Mickey Levy, the Speaker of the Knesset, went to Germany on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and spoke to the Bundestag, the German parliament – in Hebrew. He ended his speech with a recitation of the Kaddish, during which his voice broke and he covered his face with his hands. He said later in an interview on Israeli radio that it was an incredibly emotionally affecting experience, and a great honor.
I listened with mixed feelings. No, I admit it, they were not mixed. I was horrified. I was disgusted. Everything about this affair was wrong, the content of his speech (I’ll get to that), his recitation of the Kaddish, his expression of emotion there in the Bundestag.
What is the point here? Perhaps it was emotionally cathartic for Levy, but what did he accomplish? Was the intent to make the Germans feel guilty? I am certain that there were no former SS officers or Nazi officials in the audience. Was it to make them feel sorry for us? That would be stupid. Insofar as there is still antisemitism in Germany, it is fed by contempt, and pity is not an antidote for contempt. Rather, it engenders it.
Germany is a problem for Israel. Germany still shoots at the Jewish people, but not with bullets like the ones that tore the bodies of my extended family in the Pale of Settlement. Rather, the weapon is the millions of Euros that it provides to the Palestinian project to conquer Area C with illegal building, and to the numerous anti-Israel NGOs, both in the international “human rights” industry, and among the Israeli Left, that are working day and night to subvert the Jewish state.
That is what Levy should have talked about in the Bundestag, instead of congratulating the Germans on their “moral and historical commitment to the existence and security of the State of Israel.” Yes, they paid reparations. I can well understand Menachem Begin, who was repelled by the idea, as if money could expiate the crime. But that argument is in the past; it’s Germany’s behavior today that’s important.
Levy’s appeal to pity and the idea expressed in his speech that democracy is the antidote to antisemitism represent what is wrong with the response of so many Jews to the pervasive phenomenon of Jew-hatred and its other face, the irrational, extreme, and obsessive hatred of the Jewish state that has suffused half the world in recent times.
It cannot be eliminated by education, especially education about the horrors of the Holocaust, because antisemites believe that the Jews must have deserved what happened to them, and that Hitler proved that it really is possible to finally solve the Jewish problem. Only his tactical mistakes prevented success. They hope to do better.
It also doesn’t work to appeal to the moral sense of today’s little Hitlers. For one thing, they invert morality and claim that it’s actually Israel that commits “genocide” against the Palestinians, who have multiplied at least by a factor of three since Israel’s victory in 1967, while Europe’s Jewish population was reduced by two thirds by the Nazis. One has to be irrational to the point of insanity to argue this. Then there is the apartheid libel. It requires a radical redefinition of the concept, an act of dishonesty which is deliberately undertaken in order to weaponize the justified antipathy to the former South African regime and turn it against Israel and the Jews.
You can’t talk to these people. You can’t mitigate their irrational antagonism with facts or their hatred by appealing to their sense of fairness. And it isn’t our job to do that. “Antisemitism isn’t a Jewish problem” means that we don’t have to try to cure them of it. We are required only to protect ourselves, to fight.
And fortunately for us the solution for the kinetic problem of people trying to kill us, as well as the psychological one that they hold us in contempt and therefore think that it is acceptable to kill us, is the same: national power, in every way: military, economic, and social. It’s obvious what’s meant by the first two, but just a word about “social” power: it is the ability of a society to agree on its goals and move toward them, without being obstructed by interest groups with agendas that contradict one another – and some of them with agendas which are anti-state. Clearly this is Israel’s biggest problem today.
Power creates deterrence, power engenders respect, and power even creates fear, which is not entirely a bad thing. Increasing our power ought to be our highest priority national goal. It is a good thing that Israel has nuclear weapons, and it would be a good thing if Israel had more offensive systems, rockets, drones, whatever. Si vis pacem para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war.
And we do want peace. But the idea that we can get it by concessions, by giving up land to our deadly enemies, has been proven wrong over and over by recent history. Instead of encouraging our enemies, we should push forward with aggressive Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, as well the reconquest of those parts of the country that have been slipping away from Jewish control. Again, this has both a physical effect, distancing the enemy from our homes, and a psychological one of creating deterrence and respect.
