It has been said that perception is often more powerful than truth, and this is certainly the case in the war on terror.
Israel and America have been cast as aggressor bullies by what some refer to as the “drive-by” media, while homicide bombers are continuously portrayed as valiant freedom fighters or brave insurgents attempting to throw off an oppressive yoke imposed by the great Satan “America” and the little Satan “Israel.”
Let there be no doubt, a war for world hegemony is raging, and absent a divine intervention of almost biblical proportions or the sudden stiffening of the West’s backbone (which may also require divine intervention), this clash of civilizations will almost certainly lead to a nuclear conflagration.
Is there a non-military, non-sanction solution that can be applied, reducing suffering on all sides, with no additional loss of human life? I believe there is. Many have heard, perhaps spoken of political, military, economic and even media strategies as resolutions. I believe there’s another element – a more powerful element – the human element.
Edmund Burke, 18th century political philosopher, said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” To paraphrase Burke, the failure of good people to vigorously oppose evil ultimately allows evil to triumph.
It’s dangerous to make blanket assertions, and this is not intended as such; however, though all Muslims are not terrorists, it is true that all Middle Eastern terrorists are Muslim, which begs the question, “How do you tell them apart?”
Growing up in the American South, I quickly learned of an organization called the Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organization that influenced political and public policy with violence against blacks and white Republicans. The KKK lynched more than 1,200 white Republicans in the 1880s, proving that then, as now, it can be dangerous to be a Republican.
It became clear to me that not all white people were members of the Klan. It was, however, equally evident that all members of the KKK were white.
For blacks, the dilemma was, as is modern-day Israel’s: Absent the robe and hood, how did we tell them apart? You could tell the good whites from the Klansmen by their actions, what they did or said publicly.
One-and-a-half million Arab citizens live, work and shop side by side with five million Jews in Israel. In America, that would be the equivalent of every white wondering which black was a member of an extremist group intending to detonate a bomb inside a crowded theater, mall or restaurant. How secure would white Americans feel around blacks?
Let me briefly address the aforementioned “human element.”
In pre-World War II Germany, all Germans were not Nazis. The Nazis began as a relatively small political party, founded by an ex-con, Adolf Hitler. Estimates are that at his peak, no more than 40 percent voted for him. The majority of people in Germany were hard working and industrious, the backbone of German society. They were “the good people.”
In pre-World War II Japan, all Japanese were not imperialists or kamikazes. Many did not hold the idea that it was Japan’s ultimate destiny to rule the world. They were “the good people.”
In Italy, under Mussolini, all Italians were not fascists; they were merchants, farmers and housewives. They did not feel their only purpose was to uphold the state. They were “the good people.”
Many Americans opposed Hitler’s designs on the world but believed the U.S. shouldn’t interfere in European affairs. They weren’t traitors; they were doctors, teachers, ministers, rabbis. They were “the good people.”
At the march on Washington in August 1963, just prior to the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr., then president of the American Jewish Congress, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, expelled from Germany at the onset of Jewish persecution, made this powerful statement:
“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful, and the most tragic problem – is silence. A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality, and in the face of mass murder.”
Silence, we are reminded, is golden; but silence is also consent.
The Klan could not have operated openly in the South, nor could Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Il Duce Mussolini or Der Fuhrer have ravaged the world without an extremely important element – silence – the tacit approval of “the good people.” Hitler could not have killed six million Jews without the silence, the collaboration, of the moderates – “the good people.”
They protest, “We did not collaborate!” But did they speak up?
If you lived near a huge something or other where trainloads of people came in but none went out, and smokestacks belched black smoke from furnaces 24 hours a day, wouldn’t you wonder what went on there? Did not these moderates, “the good people” of Germany, wonder what happened to their Jewish neighbors who suddenly disappeared? Did they ask?
During the slave era in America, every white American was not a racist or slave owner; in the Civil War, more than 360,000 Union soldiers died as testimony to that truth. Every white person did not participate in lynchings; every German citizen did not help gas Jews; every Russian did not participate in the pogroms nor every Chinese in the communist purges of Chairman Mao; yet evil reigned supreme. Why?
The moderates, the pacifists, “the good people” may not have participated in this evil. They may have even had passionate discussions about it among themselves. In private, they may have been adamantly opposed to it, but their failure to vigorously and publicly oppose it with words and actions ultimately allowed evil to triumph.