Welcome to With Great Chutzpah Comes Great Responsibility, your every other week dose of Jews and comics.
I was supposed to be in Israel right now. Every other year, I journey straight to the heart- Jerusalem, my former home. This year, unanticipated expenses caused me to say “next year in Jerusalem,” and mean it. When I tell people I used to live in Jerusalem I often get one of two reactions- either I am seen as some holy warrior who is a light unto the nations living amongst the evil Muslims, or I am a dirty Jew who drinks Palestinian blood in my attempt to oppress the world. Both are ignorant, silly views; both rob Israelis of their humanity. In reality, the land of Israel and their citizens are much like the X-Men: we have our Professor Xs, our Kitty Prydes (who is based on an Israeli soldier Chris Claremont saw while visiting Tel Aviv), our Bishops, our Cyclopses and certainly we have our Magnetos. Heck, we even have a buncha Toads. At times, I can view Israeli politics through each of their eyes, but the one I often connect is the most extreme of them all, Magneto.
In today’s political environment, people believe they must choose to be either pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli. There is rarely any grey area. People choose a side and then justify every action taken by their side, not recognizing both factions have scars and have made many mistakes. We live in a culture of resentment, justification and finger pointing which effectively negates each group from taking responsibility for their own actions. And after all the Israelis and Palestinians have been through, it makes sense that both groups would be angry. That is why I connect most to Magneto- because his scars and his views are very real to me. Magneto has seen his people hunted and murdered based on their religion and race, and now he has vowed “never again.” Even if you disagree with his tactics, you must respect that he is willing to go to any lengths to fight for the freedom of his people. Magneto is absolutely the product of his environment, but his actions today are shaping his current environment. He is our rage personified; he is our resentment; he is our paranoia. He is what happens when a ceasefire is called but missiles continue to scream overhead. He is what is created when three boys’ horrible murders are used to justify “death to Arab” chants followed by a retaliatory “price tag” murder. He is what happens when you are forced to huddle with your loved ones in a bomb shelter knowing that if you did die much of the world would blame you for your own passing. He is what happens when day after day your community is pounded with airstrikes, and this all you know about “the other.” Magneto has been both good and bad, a hero and a villain, depending on the vantage point you are looking from. But he has always been entirely human, even though that comment would piss his mutant touchie off. No matter how you view Magneto’s tactics, he perceives himself as having every justification to act out, to want revenge. In Classic X-Men #19, the first issue Magneto references his Holocaust background, he says, “I will not see another people fear what they do not understand and destroy what they fear.” But Magneto’s entire worldview is based on fear. He fears the same thing that happened to his people during the Shoah will happen again to the mutants. He uses fear to attain power creating a self-fulfilling prophecy: it you hate and fear mutants then he will give you a damn good reason to do so. He yearns to gain safety through power, a method that always makes him a target. Author Chris Claremont’s original intention was to eventually have Magneto redeemed as a hero, embracing Xavier’s dream and becoming the headmaster of the school after Xavier’s death. To do this, Magneto would have had to let go of fear as both a motivator and a weapon because one of Xavier’s greatest teachings was the importance of overcoming fear, something that many Israeli’s and many Palestinians cannot do. As every ceasefire is broken, as each peace deal fails- we fall deeper into our fear “the other.” Professor X has always understood that there cannot be any peace in a society filled with fear. I love Magneto; he is a part of me; but I also know we cannot get anywhere if we do not let go of our fear. The reality is Magneto will never wipe every human off the planet; the Israelis will never destroy the Palestinians; and the Palestinians will never drive the Israelis into the sea. So we are stuck with each other, and realizing this is a beautiful thing. I may empathize with Magneto, but his way is as unrealistic as any extreme peacenik (and extreme peaceniks often drive me insane with their unrealistic, hypocritical rantings). I gag when people who have never set foot on the land talk about how the entire Middle East should come together, hug it out and sing kumbaya. But if we continue to run on resentment and fear, justifying our negative actions based on the other’s wrongs, this cycle will never end. We will eventually have… Onslaught.
I love Israel. I love the Jewish people and I worry daily for their safety. I know that most people hold Israel to some unrealistic standard that can never be met. They expect us to stay on some turn-the-other-cheek bullcrap. And the second we react, boom, we are the villains. As much as Jews love to complain about the double standard, I too hold my people to higher standards and will continue to do so. I really don’t care about the hypocracy of our critics or that most other countries do horrible things and get away with it while Israel is scrutinized for every little thing; I care what my people do. I care when I see Jews writing racist bullcrap throughout my newsfeed. I care when Jews justify the actions of murderous extremists. I care when a Palestinian kiddo is found murdered and people use racist rhetoric to claim that his murder was an honor killing performed by his family because he was gay. Our fear and paranoia of anything critical of ourselves is very dangerous. The only way we can get anywhere is by worrying about our own actions. That goes for our neighbors too, but I cannot worry about them; I can only worry about myself. And I worry because I love you Israel. I love you Kitty; I love you Bishop; I love you Cyclops; I love you Professor; and most of all I love you Magneto.