December 31, 2008
How we fight
Am I dreaming?
Did Israel actually trick our terrorist enemy into complacency before catching it off guard? Did we use the six-month cease-fire with Hamas to beef up our intelligence and plan a blitzkrieg counterattack in response to the incessant bombing of Israeli civilians?
Did we really put those delusional peace talks on hold and say enough is enough, now it's time to defend ourselves? Did we also launch a PR and diplomatic offensive with the international community to defend our actions?
Excuse me, but this is not the weak-looking and tentative Israel I've come to know over the past few years.
Ever since Israel evacuated all civilians and army personnel from Gaza in the summer of 2005, Hamas has fired some 6,300 bombs targeted directly at Israeli civilians, killing 10 and injuring 700. While these bombs were falling, Israel fought a dumb and sloppy war in Lebanon that only emboldened our enemies; chose a policy of restraint despite the thousands of Hamas bombs; and desperately pursued unrealistic peace talks with a splintered Palestinian people and a terror-sponsoring state (Syria).
In the process, Israel lost much of its power of deterrence, which is a diplomatic way of saying: Our enemies stopped fearing us. This deterrence was crucial to Israel's ability to survive for 60 years in a neighborhood with 300 million hostile neighbors. The situation got so bad that a few days before Israel's Gaza offensive, Hamas was mocking Israel's weakness, demanding that Israel reopen the crossings into Gaza and offering, well, more bombs and the continued imprisonment of Gilad Shalit.
Even the eminently reasonable and peace-loving Barack Obama seemed to be giving the Israelis a lesson when, during a summer visit to Sderot, he said: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same."
Apparently, Israel has decided to follow Obama's advice, which might not be so bad.
As Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi argued in The Wall Street Journal this week, giving Israel full leeway to counterattack against Hamas is a good thing for the peace process, because Israelis will never agree to further land concessions if they feel they can't defend themselves against terrorist aggression.
Of course, if Israel does not heed Obama's message and fails to "do everything" it can to stop the terror on its doorstep, we can expect even less willingness from Israelis to take risks for peace.
In other words, in Israel today, the best way to fight for peace is to fight against terror.
As it turns out, a day before Israel launched its anti-terror offensive, I was sitting in the New York apartment of one of the Jewish people's toughest and most relentless terror fighters.
She is a diminutive woman in her 50s named Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, and author of "Narco-Terrorism" and "Funding Evil, Updated: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It," among other books.
Ehrenfeld's obsession is money. If we can figure out where and how the terrorists get their funding, she says, we can suffocate their efforts.
She has spent the last few years of her life trying to expose "the most vital and venomous sources of terrorists' financial power" -- including state sponsorship, government corruption and the illegal drug trade. "Funding Evil," which has a foreword by former CIA Director James Woolsey, is a highly detailed exposé of the labyrinth of terrorist financing, with a special focus on a major culprit, Saudi Arabia.
Since the book came out four years ago, she has had death threats and, most recently, has been the target of a lawsuit launched in a British court by a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfouz, who denied the charges made in the book of his connection to terror financing.
Ever the fighter, Ehrenfeld turned the tables on Mahfouz by countersuing and got a bill passed in New York State called "Rachel's Law," which protects American authors published in America from getting sued in foreign courts for libel. She is now fighting to get the bill passed in Congress.
She says she gets little support from the Jewish community, because many of her findings are "politically incorrect," as they involve American allies like Saudi Arabia, with whom America does a lot of business. But out of her tiny, orchid-filled apartment in midtown Manhattan, she will continue, she says, her one-woman campaign to expose the money trail of global terrorism.
"It's an outrage that all the information is out there, and we are acting as if these people [the Saudis] are our best friends," she said.
So, yes, there's more than one way to fight terror. For the Ehrenfelds of the world, we must follow the money and get it out of the terrorists' hands. For those on the front lines, we must make clear to our terrorist neighbors that while we do long for peace, that won't stop us from doing whatever it takes to defend our people.
I also experienced on my long weekend in New York yet another way that Jews fight terror. It was an evening event at a synagogue on the Lower East Side billed as "our most powerful response to the Mumbai massacre."
What was it? It was 200 Jews beating their drums at a Chanukah party sponsored by my friend, Rabbi Simon Jacobson of the Meaningful Life Center.
Late into the chilly Manhattan night, these Jewish hipsters followed the beat of a professional percussion band, led by an exuberant conductor named Aviva Nash, who urged the ecstatic crowd to just let it rip as if the whole world were watching.
There was no talk of deterrence or money trails at this Chanukah party. There was just a noisy reminder of how some of us fight, and what, in the end, we're all fighting for.
David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Ads4Israel.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.