For a Jew or anybody with sense of history, the last year culminating in the events in Paris this month has been traumatic. From the reported shootings in Marseille, the unreported regular attacks on Jews in Europe and the dramatic events in Paris at the Holocaust Museum, newspaper office and supermarket, the situation looks very dark, with a stark resemblance to those of 1938.
Then, a rogue leader of a large country publicly espoused nationalistic and xenophobic goals and acted to attain them. While some people opposed them, many people and leaders either ignored the message or, even worse, sympathized with it. Evil was eventually defeated but at a heavy price for all.
Today, the call is from a more omnipresent force, Islam. Regardless of their variety and organizational form, Muslim organizations call for the destruction of all non-believers, starting with the Jews. Isis, Hezbollah, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority, Turkey and Syria all agree on one matter: pluralism is not an option. Many European leaders choose to ignore this call in order to win votes while many people in the street and government, even non-Muslims, sympathize with the goal. While many if not most Muslims, both in Europe and the Middle East, are not active politically, they are influenced both by this call and the inevitable anti-Arab reaction that terrorism causes.
Yet, there are differences. First, Israel exists. If French Jews have started carrying Israeli flags in the street, it is a sign that that the Diaspora tactics of staying low is being replaced. While the prime minister of Israel was criticized for pushing himself to the center of the Paris rally, the world had to be reminded that Jews were not going to count only the local leaders and police. The latter are accountable to another country now. Also, some European leaders have hopefully learned from 1938. They are trying to stop this disaster while it is still manageable. The fact is that Hitler could have been stopped then. While quislings will always exist, there is hope for an early unified reaction.
It is hard not envision a terrible war before use, one that will go beyond national borders. It could release the butchery of the Middle Ages, where the ends justified the means and everybody pays the price. It is not quite 1938 but it is too close for anybody’s comfort. I accuse the world of a hypocrisy that is dangerous both to the Jews and itself. Most of all, I try to maintain the hope that enough people have learned from the events of the not-so-distant purpose.