Never Again?

The Great Second-Holocaust Debate

Europe's Juden were not citizens of a sovereign Jewish nation with the power to retaliate against its enemies. The fact that Israel is one of the world's most heavily armed states may not guarantee its survival, but it certainly changes the equation—as does the presence of several million Arabs within and around its borders. A nuclear Armageddon will come only if the region explodes in such a paroxysm that the mass destruction (of both Jews and Palestinians) seems plausible. That could happen, especially if the U.S. creates its own atrocity, say, in Iraq. The idea that a second Holocaust might be triggered by the blunders of America, Israel's closest ally, is one of the ironies that make this metaphor useless. Unless your aim is to suppress dissent.

I've yet to see Rosenbaum—or for that matter Nat Hentoff—attack the Jewish groups threatening to boycott American newspapers whose coverage of Israel isn't to their liking. You have to be hopeful in order to break ranks, and these two Jews are not. For Rosenbaum, the second Holocaust is a tragedy in the making. As he writes, "The definition of tragedy—or one definition—is a conflict without a solution." This feeling of implacability is what allows some Israelis to believe it doesn't matter what they do, since the whole world hates Jews in any case.

Is this 1938? The ruins of a synagogue recently torched in France.
photo: Agence France Presse
Is this 1938? The ruins of a synagogue recently torched in France.

Only hindsight can say whether hope is more prudent than despair. But when it comes to Israel, hope and American power are one and the same. No one else can break the vortex of violence or enforce a peace agreement. America's Jews can play a major role in making this risky enterprise possible, but for that to occur we need a real debate—not about the inevitability of a second Holocaust but about how to prevent it. That's why I speak my mind about Israel. It's the best I can do for my people—and myself.

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