World media is zooming in on the odds of an Israeli bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons factories. Discussions range from electronic counter-measures to potential economic fallout on the world’s oil market. An Islamist bomb in the hands of a jihadi Shi’ite dictatorship is the talk of the town.
But demonized leaders bent on destroying the Jewish people are not a new thing in Jewish history. George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (Reason in Common Sense, Vol. 1). Let’s consider some recent examples – the world’s response to Hitler barely 70 years ago – to guide us in preparing for and praying into the coming daunting challenge.
On September 30, 1942 at the Berliner Sportpalast Adolph Hitler publically prophesied Nazi Germany’s attempt to destroy the entire Jewish people:
“In my Reichstag speech of September 1, 1939, I have spoken of two things: first, that now that the war has been forced upon us, no array of weapons and no passage of time will bring us to defeat, and second, that if Jewry should plot another world war in order to exterminate the Aryan peoples of Europe, it would not be the Aryan peoples which would be exterminated, but Jewry … At one time the Jews of Germany laughed about my prophecies. I do not know whether they are still laughing or whether they have already lost all desire to laugh. But right now I can only repeat: they will stop laughing everywhere and I shall be right also in that prophecy” (www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1942/420930a.html).
“Ich habe am 1. September 1939 in der damaligen Reichstagssitzung zwei Dinge ausgesprochen: Erstens, daß, nachdem man uns den Krieg schon aufgezwungen hat, keine Macht der Waffen und auch nicht die Zeit uns jemals niederzwingen werden, und zweitens, dass, wenn das Judentum einen internationalen Weltkrieg zur Ausrottung etwa der arischen Völker anzettelt, dann nicht die arischen Völker ausgerottet werden, sondern das Judentum… Die Juden haben einst auch in Deutschland über meine Prophezeiungen gelacht. Ich weiß nicht, ob sie auch heute noch lachen oder ob ihnen nicht das Lachen bereits vergangen ist. Ich kann aber auch jetzt nur versichern: Es wird ihnen das Lachen überall vergehen. Und ich werde auch mit diesen Prophezeiungen Recht behalten” (Rede Adolf Hitlers vom 30. September 1942 – zitiert nach: Hilberg, Raul: Die Vernichtung der europäischen Juden. Bd.2. Frankfurt am Main 1990, S. 425; www.fes-online-akademie.de/download.php?d=auschwitz_luege_1.pdf).
In 1933, nine years before Hitler’s Berliner Sportpalast speech, prize-winning New York Times journalist Frederick T. Birchall wrote from the site of the Nuremberg rally: “Aryanism is now the keystone of Nazi policy, as all along it has been the principal tent of Adolph Hitler’s faith. It is also in Germany the most popular of the Nazi principles, and of all the Nazi tendencies is the most warmly defended by the Germans. Its corollary is persecution even to extermination – the word is the Nazis’ own – of the non-Aryans, if that can be established without too much world disturbance.”
- Prior to murderous Nazi deeds came murderous Nazi declarations – clear statements of genocidal intentions against the Jewish people. Yet in those days of preparation for mass murder, the Western powers had little or no interest and even less backbone in resolutely opposing the rise of Nazism or in stopping preparations for mass murder.
The first case of murder in the Bible involved two brothers, Cain and Abel. Envious of his brother’s favor with God, Cain allowed a demonized jealousy to access the sins of his own heart. After he murdered Abel with premeditation, Cain was confronted by God, who directly asked him, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain responded, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).
Cain’s cold-hearted confession has echoed down through the ages like a Greek chorus. Empires great and small throughout history – from Pharaoh’s Egypt to Iran’s Islamic Republic – have chosen the role of Cain vis-à-vis the sons of Jacob, either participating in or excusing persecution, torture, expulsion and mass murder of the Jewish people.
