The History Channel recently presented a program discussing Nazism in America. Beginning in the early ‘30s, Nazism appeared in the German American communities among immigrants who returned the dilapidated condition of German after World War I. In keeping step with Hitler, the American Nazi movement attacked the Jewish population. Eventually realizing that the word “Nazi” didn’t sit well with Americans, they changed the name to the German American Bund and became vitriolic denouncers of Communist as well as Jews. The History Channel pointed out that Americans generally were suspicious of the motives of the Bund that fed on hate and prejudice. The bombing of Pearl Harbor brought an abrupt end to the group.
In listening to this enlightening program, I was reminded of how misinformation and suspicion make a toxic brew that poisons all who partake. The same dark streams of hate keep flowing through the Middle East and infecting all efforts for peace. However, now and then, there is a breakthrough when the truth is revealed and hope is reborn. I found such a story recently.
The Western Galilee Medical Hospital with a children’s intensive care unit is in the northern Israel town of Nahariya. With stuffed animals and balloons, the hospital regularly helps sick children return to health. However, on this particular day, a father nervously hovered over his injured daughter and watch the medical staff with fear in his eyes. The man was not sure he could really trust the highly competent staff working on his injured daughter.
The problem? He and his daughter are Syrians who had crossed the border into Israel because he feared the child would die from shrapnel wounds. He cannot speak Hebrew and knows that if the Syrian government discovered he had come to Israel to save the child, his entire family would be in danger. The man’s name must be concealed to prevent an assault on the family. As they always do, the Israeli medical team went to work just as if the child was one of their own. Her life was saved.
The father is typical of generations of Syrians who have grown up under propaganda vilifying the Jewish state and depicting the Jews as heartless and evil. Militant groups like Hezbollah and al-Qaida are virulently opposed to the existence of Israel. The Syrian regime has banned all travel to Israel with jail time for anyone caught crossing the border. The little girl’s father had been raised on tales that depicted the Jews as animals. As he watches his daughter receive tender, efficient, and gracious care, he must realize how terribly he has been deceived by his own country.
Forty-four victims of the Syrian war have been treated at Western Galilee Medical Center this year alone. Because of anti-Semitism, none are ever named.
Like the story of American Bund, it takes a Pearl Harbor invasion to open the eyes of the blind. The Bund disappeared because the light of the truth exposed their lies. Eventually, the leader of the Bund went to jail for extortion. He was not only was he a racist, but a crook as well.
We do well to remember that any nation or group that propagates hate must be understood to be a volcano of violence. We must stay away from such polluted places.