Friday, September 5, 2014

A Dialogue on Freedom and Peace

(Editor’s Note: This is a realllllly long entry as I have chosen to reproduce two blogs from Rabbi Barry Konovitch who I knew as head of the waterfront in Camp Columbia back in the early 1960s. Barry is the rabbi of Temple Anshei Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Delray Beach, FL. For more background on him, click on this link: His blogs are reproduced in italics. My thoughts follow his.)

President Obama’s Legacy

The world is in crisis because the United States has relinquished its traditional leadership position as the most powerful democratic nation on earth. Free people everywhere have always looked to America for inspiration, guidance, and when needed, military intervention to support and protect basic human freedoms and rights. It has been a heavy and sobering responsibility but we have risen to the task each time we were called. We supported our friends unequivocally and unhesitatingly; and we punished the enemies of freedom decisively and unsparingly. For the better part of the 20th century we imposed a Pax Americana that encouraged the spread of democracy and improved the daily lives of all people under our umbrella.

Now our leadership role is being relinquished as we retreat from global challenges instead of facing them head-on. The enemies of democracy are emboldened by our indecisiveness and wavering in the face of serious challenges. The murder of our ambassador in Benghazi and his compatriots produced “what difference does it make” from the Secretary of State. The Russian invasion of the Crimea and Ukraine and the concomitant, threats to the Eastern European NATO countries resulted from the ‘reset of our relationship” with the Russian government. The Iranian program to produce a nuclear warhead with which to threaten the Middle East and the Western world with the avowed promise to “wipe Israel off the face of the map” has produced a sham agreement that will allow the Ayatollahs to move with alacrity toward their nuclear goal. Our red lines threat to attack Syria’s Assad regime if they used gas weapons, evaporated as the gas floated over Aleppo. Our friends are appalled by the American paper tiger and our enemies are emboldened. Islamic terrorists arise in every corner of the globe where we have retreated. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does geopolitics. Everywhere American troops are “drawn down” (a euphemism for ignominious retreat) Islamic terrorists arrive to take their place. They terrorize the local populations into fearful submission and they dare to challenge the might of the American military. When the Boko Haram Islamic terrorists murder men women and children in Nigeria, and they blatantly kidnap several hundred young girls from their villages, we are led in a protest to “bring our girls home” by none other than Mrs. Obama. The protests and the interest from the public lasted no more than a week before it no longer captured our interest, much less our concern, or heaven forfend, any real attempt both politically and militarily to “help our girls”.

To understand what has happened to us, American citizens, we need to be reminded of the presidential agenda clearly set forth for us right at the beginning of the political campaign and underscored, reinforced and elaborated upon in such “democratic” venues as Cairo and Riyadh. We would do well to remember Pres. Obama’s words and, yea his promise to bring the troops home, to disengage ourselves from all wars and conflicts and leave a much smaller American footprint on the world. We will contract into ourselves and concentrate on improving our internal economic and political lives. Conveniently forgotten is the basic lesson of the 21st century; the world is connected, for better or worse, and no nation lives in an isolated vacuum, and no ocean or mountain chain will protect us from our enemies.

“Yes, Virginia,” we have enemies around the world who seek to destroy us, and are just waiting for the chance to take advantage of any perceived American weakness or hesitation. Pres. Obama has projected American weakness and indecisiveness to the world and our enemies are on the move.

No one should be surprised. We elected a president who by virtue of being the first black man to attain our highest office, was immediately granted the Nobel peace prize, for doing absolutely nothing to advance world peace. The award was a sham and an embarrassment to all responsible citizens. This was the president who spent 20 years sitting in a church pew listening to the right Rev. Wright spewing anti-American and anti-Semitic hatred to his parishioners. And the future president sat quietly and without protest and absorbed the lessons of black revolutionary theology. This is the President who apologizes to the Muslim world for the American anti-Islamic transgressions and bows low to despotic Arab potentates. This is a president who promised the president of France that he will “deal” with the Prime Minister of Israel who dares to disagree with his utopian plan for the Middle East. After all, this is the president who was raised in the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia, and was sent to school to absorb the lessons of Islam at a young age. A man who accepts the name “Hussein” is clearly trying to tell us something about his mindset.

