In case you don’t or can’t read my facebook page (or have blocked it), I’ve been discussing this war quite a bit lately on this most vapid and life-wasting of all websites. After the past two weeks, the NSA will now be fully informed of the extent of my knowledge (or more likely, ignorance) on this topic, and my surfeit of skill in the once lost art of rhetorical pugilism which the internet now revives.
I usually socialize with people who are emphatically not practicing Jews nor hold the State of Israel’s existence as one of their moral imperatives. Early on in my life, I realized that somewhere within me dwelled an anti-authority streak that made me very bad fit for religious institutions. But over time, I realize that it made me just about as bad a fit for anti-religious institutions as well. In my social life, I’ve heard a lot of disturbingly anti-Israel sentiment over time which would straighten out the curling beard of many a Rabbi. Frankly, neither side seems much deserving of respect, but were the people I associate with online largely pro-Israel militants rather than anti-Israel ones, I would gauge my delightful online trolling to upsetting their prejudices rather than the prejudices of the people I generally associate with.
What amazes me most about this foolish ‘adventure’ in persuasion is that every new posting seems to bring me a new ‘opponent’ with a new objection and a new way to contradict facts which I see as extremely basic to an understanding of an issue I’ve felt compelled to think about since I’ve been able to think. Who knows? Maybe some of their points, maybe all of them, are right. I wouldn’t bet the house on it, but it’s entirely possible that I’ve tacked my ability to feel proud of myself onto moral positions that I’ll be ashamed of myself for holding in twenty years - just as I once held certain beliefs I’m now ashamed I held. But I wonder, do they ever entertain such doubts? Do doubts ever gnaw at the assumed correctness of their beliefs? Have they ever changed them? Have they changed them more than once? Or do they simply know that they’re right and I’m wrong?
Most of their objections don’t bother me much. I think they’re wrong and misinformed, perhaps their beliefs are even destructive and noxious, but I know myself well enough to know that there is far too much about me that is noxious to hold one noxious belief against any of them. I think that 'halflings' like me who are at least partially in ‘their world’ have to stand up to them and tell them that what they believe is horrible. It's better that people I like hear it from me than grandchildren who would one day ask them how they could ever believe such evil things. Of course, it might be my grandchildren (if I ever have any) who ask such questions, but clearly, I’ve made my bed on the idea it will be someone else's grandkids.
But there was one objectant whose exchange genuinely bothered me very much and genuinely depressed me for a few days afterward. This is a person I’d come, perhaps falsely or at least prematurely, to regard as a good friend.
In the last year, I’d come to know her through music - we’d played string instruments in various chamber groups together. She was a midwife or a ‘doula’, and always on call for potential births, but it never really seemed to get in the way of rehearsal. She was a great musician, a much better classical musician than I and impeccably credentialed of course. She went to one of the premiere arts high schools in the country, and when she got a performance injury transferred from music school to one of the greatest universities in the world. She was clearly more than smart and articulate enough for such a background, and we talked and joked at a very ‘high’ level.
I don’t think I kid myself in thinking we got to know each other rather well over that time - conversing after rehearsals and such, which sometimes lasted longer than the rehearsals themselves. Occasionally the post-rehearsal became dinner and drinks. In that time I discovered that she, like me, was not only Jewish but the granddaughter of ‘survivors.’ Clearly, the paths we’d taken were very different. I'm an ersatz-member of my grandparents' generation, whereas she's lives in a hippie/hipster group house. But we clearly bonded over the similarities just as well, and it seemed like we both understood how comically ill-fit we were for the images we presented of ourselves. She was clearly as organized and hyper-competent at life's requirements as I am incompetent and bumbling. But regardless of such details, I felt that I'd stumbled on a friendship that was truly unique in my life - or anyone's; someone with whom you disagree totally but with whom you have a complete understanding and sympathy.
And yes, I don’t doubt it helped enormously that she looked like a young Claudia Cardinale, and of course I was quite attracted to her, as I’m sure every guy is who isn’t narrow-minded enough to be automatically put off by the hippie lifestyle. But even so, I’d like to think that I’m the kind of guy for whom friendship with women isn’t just a waystation. I never tried particularly hard to pursue anything more than friendship - not because I did not desperately want to, but partially because the very idea of my 5’4 220 lbs self pursuing a girl for whom so many guys were also clearly hoping for was laughable, but also because I simply couldn’t get past the choices she’d made. I was a very little in love, but I was far more jealous. God knows how my life would have been different had I her advantages. All that talent, all that privilege, all that intelligence, all that education, all that hyper-competence, and somehow it’s used in the service of dangerous pseudoscience and false notions of truth - and what’s worst about it is that she’s so smart and charismatic that people would believe her. I’d figured that she knew what I thought of her profession and beliefs, and I knew what she’d thought of mine, and on that premise we’d get along just fine.
