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The Jewish problem, from anti-Judaism to anti-Semitism

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Chapter 29: From Jewish Problem to Jewish Survival, Part Three

 

X. A Jewish Solution to the Jewish Problem?
 
Germany was arguably the most scientifically advanced and cultured country of the early 20th century. Yet it was just such a country that was capable of democratically placing in office the architect of the Holocaust. Yes Germany had lost the First World War, was in the throes of the Great Depression, of hyperinflation. And their victims, “the Jews,” self-convinced that their increasing social isolation, avoidance by their neighbors, restrictions in employment and entertainment: even as antisemitism intensified German Jewry insisted that their fatherland was, as they willed it, truly the “exception” of their longing. 
 
Hitler had long considered the United States Germany’s natural ally, particularly with America’s history of support for himself, his party and its social mission. Nor was his dream of such an alliance unfounded: many in the United States as late as 1941 identified with his war aims regarding “godless” Russian communism. Charles Lindbergh, an American aviation icon and long-time admirer of Hitler was, as many Americans. an antisemite. An America Firster, Lindbergh was courted by the Republican Party to challenge Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential elections. Had Lindbergh accepted the invitation he very likely would have defeated the Democrat. And the outcome of the war and the fate of American Jewry might well have turned out very different. 
 
Jewish perception of Germany and America as “exceptional” would likely have resulted in the same end had the United States chosen neutrality or, more likely, joined Hitler in his crusade against the “godless,” anti-capitalist communists in Moscow. Nor should much comfort be taken from the existence of America’s legal guaranties provided by such founding documents as its Constitution and Bill of Rights. Such “guarantees” exist only so long as the “rule of law” remains. Is it inconceivable that under severe social/economic stress a charismatic populist such as a “hitler” could, as in Weimar Germany, be democratically elected president in the United States? Faced with the flight of Eastern European Jewry seeking a refuge in America at the end of the nineteenth century the U.S. Congress passed successive restrictive legislation with near unanimity which closed the gates of refuge to Jews. And based on that legislation arguably the most “liberal” and sympathetic to “the little guy” president of the twentieth century chose to ignore the pleas of European Jewry facing Auschwitz. Is faith in an American “exceptionality” contradicted by such exceptions as widespread antisemitism which peaked during the Holocaust; an American government that could have set a moral example to the world but chose instead to passively permit the Holocaust to proceed: Does this describe a country “exceptional” in the history of Western antisemitism? Or does this sound a future affirmation of Alex Bein’s description of Jewish failure to respond to danger in his 1990 book, The Jewish Question: 
 
“almost all periods of great violence, at least since the Middle Ages, have caught the Jews by surprise and found them unprepared… the persecutions began with particular severity and intensity especially when the Jews position was so secure and their relationship to their environment well ordered that there was no thought of attacks and major violence—at least not in their country, their house.” 
 
 
We Jews stand at a crossroad. Two thousand years as persecuted minority have conditioned us to sense the danger otherwise invisible in our immediate surroundings. Consciously or not we seek to avoid awareness through assimilation and conversion. Agreeing with Theodor Herzl, who would blame if such an escape were truly available, and secure? But two thousand years history repeatedly proves that conversion is a fragile reed upon which to secure escape even when Christianity was governing authority and seemingly invited conversion. Almost always ecclesiastic “welcome” turned to suspicion regarding the sincerity of the converted. And even after generations, such suspicion surfaced and the children and grandchildren of converts, some at highest levels of Church hierarchy, were hunted down by inquisitors, tortured to confess and burned at the stake as “heretics.” Neither did the hunt for the “insincere” end at Europe’s Atlantic shore but followed Columbus to the New World to hunt down converts and their descendents. 
 
Closer at hand are those 1935 Nuremberg Laws that defined as “Jew” a faithful Christian with even a single Jewish convert grandparent (hence Israel’s Grandparent Amendment). With Nuremberg’s Mischlinge laws as legal precedent what hope those among us hidden by assimilation and conversion will survive the next and likely successful Final Solution to Christendom’s Jewish Problem? 
 
In an earlier version of my closing chapter I suggested possible alternative and temporary refuges outside Israel in the unlikely event that all Diaspora Jewry would en masse and spontaneously choose emigration. In the year or so since that was written it has become increasingly clear that the existential threat posed by antisemitism in the west has leaped the boundaries of Christendom and is today an increasingly global problem. What was but a few decades ago a threat born of and limited to Christendom (Islam also, but that is more political than religious today) is fast spreading into a global cult attacking Jews and the state of the Jews. And even as civilians continue to be massacred daily in Syria, as Christians and Muslims in East Africa daily engage in revenge slaughter bordering on genocide; somehow it is Israel that is daily demonized globally as “oppressor of the Palestinians” somehow justifying a spreading virus of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). BDS represents the deligitimazation, the ultimate destruction of Israel. The Holocaust an event of the past and future, antisemitism now would threaten six million Israeli Jews, trap once again Diaspora Jewry denied its sole refuge facing that future Final Solution to the Jewish Problem. 
 
And so this present Conclusion to my book ends on a somewhat different, more sober note. Facing another eventual Holocaust in the West with growing antisemitism in the non-Christian world, I recall Israel’s history that between 1948 and 1952, a period in which Israel had few resources, little industry, limited social infrastructure and no money for large-scale immigration. Yet even under those harsh conditions Israel reached out and welcomed refugees from such distant places and diverse populations as Holocaust survivors still incarcerated in German DP camps, and Jews evicted and at risk from Yemen, Iraq, Egypt and Syria. At a time of poverty and great sacrifice Israel, with a population of barely 600,000 managed to successfully absorb 711,000 immigrants! Israel today is a technology world leader with an economy strong and expanding. Israel today is essentially energy independent, a net exporter of natural gas. Long a pioneer of agriculture technology Israel is today the world leader in salt water desalination, teaching poor and arid countries how to farm with minimal water availability. Were that miracle I described of every Diaspora Jew facing our uncertain present and certain future to emigrate as one to Israel absorption would not be easy, but it would be achievable, and successful. 
 
Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish People created Israel to serve as refuge to our threatened Diaspora. With his 1882 pamphlet Autoemancipation Leon Pinsker inspired the first Zionist youth movement, Hoveivei Zion. And within months of its appearance ten young Jews laid the foundation for the future Rishon LeZion, today a thriving Israeli city of 230,000. It was for this reason that the Diaspora created Israel, to provide that which the West denied, refuge from state-sponsored murder. When the need again arises; when the Lesson of History is understood in its fullness and we come to appreciate the eternal threat we face in the Diaspora Israel will be there to absorb us. We the tiny surviving remnant. And Israel, united at last, will face the future far stronger for the effort. 
 
I can think of no better ending for this book than to quote three pillars of Zionism, three who saw clearly the Problem even if there was as yet no name for it: 
 
Leon Pinsker: 
 
“Judeophobia… is hereditary, and as a disease transmitted for two thousand years it is incurable.” 
 
Theodore Herzl: 
 
“We might perhaps be able to merge ourselves entirely into surrounding races, if these were to leave us in peace for a period of two generations. But they will not leave us in peace… We are one people--our enemies have made us one without our consent.” 
 
And Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Poland, 1937 who clearly saw the smoke five years before Auschwitz crematoria:
 
“Eliminate the Diaspora or the Diaspora will eliminate you!” 
 

 

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