Well, this was the week that wasn’t. I took all of Passover off from work, so technically I’m still on holiday until Wednesday morning. One can never call this a vacation….this is 21 home cooked meals, preceded and ended with massive amounts of cleaning and box shlepping. Sometimes I wonder why I just don’t take the week after Passover off, because I’m usually too exhausted to function on the days immediately following the holiday.
Passover is an interesting holiday, filled with lots of symbols and family gatherings and all sorts of similar stuff. It’s also the holiday most closely tied to the old blood libel tales….the ones that accused Jews of kidnapping and slaughtering Christian babies so their blood could be used to make matzah. Blood libel was used to spur the pogroms in Czarist Russia in the areas within the Pale where Jews were permitted to settle. That area included much of Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Moldova, Ukraine, as well as parts of western Russia. Most of my family is from that region, so I grew up hearing a lot about pogroms, hiding from the Ukrainians, and the random destruction of entire shtetls, the little villages where Jews were required to live.
So when Jews were handed leaflets as they emerged from synagogue last week, the text was not exactly a surprise. We’d heard it all before. This time, however, there is mass and instant media and I could not wrap my arms around the idea that some government would actually announce they were rounding up Jews. In fact, I responded to the first email I got on the topic with “Need to see more about what’s really happening.”
Let’s be real clear: I was not dismissing the report. I just wasn’t buying it, even when Secretary of State Kerry made his announcement. It just sounded too weird…and like a schoolyard double dare.
Well, to date, no one has taken responsibility for what was ostensibly a political provocation kind of hoax. That said, there is plenty to talk about in the incident.
First: Soviet style propaganda machines still work. Whether or not the Russian separatists were behind the notices remains to be seen. Whoever did it must have found an old copy of Disinformation! The Best of The KGB. This makes one wonder about how far things have really progressed in the former Soviet Union is this stuff is effective.
Second: Jews are still seen as vulnerable. The Ukrainian Jews were pretty sure it wasn’t real, but it went viral anyway, with all sorts of people making all sorts of statements, some of which were not so veiled threats. This was a clear win for the leafleteers. It got a big giant, negative exposure on the world stage for free.
Third: The instant news cycle is not our friend: No matter what the intent, the viral nature of the instant news cycle encourages conclusion jumping and the vitriol that comes with it. I keep thinking about all those jokes about itchy fingers on “the button.”
It’s impossible to turn back the clock to a time where deliberation preceded print. No one is about to give up breaking newsflashes and the twenty-four-second news cycle. But just because it’s available, it does not mean we have to believe everything we read. We still have to be able to distinguish between news and baloney, between fact and spin, between information and manipulation. In other words, we need to remember how to read. We need to stop, look, and listen.
You don’t always find just rumor and innuendo when you stop, look, and listen. Sometimes, you find real news that has gone unreported by the majors…like the NY TIMES, CNN, or NBC. You find out that 250 miles southeast of Kiev, in Zaporizhia, the Gimyat Rosa Synagogue was firebombed on Saturday night, February 22nd…and on this past Saturday night, the main synagoge in Nikolayev in southern Ukraine was also firebombed. You can watch the bomber in action in the video clip posted at The Jewish Press.
How many of you, dear Readers, knew about either of those?
So here’s the thing: Ukrainian Jews are being used as political pawns and we all know pawns are the most expendable pieces on the chess board. Both sides view the Jews as a way to bring down world ire on one side or the other. They are a small enough population with the country but have large, vocal support from outside. I am afraid this may only be the beginning.
And so to end…I’ve got ten minutes to post this before I light candles for the last two days of yom tov….holy days. Chag same’ach to those who observe…and last minute wishes for a happy Easter to you folks on the other side of the fence.
Wifely Person Tip o’the Week
Vet, verify, and get the facts straight.
Going off half-cocked on any topic does more damage than good.
In other words, be sure you know your stuff.