Recently in Jerusalem, I participated in a moving religious service to honor one of Israel’s most celebrated heroes from last summer’s war against the Hizbullah terrorists.
Lieutenant Eli Kahn, 23, led a unit of elite paratrooper commandos advancing against heavily defended Hizbullah positions in the Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ras in the early days of the fighting. The Israelis, hoping to knock out Katyusha rockets that had already taken a bloody toll on civilian targets, drew unexpectedly intense fire from the enemy and sustained heavy casualties.
While tending to one of his wounded paratroopers, Lt. Kahn saw a terrorist run toward them and throw a grenade that landed at their feet. Rather than jumping out of the way and abandoning his comrade to certain death, Lt. Kahn immediately picked up the grenade and threw it directly back at the Hizbullah fighter, killing the terrorist and turning the tide of battle. For his leadership and quick thinking, he received the Medal of Valor – Israel’s equivalent of America’s Medal of Honor.
The young hero’s father, Howie Kahn, remembered that his boy played Little League before the family immigrated to Israel from the United States and suggested that his skills as a slick-fielding shortstop paid off with that one fateful and well-aimed toss on the field of battle.
Hearing the story of Eli Kahn, most Americans would feel gratified and inspired but the service I attended at the lieutenant’s Orthodox synagogue nonetheless serves to highlight the deeper, unspoken reasons that Israel provokes such visceral hostility from the international Left.
The Middle East’s only democracy has recently enjoyed spectacular economic progress and unprecedented success in blocking and deterring terror attacks from its many Islamo-Nazi adversaries. Why, then, the increasingly shrill demands from politically correct activists throughout Western Europe and from college campuses in the United States for boycotts, UN condemnation, sanctions and diplomatic isolation aimed at punishing the Jewish state?
Why does the death of a few dozen Palestinians (mostly gunmen or racketeers from Hamas and Islamic Jihad) provoke more international indignation than the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Darfur, or the butchery of additional thousands by Muslim terrorists in Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Algeria, Yemen, the Philippines and even Thailand?
The common explanations for singling out Israel for international denunciation make no sense when placed in any reasonably well-informed historical context.
For instance, leftist critics like to suggest that Israel deserves the world’s hostility because of its long-term “occupation” of lands captured in defensive wars. But the Jewish state has already withdrawn from the overwhelming majority of the disputed territory it ever controlled, hoping to demonstrate its eagerness to trade land for peace – abandoning the vast area of the Sinai Peninsula in 1979, its South Lebanon “Security Zone” in 2000, and all the Gaza Strip in 2005. Moreover, in the remaining zone of “occupation” in the West Bank, the results of Israeli rule can hardly count as brutal: according to UN figures, by all measures of economic prosperity, public health, and standards of living before the Second Intifada broke out in the Fall of 2000, West Bankers did better than their fellow Arabs in neighboring countries like Syria, Egypt and Jordan.
The historical record makes clear that Arab fury against Jews in the Middle East bears no connection to any occupation policy or to the plight of refugees, since this murderous rage claimed countless victims long before Israel occupied a single square inch or territory and before a single Palestinian had fled his home.
A brief history of the early conflict (published by the indispensable Israel Pocket Library) offers a necessary reminder of Palestinian terrorism as long ago as 1929. In that year, the bitterly anti-Semitic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (who later traveled to Berlin and spent most of the war years at Hitler’s side) claimed that the largely unarmed and loosely organized Jewish community harbored secret “designs” on Muslim holy places, and launched bloody attacks on the Jews of Jerusalem.
As the grim story unfolded,
The violence spread to other parts of the country. On Sabbath, August 24, the Arabs of Hebron fell upon the small, defenseless Jewish community in the town and slaughtered some 70 men and women. Old people and infants were butchered; the survivors, numbering several hundred, being evacuated to Jerusalem.