A curious headline appeared online last summer: “Turkey Captures Bird, Accuses It of Spying for Israel.” (The Blaze, July 28, 2013) This headline was not a joke. Rather, it is but one of many bizarre accusations that are daily fare in many parts of the world, and reflect the only-too-real perceptions of its peoples. Nor is it merely a war of words. The headlines are accompanied by increasingly frequent violence against Israel and Jews in general.
As Purim approaches, the Jewish people once again finds itself in the crosshairs of its enemies. Purim also reminds us that attacks on Jews and Israel are nothing new. But, as if to counter the frightening reality of being surrounded by enemies, the Megillah’s hope-inspiring subtext also reveals that those who attempt to destroy the People of Israel are the ones who in the end disappear.
This article will explain the forces at work and their connection to each other, and it will conclude on an optimistic note rooted in our Tradition, as well as some thoughts on the powerful role each individual can play to alter outcomes.
Israel faces an existential threat, possibly the most serious peril to its existence since its inception. The signs are everywhere – from the quickening pace of “wars” between the Palestinians and Israel, from Western Europe’s increasing appeasement of Arabs and extremist Muslims more generally, from a rapidly spreading worldwide anti-Semitism accompanied by acts of violence and murders against Jews, and not least from an Obama administration that has in effect switched sides in the Middle East and supports both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas goals.
What is happening with regard to Israel is not occurring in a vacuum. The world situation is in some ways no less disquieting. Crises abound, whether of an economic, political, or military nature, whether in Latin America, Europe, or Asia.
The world had barely begun to be accustomed to the public beheadings of ISIS hostages, when the terrorist group introduced a new technique – also videotaped and shown publicly – burning a captured Jordanian pilot alive in a cage. Yet the horror felt at such barbaric behavior is somehow not translated into a determined effort to stamp out such barbarians. Russian invasion of neighboring countries engenders tepid and half-hearted sanctions. But Israeli construction of housing in Jerusalem or other areas produces an ongoing, steady outcry. Israel’s actions to protect its citizens from a rain of missiles on its cities and countryside are condemned as “disproportionate,” and its refusal to commit potential suicide by acceding to U.S. and European demands for unilateral concessions is attacked as unreasonable rigidity.
The January Israeli air strike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, which killed leading Hezbollah figures as well as a senior Iranian general, was followed quickly by a Hezbollah “retaliatory” attack on an Israeli convoy that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded several others. That attack was but the latest in what was accurately described by Jim Phillips as the “latest chapter in a long shadow war between Israel and Iran.” It was also accompanied by an Iranian threat and encouragement to murder Netanyahu’s children. (“ Iran Targets Netanyahu Children for Assassination – IRGC-tied site urges ‘hunt’ after Hezbollah strike,” Adam Kredo, The Washington Free Beacon, January 29, 2015.)
A Widening Circle of Instability
There are two major elements to the overall picture. One is the foreign and defense policy of the current U.S. Administration, which has differed in major ways from previous American policy and whose major impact has generally not been recognized. That policy, in a nutshell, has entailed an unprecedented political and military strategic withdrawal from the world. Concurrent with that is the creation of multiple political vacuums that have both allowed and encouraged dangerous and aggressive behavior by dictators and would-be dictators. What the actors on the international scene do or refrain from doing is not simply a function of military or other capabilities but of their perceptions of what will be tolerated.
The second of these two key ingredients is the generalized, global weakness of individual governments throughout the world – including those of the most dictatorial and repressive regimes. This universal weakness – combined with Obama’s unilateral strategic retreat and the natural propensity of authoritarian regimes for aggressive behavior in the face of passivity or appeasement by targeted states – has created a highly dangerous and explosive global situation.
To the extent that any analogy can serve to throw some light on the present, the one to the pre-World War I “gathering storm” is probably the most apt. Then, as now, there were multiple local and regional crises; then, as now, governments behaved as though their actions were without consequence; then, as now, no one contemplated or thought that a world war was even conceivable. The difference is that today’s leaders have the history and experience of more than a century to warn them of the dangers of such actions.
