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The 1930s again

Posted by Richard on February 16, 2007

I don’t really know why this subject tears me up so much emotionally, but it does. I’m an atheist with no particular attraction to Judaism. I’ve certainly had plenty of Jewish friends, but that doesn’t explain why the threat to Israel, the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, and related stories disturb me so very, very deeply.

Maybe, perversely, it has something to do with my pure Aryan (German-Austrian) heritage — my uncle Günther was a Luftwaffe pilot who died in WWII. Maybe the fact that I’m somehow connected to the "other side" weighs on me in some weird, irrational way. Whatever… I read stuff like the following, and I just start trembling and the tears flow. I don’t want there to be another shoah — holocaust. And I’m afraid that it may happen.

Thanks to Solomon for pointing out Charles Jacobs’ moving column. Like Sol, I’ll present the whole thing. If you’re Jewish or have ties in the community, please help with the Shabbat on the Iranian Threat. If you’re not, do something else — even if it’s just some small effort to express concern and raise awareness, like this post. Let Jacobs tell you why:

It’s the 1930s for U.S. Jews

By Charles Jacobs – Thursday February 15 2007

Half the world’s Jews are in the crosshairs of the Persian anti-Semite soon to have a nuke. Like his German predecessor, Ahmadinejad has a plan to annihilate millions. This time every Jew on the planet knows it. This time, can they act to stop it?

American Jews, far less powerful in the 1930s than today, were late to use what little power they had to scream the world awake. Looking back, world Jewry adopted a motto that in part defines them against that failure: “Never Again.”

But “Again” now looms, and Jews here are about to relearn a lesson: to speak up has a cost. Experts say Americans are concerned about Iran, but when they about Iran from Jews, they become suspicious.

Anti-Zionist intellectuals have revived the “dual loyalty” accusation with a vengeance. The infamous Walt-Mearsheimer paper, soon to become a lucrative book, claims disproportionate Jewish influence over American foreign policy was used to the benefit of Israel and to the detriment of “real” American interests.

The accusation that Jews tricked America into the Iraq war for Israel’s sake is not new. “The Jews,” it will be added, now drive America to attack nuclear Iran. “The Jewish community is divided, but there is so much pressure from the New York money people to the office seekers," is how former general Wesley Clark put it.

The problem faced 65 years ago repeats: Will Jewry here risk its position to help Jews targeted for death overseas?

On moral grounds there is no question: Jews dare not be silent about the Iranian threat. But there is a practical issue that cannot be ignored. What if by raising their voices, Jews hurt this cause? Suppose people would become less convinced about Iran because it’s Jews who are protesting? A real predicament that Jews will have to overcome.

Surely there are non-Jews equally concerned about nuclearized Muslim messianics; Iran poses a threat not just to Israel but to all of the West.

But Bush-hatred and anger over the Iraq war drives so much of American politics. Never mind that Israelis, focused for a decade on Iran, warned America about the negative consequences of attacking Iraq. Facts don’t matter. Everything Bush believes will be contested whether it’s “Iran is lethal” or “the Earth is round.”

Irrationality reigns. The only folks likely to scream along with the Jews about Iran are Republicans, neo-cons, Evangelicals and conservatives: The same groups that evoke hatred in America’s opinion elite. Even if Jews join a coalition of the rationally fearful, the cry will not fade that “the Jews” push for war with Iran.

Meanwhile in Boston, “The Emergency Committee on the Iranian Threat,” launched a Web campaign: Shabbat on the Iranian Threat. They call on American rabbis to speak about Iran to their congregations on the days before Purim (March 2-3), the Jewish holiday celebrating the escape by Persian Jewry from annihilation by another Persian leader centuries ago.

Bring two gregors (noise makers).

Never again, dammit. Never again.

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