Lessons of the Holocaust

Does it make sense to say that we should learn lessons from the Holocaust? I believe it does – and they are clear.
For Jews, Menachem Begin, speaking in 1981, said it best:
“First, if an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. Don’t doubt him for a moment. Don’t make light of it. Do all in your power to deny him the means of carrying out his satanic intent.

Murder of Jews in Ivangorod 1942

 

Second, when a Jew anywhere is threatened, or under attack, do all in your power to come to his aid. Never pause to wonder what the world will think or say. The world will never pity slaughtered Jews. The world may not necessarily like the fighting Jew, but the world will have to take account of him.”

The last Jew in Vinnitsa shot at edge of pit 1941

 

In the 1930s the Jews of Germany, and much of Europe, thought that they belonged to the most advanced and progressive civilisation the world had ever seen. They could not believe that the people who had thrilled with them to Beethoven and Goethe, and together with them had probed the secrets of the universe and the heart of the atom, would unleash on them a merciless barbarism as murderous as that of Genghis Khan. But they did.

Partisan Brigade of Abba Kovner & Benjamin Levin at Vilna Liberation 1944

 

For Gentiles, it is even simpler. Because of our long history of being persecuted, Jews have the most acute antennae for it. So if a Jew calls out antisemitism, don’t question them. Believe them. If you can’t bring yourself to support them, at least don’t try to silence them.
If, however, you dismiss Jewish accusations of antisemitism as being in bad faith, and support anti-Jewish remarks as ‘fair comment’; if you tell Jews that after 75 years it’s high time they ‘got over’ the Holocaust; if you condemn the government and armed forces of Israel for preventing the murder of its citizens by any means necessary; and, most wickedly of all, if you try to demoralise young Jews by lying to them that “Israel is doing to the Palestinian Arabs what the Nazis did to the Jews”; then, deny it though you may, I am afraid you are committing acts of antisemitism.

Woman Soldiers of the Israeli Defence Force

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A Trip to Romantischer Rheinland in May 1952

 

In May 1952 my mother Anne Berns, then aged 25, persuaded my grandparents to take her on a touring holiday of Germany, centered on the ‘Romantischer Rheinland’. Many of her friends thought she had no business going for a holiday in a country which had so recently come within an ace of destroying our own, and which had committed such unspeakable crimes, above all the Holocaust: but as she said, she wanted to go there “to see if the Germans were human”.

        1952 May Frank & Fanny BERNS in Garmisch   1952 May Anne BERNS Mittelsburg

Frank & Fanny Berns                        Town Centre

 

They hired a car & driver and toured a great swathe of West Germany (as it was then): the capital Bonn, Cologne, Heidelberg, Neuschwanstein, Oberammergau, Wiesbaden, Dinkelsbühl, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. They ended up in the Alpine resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen which their driver particularly recommended to them as an outstandingly beautiful spot.

So how were the Germans? As Churchill said in his speech to the US Congress in 1943: “The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet”. With the exception of a one-legged veteran in the ruins of Cologne who spat at them – Cologne had been flattened utterly, except for the cathedral which had been spared, but the city was a neat & tidy ruin –  everybody in the shops, resorts and hotels fawned obsequiously over my mother and grandparents and couldn’t do enough for them.

Britain had been starving for years under rationing, and even my grandparents who were in the fortunate position of being shopkeepers had their work cut out to organise enough food for themselves & their daughter. What they saw in West Germany made their eyes pop out of their heads. In Garmisch-Partenkirchen there were the biggest cream cakes they’d ever seen. Every shop was stuffed full with first-rate produce. My mother particularly remarked upon the beautiful leather handbags. As for the locals, they were plump, smug and beautifully – and expensively – dressed. The war had only been over five years, and Britain was still on its knees recovering. But in West Germany the appearance of the people and the towns was as if there had never been a war. Or if it had, they looked like victors.

1952 May Anne BERNS Garmisch Lodge1952 May Anne BERNS Garmisch Fat_Happy Burgers

In Garmisch-Partenkirchen

 

The manner of the Germans – those who were not fawning in service – was uniformly self-satisfied. It did not appear that they gave a thought to what they and their families had done during the war. It seemed they did not consider themselves responsible for any wrongdoing, and the concept of repentance was utterly alien to them.

Yes, the Germans were human. But they were quite devoid of what we would call humanity.

