On the eve of the Second World War, Chaim Weizmann, who was to become Israel’s first president, wrote the following about the persecutions taking place in Nazi Germany:
It would require the eloquence of a Jeremiah to picture the horrors, the human anguish, of this new Destruction and of a new book of Lamentations to depict the present plight of Israel among the nations.
Several decades earlier, Max Nordau, one of the most noted European philosophers of the 19th century, and supporter of Theodore Herzl, once told the great Zionist leader and Jewish patriot, Vladimir Jabotinsky, that “the Jew learns not by way of reason, but from catastrophes. He won’t buy an umbrella merely because he sees clouds in the sky. He waits until he is drenched and catches pneumonia.”
This prescient observation foreshadowed the many anti-Jewish pogroms that followed in the bloodiest of all centuries: the twentieth. It also led, inexorably, to the swallowing up of the Jews of Europe by the calamitous German Nazi juggernaut, complete with enforced ghettoes, roving killing squads (the einsatzgruppen), the death camps, the gas chambers, and the starvation and horrors that forever will darken the face of Europe.
Before the Second World War broke out on September 3, 1939, Jabotinsky repeatedly warned the leaders of the Jewish communities what lay in store for them. He begged them to defend themselves and endeavor to send as many people as possible to safety amongst their fellow Jews in British Mandatory Palestine. This was before the British government slammed shut the gates of Mandatory Palestine to the desperate Jews fleeing Nazi genocide.
Both Max Nordau and Theodore Herzl had, many years earlier, warned the Jews that their future lay not in Europe, but in a reborn Jewish state, hopefully arising in the ancestral and biblical homeland, then known as Palestine and suffering under a 400-year-old Turkish Ottoman occupation.
In his book on the life of Jabotinsky, Shmuel Katz quoted from the great man’s article, “Rattling off the Doloys,” in which Jabotinsky condemned the leaders of the Jewish communities and the assimilationists who refused to consider leaving Europe even as the ground was beginning to burn under their feet. He pleaded with them thus in July 1939:
And I tell you, my dear colleagues, that this means going forward to destruction. D-E-S-T-R-U-C-T-I-O-N. Learn the word by heart; and God grant that I am mistaken. If such words as treachery are being flung around, I regard every one as a traitor who helps to obscure the urgency of the most urgent of all the problems besetting the Jews in Eastern Europe.
And he referred to latent anti-Semitism as the sleeping “beast” which soon will again awaken and show itself among the Jews with redoubled appetite. He added, “May God protect His people from a thousandth part of the pleasures the beast is promising himself in his brief sleep.”
Jabotinsky’s appeals fell on mostly deaf ears, and he was accused of being an alarmist. After all, these leaders countered, how could a civilized nation like Germany do such terrible things? It was unthinkable. And the result — the Holocaust — was unthinkable, with the almost total destruction of European Jewry.
But decades before, the same Jabotinsky saw his dreams of a secure Jewish State in the lands both west and east of the Jordan River eroded by many of his fellow Jewish leaders in the Zionist movement. They preferred to ignore or shrug off the steady betrayal of the Balfour Declaration by successive British politicians.
These Jewish leaders preferred passivity and a reluctance to confront His Majesty’s government even as it diluted its obligations to the League of Nations’ mandate for Palestine, which instructed Great Britain as the mandatory power to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish National Home on both sides of the Jordan River.
Jabotinsky died from a massive heart attack — but also from a broken heart — at a Betar youth camp near the town of Hunter in New York State in 1940. It is no wonder that his profound disappointment at the way Britain reneged on its promises to the Jewish people, and the way many of his own colleagues let him down over many years, led him to sum it all up in the Latin phrase “homo homini lupus – man to his fellow man is a wolf.”
Jabotinsky is buried next to Theodore Herzl on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion. But his life’s work on behalf of the ever-persecuted Jewish masses was undone by far too many of his Jewish and Zionist contemporaries.
Jabotinsky, who almost singlehandedly created the Jewish Legion — which fought heroically and helped liberate the geographical territory of Palestine from the Turkish yoke — forever was forced to fight those of his colleagues who were faint of heart or obscurantist.
