It was all too easy to engage in wishful thinking and assume that the Germans would stick to the plan they had announced. The Germans had succeeded in dividing the Jews of the ghetto into two groups – those destined for deportation, and those hoping to evade the danger.
Moshe Arens, Flags over the Warsaw Ghetto.
With obvious name changes, the same dichotomy of orientations can be ascribed to the citizens of the sovereign Jewish state, here and now.
There are those among us who serially find it “all too easy to engage in wishful thinking” and assume that the Arabs would honor their announced commitment to peace.
Despite all the ill-will and treachery with which each and every one of our existentially risky concessions had been repaid, the Arabs had succeeded in dividing the Jews of Israel into two groups – those destined to suffer and those trusting that they would evade the danger.
Doubtless, the above analogy is sure to stir up scorn and righteous indignation. The self-appointed guardians of other people’s consciences cannot but be scandalized to the core. The overbearing priests of our political correctness disdain historical parallels, especially those that hark back to the darkest days of the Jewish past – with the glaring exception of parallels they themselves draw in the service of spiteful taunts.
But, as the old adage goes, anyone who doesn’t learn from history is doomed to relive it. Of course, there are no absolute replicas of what was. Circumstances and protagonists inevitably differ. But overall directions, processes and mindsets – as well as their derivatives and consequences – may well be spine-chillingly similar.
In Warsaw of 1942 desperate Jews made concessions in blood. Powerless, they passively sacrificed thousands of lives in hope that they would thereby buy respite. In today’s Israel, hardly desperate Jews clamor to make hazardous territorial concessions in the hope that they’d thereby buy peace or at least a respite.
Reading former defense minister Arens’ detailed account of life inside the Warsaw Ghetto is likely to conjure overwhelming sensations of déjà vu in many readers. The pivotal types are frighteningly like those we encounter among Israel’s own intellectuals, random omniscients and, above all, among our political hacks and functionaries.
Scarier yet, their rationalizations and excuses for timidity are indistinguishable, despite the admitted dissimilarity of conditions and degree of distress. Warsaw Jewry’s internal squabbles, petty political rivalries, pedantic quibbling, harping on incidentals and fixated delusions all thrive here.
This is what foremost makes Arens’ text so hair-raising. It’s not the deliberate deletion from our collective memory of the ghetto’s Betar-based Jewish resistance in favor of its socialist counterpart. That shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the slanted historiography of the pre-state struggle for Israel’s independence.
On July 23, 1942, as the deportations to Treblinka began, “representatives of the political parties and movements in the ghetto met in an emergency session to discuss the situation and decide on what action to take,” Arens narrates. “Despite the terrible threat hanging over the Jews of Warsaw, the Revisionists were still not invited, were still ostracized. The Revisionist view was well known – they were for active resistance against the Germans.”
”The Revisionists were always hotheads,” ruled acclaimed historian Dr. Ignacy-Yitzhak Schipper, once a Polish parliamentarian. He asserted that “it is impossible to liquidate a population of half a million souls. The Germans will not dare exterminate the largest Jewish community in Europe. They will still have to reckon with world public opinion.”
Denial and defeatism came to be portrayed as unquestionable prudence. Schipper – who himself would perish at Majdanek eleven months later – expressed the prevailing wisdom of the gathering:
We are “paying the price in order to salvage the core of our people. Were I not convinced that we can succeed in saving the core, I, too, would come to a different conclusion. There are times in the history of a people when they cannot and should not fight, when fighting in unfavorable conditions would lead to a loss of what could have been rescued otherwise. It is better to write off those being sent away and at that price save the others. We have no moral right to endanger all the Jews of Warsaw. We have to save what can be saved.”
To hear our justice minister Tzipi Livni – chosen bizarrely to lead the Israeli delegation to John Kerry’s pro forma resuscitated yet ultimately misnamed peace process – her alacrity to bargain away Israel’s vital footholds is motivated by the need “to save what can be saved.” As she relentlessly repeats before any available microphone, “the only way to keep Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state” is to create a “Palestinian state for the Palestinians.”
Not subscribing to her vision, she declares in her ever-authoritative clipped cadences, means that “the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River could one day have an Arab majority, essentially marking the end of Zionism.”
To paraphrase: by exposing Israel’s densest population centers – the Jewish state’s soft underbelly – to daily rocketing and other lethal predations, we’d be paying a price for saving (in her own oft-recited words) “the core Jewish values.”
Making a deal and squeezing Israel perilously back into what ultra-dove Abba Eban famously described as “the Auschwitz borders,” is according to Livni “not about rights, but about the future of our children.” It’s her way or there’s no future.
Livni’s defeatism isn’t an isolated hang-up. MK Ofer Shelach (Yesh Atid), who aspires to head the key Knesset Defense and Foreign Relations Committee, opined that we’ve already lost that hallowed “core of Jewish values.” His mantra is that occupation corrupts, that the territories are a liability and that the sooner we terminate the occupation the better.
Yet in the case of Israel’s peculiar “occupation,” all that gets corrupted is our deterrent potential – which we a priori relinquish, making instead do with reluctantly containing genocidal adversaries and reacting to their initiatives.
