Entry 21: Hakenkreuz and Davidstern

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This is Entry 21 in the Mondo Awards end-of-year Inspire-us contest. The writer says that he wrote this letter last June 17, 2010, and circulated it widely.

A public response to New York Times columnist Roger Cohen

On June tenth, 2010, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen posted a poignant meditation, weaving his personal joy in the ancient melodies of Judaic tradition, occasioned by the Bat Mitzvah of his daughter, with his personal pain over the staccato rhythms of international news and reaction occasioned by the Israeli interception of the Freedom Flotilla off Gaza

It was a beautifully written piece. I felt for him.

Suddenly in this sorrowful contrapuntal flow, a cacophony exploded. The cause of this drum roll of rage was a comment by the Turkish Prime Minister who said that now the world perceived the Swastika and the Star of David together.

Ach, ja, I thought in German; Hakenkreuz und Davidstern.

Instantly I knew his rage. I felt his pain.

You see, I was a Pastor in the German Church. I know the pain of seeing the Fatherland I loved go feral. I may have been young and distant when it all started but I have tasted the rage of watching the Swastika gather to itself all things German and then carry them to ignominy in Auschwitz.

Dear Roger, if I have to contradict you, please try to understand that I do not write because I hate Jews. I write because I am an old man who has seen much and wants to save others from the bloodshed I have tasted. Today you rage against what others see. Rage blinds. One cannot reason with it, but one day the warmth of common humanity will evaporate it and you will see four things that are now so clear to so many others.

First of all, Israel does not have a “right” to exist as an exclusively Jewish State, any more then our German Reich had a “right” to exist for Aryans only.

Secondly, Israel is not a democratic country. A democracy does not have two classes of citizens with two sets of laws. An apartheid state does.

Thirdly and most tragically, fed by fear, Israel has conjured up a military might and mentality that like the Golem of mediaeval Prague, has now taken on a life of its own, wildly smashing, trashing, and sowing destruction, in the name of defense and security. I have seen it before. I’m sorry.

Finally, Israel as an exclusive theocracy will crumble. The Palestinians will return. Liberty and justice will be established for all. Jews and Arabs will again live together in peace.

Yet even while watching with horror these last days of Zionism, I have a certain peace because I know that this hell is the beginning of the end. The era of arguing Hakenkreuz or Davidstern is over. The issue of my Holocaust verses your Nakba is passé. The Stars and Stripes, the Hammer and Sickle, the Swastika and even the Star of David no longer flies crisp in winds of zeal and allegiance. Again something beyond banners, nations, courts or creeds has been awakened. The human heart is on the move. As the blood of Jewish freedom riders marked the beginning of the end of the siege of segregation in the Southern United States, so the blood of Turkish martyrs marks the beginning of the end of the siege of Gaza, the occupation of the West Bank, and the apartheid state of Israel. See how the ranks are swelling from every people, nation, color and creed. See the flotillas forming in wave after wave. Hear the strains of “We shall overcome” in the air.

Dear Roger, don’t be afraid. It may take years, decades or even centuries, but after the end, hand in hand, we shall again go together up to Jerusalem, not singing the Hatikva, but hymning our common biblical prayer that: “every man ‘neath his vine and fig tree, shall live in peace and unafraid, and into plowshares beat their swords, nations shall learn war no more”.

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