The lessons of history

A Personal Perspective

Depending on one's perspective on history, and resulting world view, October 23 would have been either another milestone on the way to a New Middle East, or another railway marker along the tracks to Israel's demise.

Worldwide, millions of people see the Arab-Israeli conflict as just one of the more intractable problems on the globe, the resolving of which will bring mankind closer to achieving universal peace. That these multitudes should celebrate the Wye River Memorandum, which pushes "trouble-making" Israel to give up more of its precious little land for promises of peace, is hardly surprising.

But to others the words, "Oslo brings peace", convey about as much promise and hope as "Arbeit macht frei". These people cannot forget that just a few short years ago, fully one third of the world's Jews allowed signs like these to dupe and numb them against the reality from which all their senses urged them to flee.

For the last 2,000 years, the Jewish experience has repeatedly been that of hoping against hope until too late; of refusing to heed the signals that warned of the true intentions of those around them.

Thus Josephus and Tacitus record how the Jews stayed in Jerusalem when Titus advanced on the city, ignoring God's warning that they flee in favour of false prophets who said He would save them. Thus Jews fell prey to armies and mobs in country after country down the ages. And thus they scoffed and stopped their ears when Vladimir Jabotinsky and other far-sighted individuals saw the horrors of the Holocaust rushing to engulf them, and cried out to European Jewry to "liquidate the Diaspora before the Diaspora liquidates you".

In his book "A History of the Jews", historian Paul Johnson describes the elaborate ends the Nazis went to to deceive those they were about to mass-murder, after they had openly proclaimed their intentions to the world: The dummy train station on the way to Treblinka, replete with ticket office and hand-painted clock; the death chambers disguised as shower rooms, set amid lawns and flowers with Red Cross markings on the doors; and the orchestras that played as the Jews were given a towel and soap and told to breathe deeply inside the "Bathhouse" so as "to disinfect their lungs".

"The deception often worked," wrote Johnson, "because the Jews wanted to be deceived. They needed to have hope…"

How true this is today of the many, many Israelis who fiercely defend the peace process and the right of the Palestinian Arabs to a state inside Israel despite the risk it poses to the Jews. Who can blame them? After living their lives in a sea of hatred, daily hearing the threats to complete what Hitler began, repeatedly--every year, every month, sometimes every day--seeing Jews killed at the hands of the threat-makers; they now are offered hope in a different future. Who can blame them for grasping at it with both hands, or for slapping away those who question "the peace"?

Be this as it may, do Israel's leaders really need gentiles to remind them that, just 50 years ago, God began to return parts of their ancient homeland after their forebears had wandered among the nations for thousands of years? How often they must have doubted that the sanctuary and freedom offered by Eretz Yisrael would ever be more than a futile hope.

And yet, against all the odds of history, and against the wishes and efforts of millions of foes, the Jews did begin to return to the land, and the land began to return to the Jews.

As we know, they got none of it back for nothing; the price was horrifyingly high: One-and-a-half-million children and four-and-a-half million adults were slaughtered before the guilt-ridden--and still begrudging--world let the survivors have a small part of "Palestine". And for 51 years, Jewish blood has been shed to keep it, with their enemies' efforts to drive them off only seeing them recover more.

Israel has paid an immeasurable price to regain its land, and yet the Jews seem less than certain that it actually is theirs. Why on earth do Israel's leaders allow more of it to be taken away? What have they achieved, one wonders, for their bruised and bloodied nation, by letting more of it go? Have they won peace for their people? Have they earned even a brief let-up in the violence and hate that has plagued them without end?

More Israeli lives have been taken since the first part of this treaty was signed five years ago than in any similar time period since the nation's rebirth.

Why, Israel's leaders, were you so afraid to just say no at Wye, to come back home, batten down the hatches and ride out the indignation of the world? You have that anyway. All your concessions failed to placate the nations. Let me repeat this clearly: All your concessions, all you have given, all you have already paid in lives and in land has failed to earn you more than momentary relief from the harsh judgement and criticism of the international community.

God's truth and justice are on the side of your claim to this land. So why did you give in? We so much wanted you to stand firm.

Well, the majority of the world's people might have applauded your concessions. But when the whole process collapses, as it must--as it already is--you will be left virtually alone to carry the can.

Virtually. But for the One who kept His promise to bring you back home, and for those who believe He will just as assuredly keep you here.

Stan Goodenough

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