Michael Totten speaks to Giulio Meotti....
An important new book...
Encounter Books recently published Italian journalist Giulio Meotti’s gut wrenching book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism. At first glance I thought his title might be over-the-top. Orders of magnitude more people were murdered in the Shoah—the Nazi Holocaust—than by terrorists in Israel, but that isn’t the point. What Israel’s victims of terrorism have in common with the victims of the Nazi genocide is that they were Jews who were murdered for being Jews.
Why else, after all, would a suicide bomber explode himself at Café Hillel in Jerusalem rather than at a military checkpoint in the West Bank or Gaza? Why else would Hamas fire rockets at kindergartens in Sderot instead of at army bases? And why else would Hezbollah lionize Samir Kuntar, a man who murdered a four year old girl by placing her head on a rock and smashing her skull with the butt of his rifle? And why would Hezbollah go all the way to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to blow up a Jewish community center with a truck bomb?
Meotti’s book is grim, but somebody needed to write it, and he’s the person who did. He and I spoke a few days ago.
MJT: So tell us why you wrote this book.
Giulio Meotti: What’s the difference between a Western democracy, such as France or the United States, and Israel’s democracy? It’s not the start-up nation, the job opportunities, the scientific progress, or the number of Nobel laureates. The most important difference between Israel and the other Western countries lies in the young men and women killed for what they are: Israelis living as free human beings in their historical homeland.
The Jewish state is the only member of the United Nations condemned to death. Its existence is the only one widely considered temporary by a large number of countries in the world. In 2003 I decided to investigate the great black hole that in the last fifteen years has snuffed out thousands of lives, Jews killed because they are Jews.
The book is the result of many years of research inside the painful heart and soul of Israel. There were no books devoted to this single dramatic question. I give a voice to dozens of families and survivors of terrorism who have been neglected by an arrogant media industry. I think the blood spilled by terrorism is the most precious and fragile story that Israel has today, a story that even Israeli writers have neglected.
MJT: Let’s talk about your title. Some potential readers might think comparing Israel’s victims of terrorism to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust is a bit much, not least because the scale is so different in size. I thought so myself at first, though that feeling went away by about page 8 or 9. Perhaps you could say something about it for those who haven’t read to page 8 or 9.
Giulio Meotti: First of all let me say that I will never accept lessons about the use of the word Shoah by those who are undermining the Jewish state every day with their rhetoric. In Europe the memory of the Holocaust has become a perfect stage for the bashers of Israel. There is a direct connection between the Nazi ideology and the Islamist agenda–I am thinking of the mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husseini, who fought with Hitler against the Jews, and also the genocidal Hamas charter. The Holocaust survivors killed in Israel by suicide bombings, rockets, and terror shootings are the living proof of this terrible link.
With this title I wanted to address something the chattering classes refuse to recognize: that the monstrous morality of anti-Semitism continues as an immortal beast behind the politically correct mask of anti-Zionism. A distorted notion of remembering and history separates the Holocaust–a pure symbol of evil–from Israel’s sixty year struggle for survival under war and terrorism. There is also the question of living under the pre-nuclear threat from Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the truth of the Shoah in order to weaken Israel’s existence and to prepare the world for a new massacre by Hezbollah, Hamas, and possibly even a nuclear attack. The question of the Shoah, and that Jewish identity is again under massive attack, defines the world after the 9/11 attacks.
MJT: Do you see any difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, or would you say they are one and the same?
Giulio Meotti: Israel’s centrality for the future of the Jews is more than just a question of demography or religion. Israel represents Jewish survival. Before World War II there was a great debate in the Jewish world over Zionism. The Holocaust resolved that debate. Zionism became the solution to Jewish powerlessness and vulnerability. The Jewish future lay in self-defense, sovereign territory, and the ingathering of the exiles.
In my opinion a great problem today is that Israel’s legitimacy is questioned again by a huge number of Jewish intellectuals and writers: Tony Judt, George Steiner, Jacqueline Rose, Ilan Pappe, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Kushner, Eric Hobsbawm, Noam Chomsky, etc. They would like to resolve the Jewish dilemma by assimilation and the disappearance of the Jewish difference.
It’s both a naive and a violent idea. Every other people that has been conquered and exiled and annihilated as the Jews has in time disappeared. Only the Jews defied the norm. Twice. But never, I fear, again. Anti-Zionism is a sophisticated intellectual movement and it’s paving the way for a new anti-Semitic tragedy. That’s why I think it was important to write a history book that tells the stories of Israeli civilians killed by terrorism; fathers and mothers, kids and the elderly, soldiers and doctors. Their families tell us who these people were, their ideals, their faces, their names. The book is the incarnation of Israel’s trauma and future at a time when the Iranian ayatollahs and the Saudi Wahhabis have a large audience in Western newspapers, universities, and parliaments.
But Israel is fine. It demonstrates this with its booming economy, its medical sciences, and its children who are capable of sacrifice and a complex life between war and their love for peace. On Israel’s side there is life. Its enemies preach death.