In Jewish tradition, it is explained that the severity of the punishmentmeted out to the Egyptians was a result of their going “above and beyond” the ill treatment that the Hebrews were supposed to receive during their sojourn in Egypt. This episode, however, was but a prelude to the many times in our history when the local population enthusiastically joined the rulers or a foreign invader in persecuting the Jewish population.
Edom. When Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, the Edomites rejoiced, asit is written:
Remember ,O Lord,what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
"Tear it down", they cried,
"tear it down to its foundations!"Psalms 137:7
(Subsequent to the fall of Jerusalem, the Babylonians granted the Edomites the right to settle in the Hebron area).
Greeks. According to Josephus, the violence of the year 66 CE initially began at Caesarea, provoked by Greeks of a certain merchant house sacrificing birds in front of a local synagogue. The Roman garrison did not intervene.
During the Gezeroth Tateinu in 1096, German and French crusader mobs slay the entire Jewish communities in the cities of the Rhineland.
A thousand years ago, even before the First Crusade was launched, a “People’s Crusade” led by Peter the Hermit made its was through the German provinces. They were eagerly joined by the locals when the massacres of the Jews began. Then, in 1096 C.E., the armies of the First Crusade, which began its march in France, soon reached the German Rhineland and attacked the Jews in every town throughout the region. Many Jews were butchered, others forcefully converted, and still others committed suicide in order to avoid conversion.
I could go on listing the countless instances of a local population turning against its Jewish residents, especially when a foreign invader appeared, but my thoughts now turn to events in Poland during the last few days. The lower chamber of the Polish parliament enacted legislation outlawing the term “Polish concentration camp.” Well and good since the camps were in fact set up and run by the Nazis. What should infuriate all of us, however, is that this proposed “law” is a prelude to the Pole’s attempt at rewriting the sordid history of their collaboration with the conquering Germans. The few Jewish survivors of that period, now in their nineties, recall how local Poles, as with the Ukrainians in the Ukraine, turned Jews over to the Nazis. While Jews were starving in the Warsaw ghetto not a Pole had the heart, or will, to toss even a slice of bread or potato over the ghetto wall to the starving captives. When thousands of Jews were rounded up, shot, and dumped into a mass grave at Babi Yar (Ukraine), the locals applauded as the bullets were being fired.
And so, the Poles are now in good company with the Palestinian redactors who claim descent from the Canaanites and who deny any Jewish claim to our land.
As they say in Poland:
Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy
“Not my circus, not my monkeys”
(Not my problem)
Kiedy wszedłeś między wrony, musisz krakać jak i one
“When among the crows, caw as the crows do”
(When in Rome, do as the Romans do)
Bez potrzeby wymówka, gotowe oskarżenie
“People who know they have done wrong reveal their guilt by the
things they say or the way they interpret what other people say.”