The Danger of the Dangers

Seventy years ago this week, Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor “a day which will live in infamy.” He was right. The attack has remained, in the memories of Americans and of much of the West, synonymous with unprovoked violence, gross American unpreparedness, and ultimately, a devastating Japanese strategic mistake.

To a battered Jewish world, though, that “day of infamy” may have been a blessing in a horrific disguise.  For matters could have been much worse had the Japanese not attacked. Absent that Japanese provocation, how much longer would it have taken for the United States to enter the war? How much more of Europe might Hitler have conquered had Japan not awakened the hibernating American giant-to-be? How much stronger would his grip on North Africa have become? How many more Jews would have been lost? Had he seized the Yishuv, could a Jewish state ever have arisen?

What was a “day of infamy” to many was a day of salvation for others. The Japanese attack was both a horror and a relief. It caused untold suffering, but may have saved the free world. There’s a lesson to be learned from that – dangers come in many different forms – and so does salvation.

It’s become popular, these days, to warn that 2011 is looking ever more like 1938. And to an extent, that’s true. There are, indeed, dangers, and the similarities are eerie. Once again, the Jews – and this time, their state – are singled out for opprobrium, and once again, the West pretends not to notice. Israel is the only country on the planet about which there’s a debate regarding its right to exist. The United States and Europe know what Iran is up to and what its intentions are, but for years did virtually nothing. Neville Chamberlain would have been proud.

Once again, fear and hatred of the Jews comes from the most bizarre quarters. Even as Israel was battling the second intifada, Europeans ranked North Korea and Israel as the two greatest threats to world peace. Hamas runs one of the most misogynous regimes on the planet, doing nothing, for example, to stop honor killings in which fathers execute their adult daughters for alleged sexual improprieties – yet American college students (including women, of course) urge international support for Hamas – because the Jewish state simply must be stopped.

And as was the case in the 1930s, resurgent nationalism fuels itself by lashing out at the Jew. Iran shares no border with Israel, but urges its destruction. Even before the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis fared so well in Egypt’s recent elections, the secular government rattled its sabers and hinted at the possibility of terminating its peace with Israel.

Rebuffed by the EU, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made exacerbating tensions with Israel a cornerstone of his foreign policy. With Syria’s Bashar Assad ever more likely to fall, when will conflict with Israel be his most logical next step, since hatred of the Jew is one of the few things that can still unite Syrians?

Yes, there are discomfiting parallels. Close to home and far away, real dangers lurk. But there is also danger to the danger. Utterly convinced that the world is aligned against us, it’s too easy to conclude that we have no choice but to man the barricades and to fire away until we’re out of ammo. Then, we imagine, we’ll deal with whatever’s left after the dust settles.

But while that sort of Armageddon thinking may make for gripping Hollywood scenes, it does nothing to promote wisdom. When Michele Bachmann  addresses an American Jewish conference proclaiming “not one inch” and thousands of Jews leap to their feet with calls of “Bachmann for President,” we’re in hysteria-land.

Ariel Sharon did not say “not one inch.” Binyamin Netanyahu does not say “not one inch.” Even Avigdor Lieberman, toiling tirelessly to create a state in which few of us would want to live, does not say “not one inch.” But people love a rallying cry, especially in the face of danger. Bumper stickers, after all, are so much more appealing than thinking.

Michele Bachmann knows better than all of Israel’s leaders? So, too, do the wildly cheering crowds at New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel? Of course there’s no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the present moment. But “not one inch” as a policy means “war forever.” Yet that’s OK, isn’t it? It’s fun to cheer Michele Bachmann in a New York hotel. So what if it means that Israelis will continue to die, year after year, endlessly? What are we going to cheer instead? Moderation? Thought?

That’s where 1938 will get you.

Once you know the world is one big danger, you just batten down the hatches and toss thinking to the wind. European governments fund left-leaning organizations that rightly worry us? Let’s create convoluted laws to tax the funding into insignificance.

Let’s tamper with the Supreme Court (one of Israel’s few well-functioning governmental bodies, whatever one might think of some of its rulings) while we’re at it. It doesn’t matter that the government’s recent slew of legislative innovations has horrified both centrist Israelis and Zionist American Jews, or that it has elicited warnings from world leaders. After all, these are dire times.

