Saturday, August 30, 2003

Evil Empires
I've started reading Mona Charen's "Useful Idiots". It's slow going, as usual, because I am simultaneously reading an interesting book in Hebrew called "Inquiring of God" by Yair Caspi, which I will probably tell you about sometime. In chapter two, in the section named "The press takes sides", Charen describes the way the American press covered, or should I say "covered", the Vietnam war. It all sounds so very familiar. Reporters with preconceived ideas of what they are about to see, twisting the facts to fit, and inventing American atrocities and brutality where there were none (or far less than insinuated), thus according to Charen. If I didn't see it happening daily with regard to the Palestinian Terror War, I would have found it a bit farfetched, but the similarities are unmistakable. The scary thing is that what the press said back then is still accepted, the world over, as the truth of what happened in Vietnam.

Does this mean our side of things will never be accepted? Does this mean we Israelis are doomed to play the villains for eternity? The North Vietnamese regime, after all, committed untold atrocities when they took over South Vietnam, but no one ever speaks of that. It was the Americans who were, and still are, the accepted baddies of that story.

A few years ago, I was witness to a meeting between a Vietnamese refugee who had just been granted asylum in the West and a group of Vietnamese who had been living in the West for many years. She spoke very emotionally, mainly in French and in Vietnamese, but also, shortly, in English. She told of a life of terrible hardship that she had endured in Vietnam, and which her fellow countrymen and women continue to endure. The dogs in the West, she said in amazement, were better treated than people in Vietnam.

Should the Palestinians become sole masters of this land, God forbid, we Jews will probably have to endure a fate far worse than that of the South Vietnamese. Should that happen, will we again become, in the eyes of the world, the underdog (and at what terrible price)? Judging by the Vietnamese experience, Israel will remain the villain, regardless, and the facts will be buried. If you tell a lie often enough, as Bish reminded me last night, it becomes the truth.

Last night I watched an interesting film, albeit rather superficial, on National Geographic TV, about the Roman Empire. Although it had nothing to do with the subject of the film, its makers could not help sticking in, ad nauseam, the comparison of the Roman Empire to the so-called present day "American Empire", even going so far as to repeatedly interview a group of anserine American history teachers on a visit to Rome, about the supposedly marked similarities. Funnily enough, they were the only people to talk on the film who were not academic experts on the subject they were discussing. Why was that? Why should the views of a group of unnamed teachers, prophesying the imminent doom of the Wicked "American Empire", be brought alongside learned explanations about Roman road-building skills and the Roman postal system? In the words of the immortal Josh Baskin, I don't get it.

I take comfort in the fact that, according to the film, the Roman Empire lasted for a thousand years. If I can make my own humble comparison, the so-called "American Empire" is just taking its first steps. With any luck, we'll all be long dead and so will all our descendants, before the fall of the so-called "American Empire".

One of the silly history teachers said something on the lines of "America is very nice unless you don't accept its values". What comes to mind, in response to that, is the persecution and vilification my brother-in-law's parents and their family had to endure when they had the gall to express an interest in leaving Rumania for Israel during the nineteen sixties. Apparently the sixties weren't very groovy on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. And that was just if you wanted to leave. If you had a different political view and tried to express it publicly, they gunned you down, if you were lucky. If you weren't, they tortured you first. But hey, it's definitely the Americans who are the villains. No doubt about it.

Okay I'm done lecturing. Time for my yoga.