Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
It seems I’m one of the few Americans who was appalled at the firing of General Stanley McChrystal. In a rare moment of unity, pundits on both the left and right supported the President relieving the general of command. The arguments were uniform (no pun intended). If the President had not fired McChrystal it would have eroded civilian authority over the military. McChrystal’s comments showed a lack of professionalism and conduct unbecoming an officer. He insulted our allies, etc, etc.
But put aside the hysteria and think soberly for a moment. What was McChrystal guilty of? Insubordination? This wasn’t General Douglas MacArthur who publicly and willfully criticized President Truman’s preparedness to accept a partitioned Korea. MacArthur was also a public advocate for going to war with China. This was rank insubordination on the part of a commander who was an American hero but who had, perhaps because he had served as viceroy of Japan for half a decade, grown a little too big for his britches and needed to be taught who was boss. Not so McChrystal who was the architect of a policy wholly endorsed by President Obama and never once challenged the orders of his Commander-in-Chief either in public or even in the Rolling Stone article.
But wasn’t he guilty of stupidity and mouthing off in front of a journalist?
Perhaps. But how media savvy do you expect a general who for years has been running the blackest of black opps to be? We train these men to hunt down the most dangerous murderers in the world, not to be experts in PR. Of necessity they’re going to be the kind of people who buck authority just a little. And if they do so in the privacy of a military bull session, who cares? Guys like McChrystal deal with a level of pressure that we civilians, surrounded by our plasma TV screens in our air-conditioned homes, can scarcely understand.
McChrystal’s error was to blow off steam and allow his subordinates to grumble about their civilians overlords - which one assumes is pretty standard fare in military circles - in the presence of a journalist. But anyone who has ever been the subject of a lengthy magazine profile, where a reporter follows you around for weeks, knows how easy it is to simply forget they’re there, or that off-the-cuff remarks are on the record, especially when you have a million more important things to worry about.
Vice President Biden is known to be gaff-prone and recently dropped the F-Bomb into a live microphone at Obama’s signing of the health care bill. Politicians are human. So are Generals, as are their staff. But you don’t destroy the career and reputation of a hero officer who has served his country valiantly for three decades because a journalist decides to publish the private banter of decorated soldiers who have never challenged the civilian authority in any meaningful way.
And why should I care about McChrystal? It’s not the general that is mostly on my mind, but American values.
President Obama said that he had to fire the general to bolster civilian control over the military, which conjured up images of McChrystal poised to cross the Rubicon and storm Washington in true Julius Caesar style. But the president, who loves teachable moments, could have used the incident to teach the American people about the importance of gratitude, a value sorely lacking in our democracy. He could have told the country that McChrystal screwed up. A general has to be measured and in control. But given the fact that this was just a silly magazine article and the country owed McChrystal a tremendous debt of gratitude for three decades of service - especially as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, which captured Saddam Hussein and killed Al-Qaeda Iraq head Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he was going to overlook the incident and accept the general’s public apology.
Wall Street bankers who may never have sacrificed anything for their country were given multi-billion dollar bailouts by the government when they, propelled by greed rather than patriotism, messed up. But McChrystal, who will make a fraction in his entire career of what a Wall Street investment can make in a year, was thrown to the wolves for saying things like he didn’t want to read Richard Holbrooke’s emails.
Oh, but the war is bigger than any one individual, the President said. True. But so are American values.
Gratitude is a dying virtue in American society. We continue to live free only because of our brave military, yet most Americans offer empty words of support to our troops that are rarely backed by tangible action. This is a shame, given how much criticism the militaries of democracies receive because of tragic civilian casualties that are unavoidable when fighting terrorists who use kindergartens and hospitals as bases of operation. In this past Sunday’s New York Times Thomas Friedman came awfully close to a blood libel when he wrote of the “brutality of Israel’s retaliations” against Hezbollah and Hamas and how Israel “chose to go after them without being deterred by the prospect of civilian casualties.” Irresponsible words like these betray contempt for the challenges commanders of Western armies face when fighting terrorists who both murder innocent civilians and also use them as human shields.
But it’s not just in military situations where gratitude is lacking in our culture. It is also dying in marriage, with more and more men and women refusing to stay in relationships where they don’t feel appreciated. Gratitude is an increasingly rare commodity in the parent-child bond with more youth feeling a sense of entitlement and more parents feeling like they are glorified ATM’s. Neither do employees in today’s economy feel appreciated as they are laid off in record number by companies who often put profits before people.