Is Kevin Myers Antisemitic?

The furore over Kevin Myers’ article in the Irish edition of the ‘Sunday Times’ on 30 July 2017 (Sorry ladies, equal pay has to be earned) has split the UK Jewish community in half.

Because so many people found it objectionable the Sunday Times has withdrawn it from their website. It achieved the twin goals of being insulting to both women and Jews: but from a Jewish perspective this was the salient passage:

“I note that two of the best paid women presenters in the BBC – Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted – are Jewish. Good for them. Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity.”

Lest there be any doubt that Myers likes to sail as close to the wind as possible in his remarks about Jews, he wrote a deliberately provocative clever-silly piece about the Holocaust for the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ on 6 March 2009. This too has been pulled, but fortunately captured by another website:

http://archive.is/2017.07.30-135449/http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/there-was-no-holocaust-kevin-myers-28473646.html

The salient extracts:

“There was no holocaust…six million Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich…For efficient though the Nazis were, they were not so clinically precise as to kill six million Jews — not a Jew more, or not a Jew less…Moreover, there certainly was no holocaust. For if the word is to have any literal validity at all, it must be related to its actual meaning, which comes from the Greek words holos, ‘whole’, and caust, ‘fire’…Any one of us should be able to declare any old counter-factual and even offensive nonsense, without being sent to jail, provided we preach hatred for no one…[but] imams regularly preach hatred for Jews, and where the holocaust is routinely denied. Which member-state of the EU will pursue such conveyors of hate, or seek the extradition of an imam who says that the holocaust was a Zionist hoax? None of them…If Bishop [Richard] Williamson has an agenda, it is so bonkers as to rank alongside that of The Lunar Cheese Society.”

Vanessa Feltz has said on BBC Radio London that the Sunday Times article was “so obviously racist it’s surprisingly hurtful”. The Sunday Times responded by sacking Kevin Myers, who made a fashionably half-arsed apology: “I am issuing an apology for no other reason than contrition of the hurt I have caused them.” Jaw-droppingly, he continued: “I didn’t know Jews were living human beings. I thought they belonged to the Bible.”

One might have thought that this would be the end of it. But surprisingly, a number of Jews – three of whom, including a dear family member, I know to be among the bravest and staunchest supporters of Israel in Britain today, constantly putting themselves in real physical danger to counter antisemitic lies – have spoken out in defence of Myers. Here is what a past President of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland had to say:

“It is an awful pity that you all had to jump in without first consulting the Irish-Jewish community. The Jewish Representative of Council of Ireland are well able to look after our own local affairs without the interference of the so-called “do-gooders” from the UK and elsewhere….I know Kevin Myers, and I, among others, have personally offered him support. He is suffering from what he wrote. He has never been anything other than supportive to Judaism and Israel…” Another senior figure: “Try being a leader of a small community in a hostile environment.” “In the Irish media there were only about six writers sympathetic to Jews and Israel. Now there are only five.”

We have been here before. The ten thousand or so Jews of Iran have one seat in the Majlis reserved for their representative. Siamak Morsadegh has held that seat since 2008, and last year said in an interview with ‘The Independent’:  “The fact is, Iran is a place where Jews feel secure and we are happy to be here…no one forces the Jews to stay here…the actions of Netanyahu and his government, the way they behave towards the Palestinians, cause problems for Jews everywhere.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/irans-jews-on-life-inside-israels-enemy-state-we-feel-secure-and-happy-a6934931.html

Are you really saying that Ireland is as anti-Zionist – even as antisemitic – as Iran? If so, isn’t it about time you got the hell out and made aliya while you still can?

So how are we to judge Kevin Myers – for judge him we must? As so often, to my mind the most useful parallel is with the Black community. People make the mistake of thinking that being Jewish is mainly a matter of religion. It is not. It is most particularly nothing like being Muslim. Are there atheist Muslims? There are not. Atheist ex-Muslims, many under sentence of death – yes indeed. But rid our synagogues of the atheist Jews and you’d never get a minyan. Being Jewish is something you’re stuck with, no matter what you believe in. Like your skin colour.

When I was a child one of the most popular TV programmes was ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’. Fifty years ago, it was quite normal – though already a bit dated – for white people to black up. Fifty years before that, they were unashamedly called ‘Nigger Minstrels’ and at the heart of popular culture. Now if you asked any of the people who blacked up whether they were bigots, they would have been horrified. They would have said that they liked black people, they loved their culture, and they admired their musical and athletic talents. Are you getting echoes of anything here, Kevin Myers?

