Sunday, November 08, 2009

the ugly israeli

My son and I watch "Numbers" on Friday night together. (Actually, I watch it while he plays computer games and checks the plot periodically, but that's another story.) For those who don't follow the show, it revolves around a hard-bitten FBI agent whose brother, a math genius, improbably comes up with solutions for each week's episode. Both characters and their father (Judd Hirsch) are identifiably Jewish, although they equally improbably date a series of very beautiful women, all of whom appear to be either Indian or African-American, and none of whom they seem to marry, although the math genius was recently engaged.

The bad guys are frequently foreign, and this week's was as an Israeli, supposedly a renegade Mossad agent who was involved in some kind of identity theft scheme. Israeli, but not Jewish, at least not the way it is usually perceived: by which I mean, he hand none of the negative characteristics--cleverness, obsession with money, etc.--associated with antisemitic stereotypes. Instead he was violent, maniacal, and thoroughly ruthless, albeit not sufficiently so to avoid being outsmarted in the end. The Ugly Israeli, that is; but by no means the Dirty Jew.

I suppose one should be happy to see the image change in this way. Given a choice between the Enemy of Humanity and a garden-variety thug, it's probably better to be the latter. But one can't help wondering: is this the best we can do? Has the Jewish future really come to a choice between intermarriage, on the one hand, and mindless, self-destructive violence on the other? Maybe one of the characters will meet an Israeli girl.


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