World War II’s legacy

We have had sitting around for months a DVD called The Long Way Home. It’s a documentary about the Jewish survivor’s plight in the three years after World War II. I really didn’t want to watch it, because I knew it would upset me — hence, it’s long sojourn on our coffee table. As it happened, I was right about my reaction, because I, through the whole thing, I just had tears streaming out of my eyes. The footage, most of which I’d never seen before, is just shattering. I’d always seen still shots of the camp’s liberation. This was live footage of the human wreckage left behind by the Nazi insanity. That’s the movie’s beginning point. It then takes us through the absolute chaos that was Europe in the wake of World War II; and the squalor, degradation and despair of the refugee camps (which, until Eisenhower fired him, were managed by Patton, who wrote about Jews in terms that would have done credit to any Nazi). The movie also focuses on two other things that shaped the modern world: the fact that these few survivors found the emotional will to live by focusing on Eretz Israel, the hope of Zionism; and the fact that the British Labor government reneged on every promise it ever made to the Jews.

Watching this movie called to mind a few random thoughts, which I present in no particular order:

1. The movie notes how Jewish settlers worked incredibly hard to smuggle camp survivors into Eretz Israel. After the war, my mother, herself a camp survivor (a Japanese concentration camp), was part of the chain that helped find homes for these refugees once they made it to the Promised Land. One of these refugees was a young man who had been through the camps. His mother had already made it to Tel Aviv, and my mother was assigned the task of reuniting the two. What my mother hadn’t been told was that this young man’s mother had not been forwarned about his arrival, or even his survival. My mother, excited about the forthcoming reunion, slipped through the night with the young man, and knocked on the door. The women opened the door, and my mother proudly announced that she’d brought the woman’s son. The reaction wasn’t what my Mom expected. The women started keening loudly and rocking back and forth. Eventually, unable to control the emotions washing through her, she started pulling at her hair, until she ripped out huge, bloody clumps. My mother left the apartment, with her last view being of the mother and son clutching each other, both coated in the woman’s blood.

2. The British have a lot to answer for in the current world situation. They allowed themselves to be blackmailed by the Arabs and broke promises left and right. Their craven behavior gave the worst Arab extremists a sense of legitimacy, entitlement and power that has lasted to the present day. And it was oil blackmail, not loyalty that drove Britain into the Arab’s arms. In Britain’s darkest hour, while the Arabs were partying with and actively supporting Hitler, those Jews who weren’t dying in the camps were dying on England’s behalf on the battlefields of Europe and North Africa. It was the worst kind of real politik that saw Britain, almost within minutes of WWII’s end, turn her back on her allies and embrace her enemies. It’s beginning to seem like less and less of a coincidence that many consider Britain ground zero for breeding Islamist terrorists in the modern age — a sense that long predated the most recent terrorism scare. That seed was planted long ago.

3. As I noted when describing the movie, the hope that kept so many of these survivors alive was the idea of Eretz Israel. They had been to Hell and back, and this was the Promised Land on earth. Those Jews who had avoided the Holocaust and arrived there before the War understood that they were the living embodiment of a solemn pledge to create a safe haven for Jews. It was this indomitable spirit, this complete belief in the necessity of Israel, and in its moral and spiritual rightness, that allowed every Jew to be a David. When the British broke their last promise after Israel’s creation, and handed over all security points to the Arabs, the Jews fought and survived. When the Arab nations attacked Israel en masse, Israel fought and survived, again and again. Later, Israel had the technology, but in the beginning, all she had was human spirit and ingenuity. My mother, who remembers those days well, believes that Israel did not win this latest war in large part because of the changed population. The current citizens no longer burn with the Zionist spirit. Many, she says, are Russian immigrants who are not even Jewish, but claimed Judaism as a means to escape from the former Soviet Union. To them, Israel is home, and a besieged one at that, but the almost mystical fervor that buoyed up past Israeli fighters is gone. This is not to say that Israeli soldiers aren’t brave and honorable. It’s just to say that the special ingredient that may have given Israel an edge in so many past wars has burned away.

UPDATE: This post has garnered some comments about the Arab response to Israel. The wonderful Paragraph Farmer brought this comment from a Lebanese Christian to my attention:

I was raised in Lebanon, where I was taught that the Jews were evil, Israel was the devil, and the only time we will have peace in the Middle East is when we kill all the Jews and drive them into the sea.

When the Moslems and Palestinians declared Jihad on the Christians in 1975, they started massacring the Christians, city after city. I ended up living in a bomb shelter underground from age 10 to 17, without electricity, eating grass to live, and crawling under sniper bullets to a spring to get water.

