by: Ralph Seliger on April 22nd, 2013 | 6 Comments »
Last Tuesday, on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), I debated an American supporter of Likud in front of 200 students at the Kushner Academy yeshiva high school in Livingston, New Jersey. Everyone — including my opponent — was polite and friendly, and the teachers repeatedly exhorted the students to be civil and open to hearing a view they may disagree with. Three boys came up to me after to shake my hand and tell me that they were perhaps the only “liberals” in the school.
Although personable, my opponent was loose in his interpretations and misinformed on relevant events in Palestinian-Israeli relations. He even referred to the Boston Marathon bombing of the previous day, before we knew anything about the perpetrators, as if this were relevant to our debate. I don’t recall his exact words, but he insinuated that it proved how violent and undependable “they” are — by which he must have meant Muslims, Arabs and/or Palestinians.
Such generalizations are wrong, of course, but the extremist Jihadi script is out there; sadly, this constitutes a distinct behavioral model for disaffected and maladjusted individuals to embrace for meaning in their lives. From what we know of the Tsarnaev brothers, this seems to be true of the older brother, with the younger pushed along by the overpowering force of the older’s personality. I’m impressed with J. J. Goldberg’s thoughtful piece on this in The Forward, “The Deadly Identity Crisis Along Islam’s Borders.”