Power of History
Israel exists today because one of the first acts of the newly-created United Nations was to recognize Israel as a country in 1948. The western world felt pity for Jews because of what Nazis did to them. An ancient people, Jews had lived in what is now Israel for more than a thousand years before being dispersed around the world in the Great Diaspora after rebelling against the Roman Empire. It was Rome that destroyed the second Temple built by King Herod. Although a small number of Jews remained in the Holy Land after the Diaspora, most endured as residents of other countries - where they suffered countless persecutions for two more millennia. Some Jews became Zionists around the beginning of the 20th century and returned to their ancestral homeland in relatively small numbers. After World War II this trickle became a flood and the new Israel became a reality.
Dore Gold was Israel’s UN Ambassador from 1997-99. In an interview about his recent book, “The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City” he said, “I felt it was necessary to respond to the charges that Yassir Arafat made at the end of the Camp David summit in July 2000 that denied the core of our Judeo-Christian heritage. As you might remember he tried to assert that there never had been a Temple in Jerusalem. But what he essentially did was to throw a stone of historical lies into a lake and its ripples spread all over the Middle East.”
If Palestinian Arabs can be convinced that the Nation of Israel was foisted upon them out the blue by western countries acting through the United Nations, they can be convinced that their suicide-bomber sons who kill Israelis are heroes who will enjoy their virgins in Paradise. If other Arab Muslims can be convinced that their socioeconomic backwardness is a result of historical western oppression, recruitment of suicide-bombers and other terrorists to kill Jews and Americans will be much easier. That’s power gained through both selective history and distorted interpretations of history.
Soviet schoolchildren were taught that Russians invented the light bulb, the radio, the television, and many other things actually invented in the west. Soviet citizens grew up believing communism wonderful, capitalism evil, and that communism would eventually spread over the whole world. Thus they were willing to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to accomplish it. That’s power gained in the same way - distorting history.
Other people selectively interpret history to justify their inertia in the present. Some of my Irish ancestors were accustomed to blaming British oppression for whatever miserable circumstances in which they found themselves. The British certainly did oppress the Irish for centuries, but even though Britain’s domination had been over for generations, many Irish held on to it as an excuse for their largely self-induced misery.
Once I wrote a column urging Mainers to vote “No” on a referendum question that would have allowed Indians to open casinos in this state as they have in so many others. I questioned the status of Indians as citizens with different rights other Americans and whether that was justified. In that context I acknowledged that many Indian tribes suffered savage oppression at the hands of some European countries. However, I also pointed out that many Indian tribes had perpetrated similarly savage oppression against one another before the Spanish, French, English or Portuguese ever arrived in the Americas. Europeans had treated each other savagely at various times also and nobody has a monopoly on suffering. History shows us that very few escape.
Citing such politically incorrect aspects of history stirred up a hornet’s nest as Indians from around the country flooded my principal, my superintendent, my school board, and my state teacher certification office with angry letters, phone calls and emails declaring me unfit to teach. Clearly, a lot of Indians cherished their victim status even more than the Irish did, and they weren’t going to tolerate alternative viewpoints from this columnist. I even got a telephoned death threat.
History has power however it’s used, and pointing out its misuse as I did can be a very unpopular - even risky - undertaking. Still, it must be done. Now, about those "Bones of Jesus," . . .