the eagle and the phoenix

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    Editorial: The eagle and the phoenix

    Yesterday's flight of three Israel Air Force F-15 fighter planes above the Auschwitz death camp has been derided by some, both within and beyond Poland, as inappropriate.

    The site, went their argument, should not be desecrated by such a display of military prowess, and the commemoration of its victims should not exclude, even passively, the large number of non-Jews who were also murdered there alongside more than a million Jews.

    We disagree.

    For one thing, it is naive to suggest that the abuse of power that made Auschwitz happen means that power itself is wrong to have. That might have been true in a world governed by angels. In our world, evil is an integral part of life, and the way to confront it is not to ignore, let alone eradicate, power, but to wield it responsibly.

    The fascist impetus that bred the Holocaust is alive and well, though reasonably far from Western corridors of power. For those who may still harbor ideas of once again committing the kind of crimes against humanity that the Nazis committed, yesterday's IAF flight should serve as food for sobering thoughts about the long-term power of the ostensibly powerless.

    Then-chief of General Staff Ehud Barak said, during a visit in full uniform to Auschwitz last decade, "For those who perished, we have arrived 50 years too late." However, for those who survived, his arrival was timely indeed, and so too was yesterday's salute flight.

    As such, the flight's message was valid regardless of the Jewish context. Yet there is also a specific Jewish message that is, and ought to be, conveyed through acts like yesterday's overflight.

    The first part of such a message is to be directed at the Jewish people itself. Unfortunately, even after all the Jewish nation has experienced during the last century, there still are Jews across the world who think Jewishness and power should not mix.

    In all fairness, we must concede that this attitude has deep roots in Jewish history. In fact, it goes back nearly two millennia, to the morning after the Second Temple's destruction, when the Sages created tools for maintaining Judaism without Judea.

    The result the rise of the synagogue, the community, and the rabbi has certainly had impressive results in terms of preserving the Jewish people, despite the Jews' lack of power. However, in terms of preserving the Jews themselves, the results of this were catastrophic. That is why most Jews, whether in Israel or the Diaspora, today agree that the possession of power is as indispensable for ensuring the Jewish nation's future as is the nurturing of its spirit.

    The second part of the specifically Jewish message conveyed by yesterday's flight should be directed at non-Jews. Fantastic as it may sound, fewer than six decades after the Holocaust a sovereign country is once again threatening the world's largest Jewish community Israel's with extinction.

    That country is Iran, and the tool of its potential evil is a nuclear program, which Teheran has repeatedly declared to be aimed at Israel, which it insists does not deserve to exist.

    There was a time when such belligerency would be scoffed at by all those who could have done something to prevent it in the first place: the free world, the Jews beyond the reach of those who practice genocide, and the intended Jewish victims themselves.

    The State of Israel was established precisely to prevent that kind of menace, and as such has an obligation to make plain its determination to confront such threats to the future of the Jews.

    The flight above Auschwitz by pilots who, led by Brig.-Gen. Amir Eshel, are all descendants of Holocaust survivors, sent a clear message that Israel has both the intention and the means with which to meet the threat posed to millions of Jews by Teheran.

    This message should impress the rest of the free world, which can be more resolute and effective in joining the effort to contain the menace posed by Teheran, not solely to the Jewish nation, but to the quest for a terror-free world.

    Fortunately, the newly democratic countries of post-communist Europe understand, often better than some veteran democracies, both the tangibility and the potency of totalitarian threats, even in a post-Cold War era.

    Poland's hosting of the IAF flight above Auschwitz reflected this healthy spirit, and serves as encouraging reminder that evil's prospects in today's world may after all be worse than what they were six decades ago
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