It was Israel who came to help the Christians in Lebanon. My mother was wounded by a Moslem’s shell, and was taken into an Israeli hospital for treatment. When we entered the emergency room, I was shocked at what I saw. There were hundreds of people wounded, Moslems, Palestinians, Christians, Lebanese, and Israeli soldiers lying on the floor. The doctors treated everyone according to their injury. They treated my mother before they treated the Israeli soldier lying next to her. They didn’t see religion, they didn’t see political affiliation, they saw people in need and they helped.

For the first time in my life I experienced a human quality that I know my culture would not have shown to their enemy. I experienced the values of the Israelis, who were able to love their enemy in their most trying moments. I spent 22 days at that hospital. Those days changed my life and the way I believe information, the way I listen to the radio or to television. I realized I was sold a fabricated lie by my government, about the Jews and Israel, that was so far from reality. I knew for fact that, if I was a Jew standing in an Arab hospital, I would be lynched and thrown over to the grounds, as shouts of joy of Allah Akbar, God is great, would echo through the hospital and the surrounding streets.

***

Once upon a time, there was a special place in the lowest depths of hell for anyone who would intentionally murder a child. Now, the intentional murder of Israeli children is legitimized as Palestinian “armed struggle.”

However, once such behaviour is legitimized against Israel, it is legitimized everywhere in the world, constrained by nothing more than the subjective belief of people who would wrap themselves in dynamite and nails for the purpose of killing children in the name of God.

Because the Palestinians have been encouraged to believe that murdering innocent Israeli civilians is a legitimate tactic for advancing their cause, the whole world now suffers from a plague of terrorism, from Nairobi to New York, from Moscow to Madrid, from Bali to Beslan.

They blame suicide bombing on “desperation of occupation.” Let me tell you the truth. The first major terror bombing committed by Arabs against the Jewish state occurred ten weeks before Israel even became independent.

On Sunday morning, February 22, 1948, in anticipation of Israel’s independence, a triple truck bomb was detonated by Arab terrorists on Ben Yehuda Street, in what was then the Jewish section of Jerusalem. Fifty-four people were killed, and hundreds were wounded. Thus, it is obvious that Arab terrorism is caused not by the “desperation” of “occupation” but by the VERY THOUGHT of a Jewish state.

UPDATE II: Jonah Goldberg has more on the nexus between Arabs and Nazis, then and now.

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Comments

  1. says

    I worry about Israel also. I knew a trader from Israel who was a tank commander. Back in the early ninties he was all for the Oslo accords because he could not imagine Israel could keep fighting forever. I disagreed because i thought that there was no way the Palentinians would give up trying to destroy Israel. Perhaps we were both right.

    The good news is that the people of Israel realize that mistakes were made and are working to correct them. Olmert was the wrong man for this job. There is no doubt that Hezbollah will continue to attack so Israel must prepare and I think they will. The good news is that only Syria seems to be willing to actively support Hezbollah so we know who must be taken out.

  2. says

    Bookworm,

    If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you rent the movie
    ‘Exodus’ for an equally supportive but less intense view of that period.

    Regardless of the ‘rightness’ of the establishment of Israel, the ‘deed is done’ and the extreme violence of muslim reaction is indefensible.

    Yet in the interest of fairness, I also recommend reading King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein letter to the American people, “As the Arabs see the Jews” written in 1947 and published in ‘The American Magazine’. He was King Hussein of Jordans’ grandfather.

    In my opinion, it is the most clearly reasoned argument for the rejection of the establishment of Israel of which I am aware.

    As historical perspective, it is a superb rendering of the ‘Arab’ point of view.

    King Abdullah Hussein’s article, “As the Arabs see the Jews”
    may be found at:

    http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/kabd_eng.html

  3. says

    The good news is that only Syria seems to be willing to actively support Hezbollah so we know who must be taken out.Bill C

    Probably an oversight on your part Bill but it is Iran who is the real power behind Hezbollah. Syria is primarily a conduit and forward staging groud for Iranian controlled Hezbollah.

  4. says

    I couldn’t get through the movie “Exodus” but have several times read the book. Leon Uris was not a good writer, but he was a damned good story teller.

    I recognize that there is an Arab point of view, although I think there tactics, rhetoric, dishonesty, and genocidal instincts in the last 60 years have destroyed any vestiges of validity I might otherwise have been inclined to accord their position. As you noted, D-Brit, the deed is done, and there are two choices left for the Arabs — live with it gracefully and get on with their lives, or try to destroy the State of Israel entirely, and water the ground with the blood of the Jews. To the extent they’ve manifestly chosen the latter approach, I have no sympathy for their history.

  5. says

    d_Brit,

    I should have made it willing and able. Without Syria, iran has no way to get weapons to Hezbollah.

