Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Offhanded Remark That Says Everything

Writing in The Jewish Chronicle, Martin Bright notes his recent disappointing visit to Yad Vashem:
I recently lost my rag at Yad Vashem. I didn't shout and stamp my feet. I'm not that crass. Being British, I just quietly fumed and grumbled to a friend who was with me. But I was properly angry, not just on my own behalf but that of my whole country. Why? Because my guide, a senior curator at the museum, had chosen to lump Britain in as part of her sweeping picture of European capitulation in the face of the Wehrmacht.
"Look how they all surrendered," she said, pointing with a series of thrusts of her finger at the map of Europe with a look of disgust.
"Every single European country." I have never felt myself to be a particularly patriotic person, but I couldn't help it. It just bubbled up. "Except one," I said, half expecting her to correct herself. But no, the guide simply looked me in the eye and said: "Well, I suppose you had the good fortune of the Channel."
I decided to visit the rest of the museum without the benefit of her expertise. Yad Vashem is such a devastating assault on the intellect and emotions that it is best experienced alone anyway.
Some of this disappointment is justified.  Anyone familiar with British culture knows that the inhabitants of Europe's misty northwest corner hated being lumped in with the rest of Europe.  Their is a distinct language, culture and history.  While they have often intervened in the goings on of their continental neighbours, they have never seen themselves as a direct part of Europe and still note with great pride that they have not been successfully invaded since 1066.  Look at the row that happens every time someone suggest that the pound be replaced by the Euro and the strength of British exceptionalism makes itself obvious.
There is also much truth to Bright's noting that it was Britian alone that, for 2 long years, stood alone against the Nazi enemy in the West.  While the rest of Europe either allied itself with Hitler, y"sh or surrendered to him, the British never slowly down in their opposition to his monstrous attempt to conquer the world.  They marshalled their Empire in the name of survival and freedom with ultimate success.  So bully for them.
However, there is the other side of the British war effort that Mr. Bright may not be aware of.  During the war Britain was the West's greatest Nazi enemy but when it came to the Jews they were Hitler's greatest ally. 
It was the British who bloackaded Israel so that fleeing Jews could not reach safety there.  It was the British who refused any Jewish entry into their little kingdom during the war.  It was the British who refused the German offer of one million Hungarian Jews who wound up in Auschwitz.  It was the Britsh who, after war, set up internment camps in Cyprus for concentration camp survivors who had suffered enough in Europe and just wanted to go home to Israel.  As my father, a "guest" in one of those camps one asked me, what's worse - the guy who slits your throat or the guy who holds down so that you can't escape the first guy's knife?
Ironically, Bright mentions this little bit of history in the final part of his article:
But I can't be the only visitor to have noticed how Britain stands out: the Jewish population of Britain was 300,000 before the war and 300,000 after.
A more telling challenge for British visitors to Yad Vashem than whether or not we were saved by the channel in 1940 would be to ask why the population of Jews did not grow.
That's right.  How many hundreds of thousands did Bright's government turn away and send back to certain death?


Y. Ben-David said...

Although you are quite right about Britain's perfidy regarding the Holocaust, there is something we can learn from the British experience in the two World Wars. In both wars, Britain suffered long series of setbacks but the important thing is that even when things looked bleak, they did not panic...they kept their heads. Particularly in 1918, the Germans, after knocking the Russians out of the war, transferred huge numbers of troops to the Western Front. There, in March 1918, they attacked the British who were pretty exhausted and short of men by that point in the War. Even though the German offensive kept pushing the British back and back and back. In spite of this, their commanders didn't panic and eventually halted the Germans. Similarly in World War II, when they stood alone for an entire year (June 1940-June 1941) and they suffered major setbacks they again kept their cool and held on until circumstances changed. Public opinion polls taken in Britian at the height of the Battle of Britain (August-September 1940) when a German invasion was believed (wrongly) to be imminent showed a large majority of the population feeling certain that Britain would win the war in the end. They were right.

We Jews, once known for our patience, have become very impatient and when setbacks (Yom Kippur War, destruction of Gush Katif) occur people lose their heads and say "all is lost!". It is time to look at our own history and that of those like the British to learn how overcome feelings of despair when things are not going well.

Y. Ben-David said...

I might add that what I wrote in the previous comment should especially apply to those who fear what might happen if the Iranians should get "the Bomb".
Don't forget during the Cold War, the US and USSR almost got to the point of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis but both sides wisely pulled back. Eventually, even though the USSR had thousands of nuclear weapons their regime collapsed. Having all this firepower did them no good in the long run. Iran and the other extremist Islamic countries will collapse in much less time. Thus, we must all keep our heads even if they should get the bomb and start bragging about it.
Another example is Pakistan (why don't people worry about THAT Islamic bomb?). After they detonated their first one, they adopted a very aggressive policy at the "Line of Control" in Kashmir where they faced off with the Indian Army. The Indians slapped them down in short order after the Pakistanis learned that "the Bomb" did them no good in a conventional military confrontation. The Iranians would learn the same thing if they should try something similar.
I also don't believe they are suicidal. They wouldn't arm HIZBULLAH and HAMAS if they were. Their leaders enjoy the good life just like dictators everywhere.

Shana Tova L'chol Am Israel

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

This situation is very complicated.
For example, while the supreme mullahs and ayatollahs probably enjoy the good life as you indicated, Mahmood Ahmewhoziwhatsis reputedly belongs to some apocalyptical strain of Israel that believes in a dead messiah returning after a worldwife conflagaration, kind of like Chabad with nukes. So even though Khameini might not want to use nukes, Ahma...etc just might.
In addition, there's the mere presence of the nuke to consider. Iran doesn't have to use it, just to threaten to use it to get the rest of the world to back down to its crazy demands like: impose a Palestinian state or I'll use my nuke, and so on. Given the lack of cojones the West currently have I would guess that such threats would be taken quite seriously.
As for the Pakistanis, they have all their nukes pointed at India with none left for anywhere else. The concern there is if the government collapses. Who has the key to the missles then?