Last week's Holocaust Memorial Day, part of that dubious practice in which we assign one day to important events and people, Mothers, Grandmothers, Presidents, Veterans, WW2 and forget them the rest of the time, has come and gone. But the Holocaust itself was long ago co-opted to promote a humanist philosophy of universal tolerance, and in doing so it was universalized and turned into nothing more than another reason we all need to learn to get along.
The universalization of the Holocaust was also the dejudaization of the Holocaust, turning the dwindling number of survivors into props in the great international classroom of tolerance, even as rocks are being thrown at their heads by the Muslim beneficiaries of that school of tolerance. All the while the humanist hijackers of the Holocaust who vociferously insist on using the murder of six million Jews as an illustration in their multicultural curriculum, angrily denounce any Jews who actually try to connect the hate toward Jews then and the hate toward Jews now. The same humanists who cynically exploit the Holocaust in their distorted version of history can always be counted on to jump up and denounce Jews for... exploiting the Holocaust.
But the Holocaust does indeed have a very important lesson to teach both Jews and non-Jews. Not the lesson of universal tolerance, but the lesson of the need for individuals and communities to be able to defend themselves.
There are essentially two responses to the Holocaust. The first is the humanist one, which treated the murder of six million as a "teachable moment" in which the world could be led to a great moral awakening that would insure that nothing like it could ever happen again. Ridiculous amounts of Jews and non-Jews in the West accepted it as a given, just as they had accepted it as a given in the 1930's that no such event could ever take place in a civilized country. That faith in human moral evolution was a product of the Enlightenment and for all its pretenses at a higher morality, was based on the arrogant notion that people were becoming progressively more moral, as they became more educated. That correlation was the product of a misplaced faith in culture as morality. The Nazis conclusively demonstrated that technological and cultural sophistication is not indivisible from morality, that one can be a cultured monster after all.
There has been no great moral awakening since 1948. Anti-semitism became slightly less fashionable for a while, but is making a strong comeback. The world has seen genocides happen and done nothing while they happened. The vast array of humanitarian organizations created after WW2 have on the balance done as much harm as good. The UN has shown that not only is it as useless as the League of Nations in serving as either a means of active intervention, or even as a voice of conscience, but that it can actually be turned into a puppet of the killers themselves with very little effort. The multicultural societies of the West have not stopped bigotry, in many cases they have actually fostered it. The great humanist experiment is dead, though its stench is impossible to escape.
Nevertheless Jews in the West have become painfully invested in the humanist answer, because it is so optimistic about human nature and so very comforting. To believe that people coming together will end all evil in a flash of universal understanding is the pseudo-religious impulse inherent in so many political movements. The idea that the Holocaust was a mistake that the world overlooked, but that can be transformed into a positive impulse with enough readings of the Diary of Anne Frank is childishly naive and yet painfully human. But more is asked of adults when confronting human evil, than of 13 year old girls. Because Anne Frank was not murdered by people who killed because they had not read Anne Frank's diary as children. She was killed by people, who in many cases would have been entirely capable of reading her diary, empathizing with it and yet killing her anyway. The inability to understand this is why so many Jews continue to cling to the humanistic promise of a better world, little realizing that the world is simply the environment in which human nature expresses itself. That the environment can be improved, but human nature will remain the same.
And so we come to the second response to the Holocaust, the practical one. This response does not concern itself with all the asinine humanist philosophizing. Instead it strips down the Holocaust to the bare bones as an event in which large numbers of Jews were killed by or for the most part with the cooperation of the authorities, and its solution is to remove the Jews from the jurisdiction of those authorities... and into their own national jurisdiction.
The State of Israel was not born out of the Holocaust, but out of a national longing for the land that was 2000 years old. But the Holocaust helped define the need for that land, even to those who could not feel that longing. It provided a practical answer to the practical problem of Jewish survival, and that was something the humanists could never forgive it for.