But gratitude is also lacking in today’s media, which is often prepared to exploit human error to bolster circulation and ratings. Michael Hastings could have showed some gratitude toward a general who trusted him, took him into his confidence, and gave him unique access to his challenges fighting the murderous Taliban in Afghanistan, including his occasional frustrations with his civilian superiors. Instead his revelations will ensure that public officials trust journalists even less then they do already, making our newspapers and magazines, which are already on life support, blander and more colorless.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network and host of ‘The Shmuley Show” on WABC 77AM in New York City. His new book is Renewal: Living the Values-Filled Life (Basic Books). Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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June 21, 2010 | 1:46 pm
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
This Friday marks one year since the passing of Michael Jackson.His legacy remains highly controversial. On one side there are ardent fans who consider him the central inspiration of their lives. On the other there are strident critics who believe he was hopelessly weird with an unhealthy interest in children. In the middle are those who simply love his music and miss his talent.
The truth about Michael as I knew and understood him was something else entirely. Michael Jackson forever remained the broken boy who yearned fora normal childhood but was thrust reluctantly into a spotlight that slowly became addictive. Immersed in a celebrity culture rife with human corruption,he yearned to be innocent. Starved of affection, he spent his life looking for love but ultimately settled for attention. Surrounded by sycophants who indulged his every unhealthy whim, he longed to find an authentic and spiritual environment. And trapped in a cocoon of incarcerating fame, he craved to consecrate his celebrity to a cause larger than himself.
The tragedy of his life was his failure to achieve these noble aims. Michael knew that G-d had given him a special gift and with it the power to ‘heal the world,make it a better place.’ He understood the responsibility of celebrity and was devastated as his was slowly transformed into notoriety. He hated to be hated and was crushed by the chasm between what he saw as his sincere intentions to do good verses the uncharitable public perception of him as a shallow materialist.
Once, in the midst of the thirty hours of recordings we did together for publication ina book that would allow Michael to speak directly to the public, he revealed how defamatory his celebrity had become. “You get tired and it just wears you down. You can’t go somewhere where they don’t manipulate what you do and say, that bothers me so much, and you are nothing like the person that they write about, nothing. To get called Whacko, that’s not nice.People think something is wrong with you because they make it up. I am nothing like that. I am the opposite of that.”
Polite to a fault, he was a soft and gentle soul who prided himself on being different to other celebrities. Whereas they partied in night clubs, Michael loved being around ordinary families. Where they put, as Michael said, needles in their arms, he was a vegetarian who wouldn’t be caugh tdead with a street drug. And where they, as Michael maintained, engaged in tawdry relationships, Michael preferred the company of innocent kids.
What he could not see was that overindulging in medication prescribed by a doctor was just as destructive as a street drug and was motivated by the same celebrity emptiness. He was also oblivious to his own excess when it came to kids. It was one thing to show kindness and friendship to children. It was another thing entirely to invite them into your bed.
I do not for a moment believe Michael was a pedophile. Those who judge him as such forget that the only time he was charged he was utterly acquitted, and it is time for the public to exonerate him as well. But he gave himself license to cross lines of basic propriety that brought him into disrepute and soiled his message as to the purity and innocence that adults could learn from children. For a man who spent his life trying to educate the public as to the wonders of childhood, this was a monumental failure, and he knew it. The suspicion cast on him by a public whose love he had spent a life time cultivating marked the principal sorrow of his life. It would have tragic consequences when he turned increasingly to painkillers to numb the ache.
A year after his death what most haunts me is the knowledge that Michael’s life could so easily have been saved. What Michael needed was not pain killers but counseling, not the numbing of an inner woundedness through drugs but the awakening of an inner conscience through spiritual guidance. He needed a wise voice in his ear guiding him to a mastery of his demons before they consumed him. Any number of people could have rescued Michael from impeding oblivion.Most of all, he craved the love and validation of his father. What emerges most strikingly in our recorded conversations – conversations that Michael knew would be read by a wide audience, perhaps including his parents – was the hurthe felt toward his father on the one hand, and the extreme affection he harbored for him on the other. Michael had many fans, but he played primarilyt o an audience of one.
