Those of us who are privileged enough to live in America will never understand the uniqueness of Israel. We know that Israel is a democracy, and in our minds that establishes a picture of what life is like for those who live there. Sure, we know there are terrorist attacks (at least those of us who are educated and not brainwashed by the current blood libels being spread about the Jewish state), but mostly we think about freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom to live, freedom from tyranny. We feel a kinship with Israel because of that. After all, here in America our biggest (political) problem is whether a Republican or a Democrat will be in office four years from now. We grumble, depending upon our individual political bent, about whichever party is in the White House at the time (I am not going to discuss the issue of this specific administration; I am painting a backdrop). We worry about the debt, and the deficit, and the elderly, and education, and the cost of living, and global warming (well, some do). Face it, life in America is pretty spoiled. Even though we have our own national security issues, day-to-day life in America is mundane, and with the brief exceptions of a handful of major wars, it has remained that way for 238 years. No coup attempts. Yes, we had the shame of slavery with which we had to contend. But, no one has taken over our government and said, "Christians can only live in Oklahoma. Jews will live in Hoboken, NJ, and Muslims can live everywhere else. Those who are atheists will have to obtain the consent of the local government in which they wish to reside."
No one will ever take over America unless we let them. I admit that belief has been wavering for the past six years, and we still have two more to weather, but the referendum last week tells me there are enough of us who are firmly rooted in the foundations of this country that we will not allow the enemy to overtake us. We are strong. We are armed (those of us who have not fallen prey to the danger of liberalism). We know how to use those arms. If need be, we will take our fight to the streets of our individual towns, and will fight whatever enemy we must fight, and we will prevail. America is a force with which to be reckoned, and anyone who underestimates us will be in for a very rude awakening.
Israel is not our sister state. Israel is our younger brother. Israel, as a people, has been around for thousands of years. Israel, the state, has only been around for sixty-six years. He is young (ordinarily the feminine is used to refer to a country, but for the purpose of this illustration I am using the masculine). He is just starting to come of age, and with it is experiencing the inevitable growing pains. Israel is tasting freedom, and that taste is sweet. Despite having been attacked several times, Israel has beaten overwhelming odds more than once and has not only survived, but is thriving. Inherent in that victory is a tendency to forget his vulnerability. Like any teenager, Israel wants to step out on his own; "sow his oats", so to speak. Israel has it all down cold. Israel does not need anyone. Israel likes to have friends, but do not cross him. In this description, I refer not to the current leadership of Israel, but rather the populace.
We have all had the experience of watching someone younger come into his own. It is cute and, at the same time, aggravating. We are amused when little brother wants to kick our ass. We know full well he is in over his head, but we let him try anyway because we know he is growing and going through the learning process. "O.K. Let's see whatcha got, but hurry up. (pause) Are you done now? Good. I'm hungry."
What is not so amusing is when he gets himself into trouble because of his over-confidence and lack of wisdom, which only comes with age. Israel--the general population--is not as acquainted with its history as it needs to be. Two generations have passed since statehood, and memories are fading. In some cases, there is complete oblivion as to the history of the Jewish people other than the Holocaust, making it an anomaly of history and something that need never be feared again despite the slogan, "Never again". Survival skills are honed out of necessity. When there is no necessity, survival skills dull. For sixty-six years the Jewish people have not had to worry about an orchestrated campaign for their extermination. Yes, they listen to Mahmoud Abbas, Ismael Haniyeh, Khaled Meshaal, and various clerics with their hate-filled mantras, but largely such bellicose refrains fall on deaf ears as is demonstrated by something Danny Danon said while being interviewed on the subject of Iran about a year ago. When asked about the latest call for Israel's annihilation by the Ayatollah Khameini, he replied, "Well, that is Iran. They are always saying that. We are not worried about talk. We are only worried about actions."
Is this the prevalent thinking in Israel? Words do not matter? Is it the traditional "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" philosophy, is it a dismissal of such speech as "the boy who cried wolf" ("How many times can you call me an ape and say I should die? Yawn."), or is it a complete lack of awareness of history coupled with a dulling survival instinct? If the history of the Jewish people has taught us anything it is that words mean everything.
