We Jews have always been expendable. From at least the days of the Greeks and Romans, wiping out the Jews has been a goal. The Holocaust was the most dramatic example in our lifetime, but it was hardly the first catastrophe to strike us. That was probably the Assyrians destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 732 BCE: In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and he took Ijon, and Abel Beth Maacah, and Janoah, and Kedesh and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria. (2 Kings 15:29) Thus the 10 Tribes of Israel were dispersed throughout the Near Eastern world, with some traveling as far West as India and beyond.
The remaining Judeans in the Southern Kingdom of Judah were in turn decimated around 586 BCE: Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon [Nebuchadnezzar], he and his mother and his servants and his captains and his officials. So the king of Babylon took him captive in the eighth year of his reign. (2 Kings 24:12) Those that were left in Judah were the poorer sort of people and the unskilled workmen. Thus the seat of Jewish learning shifted from the Land of Israel to Babylon, only gradually returning to the homeland over ensuing centuries.
There were many other calamities of the Jews in those days, culminating in the sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the resplendent Holy Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, at which time Jews were expelled from Jerusalem (but not wholly from their homeland). In the aftermath, there were the the Crusades, the blood libels, the Inquisition, the expulsions, the ghettoes, the serial pogroms, and the Holocaust. Did I forget anything?
It was only in 1948 that Israel finally regained its independence, establishing the State of Israel with its own government and army. Remarkable progress has been made in the ensuing 75 years, but the gentile itch against the Jews has not abated. The two main institutional opponents of Israel, the United Nations and the European Union, never tire of castigating Israel and blaming it for the volatile situation in the Middle East. In addition, there’s the continuous, global Muslim war against Israel and the Palestinian Arab terror campaigns. And let’s not leave out Iran, the world’s most potent terror monger. The prevailing sentiment is that Israel should give in, give up, and return to the 1949 ceasefire lines so that the Palestinian Arabs can have a state and the Jews will have indefensible borders. Israel will never comply to this demand.
Even our closest ally, the US, espouses this sentiment. Speaking to the AIPAC policy summit on June 5, 2023 Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “a two-state solution—based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps” is “the best way” for Israel to achieve “security.” This common conception is asking Israel to sign its own death warrant. Am I happy that Israel must rely on the US, or any country, to have our back? No, but there’s no better choice.
We Jews were expelled from our land numerous times before. What about today? There’s only one thing preventing the elimination of Israel – our formidable fighting forces on land, in the air, and in and especially under the sea. If not for the Jews’ prowess in developing and using advanced technologies and superior armaments, we would have succumbed to our Muslim enemies long ago. No other country would have stood with us, which has been proven numerous times.
Why have my thoughts turned in this direction? Because I’m reading an amazing book, “Commander of the Exodus,” by famed Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk. I’m indebted to my good friend Jerry Verlin for his recommendation of this book and many others. (See Jerry’s newsletter at www.FactsOnIsrael.com.)
From the inside flap of the book: “‘Commander of the Exodus’ animates the life of Yossi Harel (1918-2008), a modern-day Moses who defied the blockade of the British Mandate to deliver more than 24,000 displaced Holocaust survivors to Palestine when the rest of the world closed its doors.” Yes, Harel is an amazing, heroic figure. But Kaniuk is also an amazing writer. His depiction of Harel, his Zionist milieu, and the many cameos of the Holocaust survivors which are interspersed in the book are mind bending, crushing depictions of what these poor human beings endured. “They are without trust and utterly drained after years of trial and betrayal,” is an apt description. That fact, and the perfidy of the British, coupled with the compliance of the Western allies, is enough to make any decent person’s blood boil. Mine certainly has.
The Brits, soldiers and statesmen alike, despised and held in contempt the wretched European survivors that they encountered. The hatred by most but not all of the British soldiers towards the refugees trying to reach Palestine was aimed at decrepit survivors of the German camps, not to their spirited Zionist opponents in Palestine. Not only that: the British contempt was shared around the Western world by many other nations, the same contempt that spurred Hitler to carry out his plan of extermination when he realized that there was no appetite in other countries for German Jews fleeing persecution in Germany.
In May 1943 Joseph Goebbels, chief propagandist of the Nazi Party said, “In those lands in which public opinion tends to support the Jews, they refuse to accept them from us. They call them pioneers of modern civilization, philosophical geniuses, artists and inventors, but when someone comes and wants to take these geniuses into their jurisdiction, they seal their borders and say, ‘No, no, we don’t want them!’ This is the only time in history, it seems to me, that so many nations have refused to accept geniuses into their borders.”
That’s a good summation of the contempt which was expressed for the Jews. For example, as Kaniuk illustrates, it wasn’t so much that the Roosevelt administration and Churchill’s government didn’t want to help the Jewish victims of the Nazis, it’s that they and their ilk fundamentally wanted to rid their society of the Jews, actively keeping as many in the death trap of Europe as possible. They knew that Jews were being slaughtered by the thousands and then by the millions, but that was ok with them.
While I’m talking about a large, influential group, there were exceptions. For example, Winston Churchill, unlike FDR a friend of the Jews, helped them as much as he could, but even he was unable to persuade his government to succor the Jewish victims of the Nazis.
Even the vaunted British Kindertransport, which saved nearly 10,000 Jewish children, was just a sop considering that 1.5 million children were eventually murdered in the Holocaust. The War Refugee Board of 1942 did finally save nearly 200,000 Jews, but it was more of a diversionary tactic to placate critics of Allied indifference than a solution for European Jews, according to author Kaniuk.
“Commander of the Exodus” makes both educates and enrages the reader. The feats that Yossi Harel and his cohort achieved were just short of miraculous. Aliyah Bet, as the effort to rescue and bring Jews to Palestine (Aliyah = raise up) was named, was little short of miraculous. The Jews were relatively few and their enemies, the British, virtually consigned them to death by their 1939 White Paper, which prevented all but a handful of Jews to legally enter Palestine. Instead, Jews trying to enter Palestine “illegally” were captured and sent to internment camps in Cyprus and elsewhere. The Jews were the sacrifice that the British made to placate the Arabs, and most of the British government were fine with that.
Because we are considered expendable, Jews must be strong in the face of adversity. Israel is the leader, and perhaps the salvation, of world Jewry. Assimilation has taken its toll throughout the countries where Jews live outside of Israel. It will take a much stronger conviction to their Jewish heritage than is evident today to maintain a viable Jewish Diaspora.