I read yesterday that four masked gunmen stole a lion, along with two parrots, from a Gaza Strip zoo. Now I’m not an expert on lions, but as someone who lives with 11 cats, I can claim to have some familiarity with the family Felidae; I have also owned some good-sized parrots in the past. I’ve been extensively bitten and clawed by both parrots and cats, and have developed a healthy respect for the destructive powers of both types of critter. Lions, of course, are rather larger than housecats, and are even less tamable than our familiar fuzzy feline fiends. (And no, the last word isn’t missing an ‘R’.) We’re talking about some pretty serious fangs and claws here, folks, along with an enthusiastic willingness to use them.
Which leads me to a not-very-original question: What the hell were these guys trying to accomplish? I can’t, for the life of me, think of any desirable goal in the pursuit of which obtaining a live, disgruntled lion is a rational step. I am at a loss, Dear Readers; if you have any suggestions as to a possible motive for this crime, please let me know. In the mean time, I will make one observation: Stories like this tend to strengthen the belief (held by many people living outside our happy little region) that we Middle Easterners are all completely insane.
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Of course, oddness is hardly unique to Israel and Palestine, even if it is something of a local specialty. Another story in yesterday’s news was that Michael Jackson, reputedly no stranger to idiosyncrasy, was caught on tape making some rather anti-Semitic remarks.
Rarely nowadays to we see such a classic scenario played out: Wealthy yet financially clueless figure (preferably living in a castle) employs one or more Jews to help manage his financial affairs, presumably in the anti-Semitic (albeit somewhat complimentary) belief that Jews, as a race, possess the business acumen that he sorely lacks. Said Jews attempt to do their jobs, but Wealthy-Yet-Clueless objects to the fact that their skills are a matter of arithmetic rather than magic – in short, they put their boss on a budget, expect their salaries to be paid, and fail to spin gold out of straw. The clash between expectations and reality ultimately causes the relationship to break down, leading to unpleasantness (summary execution in the good old days, endless litigation in our debased times) and mutual recriminations.
Mr. Jackson has played his part with admirable historical accuracy, including some of the accusations he made against Jews in general and his ex-advisors in particular: He claimed that Jews are leeches, deliberately conspiring to drain the coffers of the wealthy-yet-feckless. This is all classic anti-Semitism, regrettable yet uninteresting – particularly when propounded by someone who is not taken terribly seriously as an arbiter of societal normality. (The previous expression is my attempt to say that Mr. Jackson is seriously weird, without being dragged into court. Please don’t sue me, Mike – I love you very much, cross my heart.) One element of his remarks, however, is new and rather disturbing; in most versions of the story, Mister Moonwalk is quoted as saying that the Jews “suck”.
Given Mr. Jackson’s eminence, I fear this accusation will reverberate. I fully expect to see learned and semi-learned (and, for that matter, semi-literate) disquisitions on whether the Jews indeed suck, and – if so – how much, why, and what. No doubt our Palestinian neighbors will add the new accusation to their list: not only do we fire uranium bullets at little old ladies and distribute drugged candy to promote licentiousness, we also suck! Be prepared for the monumental Syrian miniseries The Eternal Suckiness of the Jews to be the next Ramadan blockbuster. My mind boggles; and if yours doesn’t, it should.
But the worst part of the story is that Michael Jackson is now living in – oh dear – the Middle East. I hadn’t known this before; but apparently after his most recent acquittal, he moved to Bahrain, a small kingdom on the Persian Gulf. Thanks a lot, Michael. So much for convincing the world that we Middle Easterners are really just normal, rational people who happen to steal dangerous animals from the zoo and kill one another on occasion.
Stealing a lion from a zoo: A macho thing, I fear.
In ‘more civilized circles’ this takes other shapes – buying flashy cars with amounts of money that whole Palestinian families (large ones) could live happily on for years; jumping from bridges with elastic cords tied to one’s legs; etc.