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April 05, 1991 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-04-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I OPINION

Israeli Government Is Telling
Israeli People: Drop Dead

ZE'EV CHAFETS

Special to The Jewish News

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ack in 1981, a few
months before the na-
tional election, my
friend Shaul explained why
he was planning to vote
against Menachem Begin.
"He keeps saying that the
PLO kills women and chil-
dren," Shaul complained.
"How come he never men-
tions 35-year-old men like
me? I don't want a prime
minister who doesn't care if I
live or die."
I found it hard to argue
with this logic; discrimina-
tion is an ugly thing. Happi-
ly, it has disappeared under
the administration of
Begin's successor, Yitzhak
Shamir. Our prime minister
and his government have
demonstrated a universal
and undifferentiated apathy
toward the safety, prosperity
and welfare of everyone.
Never in the history of this
nation has there been such a
callous, high-handed, self-
aggrandizing government.
Never haVe the voters been
less represented or more
despised by their betters in
Jerusalem. In peace and
war, good times and bad, the
Shamir administration has
had but a single message to
the public: Drop dead.
Terrorists now roam our
streets with impunity, and
recently they have even
begun making home
deliveries. Stand at a bus
stop, walk down the street or
answer your doorbell, and
you are liable to find
yourself face to face with a
machete-armed moron
screaming "Allahu
Akhbar."
If this was happening
under a Labor -government,
Shamir and his macho
cronies would be screaming
their heads off. But it isn't,
and they aren't. Instead,
Police Minister Ronni Milo
attends the funerals of the
victims and babbles mean-
ingless pieties; the govern-
ment comes up with
preposterous proposals to
keep Arab bachelors out of
Israel; and Defense Minister
Moshe Arens tells citizens
that their best defense is to
pack a pistol. The simple
translation of this advice is:
Fend for yourselves.

Ze'ev Chafets is managing
editor of the Jerusalem Report,
from which this article is
printed with permission.

That is pretty much what
happened during the recent
war. Prime Minister Shamir
all but disappeared from
view, leaving the public to
wonder if their sealed rooms
and gas masks provided pro-
tection or merely a
palliative. Now, with the
report of the state comp-
troller, we don't have to
wonder any longer. She says
a good percentage of the gas •
masks were defective, and I
believe her. Chief of Staff
Dan Shomron may call the
report "absurd." But based
on past performance, it
doesn't seem absurd at all,
or even unlikely.
The Shamir government's
indifference to the public's
welfare and wishes is not
confined to personal safety
(yours, not theirs; they have
bodyguards) or national
security. Remember elec-
toral reform? Remember the
hundreds of thousands of

citizens demonstrating in
the streets for a change in
the system? Remember the
politicians' promises? Well,
forget them. Yitzhak Shamir
and his cronies have no more
intention of honoring their
word than they do of conver-
ting to Islam. As far as
they're concerned, the
system works fine. After all,
it got them elected. And if 80
percent of the public wants a
change, well, tough. What is
this, a democracy?

And then there is the ques-
tion of Russian aliyah,
arguably the greatest
challenge this country has
ever faced. The government
has failed to provide jobs,
housing or a decent welfare
system for the Jews it claims
to want. Instead, cabinet
ministers scuffle over perks
and patronage while the
Russians pick through gar-
bage in the Carmel Market.

And where is Prime Min-
ister Shamir?
What we are witnessing is
not normal government in-
competence. It is an excep-
tional, perhaps unique, case
of Olympian disdain for the
most elementary concerns
and needs of the public. In
any other democraCy, Yit-
zhak Shamir would be knit-
ting afghans in an old folks'
home. Instead, he's an odds
on favorite for reelection.
This is our fault, not his. In
free societies, people get the

government they deserve.
Ours has given us. unsafe
streets, phony gas masks,
confiscatory taxes, declining
wages, creative public ac-
counting, free lunches for
the powerful, crumbs for the
poor and no apologies.
Ah, but I forgot. It has also
freed us from discrimina-
tion. In the eyes of the Yit-
zhak Shamir, the Great Lib-
erator, men, women and
children have achieved a
rare equality. We all count
for the same thing —zero. ❑

Is This For Real, Mr. Walesa?