But while his life is sadly irretrievable, the lessons to be culled from his life are not. Few were as eloquent in articulating the profound lessons parents could learn from being around their children. Fewer still were more attuned to the lifelong scarring of children who were victims of neglect.I can still hear Michael’s daily admonishments to me to look my children in the eye and tell them I loved them and to never allow a night to go by without reading them a bedtime story.
When first I learned of his death my immediate reaction, I am ashamed to say, was anger. You silly man, I thought. How could you? You knew your children, whom you adored, depended on you. You were the most devoted father. How could you orphan them? You Michael, to whom G-d bequeathed such unequaled talent, just threw it away?
Twelve months later the anger is gone, replaced by a deep sadness.He was an imperfect candle. But his striving to go beyond the caricature he had become and redeem his life by visiting orphanages and hospitals was illuminating.The lyrics of his songs spoke to the human yearning to mend the broken pieces of the human soul and become whole. Whether it was encouraging himself and his fans to be the man looking in the mirror, or healing the world, he wished forhis music to inspire people to choose goodness.
A year after his untimely passing it is time to finally mourn Michael as a man. To remember him not as an entertainer, or to miss him as an international icon – an object without feelings or pain – but as a struggling soul who tried to transform the pain of his broken childhood into an inspirational message of parents cherishing their children. It is time to evaluate Michael his life not in the context of an idol who had much money and fame but as a man who searched for a real home that was not a stage.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is thea uthor of ‘The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul Intimate Conversation,’ (Vanguard) and the just-published ‘Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life’ (BasicBooks). His website is www.shmuley.com. Follow him on Twitter@Rabbishmuley.
June 17, 2010 | 10:35 am
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Leading British politicians have been running to defend BP from unwarranted American attack and “bashing Britain.” First we stole their tea. Now we disparage their oil. The nerve.
Leading the charge was London Mayor Boris Johnson who said there is “something worrying about the anti-British rhetoric that seems to be permeating from America.” Next up was Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who, in a thinly veiled attack against President Obama, said, “I don’t frankly think we will reach a solution to stopping release of oil into the ocean any quicker by allowing this to spiral into a tit for tat political diplomatic spat.” The biggest critic was Lord Tebbit, a former Thatcher Cabinet Minister, who called Obama’s attitude toward BP “despicable.”
Curiously, none of those seeking to paint BP as a victim made reference to its atrocious safety record prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion on 20 April, 2010. An internal BP report of 2004 found “a pattern of the company intimidating workers who raised safety or environmental concerns,” and “managers shaved maintenance costs by using aging equipment for as long as possible.”
In 2005 an explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery killed 15 people. A ProPublica report found “significant process safety issues exist at all five U.S. refineries, not just Texas City.” It added that “the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the firm $87 million for not improving safety at the same Texas plant.”
Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen summed it up. “BP is a London-based oil company with one of the worst safety records of any oil company operating in America. In just the last few years, BP has paid $485 million in fines and settlements to the US government for environmental crimes, willful neglect of worker safety rules, and penalties for manipulating energy markets.”
So why would the British defend this horrible safety record by insinuating that American rage at BP is “British bashing?” And let’s not forget that BP itself changed its name in 2001 from British Petroleum, almost as if it were ashamed of the word “British.”
Britain does itself no favors by complaining about a falling share price and lost dividends while eleven Americans lie dead, thousands of Gulf Coast residents have lost their livelihood, and innumerable wildlife wash up ashore drenched in BP guck.
Unfortunately Britain’s penchant of putting oil profits ahead of human life has a shameful and recent precedent.
In an act of unforgettable infamy the Scottish government, in August of last year, released convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, who murdered 270 people, on “humanitarian grounds,” saying that he had only three months to live. The mass-murderer was immediately accorded a hero’s welcome by Kaddafi in Tripoli. FBI Director Robert Mueller published an angry letter to the Scottish government that said, “Your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world.”
From the beginning there was speculation that al-Megrahi’s release was brokered by the British government in exchange for lucrative British oil contracts with Libya. Kaddafi himself publicly thanked Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth for facilitating the terrorist’s release. “This step,” he said, “is in the interest of relations between the two countries…and of the personal friendship between me and them and will be positively reflected for sure in all areas of cooperation between the two countries.”
Kaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam went further, saying that in all his meetings with British officials to discuss oil contracts the subject of the Lockerbie bomber’s release was an absolute condition of any deal. “In all British interests regarding Libya, I always put you on the table,” he told the killer.
And which British companies were pushing hardest to strike a deal with Kaddafi? Reuters named BP and Shell at the top of the list.
A few weeks after this murky deal was concluded I hosted a protest on my front lawn against Kaddafi who was planning to pitch a tent immediately next door to me in Englewood, New Jersey, in a mansion owned by the Libyan mission to the United Nations. Those attending included New Jersey governor Jon Corzine and Senator Frank Lautenberg. But the standout speakers were families of the victims of Pan Am 103 who described how their lives had been shattered by Kaddafi’s atrocity and their outrage at the British and Scots for releasing the bomber after only eight years in prison.
Now comes word via the London Times that Kaddafi plans to pay £2 billion to victims of IRA bombs for his role in supplying shiploads of explosives. “Semtex supplied by Kaddafi’s regime,” the Times said, “was used by the IRA in at least 10 atrocities, including the bombing of Harrods in 1983 and Enniskillen in 1987. The Real IRA used it at Omagh in 1998, killing 29 people and injuring 220. It was used in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie, when 270 were killed.” The Times revealed that Gordon Brown had initially balked from pressuring Kaddafi to pay the victims “for fear of harming trade.”
But Kaddafi has now decided that a grand humanitarian gesture, without any admission of responsibility, “will end the legal actions and build diplomatic and business relations with the UK.”
It is now ten months since the Lockerbie bomber’s release. It appears that miracles still happen because the previously terminally ill patient is somehow alive and well and, according to Kaddafi’s son, ‘greatly improved’ now that he is home in Libya. As for the reward to Britain, the Daily Mail reported that just five months after the bomber’s release “Libya announced plans to invest £5 billion in the UK.”
In the aftermath of these shameful British actions, I continue to fight what has become a lonesome battle against Kaddafi’s Ambassador living next door to me in a state where 30 people died aboard Pan Am 103. My pleas to Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle and City Council President Scott Reddin to take action against the mission of a terror-sponsoring government living tax-free in a city strapped for cash, and in post 9/11 America, have been met with little response. Most shocking of all Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey’s Ninth district, now up for reelection, was quoted as saying that he expected us residents to act as “appropriately good neighbors” with the Libyan Ambassador.
Justice be damned.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network. He has just published “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life” (Basic Books). Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. His website is www.shmuley.com.
June 7, 2010 | 4:27 pm
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Helen Thomas’s stomach-turning comments about the Jews returning to Germany and Poland, where six million were gassed and cremated into piles of ash, are striking for their racism and insensitivity. Whether she said them out of senility or anti-Semitism are beside the point. Either way she has no business working for any respectable media organization or sitting as the senior White House correspondent directly in front of the President of the United States. When Don Imus made racially charged statements against a woman’s basketball team, candidate Obama demanded he be fired. It will be interesting to see how President Obama, who could not offer a single word of support for Israel since the flotilla affair, will react.
One can only imagine the uproar against Thomas had she said that all blacks should go home to Africa, or illegal immigrants to Tijuana. It seems that Jews are the only group that you can attack with impunity because they are the only ones unwise enough to tolerate it. Better yet, we’re the only group often so filled with so much self-loathing that we actually initiate many of the attacks.
Few of us are surprised that it is a coterie of Jewish advisors to President Obama who have joined him in condemnations of Israel over Jews building in Jerusalem. This week the New York Times published an article by Michael Chabon arguing that many Jews are ‘blockheads’ and notions of Jewish intelligence are highly overrated. He may be correct. But as I read this strange screed from one of America’s most celebrated Jewish novelists I wondered if, say, Maya Angelou would ever pen an article about how many black dumbbells there are. Attacks on one’s own seems to be an art form perfected specifically by Jews.
Helene Cooper wrote a column in the New York Times (funny that so many derogatory articles on Israel and Jews always appears in a Jewish-owned newspaper) asking whether Israel has become a strategic liability to the United State. She quoted many senior Jewish political advisers to the democratic party who advised that if Israel continues to embarrass the United States it might be time for the superpower to distance itself from the little Jewish irritant. The criticism made for interesting reading, implying as it did that while Israel is an embarrassment to the United States, its relationship with such great human rights exemplars as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey ought to be sources of downright pride.