Who can afford the luxury of worrying about Israel’s fragile democracy (how many Israeli immigrants came from countries where democracy was well-established? – very few, of course) and how easily the enterprise could topple. No – those are the concerns of yefei nefesh – naïve “liberals” who care about silly things like values.

After all, there are enemies out there… we have to get them before they get us.

Or do we? Despite all the similarities to 1938, let’s not lose sight of the overwhelming differences. American Jews of 2011 are nothing like the timid, intentionally invisible Jews of 1938. Millions of American Christians are passionate, politically powerful supporters of Israel. Congressional support is solid. The Jews are no longer landless and homeless, but sovereign. Much of the West is even awakening (though admittedly too slowly) to the dangers of Iran and radical Islam.

To be sure, we have enemies. And too many of our friends are complacent, naïve and ignorant. But we’re not the forgotten, powerless, ignored masses that we were 70 years ago.

Is this the moment to abandon any semblance of moderation, to risk becoming our own worst enemies by destroying from within what our foes would destroy from without? Last time around, our enemies made terrible strategic mistakes that ultimately led to their downfall. What if they do not do that this time? Are we determined to make the mistakes for them?

About Daniel Gordis

Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and currents in Israel, and a recent winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Dr. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism.

23 Comments on "The Danger of the Dangers"

  • S. David Stern says

    Dear Daniel,
    I am not sure if I’m disappointed in your lengthy sermon on moderation or touched by it’s simplicity.There is something in the current atmospherics which is quite reminiscent of the 1930’s,from the economic turmoil, to the American Jewish establishment worshiping a President whose contempt for Jews is somewhat obfuscated by the very Jews they surrounded themselves with.In the case of FDR it was only the Orthodox establishment and a handful of so called right wing Jabotinsky followers that raised their voices while the Jewish establishment allowed 6 million to die in the name of moderation.I have no doubt that you are well versed in Holocaust history,if not,I highly recommend you Google The Bermuda Conference (1943),Henry Morgenthau,Stephen Wise,and Peter Bergson.I have no doubt from historical analysis,that from 500,000 to 2.5/3 Million European Jews might have been saved were it not for American Jewish moderation. There is a certain irony that you speak of this moderation when this weeks Torah reading ‘Vayishlach’ contains the story of Jacob’s historic reunion with his brother Essav.The majority of Midrashic texts as well as the preponderance of Medieval commentators tell us this event has two important lessons.The first is the dictum “Essav soneh et Yaakov’,Essav hates Jacob,an allegory of the eternal pathology of antisemitism.The second significant lesson is that Jacob uses a three pronged approach in this existential confrontation,namely Gifts and diplomacy,a military strategy of dividing his entourage in to two camps in hopes of giving at least half of the nascent Jewish enterprise the potential of escape and survival.The last of the three approaches and some say it was the first,was prayer,illustrating the power of prayer in times of adversity.In these ever challenging times with antisemitism spiraling out of control,with many of our coreligionists often supporting our adversaries who disguise their agendas as justice and humanitarian.It becomes disheartening that we are relegated to embracing cooks like Sarah Palin and others including evangelizing ministers whose ultimate goal is to have us nuked or accept there Messiah.
    Having traveled the Middle East for over 40 years.Spending time in both Lebanon and the Gaza Strip,I find it incredibly naive that anyone would suggest territorial compromise when the last two territorial compromises have proven to be catastrophic strategic mistakes,which price has unfortunately yet to be paid.
    With blessings of Peace- with or without moderation
    Shabbat Shalom
    S. David Stern
    Chicago

  • Fabulous articulation, Daniel.
    Calling for wisdom, and dealing with the facticity of this extraordinarily challenging situation.
    Thank you.

  • Stanley Tee says

    Frankly, this article really surprises me. Israel’s proposed law on the foreign funding of NGOs is nothing the US doesn’t already have on its books. Even polite Canada was horrified today to discover that the British government is funding a Canadian think-tank that is opposed to the oil sands. It simply makes no sense to allow foreign governments to pour money into NGOs that have little or no domestic support and that follow policies clearly inimical to the host country.

    Secondly, the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court under the current system ensures the continued left-leaning and highly interventionist stance of the Court. Once again, America does all it can to avoid this happening. Why is it wrong for Israel to hold its justice system equally (actually, even less) accountable? At the same time, is it really “democratic” for an unelected Supreme Court to be able to make laws? Surely that’s the job of the elected government?

