HRS International

Israeli martyrs – and Western guilt

“Until now,” writes Giulio Meotti, “there was not one book devoted to Israel’s dead.” Now, thanks to Meotti, there is. And it doesn’t shrink from pointing out that Europe, where the Holocaust was carried out, is no innocent bystander at today’s systematic slaughter of the Jews.

By Bruce Bawer, HRS

“There were sixteen million Jews in the world,” Giulio Meotti reminds us, “before the arrival of Adolf Hitler; now there are thirteen million. The extinction of European Judaism took place amid the complete and tragic failure of European culture. Today in the West there is a faulty conscience—indifferent to the parade of young Palestinians putting on explosive belts, the daily demonization inflicted on Jews in the Arab world, the crowds delirious over the lynching of two Jewish soldiers who had lost their way and whose dismembered bodies were displayed as trophies. This faulty conscience has obliterated the fate of thousands of Israelis murdered because they were Jews; it has erased one of the reasons for Israel’s existence.”

The book in which Meotti writes these tragically true words, The New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism, is, to be sure, not primarily about the West’s “faulty conscience”; it is, rather, a memorial to those thousands of murdered Israeli Jews – an exhaustive series of personal tributes to the many individuals who have lost their lives in terrorist acts committed in Israel.

Yet if the book is not about the West’s “faulty conscience,” it’s addressed to that conscience – it’s an attempt to awaken that conscience. For Meotti, while not explicitly blaming the West for the murders of Israeli Jews by Islamic terrorists, is very much aware of the clear causative links that connect the Nazis’ Final Solution, attempts by Muslim governments and Muslim terrorists to destroy Israel, and the rising tide of Western – and especially European – anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and sheer indifference to the fate of Israel and the Jewish people.

We live in a time, after all, when members of Europe’s cultural elite fashion slick rationales by which they’re able to ritually deplore the extermination of the Jews in the 1940s even as they routinely equivocate about Israel’s right to exist, about Israelis’ right to security, and about the terrorist groups that annihilate men, women, and children in cold blood in the streets, homes, and workplaces of Israel. As Meotti puts it, “Politicians pay homage at Yad Vashem, attend diaspora memorials for the six million, and feel themselves inoculated as philo-Semites. This enables them, the morning after, to say that Israel practices apartheid, or declare themselves able to understand the motivation of suicide bombers.”

Meotti, a journalist for the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, understands that the posture of Europe’s cultural elite is not only morally abhorrent but morally incoherent: Israel’s existence is, after all, a direct result of the Holocaust; and the Jew-hatred that motivates Islamic terrorists today is quite manifestly of a piece with the Jew-hatred of the Nazis. As Meotti bluntly puts it: “Israel is a country that has become all too accustomed to digging graves for its children. Is the Holocaust really over?” He quotes a Holocaust survivor who had to identify the bodies of her grandchildren after they were murdered by terrorists in Israel: “I had sworn that I would have another family after the war. Now Arafat is finishing what Hitler started.”

After all, as Meotti points out, the Palestinian Authority, like the Nazis, operates a highly efficient anti-Semitic propaganda machine, filling the minds of children with rhetoric that “describes the Jews as ‘children of monkeys and pigs’ to be exterminated.” And it’s not only in Palestinian areas that such poisonous rhetoric is spread: on the contrary, it’s standard fare in media and schoolrooms throughout the Arab world.

The result of this deliberate dissemination of Jew-hatred and Israel-hatred is that Israel is, as Meotti points out, “the first country ever to experience suicide terrorism on a mass scale.” Israeli citizens – infants, grandparents, and everything in between – are murdered on a regular basis in cafés, restaurants, shopping centers, nightclubs, and their own homes and houses of worship. There have been over 150 successful suicide attacks, which have taken the lives of 1,557 people and injured 17,000 more. “If a proportion of the population equivalent to those 1,557 victims were murdered in the United States, there would be 53,756 Americans killed,” notes Meotti. And “figures of those wounded in terror attacks, extrapolated to the population of the United States, would be the equivalent of close to 664,133 injured. Since the beginning of the Second Intifada (al-Aqsa Intifida) in September 2000, more Israelis have been murdered by terrorists than in all previous years of Israel’s statehood. Jerusalem is the suicide-terrorism capital of the world.”

