THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2023
In search of "a world we can live in:" As we noted yesterday, it isn't hard to understand the depth of Donny Deutsch's concern.
As we noted, the depth of his concern emerges from disastrous historical roots. We'll quote his words again:
DEUTSCH (10/30/23): I want to draw the line back to why Israel is in the defensive posture after being attacked because it's about antisemitism, and it's about the hate toward Jews that's now surfacing in this country.
Every Jew I know is calling me and is terrified for the first time in their life about being Jewish. They feel it. When you are a generation away from the Holocaust, from the annihilation of six million Jews, being Jews there's something that goes from generation to generation. And people are feeling something in their stomachs in this country that we've never felt before. And they're terrified...
As you can see by clicking this link, his comments continued from there.
Deutsch was referring to one of the greatest moral disasters in human history—to a giant mass homicide which took place within the memory of living people. The depth of his feeling makes perfect sense—but very deep feeling, however understandable, can sometimes cloud our persistently fallible human judgment.
To our ear, Deutsch was possibly sunk in a certain type of incomprehension as he spoke on Deadline: White House that day. So too as he discussed this topic on other programs, even including The View.
To cite one trivial but apparently clearcut example, at one point he offered this as he spoke with Nicolle Wallace:
DEUTSCH: There's something that, for some reason, evil is not graded the same way when it's against Jews, and it's against Israel. And I don't understand that.
I do— Actually, I do actually understand it.
WALLACE: What is it?
DEUTSCH: Antisemitism. There's something about, for some reason, Jews as a group—there's 15 million in the world; there would have been 250 million without the Holocaust—for some reason, since the beginning of time—and I'm actually getting upset—it's somehow OK to go after these people in a way that no other people—
I don't— I'm not a history student. I just know the history.
For the record, we aren't history students either. That said, based upon our own knowledge of history, we'd judge that account of this history to be (essentially) accurate.
Deutsch specifically said he was getting upset. There's no reason why he shouldn't have felt that way.
That said, we were puzzled:
Was that highlighted demographic statement actually accurate? No, the number doesn't exactly matter. But would there be 250 million Jews in the world today had the Holocaust never happened?
We fact-checked the figure as best we could. Based upon actual academic estimates, that number seems to be massively wrong. We'll offer this link to the Washington Post, though other links exist.
It's an utterly trivial point, but it calls attention to a certain fact. When we feel very deeply about some subject, we may be even more inclined to accept and promulgate misassessments than we humans normally are.
Some such misassessments will be trivial. Other misassessments may not be.
It's very easy to understand the depth of Deutch's feelings. In this morning's New York Times, a major political figure describes a similar set of reactions to the events of October 7, and to certain aspects of the events which have followed.
That political figure is Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader. He writes a guest essay in today's Times—a guest essay which is supported by a New York Times editorial, and by a news report.
Because Chuck Schumer is a person, his feelings and reactions are important. Many people share those feelings. Here's part of his guest essay, online headline included:
Chuck Schumer: What American Jews Fear Most
When I was a boy, I learned what happened when the Nazis invaded my family’s town in Ukraine. The Nazis ordered my great-grandmother to gather her extended family on the porch of her home. When the Nazis told her to come with them, she refused, and they gunned her down, along with 30 members of her family, from 85 years old to 3 months old.
When I heard the story of what Hamas and its allies did in Kibbutz Be’eri, where they killed more than 120 Jews, from the elderly to babies, it struck me on a deeply personal level.
Most Jewish Americans have similar stories—stories that we learned at a young age and will stay imprinted on our hearts for as long as we live.
We see and hear things differently from others because we understand the horrors that can follow the targeting of Jewish people. We’ve learned the hard way to fear how such attacks can easily erupt into widespread antisemitism if they are not repudiated. I am sure Arab Americans have similar fears when they see the rise in Islamophobia and horrific crimes like the gut-wrenching murder of the 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume.
The story Schumer tells in that passage is the same story Donny Deutsch told. Obviously, that story is deeply important.
Do most Jewish Americans have similar family stories? We don't know the answer to that. But it isn't hard to understand the feelings and reactions Schumer describes in his essay.
Schumer's essay is accompanied today by one the editorial board's increasingly rare editorials. The headline on that editorial says this:
A Doctor Who Left Russia Remembers the Pain of Antisemitism
Schumer's essay is also reinforced by a news report in the National section. The report describes a speech Schumer made just yesterday, in the Senate. Online, the dual headlines on the news report say this:
Schumer Condemns Antisemitism, Warning the Left Against Abetting It
The majority leader and highest-ranking Jewish official in the country cautioned progressives and young people against unwittingly embracing bigotry in the name of social justice.
It's certainly true that progressives, young people and "the left" should try to avoid "unwittingly embracing bigotry in the name of social justice."
So should everyone else. Having said that, we'll add this:
Older people can sometimes make unwitting errors in judgment too. That's even true of good, decent people like Schumer and Deutsch—good, decent people whose feelings and reactions are thoroughly understandable, given the vicious history from which those reactions stem.
Was Deutsch perhaps involved in a type of incomprehension when he spoke to Wallace that day? For whatever it may be worth, it seemed to us that he was.
Is it possible that Senator Schumer, a good, decent person, is failing to see a larger picture in the essay he offers today? Especially given some recent events right here in this country, that strikes us as possible too—and it seems to us that this arguably imperfect assessment could imaginably make an extremely difficult situation just a little bit worse.
We'll speak to that question tomorrow. For today, it will have to be as we recently noted:
"Make a world that we can live in," an iconic song implores. What would be the best way for good and decent elders—for good, decent people like Schumer and Deutsch—to help the world's "young people" build that more livable world?
Inevitably, some of those younger people may have very limited judgment. That said, we humans all have limited judgment.
We humans have imperfect judgment. Working from that starting point, what's the best way to take things from there?
Tomorrow: Disregarded peoples