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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Immorality of Palestinian “Resistance;” A Response To President Obama’s Speech In Cairo

The Immorality of Palestinian “Resistance;”
A Response To President Obama’s Speech In Cairo
by Rabbi Isaac Jeret
July 16, 2009

There are many, throughout the Jewish world and beyond, who have reacted to different portions of President Obama’s speech delivered in Cairo in early June. Numerous responses have focussed upon the President’s assertion that the State of Israel is a consequence of the Holocaust, omitting the historic connection of the Jewish People to the land of Israel, with many challenging this notion (for good reason) and others more forgiving of the President. While there are many other sections of the President’s speech to which one might respond (and others have responded accordingly), there are two specific paragraphs, communicated in succession, that caught my attention beyond all others. Together, they carry a message that our Biblical tradition cautions us against, and that we, as Jews and as Americans, ought to consider carefully for its implications.

Referring to the Palestinian Arab’s pursuit of a Palestinian State, and the efforts of Arabs and other Muslims to assist them in their pursuit, the President communicated the following:

“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding.

This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia, to Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed, that's how it is surrendered.

The moral-equivalence assumed by the President to exist between the Palestinian Arab’s pursuit of a Palestinian State, on the one hand, and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa, on the other hand, serves, in actuality, to undermine his condemnation of Palestinian Arab violence against Israeli civilians that he deplores (above) for its lack of morality. For President Obama, Palestinian violence against innocent Israelis is immoral because of whom it targets, although the “resistance,” if unarmed, is a cause of moral virtue; Terrorism against Israeli civilians is morally unjustified only in that it is directed at those who are innocent, but the cause that it aims to further is a worthy one. Finally, President Obama presents terrorism against civilians as absolutely immoral; it appears from his quote that one could never justify "armed resistance” against civilians.

Interestingly, Iran’s tyrannical leadership, its terrorist-proxies - Hamas and Hezbollah, and the PLO-derived and Fatah-party ruled Palestinian Authority all employ the term “resistance” when referring to their openly stated hope and intention to destroy the State of Israel, either in stages that commence with the establishment of a Palestinian State (as in the case of Fatah and it allies) or simply by waging all-out-war against Israel via terror, conventional warfare, or a nuclear attack. Hamas actually incorporates this terminology into its charter, calling for Israel’s destruction, that of world-Jewry, and that of the United States - each and all via “resistance.”

Setting aside for the moment the obvious problem of the President’s usage of the very term (“resistance”) employed by the Western World’s greatest enemies when referring to its intention to destroy us, is it true that Terrorism is absolutely immoral? Is it true that one might never imagine a situation in which Terrorism is, even possibly, morally justifiable? According to the Palestinian Arabs and many of their supporters, any and all forms of “resistance” are justified. Their argument is that the innocent Palestinian Arab civilian-population cannot defend itself against Israeli aggression and ongoing attempts at ethnic-cleansing (an absurd but increasingly common accusation against Israel); the Palestinian Arabs have no armed forces and no defensive capability against the supposed Israeli war-machine. How can one blame the otherwise helpless Palestinians for “responding” to Israeli aggression with attacks against the only targets that they can hit - Israel’s civilians?

Furthermore, as Israel itself notes regularly and correctly, Israel’s army constitutes the majority of its 18-21 year old young-adults, drafted into service without significant protest among Israel’s citizenship and serving alongside reservists, the majority of whom are adult-men who continue their reserve-service into their 40’s. As such, the distinction between army personnel and Israel’s civilian-citizenship might be seen as a distinction without a difference; a substantial portion of Israel’s civilian-citizenship might appear to be complicit in Israel’s “aggression” against Palestinian Arabs, perhaps rendering some or all Israeli civilians reasonable and justifiable targets of Palestinian terror.

