Monday, June 08, 2009

Don't know much about history...

Why Obama is wrong on Israel & the Shoah

On Friday, President Barack Obama placed a single white flower at the Buchenwald memorial for the estimated 43,000 people - among them 11,000 Jews - murdered at the concentration camp. In subdued tones, he said that the passage of time had not made the crematoria lose their horror. He spoke of his great uncle, who under Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had been among the camp's liberators. He recounted how Eisenhower had toured the camp so he could personally challenge anyone who might claim that the Allies had exaggerated the Nazi horrors for propaganda purposes.

This gave Obama another opportunity to declare that Holocaust denial is "baseless," "ignorant" and "hateful."

In his Cairo address the day before to the Muslim and Arab worlds, the president had justified Israel's right to exist on the basis of the Holocaust: "The aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted," he said, "in a tragic history" that culminated in the Shoah.

At Buchenwald, he said: "The nation of Israel [arose] out of the destruction of the Holocaust."

That rationale, standing alone, set the stage for Obama to assert: "On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinians… have suffered in pursuit of a homeland."

BARACK OBAMA has been terribly misinformed if he thinks Israel's legitimacy hinges on the Shoah. Of course, had the Jews achieved a national homeland in Palestine before the outbreak of WWII - as Britain promised in the 1917 Balfour Declaration and as the League of Nations affirmed in 1920 - the doors to this country would not have been barred to Jewish refugees seeking to escape from the Nazi killing machine. History would have turned out very differently indeed.

What the Holocaust proved is that the world is too dangerous a place for Jews to be stateless and defenseless. But we Zionists were making that argument long before Hitler came to power.

Granted, modern political Zionism developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But the president needs to better appreciate that Israel's legitimacy is not dependent on the consequences of the war waged against the Jews between 1933 and 1945. It is, first and foremost, rooted in the historic connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.

The Zionist movement rejected Uganda as a safe haven in 1903, the need to save Jews from violent anti-Semitism notwithstanding, because Uganda did not belong to the Jews.

However one chooses to understand Jewish civilization - as sacred history, or through the modern lenses of secular history and archeology - the ancient bond between the Jews and their land is indisputable.

By 1000 BCE, the Twelve Tribes had formed a united monarchy. Then, when in 586 BCE the Jews were defeated and exiled, "By the rivers of Babylon... we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion." We returned and rebuilt our commonwealth - only to be defeated and exiled again, in 70 CE. As early as the 9th century, Jews had reestablished communities in Tiberias; and, in the 11th century, in Gaza.

SO YOU see, Mr. President, long before Christianity and Islam appeared on the world stage, the covenant between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel was entrenched and unwavering. Every day we prayed in our ancient tongue for our return to Zion. Every day, Mr. President. For 2,000 years.

At every Jewish wedding down through the centuries, the bridegroom has crushed a glass beneath his foot while declaring: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…"

Perhaps it's because Palestine was never sovereign under the Arabs that even moderate Palestinians cannot find it in their hearts to acknowledge the depth of the Jews' connection to Zion. Instead, they insist we are interlopers.

When Obama implies that Jewish rights are essentially predicated on the Holocaust - not once asserting they are far, far deeper and more ancient - he is dooming the prospects for peace.

For why should the Arabs reconcile themselves to the presence of a Jewish state, organic to the region, when the US president keeps insinuating that Israel was established to atone for Europe's crimes?

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