Jews and Guns

Press Release:

A dozen rabbis from across the country have joined with the Golani Rifle & Pistol Club to oppose recent calls for greater gun control by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and Orthodox Union (OU). On August 13, the RCA issued a press release, “2014 Resolution: Gun Violence in America,” promoting arbitrary gun control measures. The RCA’s resolution endorsed the OU’s similar press release, “OU Supports Federal Legislation to Prevent Gun Violence.” Rejecting the position of the RCA and OU, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, Rabbi David Bendory, and ten other rabbis, together with the members of the Golani Club, a Jewish shooting organization based in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, affirm the importance of armed self-defense by Jews and all Americans. “The RCA’s statement, like that of the OU, is rife with platitudes, ignores basic facts, and fails to recognize Judaism’s strong support for the value and practice of armed self-defense,” the joint statement reads. “The RCA and OU should promote legislation that offers law-abiding citizens full protection of their right to self-defense, both inside and outside the home, especially in the most restrictive states, which contain large Jewish population centers. All Jews, like all Americans, should be able to exercise, in a sober and prudent manner, their fundamental right and halachic obligation to defend themselves, their families, and communities, whenever the need arises.”
The full text of the joint statement is below:
JOINT STATEMENT

BY THE GOLANI RIFLE & PISTOL CLUB, RABBI STEVEN PRUZANSKY, RABBI DAVID BENDORY,
AND OTHER RABBIS IN SUPPORT OF JEWISH LAW, JEWISH LIFE, AND JEWISH SELF-DEFENSE
September 15, 2014.

We the undersigned declare our support for Jewish Law, Jewish life, and Jewish self-defense, and therefore our opposition to the recent, bewildering statement by the Rabbinical Council of America (“RCA”) that promotes arbitrary gun control measures (see “2014 Resolution: Gun Violence in America, issued August 13, 2014, at http://www.rabbis.org/news/article.cfm?id=105804) and explicitly endorses a similar statement by the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America (“OU”) (see “OU Supports Federal Legislation to Prevent Gun Violence,” issued April 9, 2013, athttp://www.ou.org/news/ou_supports_federal_legislation_to_prevent_gun_violence/).

The RCA’s statement, like that of the OU, is rife with platitudes, ignores basic facts, and fails to recognize Judaism’s strong support for the value and practice of armed self-defense. Although the RCA reluctantly condones legal gun ownership, their statement evinces an overall hostility to gun possession and self-defense, and completely fails to address the limitations on the self-defense rights of the law-abiding public, who live under threat from violent criminals (including Jew-haters). When a premier rabbinical body of modern orthodoxy takes a public position on an issue as critical to the Jewish people as gun regulation, it is incumbent on them first to contemplate all relevant considerations, not least of which is the well-publicized and increasing violence against Jews worldwide. This the RCA and OU have failed to do.

In response, we present below many of the reasons why these two organizations should reconsider their prior positions, and instead encourage Jews to remain ready, vigilant, and armed. The RCA and OU should promote legislation that offers law-abiding citizens full protection of their right to self-defense, both inside and outside the home, especially in the most restrictive states, which contain large Jewish population centers. All Jews, like all Americans, should be able to exercise, in a sober and prudent manner, their fundamental right and halachic obligation to defend themselves, their families, and communities, whenever the need arises.
* * * * * *
• There are already strict measures in place to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. The RCA’s and OU’s support for “restricting American citizens’ easy and unregulated access to weapons and ammunitions” does not take into account the regulations that already exist nationwide, including exceptionally stringent regulations in the tri-state area around New York City that effectively ban carrying guns outside the home and subject peaceful citizens to prosecution merely for being ready to defend themselves. Access to firearms by violent criminals is already illegal, and access by the mentally ill is already restricted. It is grossly misleading to suggest that the current, complex legal regime at the federal, state, and local levels does not exist. Furthermore, the RCA and OU fail to explain why imposing additional draconian restrictions and penalties on peaceful citizens will stop criminals from obtaining guns. In fact, adding to the burdens on the law-abiding will only render them more helpless if they are assaulted – especially in places (such as synagogues) which are likely targets of nefarious people who disobey the law and commit their crimes while heavily armed. The approach taken by the RCA and OU leave their Jewish constituents virtually defenseless in the face of deadly threats.

• To stop crime, stop criminals. Everyone recognizes that a tool is not responsible for the action of the person who holds it. For instance, we do not speak of the annual murders committed with baseball bats as “bat violence.” Yet we are told that guns, unlike any other tools, actually cause crime. The real causes of crime, of course, are more complex and more difficult to address. It is much easier to talk about guns than to consider issues like family breakdown and educational decline. But focusing on guns is no more effective than focusing on any other implement used by criminals. We might as well try to regulate criminals’ shoes, gloves, masks, or cars.

• Gun control has proven ineffective at stopping crime. The RCA and OU have ignored many key facts, among which are the following:
1) Violent crime, including crime involving guns, has been declining steadily over the last two decades, at the same time as the majority of states have been lifting restrictions on the right to self-defense;
2) Spree shootings in schools or on government property are very rare events, representing a tiny fraction of annual homicides;
3) Such shootings have most often occurred in locations that have been declared officially “gun free,” which gives notice to criminals that they will be able to commit their crimes without immediate challenge;
4) The vast majority of gun homicides are committed by a relatively small population of hardened, recidivist criminals who are not deterred by laws restricting gun purchases;
5) The rates of violent crime tend to be higher in areas with the most restrictive gun laws.

• Gun owners stop criminals and save lives every day. The RCA and OU fail to recognize that ordinary citizens use guns to protect themselves and others every single day. Across the country, mothers, fathers, and even children successfully protect their families against home invaders and carjackers. Women protect themselves against rapists. Business owners and store clerks protect themselves against armed robbers. Whether by brandishing a gun, pointing it, or shooting it, gun owners are able to fend off criminals and, often, to hold them until police arrive, saving not only their own lives but the lives of future victims. While many of these incidents go unreported (and somehow none of them ever seem to make the pages of the New York Times), they happen nonetheless. For a small selection of relevant news stories, the RCA and OU might consult the Guns Save Livesblog at http://www.gunssavelives.net. For further relevant facts and analysis, they might examine the “Facts about Guns” section of The Truth About Guns blog at http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/gun-facts/.

• Peaceful gun ownership promotes equality. The statements by the RCA and OU do not consider the inevitable and unequal consequences of disarmament. Guns are “equalizers.” They empower citizens of any size or capability to withstand attack from vicious criminals. To deny this tool to peaceful citizens is to put them at the mercy of those who are stronger or more numerous. And those who are physically weakest will be most vulnerable. We prefer to read stories about grandmothers who made burglars turn tail and flee, teenagers who drove off home invaders, and wheelchair-bound men who stopped robbers, rather than obituaries about their unjust demise.

