Eric Hoffer Revisited

In 1968, a year after Israel's stunning victory over the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq -- which put Israel in control of the Sinai, Judea, Samaria, the Golan, and their populations -- Eric Hoffer, pre-eminent American philosopher and the 1983 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, had this to say about the political aftermath of its military achievement:

The Jews are a peculiar people. Things permitted to other people are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions, of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it; Poland and Czechoslovakia did it; Turkey drove out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchmen; Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese -- and no one says a word about refugees. But in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. ...  Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world.

Hoffer's observation, made 45 years ago, appears to be as true today as it was then.  The political elites of the world, with few notable exceptions, continue to ignore the slaughter and displacement of non-combatants in conflicts occurring in almost every region of the world.  The explosive belt has joined the modern arsenal of poison gas, land mines, AK-47s, and the machete, all of which have taken the lives of millions of defenseless people.  International terrorism, much of it Islamic in origin, continues to undermine civil society, notably in the Middle East and Africa.  Each year, hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern and African refugees spill out of troubled countries into adjacent troubled countries and are, for the most part, virtually ignored by the world's political elites.

And while these atrocities continue unabated, the attention of the world's elites is still drawn to one people only, and in one conflict: the Jews, in defense of the Jewish state.  The epitome of this freakish absurdity is embodied in the activity of the United Nations.  U.N. resolutions condemning Israel for violations of space and human rights are the staple diet of that world organization.  One might expect renegade states like Somalia and Iran to endorse those resolutions -- and they do -- but they are often partnered with the likes of a Sweden and Norway.

Hoffer wouldn't have been at all surprised.  He had written in that same piece from which the lengthy quote above was drawn: "The Swedes did not let out a peep when Hitler was slaughtering Jews. They sent Hitler choice iron ore, and ball bearings, and serviced his troop trains to Norway."  Hoffer was not disposed to drawing fine distinctions among anti-Semites. 

The Palestinians, then, are lucky in this one respect: they are at war with the Jewish state.  Had Palestinians been in conflict with any other people -- Peruvians, for example -- nobody would have given them a hoot.  Certainly not the United Nations.  After all, why should any attention, let alone international aid, be given to a group of people busy blowing up Peruvians?  And if the Peruvians, in self-defense, are successful in disposing of those Palestinian terrorists, the response from the world's political elite might well be to applaud the Peruvians, and justifiably so.

But it's the Jews in the battle, so the script reads differently.  And never mind that public opinion polls show considerable Palestinian support for Palestinian terrorism against Israeli citizens.  Never mind that thousands of rockets continue to be fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel since Israel disengaged completely from the Strip in 2005.  Never mind that Israel built a security fence along its West Bank border instead of choosing, as others might, to rid the region of its belligerent population.  That matters not.  What matters is that they are Jews.  And that was Hoffer's blunt but truthful observation.

And he made another which is as well worth considering today as it was in 1968.  Hoffer ended his short essay saying: "I have a premonition that will not leave me: as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us."

In 1968, a year after Israel's stunning victory over the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq -- which put Israel in control of the Sinai, Judea, Samaria, the Golan, and their populations -- Eric Hoffer, pre-eminent American philosopher and the 1983 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, had this to say about the political aftermath of its military achievement:

The Jews are a peculiar people. Things permitted to other people are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions, of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it; Poland and Czechoslovakia did it; Turkey drove out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchmen; Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese -- and no one says a word about refugees. But in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. ...  Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world.

Hoffer's observation, made 45 years ago, appears to be as true today as it was then.  The political elites of the world, with few notable exceptions, continue to ignore the slaughter and displacement of non-combatants in conflicts occurring in almost every region of the world.  The explosive belt has joined the modern arsenal of poison gas, land mines, AK-47s, and the machete, all of which have taken the lives of millions of defenseless people.  International terrorism, much of it Islamic in origin, continues to undermine civil society, notably in the Middle East and Africa.  Each year, hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern and African refugees spill out of troubled countries into adjacent troubled countries and are, for the most part, virtually ignored by the world's political elites.

And while these atrocities continue unabated, the attention of the world's elites is still drawn to one people only, and in one conflict: the Jews, in defense of the Jewish state.  The epitome of this freakish absurdity is embodied in the activity of the United Nations.  U.N. resolutions condemning Israel for violations of space and human rights are the staple diet of that world organization.  One might expect renegade states like Somalia and Iran to endorse those resolutions -- and they do -- but they are often partnered with the likes of a Sweden and Norway.

Hoffer wouldn't have been at all surprised.  He had written in that same piece from which the lengthy quote above was drawn: "The Swedes did not let out a peep when Hitler was slaughtering Jews. They sent Hitler choice iron ore, and ball bearings, and serviced his troop trains to Norway."  Hoffer was not disposed to drawing fine distinctions among anti-Semites. 

The Palestinians, then, are lucky in this one respect: they are at war with the Jewish state.  Had Palestinians been in conflict with any other people -- Peruvians, for example -- nobody would have given them a hoot.  Certainly not the United Nations.  After all, why should any attention, let alone international aid, be given to a group of people busy blowing up Peruvians?  And if the Peruvians, in self-defense, are successful in disposing of those Palestinian terrorists, the response from the world's political elite might well be to applaud the Peruvians, and justifiably so.

But it's the Jews in the battle, so the script reads differently.  And never mind that public opinion polls show considerable Palestinian support for Palestinian terrorism against Israeli citizens.  Never mind that thousands of rockets continue to be fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel since Israel disengaged completely from the Strip in 2005.  Never mind that Israel built a security fence along its West Bank border instead of choosing, as others might, to rid the region of its belligerent population.  That matters not.  What matters is that they are Jews.  And that was Hoffer's blunt but truthful observation.

And he made another which is as well worth considering today as it was in 1968.  Hoffer ended his short essay saying: "I have a premonition that will not leave me: as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us."