Printed: 2019-08-23

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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Anne Frank, Risk Assessment, and Israel’s Foreign Policy

Hank Pellissier

Ethical Technology

April 02, 2012

“Daddy, why did the bad guys kill Anne Frank?” asks my eight-year-old daughter. I hesitate, then I tell her about Nazis and the Holocaust: Kristallnacht, the trains, the camps, head-shaving, tattooing, starvation, disease, digging one’s own grave, the gassings, the ovens. “Daddy,” she asks when my gruesome chronology is complete, “will it happen again?”

“Never Again,” would be an optimistic response, an answer that’s the motto of the Jewish Defense League.  “Never Again,” would assert that Jews are now eternally safe, especially in the homeland of Israel.

“I don’t know,” I tell my daughter. “It’s complicated.”

“Why, Daddy, why?”

My daughter, like me, is mesmerized by historical narratives of abhorrent evil; she’s fascinated by the psychosis of slaughter. She already knows Genghis Khan murdered 40 million and stacked their skulls in pyramids; she knows 20-40 million Africans were ripped from their homes, one-third dying in the Middle Passage, crammed sadistically into slave ships. Her curiosity is insatiable for stories of cruelty, especially injustice against girls: orphans, small sweatshop workers, the current “witch children” of Nigeria.

Anne Frank tops this list. My daughter’s obsessed with the Jewess who hid in the Amsterdam attic. She identifies with Anne’s affection for books and cinema, she admires the dark, curly hair shorn off in Bergen-Belsen; she’s astounded that the precious life was brutalized into extinction.

Later that night, we drive to the local Jewish Community Center, where her big sister is performing in a talent show. A burly security guard examines our Subaru for suspicious objects, before we’re allowed into the underground garage. “Why did he do that?” My daughter pesters me. When I mutter that he might be looking for bombs, she explodes, “Why? Do some people still want to kill Jews?”

The next morning, she wants to watch - on NetFlix - the 1959 film, “Diary of Anne Frank.” My wife forbids this because a rating system says its disturbing for children under 14. “Of course it’s disturbing!” shrieks my stymied child. “It’s supposed to be disturbing!  It’ll give me… nightmares? SO WHAT?! ” She throws a lengthy tantrum until I promise her, secretly, that we’ll watch it together as soon as her Mother leaves for an out-of-town conference.

We talk about Israel then, and Iran. I pull out an atlas and show her the tiny ancestral homeland of Anne Frank, dwarfed by unfriendly neighbors. Israel is minuscule, like Anne Frank in a cramped attic in a big city monitored by omnipotent Nazis. Or is it? Israel, today, is armed to the teeth. My metaphor is only accurate if Anne Frank has Uzis, 450 fighter aircraft, 209 helicopters, and 75-400 nuclear warheads.

Is Israel actually safe? A recent IEET article by piero scaruffi is entitled, “Israel Will Strike Iran Before November.” In the opening sentence the author insists, “First of all, I do not believe for a second that Iran ever had any intention of destroying Israel.” Not.. for a second…? IMO, scaruffi’s over-confidence in his predictive abilities is dangerous and useless. Why? Jewish history, and the mind-set that’s evolved from the tragedies, supplies my answer.

Futurists, when positing forecasts, are expected to provide several potential scenarios, ranging from what seems to be the most obvious, to “outlier” possibilities, that include “best-case” and “worst-case.” Optimistic nationalities, like the USA populace, might regard pessimistic fears as paranoiac. Americans - viewed en toto - have received only minor injuries since the Civil War. USA casualties in the two world wars (less than 1 million) are piddling compared to the behemoth suffering of the Soviet Union (26.0 million fatalities in WW2, 6.65 million in WW1). Other nations have also absorbed ghastly punishment (Germany: 14 million, China: 20 million).

All numbers pale proportionately though, compared to the Jews. Approximately 6 million were gassed, shot, starved and sickened unto death, the majority at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Treblinka and other factories of the Final Solution. The chance of being a surviving European Jew was only 33%; Polish Jew survival odds decreased to 10%; German Jews a microscopic 2%.

The Holocaust was a worst-of-the-worst case scenario - or was it? Truth is, it was preceded by 2,500 years of pogroms, exiles, massacres, diasporas, military defeats, ghettos, and routine humiliations. “Worst case scenarios” occur with such consistent regularity in Jewish history that they deserve, perhaps, reclassification as “probabilities.”

Moving into the present era, we witness the leadership of Iran threatening Israel with vows to: “eliminate this disgraceful stain,” “the stinking corpse of the usurping and fake Israeli regime,” “this germ of corruption will be wiped off,” “like a cancer cell that spreads… [Israel]must be removed from the body.” Many observers laugh off these genocidal howls as mere “posturing,” but is their dismissal just an optimist’s desire for positive scenarios? Remember Neville Chamberlain. His optimism was an ostrich-head-in-the-sand aversion to evil’s potentiality.

Perhaps that’s why the foreign policy of Israel seems compelled to elevate “worst-case scenarios” into the categories of “distinct possibility” or “probable likelihood.” Scaruffi’s opinion that Iran never “had any intention of destroying Israel” isn’t convincing to concentration camp survivors because they’ve already endured unforeseen attacks on their existence, with the most ruthless machinery.

Anne Frank was a smart little girl, living in one of the world’s most tolerant cities, with well-connected parents. Her future? Hiding, hunted, transported, weakened, emaciated, slain by epidemic typhus at 15.

Scaruffi’s prediction could be Chamberlain-esque in it’s naivete. No one knows the future. History has dealt surprising calamities to the people of Israel, and it’s logical they’d be alarmed by a nuclear Iran. Would Iran seek to annihilate Israel? Scaruffi says no. But in Israel there are numbers tattooed on forearms that remind us… the most horrible scenarios are possible.



Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.


Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
IEET, 35 Harbor Point Blvd, #404, Boston, MA 02125-3242 USA
phone: 860-428-1837