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Israel With Weariness & Fear

A Personal Account

By Lionel Rolfe
24 June 2002

It is with a certain weariness and even fear that I lift my pen -so to speak- and put down a few thoughts about Israel. It is necessary to do so because the country to which I remain very attached is going down a road that will only lead to its demise.

I grew up getting beaten up for being a Jew. Back in the fifties in Long Beach, California, I was chased home through the back alleys from Woodrow Wilson High School by a gang of Christian thugs. Their leader was the son of a minister, and oh my God what a bigot was he! The basic charge was that as a Jew, I was responsible for Christ getting killed. I guess I did it personally. That's what they seemed to be saying. Or something horrible coursed through my veins, and that horrible something was that I was a Jew whose antecedents had drunk the blood of Christian children. He was, like a lot of the other former midwestern farmers in Long Beach, a follower of Gerald L.K. Smith.

I naturally got interested in what being a Jew meant, and like many other Jews I read everything I could about the Holocaust, and that defined me forever. My favorite novel was It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. It was about fascism in America.

The problem for me began when the likes of Menachem Begin took office. I was not willing to become a fascist in order to support Israel. To my mind, Israel was supposed to be the opposite of a fascist state. At least Begin, an accomplished old terrorist himself, ultimately backed off his war in Lebanon.
It turns out his general, Ariel Sharon, had hijacked the Israeli army and invaded Beirut without initial permission to do so. A lot of his soldiers would fight in Lebanon during the weekday and return on weekends to surround his house, chanting against the war in Lebanon. It was pressure from his own people that defeated Begin -or more accurately Sharon. True to form, Sharon had provoked the war -just the way he more recently provoked the Palestinians with his storming the Temple Mount.

But I said to myself that as important as Israel is, I was not going to be forced to follow the likes of Jewish fascists like Begin, Shamir and Sharon, whose ideological mentor Vladmir Jabotinsky admired Mussolini's kind of politics, but not Hitler's, only because Hitler hated Jews whereas Mussolini was much more laissez faire with his Jew hatred. So convoluted were the Jabotinsky's allegiances, forces identified with him sided with the Nazis against the Communists in the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

Perhaps I had asked for the kind of trouble I had with the Christian thugs. For I had quite publicly refused to attend a Christmas play at Woodrow Wilson High School, objecting because as a Jew I was being forced to listen to another religion's propaganda. The principal told me that this was a Christian country, and I had better get used to that.

Later, I edited for nearly a decade the B'nai Brith Messenger, the third oldest newspaper in Los Angeles. It was a Jewish paper, and had my grandmother lived to see me in such an exalted position, she would have been very proud. She read the Messenger for many years -read every line of it.
Now suddenly Israel's strongest supporters are the likes of Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson or the Bushes, folks whose natural inclination would be to hang Jews because they are too liberal and somehow satanic. Or chase them through back alleys and curse them as Christ Killers or perhaps see them off to pogroms. Or stab them in the back to please the Saudis.

But then the world has been turned very upside down anyway for some time now. A relatively liberal president in the United States -John Kennedy- as well as some more politically committed leftist -like Martin Luther King- get assassinated. Then right-wing types took over, ending hope for a decent American future. In the eyes of many, the "secret government" had taken over openly. The likes of Nixon, Reagan and Bush triumphed -and the result looks dangerously like It Is Happening Here.

Same in Israel. It looked like Rabin and Arafat were putting together something through the peace process when Rabin got shot. All during that period, Binyamin Netanyahu was giving speeches to his right-wing followers practically urging Israelis to kill Rabin. When one of their numbers pulled the trigger, the right was rewarded with the leadership of Israel. It used to be a novel way of running an election. Kill anyone who might accomplish something and put the thugs in charge of everything.

Meanwhile a very few million Jews are surrounded by a sea of angry Arabs -people who have every right to be pissed off at the likes of a Sharon.

he world has become a bit of a nightmare, I fear. And not just for Jews.

Copyright © 2002 by the News Insider and Lionel Rolfe

Lionel Rolfe is the author of the just released third edition of "Literary LA" (California Classics Books). He may be contacted at

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