Elias Gilner, the author of War and Hope, The history of the Jewish Legion, described Jabotinsky’s Herculean efforts as follows:
He had reached the soul of his people; he had overcome the stolidity and short-sightedness of small men in high places; he had defeated the myopic Zionist “friends” and prevaricating assimilationist foes. He had triumphed.
But, as the above shows, his triumph was fleeting.
Now fast-forward one hundred and seven years to 2012 and to what Jabotinsky would see if he were able to miraculously return to life. The State of Israel, despite often suffering from the same “shortsightedness of small men in high places,” has nevertheless managed wondrous achievements since its rebirth in 1948 in its ancestral and biblical homeland.
But acts so antithetical to all that Jabotinsky stood for continue unabated. Successive Israeli governments expel Jewish villagers and townsfolk from ancestral territory. They have done it both in Gaza and throughout Judea and Samaria (the so-called West Bank). In Gaza, their homes, farms, and schools — and even their cemeteries, where many victims of Arab terror had been buried — were given away to the ever-hostile Muslim Arabs — the same ones who call themselves Palestinians but who are a fraudulent and invented people.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who now lies in a coma, created this plan, which he called “disengagement.” He felt that by arbitrarily retreating from areas of the Land of Israel he would reduce or even end international pressure for further withdrawals. But the United States administration under George Bush and now under Barack Hussein Obama, as well as the international community, jumped upon this concept of retreat and predictably demanded further withdrawals without end.
President Bush, despite claims by Prime Minister Sharon that the president recognized Israel’s communities across the green line, such as Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel, expected Israel to make additional withdrawals. Under President Obama, the demand is for Israel to return to the 1949 armistice lines — described by former Foreign Minister Abba Eban as the Auschwitz borders. This threat still hangs over Israel.
Sharon thus opened a monstrous can of worms and set in motion an unholy precedent. The discredited idea of “land for peace,” whereby Israel always gives away land but never receives peace, was bad enough, but then “disengagement” became a euphemism for all that Jabotinsky fought against in his lifetime.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader and Holocaust-denier, embraced by Presidents Bush and Obama as a “man of peace,” has no intention of ending the appalling anti-Jewish incitement broadcast by his Palestinian Authority-controlled media — in itself a broken Palestinian obligation under the Oslo Accords.
Abbas will continue to press for the U.N.’s acceptance of a state called Palestine with its capital in Jerusalem. If he succeeds, with the willing connivance of an ever more anti-Israel United Nations, the city will be divided again, and — for the first time in history — Arabs and the Islamic world may yet celebrate Jerusalem as the capital of an Arab state. Abbas will still call for Israel to be flooded with the millions of descendants of those Arabs who were urged to leave by their corrupt leadership in the 1948 Arab-Israel war. This, the entire world knows, will mark the end of the one and only sovereign Jewish state — what the fifty-seven Muslim states and so many other nations in the world relish.
Endless concessions to the late Yasser Arafat were greeted by him and by all Arabs as signs of Israeli weakness. Doing the same with Abbas is no different — the practice merely reveals the absence of logic by far too many Israeli politicians and follows the dreary and myopic tradition exemplified by the “short-sightedness of small men in high places.”
In a depressing way, Max Nordau was right about many of his fellow Jews. The present Israeli government, like the leaders of European Jewry before them who spurned and derided the impassioned and desperate pleas of Jabotinsky, the “Jewish Garibaldi,” is in danger of again ignoring the heavy rain clouds above.
But I fear that the world today, especially with Barack Hussein Obama as president and commander in chief of the United States, will repeat what happened to the isolated Jews during the Holocaust: it will look away.
The world, which is still so foolishly dependent on its oil supplies from hate-filled Middle Eastern mullahs, sheikhs, kings, dictators, and tyrants, may for economic reasons — and, sadly, thanks to endemic anti-Jewish prejudices — again do nothing or actively embrace and assist yet another holocaust, this time enveloping the six million Jews of the reconstituted and embattled State of Israel.
Let us hope that, empty White House assurances aside, the Jewish state will finally learn from history and act before it suffers not pneumonia, but an Iranian nuclear winter.