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The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Thoughts on recent Globe articles

Two writers discuss Jewish issues in the Boston Sunday Globe. Columnist Jeff Jacoby mourns what he supposes to be the loss of Israel's derring-do epitomized by Entebbe, and Harvard professor Susan Suleiman reviews a new book by Jan Gross about a post-World War II massacre of Polish Jews by their countrymen at Kielce.

We will begin with Suleiman's review and Gross' book, "Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz." Gross is certainly no stranger to documenting Polish atrocities toward Jews. In 2001, Gross published "Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland." According to Suleiman, "The most shocking fact was that those who murdered the Jews of Jedwabne were Polish. The Polish villagers killed their Jewish neighbors and took over their property -- with the approval and encouragement of the Nazi occupiers." Now Gross considers the plight of Polish Jews after the war. After the trauma of the Holocaust, Poles murdered a thousand more Jews between 1945 and 1946. One pogrom took place on July 4, 1946, in and around the city of Kielce. The victims included "a woman and her baby who were driven to a forest and shot in cold blood by a small group of men," Suleiman writes. "After stripping her of her few belongings, they went out and had dinner."

Gross does good work in identifying and debunking the purported causes of this pogrom, including what Suleiman calls a "medieval fantasy of ritual murder" and the equation of Judaism with Communism. "There are still historians in Poland who explain Polish anti-Semitism on those grounds," Suleiman writes, "but Gross shows that, if anything, the Jewish population was largely anti-Communist, before and after the war."

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the Holocaust is that as soon as World War II ended, heartless people in Poland wanted the killing of Jews to continue.

The Entebbe operation, subject of Jacoby's column, also took place on July 4 (1976). He bemoans Israel for seemingly losing its soul, for committing the same audacious acts -- a commando raid in 1976, demonstrations against Gaza today -- while seeing its macho, martial character disappear. What is the evidence? "Israel's operation in Gaza comes less than a year after its unilateral retreat last summer," Jacoby writes, "when more than 8,000 Jews were expelled from the homes and communities some of them had lived in for decades." The Gaza disengagement, he adds, "didn't appease Hamas and Fatah. Instead, it convinced them that Israelis were weak, that terrorism worked -- and that more terrorism would work even better." He cites numerous examples.

Yet is Israel really different from its counterpart thirty years ago? Between 1968 and 1970, the country fought an inconclusive War of Attrition with Egypt before the Yom Kippur War of 1973 resulted in embarrassment, bloodshed, and the toppling of the Meir government. The Olmert administration seems better prepared today, given its rapid response to the kidnapping of French-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Withdrawal doesn't necessarily mean weakness. Leaving the Sinai after 1978 helped bring peace with Egypt. Yes, it is a cold peace, but Israel fought four major wars with Egypt before 1978 and none since. Leaving Lebanon does not seem to be the mistake the hawks felt it was in 2000. Hezbollah has had ample time to prepare for an invasion, yet that invasion has not come. And certainly we can argue that when Israel has acted with too much machismo, it has hurt itself -- as was the case with the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which resulted in a deadly stalemate with Hezbollah that overstretched an IDF already trying to deal with unrest in Gaza and the West Bank.

Those who govern Israel must never forget that their country was formed to protect Jews. Renouncing Gaza gives the IDF less territory to patrol and thus strengthens its overall position. Nonviolent solutions may not grab headlines, but their effect may prove as lasting as the raid on Entebbe.

2 Comments:

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting post... Around July 4, it makes you appreciate (as a generality) what American has offered to Jews (opportunity), as compared with much of Europe (persecution)

 
At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Jessica said...

Great post Rich! As always :)

 

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