The so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010 – long since changed in the media to an “Arab Winter” – was not, as many at the time conjectured, the outcome of pent-up democratic aspirations. There were (or are) no democratic traditions, habits, or structures in Arab countries. The “law habit” that developed in the West over centuries and that has ingrained in these societies a general consensus that disputes, whether between individuals or among groups, are to be resolved peacefully through an established judicial system, is absent in Arab societies. In the latter, violence remains the accepted way of settling scores. Societies are hierarchical, and authoritarianism or dictatorship is the norm. What happened in these societies starting in or around 2010 was a result of many factors, chief among which were rapid modernization, widespread access to instant communications, and a general improvement in living conditions, all of which led to a much greater thirst for being left alone and a desire for greater freedom from government. Being left alone, however, in the absence of the institutions, rules, and habits of democracy, is not the same as democracy. The only way any of this resembles democracy is in Plato’s definition of the term: mob rule.
This indeed is what ensued and continued until the reassertion of various forms of authoritarian rule (with the possible tentative exception of Tunisia). The underlying reason for that initial breakdown in 2010 was precisely the weakness of regimes unwilling or unable to maintain pre-existing repression levels.
The internal weakness of regimes also helps to explain what has been happening in places like Nigeria, where the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has been wreaking havoc with its massacres and mass kidnappings. The ongoing internal fighting in Libya and Somalia are further examples.
The inability of groupings competing for power within states to win often leads these groups to seek outside assistance to break continuing stalemates. More powerful outside states with agendas and weaknesses of their own oblige, thereby further widening the circle of instability and competition.
When, in this widening circle of instability, we reach the likes of Iran, Russia, and China, we have all the key ingredients of the equation assembled: internal weakness, the desire of dictators (or would-be dictators) to distract with external aggression, and the lack of meaningful resistance by the main targets of such aggression.
Russia has over the past several years been increasingly aggressive in its foreign policy and regressive in its internal politics. The earlier movement toward genuine representative government has been halted and reversed to the point that those actively opposing the Putin regime find themselves jailed or worse. Putin described the collapse of the Soviet Union as one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, and is aiming to rebuild that empire.
Moscow has engaged in a series of military aggressions accompanied by politico-psychological warfare. Some of these have been internal, as with the Chechen rebellion in the south. Others, however, have been foreign attacks and seizures of territory. Strong-arm tactics toward the country of Georgia (formerly a part of the Soviet Union) were followed by open encouragement and support for suddenly “separatist” areas bordering directly on Russia. These have since been detached from Georgia and are effectively under Russian control.
More recently, Moscow has occupied the Crimea and essentially reattached it to Russia. Over the past couple of years, Moscow has launched yet another even more major incursion into Ukraine. Here, too, the official justification has been support for “oppressed” Russian minorities living in the areas bordering Russia. These have “rebelled” against the Ukrainian government and, with direct Russian military assistance – including Russian troops – have taken control over some areas of Ukraine.
The Baltic Republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are now nervous that they may be next in Moscow’s list of aspirations to restore the old Soviet, or even Tsarist, empire. The use of Russian minorities living in all these former Soviet areas is a convenient excuse for Putin’s ambitious expansion designs. Russians were purposefully settled in the various areas into which first the Tsarist, then the Soviet, empire expanded. Stalin undertook a systematic effort to ensure that the local peoples would find secession difficult if not impossible.
The boldness and extent of this new aggressiveness is also illustrated by the shooting down over Ukraine of a Malaysian civilian airliner in 2014. While Moscow has denied complicity in the act, it is clear that a Russian missile was used and that either the Russians themselves or their local proxies did the shooting. Russia has also been helping the Iranians with their nuclear aspirations all along, aiding them in building an Iranian nuclear capability.
Such goals, in the face of extensive Russian internal weakness, are ironic – especially since Russia does not even fully control its own far-eastern territories. The Chinese have been moving in numbers along the Trans-Siberian railway path to such an extent that entire towns are said to now have Chinese majorities.
China, for its part, has also become more aggressive over the course of the Obama administration. While not engaging in overt territorial grabs, it has nevertheless been far more assertive in pressing its claims to regional dominance. What is new is not the issues but the manner in which these have been dealt with. Beijing has for a long time laid claim to vast areas in the South China Sea, but it is only in the past several years that it has engaged in brinkmanship activities with its ships and, at times, its military aircraft harassing those of other regional states and even of the United States. Relations with Japan, Taiwan, and even other Communist states such as Vietnam have become tenser, occasionally coming perilously close to actual shooting engagements. The Chinese declaration not long ago of an “Air Defense Zone” necessitating prior notification by other states to ensure safe passage is another example.
