A Jewish Chamberlain? by SHMULEY BOTEACH
'For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven... a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Eccl. 3) America's greatest fighter for civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, whom we all greatly respect and admire as one of international Jewry's most eloquent spokesmen, has embroiled himself in considerable controversy by stating that Israel is adopting a stance "incompatible" with the deepest ideals of Judaism, and that, "There are things that happen on a daily basis [in Israel] that make me feel very uncomfortable as a Jew."
In addition, he advocates in his new book, The Dignity of Difference that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is the division of the land into two states and the division of the holy places, a highly controversial proposal that in any event was already rejected by Yasser Arafat at Camp David.
Given Sack's eminence as a leading Jewish thinker and his authority as chief rabbi, his remarks warrant critical scrutiny. Is he correct in asserting that the actions of the Israeli army in its never-ending war on terrorism are at odds with Jewish values?
Sacks is not only Jewish, he is also British. Are the allied actions of American and British troops in Afghanistan in their war against al-Qaida and the Taliban -- which The New York Times reported recently on its front page as including the accidental killing of at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians -- generating the same level of discomfort for him?
Moreover, Winston Churchill remains one of the civilized world's greatest heroes. Yet, in Britain's war against Hitler, that same man regularly ordered the indiscriminate bombing of German civilian population centers -- almost completely leveling Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin, and other cities -- in reprisal for German bombing of British cities. This is something Israel has never countenanced doing.
Surely, the chief rabbi's statement about Israel that "there is no question that this kind of prolonged conflict, together with the absence of hope, generates hatreds and insensitivities that in the long run are corrupting to a culture" could apply equally well to Britain during World War II. Yet, most of us consider its prolonged war against Hitler to have been Britain's "finest hour," and Churchill to have been the savior of his people rather than a war criminal.
Why? Because he saved Western civilization from Nazi tyranny and when a nation is involved in a war in which its enemy seeks its annihilation, there are bound to be significant and unavoidable civilian casualties.
Tragically, Israel is involved in a war for its survival. I was in Yasser Arafat's office in Gaza not more than a year ago -- I refused to actually meet him, but accompanied a dignitary who did -- where there was a map of Israel on the wall that was completely covered by the Palestinian flag. The whole country; not just Gaza, Judea, and Samaria.
Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, America's most renowned criminal defense lawyer, states in his new book, Why Terrorism Works, that if the Arab armies were to defeat Israel militarily they would not only reoccupy the land, but slaughter the civilian population. I greatly respect Sack's vast wisdom and intelligence, but he is being hopelessly na ve if he believes otherwise.
Israel is on the very front lines of the West's war with radical Islam, bearing the full brunt of the attack. Its restraint in the face of so beastly an onslaught is truly admirable. While Harry Truman dropped the atomic bomb on Japanese civilians rather than risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of invading American troops, Israel sends to perform surgical operations house-to-house to fight Hamas and Fatah, rather thanuse its ferocious air force to flatten cities. Through this policy, Israel loses a disproportionately high number of soldiers. I say this not to condemn Truman, but to salute Israel's unparalleled humanity.
Sacks is a world authority on Jewish values. But I am confused by the following statement in his book: "Hating the German people will not bring back to life one victim of the Holocaust. Hating the Palestinians will not bring Israel one step nearer to peace. Loving God more does not entitle me to love people less."
Of course no Jew should hate today's Germans. They didn't perpetrate the Holocaust. But the last generation of Nazis who murdered six million of our brethren should be loathed with every fiber of our being.
THE SAME applies to the Palestinians. To those who would live with us in peace and respect the accords they signed in Oslo and condemn homicide bombers, we offer the open hand of friendship. But to those who would blow up innocent high-school children outside a disco, as well as to those who dance in the streets when such reports reach their television sets, we offer unremitting hostility.
Jewish blood must never again be allowed to flow without a Herculean struggle to save every last life.
One of the most frequent refrains in my books on interpersonal relationships is how we, as a generation, have forgotten how to love. But let me surprise you by complaining about how we have also forgotten to hate.
Forgetting how to hate can be just as damaging as forgetting how to love. Immersed as we are in a Christian culture that exhorts us to "turn the other cheek," we have all bought into the lie that hatred is necessarily a horrendous emotion. Yet, surely Sacks, a man of immense erudition, is aware that exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in our Bible. God Himself hates every form of immorality as harmful to mankind. Thus the book of Proverbs declares, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil."
Likewise, King David declares of the cruel: "I have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me."
Hatred is a valid emotion, an appropriate response, when directed at the truly evil -- those who have gone beyond the pale of human decency by committing acts that un-weave the basic fabric of civilized living. Rejecting pacifism as evil, Judaism obligates us to despise, resist, and fight the truly wicked at all costs. And what could be more wicked that a suicide bomber?
Amid my deep and abiding respect for the Christian faith, I state unequivocally that to love the terrorist who bombs a pizza shop is not just inane, it is deeply sinful. To love evil is itself evil, and constitutes a passive form of complicity. Indeed, to show kindness to the murderer is to violate the victim yet again. I fervently hope that all terrorist murderers will be hunted down by the American, British, and Israeli armies and given no rest, neither in this world nor in the next.
The pacifist will respond that fighting hatred with hatred accomplishes nothing; like the old Bob Dylan song, if we take an eye for an eye, we all just end up blind. But this is nonsense because the purpose of our hatred is not revenge, but preservation of justice. In the words of Aristotle, "All virtue is summed up in dealing justly."
To this end I wholeheartedly embrace the example of Simon Wiesenthal, one of the most inspirational men of the 20th century, who has devoted his life to the pursuit of justice by not allowing Nazi murderers to go to their graves in peace. We do not hunt Nazis in order to take revenge. We Jews have better things to do with our time than chase pathetic, old murderous thugs.
Rather, we track them down because God at Sinai entrusted us with the promotion of justice, turning the jungle into a civilized society. We seek them out on behalf of all humanity so that the world may know that for genocide there is no apology.
Recently on my radio show, a Christian caller said to me, "You Jews don't know how to forgive. The Hebrew language doesn't even contain a word for forgiveness."
"Wrong," I responded. "In the Hebrew language there are three words for forgiveness: sliha, mehila, and kapara. And the essence of the forgiveness is that life is so valuable that we allow every individual the opportunity to start afresh after error." But since repentance is based on the infinite value of human life, its premise cannot be undermined by offering it to those who have irretrievably debased human life.
Only if we hate the truly evil passionately will we summon the determination to fight them fervently. Odd and uncomfortable as it may seem, hatred has its place.
FURTHERMORE, IT is not for any of us to forgive the Nazis or Palestinian murderers; this is up to their victims. We dare not desecrate their memories by choosing how they might respond had they lived. It is the height of arrogance and insensitivity to speak for those whose blood has already been spilled.
Finally, as to Sacks saying in his book that we Jews should "respond to violence with peace," I respectfully remind him that his words, if I understand them correctly, are directly contradicted by one of the most famous of all Talmudic pronouncements: "He who comes to murder you, rise and smite him first."
We cannot allow Arab terrorists to kill our citizens with impunity and then fade away into apartment buildings where civilians often knowingly provide them with protection. To be sure, we most go after them with every precaution taken for the safety of civilian lives, all of whom, Arab and Jew alike, are created equally in the image of God. But go after them we must.
President George W. Bush recently called for the removal of Arafat because he and his Palestinian Authority were irretrievably "compromised by terror." One wonders why a Christian American president gets it, while so many of us in the Jewish community still don't.