Blue Days And Red Lines [and J4JP Comment]

Rabbi Stewart Weiss - Jerusalem Post - June 15, 2003

[See J4JP Comment Below]*

There was a time when Israel held certain truths to be rock-solid and sacrosanct: We don't negotiate with terrorists. Jerusalem will remain our united capitol forever. We will never leave a captured or wounded soldier behind.

It was exactly those kinds of principled stands that gave Israel the character and image of a nation which stood for something, which valued ethics no less than expediency. You could take pride in a country which although it was situated in the land of the souk held that not every item was negotiable or up for sale. Indeed, much of the idealism that accompanied the Zionistic fervor which once thrilled the Jewish world which convinced Americans like myself to move here and start a new life was fueled by a sense of intractable adherence to that which was just and right. It was this determination to buck the odds and keep the faith which led to some of Israel's greatest moments: Entebbe, Operation Solomon, the capture of Adolph Eichmann and the liberation of the Old City and the Kotel.

Yet sadly, over the last several years, we have seen a steady deterioration of our moral character; we have blurred all the "red lines" which once sharply defined who and what we are. We showed only lackluster efforts in trying to redeem our captured soldiers and agents from Zach Baumel, taken in 1982, to Jonathan Pollard, now serving his 18th year in American jails, to the boys captured at Har Dov three years ago and taken to Lebanon. We began to waffle on maintaining Jerusalem as an undivided, Jewish city, culminating in Ehud Barak's infamous offer at Camp David to hand over half the city including many of our holy places to our intractable enemies.

And now, by Prime Minister Sharon's directive and at President George W. Bush's urging, we have let murderous terrorists out of jail with a meaningless "promise" not to murder again. The release of "refrigerator bomber" Ahmed Sukkar who murdered 14 people in cold blood in 1975 is a particularly bitter pill to swallow. He ended up serving just two years per each life he took. Two years! for robbing each family of a lifetime of pleasure and potential from their loved ones.

As the father of a young man whose life was tragically cut short by terrorist gunfire, this latest perversion of justice has a chilling effect. It sends the message that there is no rule of law in Israel the sentencing of a terrorist to one, or even a dozen life terms is ultimately meaningless, a mockery of justice - and that the political whims of the moment can cancel out the very foundations of our moral character as a nation. It makes me wonder, "For what cause did Ari die? To protect the eternity of the Jewish State, or to uphold some politician's tenuous agenda?"

Sharon may believe that caving in to outside pressure will gain him popular prestige and the love of the international community, but he has it exactly backwards. It is only by holding fast to his beliefs and standing up for that which is right that will gain him respect albeit grudging from Jew and non-Jew alike. The world loves those who fight for their beliefs, and finds pathetic those who give in to each passing pressure, selling their principles to the highest bidder. Ironically, it is the Palestinian will to budge not an inch from their positions despicable and barbaric as they are which gains them admiration and support from the Western media and the liberal establishment.

The attainment of peace true, lasting, REAL peace will result from maintaining character and an unwavering pursuit of our cause, not from capitulation. As my late father himself a decorated World War II veteran often told me, one of the keys to success in any military campaign, is the concept of Hold Your Ground. Maintain your position, show your adversary neither weakness nor wildness. Look him straight in the eye, and do not back down. Something for which General Sharon was once famous.

There was a time when the Israeli government set the tone for the national mission and inspired the populace to endure the great suffering that generally accompanies true liberation movements, such as ours. Today, however, it is the PEOPLE who must lead the leaders. It is we, the rank and file, who must prod those in power to remember our missing soldiers, to show no quarter or mercy upon those who seek our destruction, to never abandon Jerusalem, no matter what pressure is brought to bear upon us.

Above all, we must drum into their psyche the truth that, in politics - no less than in life - either you stand for something, or you fall for everything.

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana.

*J4JP Comment on "Blue Days and Red Lines"

Eighteen years ago a decision was taken by Israel's leaders to sacrifice Jonathan Pollard on the altar of political expediency. Their own petty careers, their government-allotted Volvos and their minsterships were all deemed more important than Jonathan's life. As one government minister told Esther Pollard many years ago, before Jonathan sued to regain his agent status, "Of course we could save Jonathan, but that means we have to admit that we sent him, and we will NEVER do that!"

Israel exploited Jonathan, betrayed him to the Americans, then abandoned him. Jonathan's legal case was thoroughly botched by his Israeli-paid attorney and he received an unprecedented life sentence for his activities on behalf of Israel. Never once in the 18 years that Jonathan has been incarcerated has Israel ever protested his Draconian sentence or the harsh treatment he has endured in the toughest prisons in the U.S. federal system. And never in 18 years has Israel ever made any serious attempt to secure Jonathan's release, in spite of numerous and repeated opportunities.

Israel's contacts with America are so many and so frequent that virtually every single day brings new opportunities to secure Jonathan's release. Opportunities that for nearly 2 decades have always been consistently ignored. Why? Because the plan never was to bring Jonathan home. The plan was always to have him die in prison (G-d forbid) and in that way the 'problem' would be solved. And when years passed and he didn't die in spite of the horrific conditions of his incarceration, Israel sent one of its own agents to him in prison to mock him for failing to do the "manly thing" by taking his own life. He was encouraged to commit suicide "for the sake of the nation," but declined.

This is where it all began. Eighteen years ago. When we, as a nation, allowed our leaders to decide that Jonathan was expendable. When, for 18 years, we tolerated their empty gestures and abject failure to secure his release, despite the numerous "gestures" we were making towards our enemies at the behest of the Americans, we set the paradigm for our own betrayal. By allowing Jonathan to be treated as expendable, it was just a matter of time before we all became expendable. It was only a hop skip and jump from the Government's callous, cavalier dismissal of Jonathan's life, to where we are today, freeing murderers and terrorists whose hands still drip with the blood of our loved ones.

In the essay above the author asks the question, "What did my son die for?" And it is a question that we all need to answer. As long as we tolerate leaders whose notion of responsibility extends only to maintaining their own personal power and political pleasure, and whose idea of security is keeping the Americans happy regardless of the price that the nation is paying in blood, then we are all, just like Jonathan, expendable.

The essay exhorts politicians to wake up and regain a sense of moral purpose and of national honor. Unfortunately, as a People we have become so accustomed to being governed by politicians whose blatant self-interest and wanton disregard for Jewish life in fact precludes the possibility of their taking a moral stand or of holding fast to principle, yet we fail to see it. Nevertheless, the author is correct that it is the People of Israel who must take up the challenge and show the way. We must emerge from our national slumber. We have become a People who no longer know how to protect our own national interests or to express our collective will in the face of a Government bent on implementing a dangerous, misguided foreign agenda which threatens our very existence. Flag-waving, heart-rending speeches, and 21 gun salutes no longer suffice to comfort the victims of terror attacks or their bereaved families. How many more will be sacrificed on the altar of private politcal power and personal glory before the nation wakes up and says, "Enough!"?

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