According to Steve Kroft, interviewing President Obama on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Prime Minister Netanyahu is “pressuring” the president to “use military force” to stop Iran’s program to develop nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. But Kroft needn’t have worried.
President Obama noted that he is aware of the threat to Israel, but that he would block out the “noise” and do what is in the best interests of the United States. The latter part of the statement was entirely correct, but was it wise – or diplomatic – to refer publicly to statements by the prime minister of a friendly nation as “noise”? In an odd coincidence, President Ahmadinejad of Iran used the same word in the same context.
Obama went on to brush off the attacks on our embassy in Egypt and our consulate in Libya, with the killing of four Americans – including our ambassador – as “bumps in the road.” Bumps in the road? To me it looks more like a fatal crash while the careless driver was texting yet another version of his appeasement policy.
But can you believe those pesky Jews? They keep making “noise” about Iran’s repeated threats to wipe Israel off the map. Why must they disturb our Sunday football and our domestic politics (in that order) with their constant whining? Why can’t they just shut up? I mean, it’s not the first time this has happened – they should be used to it by now.
Hitler rearmed Germany, thus breaking the treaty that ended World War I. Then he reoccupied the Rhineland. Then he seized part of Czechoslovakia, and then the rest of it. Still the world did nothing, hoping the Nazi regime would be satisfied. But its appetite was merely whetted. Before the Nazis were defeated, at least 40 million people were dead, including one-third of all the Jews in the world, and four out of five European Jews.
At first, Hitler wanted the Jews to leave, “For all I care, on luxury liners.” But with few exceptions, no nation admitted them. That is the significance of Israel. It ill behooves those who failed to take in the people who later perished in the Holocaust to now self-righteously condemn Israel for trying to prevent Holocaust 2.
In 1938, delegates from 32 nations including the United States met in the French resort town of Evian, famous for its mineral water. The delegates drank water. The delegates passed water. But the delegates did nothing for the refugees. Whenever I see a bottle of Evian water, I think about apathy in the face of evil, and I remember these quotes:
Obama seems to think that there is some force in the admonition that the world is watching; but history plentifully demonstrates that when the world is watching, all the world does is watch.
− Leon Wieseltier
Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.
− John F. Kennedy
Nor shall you stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is at stake. I am the Lord.
− Leviticus 19:16 (New American Bible)
Remembering the Holocaust is not just a memory exercise similar to reciting a poem. The purpose is to prevent a recurrence. The leaders of Iran threaten to wipe Israel off the map, and at the same time are developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. What is the “world community” doing about it?
With Holocaust 2 approaching, it does no good to remember Holocaust 1, while making the same mistake that allowed it to occur − attempting to appease aggressors. What are we doing about Iran? Economic sanctions are proving useless. Meanwhile, President Obama distances himself from Israel.
The strong make demands of their enemies. The weak make demands of their friends. The strong evoke anxiety in their enemies. The weak evoke anxiety in their friends. As a result, the weak have more enemies and fewer friends.
History tends to repeat itself, because human nature doesn’t change. There are variations on the themes, but the themes recur with depressing regularity:
● When tyrants make promises, we shouldn’t listen.
● When tyrants make threats, we should listen.
● When tyrants threaten mass murder based on myths of racial or religious superiority, we should listen carefully.
● When tyrants build weapons with which to carry out their threats, we are fools if we don’t act before the weapons are operational.
What is the lesson of the Holocaust? To people of good will, it is: Never again. But to people of ill will, the lesson is: It succeeded.
Four out of five European Jews were murdered, and the “world community” did nothing. Do you believe that the leaders of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah haven’t studied that lesson attentively? What reason are we giving them to believe that things will be different this time? None. What reason are we giving them to believe that they can’t murder another six million? None.
I wonder what many people in many nations, including America, are really thinking. Could it be this? − “Let the crazies in Iran build their nukes. Let them eradicate Israel, which is a real pain in the backside. Then we’ll do something, in case they’re serious when they chant, ‘Death to America.’ We’ll serve tea and cookies, and collect money for the few survivors, just like last time. That will make us feel really self-righteous. And we’ll build an annex to the Holocaust Museum. It’s the least we can do. Literally.”
For every Evangelical or Jew who wants Obama to do something before Iran nukes Israel, there is at least one closet anti-Semite who wants Obama to do nothing until after Iran nukes Israel. We hear much about the pro-Israel lobby, but there is also an anti-Israel lobby that is at least as powerful. Which will prevail remains to be seen.
Even if Iran acquires nuclear weapons but doesn’t use them, its neighbors will be terrified and rush to acquire nukes themselves. The Mideast is unstable now − imagine what it will be like with nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States. If Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz, who will dare to break the blockade? Even if there were no Israel, this prospect would be frightening.
The point is not only that if the Nazis had been stopped before they grew strong, the victims of Nazism could have been saved. The point is also that Germany could have been spared from terrible destruction. The same holds for other would-be aggressors, including Iran.
Budding aggressors must be told bluntly that our response may be very far from “proportional.” When we go out of our way to reassure them that we will not “over-react,” we only invite further aggression. And in the era of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, that aggression may well be catastrophic.
Perhaps – perhaps − we may be forgiven for not recognizing the first Hitler and stopping him before a world conflagration resulted. But we will never be forgiven for not recognizing subsequent Hitlers, or for not stopping them in time. We have been warned.
The president should say, “If you attack our friends with weapons of mass destruction, we will react as if you attacked us. Then the ‘noise’ you hear will be truly frightful.” But instead, we hear nothing but empty platitudes.
It’s a noisy world. But some sounds are better than others. The best sound is that of resolute people standing up for their values, and warning emerging aggressors to back off. Much louder, but sometimes necessary, is the sound of military action to prevent a massacre. The worst sound is the silence of dead victims, backed by the quiet voice of conscience telling us we remained silent when we should have spoken up.
Noise can be irritating. But silence can be devastating, assuming one has a conscience.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: email@example.com. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.