We are the rungs of a ladder, we are the links to the future;
This broadens our vision, yet restricts us;
This is a source of pride and a reason for modesty –
May we be worthy of our role. Israel Eldad
We must immediately recognize, and reveal widely, that there is no “cycle of violence” in the Middle East, only intermittent Arab/Islamic terror followed by indispensable Israeli counter-terror. If the Palestinian terrorists were to simply and unconditionally stop their murderous attacks on unprotected civilians, Israelis would never lift another hand against them. It’s that simple.
If, however, the Israelis should ever stop defending themselves prior to such an enemy cessation, the Arab/Islamic enemy would murder every Jew in “Occupied Palestine.” In response to contrived and disingenuous Palestinian arguments that there is some sort of “equivalence” between Arab terror and Israeli counter-terror, we must always recall an essential difference between premeditated murder and required national self-defense. In any domestic society, just because the criminals and the police may both carry guns doesn’t make them the same.
We Jews must learn to read widely beyond the mainstream press, which is often ignorant of facts on the ground, or – worse – is maliciously inclined toward Israel. In this connection, American Jews must really learn history – Jewish history; Israel’s history; Arab history; Islamic history. Presently, because there is so much historical ignorance amongst us, Arab propagandists and their allies typically have an easy time debating the issues. As a professor I see the difference every day between the intellectual preparedness of the Jewish students regarding history, which is generally weak, and that of the Arab/Islamic students and their supporters, which is usually far stronger. As a beginning, to be sure, every American Jew and every American Christian Zionist should now be reading The Jewish Press.
We must all be willing to speak and write in defense of Israel. This is not just the responsibility of the professors. If it were, we would be hearing even more about the evils of Israel’s “occupation” of “Arab land.” By the way, speaking of “occupation,” the Palestine Liberation Organization was formed in 1964, three years before the 1967 War. What then, precisely, was the PLO seeking to liberate during those years?
Here in the American heartland, only a small handful of Jewish souls make an audible sound about Israel’s survival. Nowhere is it written that Jewish doctors; Jewish lawyers; Jewish dentists; Jewish accountants; Jewish merchants; Jewish plumbers cannot speak openly and courageously for Israel. The argument that I hear often from friends and acquaintances – “I’m sorry, I just don’t know enough. I have a business to take care of” – is plainly wrong and inexcusable. If you don’t know enough, study more. Now. And if you fear that it will be “bad for business,” be ashamed of yourself – justifiably ashamed of your cowardice, your lethargy (is golf really than important?) and your thoroughly demeaned Jewish spirit.
We must encourage each other to undertake serious analytic examinations of the issues, and to exercise imaginative thinking for solutions. To a significant extent, the survival problems faced by Israel have an important intellectual dimension. For example, how to achieve any sort of reconciliation with the Palestinians must draw upon difficult conceptual explorations of both culture and trust. Similarly, as Israel will soon face expanding weapons of mass destruction among both its state and non-state enemies, leaders in Jerusalem will have to figure out optimal strategies of deterrence, defense, war fighting and preemption. As Chair of Project Daniel, a small advisory group to former Prime Minister Sharon that was concerned with chemical/biological/nuclear threats to Israel, I can testify directly to the great difficulty of the intellectual tasks before us. At the same time, don’t think that just because you’re not a Ph.D. strategist or a member of the IDF General Staff, you are necessarily incapable of offering productive observations.
We must recognize that Israel now faces, and has always faced, a genuine genocide from its many enemies. It is true, thankfully, that we Jews now have a state to prevent a repeat Holocaust. But it is also true and intolerably ironic that war can now become the instrument of another Jewish genocide. In a very real and palpable geopolitical sense, the creation of Israel – by concentrating such a large percentage of the world’s Jews in such a tiny area – has made such an unspeakable scenario more plausible.
It is now possible to bring gas to the people; it is no longer necessary to bring people to the gas. Moreover, the Arab/Islamic side has never been subtle about its plans to “liquidate” the Jews (the term they have favored since 1948), and we can assume that if left unchallenged, they will at some point have both genocidal capability and genocidal intent. Keep in mind that Israel is half the size of Lake Michigan, and that its Jewish population is largely concentrated along a tiny coastal section of a microscopic country. Keep in mind, also, that Islamic clerics in mosques throughout the world insist in their weekly sermons that Allah has concentrated the Jews in Israel precisely to make possible their next annihilation.
Finally, we must always recall that memory is the heart of redemption, and that we are obligated, strongly obligated, never to forget, to honor the souls of the six million, of the Kedoshim. To do this we must never separate ourselves from the fate of our fellow Jews in Israel. If necessary, and this is critical, we must sometimes actively oppose the “Jewish Establishment” in the United States. Oftentimes, this Establishment seems more concerned with exhibiting its own power and prestige than with its true mission. Certainly there is not much for us to be proud of in this regard during the Holocaust.
The Jewish establishment was largely silent during the Holocaust, and it stubbornly insisted upon support for Oslo from day one, even when it was apparent that Israel’s good intentions would forever be unreciprocated. (Better to assure a seat at the next Israel banquet in New York, preferably close to the visiting prime minister, than to imperil such an advantageous social opportunity by speaking out.) Nor should we ever assume that Jewish candidates for public office are necessarily good for the Jews or good for Israel or even that they are necessarily honorable or capable in general.
Rabbi Eliezer Waldman once wrote movingly in The Jewish Press of “the eternal flame of Jewish life in Israel.” By working for the redemption of Israel, Rabbi Waldman instructed, we also work to bring a blessing to all the peoples of the world. It follows that we Jews in this country ought never to see a contradiction between our struggle for Jewish survival in the land of Israel, and our deep concern for America and the wider global community. Moreover, like Buddhists, we Jews understand the ultimate Oneness and inter-dependence of all things (the Talmud instructs that “the dust from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the earth”), and we recognize, incontestably, that our ultimate obligations to Jewish continuity are inextricable from our similarly sacred obligations to the larger human community.
Saving the Jewish State and saving the world are One and the same.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and publishes widely on Israeli security issues. He was Chair of Project Daniel, and is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.