Contemplating Israel’s Demise

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my father, hareini kaparat mishkavo, lately. He used to say, “If the world is prepared to stand by and watch Jews be slaughtered again, then the world does not deserve to exist.”

That moment, I fear, has come. The very existence of Israel (which whatever its virtues or failings is home to nearly half of all Jews living today) has become in the eyes of much of the world a big bother. And we are not speaking here about the Moslem or Arab world, but about much of the West.

References to the creation of Israel as a “mistake” not worth the price are commonplace in European discourse. Even Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen describes Israel in this fashion – as based on a delusional fantasy that a colony of Jews could ever gain acceptance in the Arab Middle East.

Tony Judt (a Jewish professor) finds an ethnic-religious state like Israel to be an “anachronism” in a post-nationalist world. Interestingly, he sees no similar infirmity in all those Moslem states in which Sharia is the law of the land, and which non-Moslems are barred from citizenship.

What lies behind all this talk of “mistakes” and “anachronisms?” The belief that if Israel somehow disappeared the world would be a far happier place. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, professors at two of America’s leading universities, in their infamous paper “The Israel Lobby,” identify not one threat to world peace that is not directly attributable to Israel. Not Iran. Not North Korea.

The perfidy and trickiness of those sly Jews is almost beyond belief in Walt and Mearsheimer’s telling. Israel, they charge, withdrew from Gaza with the deliberate intent to bring into power a Hamas-led government and thereby bring an end to the “peace process.” More recently, speaking before the Council on American-Islamic Relations, they charged that Israel had long planned an invasion of Lebanon and that Hizbullah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers was merely a pretext for doing so.

What prime minister, after all, would not want to see one million of his country’s citizens spend a month cowering in bomb shelters, the economy brought to a standstill, and his own poll numbers hit absolute bottom? And wasn’t it clever of those Jews to trick Nasrallah into attacking Israel? I wonder how they did that.

The claim that support for Israel underlies virtually every act of Islamic terrorism in the world gains greater currency with each terrorist attack. In England, and much of Western Europe, it is already gospel. After British authorities uncovered a plot by native-born British Moslems to blow up ten or more transatlantic carriers, Moslem peers and MPs in England audaciously wrote that England can only expect many more such plots as long as it does not alter its Middle East policy.

Rather than reacting with rage to the implicit threat from its own honored representatives, the British public lapped it up and cast Tony Blair from office for daring to label this view of matters as more than a bit insane.

Yet even in the Middle East itself, the greatest losses of life have not had the slightest connection to Israel: the million lives lost in the Iraqi-Iranian war, the hundreds of thousands of Moslems slaughtered by their fellow Moslem’s in Sudan’s Darfur Province, civil wars in Algeria and Yemen, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Syria’s murder of more than 25,000 of its own citizens in Hama.

MUCH OF THE WEST DOES not just lament the error of Israel’s creation, but is prepared to assist, either actively or passively, in reversing that historical mistake. Iranian president Ahmadinejad threatens to wipe Israel or the map, and his predecessor publicly offered his calculus for a nuclear exchange with Israel: one nuclear bomb could wipe out Israel’s five million Jews, whereas the loss of an equal number of Iranians would still leave another 15 million alive.

Despite the blatant threats against Israel’s existence, Ahmadinejad is still treated to submissive visits from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a host of European dignitaries, and a fawning interview by America’s “toughest” TV journalist focusing on his sweet family and sartorial tastes. Meanwhile, after more than 3 years of diplomatic talk-talk, we are no closer to the most minimal collective action to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Even more telling is the West’s refusal to grant Israel the right to defend itself from attack. It is the West that has made the terrorists’ tactic of embedding themselves among civilians a win-win proposition: If their missiles kill Israelis, that is a win; and if Israel strikes back at those firing those missiles and kills civilians as well, the ensuing media condemnations of Israel are an even greater win.

