When it comes to genocides, Jews aren’t unique. What made them special is the cultural history of self-expression. Many of the relatively recent genocides in places like Africa have gone by with only a slight interest from the rest of the world, as neither Burundi nor Ethiopia nor Nigeria have a literary tradition of notice. Jews, being spread all over the world and fluent in local languages, also had surviving relatives and friends able to expose the plight of their people. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, the shining example of the Israeli success despite the odds underlined the advantages to armed resistance to evil.
Unfortunately, the socialist origins of Israel meant that only collective resistance to evil has been fostered. Israeli government treats its own citizens as unworthy of trust unless controlled by the state military and police agencies. American Jews, heirs to a more individualist tradition, are better positioned to provide for their own defense. Some of the take advantage of this opportunity, while others prefer the comforting but disabling opium of left-wing promises of safety through surrender to the state.
Jews as a culture have been traditionally quite good at educating each other and at influencing those who sympathize them. With every new person convinced of the need for self-reliance — defensive as well as economic — the collectivist foes lose a minion and we gain an ally. The mainstream Jewish culture has the terrific advantage of being welcoming to outsiders: it’s tenets do not require strife against any kind of alien or infidel, and so make it competitive through cooperation. The offer of training extended to a person serves simultaneously as a compliment (“we consider you sane”), a show of trust (“we expect you to remain friendly”) and as a peace offering (“this training will put you on par with us, and wouldn’t have been offered had we planned to mistreat you.”) These effects apply across such divides as culture, gender, religion and even party affiliation.
All of these consideration apply to other distinct cultures. Defined in enough detail, every one of us can be considered a minority. Those who make political careers of building lynch mobs are quite good at dividing to rule. Our job is to out-argue them while being so well armed and trained as to make the prospect of a stand-up fight to burn us out unattractive. And, given the post-war hunt for Nazi criminals, Jews in particular have a proven track record of avenging injustices.
Given the varied interests of the stereotypical Jewish youngsters, technological solutions to physical threats are preferred. It takes less time and keep-up practice to stay proficient with a Tavor rifle than to maintain combat proficiency in unarmed martial arts. The Bielski guerrilla band of WW2 Belorus illustrated quite well the survival advantage conferred by firearms on even a slightly trained group of civilians. And the occasional range trip or a weekend rifle class doesn’t take all available time away from competing academic and cultural pursuits or family obligations.
The first President of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, was a chemist with a major contribution to the British mass production of Cordite gunpowder during WW1. If the pursuit of such a martial goal was good enough for him, perhaps we can bestir ourselves to pursue a more modest task of providing for defense of self and family.