The Forward published this cartoon of the four sons, just before Passover. It’s by Eli Valley, who blogs at EV Comics and has been described as “satiriz[ing] the Jewish world’s taboos.” An iconoclast by avocation.
As far as I can make out, most of these are lame efforts to slip in sly questions in the mouths of the first three and smear (to use a favorite word of the “progressive” Jewish crowd when they get criticized), the pro-Israel crowd. What interests me most in this set is the matching pair: Wicked Son/Son Who Does not Know How to Ask. Apparently (probably without reading it) the author has echoed David Mamet’s The Wicked Son, whom Mamet identifies (with significantly more humor and intellectual wattage than Eli Valley), with the Jew who finds reasons why others hate Jews.
The Wicked son’s question is particularly lame.
In one of his “biting” satires, Eli does a piece on mild mannered Jew Bruce Banner who, at the “slightest criticism” of Israel turns into the raging Hulk. Richard Silverstein would feel at home here, I think.
It’s pretty clear that the crowd Eli hangs with is enamored with the promise of an “Arab Spring” and they’re all enthused at the prospect of democracy breaking out all over the Arab world, especially in Egypt. The idea that that kind of paper-thin excitement, like Dante’s famous “hoar frost” which vanishes with brief exposure to the morning sun (or in this case, will with exposure to reality) has inspired world Jewry more than anything in the last 30 years (which includes, among other things, the liberation of the Ethiopian and Russian Jews), just illustrates the kind of bubble that some “progressive Jews” live in… legends in their own mind, where their juvenile fantasies define what Jews really think.
It’s the “son who does not know how to ask,” who’s the most interesting from by contrast point of view. In what I think is a brilliant essay (as far as I know, still not published), Elihu Stone identified Goldstone not as the Wicked Son, but the One who doesn’t know how to ask…, for example, to ask Hamas if it was hiding under Shiffa Hospital during OCL.
Here, Eli Valley, in what can only be described as a cheap shot, has the Stand with Us as an ignoramus repeating his mantra. And yet… what’s the mantra? “Israel’s the only democracy in the Middle East.” Is this an ignorant thing to say? Or is it a truism. Would Dr. Valley like to offer another “democracy” in this area as a disconfirmation of the assertion? Turkey? Lebanon? maybe Gaza?
Actually, the fact that Israel is the only democracy, and the only one under terrible conditions (look how long French democracy survived when surrounded by monarchies) is one of the great anomalies upon which everyone who wants to understand the Middle East should meditate at length.
Is Valley mocking it because the Stand with Us crowd repeats it like a mantra and that gets, to quote Sherlock or House, “boring”?
Is he mocking it because it gets in the way of heaping criticism on Israel without having to take into account the neighbors she has?
Is he mocking it because thinking about how Israel can pull this off for over sixty years when surrounded by hostile neighbors, would force him and his friends to acknowledge how exceptional is Israel’s commitment to progressive values?
Whatever his motivation, it undermines his claim that the Jewish Hulk is hyper-ventilating at the “slightest criticism” of Israel. On the contrary, what he reveals here is his impatience either with the notion that Israel is a democracy – which strikes me as a pretty harsh criticism – or with the notion that the other countries in the Middle East (Turkey, Lebanon, Gaza) are not democracies – which strikes me as a total lack of criticism. Indeed, it bespeaks the tendencies of self-degrading Jews to fall prey to the Human Rights Complex.
In either case, it shows our iconoclastic critic to have precisely as little substance as he has an abundance of scorn: his bite is much worse than his bark. Hardly an admirable trait for someone who, presumably, wants to provoke people to think. Little surprise that this kind of “criticism” of Israel, by “free-thinking,” iconoclastic Jews has contributed mightily to making our chattering classes so foolish and shallow.
And thanks to the Forward for bringing us these gems.