(This speech was delivered to the audience who attended the Bnai Brith brunch honoring David Fallk on Sunday morning, November 16, 2003 at the Scranton JCC)
In 1862, the Lord Mayor of London hosted a dinner in honor of the visiting Grand Duke of Russia and among the invited guests was the famous Jewish philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore then Sheriff of London and President of the British Board of Deputies.
The Grand Duke was a rabid anti-Semite and being faithful to his pathology, he could not let the moment pass without commenting to the Lord Mayor (in a voice loud enough to be heard by the assembled guests) that on his last visit to Japan, he noted that the country was unique in that it had neither Jews nor pigs!
The assembled quests were clearly embarrassed, but Montefiore, not to be silenced, leaned over the table and looking the Grand Duke directly in the eyes, replied, Well sir, perhaps you and I should both visit Japan that way, they would have a sample of each!
I tell this story because history has shown that the level of anti-Semitism in any society is a barometer of its health, and the health of its democracy. By that standard I would say that the United States is in pretty good shape, that Europe is developing a serious case of Alzheimers, and that the Muslim world is about as sick as you can possibly imagine.
Four recent incidents have occurred that should be cause for concern.
In early November, two suicide bombers attacked the two major synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey killing 24 persons who were attending a Bar Mitzvah.
Last month, Joe Lieberman was hissed by an Arab-American audience in Dearborn, Michigan when he briefly explained Israel's defensive wall in terms not unlike those used by Howard Dean and the other Democratic candidates.
The problem was not so much what he said. He was hissed because he was a Jew.
At about the same time, a Gallup poll was taken by the European Union to determine the countries that Europeans felt represented the greatest threat to international peace. Israel placed #1; America came a close second.
Now understand, over the past decade, the North Korean regime has starved an estimated three million of its own people; established thousands of slave labor camps, developed nuclear weapons in violation of every agreement it has ever made, and is seeking to sell them to the highest bidder. North Korea has lobbed ballistic missiles over Japan, threatened a nuclear war of annihilation against its southern neighbor and supports itself primarily by dealing in drugs and counterfeit currency.
And yet, 60% of Europeans regard Israel as more threatening than either North Korea or Iran the second largest funder of terrorism in the world next to Saudi Arabia. So, if ever there was proof that there was something sinister lying behind Europes constant criticism of Israel and its support of Israel enemies other than pure anti-Semitism, this poll now answers it.
Anti-Semitism has evolved from an irrational hatred or jealousy of Jews to an irrational hatred or jealousy of the Jewish State Israel.
And last month, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia summed up the world's problems with his buddies in the Organization of Islamic Nations. According to the Prime Minister, Jews should be condemned for having invented (among other things) such abuses as human rights and democracy . . and then he added - "they and their ideas rule the world by proxy.
This is not a man who is particularly interested in inter-faith dialogue. Yet, even his crudely anti-Semitic remarks aren't the real problem. The real problem is that 57 other world leaders applauded him. A politician making such remarks about Jews at an international summit is a man with a problem. But when 57 Muslim world leaders applaud him, thats a clash of civilizations because a mindset that dwells on the hatred of Jews and infidels leads directly to a rejection of Western values and Western civilization.
These four events should give us cause for concern because most of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world never even met a Jew. For example, there are 70 million Egyptians today, 95% of whom have never come within a mile of a Jew (unless they were in the Egyptian 3rd army that was surrounded by the Israelis in the 1973 Yom Kippur War in which case, they would have seen plenty of them under less than pleasant circumstances). But that aside, one of the highest-rated Egyptian television programs in recent memory was a 41-episode series aired last Ramadan on the Jewish conspiracy to take over the world and the methods used by that accursed, wicked race" to use Christian or Muslim blood to bake into their matzos and hamantashin for the Passover and Purim holidays.
It is amazing that the greatest hatred of Jews today exists in a country where only 28 lonely Jews actually remain.
The 57 countries present at the Muslim Summit did not notice, however, that the Prime Minister was insulting them more than the Jews - the leadership of a group of nations whose total Gross Domestic Product last year constituted less than the GDP of Spain. He was speaking to a collection of failed states largely represented by aging dictators, kings and emirs who would probably be the only audience on this earth to applaud the damning of Jews for establishing human rights and democracy. But then again, these nations are hardly in a position to condemn such ideas since they have never tried them. In fact, their only achievement to date has been that they have stolen their nations' oil wealth and plundered the human capital of their own people.
