March 07, 2008
No Country Wants Peace More Than Israel—So Why All the Pressure on Her, Instead of Arab Aggressors?
Dear Friend of FLAME:
As you know, every day Palestinian terrorists rain Qassam rockets from Gaza down on the Israeli town of Sderot, which is almost immediately adjacent to the Strip. So far, fortunately, "only" a few Israeli civilians have been killed by these relatively primitive rockets. But it is obviously only a matter of time until a major catastrophe occurs---a school or a hospital is hit. (Indeed, yesterday a Palestinian gunman gunned down seven students and a teacher in Jerusalem in cold blood. Gazans cheered in the streets, Hamas praised the act.)
Nonetheless, "world opinion" (for reasons that defy understanding and analysis) is solidly against Israel in this as in so many other matters. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent chastening of Israel for its self-defensive military operations in Gaza is just one small example.
But, ultimately, Israel, though it must be respectful to the opinions of others, has one main obligation, and that is to protect its citizens and to take whatever measures are necessary to discourage and prevent attacks against its country and its citizenry.
The article that follows, by David Harris, president of the American Jewish Committee, deals with a related topic. Many claim that Israel is not interested in peace, maintaining instead that it does everything in its power to thwart peace in the Middle East. The exact opposite, of course, is the case, and Mr. Harris expresses it excellently. This essay deserves wide circulation, and we suggest you print it and show it to your friends, including those who may harbor mistaken ideas about Israel’s commitment to peace.
Lecturing Israel on the Need for Peace? Give Me a Break, Please
Not a day passes that I don't encounter another Israel-directed lecture on the imperative of peace.
Sometimes it comes from diplomats. Or from editorial writers. Or from columnists. Or from scholars. Or from human-rights groups.
Frankly, it makes my blood boil.
First, it assumes that Israel wants peace for itself less than others do.
Second, it displays an arrogance that what may not be immediately apparent to Israel is abundantly obvious to those on the outside sitting in their ministries, offices, ivory towers, or vacation spots.
And third, it reveals a lack of humility insofar as Israel, and Israel alone, will bear the consequences—and they could be calamitous—of any misguided actions.
Strikingly, many of these commentators have never been to Israel, or have visited infrequently, or visit, but only in the company of those who share the same ideological predisposition. For instance, an individual appointed to head up a U.S.-based Arab-Israeli peace group had never set foot in Israel before assuming the position.
I know of no people on earth that has prayed for peace longer than the Jewish people. Turning "swords into plowshares" and "spears into pruning hooks," and visualizing a day when the lion and lamb would lie down - and wake up - together weren't conceived as slogans on Madison Avenue; they're the Jewish people's age-old contribution to civilization.
I know of no nation on earth that yearns for peace more than Israel, no nation, victorious in unsought wars, that has been more generous in yielding to its vanquished foes' terms in pursuit of peace, and no nation that has taken more demonstrated—and tangible—risks for the sake of peace than Israel.
To think otherwise is to assume that Israel would prefer a state of permanent conflict, and that, quite frankly, would be preposterous.
Of course, there are debates within Israel about the best way to arrive at peace. How could it be otherwise? There is no surefire plan for getting from here to there in the topsy-turvy Middle East. Six decades of Israel's existence have amply demonstrated the challenges.
But can any well-intentioned person truly believe that the Jewish people, resettled in the land of their ancestors after centuries of violence, persecution, and stigmatization, would seek anything other than a long-denied tranquility and peaceful coexistence with its neighbors?
Or that survivors of the Shoah who were able to reach the shores of Israel, despite innumerable obstacles, would welcome decade after decade of ever-present conflict and danger?
Or that Israel's residents, whether settled in the country for generations or newcomers fleeing the intolerance of the Arab world or the oppression of Communist regimes, would seek a state of endless war?
Or that Israeli parents would wish to see their children, and then their grandchildren, and then their great-grandchildren go off to war, perhaps never to return?
Or that Israelis would welcome the daily barrage of rocket and mortar attacks raining down on Sderot and creating havoc in the daily lives of those trying to do nothing other than ride the roller coaster of everyday life? Or derive joy from the fact that all the children of this working-class town suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder?
Or that Israelis in the north would eagerly anticipate another barrage of Hezbollah-fired missiles from Lebanon targeted at anyone and everyone?
Or that Israelis would luxuriate in the knowledge that there is risk of a terrorist attack even in the simple act of riding a public bus, dancing in a discotheque, eating in a pizzeria, or attending a university?
Or that Israelis would relish the honor of being among the world's most highly taxed people because of the sustained burden of defense spending to ensure a qualitative edge over the forces of its adversaries?
Or that Israelis would derive pride from being shunted off to the far corners of international airports, where they're surrounded by heavily armed guards, for the simple pleasure of boarding planes destined for Tel Aviv?
Or that Israelis would take their cue from Hamas and Hezbollah leaders who propagate a culture of death and mayhem, when, in reality, Israel and the Jewish people have made an art form of celebrating life and seeking its enhancement?
No, the Israel I know desperately seeks peace. Israel's Declaration of Independence expressed it. The Israeli concessions for the Egyptian and Jordanian peace accords showed it. The withdrawals from Gaza and Southern Lebanon proved it. The efforts by successive Israeli governments to reach a viable two-state settlement with the Palestinians continue to underscore it. The polls consistently demonstrate it.
But those armchair commentators too often fail to grasp Israel's objective challenges in finding trustworthy partners. Instead, they've made a cottage industry out of ignoring, denying, minimizing, rationalizing, contextualizing, or trivializing the obstacles Israel has faced.
It's almost as if Hezbollah's blood-curdling cries to destroy Israel and the Jews, Hamas's aim of replacing all of Israel with an Islamic state, Iran's objective of a world without Israel, Syria's hospitality to all the leading terrorist groups in the region, and the teaching of incitement and contempt in Palestinian textbooks don't count for anything. Instead, they're simply seen as pesky, off-subject debating points by pro-Israel supporters.
We live in a half-cocked world.
For many, it's business as usual with Iran, while its leaders unabashedly call for an incitement to genocide.
The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, controlled by a reflexively anti-Israel numerical majority, routinely rewrites history by labeling Israel as an aggressor state, while blithely ignoring the threats and attacks it endures for no reason other than its very existence.
The media can't bring itself to call the Hamas and Hezbollah murderers of innocent civilians "terrorists," but instead more gently refers to them as "militants."
The conflict between Israel and Hamas is too often referred to antiseptically as a "cycle of violence," when it's anything but. After all, isn't there a clear moral difference between those who aim to murder and those whose objective it is to stop the murderers?
And the BBC took the rare step of apologizing after one of its reporters, reflecting the same mindset, lumped together in one sentence assassinated Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who sought to rebuild his country, and Imad Mugniyeh, the Hezbollah terrorist mastermind recently killed in Damascus.
Peace has been at the heart of the Jewish journey for more than 3000 years. It has been at the heart of Israel's journey for six decades. We may need lessons in many things, but the imperative of seeking peace isn't one of them.