Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What Did You Expect?

A very long time ago, I was eating dinner with a bunch of friends, mostly guys, back when Mike Tyson first became heavyweight boxing champion. For some reason (probably related to alcohol), the question was asked: "What would you do if you had to fight Mike Tyson?"

The best answer, and the one that shut everyone else down, was: "I'd shoot him in the back from 500 yards away with a .375 H&H." When asked why, the answer was two-fold: The .375 has a good sectional density, so it is highly accurate at long ranges, and more importantly, it would not be possible to call in an air strike on his ass.

I offer that story as a lead-in to this lengthy post.


I have made little comment on Israel's attack on Gaza for a few reasons.

First, war is not something done by the Marquis of Queensbury Rules. The only thing that matters about a war is who prevails and who does not. Playing nice and losing is for suckers.

Second, I am of the opinion that if Hamas had fired a barrage of missiles and hit an elementary school with a bunch of kids inside and killed several score of them, the reaction in the Arab Street would have been somewhere between silence and gloating. There would have been no storm of protest, no outrage. The comments from a lot of people in this country would have been along the lines of "that is truly a shame, but..." with the "but" being the prelude to reasons why such at attack is to be expected from Hamas and why they would be justified in killing Israeli children.

Third, I am Jewish. When Hamas issues a threat to kill Jewish children (not only Israeli children), yes, I tend to take that personally. It also makes me a little less interested in standing up to the lazy-ass Wingnuts who conflate terrorists with all Muslims. Stuff such as this, which when it occurred in this country after 9-11 and was widely condemned, passes without a peep from the apologists for the Palestinians.

Fourth, and I shout this out to all of the rest of the world:

Just What the Fuck Did You Really Expect of Us?

That is a serious question.

For centuries, Jews have tried to fit in wherever you ("you" as in "the rest of the world") would have us. If all you would let us do was farm, we became peasants. If you let us into business, we became bankers and merchants. If you let us attend universities, we became doctors and lawyers and scholars and scientists. Where you let us assimilate, we assimilated. For the most part, we stayed away from the profession of arms, usually because the local rulers wanted only "good Christian soldiers." In large measure, for century after century, we turned the other cheek and, when things got too gritty, many of us fled for another land. Those of us who stayed behind and tried to fit in, even converting to the local religion, often got killed off anyway.

For century after century, we tried to be good, to not make a fuss, and for our pains, we endured cycle after cycle of settlement, integration (as much as was permitted), discrimination, expulsion and murder.

Then came the 20th Century. I won't give you a recital of the horrors of the Holocaust, but only to observe that even in countries where Jews had been living for centuries, where some were fully assimilated, the Jews were rooted out and exterminated. People whose only connection to the practice of Judaism was by ancestry, people who spoke not a word of Hebrew or Yiddish and who had never set foot in a synagogue or touched a Torah were, nonetheless, packed into boxcars and set to their deaths. After it was all over, when many Jews who survived sought to go home, the locals killed them. Poland was probably the worst example of that.

You taught us a very hard lesson at a great cost: The only power that earns respect in this world comes from the barrel of a gun. We gave up, finally, on nonviolence. That shit only works when the powers that be have a conscience, which, as was shown in virtually all of continental Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, they did not. So we did what you have done for millennia: Find a place to call our own and, if the people who are already there do not want us there, fight them for it.

The land of Israel was our home a very long time ago and we went back in large numbers, mainly because no other place on the motherfucking planet would have us. You did not see the US, for example, offer to throw open its borders and take all of the people in the Displaced Persons camps after the war, did you?

Most of the Jews who survived the concentration camps went to the land of Israel and, although Europeans nowadays might like to pretend otherwise, they were more than happy to see the Jewish refugees leave Europe. As much as the Arab countries may hate Israel, they took full advantage of the existence of Israel as a reason to expel, to Israel, their local population of Jews, many of whose families had been living there peacefully for over a thousand years.

You taught us this lesson, too: No land that is not controlled by Jews will ever be wholly accepting of Jews. We may live there a decade, a century, a millenia, but sooner or later, you will try to wipe us out or push us out because you regard us as "filthy Jews."

The people of Israel understand how the game is played in the Middle East: The strong thrive, the weak are hammered. The Sunni Muslims have discriminated against the Shi'a Muslims in most Arab lands with little protest from the rest of the world. The Kurds have been struggling against oppression for centuries. That is the way it is. The people of Israel know that should the Arabs ever gain the upper hand, they will push every Jew into the sea to drown. You might take note of the fact that a goodly percentage of the Jewish population of Israel came from Arab counties; you won't find too many voices among those Jews calling for peace with Hamas.

We Jews also know this: That, to the world, the phrase "never again" is an empty one. Rwanda. Cambodia. Bosnia. Sudan. Genocides and mass-murders have occurred since 1945 and the reaction of the rest of the world has been mainly limited to hand-wringing. Saddam Hussein had the Kurds gassed, killing thousands, and nobody did anything about it. Europe did jack-shit about Bosnia until the US stepped in to stop the fighting, possibly the only example of a genocide being stopped, mid-way, but only because Bill Clinton was likely haunted by his failure to intervene in Rwanda. The Bush Administration, being not so haunted, has done little to curb the genocide in Darfur, other than flapping their gums at it.

That all the rest of the world ever does is to flap their gums and wring their hands in the face of genocide is no surprise to Jews. It was true before, during and after the Holocaust. Hell, most of the world won't even recognize the first genocide of the 20th Century, the one that gave Hitler the idea he could get away with it, because the nation which perpetrated the genocide is an influential nation in a sensitive region of the world. Move it up two decades: How many people can name the location, let alone the perpetrators, of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of civilians in a single city?

The lesson of modern history is clear: If your people are unarmed and are being slaughtered, nobody will come to your assistance in a meaningful way. You might get some food and medical aid, but nobody will intervene to stop the bloodshed.

"Never again" to the Jews means that we will no longer perish without weapons in our hands and our enemies' blood being shed in copious amounts. If you do not like the idea of a heavily-armed Israel, of armed Jews in the world, then get over it. We tried playing nice before. Look what it got us.

Israel will negotiate, but when the Palestinian Arabs continue to press claims to *all* of Israel, to endorse the use of terrorism against the civilian population of Israel, you tell me: What is there to talk about? What is there to talk about with an enemy that regards negotiation as a step-by-step process to gain what it cannot gain on the battlefield?

The Jews are not leaving Israel. Until the Arabs, and that includes Hamas, understand that, until they understand that the state of Israel will not go away, then Israel will continue to play by Chicago Rules, rules that every party in the Middle East understands.

One final comment: Lots of people, as did I, thought that Israel screwed the pooch in going after Hezbollah and smashing much of the infrastructure of Lebanon to bits in 2006. But for all of the speeches and sloganeering and chest-beating by Hezbollah since that war, to my knowledge, Hezbollah has not fired a single Katyusha rocket into Israel, nor have they conducted any more cross-border raids to kidnap more Israelis. Hezbollah knows what it cost them to pick a fight with Israel and they seem to be very reluctant to repeat the experience.

That is, after all, the Chicago Way.

(UPDATE: Seems someone in Hezbollah may have gone off the reservation.)

(You probably came from here)