The nine days between Rosh Chodesh (New Month) of Av and Tisha B’Av, commemorating the destruction of both Temples and subsequent calamities is an ideal opportunity to reflect, remember and draw conclusions…writes Michael Kuttner.
Given current developments this period is more relevant than ever. It is often claimed that now we have restored Jewish sovereignty in most parts of our Land and Jerusalem is once more the Capital of a Jewish State, the need to mourn and remember the tragedies of the past is no longer necessary. If we follow the logic of that argument we should cancel Pesach (Passover) since we are no longer slaves in Egypt and do away with Yom Hashoah as those dark days are well and truly behind us.
Except for those whose connection to Jewish history is a blank and whose sole involvement with anything Jewish is confined to either gastronomical delights or anti Israel demonstrations, the rest of us can easily acknowledge that the lessons to be learnt during these nine days are vitally important.
The Babylonians and then later the Romans destroyed Jewish independence, burnt down the Temples and attempted to erase any vestige of a Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. Not only that but the Romans officially changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina and erased the name Judea to read Syria – Palaestina. This attempt to distort historical truth set the ball rolling for exile and a Diaspora which was to last two thousand years. Worse however was to come because this dispersion of most but not all Jews laid the foundations for Jew hatred on a massive scale. Theological and racial seeds of future pogroms, massacres, delegitimization and hate were planted and their noxious poisonous crops were harvested over two millennia.
Fast forward to our present day and what do we find?
Unsurprisingly we discover that history keeps repeating itself. It is absolutely amazing how the techniques used more than two thousand years ago are being employed today.
Those who have misappropriated the Roman fake designation of “Palestinian” are at this very moment in time employing the same strategies. Arson, destruction by fire and jihad campaigns are all intended to achieve the expulsion and murder of Jews from Israel. Just as the Romans undertook a sustained and unrelenting war against Jewish sovereignty, so do today’s practitioners of Jew hatred.
After the Roman Empire converted to Christianity the official campaign against Judaism and its adherents went into full speed. Not only did this lead to official sanction of the vilest libels against us but it also laid the groundwork for delegitimizing our very presence in and entitlement to the Land which had been our homeland for generations. Witness today’s spectacle whereby Islam is being used to spread identical revisionist lies and propagate hate amongst the masses.
The Romans found that with few exceptions other nations and nationalities did not resist this campaign and thus by the time the Empire fell apart there were plenty of others waiting in the wings, ready, willing and able to continue the war against Jewish legitimacy. Short periods of tranquility and tolerance were obliterated by longer periods of discriminatory legislation and unrelenting hate. Whether it was the Crusaders, Church leaders or politicians, life for Jews in most parts of the world consisted of an endless struggle to preserve their faith and to survive physical annihilation. We all know how this culminated just seventy-three years ago.
Herzl and the early Zionists dared to dream that a return to our ancient land would result in the elimination of Jew hatred and a universal acknowledgement of the rightful place a restored Jewish nation would achieve. Nothing of the sort of course has occurred and as we reflect on this anniversary of the destruction of independence it is important to internalize the realities we face.
Despite miraculous achievements in the short space of seventy years the irony is that we face the same old virus once again. It may be a mutation but it still carries with it the same lethal strain. Take boycotts for example. Having been excluded from certain professions, shut out from institutes of higher learning, homes and businesses targeted, forced to wear badges of shame, denied civil rights and confined to ghettos one would have thought that in 2018 all these manifestations of hate were vestiges of a dark and discarded era. Lo and behold however, boycotts in various forms have resurfaced.
The UK Labour Party has been taken over by far left anti Israel members and its leader seems complicit in pushing an agenda which disgusts most of the Jewish community.
Valencia in Spain has declared that the city is to become Israel free – a mutated version of Juden Frei. The third largest political party in Spain has adopted boycotting Israel as its official policy.
The Irish Upper House of Parliament after a debate which reached heights of ignorance and absurdity passed a resolution to boycott Israeli goods. The fact that any boycott will hurt the Palestinian Arabs more than Israel seems irrelevant to these MP’s. They validate a quote attributed to Stalin which states “everybody has the right to be stupid but some people abuse the privilege.”
The Socialist International at its recent conference decided that boycotting, demonizing and sanctioning Israel was a brilliant idea and adopted this unholy trinity as part of their programme. Realizing that this act of unmitigated malevolence was impossible to tolerate the Israel Labour Party severed its many years of connection to this body. It is ironical in the extreme that those who call themselves socialists and purport to defend human rights should now be in the vanguard of those boycotting Jews and instead throwing their support behind those who advocate jihad, the murder of “non believers”, oppress women and gays and for whom democracy is an alien concept. It should be noted that Meretz, the small extreme left Israeli political party has not disassociated itself from these boycotters. This is just a repeat of the way many Jews continued to worship Stalin and the Communist Party even long after it was proven that Judeophobia was an integral part of the party manifesto. Ideological idiocy obviously knows no boundaries.
Questions now need to be asked. What about the Australian and New Zealand Labour parties? Will they also remain mute and go along with the immoral majority by remaining associated with the Socialist International? Will they pretend that it is business as usual and look the other way? The NZ Prime Minister is a former chairperson of the International Socialist Youth. Will we hear anything from her on the subject?
Israel today is stronger than ever and most of us are no longer prepared to suffer in silence. Remembering the lessons of the past is vitally important if we are to succeed in defeating the same forces of ignorance and hate which are resurfacing in our time. That is why the commemoration of Tisha B’Av is as relevant as ever.
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 is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.