presumptive US presidential candidate arrives in Jerusalem, he willingly dons a jacket designed by Israeli tailors. He is compelled to call the country a miracle, to visit the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem and to link the memory of the 6 million Jews who died in Europe to Israeli victims of Palestinian violence today. It was no accident that at Yad Vashem Barack Obama met the policeman who stopped the rampage of a Palestinian bulldozer driver that injured 16 Israelis on Monday.

Holding his only press conference yesterday in the southern town of Sderot, which has taken the brunt of rocket attacks from Gaza, also sent a signal. The current foreign minister and possible future prime minister Tzipi Livni spelled it out, as both stood in front of mounds of spent rocket casings: this is what happens when Israel withdraws from territories.

Comments Norm:

Is there anything wrong with a visitor to Israel paying his respects at Yad Vashem to the memory of several million dead? Granting that there are specificities separating the 'Israeli victims of Palestinian violence' from those who perished during the Holocaust, is there not also a link of a kind in that in both cases we are talking of innocents, people deliberately killed not for anything they'd done but because of the general population group they belonged to?

But notice something else in the general presentation here: though Obama dons the jacket 'willingly', it seems that he is 'compelled' to do the things he does - to say miracle, visit Yad Vashem, make the lamented link. Really? We are to believe, for example, that he would not have gone to Yad Vashem just on his own steam? How does the Guardian know this? We are to believe that the Israelis have a way of getting visiting politicians to do what they otherwise mightn't? Being Jews, they'll have the knack for that, I suppose.

There is a deliberate sneer hidden in full sight in the description of Obama, the coolest guy on the planet, acknowledging in action and word the validity of Jewish angst, the least cool sentiment on earth.

The sneer accomplishes two things:

First, an assumed nudge/wink camaraderie between the editorial writer and Obama. The writer is supposedly perched on Obama's shoulder and knows what he really feels. It's all a show, and Obama is presumed to secretly roll his eyes as he heroically munches on the proverbial gefiltefish.

The second is yet another attempt to silence the voice of the past and its relevance, for better or for worse, to what is happening in Israel today. A sneer is not a criticism, nor is it a fact or a moral argument. It is a cacophonous noise, a charivari, a tool of mocking and shaming people into silence. And why would the Guardian writer wish to browbeat Jews into silence about their memory of the Holocaust? If only the world just forgot that the Holocaust ever happened...


At 1:13 AM EDT, Blogger Rebecca said...

One wonders why the Guardian thinks it's wrong that Obama visited Yad Vashem, met the policeman who killed the terrorist on the Tuesday (not Monday) that Obama arrived, and that he visited Sederot. Sympathy for Israel does not mean that one is deaf to the claim of the Palestinians, a point which seems lost on the Guardian editorial writer.


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