When the chips are down, Israel stands alone

Today’s Israel and its leaders cannot rely on the sublime or idealized prospect of divine intervention if the Tehran regime unleashes nuclear-armed missiles.

March 15, 2012 22:54
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks to AIPAC

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks to AIPAC 390 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)


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On his return from the US last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a serious effort to bring home – literally and figuratively – one of the most tragic phases of the Nazi Holocaust: The World War II Allies’ rejection of the World Jewish Congress’s plea that their warplanes bomb Auschwitz.

Unfortunately, obtuse or disinterested Israeli TV producers and news directors prevented him from achieving this goal.

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When he held up two crucial messages on that issue for all to see, the cameras did not provide the requisite close-ups and the letters disappeared from view in less than 30 seconds.

One of them from was from A. Leon Kubowitzki, who headed the Congress’s rescue department during WWII. It was addressed to John J. McCloy, the American assistant secretary of war. McCloy was asked to authorize the bombing of Auschwitz, the infamous death camp.

In an explicit reply dated August 9, 1944, McCloy wrote: “Such an operation could be executed only by diverting considerable air support essential to the success of our forces elsewhere... and in any case could be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant use of our resources.... Such an effort might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.”

Actually, only the text’s first sentence was composed by McCloy, according to Hebrew University Professor Emeritus Shlomo Aronson, who interviewed McCloy on this subject in the then-former official’s Wall Street office in the 1970s. By then, McCloy’s memory was somewhat fuzzy on this subject.

The original idea came from Ernest Frischer of the wartime Czechoslovak National Council and evidently was relayed to the War Refugee Board which president Theodore Roosevelt had created to help Europe’s endangered Jews.


Surprisingly, there was a great deal of controversy about it mainly because some analysts feared that the bombing would kill many of Auschwitz’s innocent inmates and because it might prompt the Nazis to speed up their ruthless genocide there.

In the end, no outside force intervened on behalf of the doomed Jews.

This was in keeping with the pattern that had been set by the Western Allies and their Soviet comrades in arms.

The valiant Warsaw Ghetto fighters whose heroic revolt against the Nazis that broke out on April 19, 1943, fought alone, without any outside assistance from any quarter. Even their counterparts in the Polish underground who were based just outside the ghetto’s walls failed to help.

Ironically, when the non-Jewish Poles revolted, August 1, 1944, they too were bereft of armed allies. The Red Army, which was advancing toward Warsaw at the time, did not commit any of its combat units to the Polish insurrection.

Among the other death camps and ghettoes in which there was well-organized and partly successful Jewish resistance were Treblinka, Sobibor and Bialystok, but there too the Allies and the Soviets failed to intervene.

This perhaps is the most relevant reason for Netanyahu’s attempt to present the Israeli public with the Auschwitz letters insofar as Israel’s contemporary predicament vis-a-vis Iran is concerned.

No one knows better than the prime minister how diabolical the Islamic Republic of Iran would become if it tried to implement the threats against Israel made by its leaders, especially those of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Netanyahu’s undeclared conclusion was that Israel will have to face its arch-enemy alone. Today’s Israel and its leaders cannot rely on the sublime or idealized prospect of divine intervention if the Tehran regime unleashes nuclear-armed missiles in a possible if not probable showdown over Israel’s right to exist.

And like the situation that existed during the bleakest days of the Nazi genocide, there is no friendly, sympathetic or diplomatically-committed foreign power that can be expected to pull Israel’s chestnuts out of the fire. Bibi evidently understands this very well, but he was unable to amplify it properly this time around.

Incidentally, Kubowitzki changed his surname to Kubovy and used his Hebrew first name, Arieh, when he settled in Jerusalem after WWII. He was appointed chairman of Yad Vashem, the Heroes’ and Martyrs’ Remembrance Authority, and served in that capacity during the 1950s and 1960s.

The writer is a veteran foreign correspondent.

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