Closing the doors of rescue
Many Western countries were silent accomplices to Hitler’s genocide, rather than active advocates of Jewish survival. One example in recent Canadian history was Frederick Charles Blair, the Director of the Government of Canada’s Immigration Branch (1936-43) as well as an elder in a local Baptist church. In a September 1938 letter to Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Blair wrote, “Pressure by Jewish people to get into Canada has never been greater than it is now, and I am glad to be able to add that, after 35 years of experience here, that it has never been so carefully controlled” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Blair). Whereas the USA allowed over 200.000 Jews into America during that period, and Mexico admitted 20,000, Blair capped Canadian efforts, allowing less than 5,000 Jews to find refuge in the Dominion of Canada (None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe 1933-1948, Irving Abella & Harold Tropper; Toronto: Lester and Orpen Dennys,1982).
Commenting on Jewish refugees who had fled to Japan to escape Hitler, Blair opined, “I am reminded of what I have seen on a farm at hog feeding time when they are all trying to get their feet into the trough.” When asked about how many Jewish refugees Canada would be willing to let in toward the end of WWII, Blair was reported to have replied, “None is too many!”
In May 1939 the President Federico Laredo Bru of Cuba succumbed to US State Department pressure and refused to allow the MS St. Louis to dock in Halifax with 907 Jewish emigrants aboard, all possessing valid visas and all fleeing Hitler’s persecutions. At the time Bru hypocritically declared at a press interview, “The post that I occupy has painful duties, which oblige me to disregard the impulses of my heart and follow the stern dictates of duty”.
As the MS St. Louis the made its way up the U.S. coastline to Canada, it was shadowed by US Coast Guard cutter 244 out of Fort Lauderdale, with orders to prevent any Jewish refugees from jumping overboard and swimming ashore (http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-04-02/news/0304010493_1_nazis-passengers-cuban-government).
A few days later in June 1939 Canada’s Immigration Branch also refused permission for the MS St. Louis to dock in Halifax. The St. Louis was forced to return to Europe where 254 of the passengers perished at the hands of the Nazis. Upon his retirement in 1943, Blair was named a Companion of the Imperial Service Order for his “long and meritorious service to the British Empire” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Service_Order).
- During WW II the Jewish people witnessed how nations with a Christian majority turned their backs on Jacob’s children and looked the other way as murderous events snowballed into the Holocaust. What would your nation’s leaders do today if they found themselves in a similar situation?
History reveals not only negative examples, but also shining examples of courage and commitment. In Nazi-occupied France, various Christian leaders in both Catholic and Protestant churches risked their lives, reputation and welfare to help hide Jewish children from Nazi destruction. Cardinal Pierre-Marie Gerlier of Lyons, Doctor Marc Boegner (President of the Protestant Federation of France) and Archbishop Jules-Géraud Saliège of Toulouse (among many) spoke publically against the Nazi round-ups. Their bold stance encouraged many Catholics and Reformed Christians in France to save Jewish lives.
One exemplary Catholic rescuer happened to also be Jewish. Cardinal Gerlier’s Jewish assistant, Alexander Glasberg, was originally born in Zhitomer, Ukraine in 1902. His parents baptized him when he was a child, and he later moved to France and became a Catholic abbot. L’Abbé Glasberg was appointed by Cardinal Gerlier as a delegate to the Comité d’aide aux réfugiés. His underground activities involved falsifying files to obtain the release of hundreds of Jewish children, being a co-founder of the resistance group l’Amitié Chrétienne, and smuggling 180 Jewish children out of the Venissieux camp (www.wertheimer.info/family/GRAMPS/Haapalah/ppl/3/0/bbe2275b2f13b79dc03.html).
He later worked with the Hagana, purchasing arms in Czechoslovakia and smuggling them through Corisca. In 1951 he aided the Mossad in smuggling Jews out of Iraq in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah. In 1972 he was decorated by France as Chevalier de l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, and in 2004 he and (posthumously) his brother Vila were honored by Yad vaShem (Israel’s Holocaust Museum and Archives) as Righteous among the Nations.
This courageous Jewish Catholic saved thousands of Jewish lives. He later commented that he and his colleagues “could have save virtually all of the sixty thousand Jewish victims of the Nazis in France if they had possessed two weapons – American visas and more money” (While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American apathy, Arthur D Morse, Random House, 1967, p. 62).
- Even the efforts of one man or woman who is willing to risk his or her own life for the protection and salvation of the Jewish people, can count in eternally significant and major ways.