    The current court is clearly biased and it shows in their opinions. For example, the judges had no hesitation in changing the route of the security fence, despite the fact that this was a case of national security. Yet those same judges refused to interfere in the Shalit prisoner swap when asked to do so by families of terror victims because, according to them, it was a case of national security. You can’t have it both ways.

    I’ve always had the utmost respect for Rabbi Gordis’s columns, but this one …. I’m not so sure.

  • Roy Schlachter says

    Dear Dr. Gordis,

    Thanks for the lucid review of the “Middle East” situation. Just returned from Israel where a mixture of faith and fear related to our President Obama were addressed on the street and in intellectual circles. Would appreciate your views on the latter.

    How can we applaud those countries who have not buckled to their fear of oil deprivation as they recognize the complexity of the Middle East times faced by all the world? Governments and peoples “loving” to “hate” each other while a lack of lives of productivity and promise continues to elude the common man in the streets.

    Thanks for your help, Roy Schlachter

  • richard reiser says

    I was surprised to read this article. I usually agree with what you write but I must separate myself from your stance on this subject. Israel has been bending over backwards for years, including Ariel Sharon. Peace can’t be had when your enemies want you dead. Just because some recent leaders have not said ‘ not an inch’ doesn’t make them right. Never an inch is another story. When the Arabs stop feeding their children hate in their breast milk, then we can talk. I can’t say it better than David Stern did in the first comment so I’ll leave it at that.

  • Sheila Novitz says

    Oh gosh. I agree with all of you, in differing degrees. But not having the education or vocabulary of most of you, I can only say thanks to all of you – for the food for thought – and particularly to Dr Daniel Gordis who never fails to inspire me.

    A second thought: All of you naturally write about Israeli Jews and American Jews, but what about the rest of us – in Australia, South Africa, Canada, Britain – who live now in fear and pain, and feel very strongly that 1938 is here again. We share our cities with Arabs – thousands of them – who hate us with a difficult-to-describe venom; we see signs reading KILL THE JEWS; benches in Jewish suburbs painted with NO ISRAEL signs; young students are being attacked every week. Our best ethnic TV channel now sources much of its news from Al Jazeera. Shops, even tiny ones, suspected of supplying the IDF (with chocolates, in one case, would you believe?) are picketed by ugly, anti-Jewish mobs. So it’s a terrible time for all of us, not only Israelis and Americans. We would love to have some words from those wiser than us. Our leadership (Board of Deputies, B’nai B’rith ADC) tell us not to launch counter-demonstrations as we must be “dignified.” They spend a lot of time on “education” of non-Jews, I’m told, but I’ve yet to meet a non-Jew who wishes to be educated about us. And much effort is also expended in trying to be nice – extra-nice – to the Islamic population, when any sensible Jewish person must know that their hatred of us is as staunch and ugly as a bare mountain – and it will not ever change. Some advice to an ordinary, frightened Jewish person, please?

  • Julian Resnick says

    Yishar Koach. As a Shaliach for two years in NYC I find myself torn between two very different views of Israel, both of which I find difficult, the Israel can do nothing wrong folks and the Israel can do nothing right folks. There are some people who go into the discussions about Israel with an open mind, but they are few and far between. yours is an important voice, this is an important article, as it models the need to thin k and consider issues rather than to live in the world of slogans. Shabbat Shalom.

  • Moishe (Thomas) Goldstein Toronto Canada says

    Daniel, your essay is, classically, of 2 parts, both of which are strong.

    Yet, it lacks the central, pivotal core that connects the parts.

    The result is shrill (if passionate), disconnected and unpersuasive.

    Hardly up to what I have come to look forward to reading.

    Hope you enjoy a Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach and a relaxing and pleasant weekend.

    Moishe

  • Stanley Tee says

    Sheila Novitz, how can you say you don’t have the education or the vocabulary? Your post is beautifully written and has touched my heart. I live in Canada and I know exactly what you mean about our Jewish leadership and their “shtay shtill” philosophy. I think they’re completely wrong!

    During World War II, America’s Jewish leadership mostly adopted this same attitude, terrified of appearing to be more Jewish than American. If they had made more noise, who knows what might have happened, how many lives might have been saved!

