Put two rabbis in front of a “blat” (portion) of Talmud and you’ll get at least three opinions, goes an old Yiddish proverb.
So, it is not surprising that the latest chapter of the war between Hamas and Israel has launched nearly as many opinions in the Jewish community as it has launched rockets and artillery.
People have difficulty dealing with complexity. War is complex. The Middle East is the proverbial riddle wrapped in an enigma. Put the two together and you have psychological dissonance craving resolution. Where complexity is impenetrable, people will seek simple solutions to complex problems by relying on the familiar.
So, it is not surprising that elements of the liberal Jewish establishment took out the old grab bag of tired clichés and failed policies to deal with the current crisis, creating a steady stream of worn tripe. But it is spoken with such good intentions and strong beliefs that if sincerity could replace obstinacy, these opinions would be meaningful instead of a tragic recycling of opinions liberals are forever incapable of transcending.
A picture taken from the southern Israeli city of Sderot shows rockets being fired from the Gaza strip into Israel, on July 13, 2014. A rocket fired from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights on July 13, 2014, falling on open ground and causing no casualties, an army spokeswoman told AFP. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ
"Israel must exercise restraint" is a common refrain, repeating the Department of State’s official position by the lemmings who walked off the cliff for President Barack Obama, not once, but twice. Restraint never won a battle or defeated an intractable enemy. Restraint is not the solution; it is the problem. It has permitted the cancer of Hamas with its virulent intent to annihilate the Jewish state to metastasize.
Restraint has made it possible for Hamas to create an arsenal that has gone from rockets with a five mile range and a small payload to missiles capable of reaching 90 miles away, possessing far larger payloads. Restraint has enabled Hamas to put some 80 percent of Israel’s population under its rockets and missiles.
Restraint has enabled Hamas to call for human shields, putting dozens of civilians on the rooftops and around the homes of Hamas leaders that should be eliminated. As long as Israel will permit Hamas to eliminate high-value targets by recruiting human shields, these targets will be immunized from attack. Of course, calling Hamas leaders on the phone to tell them their homes are going to be destroyed is the problem’s initial source.
While Hamas calls for human shields, the Hamas elite is flying by private jet to Qatar to sacrifice themselves to the deprivations of the Gulf of Arabia oil sheikdom.
The Cycle of Violence
Liberal Jews generally and the community leadership specifically embrace this concept as if it makes them look objective and above the fray. One appears to manifest one’s liberalism, one’s intellect, and one's humanity by pontificating about the cycle of violence. Such pretentious nonsense only manifests a contemptible ignorance because it fails to distinguish between those whose raison d’etre is to kill children and those who must resort to violence to protect their children. You cannot end the cycle of violence by failing to take action against a fanatical Islam that repeatedly announces its intentions to kill the Jews and then confirms those intentions by firing rockets and missiles at population centers.
US President Barack Obama(R) listens to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, March 3, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Israel Must Take Risks for Peace
Taking risks for the chimera of peace is what has put Israel between two homicidal political movements and made its population vulnerable. The Oslo Accords resuscitated a vanquished and dying Palestinian Liberation Organization that was gasping for air in Tunsia while Israel administered Judah and Samaria in a world without road blocks and security barriers. The Accords invited the return of the kleptomanical terrorist Yassir Arafat, whose wife, Suha, ended up sitting on billions of Western Aid as the first lady of Palestine living in Paris. Popular contempt for PLO corruption brought the genocidal Hamas into power in Gaza. Sometimes seeking peace with the wrong partner only brings death. More people on both sides have died since Oslo than before.
The Current War is an Israeli Plot
Admittedly this theme emerges from the far left in the Jewish community and has been most prominently articulated in the Jewish Daily Forward by J.J. Goldberg. It is difficult to take seriously anything written in a Jewish newspaper that for years had a relief of Karl Marx - the author of the anti-Semitic essay, "The Jewish Question" - over its entrance. But Goldberg’s piece has prompted discussion and even drawn fire from the Israeli embassy. It is an inadvertent incision into the mind of the leftist, self-loathing Jew, for whom Zionism is an embarrassment.
Goldberg starts with a simple red herring that would embarrass any student in Philosophy 101. The Israeli military, like all militaries, Goldberg writes, is usually restrained and hesitant in declaring its goals and does not announce that these are set by elected officials.
A light bomb is seen following an Israel airstrike over Gaza City on July 3, 2014. Israeli warplanes launched in the early morning hours of Thursday dozens of airstrikes on different targets in the Gaza Strip, including sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS
This is the opposite of what current Israeli military spokespersons have done. But is this true? Israel is a democracy, and its commander in chief is the Israeli cabinet. Of course, the military takes orders from elected officials, just as the American military does from its commander in chief, the president. Where are these restrained military men? I don’t recall Gens. Douglas McArthur, William Westmoreland or David Petreaus being restrained. Military leaders are supposed to exude confidence, not diffidence.
The point of Goldberg’s exercise is to convince his readers that this uncharacteristic behavior shows the Israeli military was against the war. But that conveniently ignores that the war was brought to Israel once the cease fire with Hamas ended. Since then, Hamas has been unrelenting in its launching of rockets and missiles at Israel’s population centers. If Goldberg and his fellow travelers were to analyze America’s involvement in World War II with the same myopic vision, Pearl Harbor would be conveniently unmentioned.
At the other end of the political spectrum, there has been no lack of support for Israel by the Simon Wiesenthal Center or the Zionist Organization of America. It is the ZOA, however, that Obama dismissed from the communal table of Jewish organizations and replaced with the ultra-left J-Street.
Although conservative Jews found the move offensive, the mainstream organizations were glad to keep their seats and raised no objections. The move itself should have been a warning as to where Obama’s sympathies lay in the ongoing conflict.
The administration’s policies during the war have strongly eroded Obama’s near monolithic support in the Jewish community. From garnering a near 80 percent of the Jewish vote in the 2012 election, Obama’s approval rating in the community has fallen to 55 percent. This has caused Jewish conservatives to quip that now, only a bit more than half our people are still idiots.
The biggest impact for conservative Jews, however, has been the noticeable lack of support for Israel among Democrats in the current crisis in contrast to substantial support among Republicans. The Republican Jewish Coalition has been quick to disseminate that information.
The war will not re-align partisan preference in the Jewish community, but the erosion of Jewish support for the administration might be far more important than it appears. If Obama’s approval rating translates into a change in voting preference among just 20 to 25 percent of Jewish voters who are distributed in states with large electoral votes, that change could make a difference in an electoral vote tally. No political strategist can ignore that traditionally American elections are won or lost at the margins.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati. He also served on the faculty of the University of California, Davis and the University of Illinois, Urbana.
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