In truth, contrary to President Obama’s condemnation of Terrorism as absolutely immoral, one can indeed make a case for ongoing Palestinian "armed-resistance” against Israel, supported financially, materially, and logistically by Iran, Syria, and other “freedom-loving” nations, so long as one accepts as basic assumptions either the veracity of the Palestinian Arab’s historical narrative or their recounting of Israeli oppression. After-all, while unarmed protests worked in South Africa against Apartheid and in the United States against segregation, had these methods failed, would armed resistance against civilians (if available as an option) have been unjustified? Had the citizenship of the United States been proven to have been complicit in enforcing policies of segregation (which many were, particularly in the South) or had white South Africa been proven to have been similarly complicit in enforcing Apartheid policies (which it was, overwhelmingly), and had civil-disobedience failed to achieve its desired end, would not “armed-resistance” against civilians have been the logical and justifiable next step in attempting to put an end to American and South African oppression of blacks in either country?

In actuality, wittingly or unwittingly, by likening the Palestinian Arab’s cause to the anti-Apartheid and Civil Rights movements, President Obama has indeed justified Palestinian violence against all Israelis - whether army-personnel or otherwise. All one needs to do to justify such “armed-resistance” is to show that unarmed resistance has not worked to bring about the outcome sought. After all, the President has clearly stated that the goals of the “resistance” are worthy!

This is not the first presidential gaffe of this general sort. For President Bush, America’s “War on Terror” sought to defeat a formidable enemy, that of Terrorism itself, rather than the Islamist Expansionists who employed it against the United States, and continue to seek to do so. This, too, amounted to a presidential failure to identify that which truly deserves absolute condemnation. Only, President Bush’s failure to identify as the enemy in “The War on Terror” the Islamist Expansionists who employ the Terror as a tactic could never have been confused with any affirmation on his part of their objectives; clearly, President Bush found the cause of the Islamic Expansionist to have been morally repugnant.

The problem with Palestinian Arab “resistance,” is that it is wrong whether it is conducted with or without violence; it is immoral and even criminal when conducted with violence - against any Israeli or Jew, anywhere in the world. It is the cause that is fundamentally objectionable, thereby relegating any means by which it might be achieved unjustifiable. The Palestinians have no legitimate claim to the land that they seek as a sovereign state. The truth is simply not on their side. It is because of their baseless claims against Israel that their violence, against any Israeli anywhere, is entirely unjustifiable.

In this regard, I will not, in this piece, aim to prove the lack of legitimacy of the vast majority of Palestinian Arab claims. However, it suffices to say the following, as has been stated by many an Israeli statesman over the past sixty-one years: If the Palestinian Arabs and their Arab and Muslim supporters were to lay down their weapons unilaterally, recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, and pursue a path toward peace, Israel’s use of any violence in its defense would be unnecessary and would therefore cease. On the other hand, if Israel were to lay down its weapons unilaterally, its annihilation would occur within hours, if not sooner, at the hands of its Palestinian and otherwise Arab neighbors and its Muslim foes worldwide.

Who’s violence is more effective does not reflect or determine the perpetrator and victim in any conflict. Rather, one should hope that the victim, Israel in this case, would be more effective in its self-defense than the Palestinians and their supporters might ever be in their aim to destroy Israel.
It is the Palestinian cause that lacks any moral underpinning; while Israel may choose to cede territory for the creation of a Palestinian State, its reasons for doing so would be either because of its benevolence and compassion for a population abandoned and betrayed by its Arab and Muslim brothers or because of Israel’s assessment that it is simply in Israel’s best interests to do so -- or both. One would hope that President Obama might one day soon reconsider his distinction between “armed-resistance” and any other sort of “resistance” on the part of Palestinian Arabs and their supporters, affirming the immorality of either when employed toward a morally unworthy aim.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

One Great Day; Two Great Celebrations

One Great Day;
Two Great Celebrations
by Rabbi Isaac Jeret
July 4, 2009
(Updated: July 4, 2011)

Each year, on the Fourth of July, Jews residing in The United States of America, as well as those residing in The State of Israel, have reason to celebrate a great day, commemorating, not one, but two great events that occurred on this single day, spanning a distance in time of exactly 200 years. America's Founding Fathers, and (ultimately) its inexhaustibly committed soldiers and founding citizens, declared into existence the world's first independent, democratic country on this very day, 235 years ago. As well, only 35 years ago today, the boys of TZAHAL -- Israel's  Defense Force (the Sayeret Matkal unit, to be precise) -- freed 100 Jewish hostages from the Entebbe Airport, where they were held after their plane was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and their German accomplices.

