Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | June 6, 2010

La Quinta, America, and “Beat the Jew”

We who live in the sprawling exurbs east of Los Angeles tend to think of El-Lay as a smog-covered megalopolis ruled by space aliens, with some interesting tourist attractions.  Sometimes we have to go there for things.  When that happens, we pack coolers, snacks, and our favorite CDs, and prepare to sit in traffic for hours.  We see El-Lay’s car chases, shootings, and street demonstrations on TV, and think, from the fastness of our peaceful hinterland: “Man, I’m glad I don’t live there.” If we’re ever sentenced to go through the domestic terminal at LAX, we haul out the old body armor and make sure our combat-vehicle quals are up to date.

When social ugliness erupts in southern California, it’s in El-Lay.  Nazis taunting and gibbering, La Raza shrieking, gangs offing stray children and each other, black rioters beating up Koreans – it’s all “over there in El-Lay.”  That’s where the political anger is.  Where kids are being radicalized in the schools and taught to hate America.  Where the La Raza and MEChA crowd hangs out in academia, where Black Liberation Theologists haunt pulpits, where a crowd of Neo-Nazis consists of more than one jackass with a tattoo – where no matter what your cause, no matter how wrong-headed, hateful, founded on lies, or just plain stupid it is, you can get a bunch of people together on a day’s notice and make an impressive amount of noise.

We like being away from that, here in the “Inland Empire” between El-Lay and Palm Springs.  Out here, the streets are safe, people are nice to each other, family life is by far the biggest cultural influence.  We like our neighbors.  There’s space.  Quiet.  An absence of fellow citizens whose whole lives are one big, angry, sweaty political agenda.  A lot of people have moved here because they couldn’t take El-Lay or its immediate suburbs anymore.

So when the news broke in Los Angeles-based media about the area high school where a group of students was playing a “game” called “Beat the Jew,” the first thought for most people was probably like mine; i.e., there’s some sick, terrible stuff going on in El-Lay.

But then I quickly discovered that this didn’t happen in El-Lay.  (I’ll switch to “LA” now.)  It didn’t happen in the old suburbs.  It didn’t happen in The OC or south Ventura County.  It didn’t even happen in the older communities of the “Inland Empire” proper – Riverside, San Bernardino – where the LA patterns of gangs, crime, and victim-group politics are encroaching with the march of time and population.

No, it happened in the “Desert Cities” community of La Quinta, even further east of LA than I am.  La Quinta has for some years been a relatively peaceful, sleepy community known for its golf courses and retirees; but, like the rest of the Desert Cities in Coachella Valley, it has seen explosive growth in the last decade.  (Due to the construction boom, its population increased by an incredible 75% between 2000 and 2009, from the 20,000s to over 43,000.)  Indeed, La Quinta’s profile is very similar to that of a couple dozen medium-size towns in this area that grew very rapidly in the last two decades.  Originally populated by retirees, farmers, and people who like the rural life and keep horses on a few acres, these towns have hosted massive residential construction projects – mostly single-family developments, with vast infrastructure improvements required of the builders – and have absorbed the influx of thousands of families with school-age children.

La Quinta is about half the size of my town; it started out sleepier and less developed in 2000; it’s further out in the desert, and further from LA.  It’s hard to tell if it has some demographic distinctiveness in comparison with other local cities.  I tend to think not.  The population influx seems to have been pretty evenly distributed:  the percentages of white (60%) and Hispanic (32%) have hardly changed between the 2000 census and the statistics of 2009.  It’s a mix of the older and well-off, if not wealthy, and younger working families who – at least up through 2008 or so – could afford to buy homes there.

It’s not, ultimately, that different from the nice, tolerant exurban enclave I live in.  And La Quinta is where high school students were playing this game of “Beat the Jew,” in which some students played “Jews” and agreed to be kidnapped, blindfolded, and dropped off somewhere so they could be hunted by other kids playing “Nazis,” while they tried to navigate back to the high school campus.  A “Jew” who was captured in the course of this “game” faced “incineration” or “enslavement.”

And believe it or not, this tale of the “game” is not even the main piece of information I want to communicate here.  That honor goes to the character of the reader comments at the website of the Desert Sun, the newspaper that serves the Desert Cities area.

