(Editor’s Note: The following is adapted from Mr. Murdoch’s remarks upon receiving the American Jewish Committee’s National Human Relations Award on March 4 in New York.)
Over the years, some of my wildest critics seem to have assumed I am Jewish. At the same time, some of my closest friends wish I were.
So let me set the record straight: I live in New York. I have a wife who craves Chinese food. And people I trust tell me I practically invented the word “chutzpah.”
In the century since its founding, the American Jewish Committee has become one of the world’s most influential organizations. Yet though its concerns begin with the safety and welfare of Jews, these concerns are anything but parochial.
The reason for this is clear: it knows the best guarantee of the security of Jews anywhere is the freedom of people everywhere. Its good work has helped bring real and lasting changes to our world. Unfortunately, while some threats have been defeated, new ones have taken their place.
In Europe, men and woman who bear the tattoos of concentration camps today look out on a continent where Jewish lives and Jewish property are under attack – and public debate is poisoned by an anti-Semitism we thought had been dispatched to history’s dustbin.
In Iran, we see a regime that backs Hizbullah and Hamas now on course to acquire a nuclear weapon.
In India, we see Islamic terrorists single out the Mumbai Jewish Center in a well-planned and well-coordinated attack that looks like it could be a test run for similar attacks in similar cities around the world.
Most fundamentally, we see a growing assault on both the legitimacy and security of the State of Israel.
This assault comes from people who make it clear they have no intention of ever living side-by-side in peace with a Jewish state – no matter how many concessions Israel might make. The reason for this is also clear: These are men who cannot abide the idea of freedom, tolerance, and democracy. They hate Israel for the same reasons they hate us.
The current flashpoint is Gaza. For months now, Hamas has been raining down rockets on Israeli civilians. Like all terrorist attacks, the aim is to spread fear within free societies, and to paralyze its leaders. This Israel cannot afford. No sovereign nation can sit by while its civilian population is attacked.
Hamas knows this better than we do. And Hamas understands something else as well: In the 21st century, when democratic states respond to terrorist attacks, they face two terrible handicaps.
The first handicap is military. It’s true that Israel’s conventional superiority means it could flatten Gaza if it wanted. But the Israel Defense Forces – unlike Hamas – are accountable to a democratically chosen government.
No matter which party is in the majority, every Israeli government knows it will be held accountable by its people and by the world for the lives that are lost because of its decisions. That’s true for lives of innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire. And it’s also true for the Israeli soldiers who may lose their lives defending their people.
In this kind of war, Hamas does not need to defeat Israel militarily to win a big victory. In fact, Hamas knows that in some ways, dead Palestinians serve their purposes even better than dead Israelis.
In the West we look at this and say, “It makes no sense.” But it does make sense.
If you are committed to Israel’s destruction, and if you believe that dead Palestinians help you score a propaganda victory, you do things like launch rockets from a Palestinian schoolyard. This ensures that when the Israelis do respond, it will likely lead to the death of an innocent Palestinian – no matter how many precautions Israeli soldiers take.
Hamas gets away with this, moreover, because they do not rule Gaza by the consent of those they claim to represent. They rule by fear and intimidation. They are accountable to no one but themselves.
This is the chilling logic of Gaza. And it helps explain why even a strong military power like Israel can find itself at a disadvantage on the ground.