World in Crisis Part 1: Israel

Article by Jay Foreman | www.basicfun.com

I’m taking a bit of a side track from my usual blog about our industry to comment on something that’s going on in the world. The situation in Israel is personal to me and for so many in our industry. So many of the companies from large to small in our industry were founded by or are led by Jews and so many Jewish people work in our industry and related retail and entertainment businesses. That is including one of the largest Mattel led by an Israeli and Spinmaster with one of it’s founders dividing his time between North America and Israel. Many have relatives living there as well and many heads of and employees of toy companies around the world are Jewish. This crisis is personal to us as is the ever growing antisemitism from the hard right and hard left in this country and around the world. Most of my fellow Jews in the toy business descended from family members and ancestors persecuted in the Russian Empire during the late 19th and early part of the 20th century and from the horrors of the Holocaust. Others are more recent immigrants from both Soviet and Putin’s  Russia and Ukraine as well as places like Iran. We feel this crisis deeply. 

I made my first trip ever to Israel just this past January. It was an amazing trip and on the one hand it made me feel proud of my heritage and also happy to be an American and live here in relative peace and security (the American gun culture not withstanding). It was very apparent to me the sense of danger one feels in Israel. For a very ancient place Israel feels very western and like home at the same time it feels  foreign and like no other . You can feel the treat of lurking danger around corners and it makes one feel very far from home.

Only three hours after checking into my hotel in Jerusalem 7 Orthodox Jews were killed by terrorists only miles from where we were. You could hear the gunshots all night from the balcony of the hotel. The next day while walking through the old city literally one mile from where I was retracing the last steps of Jesus a 12 year old Palestinian boy stole his uncles gun and shot a Israeli Jew within the city walls. Despite those incidents life quickly went back to “normal” and everyone finished dinner that first night and  I continued  touring the  old city as soon as things were under control. Regardless my Spidey senses were always tingling the entire time I was in the country. 

10 months later the realities of life in that part of the world hit harder than anyone could imagine. A terror attack on Jews in Israel on a level of horror and ruthlessness unseen since the height of ISIS terror and that of the Nazi’s was inflicted on the population of Israel. To be clear there is no excuse and no justification for terror on any level. The unfolding of this event  poses real questions and real challenges for those of us that lean towards a more progressive side. How do we support a two state solution and compromise when the danger is so great and dire? How we process the depravity that occurred to the Israeli victims and rationalize the innocent lives lost in Gaza. To me it’s believing in the humanity of the Jewish people as well as our determination to be strong and live up to the mantra “Never Again”. 

I applauded the initial restraint the government has took by not going in right away. It takes great restraint and foresight to  avoid the mistakes many make by listening to the heart and emotion more than the head and logic. However, the intensity of the current actions in Gaza are disturbing and leave many questions. We learned during 9/11 when many of us were in NY for previews in 2001 how angry and shocked we can be when hit in this way. We recall how much we applauded our President when he stood on the rubble of the Trade Centers and told us “the people that did this will hear us all soon”. Then we saw “Shock and Awe” and that felt righteous only to come to the realization  over 20 years of the failure in that logic. We learned the hard way huge mistakes were made thousands of American soldiers died, tens of thousands wounded and hundreds of thousands are suffering from PTSD and other lingering ailments. That’s not to mention the effects on the local populations in the crossfire. We failed to win the fight completely and for sure we didn’t win the peace. Let’s hope that cooler and wiser heads prevail here as the invasion into Gaza continues and this horrible situation over time can be resolved for the betterment of all except Hamas and the other terrorist groups in the region. 

Reading a bit of history you learn that during World War Two when America and our allies were fighting evil in both Europe and the Pacific that big decisions had to be made that affected innocent civilians. Many of us recently watched the movie Oppenheimer and learned about the decision to build it and then drop atomic bombs on tens of thousands of non combatant civilians in Japan for the purpose of ending the war in the pacific and likely saving many more lives. Fewer people know that in the waning days of the war in Europe that the allies destroyed the city of Dresden in Germany killing with incendiary bombs more than 25,000 German civilians in three days and destroying completely a city of 600,000 (bombing the rail links to and crematoria of the concentration camps would have been a decision to save hundreds of thousands by the way…hmmm). I could go into the bombing of North Vietnam and Cambodia as well during that war. Was the targeting of these civilian populations justified or not to fight a war? This is the choice the Israelite government is clearly making now and the dilemma we all have to consider as we watch this all unfold on TV. 

Typically history is written by the victors. While it could not have been an easy decision for President Truman in 1945 he made the hard call. It’s now debated whether these actions actually helped to end the war or not but the wars in Europe and Asia ended with the purveyors of hate and terror defeated. Clearly the future inhabitants of both Germany and Japan as well as the world ended up better off without Hitler and Tojo and most conclude the ends justified the means. Let’s hope the same outcome is achieved in this war with the removal of Hamas with as few civilian deaths as possible and the peace can be won. 

The allies not only won the wars in Europe and Asia but as importantly they won the peace. Israel will win this war because as a friend in Israel said to me “we only have this country and no place else to go, we have to win”. The question is can Israel win the peace? They must win the peace as well.  Unfortunately things will certainly get worse before they get better. 

One issue which is certainly clear is the wrong headedness of the anti Jewish vitriol being played out in cities and on college campuses across this country and around the world. It’s very curious to me why we never saw the same level of protestation around the killing of innocents in Syria by Assad and backed by Russia or as much and as intense over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine where the attacks on civilian populations are just as shocking as what is happening in Gaza not to mention all the deliberate murders of civilians there. It’s curious when it’s Israel the world lashes out at Jews. Where were all the people in the streets when Assad was dropping barrel bombs on civilians or bombing hospitals in Aleppo? Is it okay for an Arab to kill and Arab but only a problem when it’s a Jew? It’s pure and simple antisemitism. It’s not to excuse any missteps the Israeli government has, is or will make but there is a glaring double standard around the world. Where is the “Arab Street” when tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims are killed by Isis, in the war in Syria, in the war in Yemen, in the war in South Sudan. The silence and indifference is deafening.

I just make teddy bears and toy trucks so I don’t have the answers or a solution just questions.  I just send my best wishes and thoughts of peace to the victims of the terror, the hostages families and the innocents in Gaza. This all comes with a huge cost on all sides that is unseen and felt now but will be surely felt in the future. 

Let’s all hope all those living within Israeli and the Palestinian Territories can win the peace as this cycle of violence and hate must end. In the meantime stay strong. We Jews have endured persecution and terror for thousands of years that no other group on earth has. Despite all that we will be here for thousands more! If the ancient Egyptians couldn’t get rid of us, the Roman’s couldn’t get rid of us, the Spanish Inquisition couldn’t get rid of us, the Czars couldn’t get rid of us and Hitler couldn’t certainly the antisemites and the terrorists won’t either. 

I will follow up soon with comments on the situation with China which has and can have a huge impact on our industry and all our livelihoods. 

Jay

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