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November 1, 2014 / 8 Heshvan, 5775
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Self-Respect: the Antidote to Foreign Pressure

Blaming foreigners, however hostile they may be, yields only further self-delusion and suffering.
Rabbi David Bar-Hayim

Rabbi David Bar-Hayim

Sovereign peoples act accordingly, but, “When you have no self-respect, you cannot expect anybody else will respect you,” as Rabbi David Bar-Hayim of Machon Shilo noted last year concerning Operation Pillar of Defense.

Why did Israel agree to a cease-fire with Hamas in November? Why did it surrender Joseph’s Tomb in 2000 and destroy Gush Katif in 2005? In present day, why has Israel granted terrorist Samer Issawi early release following a hunger strike?

A common response from supporters of Israel is that these decisions result from pressure by the American government. In response to the Palestinian Authority’s current demand for 120 terrorists to be freed, MK Orit Struck (HaBayit HaYehudi) has made a similar claim.

The assertion of American pressure in these contexts is simultaneously valid, irrelevant, and pernicious. Of course different American governments have pressured Israel—all too successfully—to make decisions that endanger citizens’ lives and betray Judaic duties.

But why has American pressure succeeded? To borrow from the national anthem, it is because Israel does not conduct itself as an am chofshi b’artzenu (free people in our Land). Rabbi Bar-Hayim has described the preoccupation with American pressure as “a remnant of the galut [exile]” and elaborates as follows:

The extent to which the Americans can really influence our actions is in my view almost entirely dependent on ourselves. If we give them the reason to believe…that we can be pressured into doing something, they’ll of course do as they wish to do. If we, however, conduct ourselves in such a way by which we make clear to all and sundry that we’re not about to listen to what anyone has to say about what we should do—but rather we’re going to do what we think we should do—I believe in a very short space of time most of these pressures would cease to exist. (See 1:18:10 here.)

Focus on American pressure is pernicious because it evades from holding Israeli leadership accountable for its failure to protect citizens. This often turns into rationalization by way of “explanation”—the “Bibi’s hands were tied by Obama” sort of mentality. The evasive focus on America then perpetuates a state of affairs where Israelis suffer anxiety about mundane activities like children walking to school and driving in fear of lethal rock attacks.

When Israel decides to be a sovereign country in substance and not just name, these disgusting realities will change. Blaming foreigners, however hostile they may be, yields only further self-delusion and suffering.

About the Author: Menachem Ben-Mordechai has written for numerous publications on subjects ranging from Israel and Latin America to the sport of powerlifting and life insurance. He has also coached elite powerlifters as well as beginners. Menachem's other writing can be found under the name Myles Kantor.


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12 Responses to “Self-Respect: the Antidote to Foreign Pressure”

  1. Brian Kent says:

    Excellent article and I believe in what the author is saying.I am also disgusted that Israel gives in but I am angry that America feels it has the right to put innocent people in danger.

  2. Saruk Eshel says:

    Kol Hakavod! I agree totally! The idea is that we need to make America see us as an ally, NOT a vasal state! What we do should be our own choice, and only in those areas that we work along side America, should the idea of compromise be entertained!

  3. I agree Brian! We definately need to reestablish our entity and independence from the world and replace it with dependence on HaShem through our Sages, both current and past! Rov Bar Hayim is definately such a leader.

  4. Self respect yes. Standing in the everyone´s way no.

  5. Saruk Eshel says:

    Ariel, would you care to elaborate? I do not understand what you are trying to convey here…

  6. Matthew Sparks says:

    israel today is not the israel of 30 years ago. israel is strong enough to fight its own battles, without the helpsupport of a rapidly weakening u.s.a. foreign pressure is really $$$$. 10% is skimmed off the top for the top politicians and deposited in swiss bank accounts.thus is why the israeli government cooperates with the likes of obama. it is usually called bribery!!!!!!!

  7. Chava Yocheved Burnham says:

    I don't disagree, but if we lose America's friendship the UN will e sanctioning us left and right. We can't ignore that fact. The US vetoes every sanction against us.

  8. Chava Yocheved Burnham says:

    I don't disagree, but if we lose America's friendship the UN will e sanctioning us left and right. We can't ignore that fact. The US vetoes every sanction against us.

  9. Zvi Zimri says:

    Ariel, please don't weisel out on us… I too wish to hear what you meant. Are you implying that a refusal to give in to foreign pressures is tantamount to occupying Arab land?

  10. Zvi Zimri says:

    R. bar-Hayim is OK as far as Orthos go, but I disapprove of a Rabbinically run Halakha state.

  11. Zvi Zimri says:

    We've got to begin somewhere… self reliance and respect need not be rude. We need to do it smart.

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