Of course, when it came to Israel, we parted ways. We’d talked about it in the past, very politely, and I figured we’d said to one another anything that need be said. I expected online pushback from others, but not from her. That one genuinely hurt. When most other people criticize me or object to what I think, it slides off. In many cases, I can wear it like a badge of honor. But getting a fingerwagging pushback from her felt both a bit like a betrayal and made me wonder if perhaps I truly collaborate as much with evil as some people no doubt think I do - and as I wonder myself if I do in unguarded moments (and I obviously have many). Given that her response felt meant to be personal, I responded personally, and rather than use her name I called her by the name of her ultra-privileged university. As always, I amuse myself…
I was a bit relieved that she never responded back, because the tone was already pretty ugly. But the fact that such an altercation (even an online one) happened at all between me and her made me very sad. It’s just another piece of evidence that understanding between people who have real differences truly isn’t possible.
It frankly occupied more headspace than it should have for a few days. I was genuinely sad last week, the delight of picking fights simply wasn’t there anymore… and I grew rather exhausted by the constant barrage of anti-Israel attacks I saw that consistently seemed to cross the line into something much darker, which thereby began this series of posts.
But something amazing happened on Sunday afternoon which helped me to regain my equilibrium almost completely. She snubbed me. Not just an accidental, ‘sorry, I didn’t notice you,’ kind of excusable snub we all give to a person we don’t want to see that moment but apologize to later. It was one of those theatrical ‘walk six inches from you in a very crowded space while you loudly say hello yet still not acknowledge you’ kind of snubs. I figured that after I said hi, we could make fun of each other a little bit and move on as all people must. Instead, she told me, in the most indirectly direct manner imaginable, that the friendship was over. It was absolutely glorious.
I frankly can’t swear on a bible to the fact that I was ignored, in which case I will have an enormous amount of explaining to do for this blogpost… and yet I would venture a 99.9% guess that that is exactly what happened. And yet, after getting snubbed, my mood improved enormously. It alleviated me of feeling that I caused the rupture of something truly unique in my life. Something as banal as a friendship rupture is far easier to deal with than knowing that you disappointed a person in your life who never disappointed you. I could return to my impregnably arrogant self, able to keep a lid on my doubts until the next battle was over.
In the 1 in a million odds case that anybody cares enough to need actual clarification about my point of view, here it is:
1. If you believe that a Jewish state should cease to exist to give way to a binational state in which Arabs and Jews coexist - your belief is antisemitic and in all likelihood going to get thousands of Jews killed, if not more.
2. If you believe that Israel has a god-given right to borders greater than what the obvious political realities of the moment will ever allow, your belief is fascist like any other fascism, only different in promoting Jews rather than scapegoating them.
3. If you believe that Israel should refrain from measures that will prevent its citizens from being safe, you are delusional, and might as well believe antisemitic things because the end result is the same.
4. If you believe that Israel should take any and all means to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, you're delusional, and going to get us all killed.
5. If you believe that Israel's use of force is absurdly disproportionate, if you believe that the use of violence countermeasures will only cause more death and not prevent it. You're too naive to be reasoned with.
6. If you believe that Isreal's #1 priority should be anything other than a continual effort to find a peaceful, two state, resolution to the conflict, if you believe that Israel must occupy Palestine indefinitely under which Palestinians continue to live as second-class citizens, you are no better than all the oppressive goyim under which Jews lived for 2,000 years.
7. If you conveniently decided only to care about human rights in the Middle East during the last few days, and joined the bandwagon only when the wagon was facing Jews; if the outrage you feel towards Israel is even a sliver larger the outrage you felt when thousands of protesters were killed and maimed in Turkey, Egypt and Libya, when more than ten thousand were killed in the South Sudanese Civil War, when 1800 Palestinians were starved and killed by Bashar al-Assad in Syria, when 10,000 Iraqis were killed by terrorists, then yes, your belief is the absolute definition of an antisemitic one. I can live with it if you can. I know that there's enough noxious about me that I would never divorce friends over one noxious belief. But you ought to know what the your anger is coming from.