Yet judging by what one reads in newspaper editorials and op-ed columns, these murders are, for many powerful people in the West – and, again, especially in Europe – less of an outrage than Israel’s construction of a fence to try to prevent them. “Since construction of the security fence began,” Meotti points out, “the number of terrorist attacks has declined by more than 90 percent, and the number of Israelis murdered and wounded has decreased by more than 70 percent and 85 percent, respectively.” Yet ever since the fence came into existence, the Western media have been serving up indignant, self-righteous denunciations of it by intellectuals and academics, who consider its very existence an inexcusable insult to the Muslims who must pass through checkpoints in order to cross it.

It sounds absurd, but the thought of Muslims being inconvenienced by having to wait on line at checkpoints plainly stirs many European intellectuals’ outrage far more than the thought of Israeli children being blown to bits.

This chilling moral bankruptcy is no coincidence. It is rooted in guilt feelings toward the Jews that are so overwhelming – and consequently so far beyond hope of healthy resolution – that they have been warped into contempt. “It was European civilization,” writes Meotti, “that died during the Holocaust, swallowing up all of the Jewish communities in its own nothingness”; and out of the ashes of that civilization was born a horrible moral barbarism, a looking-glass world whose upside-down morality dictates the whitewashing of Islam, that most brutal of religions, and the demonizing of the Jews, that most accomplished of peoples, and of the nation they founded as a refuge in the wake of the most colossal act of systematic evil in human history. The European intellectuals and professors who have called for boycotts of Israeli academics and Israeli products are the same people who made a hero (and Nobel Peace Prize laureate) out of Arafat and taught a generation of young Europeans to don Palestinian scarves in the name of human freedom.

Meotti reminds us that Israel is “a state that is unique in the world, born from the nineteenth-century philosophy of secular Zionism, which brought back to their ancient homeland a people in exile for two thousand years and cut down to less than half its prewar size.” The accounts he provides in The New Shoah of the lives of those murdered by Islamic terrorists are, as he says himself, “stories of courage, desperation, faith, of defending hearth and home through ‘honorable warfare’ in the only army that permits disobeying an inhumane order. This is the epic of a people that has suffered all of the worst injustices of the world, and is reborn time and again thanks to its moral strength.”

Over ninety percent of Meotti’s book consists of glowing, eulogy-like tributes to the individuals who have died at the hands of Muslim terrorists in Israel. Again and again we read of their extraordinary accomplishments and virtues and humility, their love for Israel and for their families, their lack of prejudice against other peoples and their determination to do good for their fellowman despite the horrors their loved ones had endured in the Holocaust. It is a beautifully conceived work, and of course the martyrs of whom Meotti writes deserve no less. Certain figures stand out – such as Holocaust survivor Lipa Weiss, who found meaning in the founding of Israel only to lose a son and a granddaughter there in two separate suicide bombings. What makes Weiss’s story so powerful is that Meotti tells it by simply quoting Weiss’s own colorfully detailed account of his and his children’s lives.

There are other stories here that are so intimate and so horrible that one feels as if one is intruding simply by reading them:

The terror squad broke into a home that was chosen at random and killed Revital Ohayon, along with her two sons, Matan, age five, and Noam, four. Avi Ohayon, who had maintained a close relationship with his ex-wife, heard the children cry out “Mommy” before the sound of gunfire. The little ones were shot in the head, murdered in their beds, dressed in their pajamas and hugging their teddy bears.

They died in the arms of their mother, who was trying to protect them. In their little bedroom, spattered with blood, there were stuffed animals, toys, colored pictures. A dim light was shining on a book of fables.

“They killed a child with a pacifier!” Avi exclaimed, over and over, to those who tried to comfort him in the room where the horror had unfolded. “My God, help me, they killed a child with a pacifier in his mouth.”

Unfortunately, many of the victims of terrorism to whom Meotti pays tribute are memorialized almost entirely with strings of superlatives – “loving”; “brilliant”; “humble”; “a splendid person, a great organizer, a true leader”; “he was made of ‘humility and holiness.’” As a result, we don’t get to see them as three-dimensional figures. This being a very long book, moreover, after a while the litanies of praise begin to blend together. Yet none of this diminishes the decency and nobility of Meotti’s project or the significance of his accomplishment.

Roger Scruton writes in a blurb for The New Shoah: “Let us hope that this book will awaken Europeans to their duty toward the Jews, whose vigil down the centuries has been an example to us all.” One wishes that this book would effect such a miracle, but I’m afraid I can’t imagine any book doing so. The European sickness runs too deep.