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Monday, June 7, 2010

Helen Thomas and me

Helen Thomas wants to send me back to Auschwitz. That's what I heard when I saw her saying on youtube, "Go back home, to Germany and Poland," with an unapologetic smile. Luckily she didn't say, "Too bad Hitler didn't finish the job." That would really sting.

It's so depressing. My Jewish paranoia is resurfacing. Can't help it. It's in my DNA. In my mind's eye I already see the gas chambers and the SS officers in their immaculate uniform. I try to tell myself that I now live in America, I am an American citizen, I'm safe, I have nothing to worry about, but the feelings persist and the images don't go away.

All I can think about is that by pure luck I was not born in the forties in Europe. I could have been born there, easily, and end up like all those distant relatives who perished in the Holocaust. After all, my grandparents came from Eastern Europe. Now Ms. Thomas wants Jews to go back "Home." That is what she called it, on the White House lawn, during Jewish Heritage month, no less.

That's more than just depressing.

When I think "Germany and Poland" in the same breath, I think Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Sobibor, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Theresienstadt. They are as familiar to me as Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat, and Ashkelon. I grew up knowing the names of these places, as if people I know live there. (or more likely, died there.)

I don't have any bad feelings about Germany or Poland. I don't keep a grudge. I don't dwell on the Holocaust. I just don't want to live there or be forced to go back there with all my Israeli family and friends. I don't think we will be a good fit. No matter how you look at it, it will not work. She should have known.

Yet, I wonder, what made her think that the Germans and the Poles and the Lithuanians and Romanians and Hungarians and the French and the list goes on and on would accept all these aggressive, violent, Palestinian hating Israeli Jews, some of which are not even European? There are Ethiopian Jews in Israel as well. Would she send them back to Ethiopia? And what about the Moroccan and Iranian and Syrian Jews? Where would they go? And where would I go?

I wouldn't know where to go. I know my grandparents came to Palestine sometimes in the 1920s from Eastern Europe, but that's about it. They never spoke Polish or Yiddish or whatever language they spoke over there. They never mentioned the relatives they had left behind or showed me any pictures. They were just my grandparents.

The only place I've ever heard about was Vishniva. My grandfather came from there. Last year I googled Vishniva and found it in Lithuania. Unfortunately, all the Jews of Vishniva were killed one night in August 1942, according to the book my grandfather left behind. A book that I now own. In the end of this book there is a long list of names of all those who were slaughtered on that fateful night, and a good chunk of those names have the same last name as my grandfather. That's not too encouraging. I mean, what kind of "home" is that?

Now I understand why last Saturday night, instead of going out and doing something fun, I decided to stay home and watch a documentary about... genocide. It is called Worse Than War. It was produced by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, the same guy who wrote Hitler's Willing Executioners.

I think Helen Thomas should take a look at it. She might change her mind about sending those damn Israeli Jews back to Europe after watching it.

related articles:

TNR: Helen Thomas and the rights to abhorrent speech

TPM: Just pack it in

Politics Daily: Was Hearst right to force Helen Thomas to retire

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