Those who routinely condemn every Israeli attempt to strike back at those operating from among civilians populations as “disproportionate” or “war crimes,” without every specifying how Israel should protect its citizens (other than announcing its own dissolution), effectively deny Israel the right to defend itself. In our rough neighborhood a state that cannot defend itself will not long survive.

The irony, however, is that by denying Israel the right to defend itself, the Europeans only make more likely the most disastrous possible outcomes. Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin has testified that missiles are pouring into Gaza, just as they poured into southern Lebanon between 2000 and 2006. And efforts are underway to bring them into the West Bank as well.

Given Israel’s vulnerability to missile attack, and the world’s condemnation of any response, the Palestinians will be tempted to use those missiles to keep Israel in a permanent state of mobilization and to make life generally intolerable. At that point, it will literally be them or us.

And especially if the Palestinians were to unleash their missiles in the midst of a conventional war with Syria or Egypt or both, Israel would have no time to go searching for Palestinian missiles house to house. It would have no choice but to level Palestinian areas and send the population packing.

Where things would go from there no one wants to contemplate. But the West should not count on Israel to go quietly into the night.

By refusing to take Iran’s nuclear threats seriously or permit Israel to defend itself in the same fashion as any other nation, the West could well be sowing its own worst case scenario.

Dad would have appreciated the irony.

Originally appeared in Mishpacha’s Hebrew edition, September 13, 2006.

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22 Responses

  1. Yakov M Rabkin says:

    This article manifests a genuine concern that many of us share. It is not only the physical survival of millions of Jews in Israel but the spiritual survival of those Diaspora Jews for whom there can be no Judaism without the State of Israel, i.e. a state with a majority of Jews (or, more precisely, non-Arabs). The difficult predicament of the state made me look into Judaic sources that have addressed this danger, and I published a book, titled A Threat from Within, which analyzes arguments of those who opposed Zionism and the establishent of the State of Israel. (http://www.palgrave-usa.com/catalog/product.aspx?isbn=1842776991) This work has broadened my own understanding of the Torah aspects of this issue. I fully sympathize with the despair felt by the Mr Rosenbloom and understand his threat of a major calamity that would be brought about if the State of Israel were pushed to the wall. I am not sure that this would be the best option for the future of Judaism.

  2. mycroft says:

    For those of us who believe that the establishment of the State of Israel, with all of its many faults, represents the Yad HaShem, we remain confident despite all of the continued threats , whether physical or in the form of “learned articles” by professors because none less than the Ramban told us that we would see two episodes of Churban and destruction of Jewish rule in EY,and no more.

    Comment by Steve Brizel

    BTW Steve I don’t recall exactly when-but gut feeling around 25 years ago Tradition printed an article about the impact of chas vshalom of thge Destruction of the State of Israel=point it is certainly nhot an ikkur
    Emunah of anyone that this State is the forerunner of the Meshiach. Cross-Currents can check with Rabbi Feldman if he believed in saying as narrative “reshit smichat” but note at least the first two editors of Tradition didn’t believe in saying it.
    BTW Mizrachi pre 67 was not messianic and note RYBS zionism to the extent he was one was specifically not Zmessianic zionism.

  3. YM says:

    The other day I heard a Rav (Rabbi Weissman, the mashgiach of Passic Yeshiva) give a vort about Gedaliah ben Achiah, the namesake of the fast we made last Monday. He said that when it was suggested to him that someone was plotting to assasinate him, he refused to take any precautions, holding that to believe such a rumor was lashon horah. Rabbi Weissman explaned that although he was forbidden to believe the rumor, he was required to take precausions; he compared it to wearing a seatbelt even though you don’t believe that you are going to get into an accident.

    I think that to support the anti-Zionist view that is described above is assur for the same reason. I have read that Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz would not give aliyos to the Torah to certain people who were vocal in support of the view. In my mind it is assur to even think about the destruction of the state, Chas V’Shalom

  4. Bob Miller says:

    How do these politicians vote on domestic and foreign policy issues of Jewish concern?

  5. Charles B. Hall, PhD says:

    ‘Many people in the US are pro-Israeli, especially in the more conservative parts of the country.’