The response to the latter, as well as the general passivity of the U.S. has been telling. While the United States protested mildly and said it didn’t recognize such a zone, it in fact did nothing. As a result, American and other airlines have begun to notify the Chinese prior to transiting what had heretofore been entirely free air lanes.
Turkey under Erdogan is but another example of increasingly aggressive behavior. A supposed American ally and member of NATO has actually begun to act like an enemy state. In a Cairo speech a couple of years ago, the Turkish leader recalled favorably the time of the Ottoman Empire – this in front of an audience that had been part of that empire.
Aside from referring to Jews and Israel in anti-Semitic terms, Erdogan and other high Turkish officials have blamed a variety of Turkish ills on “the Jews,” and have publicly insulted Israeli leaders. Erdogan, known for his angry outbursts at the Jewish state, declared in July 2014 that Israel had “surpassed Hitler in barbarism.” (Arutz Sheva, 1/12/2015) Turkey has openly sympathized with the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, and it sponsored and participated in a flotilla to “break” the Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza. And when Israel, after repeated warnings, killed several Turkish participants, the Turks demanded, and ultimately received, an apology from Israel.
Turkey under Erdogan has moved visibly toward extreme Islamism. It continues to be friendly to the extremist Muslim Brotherhood and, at the very least, turns a blind eye to the transit of Western Muslim fanatics wanting to join the fighting in Syria and Iraq. Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s Defense Minister, speaking at an Israeli counter-terrorism institute, stated, “The command center of Hamas’s overseas operations sits in Istanbul,” charging that Saleh al-Arouri, the senior Hamas official said by Israel “to have played a key role in orchestrating the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in June 2014,” was in the Turkish capital with the support of Turkish officials.
In Iran, continued repression by the Ayatollahs has been accompanied by extensive regime corruption as well as poor economic performance and administration, leading to widespread dissatisfaction. The multiethnic character of Iranian society, with barely half of the population actually being Iranian (there are large numbers of Azeris and Kurds, among others) has further added to the inherent tensions and weaknesses of the regime. Those have led to a number of foreign entanglements, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even in the wider Middle East, as Iran has actively intervened and come to dominate such terrorist movements as Hezbollah, and plays a growing role in Lebanon and Syria.
America: “Leading from Behind”
The nostalgia shared by these countries for past glories and the desire to restore bygone imperial grandeur would exist at most in muted form were it not for the abdication of America’s global role.
Obama’s propensity for acting against America’s true friends and befriending its enemies is by now recognized. Some of these actions have been petty but nevertheless telling, such as his returning to the British a bust of Winston Churchill that had been given as a gift to the U.S. government. That gratuitous, in-your-face act was consonant with Obama’s leftist ideological bent. If that bust offended his sensibilities as a symbol of imperialism, why not simply relegate it to some obscure attic? What constructive purpose could possibly be served by returning it?
It was within Obama’s power, in September 2009, to cancel President Bush’s commitment to provide Poland and the Czech Republic with an anti-missile shield. However, the symbolism of its announcement on the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact (which gave the Nazis a free hand in Poland and Eastern Europe) was not lost on the Poles and Czechs. Obama’s plea to the Russian leader (recorded for all to hear through a microphone the President thought had been turned off) that he would be able to be more “flexible” in nuclear negotiations with Moscow once the U.S. elections were over is well-known.
The President indeed kept his word on this and various other defense and national security issues. The defense budget has suffered during his terms in office to the point that the U.S. is now in a precarious position should a serious threat arise. America’s enemies are keenly aware of this and are acting on that basis. It used to be American unpredictability that kept them nervous: Washington’s unfortunately well-earned reputation for unreliability in commitments was counterbalanced by the unpredictability of its reactions. One never really knew if and when the Americans would suddenly react with force. On this score, Obama has proven very reliable indeed: America’s enemies know that they can count on Obama’s passivity.
Perhaps one of the most damaging of Obama’s foreign policy moves was his December 2009 announcement that U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by 2014. Such a statement, made in the middle of an ongoing conflict, was tantamount to explicitly telegraphing to the enemy that America was abandoning the fight and pulling out – this at a time when many gains had been made through the American intervention. This author has been told directly by Pakistani officials who generally support the Taliban that such signals are a trigger for extremists to increase the level of fighting in the hope of further accelerating an American withdrawal. And this indeed is what has happened since, notwithstanding the variations on the theme, including a temporary U.S. surge. None of that changed the general perceptions by both friend and foe that America was now no longer really relevant. Washington’s enemies believe, with much justification, that they have an open field with little risk of meaningful American opposition to their designs.