Turkey merits special mention because not only does its media accuse the American military of harvesting organs from helpless Iraqis, which it cites as one of the reasons for the American invasion, but because Prime Minister Erdogan sees fit to call Israel barbarous, lecture Jews about not murdering, and refers to Hamas as freedom fighters. Curiously, at the same time he was spewing his venom toward the Jewish state this past week, the Pope was in Cyprus where he was being publicly begged by Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the leader of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, to stop the illegal Turkish occupation of Cyprus, now in its thirty-forth year, and protect Christians from growing attacks by Turks. Just prior to the Pope’s visit a Christian bishop had been stabbed to death outside his home in the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun. The archbishop said that Turkey had “barbarously invaded” Cyprus and “continues to carry out its obscure plan, which includes the annexation of the lands now under military occupation and then conquest of the whole of Cyprus. They wish to make everything Greek and Christian disappear from occupied Cyprus.” Of course, Turkey won’t even acknowledge its genocide of the Armenians, a position that President Obama has shamefully supported in order not to offend Turkey’s belligerent leader.
Of course, Cooper’s article quotes the ubiquitous J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami whom journalists have come to appreciate because of his consistency and reliability in always saying something disparaging about Israel. In this case Ben-Ami is quoted as saying ‘he represents Jews who… are raising the issue of Israeli government actions as a strategic liability for the United States.’
I lived in England for 11 years and was sickened by the regular abandonment of Israel by some of the most high-profile Anglo-Jews whenever Israel’s actions became controversial. For those wondering why a floodgate of anti-Semitism has opened in Britain over the last few years, look no further than the fact that Israel’s greatest haters can often point to Jewish critics as being much more strident than them. And still it continues, with even high profile Jewish leaders like Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks remaining mum on Israel even while it was assailed by countless countries for enforcing a blockade against a terror organization that has fired 10,000 rockets against it.
Still, I never believed that American Jewry would emulate this cowardice. But President Obama’s public abandonment of Israel is directly traceable to the small price he pays among American Jews. On my radio show on WABC in New York many callers contend that President Obama is an anti-Semite. I condemn such character-assassination in the strongest possible terms. Obama has elevated Jews to some of the highest positions in the land, including his most recent nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan. Rather, the President inability to condemn Hamas and support Israel, which is a stain on his presidency, results from his considerable moral confusion and a misguided sense of right and wrong. Under Obama America has retreated substantially from President Bush’s policies of promoting democracy and human rights and has reverted to Kissingerian realpolitik, ready to make deals with tyrants so long as it promotes an artificial sense of peace.
But Obama can get away with it because American Jewry has become so silent and so weak. Whenever Israel undertakes controversial action, American Jews begin writing op-eds in The Atlantic and The New Yorker about how the once-moral nation has lost its way. Funny how those same writers do not condemn President Obama’s policy of Predator drone strikes against Taliban leaders that inevitably involve considerable civilian collateral casualties.
Sorry guys. Israel is going to remain controversial, as one might expect from any country under a constant existential assault from nearly all its neighbors. When threatened by Hitler Britain leveled whole German cities. The United States did the same to the Japanese. Israel has never even pondered such actions, even as thousands of its citizens have been blown to smithereens.
The Jews who were murdered in Germany and Poland cannot speak out in support of a Jewish state. The rest of us, however, have absolutely no excuse.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network. His new book, ‘Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life,’ has just been published by Basic books. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
June 2, 2010 | 10:39 am
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Judaism’s highest value is human life. Every life. There is no difference between a Jewish life and a Palestinian life. All are of infinite value before G-d. As a Jew and as a Rabbi I proclaim loudly and unapologetically that I see all Arabs as my brothers under G-d. We are all one human family and all are created equally in G-d’s image, just as the Jewish Bible declares.
As a Rabbi I was therefore deeply saddened at the outcome of the so-called ‘peace’ flotilla, which turned out to contain a large contingent of violent thugs whose only interest it was to provoke Israel. Still, nine dead is a terrible tragedy. We mourn this painful outcome.