But it isn’t easy. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert exemplified defeatism when he said,
We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors, and I believe that this is not impossible…
The feeling is understandable, but it is an impossible dream, in conflict with reality. Most Israelis awoke from that dream some time ago, but now it is time for them to take the next step, which is to understand that it is not enough just to not surrender: if we do not advance, then we in essence retreat. We must advance, in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley; in the Negev and the Galil; in the Golan Heights and in the “mixed cities” of Lod, Acco, and Yafo, where Jews were recently made to live in fear of pogroms as in the days of the Russian Empire.
We don’t need to make Europeans feel sorry for us. We don’t need to make Palestinians be our friends. In fact, we don’t need to care what they think, as long as everyone knows that we are prepared to fight, ferociously if need be, for what rightfully belongs to us.
Your points are spot on. When I meet (non-Jewish) people and they express their views on the concept of Zionism and Israel those who are pro-Zionist invariably articulate feelings of respect towards us- never pity.
They did a survey of one of the most antisemitic countries in the world around the time of the 6 Day War. Any guesses which country I’m talking about? Let me digress and tell you a short story which answers this question.
I am a son of Holocaust survivors. My mother taught me about antisemitism when I was a boy. I can’t forget this story:
We were walking in downtown Toronto when a man approached us and asked my mother for directions. When she replied, he said ‘I notice you have an accent. Where are you from?’
She replied ‘I’m Jewish’.
He said ‘I didn’t ask your religion, I asked where you are from?’
Again she answered ‘I’m Jewish’.
He shook his head and walked off.
I was upset at my mom. I knew that despite being born in Poland and surviving the war in a gulag in Siberia, she knew English quite well and was well read in English too.
I told her: ‘Mom I’m disappointed in you. I thought your English was better than that!’
She rebuked me ‘Just because I happen to be born in one of the most antisemitic countries in the world, it doesn’t mean that I have to advertise for them!’
I apologized immediately and had a smile from cheek to cheek. I was so proud of my mother right then. I probably became a Jewish activist, then and there.
So yes beautiful Poland. The country that was loaded with Gentiles who hated us to death and only had one complaint about Hitler. That he didn’t finish the job!
Back to the survey: Apparently they also surveyed Poles years earlier about what they thought about Israel. Years earlier they despised Israel no less than they despised the Jews of Europe. But after Israel clobbered their Arab enemies in the 6 Day War, the Poles for the first time in their pathetic history, mostly had good things to say about Israel and her Jewish citizens and the brave IDF. I think we could sum it up with one word: Respect. In many ways it’s a familiar feeling, when a small kid finally stands up to the bully who has been harassing him forever.
Vic, you spelled it out! We shouldn’t give a damn what others think. We need to forcefully demand what’s best for us. Being nice to people who want us dead is NOT a smart move. Speaking to the German government during Yom Hashoa was a lost opportunity. We want to be left alone in peace. If we have to beat the shit out of every single enemy or kill them to do it, so be it. The road to hell is paved with good intentions….
You so often think out and spell out clearly a perception that I only sense. I felt the crying of Levy wrong and even shameful but did not articulate to myself the reason for this. How right you are about power and respect, and about the wrongness of asking to be pitied. The support the Germans give to the Palestinian takeover of Area C is hostile action.. The laments about the past cover up the crimes of now. And we are fools to go along with this.
Another excellent article, in which I concur with all your points, in particular your comment on “social” power. On this I am deeply disturbed.
I believe the current Israeli “government” is well on the way to destroying the Zionist ethos, aided by all the fellow travelers inside and outside the country. Melanie Phillips has written that “the west’s appeasement mentality reflects a more profound and devastating weakness — that it is no longer prepared to defend itself because it has lost its belief that its culture is worth dying for”. To my deep distress, the land of the Lotus Eaters is exhibiting this existential weakness.
I agree. Pity does not stop anti-Semitism. Only the show of strength does. In Korea every child learns self-defence. Every Jewish child should learn self defence in the synagogues. Israel no longer has secure friends. It should therefore annex Judea and Samaria to enlarge its borders to ensure that the whole country is safe from Islamists and their followers. Being a mench is not a means of self -defence – it is an invitation to being bullied.
BTW – Israel does not have to annex Judea and Samaria as it is already Israel’s territory.
Simply stated, your essay is excellent, and, correct.