Howard Epstein



I know that there is not much to choose between them at the best of times but when I see the Sunni Moslem Palestinians and the Sunni Moslem Brotherhood-inspired Turks locked in a philosophical tussle, I instinctively want to help out – being Jewish and all, given that we Jews are a special interest group in this context.

As regular readers of this column will recall, I have long sought the abandonment of the “No Preconditions to Negotiations” stance of Israeli politicians, on the basis that we should not be expected to negotiate with those who teach their children a vile brand of anti-Semitism. You will remember that this stretches from chugim, at which children are given practical things to do, such as simulating the murder of Jews, to teaching them that Jews are descended from monkeys.

Now the confusing bit. Moslem Brotherhood adherent and Turkish dictator, Recep Tayyip Erdoghan – he of the 1,150 room palace – has banned Turkey’s schools from teaching Darwin’s  theory of evolution. According to The Times (of London) journalist, Ron Liddle:

One Turkish newspaper says primary school pupils have been given books depicting Charles Darwin as “a big-nosed Jew who enjoyed the company of monkeys”. A pro-Erdoghan columnist gives evolution a twist: Darwin was partly right, Seyfi Sahin explains, but had things the wrong way around. Evolution is true, he says, but monkeys descended from Jews who were being punished for their sins. All in the Koran, apparently.”

And that’s the problem: according to the Pals we are descended from monkeys but, for Erdoghan’s people, it’s the other way round. (I have been unable to decide which is the more flattering portrayal of us. Perhaps neither is meant to be. What do you think?)

And that’s not all. What happens when the Pals take their lead from Erdoghan? How are they going to explain to the kids – and the generations who were raised on their hateful propaganda – that the monkeys are the progeny of Jews (and not vice versa), given that they are the ones that have made no progress (except in exporting the New Normal of Street Terror from Israel to Europe and the USA, in return for billions of dollars no-questions-asked hand-outs) these last 50 years, whilst the biggest fiscal problem in Israel is keeping the value of the shekel down, so that our exporters are not priced out of the market. It’s embarrassing enough that the GDP growth rate languishes at ten times that of Europe and the USA. Explaining it in Darwinian, or worse, post-Darwinian terms, makes one’s brain hurt.

And what has been exercising us in Israel this past week more than anything else? The fear that American Jews of the reform persuasion will turn their backs on Israel because a coalition government (hint: it has ever been thus here) could not resist pressure from the religious parties not to allow mixed-sex prayer sessions at the margins of the Kotel. Hey, guys! It’s a two-way street. You cut us some slack and we’ll continue to have your back.

We know how it is with “Americans of the Mosaic Persuasion”. They think that anti-Semitism will just blow over. That’s what (the self-described) “Germans of the Mosaic Persuasion” told Chaim Weizmann when he first encountered them after leaving the heim for the West 130 years ago: “Don’t worry Chaimchik, It will blow over.” And it did. Mingled with the ashes from the chimneys of Auschwitz.

Now I am not a resident of the Mea Shearim or Bnei Brak, nor do I see the inside of a schul as often as I might, but I remember where Reform Judaism came from, and that it saved no more of its followers than had they been mamash dati. Once you were in the cattle truck, you were all in the same boat, as it were. By all means large parts of American Jewry (what’s left of it) should follow a relaxed form of Judaism, if that’s what they want, but it seems odd to me that the lax should arrogate to themselves the right to dictate to the guardians of the Kotel the fundamentals of Wall Studies 101.

Of existential concern this week have been the reports about how the Russians have deployed armaments (such as supersonic cruise missiles) to which the West has no answer. What was Obama doing those eight years besides appeasing the Iranians and playing golf? And don’t think Trump is going to be any more effective. He appears to be running out of ideas for stopping the Iranians from reaching the Mediterranean.

I guess that means we Israelis will be on our own again, swinging from branches and eating bananas without removing the outer wrapper.

© Howard Epstein July 2016

Howard Epstein’s book: Chaim Weizmann: the Indispensable Zionist will be published in August.

To Top