Back in the 1970’s, I remember watching a television report about the civil war in Lebanon. Etched in my memory was an interview with a nameless woman who described how she lived when her street was targeted by snipers picking off ordinary civilians at whim. Her words went something like this: We go out in the early morning, because at that time the snipers are still sleeping. And then in the heat of the day, because they are tired, she said matter-of-factly. Her words struck me with horror not so much for their content, because after all what was the poor woman to do; she had to go out sometime to buy food for her family. No, what chilled my bones was that this had all become the new normal for her. She had accepted the situation, and it had become a way of life with no recollection of any other way to live.
This, most of all, is the true danger of the current conflict between Israel and the brutal terrorists on her borders. As my son told me the other day about occupying my grandchildren during the summer while rocket attacks and sirens were going off non-stop all over the country: “We’ve sort of gotten used to it.”
Let me preface what I am about to say next by framing it in the following context: I think Israelis, including my son, are the bravest, most resourceful and intelligent people on earth. I think that they are a generous, inventive, creative, kind, humane, life-loving people who are the least deserving of hatred of any nation on earth.
But I can actually can think of many others on our small planet who deserve to be defamed, libeled, marched against, boycotted, hated and shunned.
People who play soccer with human heads (couldn’t believe my eyes). People who behead others and show it on YouTube. People who teach children to play at cutting off the heads of dolls and then proudly upload videos of the little darlings in the act with their sawing knives and headless dolls. People who rent out their twelve-year old daughters to jihadi rapists. People who throw acid in the faces of women who reject their advances. People who pull others off the street and execute them.
You get the picture. For the life of me, I don’t understand why they are not being targeted by the do-gooders and the outraged liberals. I don’t understand why for journalists it is only news if they are Jews.
In the middle of personally going a bit nuts after a slew of funerals of the handsomest, kindest, most wonderful young men on earth, our IDF soldiers, I went on a long-planned holiday, a Baltic cruise which started out in Copenhagen and anchored in Helsinki, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and a few other stops I’ve already forgotten.
Walking through the streets of a peaceful European city was a bit of a shock at first. It was like getting reacquainted with sanity. All those blondes on bicycles in Denmark, the wind in their hair, adorable little babies in bicycle sidecars. People in outdoor cafés, on boat rides, strolling through green, blooming gardens on a summer day. In my mind’s eye, I tried, for just a moment, to envision a siren going off, and everyone scurrying for cover.
But it was impossible.
Ahh, so this is what it was like, once, not so long ago, that thing called normalcy.
I thought of the beginnings of World War II, when Haile Selassie raised his voice in 1935 when Italy barbarously invaded his little country. “…there is no precedent for a people being victim of such injustice and being at present threatened by abandonment to its aggressor.” To the eternal shame of the world, his stirring plea fell on deaf ears as the world went on with the business of trying to get along with Hitler in order to maintain their own quiet lives.
History bears out how well that strategy worked.
What I find most frightening and incomprehensible is how few people remember this. Is it real ignorance or willed ignorance? I have not yet decided. Young people seem so oblivious to human history. They can tell you how many times Selena Gomez has broken up with Justin Bieber, but I seriously doubt they could tell you anything about even the history of the last ten years, let alone the last hundred years of the planet earth.
And it’s not just the young. Stupid young people grow into stupid old people. Those who lived through history can also choose not to remember, if the vitriol against Israel coming out of Great Britain is any indication. Blitz? What Blitz? The Allied bombing of Dresden in retaliation? Say what?
It’s a convenient amnesia no doubt brought on by the march of the new forces of barbarism that have invaded the free world under the guise of immigration. The violent demonstrations all over Europe in support of the slaughtering hordes of rapists-kidnappers, and genocidal, racist maniacs united under their newly minted version of Islam have taken over the lovely streets of Paris, the sidewalks of London’s High Street and other European main streets too numerous to count. Their ugly, anti-Semitic slogans pollute the walls of the once civilized world. If you haven’t seen it with your own eyes, you will. Wherever you live, they are soon coming to a street near you.
Jews, for obvious reasons, don’t have the luxury of forgetting our history. Of all the peoples on earth, we are the least willing to repeat it, for obvious reasons.
I was fascinated by the history of the Jews in all the places I visited. Without exception, Jewish presence all over Europe followed the same pattern. Jews were expelled. Then certain Jews, for certain reasons, were temporarily “permitted” to settle in certain towns for a certain amount of time, in order to serve the particular needs of the current ruling classes. Then they were kicked out again. And then they trickled back again, until they were kicked out once more.
It seems to me that Europe’s current attitude towards the Jewish State is tainted with a delusional desire to recapture this historical ability to tell Jews where they can and can’t live; what they can and can’t do. Perhaps this is why through the European Union they continue to issue edicts and warnings and demands and come up with ugly blood libels, refusing to accept that history has moved on and that the Jews no longer need the permission of Europe to settle and grow and prosper and create and address their own needs, irrespective of how Europe would like to be served.
Back in the 1770’s Jews were only allowed in Sweden if they converted to Christianity until one Aron Isak, a seal engraver from Germany, rejected this demand: “I would not change my religion for all the gold in the world.” This so impressed the Lord Mayor of Stockholm, that he advised Mr. Isak to talk to King Gustav III, who granted Mr. Isak not only the right to become Sweden’s first Jewish citizen, but to bring with him ten more families so that he could have a minyan.
From a quiet life among a tolerant and liberal population, Jewish life in Sweden and most of Europe has become a nightmare as Muslim immigrants from all over the Islamic world flooded the country, rising to over four percent of the population.
Since the recent war in Gaza, life for Swedish Jews has become even more intolerable. “We have always known that there are those who hate us in Sweden, but this time it was expressed more powerfully, because there were so many anti-Semitic remarks and attacks by anti-Semites that it was impossible to follow. Even among celebrities, politicians and journalists – it was not a criticism of the operation in Gaza, but really hate against Jews,” twenty-two year-old Swedish-Jewish student Victor Borslöv-Reichmann told NRG.
The irony of Europe having historically closed its doors to Jews only to now open them wide to Muslims is hard to ignore. In Sweden, at least, this has not brought blessing. In the first seven months of 2013, over 1,000 Swedish women reported being raped by Muslim immigrants in the capital city of Stockholm, a large percentage pre-teens.
Our boat docked in Stockholm. Lots of lovely buildings. Lots of dark-haired men eyeing Swedish blondes. And many signs decrying the “slaughter” of Palestinians in Gaza.
I flew home to Israel. That first night back, there was a Red Alert in Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, it felt like the new normal.
Even so, it was better than being in Sweden, or any other foreign place where local tranquility is bought by immoral ignorance. But if George Santayana was right when he wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” then it won’t be tranquil in any of those places much longer.
This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post on 29 August 2014.