Loose Lips Sink Countries
Speaking on Israel's Holocaust Memorial Day, Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan used the occasion to unburden himself of his deepest thoughts. One of which was to compare contemporary Israeli society to Germany prior to World War II: "If there's something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it's the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general , and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80, 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016."
"There is nothing easier than hating the stranger, nothing easier than to stir fears and intimidate. There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously," Golan said, warming to his task. Golan left little doubt that he finds all these "easy" things to be widespread in Israeli society, as he called for Holocaust Remembrance Day to be turned into a national day of atonement.
The Foundation for Middle East Peace, an organization that daily distributes the "best" of anti-Israel commentary from around the world placed Ha'aretz's story of Golan's speech at the top of its offerings the next day. Golan's speech will be used in every BDS rally and Israeli Apartheid Week in coming years.
It doesn't really matter what Maj. General Golan might have meant: His words were guaranteed to be seized upon to justify the Israel=Nazi equation that is the mainstay of the most fervid anti-Israel groups. Anyone with a minimal familiarity of the public relations war against Israel around the world should have known that.
Golan has given credence to the absurd claim that Jews treat the "Other" in their midst no better than Nazi Germany did the Jews -- a claim used to salve the conscience of the West for its complicity in the Nazi slaughter of Jews. Not since former Chief of Staff Ehud Barak commented, "If I were a Palestinian of a certain age, I would have joined a terrorist organization," has a prominent Israel done so much to further the delegitimization of Israel.
Golan's comparison of Israeli society to German society between the two world wars – a comparison he has attempted to walk back – reflects a profound historical ignorance. He should read Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust to learn how pervasive and long-standing anti-Semitism was in Germany from Martin Luther's call for razing Jewish homes and houses of worship through academic race theories of the late 19th century.
Nothing remotely similar exists in Israel. Millions of Israeli Jews who grew up in Arab honor cultures and their descendants may doubt that the Palestinians will ever accept the existence of Israel on land once ruled by Muslims. And while that view may not comport with Western liberals' assumption that the Palestinians are just seeking a slightly larger piece of the pie, and will deal if they get it, nothing that has happened over the last 68 years gives greater credence to the liberals' view.
In any event, an assessment of Arab society and culture has nothing to do with racism. Israeli Arabs attend Israeli universities in the same percentages as Israeli Jews. They enjoy greater prosperity and political freedom than Arabs in any neighboring country. Under Israeli authority, Palestinian life expectancy, GDP, and literacy skyrocketed, and infant mortality plunged. Israel has received refugees from the fighting in Syria and provided first-rate medical care to them. Hamas leaders, even in the midst of active warfare, send their children and relatives to Israel for medical treatment. Even an implicit comparison of Jewish attitudes towards Arabs to the exterminationist anti-Semitism of the Nazis is revolting.
Nor was that the only reprehensible aspect of General Golan's speech. I have many times pointed out the futility of grounding Jewish identity on the Holocaust, whether it be in the United States or Israel. But there is no gainsaying that the Holocaust was one of the most cataclysmic events in Jewish history, and it needs to be studied in its full horror. While the "lessons" of the Holocaust are not limited to the Jews, neither should it be ripped from its Jewish context and the millennial long hatred of the Jews.
And that is particularly true at a time when open anti-Semitism is on the rise throughout Europe and on U.S. campuses to the point where the very future of European Jewry is in question. Nor is the Holocaust such a long ago event that it is no longer relevant to focus on what was done to the Jews, and universalize its message into some Hallmark card sentiment about man's inhumanity to man.
Anti-Semites would like to reduce the Holocaust into just another example of the latter. They accuse the Jews of continually rubbing their wounds – as if the Holocaust were some long ago event not a searing memory for many still alive – and of using the Holocaust to gain sympathy and justify the existence of the state of Israel (albeit with precious little success).
By calling for turning Holocaust Day into one of Jewish self-examination for our sins and not those done to us, the deputy chief of staff played into the hands of our enemies.
