In for a penny, in for a pound

“In for a penny, in for a pound” is the English adage. The Russian equivalent is more direct: На войне как на войне, meaning “If you’re at war, ACT like you’re at war.” Want more? Okay, in Turkish it’s Kavgada yumruk aranmaz, “One doesn’t count the punches in a fight.”

Anybody who can understand that water runs downhill, can also understand that the Palestinian movement and its various collaborators, from the UN and the ICC to Harvard and Columbia (the former where I spent most of my working life, the latter my alma mater) are the Nazis of the present day. If they weren’t Nazis once— Harvard and Columbia used to be respectable institutions of higher education, for instance— they are Nazis now. Israel isn’t committing aggression, genocide, war crimes, etc. It never has. It’s just defending itself. The Israel Defense Forces have leaned over backward to spare enemy civilians in war after defensive war, though no other army in history, including the US Army, has ever done so. Moreover, most of those enemy non-combatants support Hamas & Co. materially. And so on. Why rehearse the obvious? Everybody knows that, too. When we repeat the truth to friends in agreement, it’s an echo chamber, hot air, a waste of breath. When we explain the facts to enemies, shouting till we’re blue in the face, reasoning, cajoling, it’s still a waste of breath: it’s talking to the wall.

How does one deal with a Nazi? His parishioners asked their Hasidic Rebbe this question when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. His answer: “If you see a Nazi, kill him.” But most Jews were sensible, kindly, peaceable people who had never touched a gun, much less owned or fired one. They did not imagine any practical application of the statement in Tractate Berakhot 58 of the Babylonian Talmud, “This is what Torah says: If a man is coming to kill you, get up earlier and kill him first.” Allied war aims did not include rescuing the Jews, many neighbors collaborated in the genocide, and relatively few Jews resisted. The State of Israel means, among other things, that we have learnt something from World War II. “Our fate,” said David Ben Gurion, “depends not on what the gentiles say but on what the Jews do.”

A gang of bigots and liars calling themselves the “International Court of Justice”, led by some robed brute masquerading as a judge, have presumed to issue a warrant against the elected government of Israel. They have placed themselves beneath human contempt. Their warrant is itself an act of war. But is not their indictment of the Prime Minister on the one hand, and their indictment of the Hamas leaders on the other, merely the logical extension of the solemn foolery of the chimerical “two-state solution”? Back to the simile of water flowing downhill: everybody knows the enemy has never accepted the formula and never will. This evenhandedness is not reason but unreason. Woe to him who calls evil good and good evil, said Isaiah.

Israel has to fight this war to win, and, if necessary, to do it the way the Brits dealt with Dresden; the Russians, with East Prussia; and the Americans, with Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Christian friends understand that this present war is the struggle of the Children of Light against the Children of Darkness. It’s never been clearer, if only you open your eyes and see. I do not doubt that if we fight in earnest, trusting in the Lord, His truth shall prevail. As Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

But what is one to say to some within one’s own tribe, timorous American Jews and left-somnambulist Israelis? For in them, I fear, the ingrained vice of self-hatred has engendered the slavish will to placate, by moral equivocation, an enemy who is cynical and implacable. A different aqueous metaphor, that of a bucket of cold water to wake them up, is apposite. The English poet W.H. Auden, who was right about so many things, was right also when he admonished himself to face bitter reality. I offer his salutary words to my brethren as we face the very hard days ahead of us. You will have to fight back for real, and until the victory is won, there will be no peace.

Though mild clear weather
Smile again on the shire of your esteem
And its colors come back, the storm has changed you:
You will not forget, ever,
The darkness blotting out hope, the gale
Prophesying your downfall.

You must live with your knowledge.
Way back, beyond, outside of you are others,
In moonless absences you never heard of,
Who have certainly heard of you,
Beings of unknown number and gender:
And they do not like you.

What have you done to them?
Nothing? Nothing is not an answer:
You will come to believe—how can you help it?—
That you did, you did do something;
You will find yourself wishing you could make them laugh,
You will long for their friendship.

There will be no peace.
Fight back, then, with such courage as you have
And every unchivalrous dodge you know of,
Clear in your conscience on this:
Their cause, if they had one, is nothing to them now;
They hate for hate’s sake.

About the Author
Born New York City to Sephardic Mom and Ashkenazic Dad, educated at Bronx Science HS, Columbia, Oxford, SOAS (Univ. of London), professor of ancient Iranian at Columbia, of Armenian at Harvard, lectured on Jewish studies where now live in retirement: Fresno, California. Published many books & scholarly articles. Belong to Chabad.
Related Topics
Related Posts