April 14, 2002
One: Anger. Ron Rosenbaum in the New York Observer:
The first time, when the Jewish people were threatened by someone who called for their extinction, they trusted to the “enlightenment” values of the European people, as Philip Roth’s character put it.Two: Despair. Little girls wear toy dynamite around their waists. A demonstration on the “Arab Street”? In Cairo? Damascus? Karachi? No, Berlin, this past Friday. Where better to celebrate killing Jews?
Civilized people wouldn’t let something like that happen. Pogroms, well yes, but death camps, extermination? Never. They’re transporting us to camps, yes, but what could it be, labor camps at worst? The world wouldn’t let such a thing happen.
Well, the world did let it happen—with extraordinary complacency, a deaf ear, a blind eye and not a little pleasure on the part of some. And it’s clear from the reaction of Europe today that the world is prepared, is preparing itself, to let it happen again. […]
As a secular Jew, I’ve always been more of a diasporist than a Zionist. I’ve supported the Jewish state, but thought that it was a necessary but not ideal solution with a pronounced dark side: The concentration of so many Jews in one place—-and I use the word “concentration” advisedly—-gives the world a chance to kill the Jews en masse again. And I also thought that Jews flourished best where they were no longer under the thumb of Orthodox rabbis and could bring to the whole world—indeed, the whole universe—the exegetical skills that are the glory of the people: reading the universe as the Torah, as Einstein and Spinoza did, rather than the Torah as the universe, as the Orthodox do.
But the implacable hatred of Arab fundamentalism makes no distinction between Jewish fundamentalists and Jewish secularists, just as Hitler didn’t. It’s not just the settlements they want to extirpate, it’s the Jewish state, the Jewish people.
This is the way it is likely to happen: Sooner or later, a nuclear weapon is detonated in Tel Aviv, and sooner, not later, there is nuclear retaliation—-Baghdad, Damascus, Tehran, perhaps all three. Someone once said that while Jesus called on Christians to “turn the other cheek,” it’s the Jews who have been the only ones who have actually practiced that. Not this time. The unspoken corollary of the slogan “Never again” is: “And if again, not us alone.”
So the time has come to think about the Second Holocaust. It’s coming sooner or later; it’s not “whether,” but when. I hope I don’t live to see it. It will be unbearable for those who do. That is, for all but the Europeans—whose consciences, as always, will be clear and untroubled.
Three: A Little Light. Tarek E. Masoud writes some clarifying observations in the Wall Street Journal. I know nothing about Mr. Masoud, but at the moment I wonder if we shouldn’t find out his vices and make them mandatory.
[T]he choice before the Palestinians is not between liberty and death. Israel’s leaders long ago accepted the logic of a Palestinian state; they put forward proposals for what that state would look like, and they haggled with the Palestinians over these proposals. Whatever one wants to say about the quality of Israeli proposals or the personal commitment of Ariel Sharon to a Palestinian state—and I happen to think both were fairly low—surely the Palestinians were not in a hopeless situation, the kind of situation which, we are told, causes sane men and women to fall into murder and suicide? […][06:18 PM]
It is by now the received wisdom that Palestinians deserve better leaders. We are offered an example of the kind of leadership they need by the esteemed British historian Martin Gilbert. In 1948, the U.N. mediator in Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, was assassinated by members of the Stern Gang, a Jewish militant group that included a future prime minister of Israel named Yitzhak Shamir. In the half century since then, Arabs have often pointed to the episode to justify their own acts of terror.
But what Arabs seem to forget—and what Palestinians would do well to remember—is how David Ben-Gurion, the father of modern Israel, responded to that murder carried out in the name of the Jewish state. According to Mr. Gilbert, when Ben-Gurion learned of the assassination of Count Bernadotte, he thundered: “Arrest all Stern gang leaders. Surround all Stern bases. Confiscate all arms. Kill any who resist.” Yes, the Palestinians deserve better leaders. What they deserve is a David Ben-Gurion.