• Jewish history supports self-defense. It is remarkable that the RCA and OU have ignored the long Jewish history of persecution. The Jewish people have been murdered and persecuted in nearly every era and place on the globe. From the Crusades to the Chmielnicki massacres to the Holocaust, we have lost millions of lives to those who took advantage of our inability to defend ourselves. Even now – in this season, this week, indeed, this very day – we are being attacked in Europe and in Israel by enemies who without shame call in public for our deaths. Nor are we completely safe in the U.S., where terrorists have conspired against synagogues and individual Jews have been attacked. It should be clear that the threats against Jews in the U.S. and abroad are serious and increasing. It should be just as clear to the RCA and OU that further limiting our ability to defend ourselves at such a time is the very last thing Jewish leaders should be demanding.

• Self-defense does not equate to vigilantism. It is important to note in passing that, contrary to what is commonly alleged, possessing the tools and obtaining the training to defend oneself does not turn one into a vigilante. Many thousands of Jews are already gun owners, and yet they have not engaged in any rash of crimes. Jews as a people understand all too well how precious life is and how important it is to preserve it. However, we cannot and must not ignore the maxim of Chazal: “Haba lehargecha hashkem lehargo.” (“If one comes to kill you, kill him first.”)

• We have a duty of self-defense under Jewish Law. Our mitzvot oblige us to preserve and defend Jewish lives. This obligation is all the more important while we are in Exile and therefore at greater risk. Rendering Jews less capable of self-defense and more dependent upon others runs counter to our halachic duty, endangers all Jewry and emboldens our enemies. (Also, others are more likely to help defend us if we show that we are willing to defend ourselves.)

• The Torah praises self-defense. The Torah recognizes armed self-defense as a requirement for a free people. As Exodus 13:18 states, “The children of Israel went up out of Egypt armed.” The Israelites were no longer slaves; they were armed. Indeed, from its early chapters, the Torah teaches that readiness for armed conflict is a moral duty and necessary for Jewish survival. When Lot was kidnapped, Avraham led 318 armed men to battle in order to save him. The Torah does not say that the men had to train for battle; they were already trained. Jewry today should likewise engage in training and stand ready to defend themselves.

• The Tanach praises self-defense. The Tanach is replete with accounts of the heroic wars of Israel, from Joshua to Gideon, from David to Josiah. As in the instance of Avraham above, the Jews were able to fight because they were armed and trained. None of these leaders would have been able to go into battle if the Jews had not already readied themselves.

• Channukah celebrates self-defense. Every year on Channukah, Jews celebrate and praise the Maccabees for their armed defense of the Torah and Jewish life. Should Jews today not emulate the Maccabees’ bravery and skill?
* * * * * *
Like the RCA, we look forward to a day of universal peace, when “the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem,” when G-d “will judge between the nations,” and weapons will no longer be required to defend ourselves against our enemies. But we pray for such a future with open eyes, conscious of centuries of Jewish helplessness and of the growing number of attacks on Jews today. The assumption that an era of peace and brotherhood will dawn if we disarm ourselves, limit our access to firearms, or vitiate our right of self-defense, has no support in Jewish history, the teachings of the Torah, or present reality. Plowshares and pruning hooks will not defend Jews against enemies equipped with swords, spears, and deadlier weapons. Pretending otherwise will only undermine the preservation of the Jewish people – and the security of all Americans.

Signed By:

Rabbi Sol Appleman (Syosset, NY)
Rabbi David Bendory (Livingston, NJ)
Rabbi Mordechai Cohen (Milwaukee, WI)
Rabbi Dov Fischer (Irvine, CA)
Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz (Chicago, IL)
Rabbi Reuven Mann (Phoenix, AZ)
Rabbi Gary Moskowitz (Queens, NY)
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky (Teaneck, NJ)
Rabbi Mordechai Scher (Santa Fe, NM)
Rabbi Jay Shoulson (Long Island City, NY)
Rabbi Ephraim Simon (Teaneck, NJ)
Rabbi Ephraim Slepoy (Passaic, NJ)
The Golani Rifle & Pistol Club (NJ & PA)

Obama’s War Rules

President Obama has belatedly come around to the necessity of confronting the murderers of ISIS before they threaten the American homeland directly, but better late than never. His goal – to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the so-called Islamic State – is admirable if open-ended. His chosen measures to accomplish this objective are somewhat wanting, as if he just wants to be seen as doing something more than actually doing something, but perhaps he has begun to accept one basic truth: sometimes you can’t choose your enemies; your enemies choose you.

And if his declaration that there is nothing “Islamic” about Islamic State is a tad overdrawn – the killing of infidels is a perennial and sacred obligation – something has awakened his displeasure, certainly the murder of innocents and the future threat to the United States … but also his plummeting poll numbers.

For sure, Obama is a reluctant warrior, and we wish him (and us) well in the coming campaign. Before commencing the hostilities, though, he should become more acquainted with the modern rules of warfare to which he subscribes but will soon find encumber his success. They are as follows:

  • Never use disproportionate force. ISIS does not have an air force. As such, bombing their strongholds from the air would be overkill, not to mention unfair. Their favorite weapons are machetes and knives, and so, if the US Air Force is not going to drop sharp implements on the enemy from the air, we must at least ensure that the Arab forces that will constitute the boots on the ground will be so equipped. The use of disproportionate force is immoral and probably a war crime, even if it once was the key to victory.
  • Never injure or kill a civilian. ISIS forces routinely hide among civilians, do not always dress in military garb and are not always easily identifiable as fighters. Even when they are identifiable, if their military convoys are ensconced within civilian traffic, they are by definition off limits. If their homes and headquarters are located among civilian facilities or in residential neighborhoods, they are untouchable. If they wage their battles in civilian neighborhoods, it is critical to desist from any type of military activity that might harm a single innocent civilian, even at the cost of mission failure.
  • Ensure that casualties on both sides are equal. It is unacceptable that one side in a conflict should suffer many more casualties than the other side. That per se is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the use of disproportionate force. Thus, Obama’s coalition must mandate that the casualties of the allies must equal – to a man – the casualties of ISIS. If not, well, the specter of being tried for war crimes will hang over the head of every combatant, general, president or prime minister who has a hand in this confrontation.
  • Have lawyers and ethicists vet every potential target before striking. Human life is too precious to allow such decisions to be made only by generals and commanders whose only interest is victory. Objective third-parties – perhaps even United Nations Human Rights commissioners – should be able to review battle plans before every mission and even artillery coordinates before shells are launched. Although this also might jeopardize the mission, we must be able to maintain our moral standards and especially in the face of an immoral enemy. We should not lower ourselves to their level; rather we will impose on ourselves a double, if necessary a triple, standard to guarantee fidelity to our treasured norms.
  • Embed American journalists among the ISIS fighters. This serves a double purpose: it ensures that there will be television cameras recording every bomb that explodes (assuming the above-referenced advice on dropping only knives is not heeded) and that every civilian casualty can be noted and mourned for posterity. Of course, having reporters on the ground is the only way that survivors can be interviewed and their stories about the effects of the horrific bombing campaign of the evil Americans can be told. It is also the only way to effectively calculate the number of civilians who are killed. Sad to say, do not be surprised if it turns out that only civilians were killed, and that no ISIS fighters at all were harmed – the very definition of indiscriminate bombing, another war crime.

