Thursday, May 08, 2008

Israel's 60th B-day

Tonite, Wednesday May 7, starts Israel's Yom Ha'atzmaut, Independence Day. On the 60th Anniversary of the State of Israel, it is fitting that we acknowledge a fearsome fact, that we are here because of the evolutionary theory that applies to organisms and human societies alike, "the survival of the fittest." Darwin was the first human being to realize that in our own past we had evolved from lower forms of species, and that this evolution took place over long periods of time by a more-or-less random process. A creator may exist (intelligent or otherwise), but it is not necessary to invoke him/her or it in this process, it proceeds without external intervention.
Likewise, human societies have evolved, from hunter-gatherers, to settled farmers, to the development of towns and cities, to monarchs supposedly with a divine right to rule (does anyone believe in that anymore), to constitutional monarchies, to republics and democracies. During this process there have, as in all evolutions, been periods of rapid change and reversions, in this case called wars or revolutions. The history of this evolution describes the victory of one civilization over another (as in the Americas) or of one competing power over another (as in the English defeat of the Spanish Armada). But, in other situations the struggle for survival has pitted the powerful against the powerless. This happened many times in history, for example the ruthless destruction of cities by Ghenghis Khan, who had all inhabitants of cities that opposed him killed, down to the last child and dog.
We can view the Holocaust in this light, the destruction of a powerless and dependent group by a powerful and centralized dictatorship. This is not the first time in history nor the last that such a process has occured, for example, the massacres of the French Huguenots (Protestants) by the Catholics in 1572 (the St. Bartholomews's Day massacre), or the reverse massacres of the Irish Catholics by the British Black & Tans in the 1920s, and more recently the genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutus or the Darfurians by the Sudanese. One can view these events as part of the unforgiving process of the "evolution of human societies." One might hope that by now this process could be carried out in a more civilized way, but apparently not.
Note that the end of these processes is not predictable, in some cases the powerful aggressor is eventually overcome. For example, Franco won the civil war in Spain, but today Spain is a democratic constitutional monarchy. For example, the Tutsis invaded Rwanda with an external army and defeated the offending Hutus. This much can be said, the outcome is unpredictable, depending on unforeseen details.
For example, the Teutonic hordes were able to invade Europe and establish themselves in the remains of the weakened Roman Empire because of the invention of the stirrups (according to the Oxford historian Sir Hugh Trevor-Roper). Similarly the Muslims were able to explode out of Arabia and overcome the sickly Byzantine Empire with their fast horse cavalry. The Nazis were unable to overcome Britain in 1940 because of the superiority of the Spitfire and the Russians/Soviets were able to overcome the Nazis because of their huge size, huge population and terrible winters.
It is in this light that one can try to understand the Holocaust. Morality, merit or divine presence (fortunately or unfortunately) has nothing to do with it. The Jews of Europe were a powerless minority subject to the whims of the powerful tribes/countries surrounding them. However, those Jews that survived, especially those already in Palestine, saw the writing on the wall. Death and defeat is the fate of the powerless, to survive one must compete in the struggle. Thus, the nascent State acquired arms, airplanes and intelligence. And we have survived these 60 years because we have switched sides, from the powerless to the powerful. Does anyone have any doubt that Israel's existence today and the presence of peace treaties between us and the Egyptians and the Jordanians results from our readiness to fight for our existence and our ability to win. Likewise in the future, only if we are prepared and able to fight the Palestinian terrorists and the Iranian mullahs, will we be able to survive into the future.
Now Europe, that was once embroiled in cataclysmic conflicts, is peaceful and united in the EU. Who could have predicted or foreseen that? However, all the nations that make up the EU have in the past fought and struggled for their independent survival. Similarly, Pres. Sadat of Egypt's unpredicted visit to Jerusalem in 1977 was prompted because he saw that in the struggle for survival his country could not defeat us militarily. Israel has until now demonstrated its fitness to survive in this dangerous corner of the world, and after 60 years may it continue to do so.


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