The conflict between the humanist and the practical solution to the Holocaust underlies much of the distaste and even outright hatred of the left for Israel. Because the creation of the State of Israel in the aftermath of the Holocaust has always seemed to the Humanists like a deliberate rejection of their philosophy, a retreat into nationalism, which to them was the very cause of the Holocaust. While it was the USSR that innovated the meme that the Jews were the new Nazis, their lefty fellow travelers quickly picked up the idea because it was a logical outgrowth of their philosophy that you were either part of the collective solidarity of mankind or one of the killers. Part of the solution or part of the problem. In their minds the creation of Israel was millions of Jews opting out of being the solution and becoming the problem instead.
And now for the left, Israel is the great problem of the world. Because it demonstrated a lack of confidence in the humanist solution of teaching universal tolerance and fostering a great moral awakening in mankind. As Einstein breezily told the commission, Israel was unnecessary because something like the Holocaust could never happen again. And that particular brand of humanist arrogance can only deal with the rising hatred toward Jews by insisting that their multicultural project is working perfectly... but it is the Jews themselves who are at fault.
Yet today critics point out that Jews are endangered in Israel, which they argue proves that the practical solution is no solution as well. And that's true. But it ignores the actual practical solution, which is not to merely build a country, but to build an independent country. And while Israel was relatively independent for the first few decades, it has become steadily more dependent; politically, economically, psychologically and culturally dependent. And that dependence is what is now crushing the life out of the nation.
The Jews of Europe in the 1930's depended on the authorities to protect them. That made them dependent. Being dependent only made them more vulnerable. This fed the same vicious cycle that had destroyed Jewish community after community in Europe. Because the Jews could only be safe by depending on written or oral promises from the ruler that their rights would be respected if they settled in City X or Town Y. And then where there was a budget squeeze, taxes and fines would be targeted at them, and eventually riots and property seizures. The survivors would try to hang on or flee, and either way the cycle would begin again. The Jewish communities were dependent on the rulers, and that in turn made them targets, which only made them more dependent on the goodwill of the rulers.
The extent to which you depend on the protection of the authorities limits your ability to dictate the terms of that protection. In the contemporary American example, you can have smaller government and armed town watches... or a ban on guns and a cop on every block with the right to enter your home if he pleases. The more you depend on the authorities for protection, the less say you have in how you get protected, and the more those who protect you, rule over you.
Israel started out controlling its own security, but through its growing alliance with the United States, has increasingly lost control of its own security. In 1981 Saddam Hussein began developing nuclear technology, Israel did not ask the United States for permission before launching a covert mission to bomb his Osirak reactor. In 1992, Israel was not even allowed to bomb the Scud missile sites pounding its cities. Instead the country was forced to rely on imported US troops with Patriot missiles to provide its security for it. Today less than 30 years later it is assumed that Israel needs American permission before launching an attack on Iran's reactors.
In the 1950's, Israel responded to terrorist attacks from Gaza by covertly sending troops across the border into Egypt and wiping out the villages that were the source of the attacks. Today when Israel shoots a single terrorist, US and European governments immediately summon the Israeli ambassador to demand an explanation and issue official statements condemning the killing. In 1967, facing an Egyptian invasion-- Israel took the element of surprise and struck first. In six days, the forces of Egypt and Jordan were routed, Jerusalem, Gaza, Judea, Sinai and the Shomron were liberated. In 1973, facing another invasion, the Israeli government bowed to pressure from Kissinger and waited for the attack to come. The resulting war nearly destroyed Israel.
In the 1930's, the Czechs believed that the Western powers would guarantee their security. So did the Poles. Both nations spent over 50 years as conquered nations and protectorates of other powers. The Jews of Europe expected that the authorities would protect their rights, even in the event of an invasion. What followed was the Holocaust.
The only meaningful lesson of the Holocaust is that if you expect others to protect your life or your rights, you are giving them the power to take away your rights or your life, when and as they please. Israel has foolishly put itself into the familiar position of the Jews of Europe, looking to the authorities for protection and trying to win their favor, complaining about the abuse, but only sliding further into dependency. If Israel does not break that cycle, it will be destroyed. The only way it can survive, if it realizes that its people and its soldiers are the only human beings who can protect, and that only those who dictate the terms of their own protection are truly free.