National Review Online
22 June '10
Mark Steyn recently reminded us of some European polling from a few years ago, showing that the public consensus was growing on the Continent that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace. The recent global rage against Israel over the Gaza flotilla incident suggests that the trend has not abated. But the American people are resisting it — a recent poll shows them supporting Israel over the flotilla activists by a margin of 49 percent to 19 percent. But as someone who was a child in the late 1960s and early 1970s, at a time when public consciousness of the history of the Holocaust was on the rise, and the bravery of Israel in defense of its values against heavy odds in the Six Day War captured the imagination, I think the trend toward hatred of Israel is more than counterintuitive; it suggests insanity. In a context of fanatical regimes brandishing genocidal threats, posing a danger not just to Israel itself but to the whole world, it would make more sense for global solidarity with Israel to be on the rise. The rest of the world has even more at stake in Israel today than we did when the recapture of the Old City stirred so many romantic hearts.
I happened to be reading Elie Wiesel’s 1970 novel, A Beggar in Jerusalem, which is set in the period of the 1967 war and its aftermath. The main character recounts a conversation with his Hasidic master, for whom he had a question: “I can conceive of God’s wanting to punish us for reasons that are His and not necessarily ours; but why do entire nations, so many nations, aspire to become His whip, His sword?” The rabbi responds:
“The Jews are God’s memory and the heart of mankind. We do not always know this, but the others do, and that is why they treat us with suspicion and cruelty. Memory frightens them. Through us they are linked to the beginning and the end. By eliminating us they hope to gain immortality. But in truth, it is not given to us to die, not even if we wanted to. Why? Perhaps because the heart, by its nature, by its vocation too, cannot but question memory. We cannot die, because we are the question.”
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