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August 29, 2015 / 14 Elul, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Saddam Hussein’

Learning From The Past: Some Current Implications Of An Earlier Indifference To Israel’s Basic Rights Under International Law

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

At a moment when Israel is under new daily assaults from the international community, especially from the Palestinian Authority and its oddly eager mentors at the United Nations, it is worth noting that there is a discernible and continuous pattern here of legal double-standards. No matter how often Israel is victimized by instances of Palestinian terrorism, Jerusalem’s most basic rights under international law are flagrantly disregarded. Although core documents in jurisprudence refer hopefully and optimistically to “general principles of law recognized by civilized nations,” the actual orientation of states toward Israel has generally been to punish the innocent victims, and reward the terrorist.

As a suitable reference point, let us consider the trial and subsequent punishment of Saddam Hussein. U.S. forces had captured the Iraqi dictator on December 13, 2003. Significantly, Saddam’s many egregious crimes had included the Jewish state and its citizens as victims. Still, Israel was never given any voice in the specially created judicial forum. Rather, all prosecutorial authority over Saddam was quickly vested in an ad hoc institution from which Israel had been totally excluded.

This official trial venue was called the Iraqi Special Tribunal.  It began its formal proceedings on October 19, 2005. Saddam Hussein was subsequently executed by hanging on December 30, 2006.

Clearly missing from Saddam’s criminal prosecution were any specific counts for Iraq’s multiple 1991 aggressions against Israel. The Jewish state, however, did have a “peremptory” legal right to participate in the Iraqi Special Tribunal, and its deliberate exclusion from the proceedings plainly violated one of the world’s most elementary jurisdictional principles of justice.

Nullum crimen sine poena;No crime without a punishment.” Stemming from at least three separate passages of the Torah (in their sequence of probable antiquity, they are Exod. 21:22-25; Deut. 19: 19-21; and Lev. 24: 17-21), the Lex Talionis or “law of exact retaliation” was integral to the precedent-setting Nuremberg Trial after World War II. Indeed, in 1946, when the Special Military Tribunal justified its sentencing on arguments for retributive justice, it strongly reaffirmed this binding principle. In its precise words: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore, and liable to punishment.”

When facing the Iraqi Special Tribunal, Saddam was charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not with aggression against Israel. Yet aggression is fully codified in several sources as a very serious crime, and must never be accepted “without a punishment.” Whatever the practical arguments had been for excluding Israel, there could never be any proper legal justification for having ignored Iraq’s Gulf War missile attacks upon Israeli cities.

On Friday, January 18, 1991, Saddam Hussein’s government launched eight Scuds directly at civilian targets in Tel Aviv. This attack was followed for more than a month by thirty-one additional missiles fired at Israeli noncombatants. Baghdad’s last missile attack against Israel took place on February 25, 1991. In compliance with U.S. and allied expectations, Israel never fired back.

Iraq’s thirty-nine Scuds managed to kill only one Israeli directly. Twelve additional deaths resulted indirectly from missile attacks. Nearly two hundred persons were injured. Also, 4393 buildings were damaged: 3991 apartments and residential buildings; 331 public institutions; 17 educational institutions; and 54 businesses. It could have been much worse. But the particular tactical failures of Saddam’s primitive missiles do not provide an exculpatory argument for Saddam under international law.

Although Saddam Hussein’s personal responsibility for aggression here must be limited to the 1991 attacks, Iraq already had a long history of unpunished crimes against Israel. Baghdad had sent expeditionary forces against the tiny Jewish state during the 1948 War of Independence, the Six Day War (1967), and the Yom Kippur War (1973). During the 1948 war, Iraqi forces entered Transjordan and engaged Israeli forces in Western Samaria. In the aftermath of the 1967 war, Iraqi forces remained deployed in Jordan for several years. During the 1973 war, Iraq committed about one-third of its then 95,000-man armed forces to assist Syria in its determined campaign of violence against Israel on the Golan Heights.

Looking Back At The Trial Of Saddam Hussein: Implications Of Indifference To Israel’s Earlier Rights Under International Law

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

At a moment when Israel is under new jurisprudential assaults from those world leaders who would pay no attention to pertinent international law (most conspicuously, President Obama’s commitment to a still one-sided “Road Map”), it may be a good time to recall previous episodes of more-or-less similar disregard. One such episode was the trial and subsequent punishment of Saddam Hussein, who had been captured by U.S. forces on December 13, 2003. Although Saddam’s multiple egregious crimes had prominently included the Jewish State and its citizens as victims, Israel was never given any voice in the specially created judicial forum. Rather, all prosecutorial authority over the captured Iraqi dictator was placed in an ad hoc institution from which Israel had been carefully (for geopolitical reasons) excluded. This was called the Iraqi Special Tribunal, which began its formal proceedings on October 19, 2005. Saddam was executed by hanging on December 30, 2006.

Clearly missing from Saddam’s criminal prosecution were any counts for Iraq’s multiple 1991 aggressions against Israel. The Jewish State, however, did have a distinct legal right to participate in the Iraqi Special Tribunal, and its deliberate exclusion from the proceedings did violate one of the world’s most elementary principles of justice. Consider the following:

Nullum crimen sine poena – No crime without a punishment. Stemming from at least three separate passages of the Torah (in their sequence of probable antiquity, they are Exodus 21:22-25; Deuteronomy 19: 19-21; and Leviticus 24: 17-21), the Lex Talionis or “law of exact retaliation” was integral to the precedent-setting Nuremberg Trial after World War II. Indeed, in 1946, when the Special Military Tribunal justified its sentencing on arguments for retributive justice, it strongly reaffirmed this binding principle. In its precise words: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.”

When facing the Iraqi Special Tribunal, Saddam was charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not with aggression against Israel. Yet, aggression is fully codified in several sources as a very serious crime, and must never be accepted “without a punishment.” Whatever the “practical” arguments had been for excluding Israel, there could never be any proper legal justification for having ignored Iraq’s Gulf War missile attacks upon Israeli cities. Never.

On Friday, January 18, 1991, Saddam Hussein’s government launched eight Scuds directly at civilian targets in Tel-Aviv. This attack was followed for more than a month by 31 additional missiles fired at Israeli noncombatants. Baghdad’s last missile attack against Israel took place on February 25, 1991. In compliance with US and allied expectations, Israel never fired back.