Those who don’t utilize the force they possess, don’t seek quick victory and acquiesce to a prolonged conflict, tarnish their own image and embolden their enemies to introduce deadlier tactics. Half-hearted responses strengthen enemy resolve, increase noncombatant casualties and invite international censure.
Moreover, only for Jews are territories a liability. All other nations on earth regressively regard them as assets, which none has ever voluntarily ceded.
Unilaterally divesting ourselves of strategic assets (i.e. the late Ariel Sharon’s Disengagement) has already rendered us more vulnerable and allowed our implacable foes to import more sophisticated, more accurate, more destructive and longer-range weaponry. Recurrently, bloody warfare had ensued as a direct outcome of our moves to unload the liability.
Shelach’s abrasive babble inculcates in his listeners the notion that Israelis willfully, with no provocation, crossed the blessed Green Line one sunny June morning in 1967, snuffed out Palestinian sovereignty (nonexistent though it was) and sadistically subjugated the ancient Palestinian nation (which was unknown before the advent of modern Zionism).
He omits to mention that the territory in question isn’t foreign but directly contiguous to our incredibly narrow-waisted state – an integral part of our ancestral homeland. Nonetheless, we didn’t take it until forced to defend our very lives.
The incontrovertible reality is that just as Schipper couldn’t read the Germans and couldn’t remotely influence them, so Livni, Shelach and their like can’t read the Arabs and can’t influence them. The cardinal failing here is an inclination to dress up the truth and attribute to the adversary the pundit’s own logic.
Livni’s ill-advice could imprison us all behind fences and protective walls, while Hamas and al-Qaida cohorts celebrate our folly with missile barrages into every Israeli city.
This isn’t panic-mongering. Each and every warning on the eve of each and every misguided Israeli withdrawal had been vindicated and then some. Sadly, this inspired no sobering second-thoughts or even minimal humility among the Livnis, whose pompous pontifications escalate as their political prospects decline.
Although the Arab realm deteriorates before our astonished eyes into medieval ethnic/tribal/clannish splinters, our inveterate know-it-alls hanker to establish another artificial Mideastern state for another synthetic Arab nation of recent manufacture.
With blinkered arrogance they natter about the two-state solution, as if the Arab side had ever at all accepted the legitimacy of a Jewish state.
Even if we submit to Livni’s perceptions and grant that what the world now most urgently needs is another decomposing and dysfunctional Arab state, this won’t further the two-state cause because the Arabs don’t acknowledge Jewish rights to self-determination. Ramallah figurehead Mahmoud Abbas has just told us without any hesitation that “We won’t recognize and accept the Jewishness of Israel.” No ifs, ands or buts.
Under the two-state guise, both Ramallah and Gaza aim is to replace Israel with another Arab entity. Unfortunately Livni-brand noise-makers love the sound of their own voices but won’t listen to authentic pronouncements by their supposed peace-partners.
Here it’s Fatah hotshot and purported moderate Jibril Rajoub who matters and not Livni’s expedient posturing.
Rajoub – whose parting shot at the deceased Sharon was to denigrate him as a “war-criminal” – has informed us thatall of Israel is “occupied” Palestine. As he put it, “all of Palestine – from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea – it’s all occupied.” The clear upshot is that there’s no room for Israel.
Earlier, Rajoub had told the Hezbollah-affiliated television network Al-Mayadeen that “for now we don’t have nuclear weapons, but in the name of Allah, if we had atom bombs, we’d use them on Israel.”
This may not be what Livni wants us to pay heed to, but our survival hinges on non-selective hearing. Otherwise we’d fall prey to outright disinformation, like the ghetto politicians who spread “the hope that the deportations were going to be limited, that a certain number of Jews were going to be allowed to remain in the ghetto.”
Livni, Shelach and their ilk dull our self-preservation instincts as well. They sell us false hope, much as Schipper tragically did in far more dire times. The details are incomparable but the essence is too comparable for comfort.
After the long talking fest from which yesteryear’s right-wing “hotheads” were barred, Arens relates, “it was decided to postpone a decision because it was rumored that on the first of September deportations were going to end. And so it went – every time the subject was discussed, there was a rumor that the deportations were about to end.”
So much for pernicious wishful thinking.
Sarah Honig is a National Israeli Treasure, often that seemingly lone voice in the wilderness that calls out to the frenzied talking heads to pause and consider what they are doing and saying when they “go along to get along”.
The present Middle East situation is Hans Christian Anderson’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” come to life.
The Arabs are following the Third Reich’s overall Blue Print to the letter.
If a lie is big enough no one will believe it cannot be the truth.
When people become unnerved enough and exhausted enough and desperate enough to crave any solution to their problems- however ill considered, they are prone, nay- they are anxious to believe what any normal, clear thinking individual can recognize as a form of sheer suicide.
It boggles the mind that after the Fiasco of Gaza, which became a virtual massive military launching pad for missiles and rockets, overnight, that people would not see the Arabic handwriting on the walls everywhere in the Middle East.
