I would have never thought that it would ever be possible for Rabbi Meir Kahane, z’l, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to share the same stage, but in the midst of all the current turmoil and confusion over Jewish security needs involving attempts to reinvent the wheel, these two men seem to have had the most advanced understanding of the issue.
With all due respect to Benjamin Brafman, who pontificates in his column last week [Jews And Guns, January 16 Issue] about the use and possession of guns as if they were just recently invented, the final say on the issue of Jews and guns needs to be left to Meir Kahane, who ceaselessly defended Jews worldwide in the wake of the Holocaust and who coined the phrase “Every Jew a .22.” Ironically, even a small caliber gun such as a .22-caliber pistol or ‘Saturday night special,’ as they were sometimes called, concealed nicely in a tefillin bag, might have been enough to repel and end the horrific slaughter of four rabbis in Har Nof two months ago, which has still left us somewhat shell-shocked. Perhaps the reason Kahane was so insistent that a Jew arm himself was precisely so that the feelings of victimization, which lead to feelings of ‘shell-shock’ or inertia, do not invite repeated carnage, such as what just occurred in France.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, it should be noted, was apparently still too busy justifying his Gaza onslaught this past summer to the world to react properly to the slaughter of four holy men in Har Nof. From what I heard, the family that housed one of the terrorists who butchered those four rabbis did not even have their house razed despite justifying the killings—save for one room that the dead terrorist had occupied, which was destroyed. That sounds to me more like a renovation than a demolition.
All Mayor Bloomberg did after he assumed office in the wake of 9/11 with the assistance of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was to ensure through the skillful deployment of the NYPD as an anti-terrorism task force that New York City remained completely free of any terrorist attacks during the 12 years of his tenure. Bloomberg, who cast himself as the ‘arch enemy’ of terrorism, stubbornly adhered to an unrelenting philosophy that staunchly held that the alteration of anyone’s lifestyle to any extent constitutes a victory on some level for those who engage in terrorism. Bloomberg boldly displayed his contempt for those who commit acts of terror while publicly portraying them as ‘degraded scum’, and continuously reinforced those convictions by vigorously opposing discrimination against those of the Muslim faith and even supporting the building of a mosque close to the site of the destruction of the World Trade Center. For Mayor Bloomberg, security against future acts of terror should only be proactive and never reactive.
Unfortunately, these two great visionary men of conviction are now off the scene and we find ourselves reeling in indecision and questioning our convictions. Local Muslim groups have sued their way in to getting the NYPD to abandon its demographics unit which was responsible for monitoring radical Islam and which may have been largely responsible for preventing many attacks. It was also reported this past week that the NYPD is contemplating dropping its Islamic terror report in response to those lawsuits, which has formulated some interesting and useful insights about the patterns of Islamic terrorists. Had Bloomberg still been mayor, such acts of capitulation would not have been contemplated.
The Jewish community has for a long time lacked a leader possessed of the sheer brilliance and inspiration of a Rabbi Meir Kahane, and is falling into complacency and false notions of security. One Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan, despite enjoying round-the-clock police protection, has its members coming and going as if it were standard to have a police car parked out in front. Jews everywhere need to wake up and realize along with everybody else that contemporary matters of safety against terrorism are issues that do not only affect those who live in the Middle East.
I have a comment for the author of the article “One Young Man’s Perspective On The Shidduch Crisis.” [Posted on 5TJT.com] I hope that my comment can be passed on to him.
I am curious about the ages of these young women he is referring to. Do they span an age range? Many of these comments sound like they’re coming from inexperienced younger girls. Many of my friends who are my age, 24, have never said such things and are looking for some of the qualities the author claims to possess. Mr. Imperfect sounds pretty good to me. He might need to broaden the spectrum of girls he is willing to date. I know plenty of girls who would happily date him.
Armed And Ready
Regarding Ben Brafman’s article “Jews And Guns” [January 16 issue], I would like to note that schools and colleges in the U.S. already have responded. According to surveys, many students and teachers are already armed.
In Israel, you are never more than 500 meters from someone with a gun. In your local shul, there may already be an off-duty policeman or customs or immigration agent with his on-duty or off-duty weapon. In my view, the government of Israel should have kept Rabbi Meir Kahane in jail until he was needed.
Let’s not forget the diamond dealer or criminal lawyer who also needs to be packing heat.
If you are not in this category, you may be someone who holds a weapon on weekdays or Sabbath to avoid another Har Nof-type massacre.
Mr. Brafman, don’t worry too much. I come to daven at your shul in Lawrence every now and then.
