Sunday, March 02, 2008


Oy Vey, not Again

Yet again, after Shabbos, I get to hear news of "today, Israel and Palestinian militants had the bloodiest day of fighting this week". How come is it that it seems that the day in which Israel launches its big offensive is Shabbos? Is it because Hamas, et al., time their shelling such that Israel will get fed up just in time for Shabbos?

I understand the need for Israel to defend itself ... even on the Shabbos. But there seems to be a pattern here. Anyway, in the end, what is Israel getting for its "vigorous responses"? It's one thing, a mitzvah in fact, to respond to a pursuer intent of killing (or raping) with even deadly force and even on the Shabbos. But it's another thing if the pattern keeps happening over and over again and yet everytime, somehow you have to have that response on Shabbos ... perhaps if doing [X] doesn't work, it's no longer a mitzvah since it is not in fact a constructive response to the pursuer? At the very least, it's, according to old saws, the very definition of insanity and stupidity.

There is a saying: "Who is the bravest hero ? He who turns his enemy into a friend." (Abot de-R. Nathan). Of course, this saying is in the context of a disputation for heaven's sake. But still, the base idea that what could be violence is channeled into a disputation for heaven's sake (and the underlying violence is very obvious in some parts of Talmud, c.f. what happens when R. Eliezar is excommunicated following the incident with the 'aknai over) is something very powerful and very Jewish.

So when will Israel learn how to be heroic from Jewish sources? Perhaps when those in Israel who proclaim themselves the guardians of Israel's morality stop violating the Shabbos themselves by throwing rocks at cars, etc., and start actually opening their hearts to the real lessons of Torah?


In other news, in addition to Israel's cross border incursions this weekend, some other country (in Latin America, but I forget which one) also had a similar cross-border incursion to capture militants. Now which incursion will be more criticized? Which has already gotten the more negative coverage? And some people wonder why we Jews, even those of us who are not 100% Zionists, think that there is a double standard redolent of anti-Semitism when it comes to Israel?


Update -- now a terrorist has killed 8 Yeshiva Bochers. I suspect this'll be used as proof of why Israel needs to attack even more strongly. Is that the correct approach? I dunno ... one could also ask, how did Israel's actions prevent terrorists from killing 8 Yeshiva Bochers ... but really, we shouldn't make political arguments about this now. What frightens me is the general trend of marginal people attacking educational institutions: whether its nuts with guns in the US or terrorists in Israel. What's happening here?

Good thing you weren't blogging in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War.

Why are they defending themselves on Shabbat? To make Israel safer. Btw, you may be interested in the content of my last 2 columns.
Israel certainly can and should defend itself on Shabbos.

My question is "why does it always seem that the big step up in Israel's offensive occurs on Shabbos?" Is it because Hamas times things so that the cycle of strikes and counter-strikes runs in such a way that Israel has to launch the strongest strike on Hamas on Shabbos? Or does Israel not realize how predictable these cycles are and manages to get snookered every time?

Of course the larger question is "does Israel's strategy actually work?" Hamas is not stupid -- nor do they think themselves to be so clever such that they do stupid things out of over-confidence. When they launch these attacks they are likely counting on certain predictable Israeli responses. Does Israel make matters worse for it by responding to Hamas in such a predictable manner that Hamas can time things just right such that Israel is forced to violate the Shabbos?

If everything is getting so predictable and Hamas is always setting things in motion, what does that say about the relative power of Israel and Hamas here? and what can Israel do to regain the relative power in this dynamic?

We should perhaps remember various Prophetic teachings about how to handle these sorts of situations? After all (and we too often forget), the pre-Exilic Prophets were giving political and geo-strategic advice more than anything -- in a situation where Judah and Israel were lodged between great powers with frightening strength ... so what did they counsel? And isn't that what a Jewish state should follow?


Your last 2 columns are indeed very interesting to me ... I don't have much to add, though.
The Columbian intervention into Ecuador was discussed but most of what I heard put it in terms that could be spun to be Anti-Venezuelan after Chavez warned Columbia to cut it out.

You are right that these things are handled differently depending on who is favored and that some of the content of the criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. Either explicitly or covertly. But not all of it is. It's one of the reason that it is difficult for non-Jews to discuss these parts of the Israel-Palestinian issues, there are so many bigots to be mistaken for.