    That’s why I read as much as I can, from commentators like Dr. Gordis and others. I make a point of knowing as much as I can, and of speaking out whenever possible. That means writing letters to newspapers when lies are printed, or when I see things like anti-Jewish demonstrators. We have to speak out, but without being obnoxious, to let the world know that never again truly does mean never again.

    Thank you for your post.

  • “American Jews of 2011 are nothing like the timid, intentionally invisible Jews of 1938.” True, they are not. But their refusals to acknowledge that Obama’s appeasement of Iran is a catastrophic policy that may result it the deaths of millions is as troubling indeed.

    54 percent of American Jews ( down from 78 percent) continue to support Obama, the President who has done everything he can to discourage an Israeli preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear sites, the only remaining option of self defense left to Israel. Obama is even against the Menendez-Kirk amendment which passed the Senate 100 to 0 and would make sanctions against Iran bite.

    Our media which for decades has been reluctant to discuss the nature of Islam also refused to discuss the ineffectiveness of MAD vis-à-vis Iran. ( see MAD is Dead http://www.madisdead.blogspot.com/ ) As a consequence of this global ignorance Americans elected a president whose Middle East policy seems to be in bringing Islamist regimes to power and appeasing Iran. It is time American Jews realize the magnitude of the disaster Obama’s Middle East policies are creating.

    It is time American Jews review the articles written by American and Israeli political analysts in January of 2011 at the beginning of the “Arab Spring” and find out whose predictions turned correct.

  • Miriam says

    I agree with the last comment [and most of the others]. This post leaves me puzzled.
    The critical thing now is TO GET RID OF THE CURREENT PRESIDENT! His foreign policy is so destructive to Israel, that I cannot comprehend how some –way too many–Jews still plan to vote for him!

  • bobby says

    I appreciate your thoughtful commentary. For those responders who don’t seem to understand the point lets put it even more simply. The dangers to Israel are real but do not justify sacrificing democratic and Jewish values. Silencing free speech, “investigating” human rights organizations, burning mosques and vandalizing orchards in the disputed territory do not help Israel and damage it in the view of the rest of the world. These and similar actions are the result of frustrated and self righteous individuals. The right wing ideologues do the same things in every country, stifling decent seems to be the mode of response to criticism. Adopting Michele Bachmann is the act of fools as anyone who has followed her campaign, even conservative Republicans, will attest. Awards to Glen Beck are even more absurd.By the way, Pres. Obama saved Jews when the Israeli embassy was attacked, blocked the Palestinian move in the UN, cut of funds to UNESCO when it accepted the PA and has supplied Israel with missile defense systems. But don’t let the facts get in the way of your animus. Please note that Iran, a true danger, was let loose on its current policy following the Iraq war a senseless and costly adventure initiated by GW Bush the supposed “friend of Israel.”
    Thanks to Dr. Gordis for trying to strike a balanced view of the current situation.

  • To bobby. You do not seem to have any idea what I am talking about. Apparently you did not even read from the MAD is Dead blog what Islam scholar professor Bernard Lewis and professor Raphael Israeli had to say about the death of the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine. You write “The dangers to Israel are real but do not justify sacrificing democratic and Jewish values. “ There is no connection between the two. But even if there were, if Israel does not preemptively destroy Iranian nuclear sites it will cease to exist so there will be no Jewish values to talk about. You obviously have not read or take seriously what Bernard Lewis said “ What makes this particularly alarming is the whole question of nuclear weapons. During the Cold War both the United States and the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons. That they did not use them, and they knew they we not going to use them, because of what we used to call at that time MAD – Mutual Assured Destruction. Each side knew that if they used nuclear weapons the others would respond in kind and this would obliterate everybody. With these people, with their apocalyptic mindset, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement “

    You write “Obama saved Jews when the Israeli embassy was attacked, blocked the Palestinian move in the UN, cut of funds to UNESCO when it accepted the PA and has supplied Israel with missile defense systems. But don’t let the facts get in the way of your animus”
    The facts are that Obama pushed Mubarak out of office and made it possible for the Muslim Brotherhood to win the elections. The facts are that Obama considers Erdogan a great friend while he is doing everything possible with his Islamist agenda to hurt Israel. The facts are that Obama gave $300m to Hamas whose Charter, Article 7 reads: http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1609.htm
    The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim).” These words in the Hamas Charter come from Hadith Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177:
    Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.”
    http://www.cmje.org/religious-texts/hadith/bukhari/052-sbt.php

    I suggest you read the articles of prof f Barry Rubin who wrote :
    http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/2011/10/25/welcome-to-the-islamist-middle-east-and-its-not-going-to-be-moderate/

    Ladies and gentlemen, liberals and conservatives, Obama-lovers and Obama-haters, no matter what your race, creed, gender, national origin, or level of unpaid college loans, two things should be clear to all of you:
    First, to describe the Obama administration’s Middle East policy as a disaster — I cannot think of a bigger, deadlier mess created by any U.S. foreign policy in the last century — is an understatement.

