On the Jerusalem Post news desk in the old days, we had an informal equation for figuring out the how big a tragedy had to be in order to make it onto the front page. It went something like this: one Israeli Jew equals three diaspora Jews equals 10 American goyim equals 25 Europeans equals 1,000 Indians. Something like that. It’s not that we took a particularly jaundiced view of things; the news is always more pertinent, the closer it gets to home. I would imagine that most news desks operate according to similar principles.
The massacre at the Jewish school in Toulouse is a case in point. Had the victims been non-Jews, it’s doubtful whether the story would have made it onto the front pages in Israel. The story would certainly not have received the saturation coverage of the last three days. That is not a particularly Israeli or Jewish phenomenon; all societies or groups of people are most affected by events that happen to their own.
What made it specifically Israeli – and modern-day Israel, at that –is the alacrity with which Israel embraced the Toulouse killings. Within minutes of the news breaking, Israeli politicians, official spokesmen and the media had hauled out their handy trick-boxes (anguished voices, solemn expressions) and were on a roll. We Israelis may not know how to run a normal country, but we sure know how to do Jewish death – particularly when it is a consequence of anti-Semitism.
Like water to a fish, anti-Semitism is our natural milieu. Without it, we flap around pathetically, deprived of our life force. But bathed in the calming balm of yet another anti-Semitic outrage, we come into our own: the eternal victim; the universal scapegoat. The holder of the historical debt that can never be repaid. A good dose of anti-Semitism brings the timbre to our voices and the color to our cheeks.
We’ve been at this anti-Semitism thing for a long time and we’re good at it. We have carefully modulated responses, contingent on the victim and the circumstances. We may neglect Holocaust survivors while they’re alive, leaving them to somehow survive on paltry pensions while we pour bucket-loads of money into the nouveau-riche settlements, but the killing of an aged and defenseless Holocaust survivor is a particularly heinous crime. In death, the Holocaust survivor is an enduring symbol of Jew-hatred – another brick in the anti-Semitic wall.
But the most hallowed place is reserved for children; child victims of anti-Semitism. We pull out all the stops when it comes to them. We haven’t done our job – which, in case you forgot, is to remind the goyim that we have the global patent on victimhood – if there’s a dry eye in the house when we’re done.
Which explains the contempt with which Israeli spokesmen, including the prime minister, greeted the (admittedly pretty ham-handed) attempt by Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, to express her sadness at the death of any child in any place, from Toulouse to a Swiss tunnel and to Gaza. Who the fuck is she to lecture us on moral equivalence? Doesn’t she understand the theorem? Only a grey European bureaucrat would mention the martyred three Jewish children and a teacher in the same breath as the 24 Belgian children and four teachers who perished in the awful bus crash in Switzerland.
(Interestingly, we’re now calling the Jewish victims “martyrs’, the same terminology used by the Palestinians for their teenage suicide bombers. I always thought a martyr was someone who knowingly and deliberately chose death in the service of a higher cause.)
I don’t recall the exact words of Bibi’s outraged reaction to Ms. Ashton’s statement (I saw it on TV), but the gist was that there is no comparison between the cold-blooded killing of Jewish children and “surgical strikes” by Israel on those planning to kill Israelis. Surgical strikes? Since when is the dropping of a one-ton bomb on an apartment building in Gaza and killing 14 people, nine of them children, a surgical strike? Since when is firing a tank shell at a home and killing three children from the same family a surgical strike? If those are surgical, I definitely won’t be asking Butcher Bibi to recommend a surgeon when I decide to get my hernia fixed.
What Ms. Ashton and the rest of the goyim don’t understand – and we need to drum this point into their thick heads again and again – is that victimhood is not a commodity that just anyone can claim. We’ve cornered the market in victimhood; it’s ours. You can’t be victims. Why don’t you try being Nazis or something like that instead?
Personally, I’m with Ms. Ashton. As a father, the death of any child horrifies me. The image of that little girl at the school being pursued by her killer has haunted me for the past three days. But I’ve also been haunted for years by the repeated killing of children in Gaza and Israel’s callous indifference to their deaths. We, too, are child killers, and I really don’t know how we live with that.
A word for the French before I end. I thought we had also cornered the market in ham-acting leaders, but your boy disabused me of that notion. Sarkozy was wonderful in the role of grieving leader: the deep voice, cracking at the edges; the droopy face like Bonzo the Clown on heavy downers; the stagey pauses, redolent of fake emotion and electoral necessity. An awesome performance. He and Bibi have clearly studied at the same school.