Category Archives: Israel

Consequences

Our Sages taught: “Who is wise? He who sees what is foreseeable” (Masechet Tamid 32a).

To be able to anticipate the consequences of one’s actions, both short-term and long-term, would seem at first glance to be an obvious function of any thinking being and not at all a definition of wisdom or the wise person. In fact, such thinking is rare and therefore precious, and the hallmark of the bright and usually the successful. It is desperately needed now. While wartime is an inopportune occasion for retrospectives, Israel’s decisions – especially those made under the gun and to facilitate past cease-fires – have often engendered the problems that made subsequent conflicts more intractable and subsequent tragedies unavoidable. The examples are numerous.

As a result of the last cease-fire with the murderous Arab terrorist group Hamas, Israel relaxed its embargo on Gaza’s importation of steel and cement. Israel had rightly banned those imports after previous engagements knowing full well that Hamas would use that material to strengthen its military capacity rather than build housing complexes for its “refugees.” But under pressure from Hillary Clinton’s State Department in December 2012, Israel’s government succumbed and allowed Gaza to be flooded with steel and cement. Of course, rather than build even one hut to house even one of its decrepit civilians (and the flood of crocodile tears these days shows how much Hamas cares about those civilians), Hamas used its bounty to build sophisticated underground tunnels and bunkers from which it now seeks to terrorize Israeli citizens and from which it has been able to extract such a heavy toll in IDF casualties.

A little forethought – and a little more steadfastness – against an unsympathetic American government would have been wise and would have saved lives.

Not long before that, another concession wrung out of Israel helped create the circumstances that greased the wheels for another recent tragedy. Several years ago, Israel was agreed as a good-will gesture to remove many of its checkpoints in Judea and Samaria so as to not impede Arab traffic and freedom of movement. Naturally this has sparked a dramatic increase in the number of stonings and shootings along those roads, but more pointedly: isn’t it likely that had there still been checkpoints between Gush Etzion and Hevron that the three Israeli teenagers, Hy”d, kidnapped and murdered in cold blood a little over a month ago, could not have been transported so easily and might not have been killed – that their vehicle would have been stopped en route to Halhoul? Is that at least possible? Did it make sense to facilitate the movements of an enemy population when it should have been obvious that too many of them would exploit that freedom in order to kill Jews? Was that not foreseeable?

Of course, the third return to Gaza in nine years recalls the great national crime of the 2005 expulsion of 9000 Jews from Gush Katif and the destruction of their homes and settlements. Many opponents of that catastrophe explicitly predicted the barrage of missiles and rockets that would yet emerge from that territory, and especially the difficulty Israel would have in re-entry. The greatest benefit of the Expulsion was the short-lived propaganda victory it gave Israel, but it was short-lived.  Rather than perceive the sacrifice, the hardship and the yearning for peace on the part of Israel, the “world” simply saw an occupier relinquishing its illegal conquest, and, to add insult to injury, still considers Israel an “occupier” anyway. As predicted, Gaza became nothing more than a terror entity – a proxy for Iran with its finger sticking into Israel like a dagger – whose only purpose in existence is to harass Israel out of existence. The expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif remains one of the greatest, most suicidal, strategic disasters ever inflicted by a nation on itself.

The murder of Baruch Mizrachi Hy”d on Pesach eve by one of the bloodthirsty terrorists released in exchange for Gilad Shalit again underscores the folly and short-sightedness of these swaps. Roughly 30-40% of freed Arab terrorists return to terror and the murder of Jews. They really can’t help themselves. It is not only what they were trained to do, and not only what they are ideologically driven to do, but the murder of Jews is also both a lucrative and honorable profession in Arab society. These exchanges ensure that it will remain so, and the price paid for killing Jews will laughably cheap. They also guarantee that more Jews will be kidnapped and killed but none of the should surprise anyone. These exchange incentivize terror and make government of Israel complicit in the death of Jews. Was this not also predicted?

This fact should especially be borne in mind with the reports that Hamas is holding (and rejoicing over it) the body of a dead Israeli soldier, which it will undoubtedly try to ransom for hundreds of live terrorists. How about a new approach? No cease-fire until the body is released, and no humanitarian Red Cross visits to Gaza until the Red Cross verifies the status of that Israeli soldier. That should be followed in due course by a complete cutoff of electricity, fuel, food and water to all of Gaza – section by section – until the soldier’s remains are returned. Starve them with a good old-fashioned siege. War is war, and an enemy is an enemy. No displays of compassion are warranted until the enemy begins to display – not compassion, that is too much to expect from barbarians – but simple humanity.