  • Danny–

    Thanks so much for this column. Its message is simple–that Jews and everyone else in life needs to be aware of the real risks and dangers that are lurking out there but that we also need to make sure that we don’t define ourselves in terms of fear, anger, hatred, and bigotry.

    We need to take care that the very values and wisdom that have defined us for centuries aren’t sacrificed in our zeal to demonize the other and cling to our victim status.

    It sounds pretty simple and not the least bit controversial. But look at the range of responses it has prompted!

    Several commentators agree with me that some who proudly call themselves pro-Israel have sacrificed those values and that wisdom in their zeal to demonize others and always characterize the threats of the moment as a precursor to the next Holocaust.

    Never mind that Israel now exists as an unparalleled military and economic power in its neighborhood. Never mind that acts of terror from the West Bank into Israel proper essentially disappeared years ago. Never mind that the president of the United States and our Congress have shown unprecedented support for Israel’s security and a commitment to maintain and increase that support. Never mind that leaders of many countries continue to support Israel despite their serious concerns about the actions and policies of its leaders.

    Even more telling than your excellent column is the fact that several people are apparently quite put our and disappointed that you are taking such a logical and common sense approach.

    It speaks to the dysfunctional clinging to victim and underdog status that has taken over the Right wing of American Jewry.

    And the fact that they are disappointed in you also speaks to the fact that in the past–such as when you suggested that J Street be thrown out of the Jewish family or that rabbis who have heartfelt concerns about the actions of the Israeli government need to be better educated–you haven’t always shown the kind of common sense and balance that you do in this piece.

    The fact that those who are now disappointed in you and are longing for a simpler approach where the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined and life is without complexity may be troubling to them should make you feel very proud.

    I sincerely hope that this is a sign of the kind of wisdom and insight you will be sharing with us in the future.

    Kol ha kavod.

  • Tom Milburn says

    I agree with the moderate views expressed by Dr Gordis in this piece. However, consistent with the note directly above mine by Larry Gellman, the past views of
    Dr Gordis are a bit more strident than his current ones. Why the change?

  • Richard Kroll, M.D., F.A.C.S. says

    Is is uncanny insight and flawless wisdom such as that expressed by Larry Gellman that embraced the predictable disaster of Oslo. Failure to recognize the annual “Palestinian” remembrance of the Nakba and the published strategy of phased solution betray a denial of the existential threat confronting Israel. If moderation results in concessions to the ongoing effort to destroy Israel it represents assisting in one’s suicide.

  • bobby says

    to Mladen Andrijasevic
    You still don’t get the point. Neither Dr. Gordis nor I diminished the threat of Iran. What I said was that Israel has begun the process of suppressing descent by sacrificing democratic and Jewish values, lets take some examples: Lieberman, as Gordis put it “toiling tirelessly to create a state in which few of us would want to live..” The curtailment of free speech when Israeli citizens can no longer advocate boycotting west bank producers with out being severely penalized. The government backed libel legislation which journalists state will suppress investigation and people such as former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner maintain that under the legislation “You can’t really write serious articles about our leaders and what they are doing..” “Investigating” human rights organizations, as though they were arms of foreign agents because they are critical of the governments conduct. (The outside agitator story is currently being used by Assad and Putin and was popular during the McCarthy era in the US). The Kings Torah in which Haradi Rabbis try to justify killing women and children because these Rabbis, in their Omniscience, know what the children will grow up to be, and claiming that they lack the innate compassion of the Jews. This is the classic psychological example of the person projecting their own dark side on to the other and then labeling the other as the enemy . There are the bands of settler youth burning mosques and vandalizing orchards with the blessing of these same Rabbis. There are the Haradi women throwing rotten food and dirty diapers at IDF solders . There are thousands of apartments being built in the disputed territories and east Jerusalem while thousands of people in Tel Aviv and many other cities protest the lack of sufficient and affordable housing. There are more examples but that should suffice to make the point. None of this has anything to do with the response to Iran, but often results from the apocalyptic vision that you express.That was Dr. Gordis and my point.
    The preemptive attack you advocate in Not so obvious as you make it seem; Meir Dagan former director of the Mossad referred to the idea of attacking Iranian nuclear facilities as “stupid” that it wouldn’t eliminate Iranian heavily fortified facilities and would start a regional war that would be a disaster for Israel. He claims support from other leaders in the military and Shin Bet. At this time containing Iran is best accomplished by tough sanctions(if they are not effective look to Russia and China not to Obama) cyber attacks, covert actions and encouraging the green revolutionary youth that oppose the Mullahs and the regime.