Iraq’s 39 Scuds managed to kill only one Israeli directly. Twelve additional deaths resulted indirectly from missile attacks. Nearly 200 persons were injured. Also, 4,393 buildings were damaged: 3,991 apartments and residential buildings; 331 public institutions; 17 educational institutions; and 54 businesses. To be sure, it could have been much worse. But the particular tactical failures of Saddam’s primitive missiles do not provide an exculpatory argument for Saddam under international law.

Although Saddam Hussein’s personal responsibility for aggression here must be limited to the 1991 attacks, Iraq already had a long history of unpunished crimes against Israel. Baghdad had sent expeditionary forces against the tiny Jewish State during the 1948 War of Independence, the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973). During the 1948 war, Iraqi forces entered Transjordan and engaged Israeli forces in Western Samaria. In the aftermath of the 1967 war, Iraqi forces, deployed in Jordan, remained there for several years. During the 1973 war, Iraq committed about one-third of its then 95,000 man armed forces to assist Syria in its determined campaign of violence against Israel on the Golan Heights.

Every state has an inherent right of self-defense. Participating in the prosecution of Saddam Hussein for prior aggression against Israel would have been an authoritative expression of this right. According to Emmerich de Vattel’s classic 1758 text on The Law Of Nations, “The right to punish injustice is derived from the right of self-protection.” Moreover, the right of self-defense in international law is drawn from Natural Law or Higher Law, and can therefore never be subordinated to particular international agreements or even to pragmatic considerations of geopolitics.

Not only did Israel have an incontestable right to join in the trial of Saddam Hussein, but there had also been a corresponding obligation of all other states to ensure such participation. As Blackstone observed in his famous Commentaries, which – significantly – actually formed the early law of these United States, international law exists to provide a code “for the eternal and immutable laws of good and evil.” Each state is therefore bound “to aid and enforce the law of nations, as part of the common law, by inflicting an adequate punishment upon offenses against the universal law….”

Natural Law, which is the core basis of international law, stems from the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) and the Covenant Code of Israel. Natural Law is expressed not only in the Declaration of Independence but also in the Bill of Rights. The Ninth Amendment, in stipulating that “the enumeration of certain rights in this Constitution shall not prejudice other rights not so enumerated,” reflects belief in a Higher Law superior to the will of all human governance.

According to correct legal procedure, Israel certainly ought to have been permitted to prepare a formal criminal complaint against Saddam Hussein, and then to file the relevant documents with the Iraqi Special Tribunal. Jerusalem’s next step should have been in the United Nations. There, in the General Assembly, Israel could have called upon that body to promptly request an Advisory Opinion on Israeli charges from the International Court of Justice.

An Advisory Opinion in the matter of Israel and Saddam Hussein could also have been requested by the United States in the Security Council. The American obligation to render such assistance to Israel would have derived not only from the Constitutional incorporation of international law into United States law (see especially Article 6 of the US Constitution), but also from the Natural Law foundations of US law. Any US initiative to punish Saddam Hussein’s crime of aggression against Israel would have represented essential support for both international law and for America’s most sacred principles of justice.

At a time when Israel’s basic rights under international law are again being expressly disregarded, it is sobering to recall that Jerusalem has been down this path before. This time, however, the consequences of legal indifference could be far more serious. This time, especially if U.S. President Obama has his way with a Jewish settlement freeze, disregard for Israel’s particular legal rights could pave the way for a “One State Solution.” To be sure, the state that replaces Israel would be called “Palestine.”

Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Moral People Must Learn How To Hate

Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

‘For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.’ (Ecclesiastes. 3).

How many times have we heard that the problem with the world today is that there isn’t enough love, when precisely the opposite is true. Evil currently stalks the earth because there isn’t enough hate. Moral people, afraid of being poisoned by hate, are becoming indifferent to evil.

The history of the modern world is a history of genocide and the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents. Historian Paul Johnson estimates that at least 100 million civilians were murdered in the twentieth century alone by despotic and murderous tyrants. All too many of the murderers, like Pol Pot and Idi Amin, died comfortably in their sleep rather than at the end of a gallows. The world simply could not summon enough hatred of these individuals or their actions to stop them and bring them to justice.

Rehabilitation of murderers and dictators has also become the norm. Just look at how in death the godfather of modern terror and the embezzler who stole billions from his own people, Yasir Arafat, was elevated to sainthood. And still the good people of the world refuse to hate, thereby weakening their commitment to fight evil.

I have heard all the arguments repudiating hate: Hatred is evil. It is the cause of all wars. It consumes the soul of he or she who hates. Silly arguments all.

Hatred is only evil when it is directed at the good and at the innocent. It is positively Godly when it is directed at cold-blooded killers, motivating us to fight and eradicate them before more people die. Hatred does not cause wars, it ends them. Because Churchill truly hated Hitler he inspired a nation to put an end to his blitzkrieg conquests. The French, who did not hate Hitler, collaborated with him instead. It is indifference to evil, rather than its hatred, that sends a message to the tyrants that they may pick on anyone they like for the world will be silent.

Anyone who does not hate Abu Musab al Zarkawi, a monster who shouts ‘God is great’ while sawing off the heads of innocent human beings, is barely human himself. Can a man love innocent victims without hating their tormentors? Loving victims might generate compassion for their suffering. But hating the perpetrators will generate action to stop their murdering.

Which ‘moral’ man or woman can lay claim to decency if he or she is not sickened by the likes of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden? Can a moral man have compassion for a dying Arafat when such love and compassion ought to be reserved exclusively for his victims? While innocence should evoke compassion, evil should evoke only contempt.

Bobby Frank Cherry, the Klansman who killed four black girls in a church bombing in Alabama in 1963, died recently in prison. On my radio show I expressed my satisfaction that another evil man had perished from the earth. A black caller phoned in disgust. “I used to be like you, Shmuley,” he said. “When I was a boy growing up in the segregated South, I hated the Klan so much that I wanted to be a sniper and shoot them. But as a Christian I have worked my whole life to fight that hatred and get it out of my system.”

I answered him, “What do you think God would prefer? That you use your energy to fight your hatred, or use your energy to fight evil? Now, no one would sanction your running around and indiscriminately shooting people, because that itself is immoral and illegal. That’s not hatred. That’s rage. But it was due to prosecutors’ odium for this man that they pursued him for almost forty years, finally obtaining a conviction and sending him to prison just two years ago. If they had not detested him and his actions, he would have died peacefully at his home and the message would have gone out that you can get away with murder.”

Hatred is not necessarily of the devil. Like any emotion, it is neutral, its morality determined solely by the object to which it is directed. Hatred is demonic only when directed at innocent people who happen to have darker skin than you, but truly appropriate when directed at someone whose murderous actions have made the world a darker place.

Exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in the Bible. The book of Proverbs declares, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Likewise, King David declares regarding the wicked, “I have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me.” Hatred is the moral response to those who have gone beyond the pale of decency by committing acts which unweave the basic fabric of civilized living. To encounter evil is to come under the injunction of never showing even a morsel of sympathy lest we weaken our determination to destroy it.

The demonization of hatred in our time has derived principally from liberalism, for which toleration of nearly everything is paramount. Hatred of evil implies both the right to make judgments, as well as a belief in absolutes, both of which are anathema to liberalism.

While liberalism has some redeeming qualities, my foremost argument against it is that it harbors no abhorrence or detestation of evil. Indeed, liberals hate war much more than they hate evil, which is why Kofi Annan and Jacques Chirac were prepared to leave Saddam in power in order to avoid conflict. But with so much evil in the world, people have grown weary with those who serve as its apologists, and thus liberalism has been largely discredited, with even former president Clinton deciding to abandon the term and replace it with ‘progressivism.’

In fairness, however, it is not just liberals who have forgotten how to hate. Many of my Christian brethren mistakenly believe that God loathes hatred. They quote Jesus’s teaching to turn the other cheek and his admonishment to love your enemies as proof that we dare never hate.

On my radio show many evangelical Christians have called to tell me that in God’s eyes we are all sinners, and thus from a heavenly perspective Osama bin Laden and the average housewife from Kansas are equal. Osama must indeed face justice for his crimes, but we dare not hate him, seeing that Jesus still loves him.

But this is a travesty of Jesus’s teachings. Jesus advocated turning the other check to petty slights and affronts to our honor, not to mass graves and torture chambers. Likewise, while Jesus taught that we ought to love our own enemies, this did not apply to God’s enemies. Our enemies are people who are our rivals for a promotion at work. God’s enemies are those who slaughter his children.

Let not any Christian think that Jesus’s sympathy was for anyone other than the oppressed and the poor. True, the Bible commands us to ‘love our neighbor’ as ourselves, but the man who kills children is not our neighbor. Having cast off the image of God, he has lost his divine spark and is condemned to eternal oblivion from which not even a belief in salvation will rescue him. He or she who murders God’s children has been lost to God forever and has abandoned all entitlement to love, earning eternal derision in its stead.

To love the terrorist who flies a civilian plane into a building or a white supremacist who drags a black man three miles while tied to the back of a car is not just scandalous, it is sinful. To love evil is itself evil and constitutes a passive form of complicity. The old saying is right: those who are kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind.

The Bible instructs us “rejoice not when thine enemy falleth” and I am not advocating that we dance in the streets when we hear about America killing terrorists in Iraq. But to extend compassion to these impenitent and incorrigible monsters is an act of mocking God who has mercy for all yet demands unequivocal justice for the innocent. To show kindness to the murderer is to violate the victim yet again.

Pacifists will respond that fighting hatred with hatred accomplishes nothing. They will quote the old Bob Dylan song that says, “If we take an eye for an eye we all just end up blind.” But the purpose of our hatred is not revenge, but justice. We do not seek to breed hatred so that it might linger in our breast, but so that it might inspire us to stop murder and bloodshed. If you don’t hate Saddam Hussein then you will find ample reason not to topple him from power. But if watching him gas Kurdish children makes you see him for the abomination he is, then you will risk blood and treasure to put him on trial for his crimes against humanity.

How bizarre that the French and Germans today hate George Bush more than Saddam Hussein. Their efforts to prevent the United States from invading Iraq, and their treatment of Saddam as nothing more than a nuisance, speaks volumes about their indifference to bloodshed and their troubling neutrality on the subject of evil. At Sinai God entrusted humanity with the promotion of justice, enjoining us to turn an immoral jungle into a civilized society. We seek out the Saddams of this world to prevent further genocides and establish justice. In the words of Aristotle, “All virtue is summed up in dealing justly.”

Some will say that by promoting hatred of evil I am trampling on the ideas of atonement and forgiveness. I disagree. Repentance is based on recognizing the infinite value of human life. Because God loves humanity He provides a point of return so that the individual might find his way back to the light.

Since repentance is predicated on the value of life, it cannot be offered to those who undermine its basic premise by irretrievably debasing life. For a murderer to lament his actions in public and achieve instant absolution is an affront to everything forgiveness stands for. There are those offenses for which there is no forgiveness, borders that are crossed for which there is no return. Mass murder is foremost among them.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Only if we hate the truly evil passionately will we summon the determination to fight them fervently. Odd and uncomfortable as it may seem, hatred has its place. It is time for moral people to learn how to hate again.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a nationally syndicated radio host from 2-5 p.m. EST daily on the Liberty Broadcasting Network, and was named by Talkers magazine as one of America’s 100 most important talk-radio hosts. A best-selling author of 14 books, his latest work is “Face Your Fear” (St. Martins Press).

Prosecute Saddam For Crime Of Aggression Against Israel

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004
One of the most elementary principles of law is known as Nullum Crimen Sine Poena: “No crime without a punishment.” Stemming from at least three separate passages of the Torah (Exod. 21:22-25; Lev. 24:17-21; Deut. 19:19-21), the Lex Talionis or “law of exact retaliation” was absolutely integral to the Nuremberg Trial and judgment. Indeed, in 1946, when the Special Military Tribunal justified its sentencing on arguments for retributive justice, it strongly reaffirmed this elementary principle. The precise wording of the binding Nuremberg Principles is: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.”

At the request of the U.N. General Assembly in 1950, the Nuremberg Principles were later formulated as follows by the United Nations International Law Commission: “Offenses against the peace and security of mankind…. are crimes under international law, for which the responsible individuals shall be punished.” This formulation has special relevance to the impending trial of Saddam Hussein. Moreover, the State of Israel should now be allowed to participate in this important prosecution.

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is, of course, in American custody, awaiting trial before an Iraqi court. When facing the Iraqi Special Tribunal, Saddam will be formally charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Missing from the indictment, however, will be any counts for Iraq’s multiple 1991 aggressions against Israel. Codified in several sources as an especially serious crime, aggression must never be accepted “without a punishment.” Although the world is now well accustomed to disregarding Israel’s particular rights under international law – a flagrant indifference most openly apparent in the recent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on Israel’s security fence – there can never be any legal justification for simply ignoring Iraq’s missile attacks upon Israeli cities.