And need we recall the original sin of the Oslo Accords, which brought Arafat to Gaza, and who was then provided with weapons by the sophisticated strategists of the Israeli government 20 years ago? Hmm….bring your sworn enemy in to your heartland and give him offensive weapons, sign treaties with him that he will never honor, etc. How’s that worked out? It was all so bloody predictable that one wonders if anyone thought beyond the day after.

If we go back even further, one stain on Menachem Begin’s record was his acceptance for the 1978 Camp David Accords of the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.” Sure, he was opposed to it, and of course, consummate wordsmith that he was, he talked himself into believing that the words meant nothing , that they had “legitimate rights” to breathe air, drink water, etc. Nevertheless, what he did, in actuality, was commit Israel to accepting the false narrative of the Arab enemy. In effect, he created a Palestinian people when, in reality, history had never known such an entity. (Really. Name a “Palestinian Arab” from the 19th century or the 15th century. Suffice it to say that the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, the world was as yet unaware there was such a thing as a Palestinian Arab people. Every major sport is older than the “Palestinian people.” But Begin signed on to it.)

Words matter. Actions matter. And what is even more significant is that the law of unintended consequences is one of the most fundamental aspects of politics, war, interpersonal relationships and life itself. But how painful is it when those consequences, while perhaps unintended, are readily foreseeable and should have been reasonably anticipated?

Finally, in the department of “words matter,” few writers can compete with the level of despicability of NY Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman, who I stopped reading years ago (this piece was sent to me) and who has won more Pulitzer Prizes than the number of times he has been right about something in the Middle East. His last Sunday column began thusly: “From Ukraine to the Middle East, some bad actors — Hamas, Vladimir Putin and Israeli settlers to name but a few — are trying to bury the future with the past and divide…” What followed was some forgettable piffle about globalization, an electric car company, or something. But note the odious comparison.

The dictator Putin aside, are Hamas and Israeli settlers really comparable? Only the twisted, distorted mind of a self-hating Jew could possibly compare Hamas – a radical Islamic terrorist group that has murdered thousands of its own people, whose charter calls for both the destruction of the State of Israel and the extermination of every Jew in the world, and part of a movement that is sowing mayhem across the globe – with Jews who want nothing more than to fulfill the Torah commandment of settling the land of Israel, whose lives are dedicated to holy works, and who – the real crime in Friedman’s eyes – refuse to disappear, i.e., refuse to commit suicide by adopting Friedman’s failed policy prescriptions. But, to borrow his approach, journalists like Julius Streicher and Thomas Friedman never miss an opportunity to castigate Jews for living, breathing, observing the Torah, building, contributing, and enjoying their lives while they are at it.

Friedman’s invective essentially calls for open season on Israeli settlers. As decent people across the world come to the realization that Gaza will remain a terror-infested swamp until Hamas is eradicated, Friedman is justifying the same type of treatment for Jews who live in Hevron and Efrat, in Bet El and Ofra. Indeed, “your despoilers and destroyers will emerge from you” (Yeshayahu 49:17). Note how the current conflict in Gaza has nothing to do with Israeli settlers, and note the irony that the safest place in Israel today is in Judea and Samaria, neither of which are targets of Hamas missiles.

Words matter and actions matter. We live in a world of cause and effect, and sometimes, effects are felt long after the causes have receded from memory. Friedman is a hater of Israel, but he is inconsequential. What matters more is to see the foreseeable, to look beyond what the great Thomas Sowell called “Stage One Thinking,” and to anticipate the natural consequences of our actions. Israel should refrain from holding its fire and abandoning its mission until it achieves its objectives. To leave Gaza with Hamas intact will ensure that when Israel has to return to Gaza again Hamas will be even more powerful, with rocketry that has guidance systems that will overwhelm even the genius of Iron Dome and tunnels that will penetrate even further into Israel.