PHIL JACOBS

Managing Editor

T

wo years ago at a
Baltimore City dock, I
watched the delivery
of a particular import that
didn't have anything to do
with Toyotas or Hondas.
Not far away was the city's
nationally known Inner
Harbor area where people
strolled around the
pavilions, boats and water in
a much more carefree way.
But the atmosphere where
some 50 of us stood was
hardly carefree, especially
considering the item we
watched being unloaded
from a Polish ship: a railroad
boxcar.
This wasn't the kind of
boxcar that contained sup-
plies of any sort. This box-
car, complete with guard
tower on its roof, once con-
tained Jews, Polish Jews. It
delivered them dead, diseas-
ed or alive to places such as
Auschwitz. I remember hav-
ing the feeling I had that day
only once before in my life.
That was when I wrote an
article on the anniversary of
the bombing of Hiroshima. I
focused the story on the crew
of the Enola Gay, the
bomber that dropped the
bomb. Seeing the Enola Gay
in a storage warehouse of
the Smithsonian Institu-
tions, I felt insignificant, as

if I couldn't handle the
awesome presence of the
death machine I was seeing.
I walked under its
tailgunner station, looking
at the seams in the fuselage,
the metal, the rivets that
once looked down on
Hiroshima.
I felt that way again when
I saw the wood of the boxcar.
I wondered what it must
have been like •for the
thousands of people who

In this case, the
boxcar was
deadlier than the
bomb.

stood against each other and
the walls of this car.
A man I was standing next
to cried. He cried because
this car looked too familiar. _
He cried because if anyone
could remember a boxcar in
Poland, it was this man, who
as • a teen-ager managed to
open his boxcar door and
jump into the woods. The
others in the car pleaded
with him not to, that he
would be hurt if the Ger-
mans caught him. Now, he
cries for them.
But there was another
man watching the pro-
ceedings as well. He didn't
cry. Instead, he looked steely-
eyed as a Polish official pre-
sented the boxcar as a gift of

his government to the Na-
tional Holocaust Museum.
He hadn't jumped from a
boxcar — he was too weak.
But of the 100 people in his
boxcar, he was one of 10 who
survived his journey to
Atischwitz. He would have
never been on the boxcar
were it not for the Poles that
told the SS where he and his
brother hid.
When Nate Nothnon of
West Bloomfield returned to
his Polish birthplace last
July he saw a swastika on
his old synagogue.
A Chasidic rabbi, leading a
tour of great learning
centers of Poland, was ver-
bally attacked by an old
woman who told him, "I see
Hitler didn't finish up, did
he?"
All of a sudden, a Polish
leader wants to make nice to
the Jews. This is a country
that contributed to the an-
nihilation of its Jewish
population, once one of the
world's largest and spiri-
tually richest. Some of the
great Jewish minds of our
century died in those box-
cars.
And now Lech Walesa
shakes our hands and prom-
ises to make life better. Syn-
agogues and cemeteries
there are being cleaned up.
Hebrew letters are being
carefully painted with gold
leaf to attract the green of

American Jews who want to
trace their roots.
A convent, not so long ago,
wanted to remain on the
grounds of Auschwitz,
hallowed ground of Euro-
pean Jewry.
Yes, Mr. Walesa, we wish
anti-Semitism was missing
from Poland as well. But
didn't you, Mr. Walesa, ac-
cuse your political opponent,
Tadeusz Mazoweiecki of not
being fit to run because of
his Jewish blood?
For Jews, Mr. Walesa, the
boxcar and the Enola Gay
have a great deal in corn-
mon. They both left the sort
of destruction that takes
years for recovery.
Japanese society rebuilt
itself into a world power
while the Polish Jewish
community is but a trickle of
its past. In this case, the
boxcar was deadlier than the
bomb. And I'm sure, Mr.
Walesa, that given the op-
portunity, Poland's anti-
Semites would not hesitate
to repaint and refit their
boxcars and use them again.
Hopefully you are for real,
Mr. Walesa. And hopefully
this talk of denouncing anti-
Semitism in Poland is for
real. We all want to give this
a chance to work. But when
you see a boxcar with a
guard tower on its roof, it's
hard to believe anything
anymore. ❑

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

7

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