Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 04.21.03


Never Again

Last weekend I saw "The Pianist." It was a slightly different take from the many movies depicting the plight of the Jews that we have all seen over the years.

This one featured a Polish pianist who lived through the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto and lost his entire family to Nazi oppression. One element of the picture that struck me was a scene of an old man who was about to be shipped to a death camp.

He questioned others about the passive acceptance of their fate. "Why don't we fight back?" was his question. Before any of these movies were made I can remember seeing black and white film of concentration camp victims at the moment of their liberation by British, Canadian, and US troops.

The tragic fate of the dead and the hideously ravaged skeletons of the living have haunted me for years. How could human beings collectively behave like mass murderers?

It was because of movies like The Pianist, Schindler's List, and Sophie's Choice -- along with countless books by men like Elie Weisel, Leon Uris, and William Styron -- that I have always felt prejudiced in favor of the state of Israel. I remember documentaries about Israel in the early 60's that depicted Israelis as creative people who coaxed fertile farmland out of arid desert sand. There was always an implication that the Arab population in the area occupied by Israel were just ignorant nomads who only complained about the annexation of their land after the Jews had made it valuable.

After all, look what these Jews had been through. We could certainly understand the Jewish attitude toward the virulent anti-Semitic feelings of their neighbors. Their credo became "Never Again."

Never again would they allow any regime or any other country to subjugate them. To that end, they built a formidable army and, with our help, an arsenal that is among the world's deadliest.

"Attack Israel at your peril" was never more clearly exemplified than in the 1967 war against Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. Nasser of Egypt proved intractable while Israel tried desperately to negotiate through the U.N. The U.S. quickly pronounced its neutrality and placed an arms embargo on Israel as did France -- another major arms supplier.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was pouring arms and ammunition into the Arab armories. It took six days for the Israeli army to rout the Arab forces. We all cheered.

Unfortunately, present-day Israelis are creating their own legacy of hatred. "Never Again" is a phrase that applies only to the Israelis, it appears. Is it a hangover from holocaust days that prevents us from even criticizing the hard-line Israeli policies against the Palestinians?

A few weeks ago a young peace activist was run over and killed by a bulldozer that was in the process of destroying a Palestinian home. Several people who claimed the driver had a clear view of his victim witnessed this act. Days later, the driver was back at work.

A few days after that another unarmed foreign peace activist was shot dead by an Israeli soldier. Not much more than a squeak was heard from our administration.

We invaded Iraq to free the Iraqi people. Why don't we even protest when similar state-sponsored atrocities occur in Israel? We are Israel's main ally in the world. Why don't we use our influence to push them toward a resolution? Why isn't our Government demanding the dissolution of illegal settlements and cancellation of illegal prohibitions against the Palestinians?

We are complicit in this unjustified oppression of the Palestinian people. Do you have any doubt that the terrorism we fear is fueled by our policy of "see no evil" as regards our ally Israel? We attack an Arab nation and support the brutal oppression of the Palestinians. Are you starting to understand why we are hated throughout the Arab world?

"Never Again" should apply to all humanity.