There is a lot of worry popping up in the media just now -- "Can Israel Survive?" Don't worry about it. It relates to something that Palestinians, the Arabs, and perhaps most Americans don't realize -- the Jews are never going quietly again. Never. And if the world doesn't come to understand that, then millions of Arabs are going to die. It's as simple as that. Throughout the history of the world, the most abused, kicked-around race of people have been the Jews. Not just during the holocaust of World War II, but for thousands of years. They have truly been "The Chosen People" in a terrible and tragic sense.
The Bible story of Egypt's enslavement of the Jews is not just a story, it is history, if festooned with theological legend and heroic epics. In 70 A.D. the Romans, which had for a long time tolerated the Jews --even admired them as 'superior' to other vassals -- tired of their truculent demands for independence an d decided on an early "Solution" to the Jewish problem. Jerusalem was sacked and reduced to near rubble, Jewish resistance was pursued and crushed by the implacable Roman War Machine -- see 'Masada'. And thus began The Diaspora, the dispersal of Jews throughout the rest of the world.
Their homeland destroyed, their culture crushed, they looked desperately for the few niches in a hostile world where they could be safe. That safety was fragile, and often subject to the whims of moody hosts. The words 'pogrom', 'ghetto', and 'anti-Semitism' come from this treatment of the first mono-theistic people. Throughout Europe, changing times meant sometimes tolerance, sometimes even warmth for the Jews, but eventually it meant hostility, then malevolence. There is not a country in Europe or Western Asia that at one time or another has not decided to lash out against the children of Moses, sometimes by whim, sometimes by manipulation.
Winston Churchill calls Edward I one of England's very greatest kings. It was under his rule in the late 1200's that Wales and Cornwall were hammered into the British crown, and Scotland and Ireland were invaded and occupied. He was also the first European monarch to set up a really effective administrative bureaucracy, surveyed and censused his kingdom, established laws and political divisions. But he also embraced the Jews. Actually Edward didn't embrace Jews so much as he embraced their money. For the English Jews had acquired wealth -- understandable, because this people that could not own land or office, could not join most of the trades and professions, soon found out that money was a very good thing to accumulate. Much harder to take away than land or a store, was a hidden sock of gold and silver coins. Ever resourceful, Edward found a way -- he borrowed money from the Jews to finance imperial ambitions in Europe, especially France. The loans were almost certainly not made gladly, but how do you refuse your King? Especially when he is 'Edward the Hammer'. Then, rather than pay back the debt, Edward simply expelled the Jews. Edward was especially inventive -- he did this twice. After a time, he invited the Jews back to their English homeland, borrowed more money, then expelled them again.
Most people do not know that Spain was one of the early entrants into The Renaissance. People from all over the world came to Spain in the late medieval period. All were welcome -- Arabs, Jews, other Europeans. The University of Salamanca was one of the great centers of learning in the world -- scholars of all nations, all fields came to Salamanca to share their knowledge and their ideas. But in 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella, having driven the last of Moors from the Spanish Shield, were persuaded by the righteous fundamentalists of the time to announce "The Act of Purification". A series of steps were taken in which all Jews and Arabs and other non-Christians were expelled from the count ry, or would face the tools and the torches of The Inquisition. From this 'cleansing' come the Sephardic Jews -- as opposed to the Ashkenazis of Eastern Europe. In Eastern Europe, the sporadic violence and brutality against Jews are common knowledge. 'Fiddler' without the music and the folksy humor. At times of fury, no accommodation by the Jew was good enough, no profile low enough, no village poor enough or distant enough.
From these come the near-steady flow of Jews to the United States. And despite the disdain of the Jews by most 'American' Americans, they came to grab the American Dream with both hands, and contributed everything from new ideas of enterprise in retail and entertainment to becoming some of our finest physicians and lawyers. The modern United States, in spite of itself, IS The United States in part because of its Jewish blood.
Then the Nazi Holocaust -- the corralling, sorting, orderly eradication of millions of the people of Moses. Not some thing that other realms in other times didn't try to do, by the way, the Germans were just more organized and had better murder technology.
I stood in the center of Dachau for an entire day, about 15 years ago, trying to comprehend how this could have happened. I had gone there on a side trip from Munich, vaguely curious about this Dachau. I soon became engulfed in the enormity of what had occurred there nestled in this middle and working class neighborhood.
How could human beings do this to other human beings, hear their cries, their pleas, their terror, their pain, and continue without apparently even wincing? I no longer wonder. At some times, some places, ANY sect of the human race is capable of horrors against their fellow man, whether a member of the Waffen SS, a Serbian sniper, a Turkish policeman in 1920's Armenia, a Mississippi Klansman. Because even in the United States not all was a Rose Garden. For a long time Jews had quotas in our universities and graduate schools. Only so many Jews could be in a medical or law school at one time. Jews were disparaged widely. I remember as a kid Jewish jokes told without a wince - "Why do Jews have such big noses?"
Well, now the Jews have a homeland again. A place that is theirs. And that's the point. It doesn't matter how many times the United States and European powers try to rein in Israel, if it comes down to survival of its nation, its people, they will fight like no lioness has ever fought to save her cubs. They will fight with a ferocity, a determination, and a skill, that will astound us.
And many will die, mostly their attackers, I believe. If there were a macabre historical betting parlor, my money would be on the Israelis to be standing at the end. As we killed the kamikazes and the Wehrmacht soldaten of World War II, so will the Israelis kill their suicidal attackers, until there are not enough to torment them.
The irony goes unnoticed -- while we are hammering away to punish those who brought the horrors of last September here, we restrain the Israelis from the same retaliation. Not the same thing, of course -- We are We, They are They. While we mourn and seethe at September 11th, we don't notice that Israel has a September 11th sometimes every day.
We may not notice, but it doesn't make any difference.
And it doesn't make any difference whether you are pro-Israeli or you think Israel is the bully of the Middle East. If it comes to where a new holocaust looms -- with or without the concurrence of the United States and Europe -- Israel will lash out without pause or restraint at those who would try to annihilate their country.
The Jews will not go quietly again.