Netanyahu holding letters between the World Jewish Congress and the US War Department in 1944(Photo: Cliff Owen/AP)
Hopefully, a lot will be written about Benjamin Netanyahu's angry and defiant speech to AIPAC last night, and about how the Israel P.M., who was flanked by two heavyset guards with clipped hair and shiny suits, sought to rally the Israel lobby against President Obama.
"Amazingly, some people refuse to acknowledge that Iran's goal is to develop nuclear weapons. You see, Iran claims that it's enriching uranium to develop medical research. Yeah-- right," Netanyahu said and went on to envision an ICBM headed your way and suggested you tell yourself it is filled with medical supplies.
The speech was notable for Netanyahu likening the Iranians to Nazis, and Iran's nuclear program to Auschwitz.
"I will never allow my people to live in the shadow of annihilation," he said. And: "Some commentators would have you believe that stopping Iran from getting the bomb is more dangerous [than allowing Iran to get one.]"
Then Netanyahu got out copies of two letters he said he keeps in his desk, between the World Jewish Congress and the War Department in 1944, when the WJC called on the United States to bomb the extermination camp at Auschwitz, and the War Department refused. The letters are below. The refusal included the argument that attacking the camp might unleash even more "vindictive" behavior.
"Think about that," Netanyahu said. "Even more vindictive than the Holocaust!"
The John McCloy letter he read from is widely cited among American Jews as a coded statement of anti-Semitism at the highest level of American society at that time. I grew up hearing about McCloy. The suggestion was clear: America didn't act the last time either. The New York Times is reporting that Obama told Netanyahu that Israel's war talk had already caused gas prices to go up.
Netanyahu added that 1944 is not 2012, but the difference is that there is now a Jewish state that will take action to save Jews and preserve the Jewish future. "Never again will the Jewish people be supplicants for our very survival," he said.
We must ask ourselves, What are Netanyahu's real aims? Is he trivializing the Holocaust for political ends: in order to knock Obama out of the White House or gain an advantage over a regional competitor? Already Israel has gotten crippling sanctions against Iran, and Obama is promising to do more, and the Republican presidential candidates even more than that. A highly effective politician, Netanyahu has us right where he wants us.
Here are the letters, from PBS:
WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS
August 9, 1944
Hon. John J. McCloy
Under Secretary of War
My dear Mr. Secretary:
I beg to submit to your consideration the following excerpt from a message which we received under date of July 29 from Mr. Ernest Frischer of the Czechoslovak State Council through the War Refugee Board:
"I believe that destruction of gas chambers and crematoria in Oswiecim by bombing would have a certain effect now. Germans are now exhuming and burning corpses in an effort to conceal their crimes. This could be prevented by destruction of crematoria and then Germans might possibly stop further mass exterminations especially since so little time is left to them. Bombing of railway communications in this same area would also be of importance and of military interest."
A. Leon Kubowitzki
Head, Rescue Department
14 August 1944
Dear Mr. Kubowitski:
I refer to your letter of August 9 in which you request consideration of a proposal made by Mr. Ernest Frischer that certain installations and railroad centers be bombed.
The War Department had been approached by the War Refugee Board, which raised the question of the practicability of this suggestion. After a study it became apparent that such an operation could be executed only by the diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations elsewhere and would in any case be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources. There has been considerable opinion to the effect that such an effort, even if practicable, might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.
The War Department fully appreciates the humanitarian motives which promoted the suggested operation, but for the reasons stated above it has not been felt that it can or should be undertaken, at least at this time.
John J. McCloy
Assistant Secretary of War