Monday, April 19, 2004

The Return of Weimar

The Return of Weimar
April 19, 2004

Annually Israel marks the Shoah, the Holocaust, mourning six to seven million Jews, slaughtered by the Nazis during World War Two. The date chosen for Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day, is quite significant, coming a week after Passover, the holiday commemorating the birth of the Jewish people, and a week before Yom Ha’azmaut, Independence Day, celebrating the rebirth of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael with the founding of the first Jewish state in two thousand years.

The enormity of the holocaust is practically beyond human comprehension. We can easily picture one person, ten people, one hundred people, a thousand people, or even 10,000 people. Huge sports arenas can contain tens of thousands of people. Let’s take Yankee Stadium in New York. It has a capacity of almost 58,000 people. Imagine one hundred and twelve Yankee Stadiums, filled up with people, to the brim. And then, all at once, delete them from existence, erase the people in them. In an instant, they are all gone. The men, women, children – be they rich or poor, religious or secular, good people and not such good people – with one thing in common. In the blink of an eye they cease to exist.

Well, not really. Because their family and friends remember them, miss them, mourn them.

Maybe it’s difficult to conjure up 112 Yankee Stadiums. Perhaps I can present an example closer to home. Picture 2,167 World Trade Centers - with 3,000 people filling each them. That is about six million five hundred thousand people. That is how many people were butchered between 1941 to 1945. All gone, with the blink of an eye. Obliterated from existence.

But don’t err. That is how many people were lost – but that is not the holocaust. Hitler’s plans included not only killing people. Rather they represented a final solution, an eradication of a people, obliteration of a culture, annihilation of a religion.

These numbers are only partially accurate. In reality, the picture is quite different. In 1933 European Jewry numbered about nine million five hundred thousand Jews. Remove from that six or six and half million. What remains? About a third. Two thirds of European Jewry was wiped out. So forget the examples presented above. Can you picture two-thirds of the United States gone?

One would expect, following such a cataclysm, that certain lessons would be learned and internalized. Sixty five years should not be long enough to forget. Perhaps we did not forget, perhaps we never learned in the first place.

One of the most important lessons we should have learned is who to trust, who to depend on, who believe in. Or, better phrased, who not to trust, depend on, or believe in. Quite simply, the Americans and the Europeans did nothing, absolutely nothing, to stop and prevent the carnage. Today, in Israel, if a person witnesses an attempt to harm someone and does nothing, he or she can be tried and convicted in a court of law. Non-action is a crime.

Maybe we cannot put the United States and Europe on trial. But trust them? Rely on them when our very existence is at stake? An apparent contradiction in terms. Unless you’re Jewish – unless you’re an Israeli, especially an Israeli leader.

Ten years ago Israel placed its fate in the hands Bill Clinton’s signature and Arafat’s good will. When the Hebron Accords were signed over seven years ago, we were told point-blank, “your security is dependent upon palestinian cooperation.” Today, where is Clinton – where is Arafat? And how many Jews are dead, maimed and/or psychologically wounded. Today Bibi and Limor, shadows of Sharon, tell us of our good fortune – ‘look at the promises we’ve received from the President of the United States!’

Watch George W. Bush closely. Where will he be on January 21, 2005? At best, where will he be on January 21, 2009?

The ‘hitnatkut’ – Sharon’s ‘disengagement,’ the plan to flee from Yesha, from all of Judea, Samaria and Gush Katif, beginning in Gaza, the intention to transfer tens of thousands of Jews from their homes, is classic demagoguery, appealing to the masses ‘we must sacrifice a few for the many and save whatever we can.’ I cannot help but feel nauseated by the fact that on the day preceding Holocaust Memorial Day two of Israel’s premier politicians, Education Minister Limur Livnat and former Prime Minister, presently the Treasury Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu announced their support to abandon Gush Katif. And this afternoon, Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom, one of the fiercest opponents of the plan, also surrendered to Sharon’s pressure and declared his support. Bibi Netanyahu, who apologized for deserting Hebron, and Limur Livnat, one of the staunchest supporters of Yesha, have done an about-face, and together with Sylvan Shalom, are now willing to participate in evicting over 7,000 Jews from their homes. And this is only the start.

Sharon promised a ‘strong Gush Etzion – a strong Kiryat Arba – a strong Hebron.’ Let’s see how long it takes for Hebron to receive building permits, allowing new construction on Jewish-owned land. Let’s see how long it takes for Kiryat Arba to receive a building permit allowing construction of a permanent synagogue called Hazon David on presently uninhabited state-owned land in or around Kiryat Arba. My guess: don’t hold your breath!

The early 1930s witnessed considerable political instability in Germany. On January 30, 1933, German president Paul von Hindenburg, an old, tired general turned politician, appointed Adolf Hitler Reichskanzler, or chancellor of Germany. “Although he was fiercely anti-Nazi and had defeated Hitler in the 1932 presidential election, he reluctantly agreed to von Papen’s theory that, with Nazi popular support on the wane, Hitler could now be controlled as chancellor. The date is commonly seen as the beginning of  Nazi Germany.” [ von Hindenburg]

Sharon’s government is a mirror-image of the Weimar Republic’s tragic collapse. The Hindenburgs, the Chamberlains, the cynical utilization of democracy as a tool of mass destruction, - it’s all being repeated before our eyes. Sharon, Netanyahu, Livnat, and all the others are marching Israel down the road of calamitous disaster, which, if not diverted quickly, will lead us straight into Aushwitz II, otherwise called the Mediterranean Sea.

World Jewry might then, one day in the not too distant future, have to mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, as the beginning of the end of the Jewish State.

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