Those who seek to destroy today’s Jewish state no longer cry,
“Go Back to Palestine.” Now they cry, “Go back to Europe.”
Juden Raus! Jews Out!
At about 7:00 am on November 8, 1938, a gaggle of thirty Hitler youth in brown shirts suddenly appeared in front of Luzer Ber Izbicki’s small tailor shop in Berlin. The young men marked the shop front with the painted letter “J” for Jew. Then, with shocking suddenness, they began a choral scream. They stunned the quiet morning air with cries of “Juden Raus. Juden Raus.” They kept at it as if they would never stop.
That evening another small group of brown shirts approached the shop, this time armed with bricks and wooden bats. They attacked the glass windows of the tailor shop. Sheets of glass shattered and fell to the street. The thugs now hurled large pieces of broken glass into the shop. Other Jewish shops on the street faced a similar fate. Some bystanders cheered as the brown shirts destroyed one Jewish-owned shop after another.
It was Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom against the Jews of Germany. It was a prelude to the coming disaster of the Holocaust.
During the Kristallnacht riots, 7,500 Jewish businesses in Germany were attacked and looted. By the time the chaos ended, 100 Jews lay dead and 30,000 Jewish men found themselves in concentration camps.
Play a Game to Ship Jews off to Palestine
Juden Raus. This was a slogan used by the Nazis during their rule, beginning in 1933. The slogan was part of a massive propaganda campaign to convince the German people that German Jews — even those whose families had lived in Germany for generations — were an alien element in German society. Germany was saying to the Jews, “You do not belong here. Get out. Go back to where you came from.”
A month after Kristallnacht, the German firm of Gunther and Company released a new “family” board game. Its purpose was to reinforce the Nazi propaganda campaign against Germany’s Jews. The game was called simply, Juden Raus. The game board depicted a walled city. A series of step-like boxes, looking like ladders, wound through the board. Each player received a set of small figurines depicting Jews dressed in pointed hats, modeled after medieval caricatures of Jews. A roll of dice told players how far they could advance the Jewish game pieces along the stepped ladders.
The objective of the game was to get the little Jews out of town through one of the gates in the walled city. They were sent “off to Palestine.” The winning player was the one who sent the most Jews to Palestine.
The Kristallnacht thugs and the Juden Raus board game makers delivered the same message to the Jews of Germany: Get out. Go back to Palestine.
The “Jewish Question” in Poland
My parents heard a similar demand from their Christian neighbors, beginning a few years earlier. They grew up in Southwestern Poland between the First and Second World Wars. It was one of the most anti-Semitic periods in Jewish history.
In the fourteenth century, Polish King Casimir the Great had invited Jews to settle in Poland. The Jews brought needed skills to develop the country. But the Poles never considered the Jews to be part of their nation. The Jews felt the same.
During my parents’ era, on Sunday mornings, priests across Poland used their sermons to teach that the Jews had killed the son of God. Jews were excluded from much of the social and economic life of Poland. Denied entry into craftsmen’s guilds, they could not practice carpentry or many other trades. Gentile business owners would not hire them. Thus, most Jews lived as merchants and small shopkeepers. A few worked for Jewish-owned businesses. The widespread discrimination left the majority of Polish Jews impoverished.
Jewish children, returning home from school, often encountered other children who taunted them with cries of “Dirty Jew.” At times the epithets were accompanied by a hail of stones. At times, the attackers screamed, “Jews, go back to Palestine.”
When a world-wide depression struck in the 1930s, Jewish communities in Poland were pushed to the brink. Had it not been for food aid from Jewish agencies in the west, many Jews would have starved to death. The Poles also suffered from the economic stagnation of the Depression, making them all the more resentful and suspicious of their Jewish neighbors.
Few Jews were able to escape their poverty through education. Public schools made no provisions for Jewish students who could not attend on the Jewish Sabbath, when classes were held for Christian students. Attending university was made difficult for Jews by institutionalized policies like the bench laws. (Jews were forced to sit on benches at the back of the class.) There were informal arrangements, such as the “Day without Jews,” when Polish students beat up Jews who dared to attend school on the appointed day. Some anti-Semitic professors obliged by scheduling exams on that day, making it difficult for Jewish students to pass their courses.
