Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was excoriated over the weekend on social media for giving a speech in which he extolled the tragic reality of the world. "The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive." This is "fascism" people shouted on social media.
"It left me speechless," tweeted Julia Ioffe. His comments echo Hitler, claimed one article. Former US Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder claimed Netanyahu was channeling the Athenian maxim from Thucydides "the strong do what they can, the weak suffer what they must." But the Athenians lost the Peloponnesian war Daalder wrote. He forgot to add who they lost it to. Sparta. A city-state that was obsessed with being strong even more than the Athenians were.
For all of those who are outraged about Netanyahu's statement, I have a question. Where were they in August 2014 when Islamic State launched its attack on the weak, peaceful, defenseless and vulnerable Yazidis in northern Iraq? When ISIS overran their villages and separated men and women, and then systematically machine-gunned the men into mass graves like the Einsatzgruppen did in 1941, where were they? Did they go to Sinjar to help in the fight against ISIS? The wealthy and the strong from the West who are today outraged and offended, were they there to help in the defense of Sinjar? And what have they done since for the 6,000 women and children kidnapped and sold into slavery? For four years now, more than 3,000 women are still missing, enslaved in the years 2014-2018.
These are the weak. Who helped them? Well, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) helped them in 2014. Who was it that formed a human wall against ISIS in 2014 at the gates of Erbil and Baghdad? It was Kurdish Peshmerga and Shi'ite militias aided by US air power. It was the strong. When ISIS came knocking it was tens of thousands of young men from southern Iraq, imbued with religious devotion and flags of Hussein and Ali who went to fight and die, their names never recorded or known in the places where people are offended by the word "strong." It was poor Kurdish men, underpaid and having to buy their own uniforms, rifles and boots, who went to stop ISIS.
Who joined ISIS? 50,000 people from all over the world, including 5,000 mostly middle class, strong, people from Europe. Did the strongest nations prevent the 5,000 from Europe from joining? No. They let them join. They let them book tickets to Turkey. They even let them return.
So what did the strong nations do to help the Yazidis? Almost nothing. They didn't even invest basic resources in helping to find the victims of slavery, teenage girls whose images were put online on messaging apps made in the West. The strong helped build the platforms that ISIS used. The strong let ISIS grow. The strong did not stop ISIS. So it fell on others to stop ISIS.
Who stopped the genocide in Rwanda? Tutsi rebels, not the strongest wealthiest Western countries, who did almost nothing and in several cases openly collaborated with the Hutu extremists. I remember the Rwandan genocide. I remember the images of the rivers turning red with blood and the US making excuses about not calling it genocide because "it will force us to do something." I was only 14 when it happened, but it was an introduction into what happens in this world when the weak ask for help. Who helped the weak? Well it was other members of the weak group who had to arm themselves and fight against the genocide. None of the most powerful Western nations wanted to help.
Then there was the genocide in Darfur, easily preventable, but for which nothing was done. Hundreds of thousands displaced, raped, starved. The weakest and most vulnerable. Most of those who today are offended did nothing for Darfur. What was done to stop the Srebrenica massacre of 1995? Well, not much, by the strongest countries in the world.
Even after these genocides, we come to the Rohingya. In 2017, more than 700,000 of them were forced from their homes in Myanmar. Some statistics say that more than 40,000 are missing and presumed killed. What was done for them, just last year? Nothing was done to stop the killing. Nothing. 200 countries in the world did nothing. The wealthiest countries did nothing. The people who are offended by Netanyahu's comments did nothing. I challenge the reader to find one example of someone who is offended by Netanyahu's comments about "the strong" who did something to help the weak in Myanmar.
So let's read again what Netanyahu said. "The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong." People say that this reminds them of fascism and Hitler. But let me tell you a story about the people who stopped Hitler. Was it the weak? Did protesters in New York stop Hitler? Whose troops liberated Auschwitz? The Soviet Red Army. It was the strong who stopped Hitler. It was the decision to see in the strength of conviction, such as Winston Churchill's and the strength of Soviet officers like Georgy Zhukov, that ended Nazism.
If this world had learned from the horrors of the Nazi period then there wouldn't have been a Rwandan genocide, a Darfur genocide, Srebrenica, the genocide of Yazidis and Rohingya. If the world had decided that never again will the weak be trampled by the strong then these crimes would not have happened. However the reality of this world is that people are offended by notions that the strong tend to win; while they don't seem to be particularly offended by actual genocide and they don't seem to do anything about it.
The weak and the vulnerable deserve protection. They deserve protection by the strong against the other strong groups who seek to hurt them. But just in the last few years there were ample opportunities for the wealthiest countries, the strongest countries, to do something to protect the weak. Whether protecting Syrians from barrel bombs or protecting Yazidis, or Rohinyga. Every single day the strongest countries fail to protect the weak and prefer to hide away the carnage and go about their daily lives.
So which is more offensive, Netanyahu's comments, or the inaction of those in the wealthiest countries who, in their silence, all agree with Netanyahu? Except their motto is "we are the strongest and we do nothing to help the weak." Silence and inaction are a form of collaboration with genocide. Stating a simple fact, that the strong tend to prevail, is not fascism. In fact, it is only the strong who will stop fascism. It is only the strong who should have done more to defend the Yazidis and it is the strong who have done nothing for the Rohingya.
If you care about the weak, you need to be strong to defend them. A bully isn't defeated by virtue signaling. A bully is defeated by someone who is willing to stand up and be strong.
Seth Frantzman is The Jerusalem Post's op-ed editor, a Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a founder of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.