As we would expect, La Quinta High School’s officials were appalled to discover what was going on, and have suspended the seven out of the 40 “friends” of Beat the Jew’s Facebook website who were actually participating in the live game.  Along with referring the matter to the police for investigation, they’ve also invited a local rabbi to provide outreach and tolerance training.

What really struck me was the reflexiveness with which readers of the Desert Sun launched into the “oppressed Palestinians” narrative in their comments.  Here’s one:

As for an emergency meeting with regards to rabbis, the school, the students and the parents, I think it would also be entirely appropriate to invite Arab-Americans and in particular Palestinian-Americans to join in on this discussion of showing tolerance for all people, especially people who have been and, in the case of Palestinians, continue to not only be “beat” but massacred, robbed, starved, maimed and denied basic human rights by the Jewish state of Israel, which is propped up with US tax payers’ money and our bought out government. I think this should be discussed in “our” media, too, and by “our political leaders” as well, but I don’t think the ADL would let that happen, do you?

There are others.  Click through to the different stories on this and check them out at your leisure.  They reminded me, naturally, of Helen Thomas’ video screed about occupied Palestine and the rants of the usual suspects from the US media.  But they also reminded me of the reporting about a Swedish mayor whose lax enforcement of the laws protecting Jews against assault has been due to this sympathy with the “Palestinian” cause.  Anti-Semitic attacks increased dramatically in Sweden last year, and Jews who have lived there for decades – or all their lives – are leaving in unprecedented numbers.

This dynamic isn’t unique to Sweden; anti-Semitic attacks are up across the European continent.  They’re also up in Latin America.  And the line separating the USA from that fate is narrowing, as more and more people, either through ignorance or hatred, propound the morally bankrupt (not to mention deceptive) notion that basic respect and solicitude for the Jews among us, as human beings, should be contingent on Israel allowing Hamas to use Gaza to attack her territory.

There is no validity to the Hamas narrative, of course.  It is false in every particular.  Hamas regularly holds the interests of Gazans hostage to its anti-Israel agenda, and it is doing so now.  Hamas has refused to accept both of the aid shipments brought by the recent flotilla, even though Israel convoyed them to the border crossings. Israel herself is the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Gazans.  Hamas’ interest is in breaking the blockade so that it can receive weapon shipments unhindered from Iran.  Conditions in Gaza, meanwhile, are substantially better than presented by Western media.  And it is Hamas that launches rockets at Israel from Gaza, Hamas that executes bombing attacks inside Israel, and Hamas that uses women and children as human shields for its headquarters, arms caches, and supply routes.

But that’s only part of the issue here.  At least as important is the challenge this situation represents to our character as a people.  We are very close today to seeing the things we believe in the most being effectively undermined by a facile, cynically-maneuvering “victim” narrative.  Parts of Europe have been paving the way in recent years, failing to deliver basic police protection to Jewish citizens while railing in international forums about Israeli “barbarity” in Gaza and the West Bank.  This is something more than the feckless paralysis of too many local governments in the face of general jihadist attacks (e.g., on cartoonists, opera producers, and human rights activists).  It amounts to some European officials behaving as if Jews are disqualified from the entitlements of citizens by the fact that there are political complaints by third parties against Israel.  Whatever name we want to give this pattern, it deviates inexcusably from – at the very least – our principle of equality before the law.

Sadly, comments at the Desert Sun about how to put the “Beat the Jew” players in a better frame of mind have tended to focus on emphasizing the horror of the Holocaust:  e.g., bringing in Holocaust survivors to talk to the kids, telling them stories of the evil brought on by Hitler and the Nazis.  But while that kind of interaction is always worthwhile, the direction implied by this approach is ultimately weak and situational.  Its tacit premise is that Jews are to be treated with the same respect we accord all human beings because they were victimized in the Holocaust.  And that is a profoundly fragile premise, contingent on no one else trumping the high “victim card.”

Yet as we see with the Hamas “Palestinian” narrative, it is cheap and easy to create victim narratives that gain wide favor through playing on people’s emotionalism, prejudices, and ignorance.  Western audiences have been responsive to the political game of “The Biggest Victim” for decades now, and the result is moral chaos.  Swinging in the breezes of victimology like weather vanes, we are losing all sense of why we should “treat each other right.”