     It is also very important to get the ISIS side of the story out in the public domain. The bad PR they currently have is undoubtedly due to the rough treatment they have afforded journalists to date, but they will learn to befriend reporters or, at the very least, intimidate some (i.e., by letting them to retain their heads) into underscoring the casualties of every American strike and downplaying their own excesses or malevolence. After all, there are two sides to every story.

  • There is no military solution to this problem. Guns and bombs never settled any conflict, and if anything, only serve to prolong it. Violence breeds more violence, hatred engenders more hatred. The cycle of violence must stop. War is so 20th century, maybe even 19th Civilized people talk through their issues and settle their disputes through words, not weapons.

     Indeed, the bombing campaign cannot take more than one month. If ISIS is not eliminated within a month, then another way must be found to deal with them as it would be clear that the problem is only going to get worse over time, not better. No one wants another long war (like World War II or Vietnam) and America especially must focus on repairing its battered economy, finding its shrinking work force new, good-paying jobs, and concentrating on redistributing the wealth of the haves to the have-nots. The problems in the Middle East are distant, hazy images on a television screen, and do not really affect Americans in their daily lives. So, if ISIS is not eradicated in a month, negotiate.

  • Self-determination is a cherished, Wilsonian goal that is universally applicable. The people of ISIS have declared their independence in territory under their control. They have decided to rid themselves of their prior allegiance to the Iraqi tyranny or the Syrian tyranny by establishing their own, home-grown tyranny. And that is their democratic right. We should not be cultural imperialists imposing our values on other political systems. Who’s to say that the American values of freedom, liberty, democracy and human rights are inherently attractive to all? Perhaps the futility of war will convince all parties of the viability of the two-state solution, the three-state solution, or as many states as ISIS wishes to create. Neither Syria nor Iraq seem to need all the territory they claim for themselves anyway, and there is plenty of land to go around for everyone (unlike, say, in Israel).

These are only some of the hurdles Barack Obama will have to overcome in his war of choice. Undoubtedly he will, and we wish him the greatest success. The future of the free world might depend on it. And if somehow the rules of engagement change and the war is fought to win, with all the appropriate and necessary measures employed when wars were fought to win, perhaps those changes can be applied elsewhere in the Middle East as well…

Syria’s Business

OJ Simpson, still in prison, is reportedly converting to Islam, and that is just what Muslims need: a veteran beheader to supplement their growing roster of rookie beheaders. Islam’s latest recruit is not unusual – for years, Islam has successfully spread its gospel in America’s jails and attracted thousands of new adherents – but it does underscore the dangers that the US and the civilized world are facing and, led tepidly and hesitantly by President Obama, facing without much success, direction or energy.

Obama’s foreign policy blunders will be the subject of dissertations for decades to come. He has stumbled in every region which he has entered, an unblemished record of failure. The “reset” with Russia now looks amateurish, if not a bad joke; Putin simply does not take Obama seriously, and rightfully so. The only limitation on Putin’s expansionist ambitions is Putin himself. He could have Ukraine tomorrow if he so chooses, and Lithuania the day after. Obama has offended allies as diverse as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Poland and Japan, none of whom have any confidence in his willingness to do anything more than offer canned rhetoric, vacuous clichés and bad advice. Each country therefore pursues its interests on its own, alternately humoring and ignoring Obama as needed.

The “red line” threat issued to Syria and then blithely ignored encouraged Assad and emboldened Putin. No one seriously believes that all of Syria’s chemical weapons are gone, and Assad will likely still be in power long after Obama has written his fourth or fifth autobiography. Obama’s (and Hillary Clinton’s) repeated demands that “Assad must go,” were rightly perceived as risible. Surprise! Their wish is not his command; finally, someone who is immune to Obama’s charms and unimpressed with his words.

China is flexing its muscle in Asia, North Korea continues to taunt and threaten, and even Mexico holds in captivity for months already a former US Marine who mistakenly crossed the border (he, apparently, is the only person on the planet who cannot sneak from Mexico into the United States). An American president who was respected would have solved this crisis long ago, but first he has to take an interest in the fate of this soldier and then be seen as a force with whom other leaders must reckon.

The planned withdrawal from Afghanistan will produce there the same mayhem that the unilateral retreat from Iraq engendered – a grand opening for terrorists, marauders and murderers of all stripes. Obama’s participation – from “behind” of course – in the war on Libya and the demise of Qaddafi has resulted in the birth of a radical Islamic and anti-American regime there, whose thugs just this week captured the US Embassy in Tripoli and cavorted in its swimming pool.

That outcome should offer us a lesson that is instructive today: be careful what (and who) you overthrow.

The labyrinthine web of shifting alliances across the world boggles the mind. Last week’s Wall Street Journal featured a tangled chart of all the convoluted relationships – adversaries that are allied to fight one common enemy while fighting each other on other fronts. For one example, the US is allied with Iran against ISIS, but mindful of Iran’s malevolence in other spheres. Russia is a wild card in many regions. It is enough to make one’s head spin, but a good reminder that, contrary to the common aphorism, sometimes the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy.

Rather than punt, kick the can down the road, admit the absence of strategy years into the existence of the problem, golf, fund-raise, vacation or analyze a situation until it causes policy paralysis, Obama, the US and friendly countries simply have to prioritize. Life is about making choices, and often disagreeable choices, choices not between good and bad but between better and worse. In retrospect, much of the recent anarchy in the Middle East has come about because of the overthrow (or attempted overthrow) of radical dictators – like Qaddafi or Assad – who, for all the violence and turmoil they spawned and innocent people they killed, at least brought some measure of stability to their countries and immediate vicinity.

