Although as individuals it is unlikely we have transgressed every one of them we nevertheless accept collective responsibility for the possibility that as a community we may have.
This most important day in our religious calendar provides us with the opportunity of a 24-hour introspection and resolve to mend our ways. The point is that we do not prolong this “cheshbon nefesh” (soul searching) ad infinitum. We get on with life after having resolved to do better instead of breast-beating forever.
The necessity for self-improvement is well recognized in Judaism but it does not override common sense.
Thus, although we mourn for the death of loved ones and of strangers we make sure that this does not get out of control. Over the last few millennia, Jews have been the targets of countless attempts to murder us and therefore it is inevitable that we have accumulated some experience in how to cope. The recent horrendous mass killing in New Zealand has inflicted a major trauma on the country but it seems to outside onlookers that it has caused reactions far in excess of normal bereavement. Collective grief is good and the Prime Minister certainly gave a strong lead in this respect which struck a chord with large sections of the population. Emotional and physical support of those who lost family and friends is also vital and a sense of solidarity to ensure that crimes like this are not repeated is essential.
It is therefore puzzling but at the same time not surprising to see how this terrorism has caused a mass onslaught of guilt and an avalanche of political correctness which threatens to become a permanent stifling feature of life. Part of this is attributable to political considerations which factor in the dread of what Islamic nations may say and do.
First and foremost the perpetrator of this terror act is not even a New Zealander. He is an Australian which makes one wonder why hysterical guilt has enveloped Kiwis. Feeling angry over lax gun laws or defective security surveillance is understandable. Laying wreaths and expressing outrage is normal but accusing the whole of NZ society for being responsible for this heinous crime is insane. The usual disaffected protest groups (almost all of them anti-Israel) have now surfaced and are busy inducing collective guilt as their inflammatory rhetoric escalates. An excellent example of this appeared in a newspaper op-ed: “Islamaphobia industry exists because the demonization of Muslims serves specific political & economical goals. How else would we tolerate the killings of innocent children caught up in the endless wars in the Middle East? How else would we tolerate the captivity of two million Palestinians (almost half of them children) in a small strip of land called Gaza?”
I read this litany of lies as a rocket from Gaza demolished a house in Israel and injured several people including two infants. The truth, of course, is that the inhabitants of Gaza are held captive by their own terror groups whose proclaimed aim is the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. In the prevailing climate of doublespeak however, facts are submerged in preference to hysterical hypocrisy.
The NZ Prime Minister declared that she would never utter the name of the terrorist and urged others to follow her example. Just imagine if we Jews had done the same over the last few thousand years. We would never name Pharaoh every Passover, the Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman rulers who tried to eliminate us would remain anonymous, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain would be nameless and Hitler with his willing partners would still be unmentionable.
Whitcoulls, a major bookseller decided to ban a book written by Jordan Peterson, an internationally acclaimed conservative psychologist because he had been photographed next to a person wearing a tee shirt containing a slogan deemed offensive. Apparently however the bookshop has no problem advertising and selling Mein Kampf because that is offensive only to Jews.
The brother of the late King Hussein of Jordan was in NZ in order to show solidarity with the Muslim community. Locals always become excited when royalty visits and this was no exception. If the media and politicians had not been mesmerized by the occasion they could have perhaps posed two non-pc questions. Why during the years 1948 to 1967 had he as Crown Prince not protested the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Old City of Jerusalem and the destruction of the oldest Jewish cemetery and all communal buildings? How come his brand of “moderate” Islam forbade Jews visiting & praying at the Kotel? At the same time as he was in Christchurch, the Jordanian Parliament honoured a Palestinian Arab terrorist who murdered a Rabbi, father of 12 children as well as a soldier, by reading a chapter from the Koran. All the MP’s present rose to honour the murderer. Needless to say, this open display of hate which is a daily occurrence passed unnoticed in the local media because uncomfortable realities are better swept under the carpet.
The piece de resistance, however, was the abject pilgrimage of NZ’s Foreign Minister to Turkey. After its President had hurled a most insulting statement against the ANZACS and broadcast the horrific video of the massacre, fearless Winston was dispatched to Ankara to put Erdogan straight. Lo and behold at the end of a short encounter the FM announced with nary a hint of embarrassment that not only had he refrained from demanding that the video screening be stopped but that he also had not raised the subject of the insulting statements because in his opinion “it would not serve a long term peaceful purpose.” One could almost hear the derisory gales of laughter from the Turks as they repeatedly kept showing the gruesome scenes recorded by the terrorist.
Which group did the FM travel all the way to Turkey to address and appease? It was the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). This 57 member body comprised of human rights abusing countries and in some cases, terror-supporting administrations is on record as supporting boycotts of Israel and punishing any country which recognizes Jerusalem as its Capital. Its members have signed a statement praising the “blessed intifada” and accusing Israel alone of any other country in the world of being guilty of “state terrorism.” For good measure in 2007, they stated that “Islamophobia is the worst form of terrorism.”
None of these inconvenient facts ever saw the light of day. Unlike Neville Chamberlain, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister did not even get a piece of paper to wave in front of the media. All he received was an assurance that NZ tourists should be safe in Turkey. Good luck with that.
The trauma of recent events will take a long time to dissipate and the healing process will be difficult. Support for the victims’ families is a top priority. At the same time, urgent steps need to be taken to ensure that lunatics of the extreme right and left do not gain a foothold in what was once amongst the world’s safest countries.
In order for this to happen knee jerk policies must be rejected and awareness created that hate knows no boundaries. That means acknowledging uncomfortable truths and challenging the lies disseminated by sundry groups which have a clear agenda of hate against Jews and Israel.
As soon as I heard about the Christchurch terror attack I knew that it would not be very long before Jews, the Mossad and Israel would be blamed. Sure enough Imams in various Mosques in different countries have already made the connection. Now a Muslim leader in Auckland at a public rally has trotted out the usual conspiracy plots. There was no expression of outrage from the assembled crowd and several expressions of support. Two immediate questions now arise. Are similar lies about Jews and Zionists being preached to congregants at Mosques in NZ as they are overseas? Where is the swift and all-embracing denunciation of these incitements from the Prime Minister and especially her deputy?
This latest manifestation of baseless hate is the tip of the iceberg. It cannot be eradicated by misplaced political correctness, calls to prayer on Radio and TVNZ, mass-wearing of hijabs and changing the name of the Crusaders rugby team.
Is New Zealand up to it? The jury is still out.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.