WASHINGTON - The campaign to win public recognition for the Holocaust rescue activists known as the Bergson Group took another step forward recently when Hadassah became the latest major Jewish organization to pay tribute to the 1940's activists.
Assassination does wonders for a public figure’s place in history. John F. Kennedy was a president of questionable character and meager accomplishment, but his untimely and violent death, followed by decades of unceasing image control by the Kennedy family and their media apologists, has helped sustain one of the great myths of American history – a myth that there once existed in Washington a magical kingdom called Camelot, ruled by a dashing prince whose wisdom and bravery were matched only by his unshakeable devotion to his beautiful princess.
For Jews, free will must always be oriented toward life, to the blessing, not to the curse. Our binding charge is to strive in this obligatory direction of individual and collective self-preservation by using our intelligence and by exercising our essentially disciplined acts of will. In circumstances where such striving is consciously rejected, the outcome - however catastrophic - can never rise to the dignified level of tragedy.
Over the past 12 years that I have been writing this column I discussed the Ringelblum Archives numerous times.
In the past two years, the number of visitors to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi death camp in southern Poland, has nearly tripled to an unprecedented 1 million people annually. These astounding statistics comprise an international phenomenon – one that highlights the continued significance of Auschwitz as a memorial site, a museum and now a growing tour destination.
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) relentlessly grinds on. The organization and its fellow travelers just held their annual Hate Israel follies, which they dubbed “Israel Apartheid Week.” Rallies outside Israeli consulates and embassies were held in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Cleveland, Anaheim and Chicago.
African-Americans and Jews were joined in a relationship long characterized by mutual respect and shared commitment to civil rights. But it was also one that foundered on the sensitivities and resentments that both groups often could not rise above.
In 2003, Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore attained brief fame when he placed and refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments in the State Supreme Court building. Moore’s actions and his subsequent removal from office by a unanimous decision of Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary were just another part of the American debate about the role of religion in the United States.
In 1974, Ronald Reagan made the best purchase of his political career: he bought a ranch. Rancho Del Cielo – the “Ranch in the Sky” – was nestled in the hills near Santa Barbara, California. Reagan said the ranch was “a sanctuary … like no other … at Rancho del Cielo, Nancy and I could put on our boots and old clothes, recharge our batteries, and be reminded of where we had come from.”
Sixty years ago, the Jews of Israel and the world learned one of the harshest lessons in political realism and the ethics of war. It was a tragedy that forced them to abandon their moral naiveté and acknowledge the harshness and brutality of military reality. And it is a lesson that Israeli politicians and the leftist media would have the country forget today.
True life, it seems, can never be brought purposefully before the judgment seat of Reason. Much as we might wish it were otherwise, absurd narratives now best mirror the deteriorating situation of life on earth. Still living an elaborate pantomime of right and wrong, justice and punishment, we humans desperately want the unfolding world-drama to develop with both fairness and sensibility. Generally, we witness something quite different.
As George W. Bush begins his eighth and final year in the White House, it’s fitting to step back and look at this president who almost wasn’t, save for the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the relentless recount process in Florida.
According to recent intelligence reports, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed 40 Hamas terrorists in Gaza last month without inflicting a single civilian casualty. In fact, over the past five years, collateral damage and civilian casualties caused by Israeli military actions have decreased dramatically. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to fire Kassam rockets indiscriminately at the working-class town of Sderot and into the suburban areas of the nearby seaside city of Ashkelon.