Iranian President Hasan Rouhani broke his relative silence on the Palestinian issue Thursday afternoon, telling the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that the Palestinians should not have “to pay” the price of Nazi crimes against the Jews...
That reminded me of something from 1981 involving Menachem Begin:
JERUSALEM, May 4— Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel last night accused Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of arrogance, greed and callous disregard of the Jews killed in World War II. Mr. Begin's choice of words concerning the West German leader, which came during a speech at a political rally here, stunned foreign diplomats.
The anger of the Israeli leader was caused by a statement by Mr. Schmidt in which he suggested that Germans had a moral commitment to the Palestinians. The statement was made by Mr. Schmidt last week after he returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia...And in an even more personal vein, Mr. Begin said Mr. Schmidt had served in the wartime German armies that helped wipe out the Jews.
In World War II, Helmut Schmidt was assigned to an antiaircraft artillery battalion. He served on the Russian front and, toward the end of the war, in the Battle of the Bulge on the Western front. He was decorated with the Iron Cross. The British took him prisoner at the end of the war.
Mr. Begin's remarks were loudly applauded by supporters at the party meeting. Mr. Begin is campaigning for elections being held next month.
''From a moral point of view, Schmidt's statements certainly rank as the most callous ever heard,'' Mr. Begin said. ''It seems that the Holocaust had conveniently slipped his memory and he did not make mention of a million and a half small children murdered, of entire families wiped out.
''The German debt to the Jewish people can never end, not in this generation and not in any other. The entire nation cheered on the murderers as long as they were victorious. But what do we hear? We hear of a commitment to those who strove to complete what the Germans had started in Europe.''
Mr. Begin said Mr. Schmidt ''must have concluded some very lucrative business deals with Saudi Arabia.''
Later, Mr. Begin added:
I will not apologize to Mr. Schmidt [who mentioned Auschwitz and said that he acknowledges the obligation of Germany towards a number of peoples - but the Jewish people was not listed amongst them. Mr. Schmidt spoke of Germany's obligation towards the Palestinians and said not a word of Germany's obligation towards the Jewish people]. Rather, I counsel him, speaking as a free man who fought for the continued existence and the liberation of the Jewish people, that he take an example from his predecessor Mr. Brandt, visit Warsaw, go to the site where the Jewish ghetto once stood, go down on his knees and ask the forgiveness of the Jewish people and of all nations loving justice and liberty for what his countrymen perpetrated under the National Socialist regime against my people at the time when Mr. Schmidt remained faithful to the personal oath he had given to Adolf Hitler as a soldier and officer in his army.
What is the subtext here?
First, the message of Rouhani as was Schmidt's is that we Jews 'earned' a state only through the displacement of Arabs indigenous to a region called Palestine. That displacement was done because, and only because, we were forced to leave Europe as a result of the rise of Naziism and the results of the Holocaust. We were kicked out of Europe and so we kicked out the Arabs.
If the Holocaust had not happened, we Jews would still be in Europe. Zionism is a post-1933 phenomenon.
That leads to the second point: there is no Zionism. There is no Zionism that was born with the Jewish People being told to go to Moriah, as in Abraham's day, to go to the Land of Israel from Egypt under Moses' leadership, to return from Babylon with Ezra and Nehemiah, to revolt against Rome a second time after the Temple's destruction and since then, to continue to Return to Zion in every decade of every century until the stirrings of a political Zionism, beginning with Rabbis Alkalai and Kalischer, in to the Hibbat Zion movement and then with the appearance of Herzl and companions.
From that perspective - false, untrue and evil - Rouhani and, before him, Schmidt, seek to deny the Jews our national ethos, our history, our religion, our culture.
Make no mistake: this is the denial of our rights as a people.
And stemming from this denial is the desire - and the active engagement to achieve the power - to destroy Israel.