confusion of consul until emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong." In his peroration, Churchill lamented ". . . these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history." Churchill's gloomy cynicism can be easily forgiven; to a great extent, he knew of what he was speaking.
In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu quoted Churchill, similarly lamenting what he called "The unfortunate habit of civilized societies to sleep until danger nearly overtakes them." Netanyahu spent the lion's share of his speech excoriating those who, like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad deny the Holocaust ever happened; those who accuse world Jewry of having created a myth out of whole cloth in order to gain international sympathy and thereby justify the very existence of the Jewish State. In his speech Netanyahu argued forcefully, eloquently and passionately that anyone who can believe such perverse nonsense is either self-deluded or else suffers from the most perverse form of willful blindness.
Most intelligent people can concur that there is room for disagreement over what Israel should, can or must not do in order to achieve peace with its neighbors. Indeed, if we all were to agree on one particular approach it would mean one of two things: either that we were acting in a really inane "B" movie, or that the Messiah had already arrived. Let's face it: for many, debate is a contact sport. Similarly, those who read history honestly with both eyes wide open know that on those rare occasions when the Jewish State has been offered a chance for peace -- as with Egypt and Jordan -- it has both greeted and embraced it with all the ardor and passion of a long-lost lover. And although Israel is by no means perfect, it remains the only functioning democracy in that part of the world. Of course, we all know that this fact, along with a couple of hundred others, don't amount to a hill of beans for those who are anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic, or anti-Democracy. To them, facts don't mean a thing.
Many years ago I had a math professor named Tom Lehrer. He was a wonderful teacher and an even better writer of topical, satirical songs. One of his more memorable tunes -- "Daily News" had the lyric "Don't try to confuse me with the facts . . ." Although Dr. Lehrer's lyric wasn't referring to anyone or anything in particular, it could easily describe those who, like Ahmadinejad, the oil sheiks of Saudi Arabia or Willis Carto and the creeps of the Institute for Historical Review who, despite tons and tons of documentation, persist in telling anyone who will listen, that the Holocaust never occurred. Talk about the "confirmed unteachability of mankind!" Of course, they probablydo know that the Holocaust did occur; they just have another agenda . . .
We have always had our own unteachable faction right here in the good old USA. Generally speaking, those who deny the Holocaust -- or see Communists under every bed, or firmly believe that all Jews know and speak with one another at least once a week -- have been so far out of the mainstream as to be invisible to everyone save their acolytes or such groups as the Anti-Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center whose job it is to keep track of them. Mass media -- and the vast majority of sane people -- don't pay them any attention; there's just too many facts out there proving them wrong, wrong, wrong. Of late however, a lot of Americans suffering from "confirmed unteachability" have been getting one heck of a lot of coverage in the media. And here, I'm referring to those who, despite a welter of documents and facts, persist in the belief that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya; that he is a Socialist -- or a Communist, a Nazi, a Fascist, a gang-banger from the 'hood, an effete Harvard snob or an ardent Israel-hating anti-Semite. From what is portrayed on the nightly news, it would seem as if the numbers of the unteachable have reached the point of no return. Well, as a professor once told me, "If you put a single-cell amoeba under an electron microscope it's going to wind up looking like a Stegosaurus." Shame on all the news editors for putting them on the tube in the first place.
Just yesterday, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor -- the only Jewish Republican left on Capitol Hill -- told Politico, "If you look at the policy that this White House has followed, it certainly does not seem as if we are dealing with a true friend of Israel." The White House declined to respond to Rep. Cantor's remarks, stating instead that "achieving a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is how you can be a true friend to Israel." What I find amazing is that Cantor's charge -- that the President is not a "true friend" of Israel -- came on the very day when he hosted a trilateral meeting between P.M. Netanyahu and President Abbas. According to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chair of the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Cantor's criticisms "appear to be timed deliberately to weaken the administration's ability to lay the foundations for peace negotiations." Could it be that Mr. Cantor is among the "unteachable?" Or, is it something else?
I have interviewed Eric Cantor, and know him to be both intelligent and skillful. I also know him to be a highly partisan, deeply conservative Republican; a man who believes the answer to every fiscal issue is lowering taxes and whose mistrust of the federal government is akin to a religious obligation. Perhaps in questioning President Obama's bona fides vis-à-vis Israel, Cantor is really attempting to convince those for whom the Jewish State is an issue of primal importance that they would be better served belonging to -- and voting for -- the Republican Party.
From where I sit, and from what I've learned, there are certain incontrovertible facts in this vexatious, headache-inducing world of ours:
- Israel really, truly does want peace.
- The Holocaust really, truly did happen.
- Barack Obama is really, truly a native-born American.
- The current administration -- although it may not always agree with everything Israel does or says -- is really, truly a steadfast friend.
- Winston Churchill was -- regrettably -- for the most part correct; there are a lot of unteachable, unreachable people out there.
©2009 Kurt F. Stone