The Lebanese/Israeli conflict (when Jew-hatred stops being fun)

I don’t generally follow news from the Middle East because so little truly new happens there. The Lebanese/Israeli conflict of recent weeks has caught my attention, however. I’m pretty sure that it is the first time in more than 1000 years that a non-governmental group of non-Jews has attacked a group of Jews and suffered in any way. For more than 1000 years in Europe and the Arab world, mob violence against Jews was a harmless diversion, at least for the Christians and Muslims. Oftentimes, the non-Jews would profit handsomely from their efforts, at least in the short run, by being able to occupy houses vacated by Jews, taking Jewish property, and confiscating Jewish bank accounts. The closest that non-Jews ever came to suffering any negative consequence from a pogrom was Kristallnacht in Germany, November 9, 1938. The Christian Germans on the rampage had a lot of fun, but the Christian-owned insurance companies afterwards complained that they would have to pay for the thousands of shops destroyed. Fortunately, the German government ordered the Jews themselves to pay for the damage. (A recent book on Jews who survived Auschwitz but were killed by their Polish neighbors upon returning home shows that even after WWII there were essentially no negative consequences for mob violence by European Christians against Jews.)

One might argue that the Palestinians have suffered for their attacks on Jews, but they never did suffer significantly for the mob violence that they inflicted on Jews before 1948. Any suffering of the Palestinians since 1948 has been primarily due to their being caught in the middle of a pan-Arab war that they had little part in starting. The Syrian, Jordanian, and Egyptian armies have also had difficulties at the hands of the Israelis, but these were professional soldiers sent by their governments and the average citizens of Amman, Cairo, or Damascus have not been displaced from their homes at any time during the 60-year war.

Lebanon 2006 offers a completely different experience of Jew-hatred and violence against Jews. A substantial subset of Lebanese citizens decides that they would like to kill Jews and that therefore it would be fun to launch some rockets into the residential neighborhoods of Israel. They expect to enjoy this activity for many months or years. Most of what they’ve read about Jews in school and in newspapers comes from old educational materials translated from the German. Jews are weak. Jews operate in secret committees behind the scenes. Certainly if they have studied history they’ve learned that when a Muslim mob attacks a community of Jews, it is invariably the Jews who end up having to flee Baghdad. Tehran, or Morocco or wherever, leaving their homes and property behind.

What happened this time? The Jews, armed to the teeth, came over to where the rockets were being fired and made the place unlivable. The Lebanese who thought they would be sitting in their living rooms watching Jews die on their television sets were forced to flee to the north or to Cyprus. This is a truly unprecedented situation.

[Of course, many Lebanese who never fired a rocket are suffering the consequences of their fellow citizens’ actions, but military conflict hasn’t gotten a whole lot more precise since King George III observed to Parliament on October 27, 1775, that he was “anxious to prevent, if it had been possible, the effusion of the blood of my subjects; and the calamities which are inseparable from a state of war”]

2 thoughts on “The Lebanese/Israeli conflict (when Jew-hatred stops being fun)

  1. It was not the first time in more than 1000 years that a non-governmental group of non-Jews has attacked a group of Jews and suffered in any way. If you type “Kishinev fought back” into Google, you’ll find some examples related to the 1903 Kishinev pogrom. In prewar Poland, self-defense groups whose task was to protect Jewish students were formed by Bund and Polish Socialists.

    In her book “From That Place And Time” Lucy Dawidowicz mentions a riot between Jewish and Polish students at Wilno University, which resulted in one dead person – a Polish student.

    Since you mentioned the book by Gross, one ought to add that during the Kielce pogrom (to which Gross refers,) Jews were armed with handguns and most of the killing was done by policemen who came to disarm Jews. One might wonder why Jews in America so overwhelmingly vote for politicians who support gun control.

    Then there were Palestine Riots of 1929, in which 133 Jews and 116 Arabs were killed.

    Last but not least, there is the issue of martyrdom (in its particular Muslim version.) When Arabs attack Israel, they want to die, and they know very well Israel will respond with deadly force.

  2. Hmm. I don’t really think Hezbollah, as an organization (military or political), has suffered much. It seems to be more popular than it was before the conflict, among its natural constituents (poor Lebanese Shiites). The destruction of infrastructure has weakened its major competitor for power in south Lebanon (the legitimate Lebanese government). Hezbollah is now working on distributing $150M of Iranian aid to south Lebanon, which will raise its stock even higher.

    Hezbollah’s rank-and-file supporters have suffered a lot — destruction of their homes, deaths of family members, etc — but they seem to refuse the kind of logic that would suggest Hezbollah brought this down on their heads, and that if they’d support legitimate democratic government, they’d have better lives. Their religious delusions and nationalist fervor prevents that kind of rational calculation.

    In ten to twenty years, the ranks of Hezbollah will be swollen with the young family members of those who were killed or displaced in this conflict…

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