Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Je Suis Charlie, Anti-Semitism and a Short Story from the Archives


Je Suis Charlie

Western civilization, as practiced in most of Western Europe and North America, affords freedoms and opportunities not readily available in much of the rest of the world.  That’s why so many wish to emigrate from wherever they are to North America and alternatively to Western Europe.  An immigrant living in a slum in the United States or in Western Europe is guaranteed more freedoms and has more opportunity than they would have in less developed and less democratic countries.  

One of these freedoms is the freedom to express one’s ideas, however radical they may be.  Nazis are free to spout anti-Semitic ideas in Skokie, Illinois (although not in Germany today).  Media is free to expound ideas, however extreme they may be.  The line is placed where such freedom of expression creates a danger for the community.  An example of this might be shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre or auditorium, and creating a stampede for the exits.

Charlie Hebdo published extreme satire in its magazine, exercising its freedom to do so.   Its cartoon depictions of Mohammed were vulgar, nasty and obscene.  But that is what that publication is all about.  It has been equally vicious in satirizing other religions and institutions by words or by cartoons. Almost as often as it pokes fun at Islam and its Prophet, It frequently equates Israel with Nazi Germany.  But in Western society, it is permissible to do so.  Such freedoms should not be abridged because of the danger exercising that freedom brings about from those who are so offended by such media vulgarity that they feel they must personally take violent action against the offenders, since  a freedom-guaranteeing government will not.

They do not understand that accepting such vulgarity is the price they must pay to live in a country where personal freedom reigns.  Usually, this is because they feel that their loyalty to their religion or political goals overrides the freedom of others to express themselves in any manner they wish.   Such individuals do not deserve to live in a free country!  They should be meticulously screened out and not permitted entry into Western European and North American countries as students, immigrants, workers or tourists.  And if they are already citizens of a country and act that way, their behaviors should be harshly punished for the criminal deeds that they are. 

Nations which agree with the religious and political loyalties of such individuals in Western democracies, and in any way shape or form support them, should be considered enemies and treated accordingly by the civilized nations of Europe and North America, regardless of whatever economic or political reasons have justified our having relations with them up to now.  And this includes nations from whom we purchase petroleum!  If they support terrorism in any form, they are our enemies.

Although I may be offended by some of what Charlie Hebdo publishes, its right to do so must be protected along with my right to express myself however I may choose to do, and therefore, JE SUIS CHARLIE.


Here are a few of the gentler cartoons, including an anti-Semitic one, from Charlie Hebdo, accompanied by my translation. They are pretty nasty ... but worth killing for in civilized countries?  No way.
Jack Lippman

Love is stronger than hatred.                                 100 lashes if you don't die laughing first.

Slaughter in Egypt"  The Koran is made of shit and can't stop bullets.

Untouchables: You can't make fun of Muslims nor Jews

Anti-Semitism is Not Dead
The terrorist who, in attempting to help the criminals who murdered much of the staff of Charlie Hebdo, chose to seize a kosher supermarket, killed four male customers and proceeded with a hostage-taking scenario.  A Muslim, he chose his target because as a Muslim, he had an antipathy toward Jews, primarily based on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and considered all Jews to be fair game.  This is despite the fact that Arabs in Israel have more freedoms than Arabs in Muslim nations and a Palestinian state, once it fully recognizes Israel and ceases attacking it, would probably also offer freedoms other Muslim nations do not.  Anti-Semitism has long existed in France (Dreyfus incident, cooperation with Nazi occupiers during WW2, tolerance of extreme right-wing anti-semitic political groups and a myopic readiness to condemn Israeli acts of self-defense as aggression) and unfortunately, there are Frenchmen today who were not unhappy with the terrorists choice of a target for his hostage-taking.  Therefore it is not surprising that despite the show of unity among all groups and nations in reaction to the events of last week, many French Jews are uncomfortable living there and are considering leaving the country, primarily for the State of Israel.  

Albert Dreyfus, accused of treason in the late 19th Century

Maimonides left Spain for North Africa when discrimination started there

It has been said that American Jews are fortunate in that they live in a country where their freedoms are strongly guaranteed.  But for centuries, Jews living in the Diaspora have felt that way about temporary homelands.  Eventually they were proven wrong.  This was true for Jews living in Spain, in North Africa (Moroccan Jews are satisfied with their status there at present) and in European countries.  It was inconceivable that the Holocaust could have occurred in a civilized European nation ... but it did.  The atmosphere in France cannot be ignored.

Therefore, beyond proclaiming support for freedom of expression (Je Suis Charlie), Jews throughout the world should take the events of last week as further reason to support the State of Israel, as a place where all Jews will always be welcome.  

A Short Story                                                           

(from my archives)


Jack Lippman 

“Yeah, Charlie, it’ll be real fun.  It isn’t Barnum and Bailey but it’s still a real circus and it’s free for kids tomorrow.  There’s no school so we can take a bus over to the stadium about noon.  Tell you what!  I’ll meet you in front of the candy store on Bergen Street across from the Esso Station at a quarter to twelve.  Okay?”

I didn’t know Charlie very well, but he did go to the same school as I went to and he seemed to be a nice kid, even though he was sort of a loner without any real buddies.  And I certainly didn’t want to go to the circus alone.  Charlie looked at me, somewhat surprised, but readily agreed, “That’ll be great. I don’t think my Ma would mind.  I’ll be there!”

That night Jerry called me.  Seventh graders, still not really free from parental controls, made a lot of their social arrangements on the phone. 

“Wanna go to the circus at City Stadium tomorrow?” Jerry asked.  “Herbie and Harvey are going too.  We decided we’re all meeting in the schoolyard at eleven-thirty and we’ll catch the bus on Bergen Street.  Okay, Jack?

“Yeah, sure,” I said into the phone, a little annoyed that I was being asked belatedly to join in something three of my friends had decided to do without even letting me in on it beforehand.  I knew that if they had, I never would have arranged to go to the circus with Charlie. “I was going anyhow, Jer, but we’ll have a ball, all four of us going together!  See ya in the schoolyard tomorrow!”

The next morning, as I gulped down my cornflakes, my mother asked me if anything was wrong.  She thought I looked a little down.  I guess it showed that I was worried about what I had said to Charlie about meeting him.  An hour later, as the four of us left the schoolyard, I was still trying to figure out how I could go to the circus with Jerry, Herbie and Harvey without abandoning Charlie.

“Hey, guys,’ I called out. “Let’s walk down and catch the bus by the candy store across from the gas station. We got time to get some candy for the ride.”  I hoped that Charlie wasn’t going to be there.  Maybe his mother had said he couldn’t go to the circus.  But if she said that to him, why didn’t he call me up last night?  Maybe he couldn’t find my number.  But if I could get the guys to walk the few blocks, and if Charlie were there waiting by the candy store, we could all get on the bus together and I could handle that.

“Nah,” Jerry blurted out. “I can see a bus coming now.  We’ll never make it if we walk down there.  And there won’t be another one for half an hour.”

We all got on the bus together and as it passed the candy store, I saw Charlie standing there, looking around in vain for me, and holding the hand of his six year old kid brother. 

For the rest of the term, I avoided Charlie and because his family moved away over the summer, I never did find out whether or not he and his brother made it to the circus that day.   I have no recollection whatsoever of that circus performance but, in my mind’s eye, I can still clearly bring back the painful image of Charlie and his brother, abandoned by me, hurt, standing in front of the candy store.  

(This story was written about ten years ago as part of the writing projects carried out by the Cascade Lakes Writers' Group.  That organization is being resurrected and it is possible that some of the work it produces will appear on this blog.)


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Jack Lippman 

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