None of us, not Jews or anyone else, is reliably protected by being perceived as a victim.  It’s not victimization that qualifies us for humane and respectful treatment by others; those aren’t even valid terms for an effective morality.  It’s the obligations we levy on ourselves that are the actionable elements of the moral code.  From that perspective – the only perspective that yields reliable patterns of behavior – there is exactly one thing any of us needs to know about Jews, and that is that they are our fellow human beings.

Please don’t misunderstand me here.  I believe it will always be essential to remember the ghastly lessons of the Holocaust, and to communicate them to succeeding generations.  But when white and Hispanic high-schoolers of varied non-Jewish backgrounds are playing a game they call “Beat the Jew,” I don’t want to just send in a rabbi to explain how the Jews were victimized by Hitler.

I want to see these children’s parents, and the Christian and political leaders of the city, standing shoulder to shoulder with the rabbi and telling the students that this is the most basic thing they will ever learn from their forebears.  That it’s our legacy, our character, our meaning, our testament before God and eternity: we don’t do this.  We don’t treat each other this way under any circumstances.

Those parents and community leaders are people just like you and me.  If we lived in La Quinta – and so many of us live in “La Quinta” by another name – they’d be us.  The time when we could shrug these things off, or comfortably assume that they are happening somewhere else, or even view them with ironic ambivalence – that time is past.  The time when we could delegate this task to “the system” – to anonymous curriculum planners and scheduled sessions with rabbis-on-call – is in the rearview mirror.

We have to stand up.  We have to go the “Greatest Generation” one better – one very big one – and not remain silent and imagine ourselves to be disengaged from the problem, or distant from it, or imagine it to be someone else’s.

We are it.  It’s on us.  Are we a moral, honorable, and reliable people?  Or are we merely whipsawed by sentiment, morally adrift, paralyzed or confused by whoever can depict himself as the victim of the week?

If we are the latter, then nothing we have and nothing we are – none of the blessings in our peaceful, hopeful, agenda-free, quintessentially American communities – will survive.

If we are the former, then speak up, and speak up now.  Rabbis and Holocaust survivors aren’t the only ones who should be saying “Never again.”

Cross-posted at Hot Air.



  1. One legitimate answer would be to point out that “Palestinians” were oppressed and murdered only up until May 14, 1948 when they declared the State of Israel. After that the correct name is “Israelis”. Just because a bunch of Arab terrorists have decided to grab the name for themselves does not make it so.

  2. One of the problems, Optimist, is that the Jewish community itself is divided on the extent of the rise of anti-Semitism. I spoke some weeks ago to a person I rarely have much interaction with who I know to be of a very wealthy Jewish background that perhaps there was some real danger of American anti-Semitism. I don’t think this person believed me. Since I was mailing the person some info. which had been requested from me on problems in my church( the Roman Catholic sexual abuse crisis) which is why this person had contacted me to begin with, I also include a printed copy of a Roger Simon essay on anti-Semitism from Pajamas Media. It was the only gentle way I could think of reintroducing the topic I had brought up on the phone. Frankly the whole idea of American anti-Semitism gives me the creeps, the influence of bad mojo on the American people!

  3. Many Jews in the United States are “Jews in name only”. There real religion is Liberalism. As a result, they refuse to look at what is going on.

    • that makes about zero sense, pops.

      being a religious Jew never made any one starter or more realistic.

      • or smarter or a better proofreader.

  4. I think that it was RT that filed this report about how this horrible game is particularly American in nature.

  5. “Jews get the hell out of Los angeles”

    /Helen Thomas

  6. btw i do not think such venmous things about the jews just ot clear things up

  7. Sabba Hillel, Helenthomasetc — welcome, and my apologies for the delay in the one-time comment “approval” requirement. Anything you’d like to add from now on will post automatically.

    Orcas, I agree it’s a problem that some Jews don’t recognize rising anti-Semitism, but I want to emphasize that this isn’t a problem just for Jews, either to worry about or to point out and demand to stand up to.

    We don’t have to function as a nation of windsocks, just waiting for the gales of other people’s perceptions of prejudice or injury to toss our consciences around. We should have a positive idea in our own minds of how the people around us should be treated. We should stand up to evil treatment when we see it.

