They say hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to look back at the past and say, “Of course! That makes perfect sense….how could I not have seen that coming?” Lately, I’ve been thinking about the precursors to World War 2. The Jews of Europe, living in the midst of all that terrifying anti-semitism never thought for a minute that it would result in one of the worst genocides in our history. I’m sure when the locals stopped shopping at Jewish shops, the shopkeepers figured it was just a phase. And when Jewish students were banned from attending universities and academic institutions all over Europe, they thought it would pass. Certainly a democratic government wouldn’t ban students from getting an education, would they? I honestly wonder what was going through their minds when they started having to wear the yellow star on all their clothing. Did they think that “this too shall pass”?
All this poisonous anti-semitism that was gripping Europe started as early as the 1920′s. It was 1933, when the repressive Nuremberg Laws were passed against Jews, culminating in the removal of most of the rights of citizenship from Jews. The once sporadic and disorganized violence against the Jews became more widespread and violent, ultimately leading to the Kristallnacht riots, which targeted Jewish homes, businesses and places of worship, killing hundreds across Germany and Austria.
And yet, it was only when the Nazis invaded Poland on September 1,1939 that there was a public declaration of World War 2. Within a week Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada had made a formal declaration of war against Hitler and Germany. Too little, too late. A month later, the first ghettos were already established and nine months later, the first trains left for Auschwitz and Birkenau…
And what of those six years between the Nuremberg Laws and the formal declaration of the war? What happened during those six long years when anti-semitism was practically legalized? When it was permissible to beat up a Jew in the street? Or set fire to the synagogue? To ban them from schools and universities? To give them curfews and prevent them from earning a living? What was the rest of the world doing while this was going on?
I watch the anti-Jew riots spreading like a cancer all over the world. There are violent demonstrations in free-thinking cities like London, Paris, Chicago, New York, Amsterdam, Toronto etc, and just a few weeks ago, there was a Kristallnacht-like riot in Antwerp. Just a few days ago, an Israeli woman on a Manhattan subway-line was speaking Hebrew to her husband and kids and was told to get off, to leave and to never come back. “We don’t want people like you here!” she was told by this angry stranger. And now with social media outlets like Facebook, we hear about these altercations within a few hours. I imagine that it was difficult for a Jew in New York in 1933 to hear about the suffering of the Jews of Krakow within an hour. Practically impossible. With technological advances, that has changed. But not much else. Yes, we organize our own rallies in support of Israel and I don’t imagine we’d ever agree to wear a yellow star again, but there are many, many people who are trying to enforce BDS, and some countries even passing laws that allow stores to advertise which products are made in Israel so buyers can decide for themselves if they want to support or boycott our country. Not so different from those Nuremberg Laws, are they?
It took almost a decade before the Allies got on the bandwagon and decided, yes, maybe we should get involved and make an effort to eradicate the evil that has began to infest an entire continent. (Honestly, I think it was the fear that it would spread to their continent that actually made them join the war. Not any true love for the Jewish people’s suffering.). Ironically, the anti-Semites of today don’t realize who the real enemy is. They think it’s us. A small, quiet nation who preaches morals, kindness, charity and prayer. A people who have only given and given and given to the world at large, be it in the areas of medical and scientific research, technological advancement, or military expertise. What these anti-Jew protesters don’t realize is that Radical Islam isn’t just against the existence of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. And believe it or not, this isn’t even about Gaza. Hamas and their cohorts are against all western civilization. They are against anyone they consider infidels, be it the Christian Arabs in Iraq who are dying by the thousands, or any other people who follow a belief system that is different than theirs. They are seeking to create a caliphate and turn the entire world into a repressive Islamic state.
Will it take the rest of the world a decade before they realize the truth? In the meantime, are we in this fight alone?
I worry about the future. And I wonder if in ten, fifteen years from now, we’ll be able to look back at this time and realize that we had been living in the precursor to the Third World War, but just didn’t know it yet. So many of us are saying, it’s just a phase. It will pass. Eventually. And people will go back to being our friends. They’ll see us wearing our kippah and they won’t spit on us anymore. They’ll buy our Israeli made products, they’ll allow us to ride on their subways peacefully and they’ll understand why we bombed Gaza. And all will be well.
But the world is on its way to going to hell in a hand basket and everyone who believes in a democratic and free world needs to wake up. Now. We are living in 2014 that is eerily similar to 1933. All the signs are pointing to that right now. And if we can’t learn from our past, what kind of future can we hope for?