But once again the world’s hypocrisy and double standards vis-à-vis Israel are on full display. In Kingstown, Jamaica scores of civilians have tragically died over the last few days as government forces battle violent killers intent on protecting a drug lord. In Mexico the government has been engaged in a nonstop battle to curtail brutal drug cartels and many civilians have died in the maelstrom. Would anyone suggest that these governments allow their soldiers to be mowed down by cartel killers?
In the Cuban missile crisis the United States declared a naval blockade against a government that had never attacked it but was receiving weapons that might. Would the world prevent Israel from its blockade of Hamas which has already fired approximately 10,000 rockets at its civilian population?
Like any government, Israel’s first priority is to protect its citizens from slaughter. It had no choice but to stop a flotilla of so-called humanitarians whose purpose it was not to deliver humanitarian aid – Israel and Egypt had already offered to deliver the aid over land routes – but, as they themselves declared, to destroy the naval blockade of Hamas. Is there one legitimate government on earth that would encourage Israel to allow the continued arming of one of the world’s premiere terrorist organizations? And once Israel intervened to stop the flotilla, which, it turned out, carried many individuals with ties to terrorist organizations as well as military equipment like bullet-proof vests, night-vision goggles, and gas masks – was it supposed to allow its soldiers to be lynched? Would any police officer in the United States, set upon by metal pipes, knives, and being thrown thirty feet down a building, not use his revolver to protect his life? Would we have expected that police officer to allow himself to be torn by a mob limb from limb? Facts are stubborn things and the videos of the assault against Israel’s soldiers are posted on the Internet for all to see.
This does not mean that I do not seriously question the effectiveness of Israel’s response to the flotilla. This was a trap, and Israel unfortunately stepped right into it. The flotilla, organized by IHH, an organization which the CIA linked to terrorists already in 1996, was itching for a fight or for martyrdom, a PR battle that Israel was to lose either way. Israeli intel seemed deeply flawed in not knowing the kind of people that were on board and how they would respond to the landing by Israeli commandos.
But amid this criticism, the justice of Israel’s cause can be established from the putrid regimes who now condemn it. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia said the attack “reflects Israel’s inhuman practices… and indulgence in killing innocent people.” This from a man who oversees, along with North Korea, what is arguable the world’s most repressive regime. The national Assembly of Sudan said “the parliament condemns the Israeli attack against international activists who were trying to deliver food for the civilians in Gaza.” Pretty rich from a government who for years has been engaged in genocide. Ahmedenijad of Iran called for a global boycott of Israel, which is a good diversion from the doomsday weapons he is building amid his stated intention of wiping Israel off the map. But the criticism of even civilized governments like Britain, whose new Prime Minster said that Israel’s actions are ‘unacceptable,’ are confusing. Would he have allowed an aid flotilla for the IRA at the height of ‘the troubles’ when bombs were going off in the streets of London almost daily?
But Hamas used the withdrawal not to build hospitals, universities, and schools but to turn Gaza into a terrorist state. It is a cruel and violent organization that regularly lynches, without even the semblance of a trial, Palestinians whom it accuses of working with Israel. It is a murderous gang whose commitment is not to helping Palestinians but to killing Jews. Israel must continue to ensure that no arms reach Hamas. And until such time as Hamas renounces their violent intent to exterminate the Jewish state, incidents like these, in which enemies of Israel stage violent demonstrations under the guise of peace will no doubt continue.
Many are now accusing American Jewry of blindly supporting the Jewish state. Nothing could be further from the truth. We did not support the Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein who murdered 29 innocent Palestinians. We called his actions an abomination against G-d and man. But incidents of Jewish terrorism are rare to non-existent. And if and when they occur the killers are treated not as heroes but as repulsive traitors to every value Judaism holds dear.
Israel is a country struggling for its very survival. No other country on earth is surrounded by enemies like Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, and Hamas each of whom are publicly sworn to Israel’s destruction. Should there be no international pressure on these groups to renounce their violent intent? Is it that hard to understand that American Jewry sees the act of always blaming democratic Israel while letting murderous Hamas off the hook as prejudiced and hypocritical?
I don’t want to wake up to news, as I did last week, that Israel has once again been forced into a terrible choice between protecting its citizens and soldiers and killing their assailants. But Jewish life is also valuable. And we should not expect twenty-year-old soldiers to stand by passively as mobs try and bludgeon them to death.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network. His newest book, ‘Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life,’ has just been published by Basic Books. www.shmuley.com.