In a week where there has been talk in the media, I'd say serious talk but that doesn't happen in the American media anymore, about Condi Rice as a VP candidate, it is necessary to constantly point out that she has been a complete disaster in every position she's held and that Collin Powell wasn't much better as Sec of State. I can't imagine that either Clinton or Obama wouldn't have done a better job of trying to do better in the mid-east.
Yep. I finally did hear discussion of the Columbian intervention in Ecuador ... but, sorry to be a concern troll here (I'm not a troll, I'm a Niebelung ... really, I promise I am ;) ), it's very odd how little discussion I've seen about this intervention compared to Israel's actions.

I know all the usual reasons -- "didn't your mother always tell you 'just because one person jumps off a cliff doesn't mean you all have to do so'" (*); "we give more $$$ to Israel, so we have more of an interest in how they behave"; etc. But still, to judge by coverage in certain quarters, you'd think Israel is the only country that does what it does. And then those who absorb this sort of coverage bias then wonder how come it is we Jews talk about a double standard when it comes to Israel?

That being said, as the saying goes "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result". Does Israel have a right to defend itself? Of course ... but at some point you'd think a people who pride themselves on their cleverness and strength would learn a lesson or two from past events and also that strength is sometimes best shown through restraint (I guess I'm being a chickendove here, since y'all don't see me making aliya).

Maybe Israel should lesson the blockade on Gaza so that, um, there aren't so many unemployed people who have no hope and thus turn to violence? Ya think maybe Hamas is counting on Israel's responses being how predictable they are? Maybe Israel should surprise them and ... well what's the joke?:

A man goes to a Rabbi with a problem: "every year my wife brings forth another child ... my family is poor already and with one more kid we'll be on the verge of bankruptcy and starvation. what do I do?" ... to which the Rabbi responds:

Nu? Do nothing!

(* Sorry to go all Freudian and parent blaming on y'all but I always wonder about the mothers of those on the right who resort to this sort of moral relativism ... especially Jews who do this. What kind of Jewish mother doesn't say with some regularity "nu? if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?"?)


In other Israel bashing -- when will the religious establishment of Israel actually start to consider Conservative Judaism as Judaism? It would be perfectly fair for us Conservative/Masorti Jews to say "you don't recognize our faith as Judaism? you don't recognize our conversions, etc? well, we don't recognize y'all as the Jewish State and we'll not give you any support, tourist money, etc. until you change your stance".

You keep hearing how we should just vote in international Zionist elections, etc. But how does that make a difference? What power do those organizations have? What talks is money; and we liberal Jews pour tons of tourist dollars and political support for US backing which has economic benefits to Israel into Israel yet they won't listen to the decisions of our Rabbis?

If otherwise liberal Jews are so willing to say "screw you" to people who refuse to meaningfully accept Israel, how come we also can't say "screw you" to Israel when they allow their monopolistic religious establishment to refuse to accept us?

Of course these same people who consider us Conservative/Masorti Jews to not be Jewish enough happily ignore so much of Jewish ethical teaching and never lean on Israel to follow our teachings when it comes to how we wage war, etc. ...


Also on Israel ... now that we're on the subject: Marketplace had a segment on how the rocket attacks are affecting business in S'derot ... whatever y'all may want to say about Israel, Zionism as an ideology is bankrupt: it was proposed as a way to "solve the Jewish problem" ... yet how has Israel been able to be a normal state? As the Prophets could have told us (if we paid attention to their political message rather than depoliticizing it), Jewish normality is a futile goal.

I guess it's debatable, though, how Israel has impacted anti-Semitism. On the one hand, every "cheyt" of Israel, as well as every "dual loyalty" appeal of Jewish organizations to support Israel, can be used by anti-Semites to recruit new blood and say "see, we were right about those Jews: they may seem like nebishes, but put them in power ...". On the other hand, having Israel as a focus for anti-Semitic memes allows the rest of us Jews to avoid anti-Semitism -- after a while of saying "I don't hate the Jews, I hate Israel", eventually the person might actually stop hating the Jews. On yet another hand ... how come is it we Jews have so many hands? ;)
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