Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his well-known intent to erase Israel from the map last Friday with a new twist: "Israel is a rotten, dried tree that will be annihilated in one storm."
Haaretz, the self-appointed paper for the thinking classes, buried this terrible, blatant threat deep inside its news pages, on page 11. Its headline that day dealt with the growing economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.
The International Herald Tribune, the international daily that Haaretz publishes and distributes in English together with its own English edition, hid the threat to destroy Israel in a small item, also on page 11, without even calling attention to it in the headline. The headline quoted only the rotten tree analogy.
Yediot Ahronot published the Iranian president's call to destroy Israel on page two. Ma'ariv, on the other hand, gave the Iranian threat - backed by Iran's ayatollahs and local public opinion, along with the leaders of Palestinian terror - its rightful place, in its main headline on page one. The Jerusalem Post, quite rightly, did the same.
BUT GIVE Haaretz and The International Herald Tribune a story about "A young Palestinian killed by IDF shelling," or the tragic case of the Palestinian girl killed by mistake during a shelling of Kassam launchers - and you will usually find the news item with a banner headline on those papers' front pages. A United Nations member state threatening to annihilate an entire country, Israel, apparently does not rate that kind of attention.
When the president of Iran threatens to exterminate Israel, just a day after having bragged that his state has managed to enrich uranium, and with the whole world following with considerable concern Iran's efforts and progress on the way to attaining nuclear arms, these two eminent newspapers, one Israeli and the other international, bury the story somewhere on their inside pages, not grasping that the danger posed to the Jewish state is on a par with that presented by the Nazis.
We have become accustomed to this attitude in Haaretz, with its knee-jerk defenders of anything Palestinian, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass. But didn't the Tribune learn anything from its current legal parent, The New York Times, which was accused and condemned once again in recent years for burying the news of the destruction of Europe's Jews on its back pages during World War II? A very revealing book has just recently been published on this subject in the United States.
I RECALL a shocking description Charlie Chaplin wrote in his autobiography, published some 35 years ago, of how he was invited to a formal luncheon with the editors of The New York Times, many of them Jewish. When the subject of the Nazi persecution of the Jews came up, at a time when Hitler was still controlling the war, his hosts hurried to sweep the subject under their luxurious rug a being no more than a nuisance.
There is a real danger that not only politically feeble-minded Jews in Israel, but also significant parts of international public opinion will prefer to ignore the growing danger to Israel posed by the Iranian nuclear threat and its various tentacles - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah - just as they ignored the news in the 1930s of Hitler's intention to exterminate the Jews; notwithstanding the fact that the heads of his regime proclaimed it far and wide. That is exactly what could happen with the declarations of intent to destroy Israel coming from the modern successor of the Nazi regime in Berlin: Islamo-fascist Teheran.
DENIAL OF danger, even when the writing is very clearly on the wall, appears to be indelibly stamped into our Jewish DNA. There is good reason why we have just read in the Haggada: "In every generation they arise to destroy us, and the Almighty saves us from their hand," but only on condition that we wake up in time and help Him. As we know, God helps those who help themselves.
We need to wake up and ask ourselves, what is it that makes Hizbullah's Nasrallah say we are as weak as "spiders' webs"? And what led his commander-in-chief, Ahmadinejad, to believe that Israel is a "rotten, dried tree that will be annihilated by one storm?" Is Israel sending such a pervasive message of weakness, one that feeds and fosters - in fact invites - the venom that may be paving the way for a military offensive directed against us?
The Iranian-Hamas-Hizbullah threat is the most serious Israel has faced since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. If Ahmadinejad's remark offends us, we should cut off those dry branches, of which there are too many, and remove the dry rot, of which there is far too much, so that when the day comes Ahmadinejad and his ilk will be able to sense the strong roots that support the Jewish tree.