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Thursday, January 26, 2017

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

Like many American Jews, I was born in Brooklyn, NY. As a young man I was interested in electronics and radio, which got me a job as a broadcast engineer that, along with scholarships, paid for my college education. But I had my heart set on an academic career and studied philosophy, specializing in logic. I ultimately decided that I did not want to be a teacher and would be a bad one, but before that I experienced the strange world of the academy. 

My time as a graduate student in Pittsburgh and a college teacher in California straddled the great revolution in higher education that took place in the late 1960s – the period of grade inflation and politicization, and the introduction of race and gender studies as academic disciplines. The experience was invaluable in understanding the nature of political correctness and other academy-birthed neuroses that are endemic in American culture today.

I found myself interested in computers, and little by little moved away from the academic world. This was still the day of massive mainframes, before personal computers and the Internet. I liked programming in assembly language, as close to the metal as I could get. It was a good fit for a person with a logical mind who was not especially good at dealing with humans (Mr. Spock would understand). It was an honest way to make a living, too.

The important part of my life started in 1979, when my wife and three children and I made aliyah. I had the honor of being drafted for reserve duty in the IDF, which – after I explained all my experience and technical skills, basically said “here is an M16, go guard things for 6 weeks every year.” We lived on two kibbutzim – one of them a leftist kibbutz of the Hashomer Hatzair movement at which I learned something about carpentry, tractor repair, and unfortunately totalitarianism. The other was a somewhat more reasonable place politically, but kibbutz living didn’t agree with me and after nine years we returned to our home town, Fresno, California. We almost immediately began to compensate for being yordim (leaving the country) by becoming passionate supporters of Israel from the Diaspora.

I started blogging more than ten years ago, because I was frustrated at my inability to get people to listen to me. The local newspaper would publish a 200-word letter from me every few weeks, and – very rarely – a longer piece. But they wanted stuff of local interest, not political articles about Israel. I sent emails to the members of the Jewish community about matters that I thought should be of concern to them, but the reaction ranged from amusement to irritation to anger. Everyone, from editors to synagogue board members to university officials (they had, and continue to have, regular bash-Israel programs) got really tired of me.

My wife and I and some of our friends counter-demonstrated at every anti-Israel demonstration and program at the university, with signs and leaflets. In 2002, I had a somewhat surreal struggle with the management of the public radio station about my offer to buy a “day sponsorship” which would include several announcements “in remembrance of the 526 (and counting) Israeli men, women, and children who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists since September 2000.” 

They did not take my money. “How do we know it’s true?” they said. So I gave them names and dates. “Too political,” they said. So I gave them examples of other sponsorships that they did accept, such as one “ honor of the Stonewall riots, the beginning of the Gay and Lesbian civil rights movement.” “That’s different,” they said. We went round and round for a while until they stopped talking to me.

Toward the end of 2006, the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study report came out, in which Ben Rhodes, a committee staffer who would later become one of Barack Obama’s close confidants on Middle East policy, argued that the way to rescue the US from the quagmire of Iraq was to appease Iran and Syria (there was still a Syria then) by letting them have their way with Israel. Give Syria the Golan – and by all means establish a Palestinian state as quickly as possible, because ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (as if a Palestinian state would end it!) will solve all the region’s problems. Not.

I was invited by a local TV station to be on a panel “to discuss the report.” It turned out that the other guy was a member of a “peace” group who was opposed to how America was blowing all its money bombing Iraq while people were hungry at home; and they wanted me to be the hawk who was in favor of America blowing all its money by bombing the crap out of Iraqi kids. When I mentioned the report and Israel, everyone looked at me blankly (in general, the TV reporters were astonishingly ignorant. Apparently the newspaper people were the ones that did well in their Journalism classes at Fresno State, and the rest went into TV). 

Unable to keep my thoughts to myself (and my long-suffering wife), I began a blog called I used “.org” because my idea was that I would start a Zionist organization that would fight back against the constant flow of anti-Israel propaganda coming from activists at the university, from the local Pacifica radio station, from NPR, and from the various left-wing and “peace” groups. I inaugurated my blog with a post about the Iraq Study Report.

I am not much of an organizer, it turns out, and the Zionist group did not come into existence (although in one of my letters to the university president, which he didn’t answer, I claimed to be the president of it).

Two out of three of my children went back to Israel at age 19 to serve in the army (the oldest served before we left), and as often happens, met their spouses and stayed. Now they each have  four children of their own. As soon as my wife and I sold our business and retired in 2014, we joined them. It was a relief to be able to stop trying to make Zionists out of our Jewish friends, many of whom are far more dedicated to liberal causes than to Jewish ones.

When I got back to Israel, I started a new blog, Sometimes I write philosophical or historical essays about Zionism, and sometimes I write indignantly about the latest example of hypocrisy by liberal American Jews (from whom I have finally come to expect absolutely nothing). Sometimes I write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how there is no possible diplomatic solution to it. Sometimes I write about the subhuman cruelty of Arab terrorists, and sometimes I speculate about the coming war with Iran and Hezbollah (we’ll win it, at great cost). During the past 8 years I wrote a great deal about Barack Hussein Obama, whose deep animus against the Jewish state will (I think) only begin to fully become clear to us in the future.

Sometimes I write about American culture or politics, although that is becoming less frequent as I am no longer a first-hand observer. It is also true that the extreme anger and irrationality that are coming to characterize them are hard to understand. The recent election and the reactions to it are beyond anything in my experience. Some of my old friends are truly angry with me for seeing Trump as an improvement over Obama (despite everything wrong with him, I still think he is).

Every day I am more and more convinced that a Jewish state – not some kind of state of its citizens, but a state that is truly an expression of the national feelings of the Jewish people – is essential for the survival of that people. This is something that most American Jews don’t understand, and which is anathema to the Left in this country, which would like to make Israel a tiny version of the US or perhaps Sweden. Perhaps they don’t understand that their success would mean the end of the Jewish people. Or perhaps they do, and consider that desirable.

I’ve done many jobs in my life, in electronics, broadcasting, teaching, software, carpentry, tractor mechanics, industrial maintenance and more. Some have paid more or been more interesting than others. But probably the most important job that I’ve had is what I am doing with my writing today: defending the concept of the sovereign, Jewish state of Israel.

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