Let us remember what the world has so quickly forgotten. On Friday, January 18, 1991, Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq launched eight Scud missiles directly at civilian targets in Tel-Aviv. This attack was followed for more than a month by 31 additional Scuds, fired purposefully at Israeli noncombatants. Baghdad’s last missile attack against Israel took place on February 25, 1991. In compliance with U.S. and allied expectations, Israel never fired back.

Remarkably, Iraq’s 39 Scuds managed to kill only one Israeli directly. Twelve additional deaths resulted indirectly from missile attacks. Nearly 200 persons were injured. Also, 4,393 buildings were damaged: 3,991 apartments and residential buildings; 331 public institutions; 17 educational institutions; and 54 businesses. Israel has every right under international law to seek damages for these unmistakable acts of aggression, and to seek criminal prosecution of Saddam Hussein for his obvious authorization of these crimes.

Although Saddam Hussein’s personal responsibility for aggression against Israel should be limited to the 1991 missile attacks, Iraq has a long history of unpunished aggressions against Israel. Baghdad sent expeditionary forces against the tiny Jewish State during the 1948 War of Independence, the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973). During the 1948 war, Iraqi forces entered TransJordan and engaged Israeli forces in Western Samaria. In the aftermath of the 1967 war, Iraqi forces, deployed in Jordan, remained there for several years. During the 1973 war, Iraq committed about one-third of its then 95,000 man armed forces to assist Syria in its campaign of violence against Israel on the Golan Heights.

Every state, including Israel, has an “inherent” right of self-defense. To a significant extent, participating in the prosecution of Saddam Hussein for prior aggression against Israel would be an expression of this right. According to Emmerich de Vattel’s classic 1758 text on The Law Of Nations, “The right to punish injustice is derived from the right of self-protection.” Moreover, the right of self-defense in international law is drawn from Natural Law or Higher Law, and can therefore never be subordinated to particular international agreements or even to pragmatic considerations of geopolitics.

Not only does Israel have a fixed and incontestable right to participate in the prosecution of Saddam Hussein, but there is also a corresponding obligation of all other states to ensure such participation. As Blackstone observed in his famous Commentaries, which form the very basis of the law of the United States, international law exists so as to provide a code “for the eternal and immutable laws of good and evil.” Each state is therefore bound “to aid and enforce the law of nations, as part of the common law, by inflicting an adequate punishment upon offenses against the universal law….”

Natural Law, which is the foundation stone of international law, stems conspicuously from the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) and the Covenant Code of Israel. Natural Law is expressed not only in the Declaration of Independence but also in the Bill of Rights. The Ninth Amendment, in stipulating that “the enumeration of certain rights in this Constitution shall not prejudice other rights not so enumerated,” reflects belief in a Higher Law superior to the will of all human governance.

From the standpoint of legal procedure, Israel must now prepare a formal criminal complaint against Saddam Hussein, and file the relevant documents with the Iraqi Special Tribunal. But as it is certain that the Iraqi court will refuse to honor its prosecutorial obligations to the Jewish State, Jerusalem’s next step should be in the United Nations. There, in the General Assembly, Israel should call upon that body to promptly request an Advisory Opinion on Israeli charges from the International Court of Justice. Such an authoritative request would be difficult to brush aside, even by a “World Court” that only recently ruled that the lives of Israelis threatened by Arab terror are of no importance.

An Advisory Opinion in the matter of Israel and Saddam Hussein could also be requested by the United States in the UN Security Council. The American obligation to render such assistance to Israel would derive not only from the Constitutional incorporation of international law into United States law (see especially Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution), but also from the Natural Law foundations of US law. Any U.S. initiative to punish Saddam Hussein’s crime of aggression against Israel would represent essential support for both international law and for America’s most sacred principles of justice.

LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Prosecuting Saddam: Which Paths To Justice?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2004
Under international law, Saddam Hussein is the quintessential Hostes Humani Generis, a “Common Enemy of Mankind.” Prosecuting the former Iraqi dictator, therefore, would now appear to be a decidedly simple judicial matter. After all, rarely in the history of human affairs has a single individual been so flagrantly responsible for multiple crimes. Seldom has a single head of state been involved so directly and unambiguously in Crimes of War, Crimes Against Peace, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.Yet, the so-called “international community” has often revealed a marked penchant for acting “strangely,” even in the most boldfaced matters of justice and even in the aftermath of the history-making Nuremberg Trial. Not surprisingly, this penchant has been especiallypronounced in matters involving Jews and the Jewish state.

In May 1960, Israeli agents of the Mossad captured notorious Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, and flew him to Jerusalem for trial. Although Eichmann was the undisputed murderer of over a million Jewish children, Israel was subjected to a strident barrage of international criticism for its actions. The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously, with United States approval, to condemn Israel for “endangering international peace and security.”

In this nation’s capital, The Washington Post editorialized sanctimoniously that Israel’s apprehension and planned prosecution of Eichmann was “tainted by lawlessness,” and solemnly referred to Holocaust victims as an “imaginary Jewish ethnic entity.” Time magazine accused Israel of “inverse racism,” and The New York Times, ever-vigilant where Jewish rights are concerned, criticized Israel’s abduction in another sovereign territory on the grounds that “no immoral or illegal act justifies another.”

As for U.S. church publications, the American Christian community was generously represented by such fair-minded newspapers as The Unitarian Register, which compared “the Jew-pursuing Nazi with the Nazi-pursuing Jew,” and a Catholic paper named The Tablet, which stated unashamedly that “The Eichmann trial is a reminder that there are still some influential people around who – like Shylock of old – demand their pound of flesh.”

In any event, in the current matter of humankind vs. Saddam Hussein, there are already strong
international disagreements on issues of venue, on the composition of an appropriately authoritative tribunal, and on the legal correctness of the death penalty.

Under traditional international law, primary prosecutorial jurisdiction would normally be linked to the country in whose territory the crimes took place. Although it would seem obvious that Iraq should come to mind before any others, it is also true that Saddam’s crimes were committed against Iran (when he used chemical weapons in murderous attacks upon Iranian soldiers in the 1980s); against Kuwait (when, along with allies from the Arafat- directed Palestine Liberation Army, he transformed that Arab emirate into a vast torture and execution chamber by his aggression of 1990-1991); and against Israel (when he launched 39 SCUD missiles against exclusively civilian areas in Tel-Aviv and Haifa during the 1991 Gulf War).

These states now have an incontestable right to participate in any planned trial of Saddam Hussein, and to ensure that their particular claims for compensation and redress be properly heard. Significantly, in reference to Israel, virtually no one in the “international community” has spoken openly on behalf of its particular right to participate in any prosecution of Saddam Hussein. Once again, it is as if Jewish rights and human rights were mutually exclusive.

