Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Would you kill the Boys from Brazil?

Professing himself a lifelong Zionist, Roger Cohen proclaimed a kind of apostasy yesterday:
Jews, above all people, know what oppression is. Children over millennia were the transmission belt of Jewish survival, the object of what the Israeli novelist Amos Oz and his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger have called “the intergenerational quizzing that ensures the passing of the torch.” No argument, no Palestinian outrage or subterfuge, can gloss over what Jewish failure the killing of children in such numbers represents.

I am reminded of the conflict dramatized in Ira Levin's terror novel, The Boys from Brazil (spoiler alert).  In it, a relentless Jewish Nazi hunter gets a tip from a caller in Brazil and tracks down a final life project set in motion by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele: cloning dozens of little Hitlers around the globe and placing them with elderly, authoritarian adoptive fathers. Ultimately the protagonist, Liebermann, obtains a list of the (literal) Hitler youth and their locations. A militant "never-again" rabbi, Gorin, demands the list, determined to have the clones killed.  That leads to a final confrontation:
Gorin sat for a moment , and got up and came toward him [Liebermann], looking annoyed. “What now?” “You should brace yourself.” “For what?” “I flushed the list down the toilet.” Gorin looked at him. He nodded. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Believe me.” Gorin stared at him, white-faced. “I feel funny telling a Rabbi what’s—” “It wasn’t your list,” Gorin said. “It was…everybody’s! The Jewish People’s!” Liebermann said, “Could I take a vote? It was only me in there.” He shook his head. “Killing children, any children— it’s wrong.” Gorin’s face reddened; his nostrils flared, his brown eyes burned, dark-ringed. “Don’t you tell me what’s right and wrong,” he said. “You asshole. You stupid ignorant old fart!” Liebermann stared at him. “I ought to throw you down these stairs!” “Touch me and I’ll break your neck,” Liebermann said. Gorin pulled in breath; his fists clenched at his sides. “It’s Jews like you,” he said, “that let it happen last time.” Liebermann looked at him. “Jews didn’t ‘let’ it happen,” he said. “Nazis made it happen. People who would even kill children to get what they wanted” (Kindle locations 3672-3684).
Alas, in Israel today, and perhaps among Jewry at large, the Gorins seem to be ascendant.

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