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Day 4 (Kanfer): Is Zionism Still Relevant to the American Jew?

From: Stefan Kanfer To: David Shneer Subject: A Final History Lesson Dear David, April 19, 1943. Ukranian and Latvian SS troops march into the Warsaw ghetto, under orders to destroy it and all who were living there. A Jewish leader, … Read More

By / December 4, 2006

From: Stefan Kanfer To: David Shneer Subject: A Final History Lesson

Dear David,

April 19, 1943. Ukranian and Latvian SS troops march into the Warsaw ghetto, under orders to destroy it and all who were living there. A Jewish leader, Mordechai Anielewicz led a resistance with a handful of supporters and a pitifully few guns. They held out until May 16. Most had perished by that time. The few survivors were sent to their deaths in Treblinka.

Do you think, can you actually believe, that these resistance fighters would not gladly have melted down statues—or any other cultural object—if it gave them the opportunity to defend themselves and, yes, kill (oooh…I know how awful this sounds) the enemy?

You state disapprovingly that “I presume that during war you would also burn Jewish books to keep warm.”

Another history lesson: that’s exactly what did happen when European Jews were forced to survive with little beyond their own belongings. The first duty of a society is to survive. The People of the Book first have to be a people. Then they can have the book.

Neatly avoiding my point about the strong profile of Oriana Falacci in the New Yorker, you go on to say that my arguments are “frightening” and “racist” because of my view of radical Islam and of those Muslims who cannot be bothered to denounce murder, whether in Israel, Europe, or America.

Had we been debating during World War II, I’m certain you would have labeled me frightening and racist when I said that Imperial Japan must be totally defeated, and later, when I said that the atomic bomb not only saved the lives of American soldiers, but also of Japanese ones, despite the pious editorials of after-the-fact historians.

You write, “Zionism holds less and less weight for younger American Jews who view the world through very different lenses from those of their parents and grandparents.” Well, of course they do. One can hardly expect these young folks to be Xeroxes of those who went before.

But they are not numb, either. If they have any sense, they know that Israel not only has a wall, it is a wall. The wall stands between the forces of Nazism redivivus (note the exhibition of antisemitic cartoons sponsored by Iran, whose leader denies that the Holocaust occurred).

They can cluck about how terrible violence is from the pseudo-safety of U.S. campuses (not so long ago a Muslim killed a woman and injured others at a Jewish organization in Seattle. There have been many other such incidents, including one at an El-Al counter in California and another on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.)

Or they can be realistic, and observe that while “they do not see Zionism as the solution to the war on terror” (whoever said that they did? Not I) they do see Israel as a vital component in that war. And that they are threatened by Israel’s enemies, who make no distinction between a Jew in Haifa and one in, say, Denver.

I wish you well nonetheless. Perhaps one day soon you will realize that those who see the killers as they are, are not racists but realists. And that those who see Zionism as the honest effort of Jews to find a place in the Middle East—a place that would be denied to them by the Muslim states of Syria, Iraq, Iran, etc.—are not echoers of Herzl but latter-day truth-tellers, unblinking, unafraid, and untenured.

Regards,

Stefan

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