Anniversaries

By Haber, Leo | Midstream, September-October 2005 | Go to article overview

Anniversaries


Haber, Leo, Midstream


There are anniversaries and there are anniversaries. September 11, 2005 marks the fourth anniversary of the most horrific suicide attack by terrorists against civilians in our time. October of 2005 commemorates the 40th anniversary of the publication by the Catholic Church of Nostra Aetate that repudiated 2000 years of antisemitic hatred and violence against Jews.

The fall of 2005 also recalls an event of little significance by comparison to the world-shaking news mentioned above--the publication of the very first edition of our magazine Midstream in 1955. This 50-year achievement of ours may be a mere momentary frisson for us compared to the enormity of the first two events. But whereas 9/11 conjured up oceans of shock and horror, and the Catholic document an amalgam of cautious hope and some trepidation, our little world of Midstream generates in a few of us a sense of unremitting joy in our jubilee year. To celebrate this jubilee, we have decided to reprint in this issue a short story that appeared in that inaugural issue fifty years ago this month. As mentioned in our January/February issue when we launched the jubilee celebration, it was nothing less than a work of fiction by the future Nobel laureate in literature, Isaac Bashevis Singer. That story, "The Wife Killer," translated from the Yiddish by Midstream's first editor, Shlomo Katz, was only Singer's second short story to appear in English translation. The first one, "Gimpel the Fool," had been translated from the Yiddish into English by Saul Bellow, and it appeared in Partisan Review. We are proud to reprint "The Wife Killer" in this issue exactly fifty years after Midstream's birth as a quarterly journal in the fall of 1955.

But private anniversaries, however joyful, pale in comparison to those that impact on the lives of us all. Who can forget the horror of 9/11, the destruction of the twin towers in New York, the attack on the Pentagon, the foiled attack in Pennsylvania, the hijacked airplanes used as weapons of mass destruction and death traps themselves, the barbaric murder of some 3,000 civilians, police, firefighters, and other rescue workers? One would have thought that the world would rise up in righteous wrath against such atrocities, that the Muslim world would condemn as enemies of Islam and terrorists who distort the Koran all those Islamist criminals who carried out 9/11 and all the evil teachers of self-immolation and the targeted killing of civilians.

Instead, we got glorification of suicide bombers as martyrs to the faith in segments of the Islamic world and ridiculous conspiracy theories promulgated by Islamic media and even the cultural elite of Islam. Consider the following recent news. Egyptian Professor Abdal-Sabour Shahin, head of the Shari'a faculty at Al-Ahzar University in Cairo, told this to Saudi Channel 1 TV on August 8, 2005:

   One day, we awoke to the crime of 9/11, which hit the
   tallest buildings in New York. There is no doubt that not
   a single Arab or Muslim had anything to do with these
   events. The incident was fabricated as a pretext to attack
   Islam and Muslims.... Allah knows that the Arabs and
   Muslims are innocent of it. All of a sudden, we were
   framed for an international crime, on the basis of lies. I
   believe a dirty Zionist hand carried out this act.

And Western apologists battered America with questions that were implied accusations: Why does the Islamic world hate you? Which policies of yours could account for such a destructive act? As if brainwashing young people and even children to aspire to killing themselves in order to kill other civilian young and old can have any sort of moral justification or even rational political explanation! I once wrote in these pages that this contemporary atrocity of suicide bombing perpetrated by Muslim men and women as young as teenagers is the modern counterpart of the ancient practice of murdering one's children in service to the gods, in Biblical lore a practice of the despicable religious cult giving obeisance to the god Moloch. …

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