Focus on the Middle East
With the global context outlined, what is happening in Israel and the surrounding area becomes easier to understand. In the aftermath of last summer’s Gaza war, the Palestinians have, at least temporarily, modified their strategy to take fuller advantage of what they see as increasing international support from all corners. Terrorist attacks shifted from carefully prepared and organized events to more random individual stabbings, shootings, and car “accidents.” These were for a while widely described by a Western press eager to minimize their seriousness as “lone wolf” attacks – random acts “provoked” by “frustration” and “rage,” rather than orders from higher authorities – an all-too-easy rationalization that has played into the hands of the broader radical Muslim strategy: the delegitimization of Israel and the active renewal of global anti-Semitism.
The “lone wolf” rationalization was seriously damaged by the recent attacks in France against the humorist publication Charlie Hebdo and against Jewish targets, although, characteristically, it was the attack against the media outlet that triggered the strongest reaction. These murders, supposedly committed by lone wolves, were openly acknowledged as having been ordered by terrorist organizations.
The violent element of the strategy has not been restricted to Israel. On the contrary, the terrorists have pressed their anti-Israel campaign not only through attacks on Jewish targets throughout the world, but by attacking anything or anyone in the West or elsewhere that they see as antagonizing “Islam.” The objective is to milk to the utmost the appeasement policies of Western European governments, and to bring about similar a similar approach in the U.S. The terrorists’ use of force (in effect, symbolic force) is to coax the “international community” through continued blackmail to apply increasing pressure on Israel so as to give the Palestinians what they have no hope of achieving on their own. Weak-kneed European governments – hosts to growing Muslim minorities and also subject to the heavy-handed techniques and violent blackmail of Islamists – have generally had no stomach for resisting this sort of pressure.
The picture of European and world leaders marching in the streets of Paris to “protest” the terrorist acts against Charlie Hebdo and the murders of Jews in a kosher supermarket is an open admission of their helplessness. Yet, even there, the French at first tried to prevent Netanyahu from coming, then from being on the same bus with the other leaders, then from being in the front row of the march. Obama’s failure to send any high official further underscores his high-handed detachment and the little significance he attaches to all this.
There have been some notable exceptions, like French Prime Minister Valls, who recently spoke forcefully against anti-Semitism – whether overt or in the guise of being anti-Israel – saying that France without the Jews is not France. Most, however, have preferred the road of least resistance, no doubt thinking that sacrificing Israel and the Jews might let them finally have peace.
They do not realize, or refuse to confront, the fact that Israel and the Jews are the proverbial canary in the mine, that attacks on the Jews are merely the first phase of a more comprehensive approach – openly and explicitly proclaimed by Islamists – to Islamize Europe and the world. Like explicit threats in the past – such as those expressed in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Soviet threats to Eastern Europe post-World War II, and many others – which, if confronted earlier, would not have been as difficult to overcome, the Islamist threats are not taken seriously by present governments and peoples unwilling to face an unpleasant reality.
The Palestinian Strategy
That the Palestinians and their supporters believe they are on the way to winning can be seen in a multiplicity of ways. Criticizing Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird for his strong support of Israel during his January 2015 visit to that country, Saeb Erekat, the PLO’s chief “negotiator,” stated the Canadian official was “on the wrong side of history.” (Jerusalem Post, January 23, 2015)
And how else can one interpret the inflammatory and hatred-filled sermon of Sheik Omar Abu Sara, in an impromptu sermon at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, calling for the slaughter the Jews, whom he called “the most evil of Allah's creations?” This in Jerusalem, under Israeli rule! (The sermon was posted on the internet on November 28, 2014). “It was the Jews whom Allah turned into apes and pigs, and afflicted with degradation and humiliation....We shall slaughter you without mercy, and I say to [you] loud and clear: The time for your slaughter has come.”
The Palestinian introduction of a Security Council Resolution aimed at imposing on Israel a UN-dictated timetable for a complete withdrawal from territories taken during the Six Day War garnered a majority of eight, falling just short of the nine votes that would have required a veto to block. Only the U.S. voted against it. Of the other permanent members of the Council, France voted for, and the U.K. abstained. The Palestinian move was then followed in short order by an application to join the International Court of Justice in order to bring war crimes charges against Israel.
