In my more desperate moments I like to imagine that Ronald Reagan is still in the White House, and that he is contemplating the menace posed by Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and nuke-bearing missiles. You may recall that Iran released the U.S. embassy hostages in 1981 at virtually the same moment that Reagan lugged his jar of jelly beans into the Oval Office. The mullahs had sized up this man Reagan and had properly concluded that he wasn’t going to take any kaka from them, the kind they had dished out with impunity to Jimmy Carter.
Let’s give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn’t secretly want the Iranians to blow Bebe Netanyahu and the rest of the Israelis into radioactive dust. Let’s assume, instead, that Obama, with his reliance on diplomatic negotiations and economic sanctions, is simply gutless. When the first mushroom cloud rises over Tel Aviv, the world can confidently expect that Obama will react with solemn indignation and appoint a committee to study what happened.
The perennial effort to wipe out the Jews has been going on for all the thousands of years since this persecuted minority first organized itself at some sort of town hall meeting in the Middle Eastern desert. Because the extermination effort has been pursued with such singleminded intensity, one is tempted to attribute it, somehow, to a single intelligence. But how can that be, unless one believes in Satan?
The Jews have been everybody’s favorite scapegoat. The Egyptians tried their hand at wiping them out under the pharoahs. The Iranians — that’s right — had a go at it under Haman. Later there were the Spanish inquisitors, the Tsarist pogroms. And let’s not forget Hitler, whose extermination program was the most ambitious and successful of all. He had several years of unfettered opportunity to carry it out, and he was backed by that famous German efficiency.
I’d rather not speculate why the Jews have always been the target of murderous bigots. Some people think it is because, by and large, they succeed in their earthly endeavors, thus arousing the envy of the majority in the communities where they dwell. Some think it is because they revel in their differentness and stubbornly adhere to their separate identity — although that hardly seems to have been the case in pre-war Germany.
Never mind why. There is always someone carrying on the tradition, and today it is the Iranians, whose vile mouthpiece, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, keeps vowing to wipe Israel “off the map”. He hopes to resume Hitler’s mission — although, curiously, he denies that Hitler pursued any such mission. Why should he be shy about admitting that there was a Holocaust when he wants to pull one off himself?
Some experts estimate that Hitler reduced the world’s Jewish population from 17 million when the war began to 11 million when it ended. If he had been the peacenik that Ahmadinejad seems to think he was, the Jewish population today might be in the neighborhood of 20 million. Instead, it is estimated at 13 million, so Hitler still can claim a net plus — or a minus if you are looking at things from the Jewish side.
Hitler did not have today’s technology — read nuclear weapons — to help him carry out his task, nor was there such a high concentration of Jews in his day as one finds today in Israel. The Jewish state, which is a little less than the size and population of New Jersey — minus Snooki — has the largest Jewish population of any nation in the world, some 5.7 million. The only other nation that comes close is the United States, with 5.3 million. France ranks a distant third with a little less than a half-million.
Perhaps a half-dozen well-placed atomic bombs of Nagasaki size — the kind of starter bomb one might expect a nuclear nation to develop initially — would either incinerate outright, or condemn to death by radioactive poisoning, or simply ruin forever the lives of more than 40 percent of the Jews left in the world. Quite a haul for just a few minutes’ work.
Let’s finesse the fact that millions of Arabs and Christians in and near Israel also would perish. That, as Timothy McVeigh might put it, has to be accepted as collateral damage in pursuit of a just cause.
Hitler had to acknowledge that he couldn’t kill them all, but the effort was under way before he came on the scene, and thanks to his spiritual heir, Ahmadinejad, it continues. Someday history’s serial killers may achieve their genocidal goal. It is a work in progress.