So too, Israel should lose the temptation to balance its success against Hamas in Gaza with new concessions to Fatah. That has been an execrable pattern in the past, and sowed the seeds of future troubles. Israel should act like a normal country and pursue its interests rather than satisfy its “friends.” Among those friends are the United States, which shamefully halted flights to Israel yesterday on allegations of security concerns but which sound more like a shot across Israel’s bow in order to intimidate Israel into accepting a cease fire that will leave Hamas intact and ready to launch more missiles…the day after the cease fire goes into effect. All this while President Obama hustles dumb Jews out of their money on his interminable fund-raising excursions. But consider: if Ben-Gurion Airport is now being avoided by world airlines because of the mild threat currently posed by Hamas, it might as well close permanently if Arabs ever become sovereign in Judea and Samaria, where the threat will be real, permanent and just three miles away. (And how about closing the airport to Kerry’s plane until the FAA allows all US airlines to fly to Israel?)

Above all, Israel should act with wisdom – wisdom to deal with the present, but even greater wisdom to prepare for the future, without any illusions but with an abundance of foresight. It might then even succeed in reversing the effects of some of the misguided policies of the past. Otherwise, it will just continue the unfortunate dynamic of the last two decades of short-term advantages that yield longer-term disaster. The good news is that its leaders are very capable of this, but would benefit from the support (and a little nudging) of the courageous people of Israel who are tired of treading water and yearn for the victory over pure evil that is achievable.

 

The Civilian Charade

I realize that one is supposed to grieve incessantly over the loss of civilian life in Gaza, over the deaths of innocent women and children, or over the mourning of mothers for their sons and wives for the husbands. All of them have been robbed of their lives by a cruel world, or just the nefarious Jews who wantonly fire into civilian areas just to kill people.

Israel has certainly publicly embraced this outpouring of anguish, saying all the right things, as in “we deeply regret the loss of civilian life…” or “we do everything to avoid civilian casualties…” or PM Netanyahu’s now-famous sound bite that “we use our missiles to protect our civilians, while they use their civilians to protect their missiles” (it is a good line). And Israel is sincere in these protestations.

Count me among those who found it hard to muster any sympathy for these Gazans, who routinely rejoice over Jewish deaths and would applaud the massacre and slaughter of any Jews. Let’s face a few facts and debunk the canard of the sacred civilian of the Gaza Strip.

First, even their combatants are “civilians,” and intentionally so. In blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, Hamas terrorists (the same applies to Islamic terrorists across the world) do not wear uniforms and intentionally try to blend in to the “civilian” population. Thus, when they are killed, the familiar scenes of sorrow can appear on the television screen, of the bereaved Arab crying, “look, they killed the teacher…the preacher…the butcher…the baker…the bomb- (rather, the candlestick-) maker.” Israel has to habitually identify – even by name! – these alleged civilians in order to refute the accusation that they are killing civilians. To the Arab way of thinking, no one is ever a soldier; they are all civilians.

Second, as is now well known, Hamas conceals its weapons and launches its rockets from the very heart of its civilian population. They have made their civilians the targets, and official Israel has done an outstanding job in underscoring this point. Homes and hospitals, mosques and schools, are used as both weapons storage sites as well as launching pads for rockets and missiles. That is a war crime, and Israel would do well to ignore all the hollow complaints and continue its offensive until Gaza is rid of Hamas. It would dramatically improve the lives of the civilians in Gaza, however many remain alive.

Of course, Israel’s sensitivity to this issue is such that it undermines the military success of this mission – while certainly acting in a humanitarian way – by warning the Arab inhabitants of targeted areas to leave, and to leave quickly, before a raid. This saves civilian lives, but it also allows Hamas-niks to escape their day of reckoning. In the end, buildings are destroyed, but the enemy, who can soon rebuild those buildings and those weapons sites, lives to terrorize another day

Third, we should not forget that these Gazans are “innocent” civilians only in the most elastic and distorted sense of the term. After all, they voted for Hamas. Hamas did not seize power, except in the sense that they ran on a platform and drew an overwhelming majority of support from the electorate. That the people’s favorite party turned out (surprise!) to be brutal, malicious murderers, who on occasion force them to be human shields and die an ignominious death is really their problem, not Israel’s or the world’s. To be sure, that the Western world decided to spin the Hamas election triumph as a victory for good governance, anti-corruption, and (that hoary cliché) the effective provision of social services does not matter in the least. The people knew for whom they were voting – much as the Germans did in 1933 when they gave the Nazis a plurality of their votes. They knew exactly what Hamas stood for and why it was formed in the 1980’s – to eradicate the Jewish state and its Jews.