On the surface at least, Palestinian optimism is easily understandable. After all, thousands of missiles launched against civilian Israeli targets got little notice and even less condemnation. The Israeli response, however, measured as it was with surprise-defeating repeated warnings of its impending strikes, was condemned sharply and widely. What other country is constantly condemned by other countries for building housing for its citizens, as Israel is? Where else is the choice of the country’s capital not only questioned but unrecognized?
Wars have, throughout history, been accompanied by sometimes-massive population displacements and refugee flows. Such refugees have been resettled and integrated within the societies in which they found themselves. Not in the case of Israel. The Arabs of the then-Palestine (a name given by the British to their post-WW I League of Nations mandate, and meant to recall the long-disappeared Philistines) were told by the Arab states in 1948 to leave so as to facilitate the “throwing of the Jews into the sea.” When their vastly more numerous and better-equipped armies were defeated, the Arab states simply refused to integrate those who had fled on the promise of a quick return. Thus were born the refugee camps that to this day testify to the purposeful creation of the biggest obstacle to peace – and this with continuing international support via the UN.
Hezbollah: An Arm of Iran
The seriousness of the threat should not be underestimated. An Israeli general recently stated that Hezbollah, on Israel’s Lebanese northern border, has 10 times the number of missiles that were in Gaza during last summer’s conflict, and that there were networks of tunnels from Lebanon into Israeli territory. (The Times of Israel, September 6, 2014) A former senior Hezbollah official, who left the terrorist organization in good part because of its subservience to Iran, also recently charged that the terrorist movement had become merely an arm of Iranian intelligence. Whether or not Hezbollah initiates a new war against Israel is consequently merely a function of Iranian decision-making. And whether Iran orders the terrorist group to do so depends on its desire to produce a distraction to facilitate its other objectives.
Among these objectives, and of immediate concern to Teheran, is the situation in Syria. Syria has been a close ally, one could even say a satellite, of Iran, and the survival of the Assad regime is critical to the Iranians, who have been very directly involved in propping up that government. The killing by Israel in January of senior Hezbollah officials in an air strike in Syria also resulted in the death of an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general and illustrates that tight interaction. The Hezbollah “retaliation” for the Israeli air strike, in late January, and the subsequent quickly-issued explicit message by the terrorists that they were interested in “de-escalating” the rising tensions further underscores the Iranian guiding hand. There have been persistent reports that Iran has been preparing to open another front on Israel’s northern borders. For now, however, the timing is not right. Israeli acquiescence to these threats blows hot and cold, which, while understandable, does allow the enemy to dictate when and where it will attack.
Opportunity Amid the Threats
Israel is thus faced with the twin threat of attacks on its borders and within Israel by the terrorists and their sponsors, and of a worldwide campaign to delegitimize its very existence. The latter propaganda/psychological warfare tool has increased significantly in intensity over the past several years, and is presently the more dangerous of the two menaces. Israel can handle the military angle well. The delegitimization campaign, on the other hand, seeks to isolate Israel, while also whipping up global anti-Semitism to ensure an even more effective impact. Violent attacks against Jewish institutions and persons, coupled with vocal attempts to discourage investment in Israel and to bar Israeli scientists, educators, and writers, etc., from being invited to meetings, art performances, and other events have had a degree of success. European governments have prohibited the import Israeli products produced in the “occupied” territories. These moves, as already mentioned above, have further increased Palestinian intransigence and belief that holding out longer will lead to success.
What makes the above more tragic is that there probably has never been a better opportunity to achieve some sort of understanding between Israel and its Arab neighbors. States like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia feel very threatened by fanatical movements such as ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood. The single most important reason for the rise and success of ISIS, so far, is the vacuum and disorder reigning in Syria and Iraq, as well as the instability in such places as Libya and Somalia.
Even more important with regard to the potential for an Israeli-Arab understanding are the rapidly increasing tensions between Shiite Iran and the various Sunni Arab states. The latter feel very threatened by Iran, which has been hard at work subverting the Sunni states. Tehran has had for at least 10 years a “Shiite strategy” to achieve dominance in the wide arc stretching from Lebanon in the West to Pakistan in the East. In all these states, it was pointed out to the author by an influential Iranian, Shiite minorities provide a convenient entry point for Iranian agitation, subversion, and blackmail.
