A Story of Chris
A few weeks back my friend Chris spoke excitedly to me about a New Yorker article he’d just read and he wanted my opinion. So I read “Lydda, 1948” and though we’ve spoken since, I feel an opportunity was missed during our brief follow-up discussion last night. Chris “gets it”, that is, he no longer thinks the destruction of Lydda was just a military necessity. He thinks that the choice the Jewish Zionists had: a Jewish state, or a standing village, was reprehensible, given the violent actions which followed.
Sensing this slight change in Chris’ attitude, from understanding to revulsion, I let the conversation pass. But, as I play back last night’s conversation a question keeps recurring, and with it, the obvious answer. Chris did NOT say: “Those effing Jews, someone has to put a stop to their egregious behavior.” He remained puzzled as to what the proper conclusion is, what his next course of action should be.
And here I think is the reason: Author Ari Shavit weaves such a Judeo-centric story that it becomes impossible to indict Jews for the massacre of Lydda, or the earlier massacre of Deir Yassin for that matter. I believe this is the reason he wrote the article in the first place.
He begins by tugging at his readers’ heartstrings, introducing Siegfried Lehmann, who moves his school for Jewish orphans to Palestine. How can you blame this good doctor for Lydda’s destruction? He mentions Martin Buber and Albert Einstein in a positive light. How can the reader blame them? He sprinkles in just enough of a whiff about “anti-Semitic pogroms” – without any attempt at deconstructing them – to produce this paralysis in his readers: How can you hold a people who have suffered so much culpable for the crimes they committed (and commit)?
Palestinians hardly exist as real characters in his story of Lydda. Shavit names a dozen Jews, but only one Palestinian gets a mention. In relaying a story about discussions held just prior to Lydda’s massacre, he names one speaker as military governor Shmarya Gutman, but the other speaker is merely one of the village “dignitaries”. No need to humanize the other, when you’re propping up the goodness of Jews.
Shavit must also lie to his readers to get his point across. He claims that for Jews in 1925 Europe there was “no place to go but Palestine”, ignoring for instance the United States, Canada, Britain, etc. He writes that Zionism “must plant the Jews in their ancient homeland”, but must know the fact that no adherent to Judaism ever lived in the ancient Levant. He plays the five armies “determined to crush the young Jewish state” card, when he must know that the Jewish militias possessed superior arms, training, dedication and unity of purpose compared to these “armies”. He plays the Benny Morris card as well — after describing the massacre he “stands by the damned, because I know that if not for them the State of Israel would not have been born. If not for them I would not have been born”. What rot! He writes “Israel has a right to live”, but offers nothing to support this “right”.
Shavit’s article has created a mini-storm in the Jewish community, with Thomas Friedman and Phil Weiss putting in their two cents, but our opinion is that the damage has been done. Shavit is successful at creating a literary piece that forbids Chris, and the many others like him, from holding Jews accountable for the crimes of the Jewish state.
The World is Catching On
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends