No one in my family was directly touched by the Nazi Holocaust. Nor did any of my friends lose any relatives to Hitler. While that unspeakable tragedy has deeply affected the psyche of every Jew born in the past half century, not many of us directly experienced what it was like to be a Jew in that era.
Since Thursday night, when the first Iraqi Scud missiles landed in Tel Aviv and Haifa, I have been emotionally spent. Although I have close family and dear personal friends in Israel, my concern for their safety and security is not the source of my deep angst. Many of them live in theSamaria region of the West Bank, which is, ironically, Israel’s safest neighborhood right now. Scuds are not very accurate, and if Saddam Hussein aimed at Samaria, he would probably annihilate the Arab city ofKalkilya instead.
I am emotionally wrenched, rather, by the realization that, 50 years after Hitler, Jews continue to stand alone in the world. We are once again expendable. We are pawns in other people’s chess matches.
The Allies of World War II opposed Hitler and fought his Nazi Germanyuntil it fell. But, in those bleakest of years, Great Britain sealed shut the gates of Zion to the thousands of desperate Jewish refugees who fledGermany in the final moments. The United States, similarly, imposed tight immigration quotas, effectively dooming those same refugees, who had nowhere to go. And, despite the facility with which they could have done so, the Allies refused to bomb the rail lines leading to Auschwitz.
It is happening all over again. The multinational forces allied against “the new Hitler” are warning the Israelis: “Don’t make this a Jewish war.” At home in America, we Jews have been receiving the same message from the Pat Buchanans of the media. We are expected to lie low. To remain silent. To put our faith in our leaders, who will “not let Israelis be slaughtered.”
But we watch as missiles hit Tel Aviv, and we hear the “protectors” urgeIsrael to “show restraint.” Why? Because this “grand coalition against the new Hitler” includes countries like Syria and Saudi Arabia, who also want all the Jews dead. Churchill sealed the gates of hope to appease the Arabs in the 1940’s, and now a new coalition once again worries about appeasing certain Arabs who lust for Jewish blood.
So Jews, once more, find themselves fearing poison gas. This time, however, the Jews are the ones preparing the hermetically sealed rooms — for protection. The “Butcher of Baghdad” targets civilian centers in Tel Aviv, seeking to draw Jewish pawns into a war and create a political fissure in the multinational coalition. And President Bush tells the Jews to turn the other cheek because, otherwise, “the grand coalition against the new Hitler” might lose the allegiance of Hafez Assad, a butcher in his own right.
Israel stands alone and knows it. Looking at this grand coalition, Israel sees France, which, together with the Soviet Union, helped build the Iraqi war machine; Italy, which freed the terrorists of the Achille Lauro; and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, not one of which has condemned Iraq’s attempt to murder masses of Jews.
At this time of war I proudly and enthusiastically join with my fellow Americans in rallying behind my President, in support of the brave young men and women who are fighting overseas. But my heart goes out to the Israelis, too. May God stand by their side. Few others will.