Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day or Veterans Day – is observed by the Commonwealth of Nations on 11th November as a day to commemorate the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War.
I was browsing through shelves of the latest Apple merchandise in Heathrow Airport when it was announced that the customary two minutes of silence was about to begin, in honor of those that gave their lives for our freedom.
The dull bustle came to an abrupt halt as thousands of travelers stood still, some glancing around impatiently, while others bowed their heads and closed their eyes. On a large TV screen nearby, the BBC was broadcasting a memorial service, and I watched as The Queen, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other high ranking British politicians placed wreaths of poppies on a memorial monument.
As I watched I wondered what goes through the minds of world leaders at these solemn moments when they stand before a nation that has elected them to a position of ultimate responsibility. Many of these politicians are currently making decisions about putting the lives of young men and women into the firing line and are constantly grappling with the moral implications.
Perhaps they are thinking of the families of servicemen who have died in the line of duty and their widows or children who continue to live courageously despite their loss and the debt of gratitude they are owed by their countries.
Perhaps they are considering whether they would have the courage to make this great personal sacrifice themselves, or maybe their minds and sympathies are with the deployed troops that are living in desert tents away from the safety and security of home, throughout the holiday season.
Perhaps they are coldly considering the political ramifications of their next move, and the implications it may have on their future standing and popularity, or perhaps they are thinking about how little they really control and that all is Divine and we are just instruments of God’s will.
But what they should all be thinking about, without exception, is whether or not all this devastation and death is really necessary? Or was there anything that could have been done to prevent it? And what can be done to ensure that the carnage and desolation of earlier in this century is never repeated?
In a speech Winston Churchill gave to the Belgian Senate and Chamber, on November 16, 1945, he brought up an anecdote about a conversation he had with President Roosevelt:
“President Roosevelt one day asked what this War should be called. My answer was, “The Unnecessary War.” If the United Stated States had taken an active part in the League of Nations, and if the League of Nations had been prepared to use concerted force, even had it only been European force, to prevent the re-armament of Germany, there would have been no need for further serious bloodshed. If the Allies had resisted Hitler strongly in his early stages, even up to his seizure of the Rhineland in 1936, he would have been forced to recoil, and a chance would have been given to the sane elements in German life, which were very powerful, especially in the High Command, to free Germany of the maniacal Government and system into the grip of which she was falling.
Do not forget that twice the German people, by a majority, voted against Hitler, but the Allies and the League of Nations acted with such feebleness and lack of clairvoyance, that each of Hitler’s encroachments became a triumph for him over all moderate and restraining forces until, finally, we resigned ourselves without further protest to the vast process of German re-armament and war preparation which ended in a renewed outbreak of destructive war. Let us profit at least by this terrible lesson. In vain did I attempt to teach it before the war.”
Earlier this week at the opening plenary session of the Jewish Federations of North Americas General Assembly Congressman Eric Cantor addressed the gathering. He said that the Jewish community needs to “remove the blinders from our eyes” and speak out more vocally against threats to Israel and the Jewish people.
“Many men are pointing guns at Israel, indeed at Jews, everywhere,” said the House Minority Whip. But, he continued, “ too many Jews have become desensitized” and believe “it can’t happen to us.”
“When we allow ourselves to be lulled into silence and when political correctness beckons, it may be too late,” said Cantor. “When we dally and threaten and wring our hands but fail to do anything to really stop Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, where are we then?”
Cantor listed a number of developments that concerned him, from the Goldstone Report to a Scandinavian newspaper article earlier this year that accused Israel of harvesting human organs, to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s alliance with Iran. He added that Israel is in “dire straits” and “mortal danger.”
Cantor also said that “the case I press before you is not a Jewish cause or an Israeli issue, but challenges to America,” adding that “Israel’s security is synonymous with our own.”
“I await your leadership before it is too late,” he said.
Responsible leaders must seek out the dangers with intellectual honesty and moral courage and take steps before it is too late, as we have seen the cost of failing to do so is unbearable. Possible solutions are just not good enough and risks can’t be taken when lives are at stake because in the immortal words of the Elie Wiesel “We have learned to trust more the threats of an enemy then the promises of a friend.”
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at email@example.com