IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?
15 August, 2017 by Michael Kuttner
First published in jWire
21 August 2017
There have been many instances in history when appeasement instead of action has resulted in carnage and catastrophe.
The tragedy is that lessons still do not seem to have been learnt and the international community is in danger of repeating the same ghastly mistakes all over again. Jews have always been the proverbial “canaries in the mine” but for many these days, their early warning systems seem to have shut down.
The twentieth century witnessed a horrendous procession of massacres and genocides every one of them preventable or at least able to be thwarted if decisive action had been taken in time.
This list is by no means exhaustive but serves to illustrate that far from preventing such outrages the international community collectively through the League of Nations and now the misnamed United Nations has in fact helped to facilitate them. Whether by inertia, deliberate design or just plain bias, millions of human beings have been massacred while civilized societies looked on.
The Armenian genocide in 1915 was the last gasp of a corrupt Ottoman Empire. If world democracies had intervened much earlier before the genocidal plans were initiated it is likely that this genocide would never have taken place. Turkey was in no condition to resist a determined campaign to protect its Armenian minority but as usual the great powers of the time averted their gaze. The USA not for the last time in history was focused on itself, the French and Germans were too busy massacring the natives in their colonial possessions and the UK was busy elsewhere. The Russians of course were too busy getting rid of their Jews. Thus the Armenians had nobody to turn to when the crunch came. Does this not sound familiar?
Even today in 2017 the Turkish Government refuses to acknowledge that any genocide took place. Disgracefully for purely political reasons Israel has not yet called it what it really was. It is long overdue for the Jewish State to stop avoiding upsetting the current Ottoman pretender.
Between 1937 and 1938 the Japanese unleashed barbaric massacres in what became known as the rape of Nanking. This most cruel and inhuman action of the Japanese military against defenseless Chinese civilians could have been prevented if only the League of Nations had shown the will and determination to do so. As the army of the Japanese Empire ran rampant the international community talked, passed resolutions and remained impotent.
The Holocaust remains the biggest stain on 20th. Century history. We know now that a determined effort by the democracies in the 1930's would have averted the impending catastrophe and quite likely six million Jews would have been saved. Even at the height of the Holocaust when news seeped out, political leaders and the media did their best to suppress the facts. Of course at the end of the war when the awful truth could no longer be hidden all and sundry lamented and eulogized the victims. The international community has always been wonderful at commemorating dead Jews but woefully lacking in protecting them. Therein lies a valuable lesson for us today.
After the horrors of the Holocaust, trusting souls were convinced that never again could such tragedies occur without a robust response from civilized countries. How wrong they were!
Although nothing on the scale of the final solution has thankfully re-occurred there have been enough massacres and “mini” genocides which could have been prevented if only resolute action had been taken in time.
These include Pol Pot regime in Cambodia which resulted in two million murders, the Balkan massacres, Rwanda and Darfur where the UN demonstrated its irrelevance and the recent campaign of extermination against the Yazidis in Iraq and Syria. In the midst of all this, persecution of Christians in Moslem countries continues unabated while the rest of the world either ignores the situation or prefers to gang up on Israel instead.
What lessons can we here in Israel draw from this miserable record of indifference and lack of will to tackle evil?
As Baha'is in Iran are persecuted and Kurds targeted for murder elsewhere in the Middle East it seems that history keeps repeating itself. Iran the greatest sponsor of terror, thanks to Obama, is advancing its evil empire and intentions without hindrance. Here is a country which has openly declared its intention to destroy the Jewish State and which is arming and enabling its surrogates in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria to achieve this aim.
The abject failure of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons and develop the means to deliver them is a classic example of incompetence and lack of will to confront evil. Just as the democracies could have eliminated Hitler and his henchmen at any early stage so could North Korea have been liberated from the grasp of a leader who not only threatens civilized societies but also dooms his own citizens to concentration camps.
Appeasement unfortunately has been the order of the day. Refusing to act in time and pretending that diplomacy can solve all problems ignores a fundamental fact. Bullies and tyrants only back down in the face of a determined will to act.
Some of our own politicians have still to learn this basic lesson. Israel only survived concerted and sustained efforts to eliminate it by fighting back. Hamas and Hezbollah as well as Iran are only going to be thwarted by a resolute resolve to prevent them from carrying out their evil designs. Appeasement has failed but this reality still seems to have escaped the muddled minds of many.
If any group should have by now internalized the fact that relying on the international community to safeguard its security is futile it is the Jewish People.
As the Jewish Sage, Hillel, stated:
“IF I AM NOT FOR MYSELF, WHO WILL BE FOR ME? IF I AM NOT FOR OTHERS, WHAT AM I? AND IF NOT NOW, WHEN? ”
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 where he is J-Wire's correspondent.