Current venue preparations for the trial of Saddam seem to be focused on Iraq rather than upon a more broadly international proceeding of the sort created at Nuremberg in 1945 or at the specially-constituted tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia established by the United Nations in the 1990s. This Iraq-based arrangement might conceivably be satisfactory, but only if certain judges and prosecutors could be drawn from all other affected states, including Israel, and only if the death penalty were made available.

The official UN position, asserted by Kofi Anan on December 16th, that a United Nations tribunal would not offer a death penalty option is not merely unacceptable; it transforms the very idea of justice into self-parody. Shall we now, after liberation of Iraq, accept as “civilized” that the blood of the mass murderer is redder than that of his many victims? Should Eichmann have been spared the hangman’s noose on the ground that his life was more precious than that of a million Jewish children?

The ancient Hebrews viewed the shedding of innocent blood by tyrants as an abomination that
requires like punishment: As we read in Torah: “…blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of him who shed it”  (Numbers 35:33).

Interestingly, this belief parallels the ancient Greeks, who viewed retributive justice as an eternal and integral part of the civilized world. Left unpunished, in their view, tyrannical homicide pollution would inevitably bring death and starvation to the entire polity. Only a fool would argue, said both the ancient Hebrews and the Greeks, that a murderous tyrant should be held immune to a punishment of death.

In The Libation Bearers of the Greek dramatist Aeschylus, the chorus intones what might have well been extracted from the earlier Lex Talionis of the Jews: “The spirit of right cries out aloud and extracts atonement due. Blood stroke for the stroke of blood shall be paid.”

The alleged crimes committed by Saddam Hussein are so serious in law that they are called Crimen Contra Omnes, “Crimes Against All.” All of these crimes are known as “Grave Breaches” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. According to Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the United States and all other parties are obligated to search out and bring to justice presumed violators. Indeed, under this binding agreement, each state party has the right and perhaps the obligation to bring persons alleged to have committed “or to have ordered to be committed” Grave Breaches into its own judicial jurisdiction; that is, to bring the alleged wrongdoers “before its own courts.” Under both international law and United States law, this country would now have every legal right to bring Saddam before an American tribunal.

Pertinent authority to prosecute in its own federal district courts can be found at sections 818 and 821 of title 10 of the United States Code (which form part of an extraterritorial statutory scheme) and at 18 U.S.C., section 3231. The problem, of course, is that exercising such an option would make us all more vulnerable to new waves of anti-American terrorism.

From the point of view of the United States, the Nuremberg and Geneva Convention obligations to bring major criminals to trial are doubly binding. This is because these obligations represent not only expectations under international law, but also the Higher-Law obligations embedded in the American political tradition – obligations drawn from ancient Jewish law and civilization. By its codification of the principle that basic human rights in war and peace are now inviolable, the Nuremberg and Geneva obligations reflect perfect convergence between international law and the enduring foundations of our American Republic.

As noted by the Sixth Circuit in 1985 (Demjanjuk v. Petrovsky), “The law of the United States includes international law” and “international law recognizes ‘universal jurisdiction’ over certain offenses.” Article VI of the U.S. Constitution and a number of Supreme Court decisions make all international law, conventional and customary, the “supreme law of the land.” And the Nuremberg Tribunal itself acknowledged that the participating powers “have done together what any one of them might have done singly.”

The 18th-century Swiss scholar of international law Emmerich de Vattel commented: “As for those monsters who, under the name of the sovereign, act as a scourge and plague of the human race, they are nothing more than wild beasts, of whom every man of courage may justly purge the earth.” Acknowledging such wisdom, President Bush undertook “Operation Iraqi Freedom” last Spring with a view to rightly ridding the world of Saddam Hussein, a “Common Enemy of Mankind.” Now that this “monster” is finally in American custody, it is essential that his upcoming judicial prosecution will be free of any form of political obstruction, that his trial will include a death penalty option, and that Israel’s particular prosecutorial rights will not be ignored, but rather be fully affirmed and included.

 

(c) The Jewish Press 2004. All rights reserved.

 

LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with international criminal law. The Strategic and Military Affairs Analyst for THE JEWISH PRESS, he has published extensively over the years on the question of legal prosecution for Saddam Hussein.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Kerry

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2003

On the campaign trail last week, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry accused President Bush of breaking his promise to put together an international coalition to wage war against Saddam Hussein. He also declared that Bush “misled every one of us” concerning the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Kerry’s anti-Bush rhetoric was duly and widely reported in the media, but few reporters bothered to point out Kerry’s breathtaking hypocrisy. Matt Drudge did, however, and posted on the Drudge Report some interesting statements Kerry made just six years ago.

(If any reader still harbors doubts about liberal bias in the media, just try to imagine the loud and sustained outcry from the Dan Rathers and Joe Lelyvelds of the world were a Republican presidential contender – any Republican, actually – to prove himself as shame lessly two-faced as Sen. Kerry.)

Here, then, hung by his own words, the honorable gentleman from Massachusetts:

Danger of WMD in Saddam Hussein’s hands: “It is not possible to overstate the ominous implications for the Middle East if Saddam were to develop and successfully militarize and deploy potent biological weapons. We can all imagine the consequences. Extremely small quantities of several known biological weapons have the capability to exterminate the entire population of cities the size of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

“These could be delivered by ballistic missile, but they also could be delivered by much more pedestrian means; aerosol applicators on commercial trucks easily could suffice. If Saddam were to develop and then deploy usable atomic weapons, the same holds true.” (Sen. John Kerry, Congressional Record, 11/9/97, pp. S12254-S12255.)

Use of force to stymie WMD production: “[Saddam Hussein] cannot be permitted to go unobserved and unimpeded toward his horrific objective of amassing a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a matter about which there should be any debate whatsoever in the Security Council, or, certainly, in this Nation.” (Sen. John Kerry, Congressional Record, 11/9/97, pp. S12254-S12255.)

Military action against suspected WMD: “In my judgment, the Security Council should authorize a strong U.N. military response that will materially damage, if not totally destroy, as much as possible of the suspected infrastructure for developing and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, as well as key military command and control nodes.

“Saddam Hussein should pay a grave price, in a currency that he understands and values, for his unacceptable behavior. This should not be a strike consisting only of a handful of cruise missiles hitting isolated targets primarily of presumed symbolic value.” (Sen. John Kerry, Congressional Record, 11/9/97, pp. S12254-S12255.)

