I took part in a discussion recently on Blog Catalogue which focused, or began to focus, on the right of Israel to exist as a nation. It was quite illuminating, not because it added anything of substance to my own views on this issue, but because it made me aware of a new trend, a new mode of thought, one that looks like becoming a feature of policy making in the cabinet rooms and chanceries of the West.
I’ll come to this a bit later but first a word or two about the debate in question. In the course of it I mentioned that I once visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the place where all the victims of the Holocaust are memorialised. One of the features is a darkened room, a hall of mirrors, where candles seemed to burn, like stars, into infinity. As one stands there the names and ages of the children who were murdered by the Nazis are read out. I wept, I admit it, freely and uncontrollably. How could any Jewish person in the world feel safe, I asked in the debate, without the existence of Israel?
The response was not one I anticipated. I was told that they were less (an emphasis was placed on less) safe “with the creation of Israel and the threat of war and possible world annihilation.” It’s a deeply confused and sophistical point of view, based on an incomprehension or a wilful ignorance of history.
In the 1930s the Jews of Europe had no refuge or recourse. All doors were shut. Now the state of Israel is a Noah’s Ark, a sanctuary in extremities. It’s unlikely that the vast majority of Jewish people around the world will ever go there, or need to go there, but at least they have that option. They will never again, so long as Israel exists, be cast into the shadows.
The threat of war, moreover, comes not from the existence of Israel but from the rise of new forms of obscurantist barbarism, represented most particularly by the clerical fascist regime in Iran, a place where women are stoned to death while scientists try to develop atom bombs. It’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country’s Holocaust-denying president, who gives succour to the murderous fanatics of Hamas, those purveyors of Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
I think the view of my interlocutor is, sad to say, increasingly typical. There are a growing number of people, particularly in the United States, who would sacrifice Israel for the sake of ‘world peace.’ But we have been here before. In 1938 the British and French sacrificed Czechoslovakia at Munich for the sake of ‘world peace.’ Saying peace, peace, when there is no peace. They were to find out the truth of this the following year.
We are now faced with the new appeasers, those who would commit the same errors, not knowing the price they will eventually have to pay. Not knowing or not caring, for blind ideological reasons. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, George Santayana wrote. This was never truer than it is today.