Monday, January 12, 2009

A Matter Of Degrees

No matter where you fall on the Israel/Gaza issue, and I know people have strong feelings on both sides, two events this past weekend are disturbing. They are disturbing because we have been down this road before. And this is a road down which we never want to go again, not Israel, not Palestine, not against Jews, not against Muslims, not against any group. And so, when events like the following begin to occur, it should give us pause.

First, there was this article in the Chicago Sun Times, Vandals Deface Three Local Synagogues:
Vandals spray-painted the words “Death to Israel’’ on two synagogues and a Jewish school early Saturday in three separate incidents police say could be linked and are being investigated as hate crimes.

In each case, the vandals — at times donning masks — used orange-colored paint, also shattering glass windows with bricks and rocks at two of the buildings.

A witness and security cameras identified the perpetrators as two men.

Moshe Perlstein, rabbi at Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago, said cameras captured video of the men damaging his rabbinical school at 2756 W. Morse starting at around 4:40 a.m. The footage shows one man spray-painting the side of the building while the other ran around to the front and threw rocks at the front door, breaking a glass window, he said. The video has been turned over to police.

That was not the end of it. There was more:
Similar graffiti was found at Anshe Motele Congregation, 6526 N. California, rabbi Alan Abramson said.

Lincolnwood police said vandals also scrawled “Death to Israel’’ and “Free Palestine’’ on the outside walls of Lincolnwood Jewish Congregation, 7117 N. Crawford. Mitchell Sandler, past president of the congregation, said they threw at least two bricks at the front doors, damaging four windows.

Lincolnwood Police Lt. Mark Brines said police were notified at 6:10 a.m. that a caretaker in the building heard a brick crash through a window at the temple. The caretaker saw “two unknown males running from the scene,’’ Brines said.

Because all three buildings were used by orthodox Jews, Sandler said it appeared the men were targeting more devout Jews.

“This was a cowardly act in the middle of the night,’’ Sandler said. “Obviously there is dismay because of what’s been happening in the Middle East.’’

Local Jewish leaders were alarmed by what they see as a “rash’’ of incidents targeting Jews.

“It’s disturbing,’’ said Jay Tcath, senior vice president of the Chicago Jewish Federation.

Disturbing, indeed. Whenever a group is targeted, when a hate crime occurs, it is disturbing. And there is yet more:
The incidents come a little more than a week after Ida Crown Jewish Academy, at 2828 W. Pratt, received a mailed bomb threat that also made reference to other Chicago-area Jewish institutions and day schools, said Jay Tcath, senior vice president of the Chicago Jewish Federation.

And police said they are investigating as a hate crime a Dec. 29 incident in which a man hurled a Molotov cocktail at Temple Sholom of Chicago, 3480 N. Lake Shore Dr., after making “derogatory comments’’ to a passerby.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has been notified, police said.

No arrests have been made.

Next, Jewish Odysseus had this disturbing story via Mugata: German "Police" Join Jew-Hating Muslim Mob:
1:16 AM Received from Muqata Blog Reader in Germany, Sebastian M.

Today, 10.000 people demonstrated against Israel here in my hometown Duisburg (Germany) and to express their solidarity with Hamas. So, my girlfriend and me put two Israel flags out of the windows of our flat in the 3rd floor. During the demonstration which went through our street the police broke into our flat and removed the flag of Israel. The statement of the police was to de-escalate the situation, because many youth demonstrators were on the brink of breaking into our apartment house. Before this they threw snowballs, knifes and stones against our windows and the complete building. We both were standing on the other side of the street and were shocked by seeing a police officer standing in our bedroom and opening the window to get the flag. The picture illustrate this situation. The police acquiesced in the demands of the mob.

That's a police officer removing the flag of Israel, just in case you couldn't tell.

I understand that many people are angry and frustrated with Israel right now. I really do. Larry Johnson had a great piece on this very issue at No Quarter ("This Will Sicken You"). They are not innocent bystanders in this current conflict with Gaza, as they move into deeply populated areas clearly indicates.

That being said, I don't think it is a stretch to say that for something like this to happen in Germany, for police officers to join in with an anti-Jew mob, raises a pretty ugly specter. We HAVE seen this before, and none of us can allow that to stand. Despite Israel's incursions into Gaza, we cannot allow the pendulum to swing that far back again. Not in Germany. Not in Israel. Not in Gaza. Not in Bosnia. Not in Serbia. Not in Rwanda. We must be vigilant that this kind of atrocity does not happen again, that groups are not slaughtered for their ethnicity, their religious beliefs, or their political beliefs. We must be brokers for peace.

There is a group who does just that, for Israel and Palestine. For any place where there is war or injustice. Women in Blackis a collective of peace activists who realize that women have a different perspective of war. When I lived in Cambridge, Arabic and Jewish women would hold vigils - together - to call for an end to the violence between Israel and Palestine. They represented the mothers, sisters, daughters of people who had been, or were being killed. They represented the ones who brought forth those who were being killed, or tended to the wounded. Yes, they had a different perspective, indeed. Some of them had seen firsthand the devastation in the Middle East. From their website:
Who are Women in Black?

Women in Black… is a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence. As women experiencing these things in different ways in different regions of the world, we support each other’s movements. An important focus is challenging the militarist policies of our own governments. We are not an organisation, but a means of communicating and a formula for action.

It is a start to end the violence, not just in Israel and Gaza, but around the world. Mothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, granddaughters and nieces, working to end injustice in the world, and violence, whether on a whole scale like war, or on the home front, like domestic violence. These women unite for that - peace. And that would be a cause well worth "fighting" for, wouldn't it?

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