"The missed opportunity"

There are times that never return and forks on the road that do not repeat. Despite the optimism of "second chances" philosophers, some windows of opportunity present themselves only once and then vanish forever. Such a time is now for the world, and especially for the nations that cherish human freedom and the economic, emotional and spiritual development of humankind.

The United States has finally recognized what for Israel had been common knowledge and tragic personal experience: that some people are bent on destroying the highest ideals associated with the tradition of the Bible and replace it with blood and violence in the name of the prophet Muhammad. These enemies are implacable and harbor no pity for the child, the handicapped or the elderly. They kill women with child and children as well; they are eager to inflict pain and celebrate their murders as others would celebrate a graduation or a birth.

Against this coalition of Murder, Inc. now there has arisen a group of nations and individuals that are beginning to understand the heavy price of silence. They are committed not to repeat the mistakes of the past. As the statement makes it clear, " for evil to be possible it is sufficient that good people do nothing." When Hitler rattled his sabers in the ‘30s, the rest of Europe was silent. As he was assembling the largest concentration of war materiel and resources, the world shrugged its shoulders and hoped for the best. A few years later more than 20 million people had died, the world had been ransacked by the violence and millions of people had been dislocated. Moreover, millions more were scarred with deep wounds that have been passed to their children and have caused more harm than chemical pollutants or radioactive material. Yet, the same people that allowed the rise of Nazi Germany and are implicated in its atrocious outcome are now asking the world to commit the same error, just 50 years later: to let evil be.

Iraq is not an isolated phenomenon or aberration. Many Arab nations share in a quest for domination and power that some thought had passed forever. Iran, Syria, even Saudi Arabia have joined the dream, albeit in different manners and styles. But whether through material or human support, Arab leaders today have all the old dream of Islam. The resurgence of Moslems in the Adriatic, the virulence and obstinacy of the Chechens in Russia or the Moslem militants in the Pacific all are proofs of this new phenomenon that can no longer be ignored. History has something to teach us in this regard. Islam did not propagate throughout the world by the book or the sermon. Unlike the "good deeds" campaigns of many early Christian missionaries, the Islamic preachers came much after the soldiers and the generals had subjugated the local populations and forced conversion to Islam on the hapless survivors. This tradition of "jihad" has now reared its ugly head. Whether this has occurred for economic reasons or due to a cynical and envious view of the non-Islamic world is irrelevant; what matters is that it exists and that it is being supported, with very few exceptions-quiet and meek--by all levels of Islamic society in different parts of the world.

When it was only Israel that suffered the world shrugged. Now that America suffered a direct blow, the world shrugged but America. And so it will be until all nations are hit and by then it may be too late. France and Germany and other nations in Europe think that they can but their peace, that as long as the Moslems are busy with America and Israel they will leave them alone. The pretense of peacemaking and the concerns over the loss of life in a war are just the diaphanous disguise of a cynical and craven view of the Islamic challenge. The United States in its clearest and most courageous decision making since World War II has taken the lead in a war against the forces that aim at world domination. The buzzword today is fight against terror, but in reality it is a war against those who use terror to advance their aims. When we say, for instance, that we fight the Mafia, we do not say that we are waging a war against murder. The enemy is not the tactic but the organization that uses it. Similarly, in our case, the war is not against terrorism, but against those who are using it to advance their political aims.

It would be a terrible mistake to miss this opportunity. Regardless of European opposition or other ideologies, the United States needs no permission to defend itself. Its leadership today will serve it well and may, as it was the case during World War II, earn it the glory of the liberator. The derisive use of the term "Pax Americana" to compare the U.S. to the imperialist ambitions of the old Roman Empire is odious and false. Genuine students of history may recall the famous saying by the historian Tacitus, "Desertum faciunt et appelant pacem" (They—the Romans—make it a desert and call it "peace"). The United States, on the contrary, has never left a desert and actually rebuilt the societies it vanquished. Witness the case of Japan and Germany after the war and the generous military help to France as proofs of America’s benevolence.

This is the opportunity for America to shine. Let us bless this country in its endeavor. But we need not forget that the forces of evil are not going to go away after this Gulf war. We need to be constant and apply force and consistent energy against those engaged in this world campaign for domination. Supporting an Arab state in parts of Israel would be similar to giving Saddam half of Iraq. Let us remember that in fact, that was precisely the mistake of the first Bush administration. Thinking that containment would work, Saddam Hussein was left in control of an enfeebled Iraq. The consequences of that disastrous calculation are being paid today. Repeating the same mistake would be a tragedy not only for Israel but also for the whole world.

Israel too has an opportunity it should not miss. After weeks of quiet when it was thought that the Arabs had started to relent, the terror resumed in Israel with a vengeance. Several attacks in the last few days have demonstrated beyond a doubt that the Arabs have not given up. Israel needs to address this challenge forcefully once and for all. All leaders that have spoken of war need to be exiled and the Arab society should be given the choice of reforming itself into a peace loving society or else their lives should be made miserable to encourage their natural emigration and disappearance. Whatever their choice they have no third alternative, namely to make the life of the Jews miserable.

Israel and America have a unique opportunity at this juncture that may not return. Let not a missed opportunity at this time join the sad bin of historical paths that were not taken.


Rabbi David Algaze
          Rabbi David Algaze