Be careful for whom you vote.

The Nazi analogy is actually quite apt because it reminds us of the emptiness of the cries of the protesters across the world (who would rejoice – and do rejoice – when Jews are killed) and the sheer vacuity of some statements emanating from the UN and especially from the Obama administration. (By the way, is anything more repugnant that Obama’s repeated assertion that “Israel has the right of self-defense,” as if that is not obvious, as if it is a major concession on his part designed to win him plaudits from liberal Jews, and…as if he has to keep saying it in order to talk himself into it?)

Consider a point made two years ago (the last time Israel briefly invaded Gaza) by PM Netanyahu himself, to a BBC interviewer who castigated him for causing civilian casualties. “Do you really want to go there?” And Netanyahu, to devastating effect, reminded the British viewers of the Allies’ (mostly British) February 1945 firebombing raids on Dresden, Germany, which killed more than 20,000 civilians in just a few days. The Brits perceived this as appropriate recompense, as the Nazis spent two years bombing British civilians. He could mention as well, perhaps for the youthful Jen Psaki’s benefit, that the United States killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians – and rightly so – when two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

It is the first rule of war: civilians die. There are other rules: Truth is a casualty. The innocent suffer (the real innocent). The unexpected happens. The victor uses disproportionate force – in fact, that is usually how and why the winner wins. The evil aggressor should be vanquished, not saved by a hypocritical world to fight another day.

Those are basic rules of war, and only duplicitous, oleaginous Jew-hating purveyors of piffle would deny Israel those rights and seek to amend or repeal the rules of war – and only as they apply to Israel. And they know who they are – from oily politicians and media mackerel, to the Presbyterian Church embarrassing itself in well-deserved irrelevance, to the phony protesters around the world, to those who simply deny Israel’s right to exist. Putin’s allies killed more civilians in one instant with one rocket than Israel has in three weeks – Bashar Assad has killed exponentially more in three years – without evoking the same anger, vitriol, violence and angst. It is selective outrage, phony to the core.

Kudos to real leaders like Canada’s Stephen Harper and the US Congress for their unequivocal support, and to Israel’s government for focusing on countering another Arab attempt to scam the world into sympathy for its “victims,” victims of its own malevolence and suicidal hatred.

There are reasons why these Arabs engender more sympathy than did German or Japanese civilians during World War II. For one, they are fighting against Jews, for whom much of the world labors to find any love gratitude or appreciation. Call it rank Jew-hatred. Primarily, though, that is Israel’s fault, for rather than depict these Arabs as Nazis (or worse: the Nazis wanted to murder Jews, but they preferred not to kill themselves while doing it) Israel persists in designating these Arabs as “partners for peace.” Had the Nazis or Nips been perceived as “partners for peace” rather than subjected to the unrelenting demand for unconditional surrender, they too would have garnered sympathy for their plight.

Unfortunately, the land of Israel hosts Arabs who are largely not partners for peace, nor are they sympathetic characters in the least. They are allies with other Muslims across the globe who are responsible for the mayhem that is engulfing almost every continent – perhaps another reason why even the European and Western governments lack their customary anti-Israel ardor. The world has seen too much suffering caused by Muslims to prompt the usual outcries. It is long past enough.

Add to that another painful fact: those wailing over the deaths of their loved ones are generally the same people urging their children and others to become martyrs, suicide bombers and murderers of Jews. It is impossible for a Western mind to wrap itself around that macabre concept but it is sadly true: in the mind of many of these people, a person killed before he has a chance to kill Jews has really lived a wasted life. Hence the mothers of suicide bombers who “grieve” by expressing their desire that their other children should become martyrs as well. It is a sick death cult, and to the extent that they can be accommodated, they should be accommodated.

One Israeli commentator said years ago that it is the height of cynicism for the Arabs to cry over their civilian losses when their entire strategy is to inflict civilian casualties on Israel through terror. Every rocket or missile they launch has a civilian address on it. It is intended to hit homes, schools, stores and hospitals.

