The quotation from Martin Niemoller, the Lutheran pastor who was imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps for seven years, speaks again to the selective and blinkered behavior of the righteous and smug among us when they do not feel threatened by the evil that threatens others. Or sometimes when they do.
Pastor Niemoller's words go to the heart of political correctness and are easily altered to include other victims. The pastor did that himself, and his chilling final line retains its power to rebuke. The Jew continues to be under siege. This time they are under attack in Israel. There are those in the West who make themselves feel good by criticizing this tiny country, which nevertheless remains the canary in the coal mine, destined to bear the first assaults from radical Islamic terror.
Against the backdrop of jihadist terror confronting Europe, the European Union last week issued another rebuke to Israel, insisting that Israeli products manufactured on the West Bank be labeled as made in "settlements" rather than in Israel, to emphasize the "occupation" of land Israel took after it won the 1967 Six-Day War imposed on it by the combined Arab military might (such as it was).
This targeted punishment of Israel is echoed in the United States in the movement among the universities known as "BDS" (boycott, divestment and sanctions) aimed at Israel and even against individual Israelis and their academic institutions. The professors wrap their arguments in "human rights," but their arguments are riddled with deceit, pretense and hypocrisy, lacking credible insights, and cited at no personal cost.
Alan Dershowitz, the distinguished Harvard law professor, disposed of a celebrated defender of the BDS movement in a debate the other day at the Oxford Union, the famous British debating society. He won a resounding victory over Peter Tatchell, a British human rights activist. He vividly exposed the hypocrisy of the double standard to which Israel is held.
"What about other countries that are enforcing military occupations with far less justification than Israel has had?" he asked. "Russia, Turkey, China, Indonesia, Armenia, Azerbaijan all continue to occupy territories that lawfully belong to their neighbors." Where is the demand to invoke labeling, sanctions and divestment against them? Why are critics silent about the abusiveness of Arab dictatorships and tyrannies? Tatchell finally conceded his points, and professor Dershowitz won the debate, 137 to 101.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the labeling recalls dark memories of Nazi boycotts and the signs in the windows of Jewish shops in Germany in the run-up to the Holocaust: "Europe should be ashamed of itself." Indeed it should. So should the campus showoffs here.
The anti-Jewish message is both subtle and blatant. Language is, as always, the giveaway. In the wake of the massacre in Paris, Belgium's Minister of Justice Koen Geens observed, "It's no longer synagogues or the Jewish museums. ... It's mass gatherings and public places." He was referring to the atrocity of Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, a French citizen who had traveled to Syria and returned to Brussels to walk into a Jewish museum, take out an AK-47 assault rifle and kill three museum visitors. A fourth, critically injured, would later die of his wounds.
"You don't have to be Hercule Poirot to realize that a justice system headed by a man who doesn't consider synagogue attendance as a gathering or Jewish museums as public places isn't going to try especially hard to pursue justice when the victims are Jews," Liel Leibovitz wrote in the online magazine Tablet. He notes that the gunman was a friend of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the architect of the Paris massacre, and asks whether paying closer attention earlier could have discovered the link to the Paris terrorist and disarmed him. He argues that attitudes toward Jews encourage sloppy follow-up of investigations of suspicious characters.
Once it was fashionable to blame Palestinian terrorism on the Israeli occupation, but it's difficult now to think jihad will go away if the Israelis submit, like lambs, to slaughter. Richard Landes, a professor of history at Boston University, suggests that Israel's ability to resist "life-destroying strategies" is a humiliating obstacle to the radical Islamic goal of world domination. The charter of Hamas describes its goal to "totally exterminate" the Jews as a prelude to the destruction of the rest of the infidels. Pastor Martin Niemoller calls from the grave to warn of the consequences of leaving the struggle to others.