Courageous and benevolent Americans, motivated ever-since by our country's founding generations and forever-more by America's Divinely inspired message of freedom and liberty, have championed causes of human dignity the world over in the most recent century and prior. Both the very ideals that America represents and the reality that it constitutes continue today to awaken a deep yearning for liberty in the hearts and souls of decent human beings throughout the world who seek at minimum to secure a free and better future for themselves and their families. The intellectual courage, spiritual fortitude, and physical bravery of those who thought and fought to breath life into a new, free, and dignified way of living, on the soil of the New World, exemplifies and models still today the necessary vision to dream of liberty, the courage to fight for it, and the conviction to defend it. The State of Israel is the world's finest and most authentic present-day example of this remarkable, life-affirming phenomenon.

This week, I find myself reflecting concurrently upon two great heroes, men who typified the spirit of liberty shared by Americans and Israelis alike; George Washington and Yonatan Netanyahu. The former was, of course, the brave General, and thereafter the founding-President of the United States of America, who dedicated his life to birthing and nurturing our great country in its most formative years. The latter was a hero of Israel's desperate self-defense in the north against Syria during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and served later and most heroically as the Unit Commander of Sayeret Matkal, the Israeli Special Forces Unit charged with developing and executing the plan to free the hostages at Entebbe Airport in 1976.

Though his younger brother, Benjamin, serves today a second term as Israel's Prime Minister, Yonatan's future ended tragically on July 4, 1976, as he sacrificed his life at Entebbe Airport. He died very much in service of his country's self-defense against forces of evil who claim openly for all to hear that their greatest strength is their de-emphasis of the importance of each individual human life and their resulting willingness to die, and even to kill their own, in order to achieve the death and maiming of Israelis and all Jews everywhere and the annihilation of Israel. They claim that Israel's greatest weakness is its unwillingness to deem acceptable even a single death of its citizens and that this weakness will ultimately bring Israel to its end. The values shared by George Washington and Yonatan Netanyahu would argue otherwise, no doubt, and their conviction, courage, and moral clarity in defense of those who would value and dignify human life is exactly that with which we must respond today.

George Washington and Yonatan Netanyahu are bound together in an eternal bond of life-affirming human liberty and dignity, just as The United States of America and The State of Israel must remain today bound by shared visions and values. The bond between Washington and Netanyahu was fashioned by their heroic acts in the course of their lives, though they lived centuries apart in time, as each championed ideologies and defended civilizations that value supremely each and every human life. Their eternal bond is cherished, no doubt, by our God, The One who loves life as God’s own creation and sustains all life every moment of every day.

On July 4th, Americans of all religions and races are joined in spirit by Israelis as we celebrate together a revolution of Liberty that began on the western shores of the Atlantic Ocean and spread not only from sea to shining sea, but, nearly two centuries later, to a tiny strip of blessed land, reaching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan Valley and from the northeastern peaks and plateaus of the Golan Heights to the crystal-blue of the Red Sea. Indeed, the very vision that inspired America was one born of our Jewish forbears who learned from God and His servant Moses at Sinai the primacy of the value of all human life and dignity, who were reminded of these values in the compelling teachings of The Prophets, and who studied it throughout the ages, and continue to do so, as expounded upon by the Talmudic Sages and in subsequent teachings. The Divinely inspired vision that guided our Founding Fathers as they birthed our country and the modern-day miracle of Israel are born of a single Source.

Today, we celebrate freedom and, as we do so, we champion all who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to bless us with every reason for our celebration. This week's Torah portion, Balak, reminds us that, if we are true to our most sacred values and to the essence of a heritage that champions above all else Life and Liberty, the words and deeds of those who seek to bring us harm can only serve to strengthen us in blessing (Mah Tovu O-ho-lekha Ya'akov ...). Our history's lessons and our future's hopes call upon us all to redouble our efforts to ensure that the eternal bond of Life and Liberty, envisaged and forged by great men such as Washington and Netanyahu, and inspired by The Creator and Sustainer of all life, remains an eternal bond, indeed. We must dream with vision, we must be prepared to fight with courage, and we must always defend with conviction. Great heroes have paved the way for us, God continues to entrust us, and the rest is up to us.

God Bless America, Am Yisrael Chai!