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July 17, 2009

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 17, 2009 Palestinians' plight and Holocaust are not analogous By Cheryl Halpern LIVINGSTON, N.J. (JTA)--For decades, the Palestinian nationalist cause has sought to draw a dark line linking the experience of ordinary Palestinians from 1948 on to the experience of ordinary European Jews from 1933 to 1945. That link, it appears, is firmly embedded in the mind of the president of the United States. Barack Obama, in his much-anticipated speech to the Arab world last month in Cairo, expressly linked the two historical events. In one breath, Obama said, "Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust... Six million Jews were killed--more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant and it is hateful." Then, without breaking stride, Obama said, "On the other hand, it is also undeni- able that the Palestinian people--Muslims and Christians--have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and se- curity that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations--large and small--that come with occupation." This remarkable linkage, in the throw- away phrase "on the other hand," cannot be dismissed as a sloppy transition. It is the president's way of agreeing with those who say that Zionism created a new class of victims who have suffered as much as the Jews of Europe. As someone with family members who survived the Holocaust and are still alive to testify, I find this comparison and link- age intellectually false and offensive. Let's consider the facts to fully appreciate the amount of suffering of the Palestinian Arabs and determine whether they have a legitimate claim to share the mantle held by the Jews who suffered during the Final Solution perpetrated by the Nazis. First, consider the Jews of Europe. In 1933, 9.5 million Jews lived in Europe. By 1945, 6 million Jews were murdered--two out of every three on the continent. The Nazis first forced Jews to live in segregated ghettos, then mowed them down with ma- chine guns or put them on trains to gas chambers. Others were forced into slave labor camps. Now consider the case of the Palestinian Arabs. Palestinians are subject to long waits at hundreds of military roadblocks through- out the West Bank. The Israeli army monitors or restricts access to major Palestinian roads. As a result, many Palestinians can no longer work in Israel and must rely on welfare from the state or others. In addition, Israeli roadblocks limit the abil- ity of humanitarian agencies to deliver food and supplies into the territories. It is worth mentioning here that the "daily humiliations" to which Obama referred are not motivated by racial animus but by efforts to prevent terror- ists from killing Israelis. Say what you will about the Israeli efforts to control the Palestinian population--Is- rael's worst critics may call it dehumanizing, they may call it apartheid, they may call it an illegal occupation. But it is not mass murder. It is not Auschwitz. There is no comparison. By now the Pales- tinians could have had their own state. They could have had secure borders, citizenship rights, and easy access between Gaza and the West Bank. But time and again, they refused to compromise with the Jews. By comparison, the Jews of Europe were not offered a thing: not safe passage to neutral countries far away from Europe. Their cries were ignored by the leaders of the world, who thought a rescue effort would detract from their economic, military and other interests. They were not provided with water, electricity and other humanitarian supplies by their oppressors. They were not given hundreds of millions of dollars to ease their economic privations. They were not given a seat at the table of international organizations. Plight on page 21A Mourning, noon and night Overreacting to differences By Ed Ziegler You are probably no different than anyone else in having been--or felt you were--of- fended at one time or another. The person who you felt offended you may have done so inadvertently or intentionally. More often than not you would have assumed the offense was unintentional and let it pass. However, ifitwas a major insult, the question is: How would you, a rational person, react to this perceived offense? Any reasonable person's reaction would be relative to the degree of the offense. It is very rare that someone will resort to violence, no less, murdering the offender. Yet, from my findings, I have come to the conclusion that many people of the Islamic faith overreact to a perceived offense and some go so far as calling for the murder of the offender. It was reported that in May 2009 professor Madya Muhammad Hatta Muhammad Tabut, a lecturer with Universiti Sains Malaysia, was offended and filed a police report concern- ing a video clip. This clip allegedly insulted and belittled Islam. The video clip posted on Yotflbe shows a shirtless man wearing jeans praying a verse taken from the Quran. The video clip also showed him mimicking the azan or Muslim