Sydney M. Williams
Thought of the Day
“When Silence is not Golden”
October 8, 2015
For forty-four seconds Benjamin Netanyahu interrupted his September 29th speech at the United Nations, and stared out at the members. His purpose was to make them feel uncomfortable, to squirm at the silence. His silence was symbolic of that which Jews have endured for centuries. It was the silence of the allies before and after World War II. And it is the silence Israel is now abiding from their partners and friends. Silence is discriminatory when heads turn in avoidance of unpleasant truths, when evasion substitutes for aid.
There are an estimated 16.5 million Jews in the world today, roughly the same number as before the Holocaust. A little over six million live in Israel, about one fiftieth the number of Muslims in the Middle East. Around the world, there are a hundred more Muslims than Jews. Israel is the only nation where Jews represent the dominant population. (They make up about 76% of the population. Most of the others are Muslims who live peacefully within her borders.)
In contrast, there are forty-nine countries (and all members of the United Nations) where Muslims are more than fifty percent of the population. With anti-Semitism on the rise in Western Europe, and waning support from the
United States, is it a surprise that feels
isolated? Is it any wonder that the Iranian nuclear deal, which was negotiated
without Israel ,
is of concern? When the New York Times brushes lightly over the
Palestinian murders of Israelis in the West Bank, but elaborates on Israel’s
military response, is it any wonder that the Jewish people feel alone? Israel
During the Second World War, approximately 40% of the world’s Jews were killed by Hitler’s Nazis and their partners. About two-thirds of the Jews living in
Europe were gassed, shot, beaten to death or stabbed. It
was an experience we were told we should never forget. That was the message my
father brought to me when he returned home from combat in Italy’s Apennines. Time
heals wounds, but it also numbs the vividness of memories that should not be
On May 13, 1939, the German transatlantic liner St. Louis sailed from
Hamburg, Germany for .
Aboard were 937 passengers, almost all Jews fleeing Hitler’s Havana, Cuba . Most
were German citizens. Kristallnacht had occurred seven months earlier. The die
had been cast. The Germany St
Louis reached on the 27th.
Twenty-eight passengers were admitted by the Cuban government. A few days
later, after futile haggling, the ship continued on toward Miami. By the 3rd
the lights of Miami could be seen. Several passengers cabled President
Roosevelt seeking refuge. Mr. Roosevelt never responded. On June 6 the Havana
Harbor St. Louis sailed
back to Europe. Two hundred and fifty-four of
the passengers died in the Holocaust. The lucky ones (288) were admitted to .
The rest had to take their chances on the Continent. Silence persisted. Pope Pius
XII did intervene in unsuccessful attempts to block the deportation of Jews to
death camps, but to preserve the Church he insisted the Vatican remain neutral…and
silent. Great Britain
Ten years ago Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed the gathering at the Holocaust memorial site at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex: “Remember how millions of Jews were led to their deaths and the world remained silent,” he said. Today’s tensions in Palestine arise from the Temple Mount, the Jerusalem hill where the First and Second Temples of ancient Israel once stood. It is now home to the al-Aqsa Mosque. It is still a place of great meaning for devout Jews, but ecumenicism has no place in Jerusalem. Because of previous terrorist acts, the Israeli government forbids Jewish prayer on the
But the mere possibility of such prayer is enough to cause violence on the part
of Palestinian Arabs and condemnation from their leaders. Temple Mount
We like to think of ourselves as more civilized than our ancestors. But are we? Free market capitalism and democracy have eradicated much of the extreme poverty that existed in the world fifty years ago. Technology allows us to live longer, more enjoyable lives. But is man more tolerant? In general, those of us fortunate to live in free societies are more willing to be tolerant of others. Unfortunately, most of mankind still lives within authoritarian regimes, without the right to speak, write and assemble freely, without rules of law or the protection of property rights. Most of mankind lives in places where tolerance is a concept, not a practice.
A century ago the sense in Europe was that globalized, economically advanced, culturally strong and civilized societies precluded war. Europe had not had large armies criss-crossing her borders since the Napoleonic era a hundred years earlier. However, the existence of a royalty-led, stratified society provided not only gaps in wealth and income, but in the social arena as well. In many countries, democracy was nascent.
looked civilized until the counterpane was pulled back, revealing the poverty
and injustice that lay beneath. When social disruptions appeared, the evil that
lurked in bad men rose to the surface. The First World War gave rise to
Communism in Russia and China, and National Socialism in Germany and . Four men, Stalin, Mao,
Hitler and Mussolini symbolized, in the West, man’s inhumanity to man. The 20th
Century became Italy Europe’s bloodiest. The lesson:
Evil must be confronted in its cradle.
Today, evil is personified in Islamic jihadism. We are all at risk – peaceful Muslims and Western democracies, but it is
that stands at the vanguard,
like the boy on the bridge “whence all but him had fled.” Last Saturday, Jon
Bon Jovi played Tel Aviv. He did so against the wishes of the Boycott
Divestment and Sanctions movement. He dedicated his new song “We Don’t Run” to
the largely Jewish audience: “We don’t run/ I’m standing my ground/ We don’t
run/ And we don’t back down.” More than ever, Israel needs her friends, those
who prefer comity to hostility, she needs them to speak out. Israel
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