It makes their tears fake and their lament a farce. It should have no effect on any thinking, moral person. It should not – again – induce Israel to abandon its offensive until Gaza is rid of Hamas. It reminds us once again of our Sages’ adage that “he who is merciful to the cruel will eventually be cruel to the merciful.”

Indeed, that is the very epitaph for the Gush Katif expulsion nine years ago. You remember Gush Katif? That is the region from where hundreds of rockets have been fired against Israeli civilians in the last decade.

It is certainly a shame that civilians suffer in wartime, and some civilians are truly innocent and deserve sympathy and protection. Others don’t – not sympathy, deference, comfort, fuel, electricity or food. Let their elected leaders help them. The whole notion of offering “humanitarian” assistance to one’s enemy is foolish, counterproductive, un-Jewish and anti-Torah. Notifying your enemy where you plan on attacking is the height of stupidity and costs Jewish lives, unnecessarily, as it did today. It is a sign that deep within the Netanyahu psyche he still holds out the illusion that this enemy is a “partner for peace.” No nation informs its enemy where it plans on attacking. It is not moral; it is immoral and stupid. If the enemy wants humanitarian help, they should surrender. It would be good for them and for Israel, and for the world, which needs an unequivocal victory over Muslim terror.

Until then, my tears will be reserved for the real innocents, for those who yearn for peace and tranquility to serve their G-d, raise their families, build their homes and their nation, and are forced to fight a merciless foe again and again. Feelings of guilt are unwarranted.

May G-d strengthen the fighting forces of Israel, protect her soldiers from all harm, and guide her to victory with pride, understanding and majesty.

A Strong Nation

The Jewish people, too familiar with mourning the murder of our innocents, has again been plunged into national grief over the unsurprising discovery that the three teenagers kidnapped more than two weeks ago were murdered in cold blood shortly after they were seized. Once again, faithful practitioners of the “religion of peace” have trampled on the flower of Jewish youth and, as has happened across the globe, become celebrities within their large circle of co-religionists. As PM Netanyahu said today at the funeral, “we sanctify life while they sanctify death.” If there are Muslims with a conscience and sense of decency, their voices are drowned out – or perhaps they too have been smothered – by the evil wind that blows through their faith.

Reactions, for the most part, have been predictable. President Obama, whose name apparently begins not with an “O” but with a zero, waited weeks to react and then offered a generic denunciation even though one of the murdered youth was an American citizen. Other administration entities decried the “cycle of violence” and pleaded for “restraint on both sides,” as if there is some moral equivalence between the murderer and the victim, or between the murderer and the victim who wishes to defend himself against future homicides. That moral obscenity stains the American government, and those Europeans who embrace that notion as well. The people of Israel are truly a “nation that dwells alone.”

We are also an inherently decent people that has never fully developed the tools to deal with absolute evil. And so as Israel’s government struggles for a response, it has unfortunately fallen into one of its bad habits – that of distinguishing between the “good enemies” and the “bad enemies.” Hamas serves the desirable purpose of being the bogeyman of choice, a convenient (and deserved) target. But Hamas is largely supported by a society. Hamas is not operating in defiance of their national consensus but in furtherance of it. The Palestinian Authority, a terrorist entity propped up by Israel so – for unclear reasons – there should be a “partner” with whom to negotiate Israel’s gradual surrender, or at least maintain the illusion that there is a diplomatic solution, is as guilty as Hamas. After all, it is the PA that has tried to rehabilitate Hamas by bringing them into the government through their unity agreement. It is the PA that pays terrorists and their families a salary (partly with American money) which rewards, encourages and incentivizes the murder of innocents.  The Arabs who dwell in the land of Israel are a pathologically sick society in which mothers rejoice over the homicidal and suicidal madness of their children. It is not human.

Conversely, the faith of the people of Israel has been profoundly moving. The grieving families are symbols, because Jews rightly sense it could have been anyone. The three boys – Eyal Yifrah, Gil-ad Sha’er and Naftali Fraenkel hy”d– are everyone’s sons, a point underscored by their burial together in the city of Modiin which is roughly equidistant from their three homes. Although the entire nation mourns, we can’t escape the fact that the three precious families bear the bulk of the grief and the loss affects them the most. And yet, their grace under pressure has been consistent, and their messages affecting and pointed. Uri Yifrach, father of the slain Eyal, eulogized his son by saying that “We cry not because we are afraid but because we are human. We have hearts of flesh. We have love and love will triumph.”

