originally published on April 4, 2012 on Open Salon
This is edited from a comment made on Jonathan Wolfman's post about the Toulouse murders last night. Given the heat of the moment, it's a little, well, pointed. Reprinted here at his suggestion.
[Jonathan was kind enough to point out that not everyone reading this will know who/what Likud is. Likud is the current political party in power in Israel, the party of Benjamin Netanyahu. They are more conservative and hard-line than their main historic alternative, Labor. They started out pre-independence as an organization called the Irgun. While I'm at it, AIPAC stands for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the major American organization that lobbies on Israel's behalf in Washington.]
I've heard a lot about how Jews and, in particular, Israel, keep hitting the world over the head with the Holocaust, like it justifies anything and everything. What you really have to know about Israel and the Holocaust is that when Israel was founded, the Holocaust was both recent enough and traumatic enough that Israel derived certain lessons from it that are fixed in the Israeli psyche. Some of these lessons may not apply any longer in our eyes but that's not important here; the lessons still apply in theirs.
The importance of the Holocaust when understanding Israel comes down to three lessons (expressed in the first person because the Holocaust applied to Jews rather than Israelis given that Israelis didn't officially exist yet - and yes, I really do understand that Jews were not the only Holocaust victims):
1. The last time we didn’t take crazy threats seriously, one out of every three of us got murdered, so take crazy threats seriously, particularly when someone starts building Camps. Or Nukes.
2. While we were being murdered, we didn’t get a whole lot of outside help. Some countries stepped up on behalf of their own Jewish communities, notably Denmark and, in some ways, Serbia (which is why the Israelis didn’t come down on the Serbs during the Bosnian massacres like American Jews did because American Jews were not mostly aware of that history - Israel did, however, take in Bosnian refugees), but most help came from isolated individuals. Not, for example, from the United States, which turned away refugees fleeing Europe and refused to bomb the rail lines to the Death Camps during the war. So, the lesson learned was: We cannot afford to rely on anyone else for our survival, so develop your own contingencies because we can’t afford the alternative.
3. Don’t let anti-Semitism sit unopposed because it can grow into an unimaginably lethal monster if you leave it alone.
You want the Holocaust to go away? OK. Here’s exactly how:
1. Don’t let people make crazy threats and write them off as crazy threats. Hold them responsible for making crazy threats. Even in mosques.
2. Make it completely clear while you’re fighting for Israel to get the Hell out of every inch of the West Bank that the flip side of this is that Hamas and Hezbollah will not be permitted to get rid of Israel under any circumstances and, in the event they try, particularly if Israel is making a real effort where the West Bank is concerned, you will support Israel’s military efforts at survival. This also goes for Iran. Don’t rely on AIPAC to do this. You have to do it.
3. Don’t let anti-Semitism sit unopposed because it is bigotry and never justifiable. While you’re fighting with whatever stupid-ass policy Likud comes up with this week, don’t allow anti-Semitism to grow unopposed based on what you’re angry about. No matter how awful Likud gets, it doesn’t justify oppressing or killing Jews elsewhere in the world, which is a viewpoint you not only have to believe, it’s a viewpoint you have to support. In public.
There it is. Your blueprint. Help Israel unlearn the Three Lessons. Then the Holocaust won’t matter. In fact, then you’ll solve the Middle East’s biggest problem, assuming that the other side does something with concessions other than using them to kill more Israelis.
And you will really solve it, because Israel's ability to sell its intransigence on issues such as West Bank settlements to its supporters as valid is based primarily on its ability to show that the Three Lessons still apply. Even its internal supporters.