The author’s late father, Bernard Wolman, in uniform, WWII
Last Thursday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. For the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, it was an opportunity to compare the Nazi genocide of the Jews with their perception of Iranian intentions. The Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, went to Capitol Hill to deliver an opportunistic propaganda speech with that very theme.
While warning against trivialization of the Holocaust, Oren proceeded to do just that:
Comparing the conditions of pre-war Germany with the situation in Iran today, Oren described both as “economies in crisis, following a war,” and likened the “supreme leaders” of each regime to one another. Mentioning Iran directly, Oren said, “It denies the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis while pledging to murder another six million—in Israel.”
Oren should know better. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has certainly danced around Holocaust denial, winked to the Germans that they have been maligned, and has eagerly sponsored several conferences which attracted an auditorium full of the world’s most dedicated deniers. But Iran has never officially denied the Holocaust. In a week when Dan Meridor, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, admitted that Iran’s leaders never said as often claimed, “we’ll wipe it out,” Oren went even farther than the usual Israeli hasbara, proclaiming Iran’s leaders were pledged to murdering another 6 million Jews.
But then Oren did something else in his speech: the US-born ambassador touchingly addressed the American military veterans of World War II in attendance:
“My father was one of those GIs. He battled from Normandy to the Bulge to the final victory, winning two bronze stars for valor.”
Oren thanked the veterans by saying “Not only as your son, but as Israel’s ambassador to this great nation, I want to say thank you, Dad, and thank you to all the brave Americans who fought alongside you.”
My father was another of those brave Americans, fighting from North Africa to Germany itself.
And here is where I ask the question: if “Ahmadinejad = Hitler”, “Iran = Nazi Germany” and “Iran’s Nuclear Program = The Holocaust,” where are today’s Jewish GIs?
My father and his older brother eagerly joined the Army to fight against the Nazis. They didn’t wait to be drafted. Their younger brother ran away from home and disobeyed his parents to enlist in the Navy. Failing the physical, he entered the Merchant Marines. My step-father enrolled to be an officer in the Navy. Like Oren’s father, they and the great majority of Jewish boys of that generation saw the war as a necessity and participation as their duty.
During World War II, American Jews comprised approximately 3.3% of the population, while 4.23% of the U.S. Military service members were of Jewish faith, showing clear overrepresentation of Jews in the military.
According to Department of Defense statistics, Jews, who make up about 2 percent of the overall population of this country, make up less than a third of a percent of the total number of those serving in the armed forces. There are many reasons commonly given for this, including the fact that Jews, with a median age of 41, tend to be older than Americans as a whole, who have a median age of 35.
Age differences alone cannot explain this phenomenon.
[Rear Admiral Harold L. Robinson, a Reform rabbi and longtime chaplain in the Navy] believes that the true number of Jews in the military is more than 10,000, which is twice the number published by the Defense Department.
That would still have Jews making up only two-thirds of a percent of the military. So: more Jews attended the last AIPAC convention than serve in the US armed forces.
If Oren and Israeli leaders are correct, that Islamic extremists and the Iranian government are committed to a new Holocaust of the Jews, that Ahmadinejad is another Hitler, why are young American Jews not following in the footsteps of their grandfathers and enlisting in the military to be part of the actions that the organized American Jewish community and Israel are demanding?
Is it expected that the current US military — exhausted from a decade of war in the Middle East — should be called upon to fight on yet another major front while the rest of the America population goes on with their lives as usual?
When I ask Jewish relatives and acquaintances who support the military option against Iran, “Are your children and grandchildren going to fight?” They stare at me incredulously.
When I press further, “are you planning to see Joe [pseudonym for a gentile relative of mine by marriage who is in the Special Forces] go back to the Mideast for another tour? Didn’t Joe suffer enough injuries the last time around?” There is only silence.
If the main American Jewish organizations — such as AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, CoP, JFNA, JCPA, ADL, etc., etc. — all support military action against the Iranian nuclear program, then they should be recruiting for the US military within the Jewish community.
Standing besides the “We Support Israel” banners outside the synagogues should be an even larger banner, “We Support Our Troops. Join Today.”