And their faith, their strength, has been astonishing and inspirational, even through the pain. Few will forget Rachel Fraenkel’s message sent especially to young people  that “G-d is not our employee.” We can pray, make requests, and storm the heavens but G-d has His own calculations to which we are not privy. It is especially heartrending to realize that all the prayers for their safe return occurred after they were already murdered. Many have understandably questioned G-d’s role and justice. Perhaps we should first look closer to home.

G-d’s Torah is quite clear that hostile elements must be removed from the land of Israel, or “they will be pins in your eyes and a thorn in your side” (Bamidbar 33:55). G-d’s Torah is quite clear that murderers are to be executed, so that there is atonement for the spilled blood and atonement for the land in which the blood was shed (ibid 35:33-34). We are admonished several times “to burn the evil from your midst.”

When the government of Israel serially negotiates with terrorists, gives terrorists a territorial stronghold in the land of Israel, provides terrorists with weapons, arrests terrorists and then coddles them in prisons with color TVs and advanced academic study, supplies a terrorist society with its water and electricity, captures terrorists and then releases them back into a society which welcomes them like heroes, and makes terrorism a worthwhile, even lucrative, career choice, then perhaps the problem is not G-d but man, and not just any man but those men and women who have propounded and implemented such policies, and of course never been held accountable for them.

That the Jewish people unify in times of tragedy is as welcome as it is typical, as typical as are the calls that such unity should carry over when the immediacy of the tragedy fades. We can hope, but as always, this unity also won’t carry over. People’s political positions are usually hardened by tragedy rather than transformed by it. The monstrous evil of our enemies confirms our world view, whatever it is. The kidnapping and murder by Arabs (never caught, by the way) of two other teenagers, Koby Mandell and Yosef Ish-ran in May 2001, changed no minds. The televised and gruesome lynching of two Israeli soldiers in Shchem in October 2000 shocked and horrified Israelis but ultimately changed no minds. (One of the lynchers was released in the Shalit exchange.)  There are many other such incidents, too macabre to mention. I fear it will be the same here and I have no reason to assume it will not be the same.

Those who see no use for negotiations and no hope for peace are justly bolstered by the recognition that Jews are surrounded by a barbarian society that has spawned such beasts with two legs that murder children and then celebrate their accomplishments. On the other hand, peaceniks are even more emboldened to pronounce elements of that evil entity – the “good enemies” – as true partners for peace and rush even more headlong into oblivion. After all, nothing can stop a “process;” it just goes on and on.

Yet, two events give me hope that something has changed and can make a profound imprint on Israeli society. For all our flaws, it turned out that the default position of Jews is faith and prayer, no matter how estranged from tradition some people seem on the surface. It was natural, and moving, to see secular Israelis don kippot, pray in public, recite tehillim and join all of Israel in beseeching G-d’s compassion. They may not pray tomorrow but they will surely remember that during a crisis they, like all Jews, reached out to G-d in prayer. They will remember that this heinous act served as a catalyst to reinforce their Jewish identity, not just their Israeli one. That can only have an ennobling effect, even if we soon return to the political shenanigans of old.

And, even if we didn’t need the reminder, it was rewarding to feel (here and in Israel) the overpowering sense of family that is the Jewish people. We all hoped and prayed together, as we all mourn and grieve together. Everyone in whom a Jewish heart beats feels the loss intensely. In the rest of the world people are preoccupied with soccer and in the United States with Obama’s endless scandals and missteps. All of that pales before the Jewish people – the family of Yaakov – coming together, overcome by the brutal and senseless murders of three of our children.

It was moving to see Yair Lapid state at one funeral yesterday that “behold I accept upon myself the positive commandment of ‘And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Notwithstanding that we all accepted that commandment (and 612 others) at Sinai some time ago, it was poignant. Whether or not it carries over, and perhaps it will, it perfectly captured the spirit of the moment that gripped an entire nation, one family.