    When it’s high school kids, lecturing them on what we believe and on our common heritage is in order. You’d think they were getting that at home and in the classroom, but whatever they’ve gotten so far, it hasn’t “taken.”

    Imagine that these kids had been playing the game of “Beat the N-word” — and tell me they wouldn’t have had to put in MANDATORY hours of tolerance/sensitivity training, and probably tailored community service, to satisfy the authorities. That’s fine with me. And it should be the same for “Beat the Jew.”

  8. I agree, but one truly needs to demand that the leftist Jewish establishment answer to the fact that they haven’t embraced “never again”, and are in fact quite happy to be a part of engaging in the same sort of hatred, defamation and genocidal policies here in the US. Read the hateful hypocrisy of the ADL’s Abe Foxman, and of his meeting up with the illegal alien lobby groups like La Raza to do a deal with them, ie.. if they align with Jewish interests, they will align with theirs against the US citizenry, to exploit the constitution so as to deprive citizens of their constitutionally protected rights and freedoms. The same should be asked of neo-cons who are Jewish.

    Never again, at least how I was taught about it (I’m not Jewish) was supposed to be in aid of those atrocities never being allowed to happen to anyone, but to the Foxman’s and those like him, that’s not how they choose to see things.

    I appreciate your referencing that no one should be painted into a state of perpetual victimhood. That being at one time victimized, does not define an individual or group. The US was supposed to stand for the principle that equality means equal application of protections as well as responsibilities for all citizens. Unfortunately the hypocrites on the left and their fellow travelers want to destroy all rights and freedoms and will make use of whatever useful idiots who are willing to line up to be made use of.

    • “The same should be asked of neo-cons who are Jewish.” M

      ??? It’s not clear to me what you mean here, could you elaborate a bit? I’m not Jewish, but I am a neo-con. As far as I know, Jewish neo-cons are not in denial about the rise in anti-semitism, either here or in other countries.

  9. When the heart hates, the mind needs no justification.

    Conversely, what has led to this hate is the acceptance of the unrelenting meme that Israel has no right to exist because it has no right to the land.

    There is an unassailable case to be made for Israel’s right to the land. Establishing Israel’s right to the land establishes its right to exist. Which means it has a right to self-defense.

    That however does not address the larger problem, which is that for many, the meme of ‘Israeli aggression against Palestinian victimhood’ is so deeply embedded into the public’s consciousness as to amount to indoctrination.

    That has been especially true over the last decade, as the Israeli side is presented less and less by the media.

    Thus reason is no longer sufficient to sway the opinion of those whose opinion has evolved into hate.

    And when the heart hates, the mind needs no justification.

    Which means that reason is an ineffective response to those who hate.

    What to do? Attack the problem by first gaining a deeper understanding of that which the problem consists, as diagnosis is the first step in obtaining an effective treatment.

    Emotion-based attitudes of hate are the result of a belief about a situation. Only clarifying the belief, so as to expose any irrational elements in that belief, can lead to a change in that belief.

    If the belief changes, the emotion has to change because ‘activating event’ + belief about the activating event = the resultant emotion the belief triggers… example: Israel is created by UN mandate + Muslim belief that the Jews are using the UN to seize part of the Ummah, which Allah has ordained must forever remain Muslim = anger and hate.

    Irrational beliefs are characterized by emotional demands; consisting of shoulds, oughts & musts.

    The opposite of hate is love.

    Love is not harsh, condemning or judgmental, nor is it reticent to seek or speak the truth. It does not appease in order to temper anger. The truth provides clarity and clarity is rational. Hate is irrational and clarity its cure.

    Loving confrontation is the correct response to hate. Which means confronting the hater with their hate, in a way that doesn’t condemn. Rather than arguing with them as to whether their hate is justified, such as by providing all the reasons that Israel’s claim to the land is valid, a more effective strategy is to ask a series of questions which lead the other person into greater clarity by compelling them to attempt to validate the soundness of the beliefs which trigger their emotions.

    They can’t maintain the hate, if they can’t maintain the belief. When the belief is irrational, it cannot withstand scrutiny.

    It’s important however to use the other person’s own foundational beliefs to expose irrationalities and incoherency because when faced with internal contradiction, a person will sacrifice or release the less foundational belief.