Every genocide begins with words, whether it be actual blood libels or simply depersonalizing adjectives such as "apes", "pigs", "canaries", "marranos", or "mifchling". The label does not really matter; it is the mere existence of the label that is the problem. No longer are Jews people. Jews are "they" (as David Aaronovitch so wisely pointed out at the Oxford Union debate in Qatar). Stereotypes are proffered as truth: "They" own the banks. "They" own the media. "They" own the government. "They" have all the wealth. "They" are dirty. "They" are evil. The result of such refrains is to feed the underlying fear I have spoken of in the past. "They" are a threat. "They" must be dealt with. In fact, in Judaism speech is the fourth of five steps involved in behavior, the fifth being action. Words precede deeds. Words are a warning sign of what is to come: the Solution to the problem.
During the latest battle cry from Israel's populace there has been a growing chorus of "Who cares about world opinion? They are going to condemn us anyway. Let's just kick Hamas' ass!" As I thought about this post, the refrain struck me as rather curious. Most Israelis are familiar with Krav Maga. Have they forgotten the most dangerous fight in which to engage is a street fight, because there is no control over the environment? Israelis who want to "kick ass" are experiencing the tunnel vision everyone who is trained in martial arts is warned against. The fighter needs to be aware of his surroundings. If while killing your assailant, another walks up and shoots you, you are just as dead. A GOOD FIGHTER KNOWS WHEN TO RETREAT. The current environment in which Israel finds itself is shrieking "danger", and the average Israeli on the street seems to be deaf.
Those who are familiar with me have been waiting for this to tie in to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and here it is. I had a lively debate the other night with someone over the Prime Minister, specifically his apparent equivocation on dealing with the various threats facing Israel at present. What people are witnessing and mislabeling as the Prime Minister's "waffling" is actually his survival instincts in overdrive. The call for Israel's destruction is cacophonous. We even have pro-"Palestine", pro-Hamas, pro-Islamic State rallies in Ferguson, Missouri, for God's sake! The Prime Minister is a student of history, and he is feeling the same overwhelming sense of alarm that I am, only far stronger. I said in my last post the environment is ripe for another genocide, and each day that passes only adds to my trepidation.
Iran calls for Israel's destruction, and releases a video mock-up of a nuclear attack on the Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority calls for Jews to be denied entry to the Temple Mount by any means necessary. Hamas continues its quest for the annihilation of Israel. Imams worldwide cry out for the extermination of Jews. Rallies in Germany, France, Great Britain, Norway, even the United States of America (just to name a handful) repeat these calls for genocide. The frenzy is rapidly reaching a crescendo, the sharks smell Jewish blood, and...the Prime Minister is too "chickenshit" to do anything. Is that it? Has 'Bibi' "lost his way", as Danny Danon lamented? Or, IS HE TRYING TO ENSURE THE SURVIVAL OF HIS PEOPLE?
The eagerness to defend one's country is an admirable attribute. The willingness to die for one's country is the most courageous demonstration of loyalty there is. Nothing is wrong with feeling the energy and the desire to stand up for what is right. Such devotion is inspirational. But, Little Brother, there is danger you do not see. The Prime Minister sees it, and thank God he is Prime Minister. He was born for this time. He knows the warning signs and, more importantly, he knows what tactics have been used in the past and under what circumstances. Israel has finely tuned the survival skills necessary to work within a hostile environment over the past several thousand years, having had innumerable opportunities for practice. The problem is, the situation is fluid, just as it has been throughout the Jews' existence. For example, while the present State of Israel has had previous American administrations that were less than supportive, with some even working at cross-purposes, never before has Israel had to deal with an American president who is openly hostile to Israel's existence. Such hostility is not foreign to the Jewish people; this pattern has repeated itself throughout history. Israel has never known more than a few decades of uneasy peace at any one time in its entire existence. But, it is new to this current generation who does not seem to have the necessary survival instincts to detect the enormity of the danger and who does not seem to have the patience to watch the necessary maneuvering required for Israel to be successful in overcoming the current threat. The Jewish state is in a street fight and is surrounded by would-be assailants. The decision must be made whether to engage in war, or to retreat.
We must rush to our little brother's side, and not just America but everyone worldwide who loves Israel. Now is the time to support Israel like never before, and that includes defending Israel against those who are attempting to undermine Prime Minister Netanyahu's work at this very fragile time. No matter how "bad" Israel is, little brother needs our help. Let us not fail the Jewish people the way we have so many times in the past. Rather than minimizing or discounting the threat, let us address it. Rather than criticizing or allowing others to criticize the Prime Minister, let us stand with him as he fights for the survival of our dearest sibling. Above all, let us give him the time and support he needs to make the wisest decision he can based upon a lifetime of study. In short, let us love him like a brother.