    As to the essay which you linked, Israel has many Arabs licing peacefully in Israel. If the Palestinians had not chosen the path of violence I have no doubt that they would be living and prospering together. We cannot ignore recent history. Palestianians must prove that they can live in peace over a period of time and then they will get some of what they want. They cannot throw a murderous temper tantrum when they don’t get everything they want.

  6. erp says

    BW, I was only about nine years old when I first saw those pictures in Life Magazine which arrived at our house in the mail every week. We were quite fashionable. At that time in the early 40′s we were the only ones on the block to so indulge ourselves.

    When the mail came, I dove for the magazine as usual and I will never forget those pictures. Right now, nearly sixty years later, my skin is starting to crawl and I have goose pimples and pains in my stomach.

    I need no reminder of them and would go very far out of my way to avoid seeing them again.

    What’s so horrible is that Jews are still not living in a settled world and in fact world sympathy generated by Hitler has been dissipated and even young Israeli’s are anti-war.

    In way as a corollary to this subject, I just read Juan Williams, “Enough.” It’s amazingly well written and I don’t say that lightly. There are few books that are so well written, organized and edited that I don’t have something I can criticize. It’s mostly a paean to Bill Cosby and his plain spoken criticism of the post civil rights movement’s black leadership.

    Of course, I remember those days too and the suffering of the people who through slavery and segregation kept their dignity and never stopped working and hoping for a chance to prove they were equals to any other race. I had tears in my eyes as Williams recounts a bit of the history of the post civil war negroes in the south and the degradation of their suffering by their progeny who take their suffering and throw it back in their faces by “refusing to be like whitey” and instead throw their lives away.

    Williams strives mightily to say it like he sees it, but he just can’t quite let go of the cant he’s lived with all his life. There’s hope though, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he makes it across that wide divide.

  7. says

    Bookworm,
    I agree, that is why I said, “the extreme violence of muslim reaction is indefensible”

    Bill C
    I was only offering Hussein’s article as historical perspective. In 1947, the Arabs had a compelling argument to make.

    Clearly, the Brit’s were taking the only practical solution to the the Jewish refugee camp ‘problem’. King Abdullah’s suggestion that America, et al ‘take’ many Jews was from the Zionist perspective, a ‘non-starter’.

    The tragic irony in all of this is of course that had the Arabs accepted the state of Israel, through political force of numbers they would at the least have major influence in Israeli today and possibly even govern it. Certainly, in time they would have assumed majority status.

    By every measure, the Arabs would have benefited far more by acceptance than rejection of Israel.

    But then, stupidity is infinite…

  8. Danny Lemieux says

    According to the Koran, the Muslims and Dar-es-Salaam (the world of Islam) are favored by God. So, if true, how can it be that Jews are so successful in the “land of the Muslims” when adjoining Muslim societies are such failures? How can America be such a successful world power when that title rightfully belongs to the people “blessed by Allah”? Logically, this can only be so if these countries/peoples are in league with God’s enemy, Satan. Hence, “Big Satan” and “Little Satan”. This is why the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East is not Israel or America or the West…it is traditional Islam itself. Until Islam has a reformation and reconciles itself with other peoples and religions, there cannot be peace in the Middle East, only hudnas. Unfortunately, the Koran also says that such reconciliation is harram (forbidden). The problem today is that, from the Islamofascist point of view, it’s not just the Middle East but the whole world (global caliphate) that is at stake – the terrain of battle has widened. Unfortunately, most people still don’t seem to get that it’s no longer just Israel’s war that’s at stake – it’s all of us!

  9. says

    Well, what did Patton say about the Jews specifically?

    This is not to say that Israeli soldiers aren’t brave and honorable. It’s just to say that the special ingredient that may have given Israel an edge in so many past wars has burned away.

    Jews back then could raise their genkai, their limits. Now, they seem to be limited and restricted, and unable to surpass the limits imposed upon them even though they are stronger in terms of economy, population, technology, etc.

    It just seems to repeat itself. Back in the days of despair, that kind of desperation gave strength. Now in the days of prosperity and safety, that strength is being leeched away. It is the forever cycle of entropy and order, chaos and creation, darkness and light. One cannot be without the other, yet having achieved ultimate order, entropy will drag you back, and having achieved close to all out chaos, order will give you the strength to fight back.

    It’s a weird state of the human condition.

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  1. [...] I mentioned before that I watched The Long Way Home, a documentary about the Jewish experience in the years between the liberation of the camps and the founding of the State of Israel. One of the things that movie reminded me about was the similarities between the tactics Jewish militants used to displace the British and the tactics the Palestinians have used to displace the Jews: bombs. [...]

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