If They Were Jews?
What if they were
I've asked myself that
question for nearly a decade since the
Serbs began to ethnically cleanse Bosnia
of Muslims. The world's reaction to the
slaughter of innocents in what was once
Yugoslavia over the past decade is frightening.
How can anyone claim the lessons of the
Holocaust were learned after the way
the West tuned a blind eye to the massacres
in front of their faces?
Now before the defenders
of the Holocaust's uniqueness (and they
are correct in asserting its singularity)
begin to dispute comparisons between
the two events, let's be clear that the
relevant point is not that Slobodan Milosevic
is another Hitler, but that a generation
that shouts "Never Again!" cannot
be silent while atrocities are being
perpetrated. No one can claim ignorance
this time, so I find it hard to fathom
the rationalizations given for doing
People I respect and
usually agree with like Charles Krauthammer
have been critical of U.S. involvement
in the Balkans. It's not hard to find
reasons to oppose intervention: it's
a civil war, no vital interests are at
stake, the war will become a quagmire.
Certainly these arguments have merit,
but, again, what if the streams of refugees
recounting horror stories to the press
were Jews instead of Kosovars? How would
we feel about these excuses for inaction?
If anyone were to ask
me when I turned against Bill Clinton,
who I enthusiastically supported in 1992,
my answer would be it was not after he
turned on Israel or was caught with his
pants down, it was early in his first
term when he failed to deliver on his
campaign promise to stop the slaughter
in Bosnia. That, not his behavior with
Monica Lewinsky, demonstrated his moral
bankruptcy. And now, seven years later,
the President has finally begun to move
in the right direction — too late for
thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Kosovars
— but, even now, is holding back by resisting
the introduction of ground troops. The
war against evil can't be costless. Lives
must be risked to save others.
are right to ask, "What about the
atrocities committed in Rwanda?" Why
are we willing to intervene to stop the
massacre in Albania but not elesewhere?
Is it because white Europeans are involved
in Albania and not poor black tribesmen?
Well, of course, we did get involved
in Somalia, with unpleasant results.
Still, on moral grounds, we should not
turn a blind eye to the killing in Africa
just because it might be part of a tribal
war. The test still should be to ask
the question, What if they were Jews?
When I brought up the
issue with one friend, his response was
that if Jews were involved Israel would
take action. I thought that this was
an interesting point. Israel is not part
of NATO, so it is not presently engaged
in military actions, but it has been
involved in humanitarian projects and
has accepted Muslim refugees. If Jewish
lives at risk, Israel would certainly
be a haven; refugees seeking escape would
not be turned away. As far as military
action, it's hard to predict what would
happen. Maybe Israel would go to war
alone to protect the Jews. It's possible
that Israeli action would allow the rest
of the countries to justify their inaction.
We've seen the lengths Israel was prepared
to go to save Jews in places like Entebbe,
but a war with a distant country would
be a different proposition. I hate to
think that we would have to rely solely
on Israel to protect Jewish lives in
Europe, but the events of the last decade
should make us question whether any other
nation would be willing to act. At a
time when we are commemorating the Holocaust,
it is a sobering and frightening thought.
What if they were Jews?