Friday, October 27, 2023

Echoes of history

 October 7 is a day that will be long remembered in Israeli and Jewish history. Holocaust analogies are extremely overused, but the reports coming out of Israel indicate that they are apt here. The testimony and reports of Israeli emergency workers bring to mind nothing so much as the Nazi terror raids on Jewish neighborhoods that left many dead and the balance removed to concentration camps. The analogy here between savage murders and kidnappings from three weeks ago and 80 years ago bears more than a passing resemblance. 

That’s from a gentile perspective. A Jewish perspective would probably be to shrug and point out that Jews were the victims of pogroms long before Hitler. If anything has changed, it is in the will and the ability of Jews to fight back. 

Tel Aviv tribute to 30 children being held hostage in Gaza - credit @Israel on Twitter

It is this ability to fight back effectively that seems to make much of the world hesitant to support Israel. I guess it’s easy to put a flag on your social media profile to signify support for the victims of genocidal atrocities, but it’s more difficult to watch while the victims systematically dismantle a terrorist regime that hides behind innocent women and children. Collateral damage is a tragedy of any war, but it is an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. 

Marco Rubio was on target with a retweet (re-x?) of a video showing Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense intercepting flurries of Hamas rockets.

“In Gaza civilians have no electricity and are running out of food, water, medicine and fuel,” Rubio observed, “Yet somehow Hamas still has plenty of rockets.”

As Israel gets accused of implementing fascist policies, it’s ironic to remember that the actual Nazis (as opposed to figurative ones) were instrumental in fomenting the current strife between Jews and Arabs. The Nazis had a warm relationship with Middle Eastern Arabs and Muslims even as they considered them racially inferior and consigned some in Europe to concentration camps. Politics and war make strange bedfellows and Arab antipathy to Britain, which governed Palestine at the time, probably contributed to the alliance. Hitler supported a 1941 Arab revolt against British rule and the 13th division of the Waffen SS was comprised of Bosnian Muslims, ironically the same group targeted by Serbs in the 1990s.

The Germans also had a cozy relationship with Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Muslim grand mufti of Jerusalem. After the end of World War II and Israel’s establishment as an independent state (and its sister Palestinian state’s absorption into the surrounding Arab kingdoms), Husseini became a pioneer of Palestinian rights and Arab anti-Semitism.

What we saw on October 7 wasn’t a new phenomenon as much as a return to the past. In the early days of Israel, cross-border raids by fedayeen, Arab commandos, were not uncommon. 

What was different about October 7 was the scale. Between 1949 and 1956, about 200 Israelis were killed. About 1,400 people in Israel were reportedly killed by Hamas in the opening of the current war. 

October 7 was a pogrom on steroids. We have to go back to WWII and the Holocaust to find a larger mass murder of Jews. Even the infamous Kristallnacht had only an estimated death toll of 91, not counting the tens of thousands who were arrested and would later die in the camps. But the Nazis marching Jews off to the camps has another direct parallel in the contemporary Hamas kidnappings. 

The kidnapping and hostage-taking also hearken back to another Middle Eastern crisis. I was about eight years old when Iranian militants stormed the US embassy in Tehran. It was more than a year before the 52 hostages were released. 

Part of that story includes the first major operation by the Army’s Delta Force, a mission that ended in disaster. The carnage at Desert One became a cautionary tale for overly complex, long-range missions that may have impacted world leaders in their decisions not to overtly attack Iran’s nuclear reactors and weapons program infrastructure. Yet. 

Another recurring theme is that of anti-Semitism. In the weeks since Hamas’s attack, both sides of the domestic political spectrum have pointed the finger of anti-Semitism at the other. Republicans point to Democratic Palestinian sympathizers like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who is the American-born daughter of Palestinian immigrants. The statements made by some Democrats, including many leftist students at colleges and universities around the country, are very problematic and some even cross the line into racism. 

It’s true that much of the anti-Israel agitation has come from pto-Palestinian segments of the left, but it’s also true that political affiliations are often assumed. For example, we really don’t know anything about the people who attacked a Jewish Tulane student at a pro-Palestine rally. Pro-Palestine does not automatically equal Democrat.

At the same time, the virus of anti-Semitism is present on the right as well, it just takes a slightly different form. For example, Marjorie Taylor Greene isn’t as much as Holocaust denier as a Holocaust generalizer. For she of “Jewish space laser” fame, everything she opposes can be likened to the Holocaust, which is a less direct way of cheapening the price paid by Europe’s Jews.

Then, aside from the neo-Nazi factions of the right, there are people like Nick Fuentes, Candace Owens and Kanye West. Fuentes is an overt Holocaust denier and anti-Semite. Kanye, embraced by the right, has gone on anti-Jewish rants. Owens has been a longtime defender of Kanye and has gone silent on the current war except to call for Israeli restraint. 

For many on the right, there’s a curious cognitive disconnect between being pro-Israel and not liking Jews, who tend to be liberal, very much. For the segment of the right that is Christian Nationalist and/or that dabbles in replacement theology(there’s a lot of overlap between the two), it can be difficult to rationalize support for a modern Israeli state. As I mentioned not long ago, I’ve even heard some on the right who deny that modern Israelis are Jewish. 

I’ve also seen some online accounts accuse Jewish writers of anti-Semitism for such microaggressions as questioning whether the babies in Israel were beheaded before or after death. This becomes a “gotcha” argument against the media even though there was never any question that Hamas murdered the babies. 

In truth, both sides are right that the other side is anti-Semitic, at least in part. We shouldn’t then devolve into a debate over which side is more or less hating of the Jews. Rather, both sides should police their own. Free speech is a requirement at public universities, but private political organizations don’t have to tolerate anti-semitism in their midst.

The fact that both sides have anti-Semites goes way back. The Ku Klux Klan was anti-Jewish as were the Nazis and the communists. So was Henry Ford and a great many blacks as well as whites. Anti-Semitism is a veritable melting pot of races, colors, and creeds. 

In 1930s America, some chose to sympathize with Nazi and Fascist groups who were hostile to the Jews. Others, isolationists and conservatives and leftists, refused to allow more Jews to immigrate. At one point, a ship carrying almost a thousand Jewish refugees was refused permission to land in the US, Canada, and Cuba. The ship ultimately returned to Europe where most were murdered.

Jesus might ask, “Which of these do you think was a neighbor to the Jews?”

“Amen or oh me?” as one of my former pastors used to ponder.

The war against Hamas is recent, but it isn’t new. It’s simply another act in the ongoing play that has been going on since 1947 when Israel was founded. Or maybe it goes all the way back to Haman or even to Cain. Either way, it’s a new version of the old scene

The Gaza War (2023 edition) is already horrible, but it’s going to get worse. What it isn’t, however, is new. The only thing that is new this year is that the bloodshed can be live-streamed into our homes in real-time. 

While these scenes are heartrending and tragic, the current war is 100 percent the fault of Hamas. The Palestinian fighters on October 7 were doing what thousands of anti-Semitic militants have been for decades and centuries: killing and kidnapping Jews. The difference is that Jews now fight back.

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US BOMBS SYRIA Air Force F-16s bombed weapons and ammunition storage facilities linked to Iran in retaliation for attacks against US bases over the past few weeks.

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From the Racket News

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