Sherwin Pomerantz

The Lesson of James Foley, OBM

They cut his head off!!!!  Can anyone believe that in the civilized world of 2014 there are people who take civilians prisoners and for reasons that make no sense to any of us brought up with Western values that celebrate life rather than death, that people in the name of religion can behead someone?

James Foley was not Jewish, he was not Israeli, he was not covering the conflict in Gaza and was not documenting how Hamas intentionally places rockets in private homes in order to garner the world’s sympathy when innocent civilians are then killed by retaliatory actions.  No!  James Foley was simply doing his job as a photographic journalist, exposing himself to risk simply to report “the story” wherever that might take him.

But because he represents values our parents and grandparents fought two world wars to protect, values that celebrate freedom, the right to make one’s own decisions, the right to worship as one pleases, and the list goes on, he was killed.  Can anyone explain why the western world’s leaders don’t understand this?  Why they don’t understand that Muslim extremism is a cancer that is aggressive enough in its metastasis to spread to the entire world?

The Middle East may be the source of the cancer and Israel may be the litmus test in which the extremists test how far they can go before someone complains, but the cancer has already infected every part of the world’s body.  If that is not true, how does one explain the posters carried in Ferguson, Missouri this week, some of which read “ISIS is HERE!”  And I have no doubt that they are.  A civil protest against alleged police brutality in a suburb of St. Louis morphs into a warning that Muslim extremists are in the neighborhood.

Here in Israel we continue on a war footing after Hamas has, once again, broken the 11th cease fire agreement in the last six weeks.  Over 230 rockets have been fired into Israel by Hamas since the latest cease fire was broken on Tuesday afternoon.  Seemingly Hamas has little incentive to come to terms with Israel short of our acceding to every single one of their demands which, if we were to do so, would give them carte blanche to rearm within weeks of the cessation of hostilities.  So why would we agree to that?  Why would we agree to such a scenario with a neighbor whose operational charter calls for our destruction at any price, human or otherwise.

For those who still do not understand what is at play here it is really very simple.  Muslim extremism glorifies death as something to achieve, with life being simply a way station to paradise.  And if one has to die, the best way to die is by dying a martyr for the cause, whatever that cause may be.  Here where we live it is to rid the country of Jews.  But where there are no Jews there is always someone to get rid of:  Yazidis in Iraq, Christians in Lebanon (30 years ago it was 60% of the population, today barely 30%), Christians in Bethlehem (which was 90% Christian and is now 65% Muslim), or Salafis in Libya telling store owners not to sell Christian symbols.  And while, yes, it may be true that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace-loving people who respect the rights of others, they are an incredibly silent majority deathly afraid to speak out against their radical co-religionists.

My mentor, Rabbi Samuel Schafler, of blessed memory, once delivered a lecture where he said that the gift of Judaism to the world was the moral imperative of pursuing justice, rather than love.  In a week we will read the portion of the Torah that states ‘Justice, Justice shall you pursue.”  He opined that other religions teach love as a cardinal virtue.  But under the guise of loving one’s god, religious people have done terrible things to their fellow man.  For example Christians killed over 6 million people during the Crusades and one cannot even count the number of people killed by Muslim fanatics all in the name of their love for their god.  But in the name of justice, the Jewish value, none of this could have been “justified.”

We live in a time in world history where, once again, evil has descended upon us.  The sad fact is that the leadership of the western world chooses not to recognize that this is the case and acts as if every instance is simply an example of aberrational behavior.  But those of us who are part of a people who know very well that to excuse this as aberrational behavior is tantamount to writing one’s own death sentence/  We understand that there is no compromise possible with an implacable religiously motivated enemy.  In such a case our tradition teaches that we must kill that enemy before we become the victims.

Woe is the nation that chooses not to understand the true message of James Foley’s murder and woe to the rest of us who will also pay the price for such a paucity of leadership.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.