Theodore Bikel on Intolerance and Hatred at Jerusalem Day events

Theodore Bikel on Intolerance and Hatred at Jerusalem Day events

Your immediate reaction was as I feared it would be. Finding excuses and justification for a mob scene that, in any other context, would merit instant condemnation and opprobrium. To characterize the shouts of ‘Death to Arabs’, whether in the past or now, as ‘rageful response to Arab excesses’ cannot be read as anything but indifference. You did not see ‘stones thrown or weapons used’ and that somehow makes the scene a peaceful protest? No matter that it was in the middle of the night in a civilian area inhabited mostly by Arab Israeli citizens, entitled to no less protection from hooligans than Jewish ones?

You saw no stones thrown, terrific. Suppose a mob were to race up and down the streets of the Fairfax district in the middle of the night, yelling ‘Death to the Jews’. Would they need to wield stones and knives before you were alarmed, outraged, scandalized? We who lived through some of the worst excesses of anti-Semitism know only too well that slogans sting and words wound; and we also know that they do not remain mere words for very long.

You have chosen to read into my outrage over this contemptible display an attempt to ‘whitewash the other side.’ You presume to know that I have not condemned, in public and in private, excesses and violence emanating from the Palestinian side, that I have not agitated for the release of Gilad Shalit, that my concern is one-sided. But, even if you were convinced that my concern for the safety of Israel is genuine, you demand of me that I must demonstrate this concern first before I have the right to be outraged by Jewish hooligans. Your 10,000 friends at AIPAC (who, in your own words, all feel as you do) seem to insist that I obtain a hechsher before I can call myself a Zionist, indeed before I call myself a Jew.

Well, I don’t. I don’t need permission slips to be in the Jewish tent.  Those that think that I do, need to be asked: Do they know anything about me, about my work, about my life, about my devotion to the Jewish people and to Israel? Where were they when, as a young man, I worked the fields of the Jewish Yishuvby day – however clumsily – and guarded them with a rifle by night? Where were they when I turned Hebrew poetry into Hebrew song and made sure that culture and arts were as much ‘product of Israel’ as oranges and grapefruit?

At the end of your rejoinder you express the faith in the morality of our people as we struggle for survival. Well, I share that faith; but mine is based on the unshakeable conviction that our survival is conditioned on our remaining Am S’gulah and not to become Goy k’chol Hagoyim. We can never, must never, become like our enemies.


By | 2011-06-10T21:57:04-04:00 June 10th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Leave A Comment