Unilateral Action Against Hussein: “Were its willingness to serve in these respects to diminish or vanish because of the ability of Saddam to brandish these weapons, then the ability of the United Nations or remnants of the gulf war coalition, or even the United States acting alone, to confront and halt Iraqi aggression would be gravely damaged.” (Sen. John Kerry, Congressional Record, 11/9/97, pp. S12254-S12255.)

Ultimately, it’s up to America to act alone if need be: “[W]hile we should always seek to take significant international actions on a multilateral rather than a unilateral basis whenever that is possible, if in the final analysis we face what we truly believe to be a grave threat to the well-being of our nation or the entire world and it cannot be removed peacefully, we must have the courage to do what we believe is right and wise.” (Sen. John Kerry, Congressional Record, 11/9/97, pp. S12254-S12255.)

* * *

Note To Readers: In the spirit of past reader-participation projects such as our ‘Enemies’ List of anti-Israel media types and ‘Friends’ List of their pro-Israel counterparts, the Monitor will be compiling a listing of readers’ favorite websites and blogs (if you’re wondering what a blog is, this poll probably isn’t for you.) Please e-mail all responses and comments by July 31.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

Letters To The Editor

Friday, July 11th, 2003

Hatred’s Roots

Leon Wieseltier’s commentary on anti-Semitism (‘The Village Is Not Burning,’ June 6) is erudite and elegant. Simpler, I suggest anti-Semitism’s bared roots are envious hostility and
fear. Anti-Semitism is a primal, visceral result of antagonism to Torah truth.

The Commandments to the world come through us. Being number two is a very difficult position, especially when there are two of them – and their foundations are flawed. While
there are righteous ones in virtually all religions, and the human spirit seeks G-d in the short time we all have, the spirit is generally desperate and easily succumbs to sitra achra when
challenged about basic beliefs.

The battle against Hashem (and His people) has never stopped since Babel – since Nimrod, Semiramis and Tamuz.

Only Moshiach will end anti-Semitism.

Paul H. Goodley, M.D.
Los Angeles, CA
(Aliyah in two months, B”H)




No Excuse For Cartoon

Media Monitor is to be commended for calling our attention (Jewish Press, June 6) to cartoonist Dick Locher’s anti-Semitic cartoon which appeared recently in the Chicago Tribune. Its depiction of Prime Minister Sharon is more appropriate to the pages of the notoriously anti-Semitic Arab media than in the pages of a major American newspaper.

Locher’s cartoon follows the pattern of Nazi and the Arab/Muslim anti-Semites who promote horrific lies about Jews. Painting Sharon with a hooked nose and a non-too-subtle allegation that the Israeli leader’s decisions are based only on an insatiable appetite for money is insulting.

Responding to criticism for his offensive caricature of Israel’s democratically elected leader, Locher had this to say, “I was trying to go to bat for the American taxpayer. Israel is a good
friend, but let’s get an accounting of where the money is going.” That claim rings hollow. The two largest recipients of America’s foreign aid are Egypt and Israel. Has Locher dared to caricature Egypt’s president Mubarak in the same noxious vein that he used for Sharon? Or is he not concerned about an accounting of the two billion-plus dollars that U.S. taxpayers dish out to a nation whose people hate the United States?

Perhaps Mr. Locher could be induced to use his talents to similarly depict Arafat, who has diverted to his own account hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid meant for his own
poverty-stricken people.

Mr. Locher, your cartoon smacks of the kind of bigotry that would make Hitler proud.

Ben Eliahou
Manalapan, NJ


Doubts Bush On WMD

I am astonished that The Jewish Press believes it is irrelevant whether weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq, as long as Operation Iraqi Freedom brought about the downfall of Saddam Hussein (editorial, June 6).

Is it not important that our President tell us the truth? I am not so naive as to think that there are never times when national security dictates that certain things not be revealed. But the constant, orchestrated refrain from President Bush on down was that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the U.S. because he possessed weapons of mass destruction which he could use himself or give to terrorists.

Actually, I would have thought that Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism and his horrible oppression of his own people would have justified Operation Iraqi Freedom. The president, apparently, did not agree. Moreover, organized deceit on this scale can never be tolerated in a democracy.

Gil Spicehandler
Buffalo, NY

Editor’s Note: We have every reason to believe that WMD will, in fact, be found in Iraq. In any event, we do not condone “lying” by public officials. We do not, however, believe President Bush to be guilty as charged.

Please recall that, in addition to the WMD threat, President Bush regularly cited the issues of support for terrorism and Saddam’s oppression of Iraqis as justifications for unseating him. Also, as we have noted editorially on several occasions, nations do not always enjoy the luxury of being able to act on courtroom-quality evidence. In extreme circumstances, prudence requires that reasonable judgments and “guestimates” be made in the national interest. And it is common knowledge that prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saddam had WMD, yet he never accounted for them. At the very least, as we quoted William Safire in last week’s editorial, “The burden of proof was on Saddam.”

Have We Gone Soft?

Reading your weekly apologias for President Bush’s pushing the “road map” down Israel’s throat, I am reminded of the Jewish establishment’s slavish support of the Oslo “peace process” which proved so disastrous. You were rightly critical, in my view, when publications such as the Jewish Week and the Forward touted the Oslo scam. Why are you now any different?

Ellen Moskowitz
Flushing, NY

Editor’s Note: We believe the road map to be fatally flawed in the same way that the Oslo Accords were. Both are premised on the notion that peace will break out once there is a new Palestinian state. Both also are premised on Palestinian good faith and therefore contain the seeds of their own failure. What is different now, though, is that George W. Bush, not Bill Clinton, is in charge. We are hopeful that President Bush’s heretofore demonstrated forthrightness and resolve will make a difference in the Palestinian mindset. If it doesn’t, we trust the president will respond appropriately. Should he fail to do so, we can assure you The Jewish Press will strongly reconsider the support we’ve given him from the 2000 election onward.


Unconvinced By Follow-Up Letter

In his response last week to readers who criticized his first letter to the editor, Mike Senders proved the old adage about leaving well enough alone, no matter how bad it is.

For one thing, Senders waxed obviously disingenuous in trying to shrug off his initial derision of a rabbi for urging greater concern for the proper brachot to be recited for cereals and against wearing baseball caps on Shabbat (out of a concern for the limits of ohel).

