When the thunderous claps in Heaven jolted Orange County out of our rooms a few Sunday mornings ago, I thought of Israel. When the earth – almost simultaneously – thundered below our feet in a 3.8 earthquake, I thought of Israel. What must it be like to live in Nahariyah, Tz’fat, Ashdod, or Haifa – and be jolted out of bed all night and out of one’s home all day by incessant thunder and earthquake?
That Sunday morning’s earth-shaking rattlings in Orange County were safe thunder and earthquakes. By contrast, the storm of Hezbollah rockets shaking Israel’s population centers aims to destroy. They are the rockets that maim and wound and murder. They are aimed without target, without discrimination – just aimed at Jewish civilian population centers. They are not targeted at a military objective but are lobbed at Jewish civilian centers – small villages, mid-sized towns, and great urban centers like Haifa. That is the strange military target of the enemy – a Hitler-like objective solely to murder Jews – any Jews, wherever the rocket may land. Just to murder Jews. Regardless of political affiliation, ethnic origin, or religious identity. Whether socialist Ashkenazim in “Red Haifa,” Sephardic immigrants from Morocco living in Kiryat Shmonah, Ethiopian Jews in Ashdod, Orthodox Hassidim in Tz’fat – or even the fools of Neturei Karta. Just to murder Jews.
For Israel, there are no options in this new Arab war aimed once again at driving Jews into the Mediterranean Sea. If she relents, then the Jewish State cannot continue as a viable entity. Just as we in America cannot abide a continual threat of continued terrorism in our midst, so Israel – a country the size of New Jersey – cannot allow an implacable enemy to remain at arms against her. If the taking down of two great buildings in Manhattan could justify sending tens of thousands of American boys to strafe, bomb, decimate, and shock-and-awe two countries on the other side of our globe – Afghanistan and Iraq – can Israel be denied the understanding of good-willed people who recognize what is at stake for her?
If Israel did not want peace with Arabs – and for the people of Lebanon — she would not have resisted for six years the growing need to strike at Hezbollah and to stop the build-up of anti-personnel weapons amassed along her northern border. Israel waited patiently and nervously for the Government of Lebanon to rein in a growing terrorist state-within-a-state. Even the City of Los Angeles did not allow the Symbionese Liberation Army and General Cinque to operate unfettered, waging war and recruiting troops. The City of Angels obliterated the SLA. Nor did America allow a separate army and government to establish itself in Dixie during the Lincoln Years. Tens of thousands of Americans were killed in twenty minutes at Cold Harbor. More Americans were killed in one day at Antietam than in any other day in history up to that time. More Americans died in two days at Shiloh than during any other two days. More died in three days at Gettysburg than ever before died in three days. General Sherman marched against civilians – Americans – and incinerated the South; yet, great American heroes like Lincoln and Grant accepted the human cost of war. Sherman was medaled, not court-martialed. When a country fights for her survival as a country, she fights to survive.
The Beirut Government sat by, while Hezbollah openly built its infrastructure for terror amid the women and children of South Lebanon. Even as the Palestinian Authority abided the emergence of Hamas as a bona fide force within the areas of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza on land that would become a testing grounds for Yasser Arafat to demonstrate civility. Thus, Hezbollah and Hamas armed for years, finally dispatching terrorists brazenly across internationally recognized peaceful borders into Israel.
Hezbollah now has 12,000 missiles aimed randomly at Jewish population centers in Israel. At the rate of the 100 rockets they launch against Israel every day, Hezbollah can keep the murder and terror going non-stop for the next 120 days – four months. Iran and Syria stand ready to resupply, if only they can access the bridges and highways by which to transport their tools of mass death. America would not abide such a threat from either of our borders. No country would.
Worse, Hezbollah and Hamas stage their rockets and rocket launchers amid their civilian population. And it is a willing and supportive civilian population. In Gaza, the people voted for Hamas – this is not a peaceful population whose dreams for peace and coexistence have been hijacked by cruel generals in a midnight military coup. Rather, with Jimmy Carter testifying to their volition, this is a population who freely selected Hamas as their leadership. How can Israel remove rockets and ground missiles that literally are based in garages of homes and in condominium complexes, in hospitals and in school buildings, amid children and moms who endorse the tactic of their role as human shield for terror? Yet how can Israel dare resist the need to take out the missiles?
How tragic that a new enemy has arisen against Western civilization – from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah – posing a new threat for a new age. Terror imposed by fascists within Islam aims to destroy civilians, women, children, male non-combatants – from the World Trade Center to the vacation hotels of Bali to the centers of Western civilian population. Do they represent the essence and core of Islam as a religion? Many of us just do not know – we would like to think not, but we just don’t know. We are not studied in Islam, so we listen genuinely for the voices of peace, the spokespersons for coexistence and mutual understanding. But we do not hear the voices of reproach, condemning the hijacking of a religion. So we do not know whether the faith has been hijacked or whether the terror is part of the faith, at least in some of its denominations overseas. But we do know that, in return for abandoning parts of Judea and Samaria to Yasser Arafat, Israel was rewarded with a government-authorized press that teaches people to hate Jews, a school system that teaches children to hate Jews, street signs named for people who murdered Jews, a summer camp program that trains children to hate Jews, a mass media of television and radio and newspapers that promote the hatred of Jews and the destruction of Israel. Similarly, in return for abandoning Gaza unilaterally to Hamas, as urged by the present Bush Administration and implemented by the Sharon Government, Israel has been rewarded with a population on her southwestern border that democratically has elected terrorists to direct their affairs of state and convert their national agenda from building infrastructure and attending to social welfare to kidnapping innocents across the border and raining katyushas on civilians vacationing in Ashdod, launching the rockets from the Jewish homes and farms that Israel abandoned. We know that, in return for Ehud Barak unilaterally abandoning the security buffer in Southern Lebanon, as urged on him by the Clinton Administration, we now have an implacable enemy on Israel’s northern border, such as Israel never quite has experienced before. An enemy entrenched in a population that refuses to relinquish the human shield it provides to terrorists who mine the land, train rockets on Israel’s urban centers, and scheme to ambush and kidnap in cross-border forays.
For Israel there is no choice. We have seen what has become of the Maronite Christian population of Lebanon, the Christian population of Sudan, the Coptic Christian population of Egypt, the Christian populations of Iraq and Syria. We have seen what Sunnis do to Shiites every day,. and what Shiites do to Sunnis every day. It is not the way of the West but the way of intolerance and destruction. From the persecution of Berbers in Algeria to the hatred against Baluchis in Iran, it is an intolerance we have not seen since the Dark Ages. And, given what the terrorists to do to Christians – and what they do to each other – Israel knows what fate she, a state of Jews, would suffer if she falters now.
She has no choice but to live. And may she have the strength, with our support, to resist external political pressures that may aim in the future at other of her Jewish communities amid the heartland of our patrimony in Eretz Yisrael.