One of the slogans that gained favor in some Jewish circles in the 1970s and 1980s was "Never Again!" The import of the slogan was that Jews would never again allow themselves to be slaughtered indiscriminately by those who hate them. It was not only the scope of the Holocaust that would never again be repeated, but the idea behind that atrocity - that Jews should be killed merely for being Jewish - would also never again be tolerated.
Well, the slogan has been proven wrong and even empty. Jews are being killed merely because they are Jews. They are being killed in cafes and banquet halls, outside synagogues and in the study halls of yeshivot, walking on the streets and driving their automobiles. The Jews who are being killed are old and young, Zionists and anti-Zionists, Left and Right, haredi and secular, militants and peaceniks.
They are being killed wherever they can be found - in Gaza and the West Bank, Hadera and Netanya, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. They are being killed in locations and neighborhoods that were Jewish-owned and populated before Arizona and New Mexico were admitted to the United States.
And, as was the case 65 years ago, much of the "civilized" world in effect condones these killings by its inaction, its biased positions on the dispute, its public stance in support of the killers and its pathetic sense of relative morality and hypocritical evenhandedness.
There is no nationalistic cause that justifies rolling hand grenades into a hotel lobby or bombing people standing outside a cafe. It is only killing for killing's sake, hatred for hatred's sake that defines such behavior; except that in the minds of the killers and those who create, protect and send these fanatics to their deaths, all of this is justified by the fact that they are killing Jews. No Jew is ever an innocent victim in their eyes.
In his infamous speech to the SS in the midst of the Holocaust, Himmler praised them for remaining strong and true even though they had to suffer the trauma of killing babies and old people every day. Well, that is pretty much the same speech that we hear from Hamas and Islamic Jihad and all the other fronts for Yasser Arafat's murderers. Himmler was also embarked on a jihad. And the world then condoned that jihad, just as much of it supports the current one.
Well, rabbi, you will say, isn't it true that Israel is killing Palestinians on a daily basis? Why doesn't Israel just retreat into its original Auschwitz borders (Abba Eban's felicitous phrase) of pre-1967 and then the killing will end?
Yes, Palestinian Arabs are dying every day. But they are dying not because they are Arabs or Palestinians. They are dying because they are shooting at Jews, planting bombs, sending out suicide terrorists, or being in the unfortunate situation of having terrorists use them as shields and havens. They are dying because not one of their leaders has had the courage to condemn their terror. Even in Nazi Germany there were those who spoke out against the killings.
We are faced with a wall of Arab silence, broken only by warmed-over peace plans that if adopted in their present publicized form, can only result in the destruction of the State of Israel.
The tragedy is that the killing can be stopped. If Arafat can and will impose a true cease-fire, then perhaps even positive progress toward a mutual arrangement of prosperity and accommodation may result. But as long as the thrust of Arafat's policy is that indiscriminate killing of Jews will gain him more than any negotiated arrangement, that the way to the Palestinian future is through jihad, then more of his people are also destined to die because of his cruel cynicism.
And if Arafat continues to prove untrustworthy, then to whom should Israel turn to negotiate borders, settlements, commerce and normal relations? To whom, indeed? The entire idea of any peace arrangement here is hinged on a satisfactory answer to that question.
Above all else, Israel needs a leadership which will tell us the truth - that somehow "Never Again!" was wishful thinking. We now need inspiration and comfort, not slogans and rallies. We need Churchills and not Chamberlains, Isaiahs and not false prophets of doom on the one hand or makers of pie-in-the-sky promises on the other.
The Jewish people have within it a strength that has withstood every historical trauma heaped upon it. It is strong in this hour of crisis and sadness as well.
In the time of the Holocaust, much of Jewish leadership was silent or ineffective. They did not want to rock the boat, to say things that were impolitic or challenging.
Well, at least that part of "Never Again!" should be resurrected and implemented. We should speak up and speak out, to state our right to live in Israel without being terrorized and murdered. And if force is the only way that this can be achieved, then force it will be. We really don't want it to be this way, but...