Senator Barak Obama has displayed basic intelligence and understanding on many complex policy issues, and his “debate promises” in support of Israel were forthright and plausibly meaningful. At the same time, his particular references to a “cycle of violence” in the Middle East are wrong and troubling. Surely, the Senator must recognize that there can never be any proper equivalence between the expressly criminal violence of terrorism and the manifestly law-enforcing resort to counter-terrorism.
For whatever reason, Mr. Obama still seems to accept an erroneous symmetry between Arab terrorism and Israeli counter-terrorism. His recorded references to a cycle of violence belie his otherwise fair public approach to Israel. They also have the effect of eroding core, pertinent differences between crime and punishment, between murder and self-defense.
Senator Obama should now speak plainly on this issue. There is no cycle of violence in the unrestrained Palestinian war against Israeli civilians. All Palestinian terror groups (Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad – there is no real difference) argue openly that their shootings and bombings of noncombatants are in “retaliation” for Israel’s “occupation,” or – sometimes more narrowly − for Israel’s assassinations of certain terrorist leaders. Such a twisted argument stipulates that: 1. a constituted democratic state and an outlawed terrorist gang are of precisely equivalent legal stature; and 2. terrorist leaders and defenseless civilians are equally permissible targets.
Senator Obama should quickly make manifest that he does not support such an argument. From the always-relevant standpoints of law and justice, there are palpably vital differences between fiendish criminality and essential law-enforcement.
There is no more egregious form of harm than the premeditated murder of children studying in a religious school. Under any and all authoritative standards of international law and morality, there is no cause − no matter how purportedly just − that can ever justify such killing. Never. Ever.
An assertion doesn’t become true merely because it is repeated again and again. Even if the incessant Palestinian refrain of an Israeli “occupation” were not concocted, and even if the patently manufactured claims of “stolen Palestinian land” made any historical or legal sense, there still could never be any justification for the deliberate extermination of Jewish children.
The so-called “suicide bombers” who pack their explosives with nails, screws and razor blades dipped in rat poison are not militants, Senator Obama. They are not engaged in a cycle of violence. They are not revolutionaries. They are murderers.
Terror groups have no right to “retaliate” under international law − no more so than does any individual criminal have such a right against constituted police authorities in domestic law. These terror groups are illegal organizations that recognize no proper boundaries in the use of force. This fact should be appreciated and acknowledged by each candidate for the presidency. For a candidate from the city of Chicago, Senator Obama ought not to forget that Israel is a country so small, that it could fit twice into Lake Michigan.
Let all candidates now call things by their correct names. Following both U.S. and European endorsements of a Palestinian state, we have witnessed no Arab/Islamic movement toward peace with Israel. Instead, we observe an evident escalation of threats to the Jewish State.
Recently there have been explicit Arab threats to unleash biological terrorism upon Israeli civilians. According to the Lebanon-based Palestinian weekly, Al-Manar, in an article titled: “Will We Reach the Option of Biological Deterrence?” Palestinian terrorists plan to deploy “death-carrying devices near Israeli water resources; the Israeli beaches the markets and the residential centers” The plain objective for the Arabs, says the article (translated by the highly reputable Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI) is “…to create a balance of horror in the equation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
A “balance of horror” is the natural derivative of a “cycle of violence.” As my readers in The Jewish Press are well aware, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is only superficially about land. Much more profoundly, it is about G-d, and about Arab unwillingness to allow a Jewish State, any Jewish State, in “the world of Islam.” Under no circumstances are Palestinian decision-makers willing to allow Jewish sovereignty over Muslims. For Fatah, for Hamas, for Islamic Jihad – for even the most “moderate” Palestinians − the entire State of Israel, not just the “occupied territories,” is a “cancer.” It must therefore be excised.
What is Israel to do? There is no cycle of violence in the region, only a continuous and faith-driven murder of Israelis on their own land. Left unchallenged by correct naming, this Jihad or Holy War against Israel will also leave America unprepared for attacks by waves upon waves of suicide bombers. Such attacks are already being prepared, and are very likely to involve chemical, biological or even nuclear materials. For the sake of our own safety, it is essential that we ground our foreign policies in an accurate understanding of allies and enemies, and that we correspondingly reject any notion that there is a cycle of violence in the Middle East.
Senator Obama, please take note.
Copyright © The Jewish Press, May 9, 2008.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and publishes widely on terrorism and international law. He is author of many of the earliest major books dealing with nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, and also with Israel’s nuclear strategy. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs correspondent for The Jewish Press.