David E. Weisberg
David E. Weisberg

About Those Tearful Jewish Seminarians….

The NY Times Magazine recently published an article entitled Inside the Unraveling of American Zionism – How a new generation of Jewish leaders began to rethink their support for Israel (November 2, 2021).  It focuses on some 90 young Jewish men and women who are studying in various institutions (none of which are Orthodox in orientation) to become rabbis and cantors, all of whom signed an “Appeal to the Heart of the Jewish Community.”  The appeal was released during the last bout of violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and the southern areas of Israel.

The appeal is only 1,500 words, but the word “tears” appears nine times, “heartbreak” three times, along with “weep,” “mourn,” and “cry.” Why all the sadness? Well, these young Jews have discovered that the State of Israel does not always behave in a way they believe is consistent with “the spiritual and ethical soul of the Jewish people.”  All the references to tears and weeping apparently prove that the signers are profoundly in touch with that soul, even if lots of other Jews aren’t.

The signers wonder (all in bold-face type) why American Jews cannot see that “Israel has the military and controls the borders?  How many Palestinians must lose their homes, their schools, their lives, for us to understand that today, in 2021, Israel’s choices come from a place of power and that Israel’s actions constitute an intentional removal of Palestinians?”

What American Jews ought to do, according to the signers is to (a) teach that the modern State of Israel includes territory which used to be “full of human beings who didn’t ask for new neighbors,” (b) vote for American politicians “who won’t continue to pay lip service to peace while funding violence,” and (c) donate to charities that “build peace” and not to those that “sow hate and violence[.]”

It is, I think, noteworthy that nowhere in the appeal is the word “Hamas” found.  The word “terrorists” is similarly absent.  Reading the appeal, one would think that Israel has never in its history used military force to defend its non-combatant citizens from violent terrorist attacks.

Yet the daily reality in Israel is that, whenever they feel it is to their advantage, terrorists garrisoned in Hamas-controlled Gaza attack Israel with rockets, mortars, drones, and incendiary devices — all of which are fired indiscriminately into civilian areas in clear violation of ancient and customary laws of war.  This fact is not mentioned in the Appeal.

Although the appeal deplores the “day-to-day indignity that the Israeli military and police forces enact on Palestinians,” the words “suicide vest” also cannot be found.  The fact is that Islamist terrorists are eager to attain martyrdom by killing Israeli citizens in suicide attacks.  Because that is true, Israel has established checkpoints where Palestinians can be searched to ensure that they are not equipped with suicide vests or other lethal weapons.  These searches might impose indignities, but being murdered by a suicidal terrorist is far worse than an indignity.

The signers believe that Israel has overwhelming military power relative to the Palestinians, and therefore any use of that power apparently is illegitimate and a cause for tears and mourning.  What the signers do not appreciate, I think, is that Hamas and the other Islamist terrorist groups are waging an entirely asymmetric conflict against Israel.

Perhaps Israel has an atomic weapon, but everyone (especially Hamas) knows that such a weapon won’t be used against Gaza.  Perhaps Israel’s conventional forces are sufficient to invade Gaza and kill every male of arms-bearing age, but everyone (especially Hamas) knows that that isn’t going to happen.  No matter how great Israel’s advantage might be in military might, when a suicide bomber blows himself up in a pizzeria in Tel Aviv, the Israelis he kills are just as dead as if they were killed by a nuclear device.

The signers of the appeal surely fervently believe in tikkun olam— they want to help repair the world.  Just a few seconds of thought, however, confirms that, before you can repair anything, you have to know what the defect or flaw is.  If a doctor tries to heal a patient without first correctly diagnosing what ails him or her, success in healing would be a matter of blind luck.  I therefore submit to the signers, and to those who think the signers are on the right track, the following propositions.

  • One feature of the world that obviously needs repair is that there are a large number of Muslims who sincerely believe they have a religious obligation to erase all traces of Jewish sovereignty from all of historic Palestine, which they consider an Islamic waqf that must forever be ruled by Muslims.
  • Many Muslims who hold the above-stated beliefs are ready to sacrifice their own lives to re-establish the waqf by killing Israeli Jews, because if they die in that struggle, they will be martyrs and thus greatly rewarded in the next life.
  • Muslims who hold these beliefs are the de facto government of Gaza, which serves as a safe harbor and launching area for terrorists who seek to kill Israeli Jews.

In light of these facts, all of which are absolutely indisputable, how does one go about “repairing” the world?  Must Israelis be slaughtered, while young American Jewish seminarians tearfully condemn any self-defense measures as “violence”?  How can Israelis defend themselves without using military force?

Tears interfere with clear sight.  The signers ought to wipe the tears from their eyes and take an honest, hard look at the world as it is today.  Then, after deliberately and explicitly considering Hamas, and terrorists, and suicide vests, and martyrdom, and the supposed existence of an Islamic waqf, they ought to think again about repairing the world.

I think they will find that, unless and until there is a fundamental change in the beliefs of many Muslims, the only “repair” that can be made today is a temporary patch: the use of a reasonable amount of force to resist Islamist terrorism.  A full, true repair must await a future day.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=2523973
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