Karen and I are invited to a Shabbos lunch at one of our closest friends in Beverly Hills. Present are three couples from our shul. We are all Orthodox, we are all reasonably successful professionals, all thoughtful and decent people. Of course, as it always will, conversation invariably turns to Israel, to the most recent homicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Attitudes vary. Some at the table believe that there is hope, that with the death of Arafat, the Palestinian terrorist leader, a window of opportunity has opened for peace. Others scoff at this idea. One man says: “I’ve seen this movie before. I know how it ends.” Another man counters: “No, this actually looks different.” Someone says, “Well what can we do if not negotiate, we have no choice.”
I have deliberately said nothing, but this last comment sets me off, for in a sense this is the most dangerous attitude that one can hold. To believe that you must talk in civilized tones with those who have vowed to butcher you is the height of folly. This kind of thinking has led to the current situation on our university campuses where Jihadists run the so-called “Middle Eastern Studies” departments. Jewish academics have thrown up their hands and said, “What can we do, it’s freedom of speech. We have to engage in dialogue with these people.” The result is that our elite campuses have schooled a whole generation in Wahaabist propaganda. Polite anti-Semitism is no longer polite. It is the most virulent Jew hatred this country has ever seen. You do not talk with these academics, you do not give them tenure, you make sure thay are not hired, you charge them with inciting hatred, you sue them for libel, you hit them where it hurts: in their pocket books. And you certainly do not send your children to these universities and pay the salaries of these crypto Jihadists.
Here is what I say:
“There are conflicts which are, by their very nature, insoluble. We who are middle class people have spent our whole lives learning to compromise, to negotiate, and so it is beyond our imagination that others do not follow this social model. But the world is and has always been filled with people who reject all compromise. In the American Civil War, the South was dedicated to slavery. Only force of arms could break that ideology. And to break the backbone of the sessionist movement, Lincoln understood that he had to smash the civilian infrastructure that gave it suppport. Hence Sherman’s march to the sea. The Southern civilians who had been shielded from the battlefield were made to suffer for their evil ideology. It was Sherman and his well disciplined army that broke the South and ended the war. If not for Sherman, America would be a Balkanized land. In World War II, America fire-bombed Dresden. We dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. Certain conflicts will only end when civilians are made to realize the fruits of their support for evil.”
There is a long silence at the table. I often have that effect on nice Shabbos lunches.
“But the Palestinians already suffer terribly,” says one woman.
I know this woman well; she is bright, she is a good person, perhaps too good.
“No, the people of Darfur in the Sudan suffer at the hands of the Janjaweed Arabs. The Tibetans suffer at the hands of the Chinese. The Tutsi minority suffered at the hands of the genocidal Hutu in Rawanda. The Cambodians suffered under the evil rule of Pol Pot. The Palestinians are the most well financed group of so-called refugees the world has ever seen. Ninety percent of the population have televisions. They have their own newspapers. There is no starvation. They receive billions in foreign aide. Excuse me, but standing on line at check points hardly qualifies as extreme suffering.”
“I’m sorry,” the good lady says, “but I don’t think we have to stoop to their level.”
I nod my head and sigh. This woman is a good friend. She is a fine lady who supports the arts, works in social services and has raised devout and sensitive children. But when it comes to war, her decent sensibilities become a deadly liability.
“This is an existential conflict,” I finally say. “The Arabs are quite clear on their genocidal intentions; they have no qualms about teaching it to their children in grade school, putting it out in their newspapers, on television. They have built a society whose blood lust has not been seen since the days of the Aztecs and their human sacrifices. Why don’t you want to believe the Arabs when they say that they want to destroy Israel, eliminate the Jews? They say it from Damascus to Paris”
She is appalled. “Do you advocate killing civilians?”
“I’m saying this: do you prefer dead Jews or dead Arabs?”
“I can’t belive that’s our only choice.”
“That’s what they used to say to Winston Churchill in the British Parliament when he warned of the Nazis. They literally used the same language. Hence Chamberlin’s Peace in Our Time.”
“Times have changed.”
“Not really. You see, the truth is, not one major conflict has ever been ended by a signed treaty. It has always been force of arms. Because some societies are simply so evil that they must be reduced to ashes. After the ashes, there is hope.”
Luckily, the dessert tray arrives and everyone gladly digs in. I look down at my hands and see that they are shaking.