The Allies had solid intelligence regarding the murder camps at Auschwitz (Oświęcim in Polish) going back to November 1940, based on reports of Polish Army Captain Witold Pilecki. This brave Polish officer had volunteered for a dangerous mission – to be taken prisoner by the Nazis and to be held captive in Auschwitz for 945 days. He actively gathered intelligence on the mass murder taking place there and, after escaping on April 27, 1943, supplied a comprehensive description to the British.
Tragically his reports were dismissed by the Allies as exaggeration (Ochotnik do Auschwitz – Witold Pilecki 1901–1948, Adam Cyra, Oświęcim 20; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witold_Pilecki). The subsequent detailed report by two Jewish escapees from Auschwitz, Rudolf Vrba and Alfréd Wetzler, were broadcast, on June 15, 1944 by the BBC and on June 20, 1944 in The New York Times – one full year after Pilecki’s report.
Frantic pleas were made by the War Refugee Board and by a US Treasury lawyer named John Pehle (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/holocaust/filmmore/reference/interview/pehle02.html), asking Allied forces to bomb bridges and railway lines leading to Auschwitz and thus slow the Nazi death machine. Over a thousand Allied bombers were attacking Germany each night at that time, while at the same time tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews were being transported by train each week to Auschwitz’s ovens.
In response, on June 26, 1944 Thomas Handy, Assistant Chief of Staff, War Department, sent a directive to the Director of the Civil Affairs Division: “The War Department is of the opinion that the suggested air operation is impracticable. It could be executed only by the diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations and would in any case be of such doubtful efficiency that it would not amount to a practical project” (www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/holocaust/filmmore/reference/primary/bombthomas2.html).
Even 35 years later in 1979, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher could declare to Israeli Prime Minister Begin: “I have to tell you in all candor, the policy of the Allies in those years was to destroy the Hitlerite war machine as speedily as possible. I would have agreed to nothing that would have detracted one iota from that goal” (The Prime Ministers, Yehuda Avner, The Toby Press 2010, p. 508).
- The Allied High Command of WWII did not consider it a priority to commit a few bombers to slowing down Hitler’s death camps – even though such an attack would have severely impeded the destruction of millions of Jews. Can one honestly believe that modern Western powers will stand with Israel today, when jihadi forces in Iran openly declare their intention to destroy the Jewish state with nuclear weapons?
Bombing Osirak – learning from history
On June 7 1981 in a military sortie code-named Operation Opera, the IAF attacked and destroyed Iraq’s atomic bomb plant (Osirak or Tammuz 1) at al-Tuwaitah, 11 miles south-east of Baghdad. Israel had been following the construction of that plant (built with French and Italian help) as well as Iraqi chemical warfare installations and bunkers (built with German help) “with growing concern” for many years. As in Hitler’s day, the world belittled and dismissed Israel’s concerns until the moment of no return approached, when the reactor was about to go hot. A force of eight Israeli F-16s and six escorting F-15s flew 680 miles across Jordan, Saudi Arabia and into Iraq to bomb the target successfully.
What was the response of the world to this successful attack? For starters, Israel was condemned and censured at the United Nations by the United States, UK, France, etc. On June 19 1981 the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed UN Security Council Resolution 487, which “strongly condemns the military attack by Israel in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct.” (S/RES/487; http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/6c57312cc8bd93ca852560df00653995?OpenDocument).
The United States punitively suspended the delivery of four F-16 aircraft to Israel (Nonproliferation and the National Interest: America’s Response to the Spread of Nuclear Weapons; Peter A. Clausen, Longman, 1992. p. 178). Jeane Kirkpatrick, the US Ambassador to the UN, described the raid as “shocking” and compared it to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Los Angeles Times called it “state-sponsored terrorism,” while the New York Times declared, “Israel’s sneak attack on a French-built nuclear reactor near Baghdad was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression.” Senator Mark Hatfield noted that the Israeli attack was “provocative, ill timed and internationally illegal.”
