I recently for the first time saw the classic movie, Gentleman’s Agreement, starring Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and John Garfield. I thought of the flick when I read of this experiment by Jewish media outlet NRG’s contributor, Zvika Klein. Like the main character in the film, Klein sought the grass roots, man on the street reaction towards Jews. Unlike the movie though, he wanted a reaction from a specific group of people; and he got it. Funny how when you got looking for Antisemitism, you can find it so easily; funny that.
The unfortunate thing is that Instead of a benign entreaty to love, accept and tolerate your fellow-man, Mr. Klein’s inducement was surely taken as nothing other than provocation; an excuse with hate and condescension written all over it.
I get where he’s coming from, I think; he and other Jews in Europe seem to feel that they must prove they’re hated by their fellow Muslim countrymen, in an attempt to garner solidarity with us, their western cousins and the rest of the world. Is it really necessary though for him or anyone for that matter, to take such measures and put themselves at such “risk”? This isn’t the 1940’s; today, man’s hatred for his fellow-man has become something very specific, well documented and equally entrenched. And with such embedding comes knowledge.
In other words, we all know where we can and can’t go; who hates us and who doesn’t. People may not want to think that or believe it but it’s true. Check it out: there are still pockets of America where a black man might not be safe walking alone late at night; likewise, a white man. And I wouldn’t relegate such behavior to a white/black dynamic only. It’s a multi-cultural experience and these curfews are racially as well as economically motivated. Less racial: there are parts of town certain member s of certain social clubs, gangs OK, can’t venture into. Point is, in today’s society, mankind knows where the danger lurks in his various jungles; and he avoids it.
On the other hand, if you want to foster change, you venture into the lion’s den.
What if Mr. Klein had ventured into the Muslim sectors of Paris looking, hoping to communicate instead of simply walking silently? The concerns for safety are obvious but then again, this is his experiment; albeit an alternative approach.
It’s obvious he wouldn’t have been welcomed by many but it would have only taken one. If one person, a Muslim, was seen engaging Klein then at least one other would possibly approach, if for no other reason than to be nosy and see if there wasn’t some sort of collusion going on.
And with each step he took and each person he queried, a specific spell would’ve been broken; that spell that shuns, that spell that prevents. And it would’ve all started because he came into it looking for the right thing.
If anything, France missed another golden opportunity to reconcile and bring two communities and cultures together. You can find hate under a rock in your yard. Love is a lot more elusive.