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Cynicism Compounded


Rabbi Berel Wein

The German government justified Kristallnacht on the basis of the shooting of a German consular official in Paris. Germany justified the murder of six million Jews on the basis that the "misfortune" of Germany was the existence of world Jewry. The world then was a little less evenhanded then than it is now. Hitler was able to broadcast on the airwaves of American radio but when he declared war against America he and the other pro-German spokesmen were silenced. No one in America spoke about the suffering of the German civilian population as all of the major cities of Germany were reduced to rubble by Allied bombers. For eight years Israeli citizens living in the south of Israel suffered daily bombardment from the Palestinian terror organizations in the Gaza area. When Israel left the Gaza Strip two years ago, Hamas violently rose to power and armed by Iran and Syria turned the cities of the Israeli south into a war zone. There were no statements about war crimes, disproportionate force, suffering civilians emanating from the peace lovers around the world because after all the victims were Jews. There were no reporters writing heartrending reports about families that lost blood and property from these bombardments. In general, the world, as it is its wont for many centuries, was quite indifferent to Jewish suffering. But when Israel responded over the last two weeks to attempt to prevent the continuing bombardment then the world woke up.

The New York Times in its usual "evenhanded" manner headlines Israel’s refusal to accept the truly non-existent cease fire proposal but does not headline Hamas’ continuing shooting of rockets at Israeli civilian populations. The Human Rights Commissioner (a misnomer if there ever was one) for the United Nations speaks of international law and war crimes. But she speaks only of war crimes as regarding the Israeli military. Hamas and the Palestinians are never mentioned in this type of context. They can do no wrong but the Jews can never do any right. A rocket on Sderot is understandable and somehow justified. A tank shell against a house that houses Hamas terrorists is never justified. Hamas cynically exploits civilian populations, its own as much as ours. Ambulances end up as means of smuggling weapons. Hospitals are command centers for firing rockets. Trucks carrying humanitarian aid to the civilians of Gaza are fired upon by Hamas mortars and then the Red Cross - also notoriously anti-Israel and anti-Jewish in its World War II history and even till now - blames Israel for the "humanitarian crisis." None of this is emphasized in the news reports of the world media if it is reported at all. Hearing lectures on morality from a world that tolerates piracy in Somalia, mass murder in Congo and Darfur, dictatorships from Libya to Venezuela, understandably make little impression on us. Cynicism when practiced for far too long a time reaches its own limits. It is unlikely that Israel will place great trust in the United Nations or in any of the other current mediators and peace lovers who are narrowly focused only on our struggles as though all of the world’s problems and misfortunes stem from our small country. We have already been in that scenario before with very disastrous results for us and the whole world.

I was once flying on a plane in the United States after the Yom Kippur War. The Arab oil boycott was then still in full force and Jews felt more than a tinge of discomfort in the United States then. Sitting with my kippah in the back of the plane I was next to a woman who was obviously a business professional who was working furiously on her papers. Suddenly she looked up, stared at me and said in a loud whisper: "You realize that all of this trouble is your fault." Even though I was taken somewhat aback by her statement, I gathered whatever wits I had and answered softly: "Madam, you are wrong. All of this may be because of me because we are a special people. We are the canary in the mine. But it is not my fault." Israel is fighting the world’s battle in Gaza and not only our battle. Terrorism left unanswered only strengthens itself and spreads. The world knows this to be true but its ingrained cynicism and its historic anti-Jewish attitude blinds itself not to follow its head and instead follow its cynical heart. Perhaps eventually the cynicism will exhaust itself. We should not be impressed or surprised by its existence. But better days will certainly arrive.
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