Before WWII, before the establishment of the State of Israel, there was a sound argument to be made for Jews not to make a fuss about gentiles who pointed out the supposed Jewish qualities of being good with money, musical and endowed with a native shrewdness. At least, so the argument went, they weren’t accusing us of murdering Jesus and baking matzohs with Christian children’s blood, and anyway those comments were a small price to pay for them not siding with Hitler. In Romain Gary’s ‘The Oldest Story Ever Told’  (1965) a Jew helps and conceals the Nazi who tortured him in the camps, because “He’s promised to treat me better the next time!”

It is long past time for Jews to stop being careful and precious about charges of antisemitism. That should have ended in 1945. We are no longer trembling Israelites. On the contrary, it is the Kevin Myers of this world who should be nervous about singling out Jews for special attention. The gentile world – and Europe in particular – has over two millennia of arrears of apologies due to the Jewish people. We Jews, of all people, have a right – even, I would argue, a duty to our children – to stand tall and proud and apologise to no-one. Arrogant? Try saying that to a brigade of the IDF.

The Dragon Masters – a Mirror War

In 1962 Jack Vance published an award-winning novella called ‘The Dragon Masters’. On a distant planet humans had bred a race of lizard-like creatures into fighting animals. Like dogs, there were many different breeds, with different characteristics and sizes, from the man-sized Termagants through the Spiders that serve as war-mounts to the elephantine Juggers. Their human masters use them in combat both against each other and against a space-faring race called the grephs.

It turns out the grephs are in fact the ‘basics’ – the lizard-like ancestors of the Dragons. As humans bred some of their captured ancestors, so the grephs captured and bred humans for combat. Against the Termagants they match Heavy Troopers; against Spiders they ride Mounts; and they have bred Giants to match Juggers in size.

We Jews are faced with a similar situation. So many Jews have been seduced into being anti-Zionist, and even anti-Jewish: Gilad Atzmon, David Baddiel, Moshe Ber Beck, Geoffrey Bindman, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Greenstein, Henry Kissinger, Miriam Margolyes, Ilan Pappe, Jacqueline Rose, Michael Rosen, Shlomo Sand, George Soros, Philip Weiss, Yisroel Dovid Weiss – the list is depressingly long.

Against this wealthy and powerful army – and they number hundreds, if not thousands – we seem to be able to muster a bare handful of extraordinarily brave Muslims who understand and sympathise with the predicament of Jews and Israel. Maajid Nawaz, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Noor Dahri – precious few else.

Where are our Giants?

Just How Anti-Zionist Is Britain?

I didn’t realise until a few days ago that the UK Government Petitions website is searchable. It’s not quite down to “Don’t tell him your name, Pike” level – but you can find out how many people from each parliamentary constituency voted for a given petition. So you can see in what areas support is strongest – and where they really don’t care.
Obviously I searched for the most popular antisemitic petition I could find, as you do. Fortunately there is nothing of that nature currently live: but in 2015 there was a fine example of antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism: “Benjamin Netanyahu to be arrested for war crimes when he arrives in London” This attracted 114,122 signatures before it closed in February 2016.
As a control I compared it to the most popular petition which was likely to attract the sort of leftish, anti-establishment progressives who might have signed the first petition – but without the anti-Israel element. This is still open: “Prevent Donald Trump from making a State Visit to the United Kingdom”. As of 29 April 2017 it has garnered 1,863,606 signatures.
There are 650 constituencies in the UK, so on average 175 people from each should have signed the Netanyahu petition. More than 840 signed from: Bethnal Green (1665), Poplar (1528), Bradford West (1347), Birmingham Hall Green (1323), Blackburn (1319), East Ham (1311), Ilford South (1292), Birmingham Hodge Hill (1101), West Ham (1069), Leicester South (876), Rochdale (866), Bradford East (858) & Birmingham Ladywood (847).

On average 2,867 people from each constituency should have signed the Trump petition. More than 10,000 signed from: Bristol West (13177), Hackney North (12346), Hornsey (11848), Bethnal Green (11499), Holborn (11309), Hackney South (11166) Brighton Pavilion (11136), Islington North (10776).