Conditions were so inhospitable for Polish Jews that many of them sought to immigrate to Palestine. Jewish Zionist organizations were established to prepare young Jews for this task. My mother belonged to one such organization. Many Jews did not want to be in Poland anymore, and many Poles wanted the Jews gone too. There was even collaboration between some Zionist organizations and a political movement among Poles to encourage Jewish immigration to Palestine. The “Jewish Question” became a hot topic in the political life of Poland between the World Wars. The Jewish Question centered around the quandary, “How can we get the Jews out of Poland?”
As in Germany, the wider society was saying to the Jews, “Go back to Palestine.”
A Jewish Return to Palestine Long Ago
The same theme was echoed in the conflict between Jews and Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula of the seventh century. The prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam, left his hometown of Mecca, where the ruling classes were hostile to his campaign to establish himself as the leader of the new religion. Mohammed preached that God had commanded him to establish Islam to supersede the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism and Christianity.
Having little luck in recruiting followers in Mecca, he relocated to the neighboring city of Medina. Medina had a large population of Jewish tribes who had settled there years earlier from areas known as Judea, Samaria, Galilee, and later, Palestine.
Mohammed recognized the Jewish patriarchs and Moses as Muslim brethren. Thus, he believed that the Jews of Medina were good prospects for his new faith. That proved to be a false hope. Negotiations between Mohammed and the Jewish tribes failed. Mohammed succeeded in conquering the Jewish tribes, in the process slaughtering many of the men and enslaving the women and children.
Some of the surviving Jews of Medina remained, at least for a time, agreeing to pay a hefty tribute to Mohammed and his followers for the right to live under their protection. But the historical record shows that Mohammed forced many other Jews into exile. Where did they go?
In a theme that was to be echoed many centuries later in Europe, the Jews of Medina returned to the area the Romans had named Syria-Palestina. That is, at least some of the Jews of Medina returned to Palestine.
“Go Back to Europe”
Fast forward to the present day. After two-thousand years, the Jews are once again sovereign in their ancestral land. Israel is today the only Jewish state. Whatever its detractors may say, the Jews of Israel have an indisputable claim to their country. And yet, Israel is the only country in the world whose very existence is disputed — and widely so.
In the contemporary discourse of Israel-haters, once again is heard the complaint, “Jews you don’t belong here. You are an alien element.” And once again, Jews hear, “Juden Raus. Jews Out.” With one difference.
Those who seek to destroy today’s Jewish state no longer cry, “Go Back to Palestine.” Now they cry, “Go back to Europe.”
But “Go back to Europe” is a phony demand. It is supported by a false history that paints Arabs as the inhabitants of Palestine from time immemorial and Jews as colonialist invaders from Europe. But what is the truth?
Today’s Israel-haters don’t seem to know that half of Israel’s Jewish population has never lived in Europe — nor have their parents or any of their ancestors. They are Jews who lived — or whose ancestors lived — in the surrounding Arab countries for millennia.
Some of these Mizrahi Jews voluntarily chose to fulfill the Zionist dream of return to Israel. But most were forced from their homes in a series of violent pogroms and expulsions that occurred in the years after Israel’s founding in 1948.
Arab leaders, dismayed and shamed by Israel’s defeat of invading Arab armies, retaliated against their ancient Jewish populations. Although the pogroms against the Jews in Arab countries began well before 1948, they reached a fever pitch afterwards, as Arab leaders saw a way to extract revenge for Jewish victory and to profit from confiscation of Jewish property. The displacement of the Jews was effected by means of government organized riots; mass arrests; imprisonment; public hangings of Jewish community leaders; police shootings of Jewish passers-by; looting and burning of Jewish businesses; revocation of citizenship; imposition of special “Jew taxes;” passage of anti-Jewish laws; and restrictive anti-Jewish policies.
The final result has been definitive. With the exception of small remnant Jewish communities in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, today’s Arab world is Judenrein — Jew-free.
Despite the demands of Israel-haters that the Jews should “return to Europe,” if these Jews were to “return” anywhere it would be to Algeria; Morocco; Tunisia; Libya; Egypt; Lebanon; Iraq; Syria; Jordan; Iran; Ethiopia and Yemen.
As for those Israeli Jews whose ancestors lived in Europe; they also have deep roots in Israel. Genetic testing of today’s Jews has confirmed this.
Home at Last
Today the six and one-half million Jews of Israel no longer need to return anywhere. After a long and often brutal exile, they have returned home to their native land of Israel.
Jews will no longer tolerate the cries of those who hate them: “Jews Out,” “Go Back to Palestine” and “Go Back to Europe.”
Israel is where the Jews are from. It is where they will stay.