Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sowing Eternal Hatred

Earlier this afternoon I was at a meeting connected to the previous chapter of my career, which had to do with history of the Holocaust. During the discussion a thought crossed my mind.

Lots of reporters and pundits are bewailing the fact that Israel's actions in Gaza right now are necessarily going to sow a hatred amongst the Palestinians that will be implacable and eternal: this being a rule of human nature, we're to understand. And also, probably, a reflection at least in some cases of the emotions the pundits themselves harbor.

It ain't necessarily so. You might want to reflect for a moment on the Jews of 1945, who then lived to be the Jews of 1965, some lived until 1985, and some are still with us till this very day. I assure you that the survivors of the Holocaust had more reason to hate the Germans forever than the Palestinians ever will have reason to hate us. I could detail how I know this, but if you need me to it's hopeless anyway, so I'll merely state it and leave it at that.

In spite of all the perfectly rational and reasonable and plausible reasons for hating the Germans forever, it didn't happen. First, in 1945-49, with hundreds of thousands of survivors in Germany itself, there were no suicide bombers, and no blind acts of revenge against the German populace at all. None.

Then, a decade later, the Jewish State already had some relations with the German one (West German one, to be precise). 20 years ofter the Holocaust, West Germany and Israel had full diplomatic relations, and many other relations also. 30 years after the event, one can argue that the relations between Germany and Israel were better than those between Israel and any other European country (which doesn't say too much, does it). By which time the relations between normal Germans and normal Israelis had long since become significantly more normal than it would have been to expect, back in 1945.

Eternal hatred is something one must decide to have, eternally. It isn't a law of nature. It's a decision. Eventually, the decision to bear hate becomes immoral, no matter how it originated.


Anonymous said...


Today, posted on the Net, was an article written by PETER HITCHENS. (Is he Christopher Hitchen's son? I don't know. But there seems to be a family resemblance.)

Anyway, Peter Hitchens writes for a British newspaper and/or magazine. I don't remember which. And, he wrote about a recent palestinian street demonstration in front of his building, in London.

Peter Hitchens went downstairs to get a container of tea. He saw a woman carrying a sign saying "gaza was like the Holocaust, now." So he went over and asked her what the word "Holocaust" meant? And, believe it or not, she couldn't, or wouldn't, answer. But the crowd got ugly. And, Peter Hitchens moved away.

Then, he wrote about it.

His conclusion is that there are people who grab onto an idea, not through knowledge; but through the clap-trap of their faith. Their political group. With whom they identify. So that you can never get through to them.

Why not? You cannot find the words that will move them to understanding. Since they don't need any to use the word "Holocaust," and gaza ... Without recognizing not just the difference in numbers; but that the germans systematically intended to kill ALL Jews! And, you just can't accuse Israel of doing this. Not ever.

But "faith" isn't a matter for the head. It resides in people, many of whom are essentially weak. And, it provides them participation in their chosen group. They'll hang on dearly to this, no matter what. And, worse. They'll start screaming! And, then turning violent.

No discussions will ever take place until a person recognizes what debate does. And, no, it doesn't "just advance Jews into ovens." Nor does it give you the comforts you'd get when humanity draws groups together ... Some share. But others just rip things apart. Leaving their participants like zombies.

Nothing changes until the participants decide there is something very destructive in their own behaviors.

You say this can never happen?

Well, then, how come when General Patton crossed the Rhine, and entered germany, there was a defeated nation if ever there was one. (Still hasn't recovered back to its old intellectual roots, either.) But that's another story. Patton's troops couldn't find one nazi.

Later, when Japan surrendered, you see a real recovery!

But the differences are apparent. The Japanese knew no freedoms for 700 years! They "woke the sleeping tiger." And, then discovered a way towards civilization. General Douglas MacArthur worked miracles. (While Truman kept calling him home for parades. Something MacArthur said he couldn't do for at least five years. While he, his wife, and son, continued to live in Tokyo.)

Leadership matters!

Bad leadership is where you'd see, if you studied history, where Rome declined. And, fell. Gibbon would be a good start.

Some day ahead there will be another Gibbon. Discussing the ramifications of natural resources in the hands of butchers. From Saudi Arabia to putin.

