By Daniel Chejfec
Over the past week we witnessed an interesting phenomenon...Shirley Sherrod, working then for the Department of Agriculture, made some comments as a speaker at an NAACP banquet and somebody decided she should be fired over them - for they were "racist comments". When the full video was released by NAACP, however, she came across as the complete opposite of a racist and the government, embarrassed, apologized and offered her a different position. Woah! so much to learn from this! where do I begin?
The first lesson would be "don't judge a book by the cover...read it first!". How many times does the media condemn individuals - or countries - before getting the full facts? The so-called "Jenin massacre" comes to mind...Israel was condemned for a supposed massacre that later the UN said it never happen. Unfortunately, it was after the same UN issued a condemnation of Israel!
The second lesson is...make sure you say what you want people to hear and that you control what they do with it...The NAACP first released the video, and according to them "Fox News snookered the video to deceive millions of Americans". How often do commentaries by Israelis get twisted? Historian Benny Morris comes to mind. As an Academic, he did serious research into the 1948 war and wrote what he found out...to find himself used by Arab propaganda as the proof of Jewish perfidy!
The third lesson is that the Rabbis of old did know Human nature...While I'm not an observant Jew, I'm proud of my heritage. One of the Rabbinic masterpieces I believe it is the concept of "T'shuva", not in its popularized meaning of returning to the path of Torah, but more specifically in its description of the stages of repentance. According to the sages, Repentance (T'Shuvah) requires three stages. The first one is to recognize that we have done something wrong...The Agriculture Department did in the case of Shirley Sherrod and the UN did in the case of Israel (at least on the Jenin issue). The second stage is to apologize to all those who were directly or indirectly affected by the wrongful action. The Department of Agriculture publicly apologized to Shirley Sherrod, fulfilling the requirements of this stage of repentance. The UN is still to publicly apologize to Israel for the wrongful condemnation, and not only on the "Jenin massacre" affair...
The third stage, and the most important because without it the repentance is not complete, is to modify our behavior to avoid making the same mistake. Without this third stage the prior two are meaningless and become just a ritualistic behavior without content. It is the course correction in subsequent events what gives the whole process its meaning. In the case of Shirley Sherrod, we can only hope that next time the government feels like blaming somebody and disgrace him/her publicly before firing her/him, they will first corroborate the facts and see the full evidence. In the case of the UN we already know they continue to condemn Israel almost as a reflex without checking the facts most of the time.
Maybe Shirley Sherrod's problem was that somebody thought she was Israeli? After all, we all know that Israelis are the only racists left on Earth, so if she made a racist comment, she should be Israeli. While I made this comment tong in cheek to show how ridiculous it sounds, this kind of circular thinking is not unheard of...Remember 9/11? The Arab Media claimed (wrongly) that no Jews died in the WTC - therefore they claimed they were warned by the Israelis, who were really the ones to blame for the attack and that warning was the proof!
I believe it is time to go back to the good old reasoning of checking the facts, analyze them and draw conclusions only when we can do it in an unbiased way and we can be reasonably sure that we saw all the evidence...Old fashioned, boring, but in my personal opinion what needs to be done to recover the sanity we are rapidly loosing as a species.