But just as in the Fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, the clothes that do not exist, no one wants to become a target by pointing out the obvious reality that the Arabs have always wanted one thing and one thing only- a One State Solution- that is 100 % Judenfrei from the Jordan River to the Sea.
Those who believe otherwise, that the Arab States do not envision the dream that they will one day see a Middle East “cleansed” of any Jewish presence, as the Nazis tried to achieve during The Holocaust, are like the walking blind during the 1930’s and early 1940’s who believed it was a sheer impossibility that the Germans could actually be contemplating the mass Genocide of the entire Jewish People.
Woe unto the world and in particular the State of Israel that so many fail to see that Mr. Kerry is Hans Christian Anderson’s “Emperor” personified who is either afraid to admit the facts of history in the Middle East do not reflect and/or substantiate his self delusions or even more scary and troubling- that Mr. Kerry and his handlers fully realize their goals will feed the Jews to the slaughter.
If only it were possible to clone a million Sarah Honig’s and situate them in every part of the known world.
I would sleep a lot better at night.
A perfect political analogy dear Sarah !
HERE is the solution:
The two state solution already EXISTS in reality…about 40 % of the Arabs living in the areas of Judea and Samaria and Gaza are now living in Gaza…
Israel could make Gaza an independant political entity, a sovereign state, which would NOT worsen the already existing security problems.
A large part of the “demographic time bomb” would become neutralised and the Arabs would CELEBRATE their new found state.
The political forces of Gaza would for sure NOT reject that bargain delivered on a silver plate.
They would make Gaza their state and their international allies would support them.
Gaza is not just a security liability, it is also Israels BIG political asset !
The former Jewish residents of Gaza already payed the price for THAT two state solution and NOW is the time, to make the best out of that sacrifice.
That solution seems to be something like a taboo, the time has come, to break that taboo and to use what is best for Israel !
Give, what can be given and save what MUST be saved, has to be the political imperative.
As always Sarah right on the button!!
I was about to add my words of wisdom but decided the important message here is yours and should instead be coming up with ideas on how to communicate it to a larger audience!!!!!!!!!!! I email my contacts but I think we all need to be thinking global!!!
Answers on a postcard please!!
Dear Sarah, its nice to have you back!, there were very few voices of reason over the holiday period, seems like everyone is rushing ahead with this 2 state joke, even when the position from the Arab side shows no element of compromise towards the idea of peace, they simply dont care for it, this or any plan is only a stage in their big plan…of which Israel has no part, how is it that so few see what it so obvious? America is an important ally, but how long must Israel play this game? the Pal’s dont want real peace, they keep moving the goal posts, changing demands, when more and more is asked of Israel…? your parallel to the WWII period is disturbingly familiar, tough times for your nation, tough times ahead, Iran is laughing..time is passing…
What could be more tragic than to have forgotten what happened in Warsaw?
Sarah…thanks for a clear, concise, well-written and chillingly true commentary. Unfortunately, you, I and all those who believe that History is repeating itself (and we are in the a minority) seem to be spitting into the wind. The older generations are tired of fighting the same fight over again. The younger generations are effectively ignorant of the real facts due to a lack of, or biased, or revisionist History in Elementary/High School. On the College/University level, most Middle Eastern Departments are endowed by questionable sources, including loads of oil money. We are so determined to “light one candle” to save even one life, or Humanity as a whole, that we will sacrifice ourselves like lemmings rushing in the sea. We are our own worst enemy. Where are the voices of a Kushner, Streisand, Spielberg, etc.? Ironically, the only voice emanating from influential Hollywood is Jon Voigt’s, who is not a Jew. The hypocrisy from our former Colonialist allies is abhorrent. How many eons did it take for them to relinquish the territories they deliberately conquered. I fear that Bibi will not stick to his guns and resolve. Israel needs a “hawk” for a leader. Diplomacy sucks! Our President speaks out of both sides and with forked tongue, and Kerry is either a total biased idiot or doing our President’s bidding and dirty work.
well said Leona!,
Kol hakavod with this again good analysis
Yr articles must be published in Hebrew and appear in the Israeli press. A must!
Thanks Sarah 🙂
I have to wonder what Obama threatened Bibi with, to make him stand down on striking Iran. The “Peace Process” is a continuum; either Israel has the initiative or it doesn’t. The Warsaw ghetto is an example of what happens when the target group doesn’t have the initiative, and has zero chance of achieving it. Israel hasn’t yet reached the point of no return, which this article describes as July 23, 1942, in the Warsaw ghetto. Far be it for myself–here in America–to tell Israelis what to do. But let me suggest that just maybe Israel would be better off if they took the offensive in some way. As the article suggests, life improved for Israelis every time they expanded their borders a bit; which were horrifyingly narrow and almost non-contiguous on the 1947 UN Partition map….so will Israel contract or expand? If it contracts, the situation will get worse. Whenever Iran breaks the P5+1 agreement, they will refine enough Uranium to be nuclear. Then it won’t matter if Israel contracts. So what’s left?
A very instructive article. Thank you, Sarah.