For sure, neither man deserved (or deserves) to live or remain in power. Both were brutal killers, Jew-haters, and fomenters of terror across the globe. The only virtue in having either remain in power was that the vacuum caused by their downfall (in Assad’s case, of course, his decline) brought to the fore far more radical, anti-American, Jew-hating and violence-loving maniacs. Libya is today controlled by radical Muslims (that phrase is becoming a redundancy) who gleefully murder, maim and terrorize without compunction. As awful as it sounds, wasn’t Libya, the region, or the world a better, more stable place when that murderous nut Qaddafi was in power? The correct answer is yes.

The same can be said for Bashar al-Assad. For sure, this psychopath has played a double game for years (along with his late psychopathic father). For all their rhetoric, Israel’s border with Syria has been its quietest border for 30 years. That is not the case anymore, as the deranged rebels have captured part of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights and shelled Israel. Israelis have already been evacuated from that area to a safer zone more inland on the Golan. Assad has been quite discreet in his direct dealings with Israel, avoiding any confrontation that could induce an Israeli strike on his territory and instead relying on the use of proxies like Hezbollah to slake his thirst for Jewish blood.

Hezbollah remains a problem, although it has been greatly distracted by other wars in the region. But now that ISIS controls large swaths of Syria and Iraq, isn’t it fair to say that the status quo ante (ante ISIS in particular) – a stable Syria ruled by the iron-fisted Assad – was preferable to the bedlam that exists today? The correct answer is yes.

It needs to be said that the same does not apply to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, notwithstanding that he too kept an uneasy peace among the various factions that comprise Iraq. Nevertheless, the world is a better place without him. For sure, with Saddam Hussein in power there never would have been an ISIS. But Hussein – unlike Assad or even Qaddafi in his later years – had pretensions to be more than just a regional power. He was a genocidal lunatic who had already massacred tens of thousands of Kurds with poison gas and hundreds of thousands of others. He harbored ambitions to obtain weapons of mass destruction – several times; once, of course, famously thwarted by Israel – and would surely have obtained them within a few years once the world’s attention shifted elsewhere. Even the level of factional violence in Iraq after Hussein’s demise did not reach the level of violence sustained by Hussein while he was in power, and the US left Iraq a far better place than before. The shame is that the US pulled out precipitously, allowing Iraq to collapse and all sorts of unpleasant actors to seize power.

The primary mistake made in Iraq was made with good intentions but was a mistake nonetheless: it was the notion that an Arab state could sustain a democratic system. It is hard to escape the realization – sad but true – that the Arab world is not ready for and presently incapable of democratization. It is not in their culture or history, and it is not even perceived as a value. We have long deluded ourselves into believing that freedom as we perceive it and the concomitant liberties that democracies safeguard are cherished and universal values. Would that it were so! But it is not. For years, many Americans celebrated (and exaggerated) glimmers of democratic processes anywhere – look! The Saudi local councils allow simple people to petition the rulers, even women! But the truth is that the Saudis, Russians, Chinese and many other people simply do not embrace democracy as a value. Indeed, many people would largely prefer stability and security to freedom and personal responsibility, something that has historically been anathema to Americans.

Democracy has not worked out well in Egypt, Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and other such entities. It has bred discontent and allowed the creation and sometimes the election of even more radical elements. So, choices have to be made. The civilized world – and even a good part of the uncivilized world – has belatedly recognized that ISIS is the primary threat today, not that it has anything more than light weapons but because its ideology is utterly genocidal. It threatens everybody – even other killers and kooks. If defeating ISIS in the long-term means strengthening Assad in the short term, so be it.

The old world order cannot be restored but far-sighted diplomats such as once existed (but are no longer extant) would be able to use the current disorder to fashion (or impose) a more stable environment. Iraq as it once existed is gone. Rather than forcing it to regain its old form, it should be partitioned. The Kurds in the north have earned and thus deserve their own independent state. Much of the rest of the territory should be divided into separate Sunni and Shiite states, with the oil revenue equitably distributed between them. Western Iraq should be designated for the “Palestinian” refugees and the state that we hear they so desire.

And clever diplomats will be able to structure governments in Shi’a Iraq that look westward for alliances instead of north to Iran. For as America spins its wheels in search of a strategy, the Iran’s centrifuges also continue to spin, and its genocidal sociopaths edge ever closer to their own nuclear bomb.

That might not concern President Obama or even OJ Simpson, but it should concern Jews, Americans and the free world.

 

 

Stalemate

One has to give credit to PM Netanyahu for snatching a stalemate from the jaws of potential victory and spinning it as an historic triumph. His rhetorical gifts certainly exceed his strategic vision. But the turning point in the recent conflict – and a sure indication that nothing would change, nothing gained, and dangers would still loom ahead – happened at a very early stage when the Prime Minister fired the Deputy Defense Minister, Dani Danon, for vocally opposing Netanyahu’s acceptance of the first cease fire proposal – even before the IDF had uncovered the tunnels of terror. (Imagine if Hamas had accepted that cease fire, enabling them to carry out their planned Rosh Hashana massacres.)

For that prescience, Danon was fired, which also served as a warning shot across the bow of Avigdor Lieberman and Naphtali Bennett, both consistent critics of the PM’s handling of the war. With the hostilities on temporary hiatus (it is expected that Israel will relax its border controls and allow Hamas to import deadlier missiles and cement and steel to rebuild its tunnels; it’s only fair), Netanyahu ably wrapped himself in the mantle of unity the other night. That is also a neat trick, lauding the unity of the nation during this crisis and subtly implying that unity means following his lead and dissent is an example of disunity. People do fall for that line, but how many do will go a long way to determining Netanyahu’s political future, not just nationally but even in the Likud party itself.

His approach reminds me of the Pruzansky Plan for Jewish Unity, suggested many years ago, which, succinctly summarized, proposed that “everyone should agree with me.” Then there will be unity. It was never implemented, to my chagrin, because it turned out that several million other people had the exact same idea. But the overt criticism of the Cabinet dissenters was more election-positioning than a genuine concern about the united front during battle, especially since Lieberman and Bennett gave Netanyahu cover on the right flank by demanding harsher action against the enemy, usually a staple of wartime.

But when the enemy fires 70 rockets on your civilians on the first day of battle and 184 rockets on the last day of battle, it is a stretch to claim that it has suffered some grievous defeat. In essence, nothing changed, except for the 70 Jews killed and the hundreds more wounded. The enemy is unbowed, unbroken and in some sense even more brazen, farcically so, but nonetheless. It was on the ropes during the second week of the war when a conscious decision was made not to win, with “win” meaning surrender. It certainly was doable under the normal processes of warfare, in which the enemy is the enemy, and is not coddled, fed, nurtured and sustained by the very people they are trying to murder.

