KRISTOL: Right, right. Anyway, so Israel, when did that become central to your interests?
KRAUTHAMMER: From the beginning of my consciousness. Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, this was the hope. And this was an – it’s hard for us to remember now. But in general culture, apart from Jewish culture, it was considered a wonderful thing. Think about how Americans celebrated the movie Exodus, came out in the early 60s, I think, and how they saw Israel as a fellow democracy, sort of intrinsic support for it. It was one of the great stories.
KRISTOL: Kind of miraculous after the Holocaust.
KRAUTHAMMER: Miraculous after the Holocaust. And the reason I think that people misunderstand Israel, and see it now in colonial, imperialist terms is because it’s a unique event in human history. The British colonization of North America, New Zealand, Australia, the Dutch in South Africa they came to places that they had never been to. That’s colonialism. You put your people in there. You takeover. You marginalize the natives if you can. You may not succeed. In South Africa, that’s colonialism. So they see the Jews arriving in what’s called Palestine, and that’s the parallel, the only one they understand.
They can’t put their heads around the fact that this is a people returning to their home. That they never gave up title to. They never gave up their longing for. It was repeated in their rituals three times a day, it wasn’t like once a year, let’s remember the homeland.
KRAUTHAMMER: This is sort of part – They’re waiting for redemption, unable to redeem themselves, continual habitation, uninterrupted in the 2,000 years of exile, and what happened was other people moved into parts of the house while they were away.
So the obvious solution is you divide it, and that’s sort of what Zionism has returned to, and it was prepared to do. The Partition Plans that the British had in the 1930s were accepted by the Jews, rejected by the Arab, the Partition Plan, and the founding of Israel by the UN, 1948, the Jews accepted it, the Arabs rejected it.
They launched a war to exterminate the Jews, they failed, this is just the force of arms that allowed Israel to survive. But that’s the story, but because nobody can believe – I mean, every other people exiled in ancient times disappears, we can’t even read the Etruscan language, and Carthage was reduced, sown with salt, you don’t hear any Carthaginians are rising, saying, “You know, I’m a Carthaginian, and I want to do this and that.”
I remember a Palestinian leader saying that he was a Jesubite, these are the people who proceeded the Jews, which is a farce. There are none. The story is in history when you get exiled you disappear, you get absorbed. That’s the story throughout all of human history, including the Ten Tribes of Israel, it’s even the story of the Jews, half of them, the majority of the Jewish state, and there were two states at the time, was exiled in 586, 722 BC, and they disappeared in Assyria, were never seen.
Everybody is always looking for the Ten Tribes, because they assume if the Jews have survived, the Judean of 586, there’s still two, you know when Lewis and Clark were sent West they were sent to Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia so they could learn certain things, and among the things that Rush was supposed to instruct them – this is in Jefferson’s own hand – was the habits and the language of the ancient Israelites, thinking that the Indians could be the Ten Lost Tribes.
So, the point I want to make is nobody can understand. I think a greater miracle than the creation of Israel, which is a state succeeding a previous state 2,000 years later, which has never happened, is the revival of the Hebrew language.
KRISTOL: Yeah, it’s amazing.
KRAUTHAMMER: There’s never been a revival of a dead language. I hate to use the word, but that’s the colloquial, Latin and ancient Greek nobody speaks it. And the idea that you could recreate, I mean Barbara Tuchman, the historian, The Guns of August historian, said Israel, “The Jews are the only people in Israel who live in the same land, worship the same god, and speak the same language as they did 3,000 years ago. Nobody else can say that.”
And that, you know, the Chinese or Japanese you can’t. This is the most amazing phenomena. And that’s why when people want to, you know excoriated for its depredations they have to go to the fundamental point, it’s a return, and that’s what the Jews have been longing for, and they were able, in a miracle to pull it off against tremendous odds.
KRISTOL: And for you, so that was from the beginning, it wasn’t like the ’67 War woke you up or something like that or?
KRAUTHAMMER: No, I mean all of us would put our little coins in the box at school, and once a year we’d get a book, a coloring book, and you’d get little stamps, and the stamp, you’d buy a stamp for a half a dollar or twenty-five cents, it was pre-inflation, and you’d put a stamp in your picture book that was trees, and when all the trees had leaves, the leaves you stuck in with your little stamps, you’d send it off to Israel, they’d plant a tree in your name.
There must be a Krauthammer trees out there, I haven’t seen one of them.
KRISTOL: Yeah, right.
KRAUTHAMMER: It was sort of part of our lives. And from my parents, who had come from Europe, survived the war, they were not in the Holocaust, and the families did rather well, there are very few losses, unlike most families. It’s not driven by Holocaust, it was just, my father was a Zionist before the Second World War.
KRISTOL: Oh that’s interesting.
KRAUTHAMMER: When the Second World War broke out, September 1, 1939 my father was attending a Zionist convention in Geneva. Some people say it’s a compensation for the Holocaust, they know nothing, it began in the 1850s, it was always there, but as a political movement, a revival of Hebrew, a revival of nationalism.
And then going back to the land. It’s at least a hundred years before. So, it was always in my family. My father was a religious Zionist. It was always part of our lives, and it was always considered a wonder, and a blessing to be living in a time, you know there were a hundred generations in-between, where there was a Jewish state.