On the Threshold…writes Michael Kuttner
Jewish communities worldwide are preparing to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the New Year according to the religious calendar.
Unlike New Year festivities in other cultures, the commencement of the Jewish year is the start of a period of self-contemplation leading ten days later to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The emphasis is on analyzing our personal behaviour during the past year, atoning for those acts which have caused pain to others, asking those affected for forgiveness and striving to do better in the year ahead.
According to Jewish tradition, we are judged according to our acts but it is always within our grasp to atone and get back onto the right path. It is also a time when we pray that the year ahead will be blessed with health and peace. There are no guarantees of course but at least we can do our bit to improve our own lives and aim higher in the future.
This reflective look back to the past and hopeful search for a better future combined with sincere soul-searching is in direct contrast to the drunken revelry that usually accompanies New Year celebrations in non-Jewish circles. Ours is (or should be) a deeply spiritual journey. Another aspect of this High Holyday period is the belief that not only individuals are judged and their fate determined but that the same criteria is applicable to the nations of the world, in other words the international community. In this respect, their actions concerning the Jewish People and in our time the Jewish State are relevant factors. Therefore with this in mind I believe it very appropriate to survey the international landscape over the past year and make my own judgments. No doubt a higher authority than me will ultimately decide their fate but at least one can point out some obvious trends.
The Jewish People have been on the threshold of disaster all the way from the Egyptian exodus to the Promised Land and ever since. More than once, in fact in every generation, it has seemed that we were doomed to destruction and annihilation but as proof that the Biblical prophesies are starkly relevant right up to the present time we have survived the greatest empires and tyrants while they have vanished into the dustbin of history. With this fact as an ever-present reminder it is very worthwhile to realise that history does indeed repeat itself. Although many refuse to learn from the past and resolve to change in the future we can and indeed must open our eyes to what is happening around us.
Despite the fact that actual persecution of Jews is rarer today, the level of Judeophobia and delegitimisation of Jews and the Jewish State has risen to alarming levels throughout most parts of the world. A mere 68 years after the Holocaust it is no longer taboo to openly articulate the same old prejudices. With the aid of the internet and social networking the virus of hatred is spreading far more quickly and effectively than in the past. The number of infected nations and individuals is growing each year and in many cases is encouraged by regimes and organisations who no longer are ashamed to peddle revisionist theories which have long been discredited and have not a shred of truth attached to them. Many politicians and much of the media alike are co-partners in this resurgence of anti-Jewish and Israel disinformation.
The Arab and Moslem world is convulsed not only by internal conflicts but also by a continuing campaign of hatred against Jews, Judaism and their ancient homeland. Their media spews out endless daily diatribes which causes nary a ripple in the western liberal democracies.
Europe, instead of turning its full attention to demographic disasters, economic meltdowns and social disintegration focuses its energies on dictating where Jews can and cannot live, a subject with which admittedly it has many centuries of experience. Labelling Jewish products and boycotting them seems to be a higher priority than solving any internal European problems.
Russia and many of its former Soviet era colonies such as Hungary, Poland and the Ukraine are home to the most virulent strains of Judeophobia which have once again risen to the surface and present a menacing warning for the remnants of Jewish communities who think that they are safe there.
The Balkan States are unable to shake off their legacy of anti-Jewish antipathies.
Greece is witnessing a rise in anti-Jewish hatred as a result of the economic mess enveloping that country.
Turkey’s Prime Minister is infected with the same virus and its pathogens are transmitted to the rest of the population by an Islamic Government which is a member of NATO and aspires to join the EU.
Admiration for Mussolini is rising in Italy as the country struggles with political chaos.
Scandinavia is now a haven for anti Israel activities which are impacting negatively on local Jewish communities. Sweden and Norway are leaders in the bash Israel brigade.
France faces a major problem with its Moslem citizens a large number of whom are also infected with anti-Jewish feelings which has resulted in a rise of crimes of violence against Jews and vandalism to Jewish communal buildings.
Holland, that not so squeaky clean country when it comes to its war-time activities against its Jewish communities is now a cheerleader in the anti-Israel chorus of delegitimisation.
Venezuela is active in South America as a supporter of Iran and hostility against Jews in that country as well as Argentina present an ever-present problem.
South Africa is nowadays a boiling cauldron of hate against Israel and uses every opportunity to promote the apartheid State lie.
The Irish seem to have nothing better to do than pillory us whenever the opportunity arises.
The UK has become a centre for home-grown terrorism with Islamic fanatics and the BDS movement as well as universities and trade unions becoming more vocal against Israel. Of course their voices somehow mysteriously become mute as the tragedies in Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world unfold. The Foreign Office pontificates about “occupation” while ignoring its own settlements in far-flung parts of the globe.
The USA led by those fearless upholders of truth, liberty and freedom, the Obama/Kerry dream team, manage to invite disaster with every decision they make. It is instructive to witness how obsessive they are with Israel while at the same time they dither, squirm and agonise as the Syrian regime gasses its own citizens. For Jews in particular the spectacle of inaction and the prospect of half-hearted reactions to this gassing brings back painful memories from not so long ago when the Allies refused desperate pleas to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz.
The UN as a representative of the international community stands indicted for its gross hypocrisy in the face of evil. The only thing which unites this discredited outfit is condemning Israel.
When one surveys the sorry scenarios outlined above (and there are more countries not mentioned) one can at least be thankful that Australia and New Zealand represent some sort of oasis in a wilderness of madness insofar as hatred of Jews and Israel is concerned. That is not to say there are no poisons bubbling under the surface but at least they are minor compared to other places. The only sour notes are sounded by those who should know better. Mr. McCully, the NZ Foreign Minister, displays a continuing naive faith in the UN’s competence to deal with murderous regimes and together with Mr. Carr his counterpart in Australia has it all wrong when condemning Israel’s legal presence in Judea and Samaria.
As Israelis witness the UK Parliament giving the Syrian regime a pass, the US president announcing that any action will be “discreet, limited and selective” which in effect means that the gas, chemical and biological weapons will not be targeted and Assad has plenty of time to safeguard them, the French huffing and puffing, the Russians and Chinese blatantly sabotaging any meaningful action and the UN as useless as the old League of Nations, the conclusions that can be drawn are very stark and simple.
This international fiasco teaches us an important lesson. We cannot rely on anyone else to thwart the declared Iranian goal of attaining nuclear weapons and using them to initiate genocide against the Jewish State. Never again can we put our trust in vague promises of support when the chips are down. Obama’s promise that he has our back now sounds hollow and as worthless as all his other red lines.
The New Year presents us with the question as to whether we are on the threshold of disaster or an era of peace and brotherly love. The Jewish People, having seen it all in the last 3,000 years or so, remain optimistic yet at the same time realistic.
We pray for that time foretold by our prophets when justice and peace will prevail in the world and the lion will lie down with the lamb. Given the sorry state of the world at present and the unbridled venom directed at the Jewish State it is not likely that we will achieve this any time soon. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that it will all blow over and that all we have to do is appease those who wish us harm. Instead let us redouble our efforts to shine the light of truth on a landscape currently blighted by blind hatred and take concrete steps to safeguard our own future.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and works for The Israel Resource News Agency in Jerusalem.