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‘Are You Meshuga?’: Jewish Survival In A Crazy World (A Column in Two Parts)


Beres-Louis-Rene

Credo quia absurdum. “I believe because it is absurd.”

Here is a brief story to suitably “set our stage.” During World War I, a Jew loses his way along the Austro-Hungarian frontier. Wandering through the woods late at night, he is abruptly stopped in his tracks by the screaming challenge of a nervous border-guard: “Halt, or I’ll shoot.” The Jew blinks uncomfortably into the beam of the searchlight and retorts with obvious annoyance: “What’s the matter with you? Are you meshuga? Can’t you see that this is a flesh-and-blood human being?”

In principle, of course, the Jew’s behavior here is entirely sensible. Yet, in the disturbingly “real” world, it is also plainly crazy. In the best of all possible worlds, perhaps, no human being could ever imagine shooting another, or even making the weapons that are needed to inflict such terrible harms. But this is not yet the best of all possible worlds. And in this distressingly “real” world, we must all still calculate according to what is, and not to what might have been, or what might even someday come to pass.

Complex questions arise. How, then, shall we Jews survive in such a world, both as individuals and as citizens or supporters of the always existentially-imperiled Jewish State? Still wishing, somehow, that the non-Jewish world will finally and fully acknowledge his or her common humanity, the individual Jew has hoped for millennia that a more empathetic pattern of interpersonal interaction would ultimately emerge. Similarly, since 1948, the State of Israel has tried, again and again and again, to impress its relentlessly hostile Arab and Iranian neighbors with the promisingly cosmopolitan vision of a shared humanity. To no avail.

Sadly, anti-Semitism is now feverishly resurgent throughout the real world, and hatred of Israel – of the individual Jew in macrocosm – is altogether virulent, widespread and (considering the spread of various weapons of mass destruction) both ominous and eerily reminiscent.

Now, of course, the principal dangers are spawned by assorted elements of Islam. In Islamic parlance, as dictated by the Shari’a, the world remains divided in two: The World of Islam (dar-al-Islam) and the World of War (dar al-Harb). Within the World of Islam, Muslims rule and the law of Islam prevails. In the World of War, which comprises the rest of the world, constant struggle against the unbeliever is morally, legally and religiously obligatory.

From the standpoint of Israel’s Islamic enemies, no political compromise is ever possible. Absolutely no conclusion to the struggle between “worlds” can be acceptable short of a final and total military victory. Islamic law permits a state of war to be interrupted when an armistice or treaty of limited duration would be expedient. But the state of belligerency can never be terminated permanently by any peace that is not founded upon a final defeat of the always-despised enemy.

Jihad calls upon all those who have accepted Allah’s message and Allah’s word to strive (jahada) to convert or to subjugate those who have resisted conversion. In reference to Israel, this presumably sacred obligation is not bound by limits of either space or time. Indeed, this obligation is mandated to continue until the entire world has embraced Islam, or has at least until it has submitted to the power of Islamic states.

For Islam, the unsubjugated unbeliever – especially the Jew – is by definition, the enemy. A part of the dar al-Harb, the World of War, he is differentiated sharply from the dhimmi, the compliant unbeliever who agrees to submit to Islamic rule. As for a Jewish State, and one that even has the audacity to rule over Muslims while it “occupies” [what Muslims claim as] “Muslim” lands, this is absolutely nothing less than the very incarnation of evil – hence an intolerable source of contamination, and a codified inversion of divine will. Such a state is seen fit only for “liquidation” (significantly, a term that literally remains in widespread use with particular and special regard to Israel).

When Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, spoke together with Hitler on Berlin Radio in 1942, he cried out voluptuously: “Kill the Jews – kill them with your hands, kill them with your teeth – this is well-pleasing to Allah.” Today the grotesque Palestinian call for annihilation of Israel still remains at many websites and publications, and the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) still calls for the “realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, killing them.’”

Copyright © the Jewish Press, April 3, 2009. All rights reserved

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli security matters and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for THE JEWISH PRESS, and was Chair of Project Daniel.

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


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