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Sunday, December 14, 2003

Solly Gaynor: Conversation in Europe

Arutz Sheva: About a week ago I was invited by my German publisher, the Fischer Verlag, to give a lecture on the Holocaust in Frankfurt. Some years ago, they published my book Light One Candle in German, and since then it became part of the curriculum in German high schools. My lecture was quite successful, judging by the standing ovation of the fairly large audience. The same evening, at dinner, my hosts told me that my lecture was important not only to tell this new generation about the Holocaust, but also to expose the lies and disinformation the European press writes about Israel. I didn't sleep well that night.

I never sleep well when I am in Germany.

As my flight back to Israel was scheduled for eight in the evening the next day, I had a whole day to kill and my hosts suggested to show me around town. After a short walk and some lunch, we said goodbye to each other and I returned to the hotel. It was still very early and I decided to have my coffee in the lobby.

Next to where I sat down, I saw two men, in their early thirties, drinking beer. One of them looked slightly familiar.

"Hello," he said, "you are Solly Ganor, from Israel. I was very impressed with your lecture last night."

"Thank you," I said.

"My friend here is Kurt, and my name is Manfred. We are both peddling computer software," he said with a grin. By the expensive suits they were wearing and the aura of money around them, I guessed they were not doing too badly.

"Actually, it was my girlfriend who persuaded me to come to your lecture. I am glad that I did, as I learned many things about the Holocaust I had no idea about. I know my grandfather's generation was stupid to follow Hitler, but the brutality and the cruelty of the Germans you described in your lecture was a bit of a surprise; but then, your army doesn't seem to be much different, does it?"

"How is that?" I asked calmly, trying to control my fury.

"What we read in the news, and see on the television, your army is suppressing the civilian Palestinian population with great brutality. You may sometimes disbelieve the press, but you can't dismiss the video shots we see on television. We constantly see your tanks aiming their cannons at kids throwing stones at them. It is not a pleasant sight and reminds us of the Nazi times."

"To start with ,who do you think are the cameramen who take these video shots?" I asked.

"Why? They are German camera men, on German television, British on BBC and Americans on CNN; we see them all here on cable."

"That is where you are wrong. More than 90% of the cameramen are Palestinians hired by the TV stations you have mentioned. The Germans, British and Americans are not too keen to go to these places. They are too dangerous. Besides, if you dare to broadcast something against their liking, your life is in danger, and sometimes, even that of your families. Did you know that? Of course, you didn't. Israel is a democratic country and the correspondents have nothing to fear no matter how much they slander Israel. They do not dare do the same with the Palestinians.

"And then, imagine what would have happened to me and my family, if during World War II I would have dared to throw a stone against one of your Nazi tanks? They wouldn't even waste a bullet on me, they would have hanged me and my family without any mercy. And what is happening to the kids throwing the stones at the tanks? Nothing! If you watch the video shots you will see that the tanks are not shooting at them at all. The whole scene is obviously staged by the cameramen for propaganda purposes."

After a short silence, during which the two men looked at each other, Manfred said: "Yes, already yesterday I noticed that you have persuasive powers. You have me at a disadvantage here. I am not too well informed about what is going on. Perhaps we should, considering how the region is becoming the most dangerous place to world peace."

"You mean Israel, don't you?"

"Well, yes. Many of us think so. Well, let me explain. I don't think that anyone really thinks that Israel constitutes a danger to Europe. What we do believe is that if a major war breaks out again between Israel and the Arab states, and Israel's existence is threatened, you may set the world on fire with your nuclear arsenal."

I was getting really annoyed with them and answered rather sharply: "If you mean that this time, we won't go peacefully to the gas chambers like good little Jews, you are absolutely right. We won't, even if we have to use all means at our disposal. If Europe is affected by that, too bad. Your continent is soaked with Jewish blood anyway. Perhaps it could do with some cleansing," I said sharply.

There was a short silence. The Germans looked embarrassed.

"Actually, what Manfred means is why don't you settle the matter with the Palestinians once and for all? And if you can't, why don't you just quit. You live in a sea of Arabs who aim at your destruction. Perhaps the fifty-year experiment of the State of Israel is, unfortunately, coming to an end. Perhaps we should all consider that it didn't work. Why don't you cut your losses and emigrate to places where you would be appreciated and where you can bring much good, as you always did in the past?

"Look at our Europe. For hundreds of generations we were engaged in endless bloody ruinous wars against each other. When today we look back at the endless carnage of hundreds of years, we can only curse the absolute stupidity of our previous generations. Why couldn't they get their act together before hundreds of millions of people died in wars? Hitler only came to power because of the devastation of the German people following World War I. If it weren't for that war, Hitler would have been simply laughed at. The obvious reasonable thing for you to do is what we finally did here in Europe. Anything else is madness and ruin."

