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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