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 Israel’s 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 that all 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.
Debunking the Bull, Sarah Honig’s book was recently published by Gefen.