Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Tale of Extremism and Redemption

Whilst the blogpost below would appear at first sight to be about an ultra-rightwing Israeli group by the name of Kach, it's in my reading more about a young man's realisation that extremism isn't the prerogative of any one social group, that it can be found anywhere and that no good can come from it. Very well worth reading.

From
Greg's blog:

Chicago, 2000: I was just out of high school and out and having fun on a Thursday evening. A couple of friends from the JDL, the Jewish Defense League, founded by radical Rabbi Meir Kahane (H"YD), and I were on patrol on Devon Ave. in West Rogers Park. Upon arriving in the neighborhood, where religious Jews had been the targets of racial violence at the hands of local Palestinians, we spotted a vehicle with a PLO flag hanging out of it.

We gave chase and cornered the man. The leader of my group got out and told him he had better get lost. With that we parted. Soon enough, the police were in on this. A police officer had us pull over and "reel in" our Israeli flag, while the Pali man was ordered to hide his terrorist ambitions.

Things seemed to de-escalate from there until I took the initiative into my own hands. While my friends had other things on their minds, I got out of the van, approached the Palestinian/Muslim and began berating him. I told him he was a pig and that I was looking forward to an opportunity to kick his pansy ass. I wasn't kidding. Having been trained by a Russian Olympic karate trainer I was no newcomer to hand-to-hand combat. But this time I'd have to wait.

Soon, just about all of the guy's relatives had gathered to protect one of their own, a practice common amongst Arabs: ganging up on an unarmed individual and "taking care of business" as they might call it. But it wasn't to be. I continued calling on them to take me on--even if it meant going toe-to-toe with a group of knife wielding terrorist-wanna-be's.

But they outsmarted me and called the police. I spend the following night in jail, hip-hopping back and forth with an up and coming young Black "rap artist."

...

Some years passed. I made aliya to Israel. Two weeks into my aliya, I made a trip to Hevron to visit Elisheva Federman, her husband who happens to be head of Kach and an ultra-right wing terrorist, and Baruch Marzel, among others. Certainly, the Shabbak were following my movements by then.

When I returned to Tel-Aviv I was questioned by the "men in black." Unlike of what most people tend to hear on the news they were very nice and accomodating. Though they never gave me a real answer to who they were (it was obvious enough anyway) they gave me candid advice. They told me who Noam Federman happened to be and what kind of things he did "for a living" and simply warned me to stay away from those kinds of people. Only much later, would I cut all ties with Kach and similar groups preaching hate, bigotry, and, of course, transfer.

I would grow as a human being. My best friend, before he moved to Canada was a young Palestinian studying medicine. In the process of befriending Arabs I learned that discussing politics with them was of no use since we were bound to disagree and, ultimately, feelings of hatred would surface.

Coming to Israel, as strange as it may sound, and as I've told Gert, is what changed me in so many ways. When I actually met local Arabs face-to-face I finally stopped hating them. I realized that ultimately, they were human beings just like myself and that hate was only hurting me. I've realized that to love one's neighbor, whoever he may be, is a lot harder than hating him. Hate is simple. You don't have to be incredibly sophisticated to hate. Love, on the other hand is extremely difficult in this case. You must be well-educated, very tolerant, and most of all, a free-thinker to have respect for a people you're at war with. You have to realize that you're at war with their leaders, and the terrorists masquerading themselves as their leaders and not them, as individuals. Thankfully, most Israelis are very tolerant; some, I admit, too much for my liking.

I remain right wing but not Kach. I realize that the thousands of dollars well-meaning American Jews donate to Kach every year go to the likes of Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir and many more who hope to follow in their footsteps. Kach does not stand for the best interests of Israel. On the contrary, it represents the worst in Israeli culture: hatred and racism.

We, as Jews, should be aware that we, too, have terrorists in our midst. We, out of all people, should learn from the lessons of the Holocaust, lest evil prevail again.

I urge all sympathizers of Kach in Israel and around the world: stop aiding this terrorist organization! Stop spending your hard-earned dollars on people who preach hate and violence. This isn't the Jewish way. This wasn't the way of neither Ze'ev Zhabotinsky nor Abba Ahameir, nor Avraham Stern for that matter. Be aware of whom you help, lest they, too, turn on you.

3 Comments:

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Gert: thank you for giving me the opportunity to "appear" on your blog. I know a lot of what I wrote is about an extreme right-winger; the person I once used to be. But as you've noted, I've changed. I just want everyone to know that change is, indeed, possible. We just have to have positive influences around us and have the capacity to realize we were wrong.

Thank you once again, Greg.

 
At 4:14 PM, Blogger Gert said...

You're welcome: it's a story that deserves to be heard and well written too.

 
At 3:04 PM, Blogger Richard said...

*We just have to have positive influences around us and have the capacity to realize we were wrong.

It takes a big man to talk that way, Greg. One worthy of respect. We'll, you've just won mine. Shalom.

 

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