    Support for Israel is pretty overwhelming here where I live, in a county that voted 86% for Gore and 83% for Kerry. African-American and Hispanic politicians make regular pilgrimages to orthodox synagogues to express their support for our causes — even when there are barely any Jews in their districts. (Is it something in the water in New York City?)

  6. mycroft says:

    Many Torah authorities have—uncharacteristically—stated that we are now moving into the final stages of the end-times, and that the Messiah will be here very soon. Rav Yisroel Abuchatzira, ZT”L, told Rav Mordechai Eliyohu that he would live to see Moshiach.

    To hear an inspiring lecture about the dangers of messianism= see if Rabbi Riesman’s navi lecture is available from near the end of last season. He details leading gdolim who have been fooled in the past and quotes many relative contemporary gdolim on proper hashkafa in this matter I heard/saw it live on satellite.

    For an easy source of chochma on this field NOT TORAH see Abba Hillel Silver’s doctoral thesis from HUC in the late 20’s or so-where he describes and details the many times that unfortunately we’ve been fooled.-it is available NYPL Judaica section where I read it.

  7. HILLEL says:

    Ori:

    The issue of Rebbe Akiva is not as simple and straightforward as you make it. There are different rules for the great men of the genertion.

    As for us, we are judged according to our environment. In the weak Torah surroundings that we exist, every small act of Gemilus Chasodim and every bit of Torah learning takes on a much bigger dimension.

    Nachum:
    I just reviewed RAMBA”M Hilchos Melochim. There is nothing there that contradicts what I wrote.

  8. Bob Miller says:

    It doesn’t matter if Hillel knows all the exact details or not; at least he has a proper framework for viewing events.

    HaShem expects much more of us than black despair.

  9. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Hillel, I wish I had your confidence. The Jewish people will survive. However, that does not ensure the live and safety of any individual Jew or group of Jews. Rabbi Akiva’s great virtues were not enough to save him from being tortured and executed by the Romans after he misidentified Bar Kochva as Massiach (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbi_Akiva if anybody reading this does not know the story). I am certainly lesser than he was, and so are most people I love.

  10. Nachum says:

    Hillel, read the last chapter in the Rambam, Hilchos Melachim, where he points out that no one really knows what form and order Messianic events will take.

    As to “signs,” wasn’t Rav Kaduri, zt’l, supposed to see Moshiach? I don’t put stock in many of these signs. Likewise I am not nearly as sanguine as you are.

  11. HILLEL says:

    Ori and Toby:

    I have simply stated what I believe to be the true uncompromised Torah position.

    I’m not a prophet, and I cannot tell you for certain what lies in the future.

    However, We have already seen the fulfilment of the conditions for the Messiah elucidated at the end of Talmudic tractate Sotah. Last year, the “people of the border areas (Gush Katif)” were made homeless and cast adrift, without mercy; this year the “Galil has gone up in flames.”

    Many Torah authorities have–uncharacteristically–stated that we are now moving into the final stages of the end-times, and that the Messiah will be here very soon. Rav Yisroel Abuchatzira, ZT”L, told Rav Mordechai Eliyohu that he would live to see Moshiach.

    Although we don’t know the exact sequence of events, we do know–from the Talmud–that the secular State will disappear, followed by the arrival of the Messiah. We also know that those Jews who have engaged in Torah and Gemilus Chasodim have nothing to fear from the turmoil that will ensue while this process is taking place.

    Our continued survival in 2000 years of Golus, according to Rav Yakov Emden, is a greater miracle than the Ten Plagues of Egypt. It has mystified all gentile historians who have examined the phenomenon (see Mark Twain’s classic essay on the Jews).

    Don’t fear. HaShem IS watching over us. We WILL survive–with Emuna and Bitachon. AM YISROEL CHAI!

