The past as prologue
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Much has been written about the madness of Ahmadinejad in New York. But as important as the condemnations of this crypto-Hitler are; as crucial the outrage at the UN for letting him speak is; as vital the denunciations of Columbia University for inviting him to lecture will become to our institutional memory of conscience; historical moments like these command us to take an intellectual step backward and try to figure out how we got into this, again, and where are we headed.
Calling Ahmedinejad crypto-Hitlerian is not going too far, nor does the parallel cheapen the Holocaust.
Not this time. For at the same moment that Ahmadinejad denies the first Holocaust he is already planning a second. There has rarely been a challenge in recent history where Santayana’s warning that “those who forget history are condemned to repeat it” is more fittingly applied.
Crimes of prejudice take many forms. The perverse seeds that morphed into the making of this latest scourge could have been sown in the most modest of beginnings. That is what we must always guard against. The beginnings.
We were struck this week by the irony that on the same day that the Iranian tyrant’s face leered into living rooms from television screens, the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on Reasonable Accommodation was hearing Lise Provencher of St. Jerome trot out the old saw that immigrants are “buying their way in” to Quebec and the even older saw that Jews are the worst because they’re “...the most powerful…It’s always been said that the Jews are the trampoline of money in the world.” After Provencher spoke the crowd applauded. Again the Jews. The beginnings.
The past is prologue.
The lessons of history cannot tell us what will happen next, but they can teach us how people tend to react.
The truth of the matter is that the United Nations, the Nobel Foundation and all the other keystones of civilization are failing as testing agents of human decency. The crucibles in which enduring human values must be generationally re-forged are growing cold. The flames flicker out. The anvils on which we hammered out justice are slowly being cast aside.
It is sheer human vanity to expect logic—defined as a reasoned appreciation of enlightened self-interest—to determine the course of events. Rational thought and rational behaviour have rarely governed the history of man.
Rational thought tells us that the elimination or permanent weakening of Israel, or the status of Jews the world over, would not restore the happy days of cheap oil nor calm the belligerence of Islamic fundamentalism.
Rather the contrary would be true. Released from the cautions required by the existence of Israel, radical Islam would be subject to no physical restraint whatsoever.
The liberal democratic West, particularly the United States, would be left with no frontline ally in the Middle East.
The logic of the situation is as obvious as it was in 1348, that to burn a thousand Jews would not save a single person from the plague.
But the world is again on the edge of the looking glass. White becomes black, black becomes white. A message is creeping out, like a serpentine virus. If only Israel would give in, if only the Jews of the world would shut up, then problems would vanish. Stop sending money; give up land; give up water; and hey—while you’re at it—why not participate in Ahmedinejad’s plebiscite of self-abnegation?
Too many today view the blood from the collective political suicide of the Jews as a reasonable offering to the thirsty tyranny of the God of Islamic theocratic terror. They forget, to all our peril, the futility of appeasement as a remedy.
The primordial lesson of the 20th century was not that independent pre-emptive military response unleashed anarchic bloodbaths. To the contrary, failure to respond, and worse, attempts to appease, allowed time for barbarous leaders to arm themselves to the teeth and embroil the world in devastation theretofore unimaginable.