At one time this was obvious. Rashi comments on this week’s Torah portion (Devarim 20:1) that there is an enemy in war, and that enemy should be perceived as an enemy, with all that entails. “Have no mercy on them, because they will have no mercy on you.” Or, as George Patton put it, “May G-d have mercy upon my enemies, because I won’t.” Something has changed, in which victory itself has become anathema to modern man – especially citizens of democracies – as if victory over an enemy is repugnant, immoral and undesirable. There is more that will be said about this at another time, but the question before us is: what inhibited Israel from actually inflicting a death blow on a ruthless enemy of inferior resources and infinite malevolence? Why does Israel constantly hold back, and even worse, actually send provisions – food, fuel, electricity, water – to sustain an enemy population that wants to destroy it and that voted overwhelmingly for the thugs who govern them and rejoice in the death of Jews? Why not do, for once, what is necessary to win?

Many will point to the customary inhibitors – Obama or the American left, the Europeans, the UN, the Arab street, etc. There is some merit to that but it is ultimately unsatisfactory and self-defeating. The enemy is strengthened, and wars and terror are fomented, when the Arabs realize that Israel will pull its punches, not fight to win, and will flinch from actually changing the dynamic of the conflict. (For example, laying siege to Gaza – and sticking to it until surrender, regardless of world pressure – could have resulted in that very surrender, benefitting especially the Gazans and the Middle East. The siege is an ancient tactic, and the enemy could have controlled the escape from the siege – surrender. But Israel feared doing what is normal, and it will claim it is because of the “world.”) Is that true? Maybe on some level. But I believe there is another factor at work that serves to weaken Israel in every conflict and in its conduct of war and statecraft.

Israel is hampered by its self-definition – by the “values” that it claims renders it unique. In general, those values are noble, but in wartime they are completely misplaced, and often comical when applied.

So Israel’s concern for the preservation of life deters it from laying siege to the enemy – and engenders such anomalies – now so taken for granted by the “world” that Israel could never abandon these prescriptions without being accused of war crimes – as warning the enemy that an attack is coming, calling on them to leave, rushing to provide them medical care and all the provisions meant to keep them alive and fighting for another decade or ten.

There are reasons why armies – certainly not those of the bad guys, but even not those of the good guys, like the Allies in World War II – have never conducted wars in this fashion. It is because it is stupid, ineffective, and serves to prolong the hostilities thereby producing more casualties. But it feels good! These measures feel good and reinforce a sense of moral superiority, but make no sense and are wholly unrelated – and even antithetical to – the Torah’s ethic of warfare. To many people, feeling good about the conduct of war is more important than actually winning it.

There are other examples as well. Why doesn’t Israel attack cherished religious assets of the Arab population in order to deter or punish terror – such as shutting the Temple Mount or the Cave of the Patriarchs to them, or even dismantling the mosques on the Temple Mount for relocation in Iraq or Saudi Arabia? Because Israel prides itself on the freedom of religion it guarantees to all, even non-citizens, and even to its enemies in wartime.

Why didn’t Israel declare Gaza a closed military zone, banning journalists and photographers from covering the wars and sparing us the sights of the dead women and children, killed because Hamas forced them to be human shields? Because Israel prides itself on protecting freedom of the press and easy access to anywhere on the battlefield. But such generosity of spirit hampers the war effort and makes victory impossible. There is a reason why war zones are often closed to the press – Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, etc., leading to those wars falling out of the headlines and the public consciousness: it is because wars cannot be won when the hyper-sensitivity of third-parties, especially tendentious journalists, riles up public opinion. As it happens, those wars are being waged by evildoers, but the US in Iraq and Afghanistan often closed certain areas to the press, for their own protection, of course.

There is also something beyond bizarre about the need for every military action or response to require the approval of a gaggle of lawyers before being conducted – or frequently nixed by those very lawyers – but Israel prides itself on being a nation that respects laws, even the international laws of warfare that no one else honors, except occasionally by wistful mention of them after the conflict has ended successfully.

Note that none of these are Jewish values, except in the most general and undefined way. The Torah is quite explicit that wars are to be waged to win, and that Jewish life is not to be lost in the quixotic quest to spare the lives of the enemy, whether military or civilian (granted, in the current context, a distinction without a difference). These are all Western values, but in theory not practice, as few countries inhibit their militaries because of these niceties. Hence the staggering loss of civilian life in the United States’ wars in Middle East, which did not produce much hand-wringing anywhere.

For all the phony and hypocritical criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza and the civilian casualties that resulted (relatively few, compared to every other similar conflict), Israel could write the manual on how to conduct urban warfare and minimize civilian casualties. No other war comes even close. But why would they want to? No army should seek to intentionally inflict casualties on innocent civilians, but nor should any army or government encumber its conduct of war and deprive itself of victory by mistaken notions of morality and by adhering to rules of war that seem to be crafted precisely for Israel, and only for Israel, and precisely to deprive it of even the possibility of victory.

That is ultimately a failure of leadership. That the double standard is obvious does not make it a measure of pride. I have yet to hear the Israeli government speak with vehemence and passion, not about the unfairness of the double standard, but against their eagerness to abide by it and about the unfairness of the mere suggestion that it should. And this plays directly into another execrable dimension of Israeli self-definition – the need to feel like victims, to mourn and lament the deaths, injuries, incessant terror and unending hatred – rather than take the war to the enemy in a way that shocks them by the wrath, might and power of Israel.

There are too many Jews that are uncomfortable with Jewish power. They would never admit it, but they prefer grieving at the funerals of soldiers and terror victims to marching in a victory parade. To be sure, I am not at all implying that this is a motivating factor for Netanyahu, Bogie Yaalon or anyone in particular. Nor is it necessarily conscious, but too many people are wedded to the status quo and will never take steps – no matter the provocation – to change it for the better, to seek even the absolute defeat of a single enemy. They are locked into defensive mode, responding, always responding, and always hesitating to take the initiative in a way that will challenge or force the revision of the aforementioned self-definitions.

The glorification of victimhood has seeped into the Jewish DNA because of the centuries during which our blood was shed with impunity. But is unconscionable, immoral and fallacious, and it has to stop. We need not feel guilty over defeating our enemies, nor over the catastrophes they bring on themselves, nor over our survival, nor over our G-d-given homeland. But how we perceive ourselves today has produced a narrative that makes victory difficult, if not impossible, but is not normal.