The day of reckoning is to come. Terror cannot be defeated because it is rooted in a depraved ideology that will endure, but it can be deterred by inflicting such pain on their society that the murderers are restrained by their own population, admittedly a tough call in a world that glorifies suicide bombing. But terrorist prisoners can serve their terms under harsh conditions; hunger strikers can be allowed to die, thereby purifying some of the world’s air; their leadership can be terminated, as can their successors; disputed land can be annexed, new settlements can be built and negotiations can cease, for a generation or two; riots can be suppressed, forcefully, the world’s outrage ignored; the IDF’s rules of engagement can be relaxed; each rocket attack (the recent upsurge is Hamas’ attempt to deter Israel from retaliating for the murders) can be responded to with proportionately overwhelming force. Their atrocious society can be broken, such that those who aspire to a normal life for their children will want to leave.

The enemy will use every means available – including that old standby, the blood libel – in order to lessen the impact of the moment, in order that our memories should fade. We cannot let that happen, but we must rather crush evil even as we fill the world with good.

As the three boys take their place among all the holy martyrs of Jewish history, we all pray that G-d should grant strength and comfort to the families, and to His people, enable us to retain our goodness even in the fight against Israel, and send His righteous Moshiach to redeem His turbulent world.      And soon.

Life in the Jungle

“Savage peoples are ruled by passion, civilized peoples by the mind.”

So wrote the famed Prussian general and military theorist Karl von Clausewitz referring to the motivation of nations that wage war against each other. But when savages employ the resources of the intellect to perpetrate their savagery, the civilized world suffers, and struggles for a suitable response.

That is the initial reaction to the latest profanation of humanity committed in the name of Islam, the kidnapping of three young Israeli children hitch-hiking home from school and now being held incommunicado, their fates still unknown. The ongoing debate whether these barbarians distort Islam or reflect Islam has probably passed the point of relevance, if indeed it remains unanswered. Suffice it to say that, although the politics and motives differ, there is really little distinction in kind between the kidnappings in Israel by Hamas terrorists or of hundreds of Nigerian girls by the Boko Haram terrorists; the unfortunate common denominator is that in all cases the kidnappers are Muslims and the victims are innocent children.

The sadder phenomenon to ponder, besides the horrific personal suffering of the captives and their families, is that we have made kidnapping, and to a certain extent, terror, a rational act. Evil can be rational, and still remain evil. The simple fact is that terror pays. These crimes provide a maximum

benefit to the perpetrators at a minimum cost. They inflict terrible pain on their captives and on society generally (the pervasive and accurate sense that these boys could have been anyone’s children, the refusal by the captors to make known their demands or even the condition of the victims, etc.) and fear no real repercussions. They will be martyred if killed and then enjoy the heavenly pleasures their delusions have fabricated, or they will be captured and eventually freed while in the meantime, they and their families are handsomely rewarded by the mainstream Arab leadership for their efforts. From a cost-benefit perspective, their actions are quite rational because the price they have to pay is minimal.

Again, Clausewitz: “If one side uses force without compunction, undeterred by the bloodshed it involves, while the other side refrains, the first will gain the upper hand.” While his point is that such a scenario would tend to lead each side to extremes but for other considerations, the point stands alone as well. The side without compunctions, that targets civilians, that seeks to disrupt normal life, that has no goal other than to weaken and demoralize the civilized society, will always have the upper hand – unless the moral majority makes such outrages extremely painful, unpleasant, and counterproductive for the perpetrators. (It is worth noting that the brutality the radical Arab-Muslims exhibit to those who cross them in their own societies is far more bestial than what they have done to Jews, to date, a most dreary thought.)

Part of the “problem” is Israel’s self-definition as a moral society that constrains it from responding fully or in kind to these criminal, terrorist provocations. That self-definition is not only a source of pride but is also perceived as a national asset, even if the definition of “moral” is not rooted in any Torah concept but in an amorphous internationally-accepted framework for morality that is largely ignored by all other countries when it suits them and is in essence a chimera. It provides purpose and context to the suffering. Additionally, Israeli doctrine clings to the illusion that a diplomatic solution is possible, or at least that the illusion of a “peace process” has its political advantages. This, a truly forceful reaction that will complicate the “peace” negotiations or cause Israel to forfeit that other fool’s paradise – world sympathy – is simply not worthwhile.

