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.