Licking our wounds

So much of Jewish culture consists of our licking our wounds. I always choose articles and books about the Holocaust, the Inquisition, the Secret Jews (who were forcibly converted to Christianity in Spain), anti-Semitism in Europe, and the rantings of our Arab and Iranian enemies. Only the past exploits of the IDF provide some relief. Why this fascination with Jewish suffering? Because that is our culture. Hard to get away from it when it was such a predominant feature throughout history.

The worst crime in the history of mankind, the Holocaust, was inflicted upon us with such a degree of hatred and cruelty that it still beggars belief. I have just been reading “Flags over the Warsaw Ghetto,” a revised history of the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 written by Moshe Arens, former Israeli Defense Minister. One of the features of Jewish culture at the time was that almost none of the organizations of Jewish youth, and there were many, prepared themselves for self-defence, even knowing the hostitlity of their neighbors, Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, etc. The only ones that actually practised self-defence and warfare were the Revisionists, but the mainly socialist Jewish youth groups frowned upon this as somehow inappropriate. They would rather depend on the brotherhood of man and help from their fellow proletarians, which was predictably absent.

A Rabbi I once knew (yes I do know some Rabbis) said to me that the Jewish people are a “sick” people. I found that remark disquieting and worried about it for some time. But, I think what he meant was that because of the way we have been treated we are not “normal,” like an abused child often grows up with personality problems.

I have also been reading “The Balfour Declaration” by Jonathan Schneer, an excellent detailed history of how that famous document came into being. One of the most striking aspects of that story is that it was mainly Jews who were against the support of the British Government for Zionism. Not only was the organized Jewish community against Zionism, and strove mightily to prevent the Declaration being issued, but within the British Government there were such people as Herbert (Lord) Samuel who opposed the idea of a Jewish State, and his cousin Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for India, who vehemently opposed Zionism on the grounds that he was an Englishman of Jewish belief, rather that a Jew who happened to be born in England (as his Cabinet colleagues viewed him) and opposed the very concept of a Jewish nation. Luckily Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow, the two principal figures in the Zionist movement in Britain, out-maneuvered them, and persuaded PM Lloyd George and FM Arthur Balfour that it was in Britain’s interest to issue such a pro-Zionist statement. Sometimes we did succeed.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.