In it, dozens of young men accost diners at a sushi restaurant before pummeling those who admit they are Jewish. In a parking lot nearby, two speeding cars chase down an Orthodox Jew desperately fleeing for his life. And elsewhere, angry mobs throw explosive devices into Jewish crowds, vandalize synagogues and attack innocent Jews huddled in front of a bagel shop.
None of this happened in Nazi Germany. Nor did it involve people waving swastikas. In fact, all of these incidents occurred in American cities within the past week perpetrated by men wearing Arab headscarves and draped in Palestinian flags.
Forgive me, but the first thing I thought of was Kristallnacht, the two-day 1938 rampage in Germany during which Nazis torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed nearly 100 Jews. Remembered as the “Night of Broken Glass,” historians consider it the beginning of the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews died. And as the descendant of several of those dead Jews, the event for me has always loomed large.
I’m not saying, mind you, that America is becoming Nazi Germany. What I am saying is that this is the most vicious antisemitism I’ve ever seen in my native country. And I don’t mind telling you, it scares me to death.
The recent round of attacks, of course, stems from the just-concluded 11-day conflict 7,500 miles away between the State of Israel and the Jihadist terrorists of Hamas. As usual, the missile lobbing began over perceived injustices against Palestinians. Rather than navigate the spider’s web of slippery details, however, let’s just call it out for what it was: the latest skirmish in a perpetual war for survival by a tiny country whose enemies would remove it from planet earth.
I haven’t always seen it that way. Once I was a left-wing radical highly critical of Israel’s existence. Then I met some relatives who barely survived Germany, became refugees, and had felt unsafe in the world ever since. “Scratch a goy, you gotta fascist!” my uncle used to say. And as irrational as that sounded, I strangely understood.
It was precisely in response to the physical, spiritual, and ethnic homelessness spawned by the Holocaust, in fact, that the United Nations created Israel as the latest in a long line of Jewish homelands occupying the ancient Hebrew stomping grounds. And even though I’ve never been there nor experienced antisemitism personally, I too feel safer knowing Israel is in the world.
The problem is that millions of Muslim Arabs also feel strongly connected to the same real estate. Which has inspired dozens of attempts, over the past 73 years, to create an independent Palestinian state alongside the one controlled by Jews. Unfortunately all those efforts have failed, usually at the Palestinians’ behest. And lately, it seems, their leadership—in the guise of Hamas—seems far more committed to vanquishing Israel than to creating a viable state.
The irony is that the Arabs invariably suffer the most casualties in these ongoing bloody skirmishes. The reasons are obvious: first, Israel has a stronger military, including an elaborate missile-defense system that shoots down incoming rockets. And, too, Hamas seems willing to put its civilians in harm’s way by using them as human shields. Specifically, by strategically placing its military targets in highly populated civilian areas.
The greater irony is even stranger: by sacrificing its civilians, Hamas wins the global war for public sympathy. Which leads to such grotesque spectacles as innocent American Jews being accosted in sushi restaurants far away. Which then leads to the greatest irony of all; the fear-driven intensification of pro-Israel fervor by Holocaust-grazed people such as me.
“As long as I live,” my survivor uncle told me many times, “Israel will not be overrun. I will die on Jewish soil rather than live to see it taken from us.”
To which I can only add a heartfelt amen.
Want to get “Expat Eye” every week by email. Sign up here.
David Haldane’s latest book, a short-story collection called “Jenny on the Street,” is available on Amazon. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning journalist, author and radio broadcaster currently dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California and Northern Mindanao, Philippines.
Originally Published in Mindanao Gold Star Daily