Everyone asking Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz to apologize for his remarks echoing Yitzhak Shamir’s 1989 comment that “Poles imbibe anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk” are behaving like ashamed (or frightened) Jews in an era we thought had long passed. Shamir, who in his childhood suffered the Poles’ blows and curses, sums up the truth of the thousand-year nightmare that was Jewish life in Poland – the truth that the Poles are trying to deny and distort. Such a terrible truth was also experienced by Katz’s parents, Holocaust survivors from Romania and Hungary.
After more than 70 years of independence, there are Jews in Israel who toe the Polish government’s line in its demand that Katz apologize. Some even accuse Katz of racism, no less. Politicians including Tzachi Hanegbi, diplomats and academics specializing in the Holocaust, in the service and pay of Poles and Germans, are shocked by the “generalization.”
These researchers go out of their way to prove that “not all Poles (and Germans, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Russians, Romanians, Dutch, Italians, French and so on) are guilty of the crimes of their governments, which collaborated with the Nazis. As part of Yad Vashem’s “psychological” preparations for military delegations to Poland, one lesson is about the slippery slope on which Israel stands, according to this official institution. People like these, wrote the poet Avraham Shlonsky right after the Holocaust, continue to learn nothing after the passing of every storm.
It’s true, among the Poles there were, and still are, righteous Gentiles. But a vast majority were and are haters of the Jewish people. Were it not for this inborn hatred there would not have been thousands of pogroms, decrees and expulsions including the Spanish Inquisition and culminating in the Holocaust. Only because of this deep and entrenched hatred, lasting to this day, can European countries, Germany as well, trade with Iran. This includes the sale of weapons to a country that openly declares (and is making preparations accordingly) that it aims to complete the work of the devil and annihilate the Jewish state.
For many Israelis, and certainly for Jews in the Diaspora, it’s hard to accept that even the Holocaust didn’t uproot the ancient hatred that Christians (and Muslims, but that’s another story) harbor toward Jews. Since anti-Semitism currently isn’t politically correct, the pent-up hatred toward Jews is expressed as hatred of the Jewish state. One of the oldest slogans of the “old” anti-Semitism was “Jews to Palestine.” Now that Jews have established their sovereignty in Palestine, the anti-Semites demand “Jews out of Palestine.” And many Jews, especially in Israel and the United States, identify with them, like Jews in the past who identified with the filth that was hurled at them by anti-Semites.
With the growing anti-Semitic wave in France, its shaken president, Emmanuel Macron, vowed to pass laws against anti-Semitism. He also notified the Jewish community that as part of this legislation he would promote a bill which would prohibit equating Zionism with racism. (When will such a law be passed in Israel?)
I don’t doubt his sincere intentions, but no legislation will counter the entrenched hatred of Jews in his country. Anti-Semitism is a mental-religious disease. To combat it via Jewish organizations abroad, and with Israel’s hesitant actions, isn’t enough. As long as we don’t recognize that anti-Semitism is a chronic disease, we can’t wage an effective campaign against it, and it will continue to take its toll.
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