What can we learn from these figures? Most importantly, that the Israeli/Arab conflict is a long way down on the agenda of even the most left-leaning politically-minded Brits. Secondly, that there is no drive to intersectionality: no underlying linkage between opposition to Trump and opposition to Israel. The only proportional demographic overlap with these petitions is in the East End of London, specifically Bethnal Green. This might be expected, as it is home to both the hard left and a massive Muslim population. But anti-Trump centres outside London (Bristol, Brighton) seem to have little or no animus towards Netanyahu or Israel. So where is the anti-Zionist animus concentrated? Bradford, Birmingham, Blackburn, Leicester and Rochdale – all very large Muslim centres.

Conclusion: anti-Zionism is just not that popular a cause in Britain, even among the hard, anti-colonialist, anti-American, anti-capitalist Left. But it does obsess a worrying large percentage of British Muslims. Below is the spreadsheet giving all above-average constituency figures: judge for yourself.

Anti-Zionist to Anti-Trump Petition Map of UK

Two Meditations

(1) We are all lunatics. One primary function of society, like a well-run asylum, should be to stop the dangerous lunatics from hurting the harmless ones. Unfortunately, human nature is such that the reverse usually applies: the dangerous lunatics are running the joint, and most of the harmless ones seem enthusiastically to support their tyranny.

 
(2) Planet Earth can be likened to a jug of custard with a thick skin on top, but suspended in space so the custard forms a sphere with the skin entirely surrounding it. This skin is in fact in several sheets, like ice floes, butting up against each other and constantly in motion. That skin is what we think of as the world. It is dotted with myriad pinpricks through which the custard wells up: we call these volcanoes. Every 10 million years or so we have a basalt flood, where the skin tears open and molten rock floods a sizeable portion of the world, rendering many species extinct. All the anthropogenic climate change that mankind has every caused or is ever likely to cause is trivial in comparison.

Farewell, Sylvester

We lost Sylvester today. Sylvester is a semi-feral tom cat who first appeared about 3 years ago. Initially he would just dart in through the cat-flap late at night and scarf down the food we’d left for Tigger and other visitors. You couldn’t touch him, but he seemed to like me sitting about six feet away and singing quietly to him. After two years or so of this I thought I’d try to tame him. I started getting closer to him and about six months ago stroked him for the first time. He liked it. After a few weeks of tentative handling he started to follow me & butt his head against my hand. One day I heard a rusty rumble: Sylvester, after perhaps a decade in the wild, had remembered from his kittenhood how to purr.

But all was not well. Toms get into fights: and about two years ago he lost an ear. After he had become tame – and he was a very affectionate cat, spending a long time each day stretched out with his face pushed into the palm of my hand or rolling over to have his tummy rubbed – Mum & I took turns trying to clean up the remains of his torn-off ear with warm salt water. But it just kept being re-infected. Unlike most cats he couldn’t jump up anywhere – I thought perhaps one back leg, held awkwardly, had broken and healed years ago. Then, a few weeks ago, a swelling started to appear beside the remains of the ear, and his back legs became very doddery. A visit to the vet was called for.

The news was very grim. Sylvester had diabetes. That would have needed two injections a day and an enforced restricted diet – very difficult when Smudge, our little ginger, is so fussy and needs to be coaxed with food. But for better or worse the decision was taken away from us when further investigation revealed a massively swollen kidney and at least one tumour.

Two days at the vet’s without me had turned Sylvester feral again: they said they could barely handle him. This morning I went down there and had a consultation with the vet. He took me into the kennels to see Sylvester. When the cage door was opened he hissed, cringed and spat, but within three minutes some Dreamies, some crooning and a few gentle strokes had reminded him of who I was, and once again he butted up to my hand and purred like a firehouse. I was crying and telling him how good and brave he was.

Andy the vet was very calm and sympathetic as I picked Sylvester up and cradled him in my arms. Sylvester is a big, muscular tom: the sedative took several minutes to take effect, but finally he lay still. Then came the second, lethal injection.

I am glad I had the courage to be with my Sylvester every moment of his final journey. No months of agony in a body resistant to all painkillers; no weeks of agony as nutrition is withdrawn; no days of agony while hydration is withdrawn. I hope to God someone does the same for me when my time comes.

Sylvester 1Sylvester 2Sylvester 3Sylvester 4