Senders had introduced these comments about the rabbi by saying, in his initial letter: “Lately … we have been passing off many chumrot as halacha in our daily lives.” He then went on to disparagingly refer to the particular rabbi who had issued the two alarms as the “Cereal Rav.” When we follow the Cereal Rav’s approach, Sender said, the Hashem’s true image true
image “is lost in the shuffle of legality.”

Last week, however, after acknowledging the negative reader reaction, Senders wrote: “What I meant to say was that the rav who compiled the detailed list of the different cereals was the
same rav who evaluated the wearing of a baseball cap on Shabbos through the halachic principle of ohel (tent). I in no way wish to impugn his Torah knowledge or cast aspersion on
his kavod.”

Mr. Senders, give me a break.

And then, in trying to impress his audience that he really hadn’t intended to denigrate the pursuit and observance of any of the Ribbono Shel Olam’s prescribed rules – even the obscure
ones – but had another point to make, he slips into outright absurdity with this statement: “My point is that unless we incorporate into the teaching of brachot the idea that a child should be saying, “Gee thanks, Hashem, for this delicious candy bar,” we may have fulfilled halacha and yet not conveyed to the child (or to ourselves) an emotional or spiritual charge of hakaras hatov to Hashem. At best then, the child ill say, “Boy I can now eat this cereal cause I have fulfilled every aspect of halacha.” This may be satisfactory to some readers but certainly not to me.” Pursuit of this extra dimension, he adds, is the “agenda” of the Modern Orthodox and what separates Modern Orthodoxy from the “ultra-Orthodox.”

Mr. Senders, you have got to be kidding. The whole thing was a joke, right?

Zvi Lehrer
(Via E-Mail)


Abuse Is Real

I agree with you that Newsday fell far short of the mark in documenting an alleged sex abuse “crisis” in our community (“Newsday And Abuse In The Jewish Community, editorial, June 6). However, I hope your criticism will not serve to diminish interest in the underlying issue. From what I have read in the media – including The Jewish Press – the past few months, we surely do have a very, very serious problem.

Carol Heymann
Great Neck, NY


Valid Point On Babysitters

Re Robert M. Solomon’s letter (‘Anti-Gentile Bigotry,’ Jewish Press, June 6) about two letters recently featured by Rebbetzin Jungreis in her column:

Mr. Solomon was mistaken when he referred to a non-Jewish babysitter who kept on making treif sandwiches for the young boy she was caring for. In fact, the letter in the Rebbetzin’s
column clearly mentioned that the babysitter was in fact a secular Jew.

Who knows whether she intentionally gave him treif sandwiches? But the babysitter was a Jew, and I think the person who wrote that letter to Rebbetzin Jungreis has a valid point. These parents, who I’m sure have good reasons for getting outside help, need to keep their eyes open and to be more involved in parenting.

Shoshana Ziskind
(Via E-Mail)



Give Peace A Chance

As a strong supporter of Israel’s right to live in security and prosperity, an opponent of all acts of terror, and the father of two daughters living in Israel, along with their husbands and my eight grandchildren, I understand why there is much skepticism about the “Road map” for peace in the Mideast. At a time of widespread Palestinian terror which has resulted in Israelis being very much afraid to live their normal lives, go to public places, even to ride on buses, and the hatred that is being taught in Palestinian schools, and much more, I fully understand the feeling that peace is not possible at this time, and I recognize that previous Israeli efforts toward peace have been rebuffed.

However, I believe that we have a choice today between, in the words in the title of a book by Buckminster Fuller, “Utopia or Oblivion.” As difficult as it will be, if the Israelis and Palestinians, with the support of the United States and other nations, can find a way to live cooperatively in peace, using modern technology and the world’s resources, there can be far
better conditions for all the people in the Middle East and beyond. However, continuation of present animosities and policies threatens ‘oblivion': endless violence, terrorism, war, economic recession, and environmental degradation, not only for the Palestinians and Israelis who are already suffering in so many ways, but potentially all the world’s people.

I believe, respectfully, that it is time that we moved beyond finding reasons to demonize our opponents, and started using our wisdom and resources to seek creative ways to end the present horrors and impasse and seek a long lasting solution that will benefit all of humanity. George Bush, Ariel Sharon, and Mahmoud Abbas deserve much credit and support for their
initial steps toward peace.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics
College of Staten Island
Staten Island, NY



Dr. Stern’s Turn

A few years ago, in the wake of a number of monetary scandals which sullied the frum community, a group called the Orthodox Caucus promoted stricter adherence to the principle of dina d’malchusa dina (following the law of the land). I mentioned this Modern Orthodox offshoot to an incisive rabbi who remarked, “For the Modern Orthodox to chide the frum over financial indiscretions is one thing. For the frum to return the favor regarding the neglect of learning is another thing. But if the Modern would criticize itself for not learning, and the frum would chastise itself over money matters, now that would be something!”

I was quite heartened by the readers (Letters to the Editor, May 30) who took Mike Senders to task for insinuating that there are paths to Hashem which do not revolve around Torah study and mitzva observance.

Certainly there are differences among the various camps of Orthodoxy, but there are also
significant commonalities. We are all unwavering in our belief in Torah and mitzvot. We are all
concerned with the plight of our brethren, both here and abroad. And we are all united by the
belief that we can hasten the coming of Moshiach by following the directives of the Torah and the guidance of our religious leaders.

What we must be mindful of is the principle “eileh v’eileh divrei Hashem” – two seemingly
different positions are nonetheless capable of reflecting G-d’s wishes. Hillel and Shammai were
both right. The Baal Shem and the Vilna Gaon were both right. For contemporary Judaism, Rav Moshe and Rav Soloveitchik were both right. That there are individuals in each group seeking to sow discord, is simply a reflection of the attitudes which keep us in this bitter exile.

Admittedly, the task at hand is enormous. We must root out those in the yeshiva world who use the “system” for personal gain rather than spiritual growth. Similarly, we must call the lie of
those who play fast and free with halacha yet hide beneath the blanket of Modern Orthodoxy. And of course we must find a way to restore the primacy of ruchnius over the gashmius which has engulfed religious Jewry.

Impossible you say? Let’s recall the words of the saintly Chofetz Chaim, zt”l. “When I was
young, I tried to change the world and got nowhere. Later I realized that the first step was to change myself. When I accomplished this, the world changed.”

If we work on self improvement instead of carping on other people’s faults we can effect great
changes. Hopefully the baseless and idiotic – yes idiotic – charges that I am against any valid form of Judaism have been refuted. Those who have objectively read my contributions over the past year would admit that the message has been unremittingly positive, which is to say pro-Torah and its true practitioners. But those in the opposing camp will not be persuaded, because they are, in a word, untruthful.