That the Prime Minister’s popularity is plummeting, and that there is great discontent over the stalemate that ended the current conflict but which 87% of the people feel will just presage the next (and likely deadlier) one within the next two years, suggest that many Israelis are tired of the game, the lack of strategic vision and the disdain for victory that characterizes current government policy. They are looking to craft a new narrative, in which the Jewish people can access the morality of Torah in order to educate the world as to how to combat our era’s brutal, merciless foe – the non-state terror group that lacks any inhibitions and seeks only victory and the fulfillment of its murderous objectives.

When our self-definition encompasses nothing more than the Torah’s values and our willingness to embrace and actualize G-d’s eternal morality, we will be a “light onto the nations” even in the conduct of war and hasten the day of victory and redemption for all mankind.

 

 

 

Dynamic Change

Here in Israel, the rocket barrage from Gaza this evening signaled the end of the cease-fire, and the five explosions I heard in the past hour have a way of concentrating the mind, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson. Israel is waging a war it cannot win because it is fighting the wrong battle in the wrong way, and, as such, it is unsurprising that PM Netanyahu’s popularity – astronomically high just weeks ago – has taken a nose dive. That should help him concentrate his mind a little better.

People are distressed that he stopped short of striking a decisive blow against Hamas, which was within reach just weeks ago. A stalemate leaves the distasteful feeling that the loss of life was in vain, and that Hamas has retained its capacity to launch rockets and missiles at Israeli population centers – including tonight, Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim – reinforces that sentiment. Worse, the ongoing negotiations engender the inevitable but sickening conclusion that the terrorists of Hamas are Israel’s equals on the world stage. It vitiates the notion that Israel is the good guy and Hamas are the modern incarnation of the Nazis, with whom you do not negotiate but crush until it surrenders unconditionally. Negotiations take place between states – not because nations and bands of thugs. The police in Ferguson, Missouri (whatever happened there) are not negotiating with rioters, and even Barack Obama is not sitting at the table with ISIS, at least not yet.

There is no moral equivalence between Israel and a terrorist gang, but Israel is fostering this notion. Some people only understand force and can only be suppressed with force.

Israel would do well to pound home the idea that the “civilians” in Gaza are an enemy population – just like the German and Japanese civilians during World War II who were mercilessly – and justly – bombed into submission. It is unconscionable – at this point grossly immoral – for Israel to continue to provide food, fuel, electricity and water in order to sustain the enemy. Cut it off! And resume it in exchange for an unconditional surrender. That is one way wars are won – through sieges.

There will always be those who argue that Israel can’t do X, Y or Z because the world will not tolerate it. If the last two months have taught us anything, it is that the world  will scream bloody murder if Israelis kill one Arab, 1000 Arabs or 10,000 Arabs. It is all the same. By the way, the protests across the world disproportionately consist of and are fomented by Arabs, not ordinary Swedes, Danes or Frenchmen, and therefore are just another tactic in the war. But it is not the deaths of Muslims that seem to concern anyone (proof? Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, etc. where hundreds of thousands of Arabs have been killed in the last decade ) but rather the perception of Israeli success and prosperity. It is simple hatred of Jews that motivates the protests, not love of life of Arabs. That idea has to be internalized, and the false narrative that the Arabs proffer has to be rejected.

What type of enemy are we dealing with and what can be said about the reporting? One need only recall the 2006 kidnapping of Fox News reporter Steve Centanni by Arab terrorists in Gaza. He was released after two weeks – after being forced to make a video in which he purports to convert to Islam, the religion of peace. Naturally, he has not returned to the Middle East since. Do you think that journalists in Gaza are unaware of this, and thus toe very carefully to the Hamas line while there? Would it make sense for Israel – knowing this – to declare Gaza a closed military zone as happens in every war so the propaganda machine is derailed? Of course, it would make sense; that is probably why it is not done. You know, the special rules for Israel.

The UN Human Rights Commission, about to begin its impartial inquiry into Israel’s (and only Israel’s war crimes), offered a startling admission last week. The chair of the inquiry, a Jew-hater named William Schabas, was asked by Dani Cushmaro on Israel TV about the obvious double standard – the US, the Russians, and countries throughout the Middle East have killed countless civilians in their battles – exponentially more than have died in Israel’s battles, and yet only Israel’s conduct of its wars are ever investigated, and repeatedly. How is that possible?

Schabis answered that of course there is a double standard. He would love to investigate the US, Russia, and a host of other countries – but those countries are powerful, have many friends and allies, and so such investigations cannot take place. But Israel is a small country with few friends and allies, and no protectors, and so it is an easy target. Knowing this, is it unreasonable to expect a war to be waged for the purpose of victory and not stalemate – knowing that the criticism is inevitable?

It seems the population here is divided between people who have lost hope in the possibility of victory, so accustomed have they become to partial victories that do little more than restore the status quo but slowly erode Israel’s strategic position; people who are afraid of the consequences of victory (some of them still do not want to accept responsibility for the Oslo and Gush Katif disasters that have brought us to the stage where rockets fall near Israel’s capital city); and, now, the far larger number of people who want to see Hamas demolished, devastated, killed or captured and tried. A sign that hangs on many overpasses states that “87% support the destruction of Hamas.” Unfortunately, the Prime Minister seems to be in the other 13%, and is otherwise intimidated a little too much by Barack Obama.

Obama – having pulled the closing of Ben Gurion airport stunt – has now taken to withholding ammunition from Israel in order to force them to bend to his will. That 53% of American Jews – according to the latest poll – still support him is a testament to the utter estrangement of Jews from their faith, nationality and sanity. Few Israelis harbor any illusions about his competence, values, decency or support for Israel. One happens to be Uri Savir, who gushes over Obama at every possible opportunity but he comes to this fawning honestly. All one needs to know about him is that the blurb after his weekly column describes him as “Israel’s lead negotiator for the Oslo Accords,” which is like someone being described as the “lead navigator on the Titanic.” Undoubtedly, Obama’s hostility weighs heavily on Israel’s decision making, but, from this vantage point, too heavily. That his presidency will be recalled for having hastened America’s decline is no reason to allow him to induce a similar debility in Israel.

Ultimately, Israel’s plight is that it has accepted a reactive, responsive approach to its enemies’ hostilities. Its objectives are defensive, and subject to the evil designs of others. Its tactics are defensive – Iron Dome, demolition of tunnels, etc. Hamas, now convinced that Israel has no interest in victory or in destroying the Hamas leadership, has made a rational decision to resume its attacks. There is simply no downside to it. Whatever harm is inflicted on Israelis – and it is limited – is a bonus. Whatever harm is inflicted on Gaza – whether death of Arabs or destruction of infrastructure – is a bonus, as it galvanizes world opinion against Israel and will bring in more money to rebuild. For Hamas, war is a win-win.