A Nightmare from Which There is No Awakening
George Will many years ago made the useful distinction between values and virtues. Values are proclaimed; virtues are acquired, usually through great effort. Everyone has values – lots of them; virtues, however, are much rarer and thus more prized.
The presumptive presidential candidates of America's two major parties lack even the pretense of any of the traditional virtues extolled by Will. On the eve of the Indiana primary, with nearly every poll showing him far ahead, Donald Trump wondered on CNN why no one was talking about the photograph in a "major publication" purportedly showing Ted Cruz's father with Lee Harvey Oswald just prior to the Kennedy assassination.
That major publication was The National Enquirer. Good to know the would-be leader of the free world gets his information. Why would Trump wish to needlessly reinforce his image as a vicious imbecile, with no impulse control, unless he were one?
Meanwhile Clinton on a campaign swing through West Virginia was confronted by an unemployed coal miner about her campaign boast, "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business." With the calm of a pathological liar, she told him, "I didn't mean that we were going to do it, what I said was, that is going to happen unless we take action to try and help prevent it."
One of the few guilty pleasures of the upcoming presidential campaign will be watching these two thoroughly despicable people rip one another apart with abandon. At least then, most of what they say will be true.
Nate Silver's 538 site points out that Trump and Clinton will begin the campaign with by far the highest unfavorable ratings of any candidate in the last ten electoral cycles - - both way over 50%. Both carry decades of baggage that would sink any normal candidate.
For Trump that includes the bankruptcies of four of his companies, permanent residence on the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, mocking the appearance of a physically disabled reporter, dozens of disparaging remarks about the looks of various women, and dismissing John McCain as "no hero," despite enduring five years of torture in North Vietnam's Hanoi Hilton that left him permanently crippled.
Clinton's personal scandals start just out of law school with being fired for dishonesty from a job as a staff attorney of the Watergate Committee, Whitewater, her astronomical profits from trading cattle futures, the missing White House travel office documents, enablement of her husband's various adventures, lying to the Benghazi families about the nature of the attacks that left their loved ones dead, the pay-to-play activities of the Clinton Foundation, and perhaps most serious, the exclusive use of a private server while Secretary of State. Former CIA head and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that "odds are very high" that the server, which held at least 22 top secret documents, likely including the identities of U.S. agents abroad, was hacked by Russia and China.
Both will Trump and Clinton will run campaigns designed to rile up their base rather than appealing to common ideals and goals. Possessing so little virtue of their own, neither candidate will summon the American people to meet challenges, as JFK once did. Rather than addressing ways to help Americans use their freedom to develop their abilities and maximize their potential, they offer magical solutions – e.g., Trump's massive wall across the entire Mexican border to be financed by Mexico; Clinton's call for a $15 federal minimum wage.
There is no way to "Make America Great" by treating Americans as rubes and dependents. That raw appeals to envy and anger have proven successful – and here Sanders voters must be included no less than Trump's and Clinton's – does not bode well for the republic.
And there's more bad news in the recent election results. If I were an evangelical Christian, I'd be deeply worried by the fact that nearly as many evangelicals voted for Trump, the unabashed "personification of the seven deadly sins," in the words of the Washington Examiner's Daniel Allott, as for Ted Cruz, the evangelical son of a pastor. Apparently the religiosity of a very large percentage of evangelicals is not very deep. Incidentally, that should also be of concern to Israel. For it may indicate that evangelical support for Israel is also not that deep or reliable either.
Nor is it reassuring that America's colleges and universities evidently make students stupider than when they enter, and exponentially more close-minded. How else explain the enthusiasm of the college-educated young for the socialist Bernie Sanders, with his fantasies of free college, medical care, and whatever else the heart desires – all paid for courtesy of the evil 1%. Have these young scholars noticed the economic stagnation and the sharply declining rates of labor force participation over the last eight years of unprecedented budget deficits, not to mention the much more long-lasting forms of both phenomenon of Western Europe where the government plays an even larger role in the economy? What makes them think doubling down on more of the same will yield better results?
Historians from Gibbon on have noted that great empires fall not as a consequence of external forces but due to internal rot. Look out America.