  12. Seth Gordon says:

    Ori, I have a much simpler theory: anti-Israel leftists suffer from what Orwell called “transposed nationalism“, irrational and uncompromising loyalty to a group they do not even belong to. Some who are fanatically pro-Palestinian now may have been fanatically pro-USSR (or pro-Cuba or pro-Nicaragua) in the past, but what matters is not the ideology of the groups they admire, but the psychological need to turn a group of fallible humans into an idol; they could have just as easily gone from being fanatically pro-USSR to fanatically pro-USA. (And some folks have done just that.)

    If one of the modern ba`alei mussar, like Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe(sp?), wrote a commentary on “Notes on Nationalism”, I would love to read it.

  13. Harry Maryles says:

    I appreciate RJR’s perspective on this and quite agree that there is such an undercurrent in some circles. Predominately such views are extant in Europe and in the leftist academia and media of the West.

    But this is not the way most of Christian America thinks. And Christian America is what used to be called “The Silent Majority”… those Amercians who elected the leader of the free world, President Bush, a President who is from those ranks.

    And even liberal Americans who disagree with or… as much as despise President Bush, still for the most part support Israel’s right to exist. And the President from those ranks, former Prsident Bill Clinton, was one of the most pro-Israel Presidents of modern times. That one did not agree with his sincere albeit mistaken peace innitiatives does not take away from President Clinton’s clear support and even love for the Jewish State.

    So let’s not get too carried away with what a few idiot leftist writers think. Nor should we worry about anti-Israel academics like Walt and Mearsheimer. They have little credibilty where it counts… in the halls of power and in the voting public. Their views are only respected in the elitist halls of heavily leftist Academia at best, where common sense and comon decency have lost their residency.

  14. Toby Katz says:

    Hillel — Yes, the secular Zionist state must end — in the sense that it must be replaced by a Torah state.

    But you seem to think that it can and should end in some way that replaces it with a government of non-Jews who rule over Jews! Chas vesholom a million times. I can hardly understand a Torah Jew thinking this way, or being sanguine about the prospect of an Arab victory over Israel c’v.

  15. Steve Brizel says:

    For those of us who believe that the establishment of the State of Israel, with all of its many faults, represents the Yad HaShem, we remain confident despite all of the continued threats , whether physical or in the form of “learned articles” by professors because none less than the Ramban told us that we would see two episodes of Churban and destruction of Jewish rule in EY,and no more.

  16. easterner says:

    i agree that at least the satmar sector of haredi judaism [ and probably many others—especially if they dont consider their israeli relatives] would agree that a one state solution [ non zionist of course] is preferable. and did any godol say that Gog + Magog means that there would not be a churban to equal the last one in jewish palestine?

  17. HESHY BULMAN says:

    If I read you correctly, you are only contemplating a “worst case scenario” in a theoretical sense based upon what is becoming more and more likely to happen without Divine intervention, and appreciating the irony in the way in which your father’s, A”H,reflection might actually come to pass (i.e. the hate-filled Nations of the world actually self-destruct). I am inclined to believe, as I believe you are as well, that, in actual fact, the destruction of Israel will not occur under any circumstances simply because it would be a “Gezeirah She’Ein Hatzibbur Yacholin La’amod Bah”. Who would remain a believer? Who possibly could?

  18. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Hillel, I think the unstated assumption is that if Eretz Israel was to be taken over by an Arab government, we would see a massacre of Jews on a scale to rival the Shoah and that this massacre would be a bad thing.

    You can make the case that it would be good if Eretz Israel were to return to the British Mandate. However, that option is not on the table at present. Right now, it seems the only options are the secular Israeli government, Hamas, or the Ba’ath party that rules Syria.

    Given that G-d told us to protect our own lives and the lives of our fellow Jews, which do you think religious Jews in Israel should prefer?

  19. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Note: I’m using “western left” here for what you called “the West”. Many people in the US are pro-Israeli, especially in the more conservative parts of the country.

    You’re assuming that the western left cares about the Palestinians as individuals. At the risk of not judging everybody favorably, I don’t think this is the case. They have no problem with Arabs killing Arabs, as long as no western country can be blamed.