Is there a way to halt that dynamic? Yes. The simple announcement that Israel’s objective is the elimination of Hamas – leadership and all – will send them scurrying into their pits, caves and tunnels. It will give Israel every moral right to destroy their headquarters under Shifa Hospital in Gaza (and how many of the tendentious international press has reported that) and to cut off the provision of all supplies for the duration of the hostilities. Turn off the spigot.

When the world cries foul, just say this is a war. And this is how wars end. With surrender. Otherwise it just goes on and on and on. It is just not normal for people to live with the expectation that rockets might fall on them sometime during the day, and it shouldn’t become normal.

There are signs across the country with the obvious message coming from simple people who are smarter than the pointy heads whose calculations lead to paralysis at best, and Oslo and expulsions of Jews at worst. The signs read, in Hebrew, “Let the IDF win.”

That makes sense, because that is what armies are for and that is what this beleaguered nation seeks.

On Marriage

The Talmud (Masechet Taanit 30b) states that the Fifteenth of Av (today) is one of the most joyous days of the year, one of two days on which young maidens would frolic in the vineyards in hopes of attracting a spouse. It is especially romantic day in Israel, notwithstanding that the frolicking in the vineyards is passe, and thus an appropriate time to look at the current state and foundation of marriage.

Marriage is a fundamental institution in humanity, despite the zeitgeist, and especially cherished in Judaism. It is perhaps the most important determinant of a person’s happiness in life, if appreciated and approached properly. There is no joy like the joy of a good marriage, and no misery like the misery of a bad marriage. It is therefore also a very personal institution; what works for one couple or person might not work for another. That is what makes it so unique and precious, and why its inner dynamics are off limits to others (except when they seek out assistance). Miriam was punished because she misconstrued her brother Moshe’s essence and the nature of his prophecy, but perhaps also because she intruded on one of the holy of holies of Jewish life, the privacy of marriage.

The Midrash (Eicha Rabba 3:9) cites the verse “it is good for a man to bear the burden (yoke) in his youth” (Eicha 3:27), and applies it to the three yokes in particular. “A person should carry the yoke of Torah, a wife, and a job when young.” We would not necessarily have put all three together. Certainly there are those who demarcate learning Torah from working and even learning from marrying. Others struggle with the balance between career and family, and exaggerate the time and effort needed to earn a living and shortchange their families in the process. Still others – it is quite common in the world at large – delay embarking on any of the two secular quests (career or spouse) until they have left their youth behind. But Chazal were quite clear: it is good for man, when still young, to bear these burdens. But how is that possible, and especially how are the three considered “burdens?”

The Torah Temima  maintains that all three naturally converge. An ol, in the context of the Midrash, is not a yoke such as weighs down an animal, but rather a responsibility. To feel no ol in life is to have no responsibilities in life, a plight that is attractive to the slacker but inevitably leads to boredom and sin. To have olot means that a person has everything in life – Torah because that is our foundation, a wife so that we can live in purity and overcome our innate narcissism, and a job because without work and self-sufficiency even the Torah will be lost, as in “all Torah not accompanied by work will eventually be nullified” (Avot 2:2). And to do it all “when young” is to maximize the best of the world for the greatest amount of time. It is good to start young. But what exactly is the ol? Is there nonetheless an element of difficulty or of hardship involved?

     The ol of Torah is understandable. Torah study takes time, effort, and diligence. So too the burden of work, which also takes time studying, or planning a career, and then one has to show up every day at a job. But what is the ol of a wife??? Indeed, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, one of the great Musarists of our generation, would urge bridegrooms to recite under the chupa (to themselves!) “behold I accept upon myself the yoke of this woman.” What yoke?

Rav Wolbe explained that it means that a man accepts upon himself at that sublime moment to always relate to his wife with patience, to never become angry or abrupt, to never take her for granted, to assume responsibility for her happiness, to embrace what the Talmud (Masechet Yevamot 62b) imposes on a man – to love his wife as much as he loves himself and to respect her more than he respects himself.  He undertakes never to make her cry or unhappy.

That is quite a commitment, but nothing less is expected of the Jewish husband. It is a serious obligation – and with it all people get married, and still for the best of reasons: because they have shared values and shared goals, and wish to build a life and a family together. That notion is uniform for all, but the details vary from couple to couple.

And that is why each couple is provided with a zone of privacy that enables them to thrive, to build their special home and make their unique contribution to the Jewish people.

 

Liars and Their Lies

Here in Israel, life is settling back to what passes for normal, but with everyone wondering will the cease fire hold, and for how long? But the most animated question as people reflect on the war is how do you deal with an enemy that knows no moral limits or boundaries, and considers the death of civilians and children a victory – an essential part in their war strategy? What Israel learns will benefit the world, as Hamas and its style of warfare might soon – if not thwarted here – come to a theater near you, and not the movie theater.

Mark Twain said it best: “a lie can travel halfway around the world  while the truth is putting on its shoes.” The lies of Hamas are so pervasive that one wonders whether they actually believe them. They are worse than even that infamous telephone exchange (recorded by US intelligence) during the Six Day War between Egypt’s dictator Nasser and Jordan’s King Hussein about whether they should blame the Americans for Israel’s air supremacy or the Americans and the British. Both could not accept that their air forces had been destroyed by Jews. Undoubtedly, had both taken polygraphs, both dictators would have passed; such is the power of self-deception.

Hamas has taken the art of lying to new depths, and in large part has convinced those pre-disposed to seeing only evil in Jews but has even intimidated some Jews. Let us count the ways, literally.

From the earliest days of the recent war, Hamas lamented to the world the death of its civilians, starting at 200 and then finishing at approximately 1900. All civilians. Every last one. Every Hamas spokesman – even those hiding in the luxury of Qatar – had the identical figures in real time. Even more astounding, everyone killed in Gaza was a civilian. Somehow, not one terrorist was killed.

There are several possibilities that explain this anomaly.  It is certainly possible that Hamas fighters are impervious to bullets and bombs, which bounce off them, ricochet and strike innocent civilians. Or, perhaps Israeli technology – already mind-boggling in its sophistication –  has developed weaponry in which individual shells are capable of distinguishing between terrorists and civilians, sort of a variation on the neutron bomb that killed people but left people intact, and said weapons always make a beeline for civilians.  Or, perhaps Hamas is just lying, and their lies are being repeated verbatim by tendentious journalists. I’ll vote for the latter, seeing as all the figures are production of the Gazan Department of Health which is controlled by Hamas.