There have been, in the past several years, a number of articles in Sunni Arab states to the effect that Israel is not as bad as depicted, that the enemy of the Arabs is not so much Israel as the terrorist organizations, fanatical Muslim groups, and Iran. There is reason to believe that Arab governments have gradually come to recognize that the existence of Israel and its strength are in fact stabilizing factors in the region, and that Israel provides an effective counterbalance to the Iranian threat. That is the reason these governments were so quiet during the 2006 war with Hezbollah in the north or even the more recent Gaza fighting. The Egyptian government also correctly saw Hamas in Gaza as a threat, and tried to promote an end to the fighting.
But what are Arab states to do when the U.S. under Obama tries to be more Arab than the Arabs, more Muslim than the Muslims? What are they to do when Washington constantly criticizes Israel, whether on construction in Jerusalem or Judea and Samaria, whether on the need for more “flexibility” in negotiations with Palestinians, or for using “disproportionate” force in its responses to attacks on Israeli civilian targets? What are they to do when the Obama administration supports the Muslim Brotherhood (as it did in Egypt) instead of more secular forces? An Egyptian publication even went so far as to list the six high officials in the Obama administration with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood! (Dec. 22, 2012 story published in Egypt's Rose El-Youssef magazine, as cited in IPT [Investigative Project on Terrorism Report], For The Record – The IPT Blog: “Egyptian Magazine: Muslim Brotherhood Infiltrates Obama Administration,” by John Rossomando; Jan 3, 2013 ).
The irony in much of this is that the Arab states do not like the Palestinians and are, in some ways, even afraid of them and of their ambitions. The irony is also that it is those states, which refused to integrate them into their societies and then perpetuated and institutionalized the Palestinian refugee status to maintain a constant irritant against Israel and a continuing diversion from their many internal problems, which now wish it were different.
What Is to Be Done? A Ray of Hope
Lest one be tempted to become overly pessimistic in light of what does seem to be a rather bleak global situation and somber Middle East prospects, it is useful to step back and take not just a broader view of the matter but one that encompasses the historical spectrum from a traditional Jewish standpoint.
The first to note is the convergence of a series of highly unusual events and circumstances defying understanding. That should lead us to the realization that we are living through a momentous moment in history that may, in fact, be what our mesora calls Sof Hayamim, the true End of History and the beginning of the Geula, the Final Redemption.
The election, and re-election, of an American president who, in a sense, came from nowhere, with no experience for such an exalted position, with an ideology so at odds with mainstream America, and about whom so little, even now, is known, and about whom so few questions are asked is itself an unexplained enigma.
The quickening globalization of anti-Israel sentiment and of virulent anti-Semitism so soon after the Nazi era, simultaneous with a perhaps less vocal but nevertheless very real recognition on the part of many gentiles of the true unique nature of the People of Israel is another of those signs.
Secondly, Israel and its friends and enemies would do well to remember that throughout history, many peoples have come and gone. The Jews are the only ones who have remained – in spite of all attempts, in every generation, to destroy them. Unlike any other nation, they have persisted even without their Land. The return to that Land after a 2,000 year hiatus is no coincidence. All this attests indubitably to the Eternal keeping of the Divine Promise.
The Greatness of the Individual
In the face of the momentous forces we are witnessing, there is the false, albeit understandable, perception that the individual is an insignificant element, that what he or she does matters little. If each person thought that way and did nothing, nothing would happen. If, on the other hand, each individual thinks he or she matters and can affect events, and all act based on absolute moral values, monumental change will happen. This, no doubt, is what the great Rambam meant when he wrote in Hilchos Teshuva (Laws on Repentance) that each person should see the world as equally divided between evil and good people and that he, through his actions, can tilt the scale one way or the other. For us, now, this means following the rabbinic injunction to examine our actions so as to improve ourselves. In that way, even without participating directly in policy making, we can affect outcomes in ways most of us cannot imagine.
At the decision-maker level, the above concerns continue to be relevant, but there are other considerations as well. Those may differ, depending on the leaders involved and what country they lead. All – whether leaders or ordinary citizens – would do well to keep in mind that, while they have choices to make, the Final Decision-Maker, the King of Kings, is the One Who will determine the outcome. And that ultimate outcome, the texts of traditional Judaism tell us, will be very much in favor of Israel.
Dr. Krakowski is President of EDK Consulting, a Baltimore company providing National Security and Counterterrorism advisory services. He is also a former aide to the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense and a Professor of International Relations and Law.