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Lord Weidenfeld of Chelsea

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Weakness on the Part of Democracies Discourages Those Who Strive for Freedom

Posted: 13/03/2012 18:32

The grim question if, how or when Teheran's nuclear armament could be thwarted by using force is on the minds of insiders and observers in the free world. Gradually the theory that an end in terror is preferable to terror without end is gaining the upper hand. The gruesome scenario of a general nuclear armament panic in the trouble spots of the Middle East unsettles large circles.

Many fear a solo effort on the part of Israel, and even there several nuances of the will to intervene exist. But Israelis agree on one point: an existential decision has to be made in the country itself.

In front of 15,000 supporters in Washington, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu read out a few sentences from an exchange of letters between the Jewish World Congress and the US government from 1944. The short letter was an appeal to bomb the recently discovered extermination camp in Auschwitz as soon as possible. The reply came five days later: "Such an operation could be executed only by diverting considerable air support essential to the success of our forces elsewhere... and in any case, it would be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources... Such an effort might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans."

In fact in the final phase of the Second World War the Allies were anxious to play down the atrocities against the Jews in Europe. They did not want to encourage the advocates of an independent Jewish state in Palestine in London and Washington. In 1939 London had blocked immigration to Palestine. I remember that as a commentator with the BBC I received a political directive 'from above' not to report in too much detail the barbarity of the liberated extermination camps.

There are certain parallels between the current crisis in Syria and the events of the 1930s. When dealing with brutal regimes, with which one cannot live peacefully in the long run, hesitation only prolongs human suffering and fills the oppressed with bitterness. Weakness on the part of the democracies discourages those who strive for freedom, and at the same time encourages unstable and weak regimes to pursue new and unpredictable policies.