This article was jointly written by Roger L. Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind – Sacks
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called “Painting a Dream Called Peace.” In it, I described the deep yearning for the day in which all weapons will be laid down, the day in which Israelis and Jews will stop having enemies, a wish expressed by Israelis from all walks of life and from all shades of the political spectrum, a wish that is part of our heritage : “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”—Isaiah 2:3–4
Today, however, and perhaps more than ever, I dare to ask a very uneasy question. I ask it at the possible risk of being accused of practicing anything but political correctness because, after all, isn’t seeking Peace sometimes, at any cost, the right and correct approach to ending hatred and animosity? I ask: as much as we say ‘yes’ to peace and hope it comes, do we, Jews and Israelis, really want to stop having enemies? Is it what we should wish for?
Before anyone jumps at my throat, let me explain. We need to distinguish between having Peace and the absence of enemies. Does Peace always preclude the existence of enemies? Does Peace rule out the preparation for war, having an army, soldiers or any defense system? After all, if it really means that having peace excludes having enemies why would so many nations that are at peace with each other still have armies and upgrade their arsenal regularly? Don’t the words of the Roman writer, Vegetius, “Si vis pacem, para belum,” which are the Latin adage translated as, “If you want peace, prepare for war,” reflect such sentiments?
The importance of having enemies was, likewise, recognized by important thinkers and leaders throughout history.
“Love your enemies because they bring out the best in you” claimed Neitzsche. “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life,” suggested the wise Winston Churchill
Had we, Jews, not had enemies would we have reached the levels of survival and prosperity that we have? Would we not have stagnated had we not had enemies to keep us on our toes and push us to try and always stay one step ahead of them in an effort to survive, live and thrive? There are some who have claimed that anti-Semitism kept us alive as a people.
No, that cannot be the answer. Other peoples have survived as distinct cultures without being persecuted. We Jews and Judaism have survived because of our tradition of inner strength, and in spite of those who hated us and persecuted us. We have most likely survived because our culture, our Judaism, has within it both the rules of how to live and the potential to adapt to protect core values and ways.
And in that, our record of survival tells us something interesting.
There may always be war. As Carl von Clausewitz observed “war” is “politics by different means.” There will always be politics and there might always be war or the potential for war.- as long as there are always leaders and ideologies that see a profit in war. Likewise, we, Jews and Israel will always have enemies as long as there are those that seek and find scapegoating useful in their efforts to maintain control.
The day may come, though, when it is universally understood that diversity and tolerance are more valuable than control and uniformity, when people discover that destroying is wasteful for all concerned.
Until such time when people understand the wisdom of Isaiah, we have to do whatever is necessary to defend against external aggression and to value and enhance that inner cultural, spiritual and sociological strength with which our people have endured and prospered.
So, will there be peace? Let’s hope so. But let’s also be realistic. Peace will come only when our enemies, physical, spiritual and other see no profit in attacking us. It will come when they see that the cost of hurting us is just too high for them and when we stop trying to buy peace through weakness and concessions and understand what Roman Emperor Hadrian, Churchill and President Ronald Reagan understood: “Peace through strength.” In the case of Israel and the Jewish people, it is peace through both the ability to defend ourselves, our rights, our freedom, and peace to be who we are.