It was the second German, Kurt, who held that impassioned speech. He even got up while addressing me.

"To start with, our bringing so much good to this world, as you have stated, wasn't exactly appreciated by your grandparents, since they tried to gas us out of existence. You won't mind if we are a little suspicious about living in Europe again. Second, you still seem to see us as the wandering Jew, living on his suitcase and any time there is a danger we just get up and run. What you don't seem to understand is the deep roots we have in our country. These roots go back thousands of years, when your forefathers were just barbaric tribes. For thousands of years we have prayed: 'The next year in Jerusalem'; and now that we are there, we shall never leave!

"It was there that we laid the foundation of civilized living for the world. It was there that we brought to the world the jewel of civilization, the Ten Commandments, and it was there we brought you our Bible, which became the basis for Western civilization. According to the Malaysian prime minister, Mahatir Mohamad, we Jews invented Human Rights and Democracy, two things the Muslim fanatics hate the most.

"So, you are addressing the wrong people. It is the Islamic fanatics that you should address. You are either blind or anti-Semites when you accuse us of being the biggest danger to peace, while Islamic suicide bombers blow themselves up in Istanbul, New York, Bali, Moscow, Philippines and dozens of other places around the world; where a prime minister of Malaysia denounces the Jews for creating democracy and human rights and where an Iranian head of state puts out a contract to murder a writer with whom he disagrees about what he wrote regarding the Koran.

"They don't give a hoot about your achievements in Europe. They think that your Western Civilization is an abomination on Earth, decadent and rotten to the core and should be replaced by the purity of Islam. They are convinced that now that they have discovered a cheap strategic weapon, the suicide bomber, they can bring the West's economy to its knees. September 11, besides thousands of victims who died in New York and Washington, cost the American economy eleven billion dollars, by conservative estimates. How much will the next mega-blow-up in the West cost is anybody's guess. Their aim to bring economic ruin to the West is not so far-fetched, and the Americans realize that, but you in Europe are playing a second act of Chamberlain. Instead of seeing the real danger to the world, Islamic fundamentalism, you are blaming Israel and the Jews instead!"

"What would you have us do? These people are hiding all over the world. It would be like fighting shadows," Manfred said. He seemed taken aback by my tirade.

"Do you know what 'El-Qaida' means in Arabic? It means the 'base'. They named it after the base they had in Afghanistan. Now, their bases are the Islamic fundamentalist states, which give them their full support in fighting the West. Sooner or later, we will have to go to war with them, whether we like it or not. In the Middle Ages, the pirates on the high seas threatened to undermine the economies of the world. It took a combined world effort to stomp out that threat. The Islamic fundamentalists are the pirates of the twenty-first century, except they are much more dangerous to our world than the pirates of the old days."

"I think you are exaggerating their danger. The fact is that when we leave them alone, they leave us alone. You don't see any one of them blowing themselves up in Europe, do you?"

"That is your problem here in Europe. You are living the good life and think that they won't come after you. Let me tell you, to them you are part of the Western world, the same Crusaders, the abomination on Earth.

"You know, you remind of what reverend Martin Niemoller, who was a prisoner with us in Dachau, once said: 'They first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Catholic. Then they came for me – and by that time, there was nobody left to speak up."

I could see by their startled look that I scored a point.

"As I said before, you have persuasive powers. Perhaps we should think about what you said, especially about Israel. There is one thing we don't understand, though; the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and now your are building a new 'Berlin Wall' in Israel...."

"There is a vast difference between your Berlin Wall and the wall we are building."

"Yes, what is that?"

"The difference is that the Berlin Wall was designed to keep people who wanted to escape from the brutal system of East Germany in, while our wall is designed to keep murderers who blow up our children out. That is the difference."

For a while we looked at each other in silence.

"Well, you always seem to have the right answers. Perhaps Israel is not as bad as we are informed by the media...."

"Yes, perhaps," I answered quietly. "Perhaps there is not enough of us to plead our case in a hostile Europe. Perhaps our Foreign Office should do a better job informing the Europeans. Perhaps there is not enough of them and not enough funds," I thought wearily.

Two Japanese young men dressed in dark formal suits entered the lobby and approached the two Germans. They bowed deeply and then shook hands with them. The two Germans raised their beer glasses in a salute and smiled at me. Then they settled down to talk business with the two Japanese.

For a while I was depressed by my conversation with the two Germans, but then I remembered that I will soon be back home in Israel. It was a pleasant, heart-warming thought. Thank God for Israel. On the way to the airport, I saw the huge modern buildings of Frankfurt towering in the business area, and thought about the two Germans in the lobby. It occurred to me that the only way they will wake up to the danger of Islam is when some of these towers will be pulverized like the Twin Towers in Manhattan were on September 11.
Blessings on your head, Solly. And thank G-d for your patience and persistence . . .