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February 12, 2015 11:52 am

Lessons From the Holocaust Should Inform Netanyahu Speech Debate

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avatar by Gabriel Eichler


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly considering a change of plans in regards to his scheduled address in front of Congress next month. Photo: Cherie Cullen.

Once again it seems that Jews never learn!

German-born Jewish refugee and political theorist Hannah Arendt remains one of the most controversial public figures of her generation.

For many good reasons.

In her reporting of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker, (which evolved into the book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil“) – she coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe the phenomenon of the arch Nazi mass murderer Eichmann.

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She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction.

She was also sharply critical of the way that some Jewish leaders of the era conducted themselves during the Holocaust.

This caused a considerable controversy and life-long open animosity toward Arendt in the Jewish community.

But Arendt did raise a critically important issue: Jewish apathy, acquiesce, and outright collaboration that immeasurably assisted Hitler’s Nazi regime in carrying out its “Final Solution.”

Let’s look at historical facts first: on August 28, 1942, American Reform Rabbi Stephen Wise received an alarming cable from London.


The message had originally been sent by Gerhart Riegner, the World Jewish Congress representative in Switzerland.

Rabbi Wise was the most well-known leader of the American Jewish community during the years of World War II, and he also officiated as president of both the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress.

His shameful failure of “leadership” ended up to be a criminally disgraceful disaster when it came to making any rescue efforts on behalf of Europe’s Jews – including my entire murdered family – during the Holocaust.

On October 6, 1943, a delegation of American Orthodox rabbis arrived in Washington hoping for a personal audience with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They planned to present to the President irrefutable proof that the Nazis were conducting a wholesale annihilation of unimaginable scale of European Jews.

The rabbis understood that this was a decisive moment – the very last chance to stop the Holocaust before the last of European Jewry was extinguished.

Wise who – like a good political lackey – called President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ‘Boss‘ and ‘Chief,’ advised the President not to meet with the 400 pleading Orthodox rabbis who marched on Washington.

So accordingly, the President did not make himself available to hear the pleas.

Ironically, Roosevelt’s State Department did inform the President through other channels of the industrial, wholesale massacre of the Jews taking place across the European continent, but Roosevelt did not feel sufficiently pressured by the American Jewish leadership – so he just satisfied himself with a tepid general statement: “This government has moved and continues to move, so far as the burden of the war permits, to help the victims of the Nazi doctrines of racial, religious and political oppression.”

Why are there still houses of worship and awards named after the detestable Reform rabbi and “Jewish leader” who so utterly and unforgivably betrayed and abandoned his people?

Which brings me to a recent public statement I read in a New York Jewish newspaper – a statement, that was attributed to the current leader of Reform Jewry in the US.

In the Jewish Daily Forward, a certain American Reform leader reportedly pronounced that it would be “ill-advised” for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress, because it would take place two weeks before Israeli elections and also because the appearance had been organized without the knowledge of the White House.

On one hand, it could be seen as just one of many opinions expressed on Netanyahu’s stated intention of giving a dire warning to Congress regarding the dangers of a nuclear Iran. But since this is eerily similar to another Reform leader – Stephen Wise’s horrific mishandling of a truly existential threat to the Jewish people – the stunning coincidence simply cannot be ignored.

If Netanyahu wants to tell the American people directly that there is a clear and present danger that threatens the State of Israel (as well as the world community), let him have his say!

Just like Hitler, Iran’s leaders have made statements calling for the destruction of millions of Jews.

Prime Minister Netanyahu cannot be expected to sit back and leave the future of his people in the hands of a murderous, radical – and soon to be nuclear-capable – Islamic Republic, nor to the whims of naïve dilettantes in Washington who are looking for a “legacy” or to curry favor with the Administration.

Am Yisroel Chai!

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