Comment: Thwarting bin Laden amid memories of Shoah

The obliteration of evil and its perpetrators is a profoundly Jewish concept, as it is also an American one.

May 3, 2011 01:26
3 minute read.

Auschwitz 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

NEW YORK – On Sunday evening in the presence of survivors, I attended a stirring Holocaust memorial service at a prestigious New York synagogue that included video footage of Nazi crimes, testimonies, prayers and the recital of harrowing poetic works.

Following the service I approached one of the survivors, whom I have known for quite some time, and remarked on the moving nature of the ceremony.

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“This is nothing,” he responded with torment in his eyes. “One moment in the camps could not be captured by a thousand such events.”

Shortly afterward, President Barack Obama announced that American troops in Pakistan had killed Osama bin Laden in a covert operation earlier in the day. While I listened to the TV pundits updating viewers on the emerging details, and watched images of jubilant and triumphant crowds gathering in Washington and New York, I couldn’t help but think of the event within the wider context of world peace and the eternal Jewish promise, “Never Again.”

Of course, the obliteration of evil and its perpetrators is a profoundly Jewish concept, as it is also an American one. This is yet another ideal that intimately binds the fabric of American society with the Judaic moral code and its keepers. The Holocaust prayers and literature are riddled with calls to avenge the blood of the slain innocents and extend the arm of justice where it is due. In particular, final letters of relatives to their loved ones, written upon deportation to concentration camps, contain this clarion call.

Yet while justice and vengeance may have their place, it is the eradication of evil as the path to securing our safety and our future that serves as the greatest Jewish motivation for hunting down the Osamas of this world and systematically destroying them.

What is therefore a matter of great concern is that it appears Israel is by no means afforded the same enthusiastic moral support in its effort to hunt down its own bin Ladenesque enemies. Of course Osama bin Laden was as much an enemy of Israel as he was of all the free world. However, the aggression of Israel’s local enemies, with similar maniacal dispositions, necessitates that Israel act firmly, decisively and swiftly to protect its citizens and secure its future.

Yet it was only last week that international leaders, including the secretary-general of the United Nations, accepted a new amalgamation of the Palestinian leadership, which placed a local al-Qaida-style incarnation, Hamas, in a position of quasi-diplomatic acceptance. The hands of Hamas’s leaders are drenched with innocent blood; the terrorists they have dispatched have sought to rival bin Laden in the killing of innocents. Yet they enjoy if not international impunity, then at least a certain tolerance.

President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s regime in Iran, meanwhile, has murdered many, and is developing the tools to cause unthinkable devastation. Yet much of the world continues to look on in placid apathy and indifference.

Imagine for a moment that al-Qaida would have become a political party in Pakistan and won a large percentage of votes. Would bin Laden have then been granted clemency for his heinous crimes and the international manhunt called off? Highly unlikely.

Bin Laden embodied the face of evil, but he was by no means alone; his ideology survives him. Even as the jubilant crowds gathered to hail his demise, there was talk of heightened security alerts. Dozens of fanatical groups have made their wretched mark on countries, communities and families since September 2001 and show little promise of ceasing. The leader is dead, but his perverse legacy lives on.

The juxtaposition of Holocaust Memorial Day and the killing of Osama bin Laden should be seen as no coincidence. The lesson is clear; the free world must be consistent in supporting the eradication of such evil, in all its forms, wherever it is found. The efforts of the West must be uniform and relentless. Justice and vengeance will not suffice, only continuous striving to eradicate this depraved inhumanity. Never again.

The author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal –

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