call for prayer. On June 16, 2009 the Daily Mail reported that a Muslim woman (Fata Lemes), who worked in a bar in England as a waitress, was offended at being asked to wear a knee length dress. You may wonder if she was offended for a religious reason as devout Muslim women wear a burqa (a head to toe covering). But then why did she post her own picture on the Internet, wearing a dress with a plunging neck line? Anyway, what was a pious Muslim doing working as a cocktail waitress? Islam forbids the use of alcohol. The English media reported that on May 20, 2009 a blind man (George Herridge) and his seeing-eye dog were forced off a bus. George said that a woman flew into a rage and shouted at him in a foreign language. Another passenger explained that she wanted him to get off the bus because of his dog. Muslims are known to take offense with dogs because they consider dogs unclean. But to force a blind man offa bus is a bit too much, don't you think? On May 22, 2009 the "National Post" re- ported on a multicultural clash in Toronto. A tenant was notified by his apartment house landlady that an outraged neighbor, once a doctor from the Middle East, filed a complaint about a supposed inappropriate hallway inter- action with his wife. According to the tenant, the event was a brief "good morning" as he passed his neighbors on the way to work. The incident started an awkward feud, which has involved warnings not to repeat his indiscretion and one face-to-face shouting match, which included allusions to his impending death. Salmon Rushdie published his book"Satanic Verses in 2000." The Muslims were so offended that leaders such as Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini called for the British writer Solomon Rushdie to die. Furthermore, there were worldwide demonstrations consisting of hundreds and thousands of Muslims calling for Rushdie's punishment, including death. There are many other instances where Mus- lims were offended and reactedviolently calling for punishment including murder. There was the famous"Mohamrnad Cartoons" published by a Danish newspaper giving Muslims around the world the excuse to be offended also call- ing for punishment and death. Then there is the 15-minute video "Fatna" that quoted the Quran. This also offended Muslims worldwide enough to hold massive demonstrations with calls for punishment and death. It is totally unreasonable for people to become so offended and expect the world to abide by their religion. It is absurd for so many people to call for punishment and death so easily and so often. It is also absurd that some non-Muslims believe the solution to peace and harmony is to reward fanatics by giving in to such cold hearted and threatening demands. Notify your representatives to stop playing "Politically Correct" and not submit to these kinds of demands and threats. Ed Ziegler is board member of the New Jewish Congregation and president of its brotherhood. He can be reached at edziegler@ THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. x O x CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE  x x ISSN 0199-0721 W'mner of 40 Press Awards Ftor/PubHsher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Lyn Payne Mike Etzkin HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Sorely Editor Booling dresses ( $46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Gloria Yousha Paulette Harmon Kim Fischer Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage Account Executives paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Contributing Columnists Fern Park, FL 32730. Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman David Gaudio Teri Marks email: Louis Ballantyne Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky By Gary Rosenblatt New York Jewish Week The contrast between the American spec- tacle of celebrity death worship and the Jew- ish tradition of mourning has rarely been as sharply defined as it was last week. I write these words 12 days after Michael Jackson died, his funeral arrangements and burial site still undecided. The star's death has become as big a phenomenon as his troubled life. His family members hold press confer- ences, appear at music awards ceremonies and allow tickets to be distributed through a lottery for a huge, public memorial ceremony. Everything about the situation seems make- shift, excessive and out of control. In Judaism, by contrast, upon death there is an emphasis on burial as soon as possible, for the dignity of the deceased and to ease the emotional strain on the family. Rituals and practices are prescribed in great detail, a tradi- tion of order, creating a measured response to grief. It is intense for the seven days of shiva, then eases after 30 days, but the mourning period for a parent is a full 11 months, during which time Kaddish, praising God, is recited several times a day. Judaism's handling of death is a blend of psychological sensitivity and theological faith, grounded in the recognition that death is a part of life. The mourner is brought back to the reality of the everyday experience