So, there's something pathetic about a culture that is so ignorant that even its pathologies (like anti-Semitism) have to be imported from Europe.
Because the truth is, by not introducing human rights and democracy into their nations, the Arab Middle East is doomed to live forever in the shadows of the greatness that was once the Moorish Empire of Spain. Bin Laden says that wants it back. The problem is, he cant deliver, and only the West can show him how. A thousand years ago, this mighty Islamic Empire produced leaders, philosophers, mathematicians, chemists and astrologers who encouraged their followers to experiment and to challenge established norms; whose scholars coined the terms Al-gebr-wa (or Algebra) and al-Kamiya (or Alchemy - the forerunner of chemistry); who created the first map of the stars in the universe (check the names and note that they are all Islamic); who adapted Arabic numerals to mathematical concepts, and who laid the foundation for the European Renaissance. Moorish Spain was the greatest economic and military power on earth, a symbol of the greatness of the Islamic world at that time. Even the great Jewish doctor and philosopher Maimonides was a student who studied at the feet of Islamic scholars.
Today, that same Islamic world has descended into a stagnant cultural abyss whose social and economic development is about where Europe was in the 11th century before the Norman invasion. They are a sorry group of failed nations that have not produced one single manufactured product of sufficient quality to sell on world markets; whose national productivity is the lowest in the world; whose capitals do not contain a single world-class university; and whose countries do not host a single true democracy that respects human rights, or permits a responsible media, or encourages the rights of women or minorities.
So, for the leader of a Muslim nation today to condemn Jews as the founders of human rights and democracy and to attack them as a People who think can only be perceived as a compliment.
The Prime Minister is wrong when he says that Jews rule the world, but he is right when he implies that the Jews have made a difference in it. The Arab Muslim world may weave conspiracy theories about Jews, and cover their newspapers with excerpts from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and stories of Jewish blood libels, but the truth remains that, as a People, the ideas and concepts that the Jews have established have changed the face of virtually every civilization known to Man and from a People who represent less than one half of one percent of the worlds population Id say that that was damn good.
Ideas are the engines of history, so if the Arab Muslim world of today wishes to foster this cult of Jew-hatred, they are shortsighted if they think that human rights and democracy are the only things that can be blamed (so to speak) on the Jews.
Truth be told, the Jews have contributed much more than that to mankind. In the pagan era, it was religion, in the Greco-Roman era, it was humanism; in the Islamic era, it was philosophy; and, in the modern era, the Jews gave the world the principles of theoretical science.
While Romans worked man and beast seven days a week until they died, it was the Jews who introduced the Sabbath for man and beast and for this, they were condemned as heretics.
From Jewish prophets arose the concepts of the right to trial, the right to confront ones own accusers and the right to present evidence on ones own behalf. These principles were part of Jewish culture since the time of Deborah and the Judges, a thousand years before the Common Era.
These concepts were carried throughout the millennia while what is now the Western world floated on a sea of superstition.
From the Jewish people sprang a Jewish essence monk who became the Messiah for Christianity. From the Jewish people came Saul of Tarsus, the organizer of the Christian church. Even the Mormons today claim that they are the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
So, if the Arab-Muslim world chooses to wallow in self-pity and its hatred of Jews and of infidels, they should understand the whole picture.
Ask historians like Arnold Toynbee and they will tell you that, by all historical standards, the Jewish people should be footnotes to history. They should not exist today. Technically, they should have died out 5,000 years ago with the Hittites, the Ammonites, the Canaanites and the Philistines their historical contemporaries. These great nations of antiquity left behind a record of their history in material things like tablets, monuments and ruins. But the Jewish people have survived because of the ideas they taught and continue to teach, and the impact that those ideas have had upon other peoples and other civilizations. Unlike the Hittites and the others, the Jewish people survived the eons of time because Judaism contained the seeds of its own rebirth. Judaism evolved as the world changed, and in doing so, it sowed the seeds for the birth of other great religions like Christianity and Islam.
The Malaysian Prime Minister condemned Jews because (as he said) they think. And because they think, the Jewish people survived and prospered Babylon, in the Hellenic world, during the Roman Empire, flourished in the Islamic era, emerged from a 1,200 year darkness known as the Middle Ages, and rose to new intellectual heights in the 20th century.