    In the US, all that is necessary is to expose the fallacious assumptions that underlay the meme that the left and advocates of Palestinian victimhood have created. The American public is not naturally hateful, they are simply being increasingly persuaded by the meme because the level of rhetoric is almost entirely biased toward the left.

    It is true that now is the time for those able to see Israel’s side of the issue to forcefully speak out in whatever venue opportunity provides. We can do no less or we become part of Hannah Arendt’s ‘Banality of Evil’ by “Normalizing the Unthinkable” and, an example of Burke’s dictum; “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”

  10. “Never again, at least how I was taught about it (I’m not Jewish) was supposed to be in aid of those atrocities never being allowed to happen to anyone, but to the Foxman’s and those like him, that’s not how they choose to see things.”

    You were taught correctly. Others took from it that if it comes that an atrocity is unavoidable, the next one is gonna have to be visited on other folks before they get to give the Jews another.

    The problem of the “Foxmen” of the world is that they’re too quick to give a lot of hurt to avoid enduring a little.

  11. I appreciate your post and your blog. Keep up the good work.

  12. On your larger point, Optimist, identity politics is in whether many of us like it or not. I think it’s just a return to tribalism which is why I am so impressed with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was born into a tribal system which backed up its tribalism with some of the more repressive ideas that could be found in Islamic doctrine. Through her own initiative she sought to escape tribalism and by ending up in Holland and being a very intelligent woman was able to go to college and discovered The Enlightenment. Hirsi Ali’s critics call her an Enlightenment fundamentalist, but I sympathize with Hirsi Ali. My ancestral religion, Roman Catholicism, has also never really come to terms with the Enlightenment. The Jesuit, John Courtney Murray, had to wage a life long battle to get freedom of religion “somewhat” accepted by the Vatican. The American public has no idea what a change in perception of how human societies could function came from the Enlightenment. I was lucky to be educated by the last vestiges of Jesuits who were really educated in Humanism before the Jesuits decided that Liberation Theology was going to make them big money(P.S. It didn’t, people just stopped donating to the Jesuits.) Maybe the young women in our American high schools should hear from speakers like Hirsi Ali. They would appreciate how privileged they are to be born into a country that was founded by white males who were Enlightenment fundamentalists.

    • This exists in more ways than you can imagine. Right now there are educated, supposedly intelligent people that are trying to rationalize its OK to consider groups that applaud and support Hamas and its plans for exterminating this generation of Jews as worthy of respect and engagement. We take our ideas about fairness and the exchange of positions and apply it to a group of people who sadly think we are silly and use it to buy time and advance their cause, which is the destruction of both Israel and the US on purely religious grounds.

      In a world not so long ago, Gaza’s behavior (yes Hamas I know) would have been provocation for war and the destruction of their land and the decimation of their population and then the complete and utter overthrow of their theology, society and political structure. That is what happened about 70 years ago. I fail to see the difference.

  13. The standard response to anything untoward these days seems to be that it makes them “uncomfortable.” And if it makes anyone “uncomfortable” then, well, someone should be criticized or chastised or even worse disciplined.

    Is anyone else troubled by these weasel words and namby-pamby attitudes? Heaven forbid that we should be definite or firm, or actually condemn.

    Helen Thomas has been an anti-Semite for years. She just never blurted it out so obnoxiously before, but she has always been opposed to Israel. I might suggest that people make the effort to read a history of Israel.

  14. If I understand the “game” correctly, nobody was beaten or abused. Rather, it resembles “cops and robbers” where somebody has to play the robbers.

    Perhaps it is the defense counsel instinct, but I question whether all these kids were anti-semitic. Many probably gave no thought to how their game might be perceived. They may have viewed it as a simple chase game.

    We know one thing: No participant is likely to be a holocaust-denier. The entire premise is that Nazis tracked down, rounded up, imprisoned, abused and often killed Jews. I don’t know that you can make the leap of inference that the kids think this was a good thing.

    I hope you don’t think that I am shrugging this off.

    • even if you are, that was still fun to read.

    • While agreeing with all the other points expressed by OC, I thought the same thing about what their intentions were. I would bet money that if the movie “Inglourious Basterds” were not out yet, this game would have a different name or not exist.

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