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.
We 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; and Islamic history. Presently, because there is so much historical ignorance amongst us, Arab propagandists and their allies normally 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 the Arab/Islamic students and their supporters, which is usually far stronger. As a beginning, every American Jew and every American Christian Zionist should now be reading The Jewish Press and should be considering such vital Internet sources as Eretz Israel Forever, Unity Coalition For Israel, Gamla, Tzemach and Freeman Center websites.
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.” Here in the American heartland, in Indiana – in my own synagogue – 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; and Jewish plumbers cannot speak openly and courageously for Israel. The argument, “I’m sorry, I just don’t know enough” is simply wrong and inexcusable. If you don’t know enough, make it your business to know more. Now. And if you fear that it will be “bad for business,” be ashamed of yourself – justifiably ashamed of your cowardice 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 some of its state and non-state enemies, its leaders will have to figure out optimal strategies of deterrence, defense, war and preemption. As Chair of Project Daniel, a small advisory group to the prime minister concerned with chemical/biological/nuclear threats to Israel, I can testify directly to the difficulty of the intellectual tasks before us. But don’t think that, if you are not a Ph.D. strategist or a member of the IDF General Staff, you are necessarily incapable of making useful 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. 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). We can assume that if left unchallenged, they will at some point have both genocidal capability and genocidal intent. Keep in mind here that Israel is half the size of Lake Michigan, and that its Jewish population is largely concentrated along a tiny coastal section of the 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 brothers and sisters in Israel. If necessary – and this is critical – we must sometimes 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. Let us recall that this Jewish establishment was largely silent during the Holocaust and that it insisted upon support for Oslo even when it was apparent that Israel’s good intentions would forever be unreciprocated. 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 has written importantly in The Jewish Press of “the eternal flame of Jewish life in Israel.” By working for the redemption of Israel, Rabbi Waldman instructs that we 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 concern for both America and the wider global community. Following Rabbi Waldman’s moving call upon Jewish leaders “to draw their faith from the depths of the Jewish soul,” we must now ALL begin to draw our faith from that very same eternal and inextinguishable source.
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and publishes widely on Israeli security issues. He is Chair of Project Daniel and is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.