Unit­ing against a uni­ver­sal en­emy

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Suzanne Fields

Just when you think no one can come up with a gen­uine mod­ern anal­ogy to Nazi Ger­many, some­one does. Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, the leader of the con­ser­va­tive Likud Party in Is­rael, of­fers a scary and wholly plau­si­ble com­par­i­son. “It’s 1938 and Iran is Ger­many,” he told the an­nual Gen­eral As­sem­bly of the United Jewish Com­mu­ni­ties the other day in Los An­ge­les. “When some­one tells you he is go­ing to ex­ter­mi­nate you, be­lieve him — and stop him.”

No sooner than he com­pleted his speech the Ira­nian news­pa­pers re­ported that Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad was boast­ing that “we will soon wit­ness [Is­rael’s] dis­ap­pear­ance and de­struc­tion.” Mr. Ah­madine­jad and his men are pre­par­ing a Holo­caust that Hitler would envy, not lim­ited to a tiny fledg­ling democ­racy in the Mid­dle East. The Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gram poses a threat to the en­tire West.

“Is­rael would cer­tainly be the first stop on Iran’s tour of de­struc­tion, but at the planned pro­duc­tion rate of 25 nu­clear bombs a year [. . .] [the arse­nal] will be di­rected against ‘the big Satan,’ the U.S. and the ‘mod­er­ate Satan,’ Europe,’ ” Mr. Ne­tanyahu told the as­sem­bled Jewish com­mu­ni­ties. But the or­der­ing of events has changed. Hitler started a war first and be­gan work on the atomic bomb; Mr. Ah­madine­jad is build­ing nu­clear weapons first.

To do noth­ing is to ap­pease, which is yet an­other al­lu­sion to the care­less in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy be­fore World War II: “No one cared then and no one cares now.” Hitler went on build­ing a for­mi­da­ble mil­i­tary ma­chine while the world pre­tended not to no­tice. Win­ston Churchill was the lonely prophet whose warn­ing went un­heeded. Ap­pease­ment, he said, is “a bit like feed­ing a croc­o­dile hop­ing that it would eat you last.” This time ev­ery­one no­tices what Iran is do­ing, but wants to go about busi­ness as usual: “What? Me worry?” The first mis­siles will have Europe in range, then Amer­ica. Is­rael will be the ca­nary in the coal mine, the first to dis­ap­pear as a warn­ing to ev­ery­one else.

Mr. Ah­madine­jad isn’t try­ing to sell a Holo­caust anal­ogy; he in­sists the orig­i­nal never hap­pened. But the 5 mil­lion Jews in Is­rael un­der­stand that rhetoric pre­cedes the re- al­ity. Eras­ing Is­rael from the map is real to them. “Be­cause Auschwitz re­ally hap­pened, it has per­me­ated our imag­i­na­tion, be­come a per­ma­nent part of us,” says No­bel Prizewin­ning nov­el­ist Imre Kertesz. “What we are able to imag­ine — be­cause it re­ally hap­pened — can hap­pen again.”

While Mr. Ne­tanyahu was speak- ing on the Left Coast, the man who now rep­re­sents “the lit­tle Satan,” Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert of Is­rael, met Pres­i­dent Bush in Wash­ing­ton. They talked for sev­eral hours and mostly about what to do about Iran. Both men have been weak­ened since the last time they met. Mr. Olmert suf­fered be­cause he was slow to re­act with enough ground troops for the war in Le­banon. Mr. Bush had a re­ally bad hair day on Nov. 7.

Thus their rhetoric rings a lit­tle hollow now, sug­gest­ing that their coun­tries have deeper di­vi­sions than they’re ready to ad­mit. Is­rael wor­ries that the Amer­i­can weak­ness in Iraq might com­pel the pres­i­dent to press Is­rael to make un­wise con­ces­sions to the Pales­tini­ans in or­der to or­ga­nize a coali­tion of Arab states to sup­port sanc­tions against Iran. The United States wor­ries that Is­rael’s mil­i­tary im­age was tar­nished in the war in Le­banon, mak­ing it ap­pear less fear­some. This war in Le­banon was not ex­actly the Six Day War.

Is­rael has strong friends in Amer­ica, par­tic­u­larly among evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians. Nearly ev­ery­one has known this for a long time, but some peo­ple al­ways find out late. The New York Times dis­cov­ered it only two weeks ago, and put the news of its late dis­cov­ery on Page One. Th­ese Chris­tians fre­quently in­voke Bib­li­cal ref­er­ences, but they’re quick to draw analo­gies to the Third Re­ich. “Hitler told ev­ery­body what he was go­ing to do, and Ah­madine­jad is say­ing ex­actly what he is go­ing to do,” says Dr. James Dob­son, founder of Fo­cus on the Fam­ily, the faith-and-fam­ily ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion. “He is talk­ing geno­cide.”

The Rev. John Hagee, pas­tor of a megachurch in San An­to­nio, says the Ira­nian leader’s re­marks about a sec­ond Holo­caust prompted him to es­tab­lish Chris­tians United for Is­rael. He com­pared the Ah­madine­jad Ira­ni­ans to an Old Tes­ta­ment vil­lain: “Pharaoh threat­ened Is­rael and he ended up fish food.”

Af­ter Messrs. Bush and Olmert con­cluded their private met­ing in the Oval Of­fice, they spoke in a uni­fied voice that they can­not ac­cept a nu­clear-armed Iran. The ques­tion of how they would stop it re­mains un­ad­dressed — in pub­lic. But both men ob­vi­ously know that tak­ing a nap is not the route to peace in our time.

Suzanne Fields, a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times, is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated.

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