gradually, over time. Alas, we Jews know a great deal about incor- porating mourning into our lives. It is part of our annual calendar, and last week we began the saddest days of the Jewish year, a three- week period of remembrance and graduated grief that grows in intensity, culminating in Tisha b'Av, marking the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. While Western culture glorifies the indi- vidual-and celebrity deaths elicit a huge outpouring of emotion, from Elvis to Princess Diana to the King of Popmin Judaism the emphasis is on the collective, andwe celebrate, pray and grieve as a group. On Tisha b'Av, we mourn our national fate and the deaths of ordinary Jews, in the readings of elegies and the Book of Lamentations, noting the tragedies that have befallen our people over the centuries on the Ninth of Av. We know the yahrtzeit of Moses, our great- est leader (the seventh of Adar), but it is not a national day of mourning. That is reserved for the destruction of the Temple, and the name- less men, women and children who perished along with Jewish sovereignty. We mark the yahrtzeit of rabbis and sages, not cultural icons, in a contemplative way, through prayer, study and pledges of charity. Judaism is less about personal heroes than about recognizing our charge to improve the world, based on faith, justice and acts of kindness. InAmerica, mainstream religions have their wakes and memorial services, but outpour- ings of grief over our celebrities tends to be intense, fleeting and, for most of us, passive. We are captives of the media, watching end- less "Breaking News" reports that offer little in the way of new information, aware that we are seeing the same footage recycled day after day. (Poor Farrah Fawcett had the misfortune of dying on the same day as Michael Jackson, bumped off the headlines for eternity.) We are focused, mesmerized--until the next tragedy, when we move on. Part of the genius of our religion, by contrast, is in its collective memory, its ability to recall and relive long-ago events by internalizing them. The Exodus from Egypt is still real for us because, through the annual seder, we taste the bitterness of slavery in the maror and the sweetness of freedom in the four cups of wine. When a loved one dies, we recite the Kad- dish several times each day and participate in a minyan, finding solace in praying for the soul of the departed and in being with other worshippers, not alone. And on Tisha b'Av we relive the destruction of the Temple. Though the events took place 20 centuries ago, we abstain from food and drink for more than 24 hours, and in many synagogues worshippers sit on the floor as mourners, reading and reciting aloud the wrenching eyewitness account of the tragedy. We shed tears for the resulting exile from the Promised Land, for the loss of life and of God's tangible presence on earth. In short, we take a momentous event and make the experience real; our society's form of national grief, with its televised hype and imagery, is to take an ephemeral event and make the experience unreal. Exactly a decade ago, July 16, 1999, Americans underwent a public grieving for John F. Kennedy Jr., killed at 38 with his wife and sister-in-law in a plane crash. We wept for another young Kennedy prince brought down by tragedy, and for the fate of unfulfilled promises within each of us. We were glued to our televisions for several days and nights, and then it was all over. Similarly, as much as Michael Jackson dominates the news now, his story will soon recede from our consciousness. For the Jewish people, the experiences of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs, the commands of Moses and the tragedy of Tisha b'Av have been neither forgotten nor lost. The events of the ancient past are still real for us, the joy of the festivals refreshes our spirits each year and the recitation of Lamentations takes us from grief to acceptance. Indeed, we are taught that ultimately Tisha b'Av will be a day of great joy in Messianic times. The Talmud says: "Those who mourn for Jerusalem will merit to see it in its joy." Perhaps when we open ourselves to emotions that go beyond us as individuals, connecting us to our past as well as our future, rooted in a mission of mitzvot, we have the ability to transcend our mortal limitations. We hope that with the Three Weeks now upon us, the time spent reflecting on the pain of Jewish history will lead to the reward of someday sharing in its glory as well. Sections of this column were culled from the author's essay, "Good Grief," on the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. 10 years ago in the Jewish Week. Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week. E-mail: Gary@ Read Rosenblatt's Editor's Blog, with new entries daily, at http://israeli- Check out the Jewish Week's Facebook page and become a fan! And follow the Jewish Week on Twitter. i  1! l W lll]l!glll lilgll IHII,I ItllllOl! ...... ilm I I i| |l/llfln mllldU |,d .... i .................... I ..................................... .................. : ....... l//___.