Why is it so hard to see what’s right in front of you?


(re: “Taking a look at the whole story,” Sept. 15)

With each successive missive, the abyss of antisemitism beckons Peter Wolf ever closer. 

He excuses his refusal to heed Santayana’s caution that ”those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to relive it” by proudly proclaiming his lack of expertise — or, some might say, blindness — to historical perspective. He couples that with ad hominem attacks on those who recall from sad experience that the failure to heed the early warning signs of Hitler’s initial incursions into inhumanity and bigotry inevitably led to genocidal savagery.

History teaches, and only a fool or a rogue omits to learn from it. And if 6 million dead Jews and millions of others do not resonate with Mr. Wolf, let alone inspire him to learn the lessons of history, there is something terribly amiss.

Mr. Wolf wrongfully posits — or simply chooses to ignore — that to spotlight and condemn one manifestation of the divisive evils that underlie the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement — which Mr. Wolf revealingly embraces — is not to ignore the legion of further such examples, or the misconduct of others.

For example, to reflect upon the BDS Boston affiliate’s “mapping” and publication of entities it deems too hospitable to Jewry — like Apple, Miscrosoft, Harvard Law School, the United Pentecostal Church, even the local fire department — is not to ignore other, more public, examples of bigotry, like the scurrilous chants of Charlottesville protesters, the savage murder of innocents in Buffalo, or the BDS movement’s attempts to undermine — if not destroy — the only democracy in the Middle East, its peoples and supporters. 

Indeed, Mr. Wolf revealingly proclaims that he is unable to “make sense” of attempts to emphasize by illustration the wisdom of Santayana’s prescient caution and condemnation as applicable to the current manifestations of antisemitic racist bigotry — both explicit and insinuated — by the extremes of right and left. Neither can he find “sense” in the rejection of those complicit in bigotry by reason of their unwillingness or inability to fathom, let alone protest, such evils.

For Mr. Wolf’s inability to “make sense” of the obvious, one can only express sympathy. For those unwilling or unable to fathom the evils of racist antisemitism, there exists the reminder that “sometimes people do not want to hear the truth because they don’t want their (flawed) illusions destroyed.”

No nation I know of is immune to criticism for one or another ill-conceived or executed policy. And when policies are set or executed by human beings, warts are inevitable. Thoughtful beings employ balance. They act, or at least try to act, constructively to secure change.

Yet, when terrorism, savagery and inhuman acts are a day-to-day event perpetrated against Israelis by or at the behest of those who Mr. Wolf seems unwilling to denounce, I for one am forced to conclude that such uncaring conduct — such blithe dismissal or silent acceptance of a fundamental wrong — is reprehensible and can in no way be countenanced by decent people.

Consider the following apologia advanced by Mr. Wolf: “As for harassment of supporters of Israel on college campuses, it probably happens, although they don’t kill people, as occurs on the right.”

To belittle or even excuse violent bigotry by whosoever committed is unconscionable. Whether it be harassment of Jewish students on campuses, or the murder of Jews praying in a Pittsburgh synagogue by pointing to egregious conduct “on the right” (to use Mr. Wolf’s words), ignores simple humanity and illustrates how the worship of extremist ideology warps cognition.

There are few absolutes, but the unqualified rejection of savagery is one. To paraphrase Nietzsche (not my favorite philosopher): ”when you gaze long into an abyss” — by warranting in any way the incessant assaults on Jewry by the extreme left (as well as the right) — “the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Sadly, that is something Mr. Wolf seems not to comprehend.

There are among us those who affirmatively seek solutions to conflict. The Abraham Accords are a small but vital step in that direction.

Extremes rarely seek solutions and certainly cannot do so here. Their purpose is to fan the flames of emotion, usually based on ulterior predicates such as mindless hatred or personal gain. 

The acceptance and parroting of extremist antisemitism is not designed to, nor will it be helpful. That, too, is something Mr. Wolf seems not to comprehend.

BDS and other like assaults are divisive in purpose and effect. Such assaults and their proponents serve no useful or proper purpose. Both merit opprobrium and public condemnation.

And that is one useful lesson to be derived from Santayana’s prescient teaching. Perhaps Mr. Wolf is unwilling or unable to learn it, but that says more about him than about the lesson.