But they paid dearly for being different. In fact, if pain and suffering could ennoble, this people could challenge the aristocracy of any nation on earth. In their eagerness to eradicate all vestiges of Judaism from the world, the Nazis of yesterday and the anti-Semitic Islamic fascists of today forget that from the Jewish Talmud came the principles of tort law, trade regulations, civil damages, real estate, commerce, the principles of credit and negotiable securities, the sanctity of oaths, and the enforceability of civil contracts.
The Chinese have a saying be careful what you wish, for your wish may be granted.
So if the anti-Semites of the world are to condemn the Jews, let them imagine a world that is Judenrein a world without Jews.
In the 1850s, Jewish medical researchers argued that microorganisms caused contagious diseases; laid the foundations of modern heart therapy, bacteriology, clinical pathology, and endocrinology.
It was the Jews who suggested serum immunity for contagious diseases, who pioneered the chemistry of muscles, and who made blood transfusions possible through the discovery of different blood types.
It was Jewish scientists who measured the distances to the stars in the heavens, who contributed to the study of the internal combustion of stars, and who discovered the planet Uranus.
It was Jewish chemists who created the modern chemical and dye industries; who worked out the theory of atomic valences; developed molecular theories; classified organic compounds based upon their molecular structure; determined the composition of chlorophyll and the role of enzymes in the chemical processes of life.
The anti-Semites of the world want a world that is Judenrein. But it will cost them. Let them remember that it was Jewish physicists who delineated the theory of relativity; discovered the photoelectric effect; and discovered gamma rays that now scan for weapons of mass destruction in the millions of foreign cargo containers that arrive each day into America from foreign ports. It was Jewish physicists who isolated isotopes; worked in electron kinetics and pried open the secrets of the atom.
If Jews are to be hated for these contributions, than they must be hated for all their contributions. In the 20th century, Sigmund Freud lifted the lid off mans mind, and with psychoanalysis revolutionized mans concept of himself, and the relationship of mind to matter.
Three hundred years earlier, Baruch Spinoza was outcast and excommunicated because he pried philosophy loose from superstition and mysticism, and opened the path to rationalism and modern science. Albert Michelson discovered the speed of light and won Americas first Nobel Prize in 1907. Selman Waksman isolated streptomycin. Casimir Funk discovered vitamins. And Jonas Salk introduced a vaccine that saved my life (when I was a child) and billions of other since then.
So to the anti-Semites of the world, I say beware what you wish for, this world would be a lesser place but for the Jews. In truth, these contributions pale in the face of the contributions made by scientists of other faiths, but these contributions are no less significant when one takes into account that they come from a religious group of negligible size.
Jews are hated by the bin Ladens, the Khaddafis, the Khomeinis, the Assads and the petty dictators of the Arab Muslim world today not because of who they are, but because of what they have achieved and continue to achieve.
Jewish heritage has always respected learning and education, has always imparted justice, and has always taught its doctrines in abstractions, and never absolutes like Islamic fundamentalism.
So if the bin Ladens of the world believe that by killing Jews in synagogues, buses and at ritual Passover Seders, they are killing their ideas, they are wrong.
You cannot kill ideas and ideas are what Jews have given mankind.
As Bobby Kennedy once wrote, Few will ever achieve the greatness to affect history itself But each of us can work to change a small portion of world events, and, in the totality of all these acts, will be written the history of mankind.
In the early 1980s, a letter appeared in the Colorado Gazette Telegraph which is not a Jewish newspaper nor was the author of this piece Jewish. It was written by a World War II veteran in response to some anti-Semitic graffiti that appeared on the walls of a Denver synagogue. The graffiti consisted of a swastika and under it was written the words Jews Go Home.
Jews Go Home
Well theres nothing really new in this. Youve heard it before and youve heard it many times. But suppose, just this once, that you took the advice these sick people seriously, and you actually packed your bags and left for parts unknown.
Before you go, would you do me a favor?
Would you leave your formula for Salk vaccine behind? After all, you wouldnt want my child to die from polio would you?
And would you leave your genius for science and physics and mathematics behind because if it wasnt for your Einsteins, your Fermis and Steinmetzs, we would be looking up from our chains and from our graves to see a happy, aging Hitler drive by in one of our own Cadillacs.
And would you leave your talent for humor and music and entertainment behind?
Because Im not too sure that I would want to live in a country where you werent here to share your gifts with us.
Because you see, Jews, if you go, if these foolish people are right and you leave, then freedom goes with you, democracy goes with you, and everything that my buddies and I fought for in World War II goes with you. Love goes with you.
So when you go, Jews, would you do me a favor?
Would you slow down in front of my house and honk because so help me God, Im going with you too.