Your Local Unofficial Underground JDL Local Rep,
I Am Not Charlie
On November 10, 2008, New York Times reporter David Rohde was abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Rohde’s ordeal lasted for seven months, until he managed a daring escape from his captors’ clutches. During those seven months, the world knew nothing about Rohde’s plight because the Times elected not to print the story, lest the publicity further endanger his life. The American citadel of journalistic free speech made a conscious choice to forgo its right to print “all the news” because, in this instance, the news was not “fit to print,” since it might have led to a man’s death.
Free societies rightly attach near sacredness to an open press, because it is that press that can shine a bright light upon a country’s institutions, assuring that they conform to democratic norms. But when that exercise of free speech may result in harm, as in the Rohde case, the wise thing is to step back, recognizing that a free press is only a means to the protection of life; freedom of the press is not an end in itself.
Which leads us to the case of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine whose decidedly offensive portrayals of Mohammed ostensibly incited Muslim terrorists to murder.
I know I will get a lot of flak for this letter, and I understand the reaction, especially at a moment when emotions run high. In the wake of the murder of 11 Charlie Hebdo employees, two police officers, and four Jews at a supermarket who were guilty of shopping for Shabbos, it would seem out of place to suggest that Charlie Hebdo is not blameless. And so I preface my comments by stating the obvious: the murders were horrid. The price of living in a country with freedoms is that sometimes those freedoms may offend.
However, the right to exercise freedom is not always sufficient reason to do so. Imagine that a newspaper devoted itself to making fun of Moses, ridiculing him in ways that are mostly unprintable in a family newspaper. Charlie Hebdo functions in this realm, with a particular focus on Islam.
For starters, let’s pick a relatively gentle Charlie Hebdo caricature. Mohammed is the judge at a beauty contest, the “beauties” indistinguishable because they are all wearing identical nikabs (the face-covering worn by some Muslim women). Mohammed declares: “I choose Miss Potato Sack.” This is a moderately funny cartoon, and one hopes it would be taken as such.
Now let us move on to a more biting image. Mohammed is shown without clothing, portrayed in a manner that I will spare our readers from envisioning. One can readily understand a Muslim taking offense at this depiction. I ask: What if, instead of Mohammed, the caricatures were of Moses? Would our response be benign, or would we be incensed at the image of one of the fathers of our people being portrayed in such a lewd fashion?
We do not respond by invading an office and murdering employees. Yet I do believe that we can and must separate the two things: the murders, and the underlying acts that provoked the murders, however unjustified.
We would not dismiss blasphemous images casually, but would vigorously protest. We respect the law that guarantees the right of a free press; yet, one would hope that we would care enough to protest the insult to one of the fathers of the Jewish people.
Charlie Hebdo has portrayed Moshe Rabbeinu in a blasphemous way and I hope that would draw the ire of Jews. We should be repulsed by the cartoons that appear in Charlie Hebdo or similar trashy magazines.
Writers hold their rights to be precious, but a conscientious journalist or cartoonist must also bear in mind that uncomfortable as it may seem, certain writings can lead to disastrous consequences. A free press should not mean an irresponsible press. Charlie Hebdo’s offices were firebombed two years ago as the reaction to a relatively tame anti-Muslim cartoon. (Mohammed was “guest editor” and the cover cartoon had him saying, “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter.”) Yes, that bombing was horrible, but rather than appraising the event and concluding that perhaps a more nuanced approach was warranted, the paper’s editors chose to be even more salacious, pushing the envelope to the ripping point. They thereby endangered themselves, their employees, and anyone else standing in the way of the terrorist brothers who invaded the paper’s offices.
Countries that hold sacrosanct the rights of free speech and a free press are praiseworthy. These countries are, not coincidentally, the states where Jews have found their safest havens. But the right of free speech does not mean that everything that can be said ought to be said.
In light of the above, I fully understand and respect Muslims who are incensed by Charlie Hebdo’s insidious attacks on Mohammed, in the same way that I reject Charlie Hebdo’s attacks on other religious icons. At the same time, we must not lose sight of the fact that to certain elements in Islam, all Western society is worthy of destruction. In a certain sense, Charlie Hebdo is a red herring. While the magazine presents an extreme, radical Muslims are bent on destroying everything that does not suit their worldview. Charlie Hebdo, seen in this light, is a convenient target, but far from the only target. To the terrorists, there is no difference between an anti-Islam cartoon and a school that educates girls.
And so I expect good Muslims to denounce the terrorist attacks that have occurred in France, and good Muslims have done just that. At the same time, I am puzzled when I hear a Muslim say, “Je suis Charlie—I am Charlie.” How can a Muslim pronounce himself united with a magazine that routinely insults his prophet? To bring the matter closer to home, what if Charlie Hebdo published pornography instead of satire? Would a Muslim announce, “Je suis Playboy”? Would a Jew?
As for me, “Je ne suis pas Charlie—I am not Charlie.”