    It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the western left is anti-semitic, and the goal is the destruction of Israel. However, that hypothesis does not explain all the facts. The western left appears to hate the US as well, and not just for supporting Israel. The same people also tend to be opposed to large corporations and make fun of religion.

    Here’s my theory. The USSR, may it rest in pieces, was a failure on many levels. However, one thing is did remarkably well was propaganda. It managed to convince a lot of people in the west that Communism is a viable alternative. Many of those people are in education and media positions. While they no longer believe in Communism consciously, they still have a lot of the attitudes that came with it:

    1. It is bad for the west to be armed. The Soviet block is peace loving and will never attack us, and if one of their proxies attacks one of ours it’s our side’s fault. It’s a simple matter to transfer this attitude, and the attendant blindness, from Communism to Islam. This means that anybody in the west who engages in armed conflict (US, Israel, UK) is obviously evil and violent.

    2. Religion is a superstitious “opiate of the people” (Carl Marx). We are too advanced to be religious. Anybody in the west with religious beliefs is primitive. This applies to conservatives in the US and to Israel, even though Israel is not a particularly religious country (Jew, for many of the original Zionist, was a national designation not a religious one – but few people in North America or West Europe know that).

    This does not apply to Islam, because they’re not western and don’t know any better. Besides, mocking Christianity and Judaism is a lot safer.

    3. Business is evil. In the ideal society, the government will regulate every business transaction for the benefit of “the people”. Business people are inherently selfish and self centered, and government employees are inherently good and work for the benefit of the public.

  20. Seth Gordon says:

    To build on one of Bob Miller’s points above: Remember that during the Suez crisis, Israel allied with the British and French governments against Egypt, and the US government pushed the allies into accepting a cease-fire, thus allowing Nasser to present himself as a leader who heroically defended Arab interests against the colonialist West. Nothing new under the sun, etc., etc.

    If I worked for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, I’d be learning Mandarin. It might come in handy some day.

  21. HILLEL says:

    Jonathan:

    The unstated assumption of your article is that the end of the secular State of Israel means the end, chas ve’shalom, of the Jewish People who live in Eretz Yisroel. That is not the case.

    Many great Torah sages are on record to the effect that the secular State must end before Moshiach comes, since the secular State represents a revolt against G-D’s plan of exile for the Jewish people.

    It is well known that the Rebbe of Satmar–Rav Joel Teitelbaum, ZT”L–repeatedly warned that the existence of the State represents a counterfeit Messiah, which precludes the coming of the real Messiah. He wrote a highly-respected scholarly book, VaYoel Moshe, to support his position from Talmudic and Halachic sources. He would always pray that the State should pass away by peaceful means, not through war and bloodshed.

    The nations of the world may think that they operate freely on their own agenda, but–“HaShem YisChak LoMo”–G-D has his own agenda, and the nations are his mere pawns.

    Jonathan, the world is not HefKer. The real message here is: Al Tir’u, “HiNei GeuLaSech Ba!”

  22. Bob Miller says:

    World support for Israel has been largely for utilitarian reasons from the start. That is Israel as a help against Soviet expansion, as a defense equipment and intelligence supplier, as a military base, as a high-tech producer, etc. For a number of years, the terrorized, risk-averse, action-averse, defeatist, amoral, often anti-Jewish Western world has been redoing its cost-benefit analysis. This article makes many good points related to this reappraisal.

    While Israel does have a body of religiously motivated supporters in the non-Jewish world, these supporters are mostly in the US and may or may not outnumber the appeasers even here.

    The idea that Israel will take more extreme actions as the threats become more extreme is plausible, although a proper response requires new personnel in government who have not lost their nerve or been bought off. I heard in a Poli Sci course long ago that the unpredictability of a nation’s foreign policy is a very good tool to keep the nation’s enemies off balance.

    However, despite the useful points it makes. this article lacks the necessary Torah context (see Parashat Haazinu for example), even though I’m sure the author personally keeps the Torah perspective in mind. Learned political/technical analyses that leave out this key perspective won’t help our morale, and morale is the key element.