Rhetoric versus deeds

January 29, 2021 by Michael Kuttner
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Those of us who have been “around the block” quite a few times know that words and speeches can have potent and deadly side effects.

Michael Kuttner

Usually associated with aspiring and frequently incumbent politicians, overblown rhetoric has the power to not only inspire but also unfortunately to ignite devastating actions on the part of those listening.

In recent times we have too often seen the deadly repercussions flowing from uninhibited speech and unbridled incitement. The lethal consequences are plain to see and are perfect examples of how, like viruses, words can mutate into chaos and mayhem.

The most recent manifestation of this cause and effect occurred when Donald Trump asserted that the election had been stolen and that everyone should head to Washington and make their displeasure felt. As a result of this not so subtle hint the hordes descended on the Capitol and violent chaos ensued. True to form he subsequently denied any responsibility but there is no doubt that his inflated narcissistic rhetoric triggered mob reactions.

Similar scenarios can be seen with large numbers of Haredim in Israel and other countries who refuse to wear masks and socially distance. Weddings and funerals attracting mass gatherings hit the headlines almost every day. Schools remain open, Yeshivot flout closing orders and illegal, clandestine gatherings are the order of the day. It should be stressed that this irresponsible conduct is not universal and that large numbers adhere strictly to the rules.

So who is responsible for the lawbreakers? Without a doubt, it is the rhetoric emanating from those in leadership roles. In those circles where blind obedience to every word uttered by their spiritual leaders is the rule and where access to modern means of communication is forbidden the seeds of rebellion and anti-social behaviour are planted. When as is inevitable violence breaks out, like Trump, those who fomented it and inculcated the notion that the police are “Nazis” and that come what may nobody but the “rebbe” is qualified to issue rules, run for cover. Thus, after the recent hooligan acts in Bnei Brak and similar incidents in the USA, Haredi MK’s and spokespeople are quick to blame the authorities. Instead of acknowledging that it is the irresponsible decisions of their own leadership which precipitated delinquent acts all concerned prefer to point the finger elsewhere.

It was therefore refreshing the other day to hear the Haredi head of ZAKA, the world-renowned group which rushes to every disaster in Israel and overseas, denounce in the strongest and unambiguous language, the Rabbinical leadership of those sects which doom their followers to death and misery. After the untimely deaths of his parents who ignored his pleas to socially isolate and instead preferred to follow the instructions of their particular “rebbe” he lambasted those in leadership positions and accused them of having “blood on their hands.”

Only now after the damage has been done have some spiritual leaders issued weak pleas for restraint and suggestions that participation in riots may not be “a good idea.” Where were they before? Invisible, mute and speechless in the face of stupidity and idiocy.

Efforts in Israel to increase penalties for breaches of the lockdown, isolate those communities where the virus is running rampant and incarcerate violent lawbreakers have all perished in the face of political expediency. Refusal to get tough with rioters from a certain sector of society because it might cause political fallout is a sure sign that meaningful deeds will never follow fake words.

The Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs has issued a prediction that 2021 will see an upsurge in Jew-hatred generated by the pandemic amongst other things. In normal times the Jew and Israel haters do not need any particular reason for their poisonous activities. What astounds me however are the far too numerous times we, the targets, provide them with copious ammunition. When British police and American law enforcement authorities break up illegal gatherings in Stamford Hill, London, New York and New Jersey as well in various other countries one can predict with certainty that the hate groups will be in full flow. On a recent United Airlines flight from New York to Tel Aviv, a passenger filmed Haredi men refusing to wear masks and mixing freely during the long flight despite repeated pleas of compliance by airline staff and passengers.

This is not an isolated example. It illustrates how far too many irresponsible individuals, even though they may be a minority, contribute towards the wave of hate heading our way. With idiots like these who needs other enemies?

UN-designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day once again presents us with further examples of rhetoric unmatched by any semblance of accompanying deeds. As has become an annual parade of pious platitudes, ringing resolutions of “never again” resound from every quarter. Eulogizing dead Jews is an easy ritual but when it trips off the tongues of political and other speakers who are guilty of perpetuating policies which prepare the ground for future genocides or cover up their own countries past culpabilities then you know that hypocrisy has reached dizzying heights.

Seventy-six years after the liberation of Auschwitz we are still waiting for recognition of culpability by countries which gave sanctuary to war criminals evading justice and who even after being identified refused to extradite them. Rewriting the history of the Shoah years and whitewashing the enthusiastic actions of the local populace in rounding up and murdering their fellow Jewish citizens has become a cottage industry in some nations. Not far below the surface and in many cases in full view are the same old Judeophobic conspiracies. Whether circulating on social media or peddled by revisionist politicians in Europe the germs which infected major swathes pre-war are once again percolating to the surface.

Behind the crocodile tears shed from Western to Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and elsewhere is the stark reality of a renewed relentless campaign to delegitimize Judaism and Israel. Banning Shechita and outlawing Brit Mila are the thin edge of the wedge and follows exactly the same trajectory as occurred in Germany. Physical attacks on Jews and a fear of wearing identifiable Jewish items is now common place in many parts of the world. Life for Jews in many countries is now becoming untenable again.

Combined with blatant policies against Jews we nowadays also face the increasingly hostile campaign against Israel. Boycotts and banning are back in fashion especially among academia and so called enlightened progressive circles. One just needs to hark back to the 1930s to remember the boycott of Jewish enterprises and the enthusiastic expulsion and banning of Jewish university students and faculty as well as doctors, lawyers and other professionals.

While politicians trot out banalities about combating hate, their own Governments implement policies which are designed to promote the very lies they denounce. Thus by endorsing UN Resolution 2334 the ground is laid for denying any Jewish sovereignty in Israel’s own Capital and Jewish Holy Sites. It gets even worse as demonstrated by this latest report from PMW: https://palwatch.org/page/18526

Think about this for a moment. On the very day that the international community remembers the Shoah, the Palestinian Authority circulates poisonous lies and incitement.

However, what is even worse is that the Biden Administration has announced its intention to reopen the PLO office in Washington and resume funding these very same Holocaust apologists.

A bigger example of international hypocrisy would be hard to find.

Unfortunately, this is likely to be only the forerunner of many more.

It is appropriate that as we celebrate Tu B’Shevat this week we are reminded again that Jews plant and build while our detractors scheme to uproot and dispossess us.

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.

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