Within weeks, Israel will release a list of every person – by name! – who was killed in Gaza, and it will be clear that most people killed were terrorists, and the remainder were the support system for the terrorists, including women and children, whether willingly or unwillingly.

These names are important because one picture can be worth a thousand lies. The internet is crawling with pictures – easily accessible – presented by Hamas as evidence of Israeli atrocities – but pictures “borrowed” from the massacres of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and other places. Indeed, one family had the great misfortune of being murdered by Assad last year, and apparently again by Israel in the last few weeks. Perhaps the most repugnant of these expropriated images was a picture of a dead baby purportedly killed by the evil Israelis, released by Hamas and swallowed whole by the media – when in fact it was a picture of the slaughtered Fogel baby from Itamar, murdered by Arabs five years ago. Same picture, easily found on the internet. Unless, there are homes in Gaza that have Mezuzot on the door.

Dishonorable mention must be made of the staged photography, of stills and videos taken of “victims” – complete with wailing women – with just two minutes later those same “victims” (official cameras turned off) getting up and walking away unscathed. The hospitals themselves are part of this charade, no real surprise because most Gaza hospitals serve as Hamas headquarters or arms depots as well. That is not to say that no one was killed – obviously not – but that both the numbers and the circumstances are clearly not what has been portrayed. And Israel committed to truth, frequently answered that it is “investigating” a variety of brazen accusations, but those investigations usually ended (and exonerated Israel) long after the world’s attention span had drifted elsewhere.

Much of the staging has taken place in the so-called UN schools. The working theory that Hamas deceives the naive UN workers and squirreled away weapons and fighters in the UNRWA establishments is implausible. The UN is part of problem.  UNWRA is part of the problem. Its Gaza offices are staffed by Hamas members or Arab sympathizes (a more pleasant term than Jew-haters). Israel plays along, as it has for decades, because the UN – essentially a worthless, even counterproductive organization – provides Israel some of the international legitimacy it craves. But it has always been a thorn in Israel’s side, ever regretful of the only decision that warranted its creation – the establishment of a Jewish state in 1947 (after which it did everything possible to render stillborn). These “schools” are offensive staging areas and weapons storage facilities, and not by accident but by design, and in cooperation with the UN officials who doth protest too much. The “schools” serve as propaganda weapons and helped propagate the lies of the enemy.

Add to the lies the fact that two of the schools hit – where apparently no weapons were stored – were hit by Hamas rockets that went awry, all captured on film from Israeli drones. No matter. Hamas accuses first, and the union of the gullible and the malevolent buy it immediately.

The language used by the Arab propagandists also reeks of duplicity. Officials delight in calling Israelis “Nazis,” and terming Israeli actions in self-defense “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing.” Hmmm. The Talmud (Masechet Kiddushin 70b) states that “kal haposel b’moomo posel,” loosely translated as “he who besmirches others does so with his own blemish.” The only entity thinking, dreaming and planning for genocide is Hamas and its Arab henchmen, and genocide intended for the Jews, in Israel and across the world. The only entities that harbor Nazi-like ambitions are Hamas, and others – Iran, Al Qaeda, ISIS and the other crazies that inhabit the Muslim world and are threatening the rest of civilization.

Sadly, the lies are a way of life. Muslims adhere to a religious doctrine known as Taqiyya (or Kitman) which permits lying in order to further the conduct of a noble goal like victory over the infidel. Do note the irony: Judaism permits lying in order to foster peace (Masechet Bava Metzia 87a), Islam in order to advance the cause of jihad and war.

Even more sadly, many across the world are eager to accept the lies to assuage guilt over the Holocaust, to promote Jew hatred, to weaken Israel, to strengthen Islam, and to prevent an Israeli victory. Long before Twain noted the difficulty in combating lies, King David did as well, in Psalm 120: “Lord, save me from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. What can be given to you, what can be added, to lying lips?…Too long have I dwelled with those who hate peace.”

The Israeli government has done a remarkable job in countering the lies – point by point, picture by picture – the only problems being that exposure of the truth lags somewhat behind the propagation of the lies, and that the world market for truth is somewhat limited.

But there are certain aspects of Hamas’ conduct of war that transcend the obvious but unprosecuted commission of war crimes and enter the realm of the grotesque, monstrous, and ghastly. IDF soldiers were disproportionately killed by Hamas members wearing IDF uniforms emerging from tunnels. Children were used to lure IDF soldiers to their deaths – the children as well – in booby-trapped buildings. (Naturally, Israel would be blamed for the deaths of those children, as they would be for the murder of dozens of Arabs deemed collaborators and killed by Hamas.) More than 160 children were killed in the last few years while being forced to build the Hamas tunnels designed to murder Jews. At one point, Hamas placed a fake “UNRWA School” sign in front of a building, again to lure IDF soldiers into complacency. Several times, ghoulish Hamas soldiers grabbed the body parts of IDF casualties and ran off with them. This is even sicker than just the coerced use of human shields to create a bevy of martyrs.

This is not human, or reflects such a nadir of humanity that any critic of Israel or supporter of Hamas should question their own morality and decency. It seems as if every Jew-hater on the planet has emerged from his cave (or university office) to bash Israel for having the temerity to live, defend its citizens and respond with measured force to every provocation. The criticism is fixed and often unserious (no one has yet to answer Israel’s pointed question: what would you do to prevent rockets from falling on your people?). Those critics simply require satisfaction of their blood lust for dead Jews. They must maintain that Jews have to die in certain numbers to justify exercising our right of self-defense. It is sick.

There are Jews who will soon tire of the world criticism and urge Israel’s leadership to improve the optics (maybe have more funerals, shut down Iron Dome for a few days to allow civilian suffering to be filmed for posterity, absorb a few blows and be a better sport towards their genocidal enemy.) The voices of those Jews should be ignored.

Fortunately, the will here is strong, and recognition of the enemy’s evil is clear.  The sense of us against them – the moral, good and decent vs. the immoral, the evil and the repugnant – is pervasive. The battle continues, as does the desire to sanctify G-d’s name through holiness, good deeds, Torah study, prayer and self-defense. May the rest of the world – “friends” and foes – share that desire, work to protect and preserve Jewish life, and never accommodate itself to such unadulterated wickedness.

And may G-d bless the holy and pure and bring salvation to His troubled world.

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8bwiour-iM&feature=youtu.be

See http://www.thomaswictor.com/gaza-sniper-video-definitively-debunked/

See http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/ndtv-exclusive-how-hamas-assembles-and-fires-rockets-571033

And fifty others such videos.