Consequently, Israel resists the imposition of measures that would reduce the ardor for terror among its Arab population – e.g., permanently eliminating the pleasures and freedoms that Arab prisoners  currently have (televisions, telephones, university education, frequent family visits, etc.), destroying the homes of the families of terrorists as was once done (how about entire villages?), categorically prohibiting exchanges of terrorists to gain the freedom of innocent captives, banning access of Arabs to the Temple Mount, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron, and other restrictions that will get the attention of the Arab community who will either leave for more hospitable climes or apply counter-pressure on their co-religionists to halt their savagery. The silence of the Arab-Muslim world in the face of the depravity of their co-religionists is still the norm, itself an embarrassment and an outrage notwithstanding that such scattered protests in the past have often resulted in the unwanted detachment of the heads of the protestors from their necks. But there are a variety of measures that Israel can take and implement on a permanent rather than a temporary basis that would make incarceration a less attractive proposition and career choice even for a thug.

Furthermore, and without trying to sound crass or even critical, Israel benefits from these fiendish acts because it places inordinate value on propaganda, here meaning the attempt to generate sympathy for its narrative and plight. While the government and the people are rightly moved by the personal quandary of the victims and their families, and I trust doing everything to alleviate it, the political class has situated the kidnapping in the context of attempting to dissolve the new unity government of Fatah and Hamas. That reunification – as cynical as it was, and as ephemeral as it is likely to be – engendered a typically duplicitous and feckless response from the Obama administration but nonetheless can serve the Israeli purpose of defining the enemy without illusions. Instead, Israel seems intent on ending that partnership, which thankfully has put all diplomatic negotiations on hold, simply in order to resuscitate a diplomatic process that – in the best scenario – can only lead to Israeli concessions, withdrawals, vulnerability, more terror and public disenchantment. Far better to keep the unity government, define it as a hostile enemy, treat it accordingly (in terms of freedom of movement, provision of water and energy, and other measures) and focus on strengthening the Israeli polity.

That won’t happen, perhaps because it makes sense, and perhaps because Israel has no strategic concept of long-term victory. Its victories are measured in what we would call the simple joys of life – serving G-d, shopping, hiking, raising families and pursuing a variety of pleasures, notwithstanding the sporadic and repugnant interruptions of normal life that these outbursts of sadism provide.

Israel has reached an understanding of sorts with its nation-state neighbors, and could live quite well with the status quo. Its main threat – not an existential one by any analysis – comes from non-state actors (Hezbollah, Hamas, the PA) and the exception of Iran, which is not a neighboring state and is on the ascent due to the ineffectual response of the West, especially the US administration. And so, paradoxically, Israel has an interest in keeping the PA alive (but weak and ineffectual) and maintaining a diplomatic process in order to satisfy the domestic needs of its neighbors who still do not want a “Palestinian” state nor care at all about the lives of the so-called Palestinians, except insofar as they don’t want them living in their own countries. Thus, Israel could re-take Gaza within a day or two – but the Israeli government does not want it, not the people and not the responsibility for the people.

Of course, a nation under attack does not always get to choose its targets, and of course the land is still defined as the sacred land of Israel, but it will take a sustained assault from Gaza to induce the Israelis to return and recapture it. Israel has chosen – like with the occasional terror – to, in effect, tolerate a number of rockets per diem because the military option is less attractive and the damage caused in strategic terms (the personal is another matter) is negligible. That is a plausible approach, until such time as the terror becomes intolerable, but it solves nothing in the long term.

In the short term, we can only pray for Heavenly compassion, strength and courage to the victims, their families and the security forces, a swift end to their captivity, and the appropriate punishment meted out to their captors and supporters. While campaigns such as #bringbackourboys are well-meaning efforts to keep their predicament in the public domain, they are generally not successful in convincing the enemy (witness the utter disappearance from the news of the #bringbackourgirls for the Nigerians), simply because an appeal to the heart of heartless savages who consider their cruelty a religious devotion is futile. What should gratify but not surprise us is the outpouring of concern from across the Jewish world, a beautiful reminder that we are one family, the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and. Yaakov.

Far better to pray, remain strong and faithful, realize the enemy is not disappearing, encourage sanctions on the enemy population so they can feel real pain and hardship, react with righteous fury if the boys are harmed, annex Judea and Samaria, build more homes throughout the land of Israel, be vigilant that the government does not seek to revive its diplomacy with the brutes in suits who occupy parts of the Jewish homeland and threaten the remainder, and support the government in the use of all measures necessary to free these captives.

Perhaps then we will merit salvation, redemption, and good tidings. Am Yisrael Chai!