  • Louis Lipsky, Louis@Lipsky.org says

    Indeed, Neville Chamberlain would be proud, Daniel, but not of the US and Europe, who joined forces to clean Afghanistan of El Qaeda and to topple Saddam Hussein, whose fall brought about the termination of Qaddafi’s nuclear program which, in turn, rendered his toppling harmless to the West. Chamberlain would be proud of you.
    If Chamberlain and his colleagues in Europe had said to Hitler, as he invaded the Sudetenland, as did President George H.W. Bush to Saddam Hussein and as did President George W. Bush to AL Qaeda and as did presidential hopeful Rep. M. Bachmann to the Palestinians: “not one inch”, there would not have been a world war that killed over 48 million war victims and thus no Holocaust wiping out 6 million Jews, one third of our people, either. The State of Israel would have been established, perhaps not exactly on the 5th of Iyyar 5708 but near enough, and all of our lives would be different.
    The big difference between 1838 and 2012, which you ignore, is where the battles are won. Then, it was on the killing fields. Now, it is in the public opinion, brazenly evident from Sheila Novitz’ comment. Netanyahu, inheriting the gallows from the Rabin-Sarid Peres (“yumratz Rabin”) government, using one simple and universally accepted principle, reciprocity, ingeniously pushed the Palestinians into a position where an Israeli “not one inch” is perfectly reasonable. As S. David Stern of Chicago wrote here, Rabin, Peres, Barak, Sharon and Olmert were all proven wrong by immediate history: al attempts at moderation increased the killing rather than reduce or eliminate it. Now is time to push back our enemies, who –just as Hitler, seek nothing less than our annihilation, not only on the battlefield but in the battle theater of public opinion. Every world leader or hopeful who says “not one inch” is contributing to this lofty pacifistic goal of averting, rather than winning, a bloody conventional war.
    If we only view history as repeating itself when the repetition is identical to the forerunner, we are indeed doomed to repeat it. Time to wake up. It is 1938, September 11, 2001 was December 7, 1941 and we can avert 1942-5.
    Louis Lipsky
    Jerusalem
    Louis@Lipsky.org
    I am impelled to add, that it escapes me entirely why you found need for your injurious first paragraph. There was nothing good about the attack on Pearl Harbor. We are told by the Sages that God silenced the angles who wished to sing His Glory after the Red Sea closed in on evil Pharaoh and his soldiers saying “my creatures are drowning in the waters and you would sing praise?!”. For the 2,402 brave men and women were killed by a vicious unGodly attack. We should, rather, be wailing “How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” [II Samuel 1:27].
    The insulting and infuriating idea that the carnage was good for anyone would be bad enough if it contributed anything at all to the rest of the article. But your misguided arguments in favor of capitulation would be no less strong without spitting on the graves.

  • Charles Kremer says

    As much as I am appalled by the victim mentality displayed by the posts by Lipsky and Stern and others (which recalls the Serbs as they justified their massacre in Sbrenica in 1995) I am encouraged by what Dr. Gordis has to say. He has been a consistent defender of a pretty hawkish view towards the Palestinians and the Israeli left and their US supporters, but he draws the line at the new hysteria which has overtaken the Republican right and is supported by the Christian fundamentalists and is an existential threat to the future of the Zionist enterprise. Thank you!

