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My wife and I just saw the film “In Darkness,” which tells the true story of a Polish man who saved a dozen Jewish men, women and children from the Nazis by hiding them for 14 months in sewers. The heroism of the man is clear, but so is the depressing state of a world that forced human beings to hide in sewers.
Hitler rearmed Germany, thus breaking the treaty that ended World War I. Then he reoccupied the Rhineland. Then he seized part of Czechoslovakia, and then the rest of it. Still the world did nothing, hoping the Nazi regime would be satisfied. But its appetite was merely whetted. Before the Nazis were defeated, at least 40 million people were dead, including one-third of all the Jews in the world, and four out of five European Jews.
At first, Hitler wanted the Jews to leave, “For all I care, on luxury liners.” But with few exceptions, no nation admitted them. In 1938, delegates from 32 nations, including the United States, met in the French resort town of Evian. The result: no one did anything. Whenever I see a bottle of Evian water, I think about apathy in the face of evil, and I remember this quote from Leon Wieseltier:
Obama seems to think that there is some force in the admonition that the world is watching; but history plentifully demonstrates that when the world is watching, all the world does is watch.
During his 2009 trip, President Obama visited the site of the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald. Over 56,000 civilians and prisoners of war were murdered there. The president declared that no one should deny the Holocaust.
But the purpose of remembering the Holocaust is to prevent a recurrence. The leaders of Iran threaten to wipe Israel off the map, and at the same time are developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. What is the “world community” doing about it?
With Holocaust 2 on the horizon, it does no good to remember Holocaust 1, while making the same mistake that allowed it to occur − attempting to appease aggressors. What are we doing about Iran? Economic sanctions are proving useless. Meanwhile, President Obama distances himself from Israel.
The strong make demands of their enemies. The weak make demands of their friends. The strong evoke anxiety in their enemies. The weak evoke anxiety in their friends. As a result, the weak have more enemies and fewer friends.
History tends to repeat itself, because human nature doesn’t change. There are variations on the themes, but the themes recur with depressing regularity:
● When tyrants make promises, we shouldn’t listen.
● When tyrants make threats, we should listen.
● When tyrants threaten mass murder based on myths of racial or religious superiority, we should listen carefully.
● When tyrants build weapons with which to carry out their threats, we are fools if we don’t act before the weapons are operational.
What is the lesson of the Holocaust? To people of good will, it is: Never again. But to people of ill will, the lesson is: It succeeded. Four out of five European Jews were murdered, and the “world community” did nothing. Do you believe that the leaders of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah haven’t studied that lesson attentively? What reason are we giving them to believe that things will be different this time? None. What reason are we giving them to believe that they can’t murder another six million? None.
I wonder what many people in many nations, including our own, are really thinking. Could it be this? − “Let the crazies in Iran build their nukes. Let them eradicate Israel, which is just a pain in the backside. Then we’ll do something, in case they’re serious when they chant, ‘Death to America.’ We can serve tea and cookies, and collect money for the few survivors, just like last time. That will make us feel really self-righteous. And we can build an annex to the Holocaust Museum. It’s the least we can do. Literally.”
For every Evangelical or Jew who wants Obama to do something before Iran nukes Israel, there is at least one closet anti-Semite who wants Obama to do nothing until after Iran nukes Israel. We hear much about the pro-Israel lobby, but there is also an anti-Israel lobby that is at least as powerful. Which will prevail remains to be seen.
Even if Iran acquires nuclear weapons but doesn’t use them, its neighbors will be terrified and rush to acquire nukes themselves. The Mideast is unstable now − imagine what it will be like with nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States. If Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz, who will dare to break the blockade? Regardless of what happens to Israel, this prospect is frightening.
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