As Exhibit A we present Mike Senders’s “half-vast” attempt at damage control. After unequivocally stating his vision of Modern Orthodoxy, “pick and choose” halacha, Zionism,
secular study above Talmud Torah and disdain for religious leaders, Mr. Senders offers a series of  “I didn’t mean it.” In the course of this “apology” Mr. Senders invokes the name of the revered Rabbi Soloveitchik, hoping to legitimize his stance. This is a common practice: to advance a form of Judaism absolutely antithetical to the gaon and then suggest that he would endorse it. This is similar to a treif restaurant placing an unauthorized teudat hakashrut, but it’s worse because Rav Soloveitchik is not here to distance himself from these claims.

For many years our gedolim railed at the illegitimate brands of Judaism (Conservative, Reform, etc.) While I have no fondness for those halachically challenged movements, at least they don’t pretend to be authentic versions of Torah Judaism. Instead they promote a watered down version of the religion, seemingly amenable to the modern milieu.

But the militantly Modern Orthodox are guilty of just such deception, not owning up to the
fact that their concept of Judaism is at odds with our longstanding traditions and beliefs. If truth is beauty …

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY



Shidduchim: There’s Got To Be A Better Way

Like a lonely cry in the night, I fear this letter will be the only protest to the idyllic shidduch as
described on page 30 in your May 23 issue. So much craziness has become mainstream and
everyone is afraid of everyone else when it comes to shidduchim. But it is a sin to remain silent.

(Before I begin, a caveat. Based on recent controversies in this section, I recognize that certain readers may attempt to stamp me with a hashkafic label and proceed to challenge my
motives in writing this letter based on that assumption. In blindly defending the status quo,
they will scour my letter for a peripheral point or phrase they can pounce on and ridicule, while
ignoring the essential content. I ask you to resist that evil temptation.)

The gleeful mother of the bride describes her first encounter with her future son-in-law: “‘The
boy’ knocks on our door. Right on time. Black suit? Check. White shirt? Check. Black velvet kippa? Check. Yeshivish.

Tall, dark, handsome. Blue eyes peer out from behind wire-rims. A learner. We already know his essential details, as much as a 20-year-old life can have acquired.”

After some polite chit-chat, the daughter descends the stairs like a princess coming to greet
her knight in shining armor. “Their eyes lock. A spark. Off they go: Date #1. Date #2. Date #3. Then the decision: is there a Date #4? Yes! And then they get married. Well, OK, I’m exaggerating. But that’s how quick it seemed.”

This article is described as Part 2 of this family’s “whirlwind adventure” as their daughter gets married. I can only hope that Parts 5 and 6 of this adventure do not appear in the Agunah
Chronicles, which your paper commendably prints week after week. It is no coincidence, after all, that the tremendous increase in unsuccessful marriages (from unhappy to abusive) is concurrent with a “shidduch crisis” unlike any the Jewish people have seen before. The correlation is unmistakable. One only has to look.

Many readers will scoff and say that the shidduch system as described above works just fine
for many people. To that I respond, quite bluntly, that Hashem (sometimes) watches over fools. There are many imbeciles who are blessed with wealth and happiness. Their success is not a vindication of their methods, only a testament to Hashem’s supreme authority. Chazal adjure us not to rely on miracles, but to perfect our earthly efforts in anticipation of divine assistance. Are we lemmings to blindly adhere to a perverse shidduch system simply because it works for some people?

And a perverse system it is. The mother in this story claims, on first glance alone, to already
know the “essential details” of her daughter’s suitor. The color of his attire and style of his kippa render him “Yeshivish” (a meaningless label – but this is not the place to discuss labels). Presumably, she has already determined that the boy in question is of sterling religious background who studies Torah with extreme diligence (most likely to the exclusion of all else), with an impeccably refined character to boot. In this assessment she has surpassed Hashem Himself, Who thoroughly analyzes the totality of a person’s heart and actions before arriving at a conclusion. She did it with a single glance at his attire.

There was a spark, a hint of “love at first sight” between the new couple. After three dates
(perhaps the number has some mystical significance), it was necessary for them to decide
whether their relationship was to become “serious.” Now or never. Take it or leave it. Whirlwind adventure, indeed!

Emshol lachem mashal. As an educated educator, I am well aware of a serious conflict facing teachers today: standardized testing. There is tremendous pressure on everyone for students to
do well on such tests as Regents, Advanced Placement Exams, and the SAT. As a result, many teachers do what’s called “teaching to the test.” In other words, they teach students over the course of the year whatever is necessary to do well on the test, but the students learn little of the actual material. The test, which is supposed to measure their knowledge of the subject, actually measures only their ability to do well on that particular test. The results are essentially meaningless.

Similarly, this shidduch system relies on a host of superficial assessments to appraise one’s
suitability. The boy knew full well what to wear and say in order to make a good impression, so what does it prove that he adhered to the script? Both the girl and the boy were carefully coached on how to conduct themselves on the first three dates, so what did they really learn about each other – how well they can follow simple instructions, how well they can conform to societal pressures? No wonder there are so many disastrous marriages. People try to devise creative questions to ask about a potential shidduch, or they enlist professional gossipmongers and character assassins to conduct “investigations.” But this has achieved nothing other than to make everyone paranoid at all times about harming their or their children’s shidduch chances. This can’t be the way Hashem intended it.

In this same issue of your paper, a ba’al teshuvah wrote a letter bemoaning the way ba’alei
teshuvah are treated like garbage in this shidduch world, which has no mercy for an imperfect history. (Strangely enough, he commended the community’s shift to the right, a shift that is surely responsible for his shidduch woes. To the right of what I can only wonder, as the Torah commands us to veer neither to the right nor to the left of the truth.) I’d like to remind your readers that Moshe Rabbeinu married a convert, the daughter of an idolatrous priest. Yehoshua married a convert as well, someone who, according to most commentaries, was a former harlot. And Rabbi Akiva’s wife, whose father had enough money to buy the husband of her choice, “settled” for a lowly shepherd. It seems our greatest leaders were not “yeshivish.” Perhaps we should look farther back in history than the Europe of a hundred years ago to
determine what values the Torah truly holds dear.

Hashem has not decreed a shidduch crisis upon us. We have done it to ourselves. Let’s truly
analyze our ways in an open and honest fashion, and surely He will bless us with an end to this
terrible suffering.

Chananya Weissman
Founder, EndTheMadness.org
Far Rockaway, NY

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