  • To bobby:

    You write “The preemptive attack you advocate in Not so obvious as you make it seem; Meir Dagan former director of the Mossad referred to the idea of attacking Iranian nuclear facilities as “stupid” that it wouldn’t eliminate Iranian heavily fortified facilities and would start a regional war that would be a disaster for Israel. “

    Well, the problem is that journalists who interviewed Meir Dagan never had the knowledge or guts to ask him the right questions. If I were a journalist I would ask Meir Dagan the following:

    “What do you say of the opinion of scholars of Islam like Bernard Lewis and Raphael Israeli who are convinced the that the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction that had worked so well during the Cold War in preventing the eruption of a nuclear war between the US and the USSR is not applicable to the Iranian mullahs since Shia eschatology which envisages the return of the Mahdi, the 12th Imam, makes MAD not a deterrent but an inducement? Don’t you think that under these circumstance even if the possibility of the Iranians being irrational is 10 percent the stakes are prohibitive? Should not the strongest non-nuclear Iranian, Hezbollah and Hamas response to an Israeli preemptive strike be better than a nuclear attack of an undeterred Iran who wants to trigger the return of the Mahdi and destroy 2/3 of humanity?”

    Unfortunately, very few of the Israeli journalists had read the Koran or understood the implications of the change in the MAD doctrine. It is unfortunate that most journalist and politicians in Israel and the US have very little knowledge how the other side thinks. If Israel experienced 148 Sunni suicide bombers since 2000 why do we so easily assume that it is so improbable that Iranian Shia leadership would want to make a suicide bomber out of their whole country? Western secular minds just cannot grasp the depth of conviction of the Shi’a faithful.

    I suggest you watch the Iranian documentary The Coming is Upon Us – Israel Shall be Destroyed!
    http://atimetobetray.com/blog/iran-leaders-the-coming-is-upon-us-%E2%80%93-israel-shall-be-destroyed-watch-the-video/

  • Max Sternthal says

    “To Bomb or not to Bomb, that is the question.” Such well-articulated positions, but no one examines the key issue: What happens to Israel, Iran and the Middle East, the day after the Bomb or Bombs are dropped? Will the American people support, even a Republican President, to invade Iran, and remove the “cancer” at its head? And if the first strike is not effective, what then?

  • Max Sternthal says

    Mladen Andrijasevic “knows” the mind of the Iranian Leadership: “even if the possibility of the Iranians being irrational 10%, a preemptive Israeli strike is justified…(Iranians) want to make a suicide bomber out of their whole country.” I am 85,so, may I indulge in reflections of the 50s, 60,and 70s, when a Billion “grey-suited” Chinese marched, waving their little Red Books and vowing “Death to America.” When I awoke one morning, I learned that Kissinger was sipping tea with Mao, and making arrangements for the State visit of Nixon. I further reflect on the information that surfaced after World War2, to the effect that Allied bombing united all factions in Germany, and minimized the opportunity for anti-Hitler forces to move. Similarly, would the “Green” forces in Iran be swept aside with the first Bombing? Notwithstanding the label of “appeasement” that, no doubt, will fall from the lips of some,I believe in the continuation of stringent sanctions that have just been put in play (Russia and China exempted),undercover operations, secret support of oposition forces…and diplomacy that creates a cordon of Middle East countries that fear Iran more than they hate Israel.

  • Max Sternthal writes ” Mladen Andrijasevic “knows” the mind of the Iranian Leadership ”

    But Max Sternthal skips over the first part of the question I would have asked Meir Dagan:

    “What do you say of the opinion of scholars of Islam like Bernard Lewis and Raphael Israeli who are convinced the that the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction that had worked so well during the Cold War in preventing the eruption of a nuclear war between the US and the USSR is not applicable to the Iranian mullahs since Shia eschatology which envisages the return of the Mahdi, the 12th Imam, makes MAD not a deterrent but an inducement?”

    I never wrote that I “know” the mind of the Iranian leadership. I quoted the opinion of two Islam scholars Bernard Lewis and Raphael Israeli whose knowledge of Islam acquired through years of research should be taken much more seriously than it is. Furthermore, from the Bernard Lewis quote “MAD not a deterrent but an inducement” it follows that there is a fundamental difference between Soviet and Chinese communists and Iranian believers in the return of the 12th Imam. Soviet and Chinese communists can be deterred since they want to keep their privileges and they do not believe in the afterlife. Not so the Twelvers. Incidentally, I watched Kissinger sip tea with Mao from the vantage point in the USSR while being refused entry into a pharmacy which was reserved only for top party officials, so it was clear to me even then that the priviligentia was not suicidal.

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