Last week, the Forward ran a story titled “When Love Is a Casualty of War.” The war in question was the (officially named) Second Lebanon War and the love in question was that shared between a Jewish guy in DC (the author of the story) and his Lebanese American girlfriend. Joshua Gross, the author and apparently a regular Jewlicious reader, sent me a link to the story hoping it could be included in Jewlicious. The story was well written, and I so did enjoy it’s intro:
My Lebanese girlfriend does not want to listen to The Cure’s song â€œKilling an Arab.â€ … â€œTurn it off,â€ she demands… This is odd. Helen is a huge Cure fan; in fact, I never really listened to The Cure until we started dating. I turn around to face her, my mind racing to produce some witty remark that will make her laugh and defuse the sudden tension, but our eyes meet and I am utterly disarmed. I hear her sigh as she walks away… It’s not that Helen doesn’t like this particular song, it’s that she doesn’t like songs about killing Arabs, especially when in real life, our peoples are killing each other day after day. We cannot enjoy the song’s catchy rhythm or ironic lyrics when bombs fall and Katyushas fly. What used to be a harmless song has become an unwanted reminder of the gulf that exists between us.
Of course, “Killing an Arab” is not a song that advocates the killing of Arabs. It’s a reference to a scene in Albert Camus’ novel L’Ã‰tranger (The foreigner). The song is the Cure’s first single released way back in 1979 and it has dogged the band ever since due to criticisms by ignoramuses that it promotes hatred and violence against Arabs.
Joshua Gross seems like a nice guy. He is a nice guy – we shared a bit of a correspondence. His story was warm and at times humorous, an obvious analogy to the Arab/Israeli conflict, containing a message of hope – the hope that just as Robert and Helen can share love despite their ethnic identities, then so too may the people of Israel be able to live in peace with the people of Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world.
And now let’s all sing Kumbaya.
I think the story would have been more impressive had Joshua been dating a Lebanese Shiite. Lebanese Christians have fought as allies with Israelis before and in Montreal, some of my dearest friends were Lebanese Christians. I also think the notion that a couple living in the US, far removed from the bombs and Katyushas can see themselves as casualties of war, is a little, I don’t know… off? I mean people died. Joshua and Helen suffered minor irritation. I don’t see the comparison. Finally, and this has to be said, I don’t think we need any more heartwarming stories about Jewish boys and their love of non-Jewish women. Certainly not in the Forward. This sort of thing, intermarriage and all, has become so common it’s banal.
In fact, let’s forget about Robert dating a Shiite. Let’s have a story of a Jewish man who, despite the ready availability of many nubile and servile Asian women willing to get jiggy with him, conquers his self loathing and Hebrew school inspired disdain for all things Jewish and meets and marries an actual Jewish woman. They then go off and raise actual Jewish children and live happily ever after.
Now that’s a story!
As for the Cure, in 2005 they played the song at several European festivals. However they sang “Kissing an Arab” instead. I’m all for that – you know, in the way you kiss as a sign of respect and fraternity. It’s a middle eastern thing. But let’s not date ok? Here’s the original track from the Cure – and remember – the song is about an obscure literary reference and not a call to violence against our Arab cousins![audio:killing_an_arab.mp3]