Reading "The Infidels' is like entering a time machine

Reading this book about what occurred a century ago, one feels that it is all happening now - and tragically, it is.

Rochel Sylvetsky

OpEds Rochel Sylvetsky
Rochel Sylvetsky
]Yonatan Zindel Flash 90

The elections are over, the protesters are becoming a bore since it is obvious that America will withstand those inside its borders who do not accept the way democracy works, so it's time for America's new leadership to take a long, hard look at the enemy from without. There are forces of evil that want to erase democracy from the pages of history altogether - and to quote author Phyllis Chesler's post-election article: "Trump is a rough character. But so are the Taliban, ISIS, Hezbollah, and Hamas—and that is whom we are up against. "

Chesler is right on the mark and so is the oft repeated (and misquoted) saying by George Santayana, that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," a truism generally ignored by those who have the power to prevent that repetition. 

That is, to my mind, the way to approach the book "The Infidels" by Joe David. It is both a book of remembrance and a wake up call, because what it describes is happening again right now.

One excuse for ignoring Santayana is that things do not re-occur in exactly the same fashion as they did in the past and are therefore hard to
Most often, however, history's horrors are repeated because the people in power have their own objectives and simply do not care and never did care enough about history's victims to act to prevent a recurrence of the past. 
recognize as preventable, and that the patterns are long term and hard to discern. Another problem is that megalomaniac leaders throughout history believe they can change the outcomes of situations that resemble those from the past. 

Most often, however, history's horrors are repeated because the people in power have their own objectives and simply do not care and never did care enough about history's victims to act to prevent a recurrence of the past. 

Ordinary people are the ones condemned "to repeat" the tragedies of history. Those in charge are rarely affected, those who initiated them only sometimes get what they deserve.

The powers-that-be's apathy allowed what has happened over the past few years in the Middle East to Yazidis, Christians and other hapless minorities. It is the only way to understand the world's standing by, Obama welcoming Muslim migrants but not rescuing or opening the doors to Yazidis, the Pope's deafening silence, the West's late intervention. Reading the book "The Infidels" by Joe David is like entering a time machine and watching a rerun of today's Middle Eastern news, where only the names have been changed but no innocents are being protected. The story related in the book occurred a hundred years ago, but it is repeating itself today.

Any naïve and liberal humanistic thoughts of the brotherhood of man should disappear after reading this book – a true story, except for details of conversations and some names - of a well-to-do Assyrian Christian family living in a close knit, religious community in the beautiful plain of Urmia at the outbreak of WWI. Bearers of a rich culture and history, their misfortune is their strategic location, which makes them the pawns of Persia, Turkey, Russia and for good measure, the Muslims in the vicinity.

Callous international decisions,  devious, secret plans on every level of power and a host of Machiavellian machinations led up to the unremarked beheadings, torture, rape, plundering and massacre of these innocents, featuring the age-old and popular terrorist sport of throwing up infants to be speared on their murderers' swords. The horrors are familiar and so are the decision makers. It could be a description of ISIS and of today's backstage plots, where innocents are being sold down the river. The Iran Deal comes to mind, as does the international pressure for a two-state "solution" for Israel.

The story takes place in the same area as today's endless war that rages among the tribes making up the artificial nation-states in the Middle East. The behind-the-scenes power play includes that of Russia, a country that wanted ports on the Mediterranean just as it does today (note Russian involvement in Syria and the fight for Latakia), Turkey's dreams of past grandeur (note Erdogan's blustering and his support of terror), the corruption of leaders on every level (fill that one in yourself) who make decisions based on the bribes they receive or anticipate – the Western help that comes too late or doesn't come at all (in this book it is the British) and you have it all.

The eye opener, for my Western eyes at least, is the part played by the Kurds. They are the mass murderers in this book, the wild savages who join the Turks and mercilessly torture and slaughter anything in their path. During WWI they were on the other side, murdering peaceful Assyrians, but today they are fighting ISIS, so we talk sympathetically about giving them a country. While independence for the Kurds may be a feasible plan, it is important to realize how the Kurds themselves are seen here to be no different than all the other barbarians the region has spawned since the beginning of time.

It is the Persian Muslims among whom the Assyrians lived peacefully for years that strike the final blow. As the Kurds yell "Jihad" and "Allahu Akbar" – sound familiar? – the neighbors of the Assyrians rise up after waiting patiently, it seems, to finish off their friends, and join the bloodbath.

The family story taking place within the historical saga is heartbreaking, because Joe David is actually setting down the life story of his own mother, the young girl who is the main character in the book and whose sheltered life is cruelly destroyed. She is left for dead when the escape caravan she is in is attacked, but is miraculously saved by the British. Orphaned, raped and badly injured, she manages to reach the United States – and for the right reasons - quite a different kind of migrant from those we witness today – becomes a patriotic American in heart and soul and raises her courageous, moral voice to fight for freedom and affect US history.

What is magnificent is the fact that this young person who suffers from the repetition of history manages to rise above it to make a difference.

"The Infidels" is a significant, short book, good to read at this time in history – and although sometimes the language is a bit forced and the details somewhat implausible, the book as a whole is interesting and moving.

President elect Trump will soon have to deal with the barbarians who have risen once again in the Middle East –  ISIS, Hamas and all the rest. Hopefully, he has learned the lessons of history and will be a leader who remembers those innocents of every origin whose lives are on the line.