Seidemann: Courage or else


From the other side of the bench

By David Seidemann

Issue of June 11, 2010/ 29 Sivan 5770
Occasionally, the times demand that you go it alone. That is called courage. Courage is a soldier boarding an enemy ship not knowing what to expect. Courage is a baseball umpire admitting his error and the pitcher who was denied a perfect game embracing the umpire’s mistake. For others, courage is British Petroleum finally admitting that they were ill-prepared. Courage is any number of things ripped from the headlines the last few days, including good samaritans jumping into raging waters to rescue a driver whose car had veered off the road and plunged into the current.

But all those pale in significance, at least in my view, to the courage displayed by a yeshiva high school senior in Los Angeles who was the lone soldier standing up for Israel last week. As hundreds of pro-Palestinian Arabs and supporters surrounded the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, this one yeshiva boy with an Israeli flag stood up to them all. I don’t know how many of you saw the YouTube video but it’s a must-see. This young man calmly walked past the Arab sympathizers, waving an Israeli flag as he crossed from corner to corner in downtown Los Angeles without saying a word. All he did was walk and wave the flag and his actions spoke louder than any of them. The police immediately surrounded him to protect him from the crowd that taunted him and called him every name in the book, including ones that would make Helen Thomas shudder. Well, maybe not her.

The boy not flinch. In an interview given as the police formed a protective cordon around him, he was as articulate in his defense of Israel as any of us could ever hope to be. I challenge each and every one of us to be just as courageous. We have it easy. There isn’t an angry mob surrounding us like the mob that surrounded that boy in Los Angeles. We can hide behind the safety and the anonymity of the voting booth.

Will we be as courageous or will we once again shrink from and shirk our responsibility? Being parve, being neutral, or being silent is no longer defensible. I have spoken to survivors of the Holocaust in the last few days and in their view (and mine) anti-Semitism, state-sponsored anti-Semitism, and state-sponsored indifference is as bad now as it was in Nazi Germany. Not just in the Middle East. Not just in Europe, but here too, in the good old United States of America.

The present administration is as guilty in my book of either anti-Semitism or a miscalculated and ill-conceived embrace of those that wish for Israel to disappear. It is difficult to write the next sentence, but I believe it wholeheartedly: Any Jew who fails to challenge anti-Israel rhetoric and anti-Israel policies or indifference from elected officials will have blood on their hands when the result of those sentiments becomes manifest. The message these days from certain circles (or should I say certain ovals), is that it’s okay to bash Israel and the Jews; it’s okay to turn a deaf ear to those that wish to wipe Israel off the map.

Let’s be clear: Israel-bashing is Jew-bashing. Let’s be clear: failing to vociferously defend Israel is tantamount to exterminating Israel. In Germany and in Poland, where Helen Thomas wants us to return, we might not have had the wherewithal to stand up to state-sponsored anti-Semitism or indifference. We marched silently to our deaths. There is no excuse today. We have the power to wave that flag like that highschooler in Los Angeles, proclaiming our defense of our state. More importantly, we contribute too much to this country to allow our leaders to de-legitimize us or to remain quiet while others bring back the sentiments of the 1930’s.

Have we learned nothing from the stench of the crematoriums? Is it too long ago? Have the ashes disintegrated and vanished into thin air? Have the numbers on the arms of the survivors faded forever?

Helen Thomas is what she always has been. She is an anti-Semite of the highest order. How did she keep this secret for so long? How did she not reveal her essence until now? It’s simple. Recently she was given the green light. She was given safe haven. She had the tacit if not express approval to enter her comfort zone and to express now what she had been feeling for years.

I find it interesting that Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, acknowledged on his own that Thomas’s remarks were offensive and indefensible. Yet, when asked for the President’s feelings, there was deafening silence. In fact, according to Gibbs, they had not even discussed the matter. The president made no comment until almost a week later, and only in response to a reporter’s question in a one-on-one interview. That’s the tacit approval that I’m referring to. Silence demands a response. Had someone suggested that African-Americans return to their roots, or leave this country, or suggest that wherever they presently live is not their home, we know what the reaction would’ve been.

So what’s it going to be? Are we going to match silence with silence or are we going to raise the flag and wave it for all to see? Ominous as it sounds, it’s a choice between raising our hands now or having to wash Jewish blood from them later.

David Seidemann is a partner with the

law firm of Seidemann & Mermelstein.

He can be reached at (718) 692-1013

and at