You can't build a dam across the truth! Because? Not even something as big as the Hoover Dam would work at containing the TRUTH! Just give this time.

While, by the way, Peter Hitchens isn't a friend of Israel in any meaningful way. He was just disgusted with the rioters under his office window. (It's a start.)

Anonymous said...

Hatred seems to be about more than a decision.It's rooted in an identity- or not.It definitely isn't in Jewish identity.
Christian Jew hatred -a sensible decision?? Doubt that.Perhaps because it isn't very sensible,this religion.
Would it have been able to exist until now,without hate, really?

Anonymous said...

A recent example may be America and Vietnam. Americans not only walk around Vietnam without worrying for their safety, Vietnam probably wants as many of them to visit as possible.

Anonymous said...

The notion that Israel will "sow hatred" among the Palestinian Arabs also ignores the fact that Hamas acts as an extension of the Iranian regime. It doesn't matter what Israel does, except when Israel acts to defeat Hamas.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that perhaps the worldwide villification of the nazi regime (and their defeat and removal from power), plus the rightly conducted war crime trials at nuremberg had a hand in tempering the hate against the germans?

From 1945-49 those who had persecuted and inflicted great horrors on fellow human beings were arrested and charged as outrageous criminals, those who had supported them were made to see the error of their ways (and still are to this day), and the jewish people were dignified with the recognition of needing a homeland. (Tho admittedly the way in which this last item was achieved could have been handled much more intelligently)

what would have been the point of suicide bombing or taking any revenge against the germans who were no longer murdering or oppressing and who were indeed being punished for their actions?

similarly in vietnam (and having travelled to that country i found them to be a people who - suprisingly to me - have no interest in perpetuating a victim mentality despite the horrors that were inflicted on them) the fact that they were victorious over their attackers and regained their rightful sovereignity over their own land may well have dissipated any hate and any need for further resistance.

Perhaps if Israel complied with the UN resolution which dignifies the palestinians with the right to their lands at the 1967 borders they would find (without needing to be millitarily defeated as occupiers or punished as war criminals for inflicting horrors of great magnitude on fellow human beings) that hatred against them would similarly dissipate.

A people oppressed are bound to resist. A people disscounted and bullied are bound to avenge their suffering. A people restored of their rightful dignity and sense of home are usually (Israel you would have that even at 1967 levels and you have proved that you do have the means to crush any incursion into your lands) less interested in violence and overblown rhetoric.

Most of the hatred is fed by a sense of injustice. Noises from Gaza (and even from Hamas) had recently implied that the obliteration of Israel is no longer a real desire and that the hatred that engendered such rhetoric has diminished over time.

However in light of present events and the fact that palestinian resistance has now been made more necessary than ever, is it any wonder that the continuation of hate in this instance is not so much a decision as a form of (denied) justice - and that it can in no way be compared with the example you use.

Catesby said...

They may have forgiven Germany, but Holocaust survivors are still not keen on the Nazis. In fact, many are still devoted to hunting down and prosecuting its now elderly members- forgiveness has its limits. I wonder how Germany-Israel relations would have gone if the Germans hadn't decisively renounced National Socialism, taken full and unconditional responsibility for its deeds, and guaranteed that no such movement would ever again arise on German soil (they have been remarkably true to their word-I did come across a Neo-Nazi propaganda flyer in Germany once- it was imported from Nebraska).

Following your example, one wonders who Israel will have to prosecute, what movements it'll have to outlaw, and what deeds it'll have to take full and unconditional responsibility for before Palestinians can follow the Holocaust survivors' example.

Yaacov said...

Catesby -

Of course they never forgave the Nazis. The part about hunting them down, however, is simply false. The number of Nazi war criminals hunted down by Jews was a few hundred in 1945-46, and less than a handful in all the years since.

Of course the passing of enmity had everything to do with the West German eagerness to deal with their past. But note that that eagerness never started happening until more than a decade after the end of Nazism, and didn't really get into stride until the 1970s, an entire generation later. The absence of Jewish revenge started the day of liberation, and the willingness to get along with life also.

If ever the Palestinians and Israelis get around to mutual reflections and regrets of the darker parts of their story it will be a fine thing, but the Jewish example with Germany shows that the process can begin many years earlier.