French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson said, “We don’t think [Israel’s] action serves the cause of peace in the area.” One should remember that France had supplied Saddam Hussein with their ill-fated nuclear reactor. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared, “Armed attack in such circumstances cannot be justified; it represents a grave breach of international law.” Time magazine declared that the raid “vastly compounded the difficulties of procuring a peaceful settlement of the confrontations in the Middle East.”
Ten years later, in the prelude to the First Gulf War, the Iraqi government attempted to recover components from the Osirak site in August 1990 and then accelerated its nuclear program to create a weapon using radioactive fuel. On January 17 1991 coalition forces targeted the site previously bombed by Israel, halting this renewed weapons program. On January 20 56 F-16s attacked the same site and on January 23 a force of F-117s bombed Osirak. Finally 48 F-16s targeted the facility 7 more times for over a month and, a few weeks later, 17 F-111’s participated in the raids. After these last 19 days of strikes the US Defense Intelligence Agency declared the site to be “severely degraded.” This time, it seems, coalition forces were not censured at the UN, as Israel had been ten years earlier for their one pin-point bombing run.
In June 1991, then-Defense Secretary Richard Cheney visited Israel and gave a satellite photograph of the destroyed reactor to the Commander of the Israel Air Force Major General David Ivry. On the photograph, Cheney wrote, ‘For General David Ivri, with thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job he did on the Iraqi Nuclear Program in 1981, which made our job much easier in Desert Storm.’ (this story is found in Maj. Gen. [res.] David Ivry’s ‘The Attack on the Osiraq Nuclear Reactor – Looking Back 21 Years Later,’ Israel’s Strike Against the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor 7 June, 1981, Jerusalem: Menachem Begin Heritage Center: 2003, p. 35).
Professor of International Law at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana) Louis Rene Beres wrote that, “Israel’s citizens, together with Jews and Arabs, American, and other coalition soldiers who fought in the Gulf War may owe their lives to Israel’s courage, skill, and foresight in June 1981. Had it not been for the brilliant raid at Osiraq, Saddam’s forces might have been equipped with atomic warheads in 1991. Ironically, the Saudis, too, are in Jerusalem’s debt. Had it not been for Prime Minister Begin’s resolve to protect the Israeli people in 1981, Iraq’s SCUDs falling on Saudi Arabia might have spawned immense casualties and lethal irradiation.” (Louis Rene Beres and Tsiddon-Chatto, Col. (res.) Yoash, “Reconsidering Israel’s Destruction of Iraq’s Osiraq Nuclear Reactor,” Temple International and Comparitive Law Journal 9 (2), 1995. Reprinted in Israel’s Strike Against the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor 7 June, 1981, Jerusalem: Menachem Begin Heritage Center: 2003, p.60).
The Begin Doctrine – learning from history
As the IAF fighter bombers were returning from Osirak, PM Begin was drafting a cabinet communiqué. The concluding words of that statement were, “Let the world know that under no circumstances will Israel ever allow an enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction against our people. If such a threat reoccurs we shall take whatever preemptive measures are necessary to defend the citizens of Israel will all the means at our disposal” (The Prime Ministers, Yehuda Avner, The Toby Press 2010, p. 555). This declaration has become known as the Begin Doctrine (www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/07/us-israel-militarydoctrine-idUSTRE7A61SA20111107; http://kms1.isn.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/ISN/47904/ichaptersection_singledocument/621745fb-48f9-4149-b66c-5b4107ab5a3e/en/08_Chapter+6.pdf).
Israel has learned from history that, in the final analysis, it cannot entrust its security to any other country. It has also learned that the Great Powers of the world will probably not be pro-active in removing existential threats to Israel’s security. As a result, those who pray for the survival, protection and salvation of Israel need to take the current situation with the utmost seriousness.
How can we pray?
- Pray for the destruction of Iran’s nuclear bomb factories through the finger of God – for example, through industrial accidents with minimal loss of life (see Exodus 8:19; Luke 11:20).
- Pray for wisdom and revelation from God for all Israeli leadership involved in weighing and responding to the Iranian nuclear threat.
- Pray for your own country’s leadership, for wisdom and revelation from God regarding what stance your country should take in these matters.
- Pray for minimal loss of life in any hostility, for God is not willing that any should perish, but that everyone come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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