Our friends around the world feel abandoned and our enemies are emboldened. And we sit quietly waiting for the next 9/11, which is certain to come.

The Ongoing War on Islamic Terrorism

 The latest war against the Hamas terrorists in Gaza has come to an end, but by no means to a satisfactory conclusion. The Negev communities are still susceptible to mortar fire and the major Israeli cities are still within rocket range. The Army has not packed up the Iron Dome and the reserves remain on alert. The ominous quiet is merely a precursor to the next round of attacks and the Israeli public remains uneasy if not downright angry and disgusted. People tread lightly in the streets of Ashdod and Tel Aviv, anticipating the next air raid sirens announcing the start of yet another terrifying round of terrorist attacks. The question is asked in the streets: Why hasn’t the Army finished the job? Why does the government hesitate to give the orders: destroy the Hamas terrorist once and for all? Why should the deaths of the Gaza so-called “civilians” concern us or at least prevent us from doing the job which is protecting Israeli citizens?  The world clearly sees, but as yet refuses to understand, that Hamas terrorists use their neighbors as human shields in the hope that they will be martyred and sacrificed on the altar of public relations. There is absolutely no interest in and condemnation of the tens of thousands of people massacred by Islamic terrorists in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Lebanon, Mali, and a host of other countries. Only Israel is singled out for vilification which clearly is the 21st century is manifestation of anti-Semitism.

The civilian population of World War II Germany and Italy and Japan were “enemy populations”, subjected to indiscriminate carpet bombing by the US and British air forces until these enemy governments surrendered unconditionally. There was no hand wringing and mea culpas in the White House or in Whitehall. Clear eyed Western leaders understood that destroying the Nazis and fascists and militarists was the moral thing to do.

The Islamic Jihadists are the 21st century version of the Nazis; they have the same brutal intentions. These barbarians are at the gates of Western civilization, all across Europe and even in our United States. How many warnings do we need before we truly awake and take action? What we have witnessed on 9/11 and at the Boston Marathon is only the beginning of a spreading cancer that will destroy our civilization if we don’t act decisively and unhesitatingly. I fail to understand how known Islamic radicals, or even suspected terrorists are not stopped at our borders, removed from our airplanes and deprived of their visas and passports. How do we tolerate Muslim preachers who exploit their thousands of followers and hundreds of mosques across America, to murder all infidels in the name of Allah?  Infidels, of course, mean all of us; Jews, Christians, Mormons alike and anyone who doesn’t accept Islam.

This is not the time to hide behind political correctness or cultural liberal ideas of personal freedoms. Our first order of business must be self preservation and the preservation of our Western democratic way of life, and if it means giving up some of our personal freedoms to accomplish it, then I for one say so be it.

How refreshing to hear the British Prime Minister layout a detailed and thoughtful program for immediately taking up the challenge of worldwide Islamic terrorism. Would that are own president would follow suit instead of “leading from behind”. The people of Israel are on the front lines of the war against Islamic terrorism. The  names may change across the world but make no mistake about it, they are all the same with the same tactics and the same goals: kill the infidels, destroy western corrupt civilization, impose Islam on the World. Isis, Nusra, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah, Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Aqsa Brigade, these are all manifestations of the same barbarians, who wish to erase  thousand of years of Western enlightened civilization and return us to the savage evil caliphate fulfilling the call of the Koran “convert or die by the sword”. How many beheadings do we have to watch, how many exploded bodies do we have to see, how many genocidal massacres do we have to witness before we are galvanized into self-defensive action? The Israeli public continues to feel vulnerable. The Hamas terrorists have not been eradicated; they will resupply, rearm and continue to attack. The Israeli government can surely finish the job, but at what expense? 100 more young soldiers would die in the alleyways of Gaza before every Hamas terrorist would be dead. Israeli parents would be up in arms; it is too costly a proposition. So the terrorists nurse their wounds and make their plans. And Israel waits and prepares for the next round. And so should we, because it is coming to a “theater near you”.

Sorry, Rabbi, I Respectfully Disagree

As head of the waterfront of Camp Columbia, Barry Konovitch saved my life when I, a non swimmer, slipped under the deep water during an ill-fated intermediate swimming course training exercise. But, as a respected rabbi and blogger, Barry Konovitch is misguided in his analysis of America’s place in the world and what should be our response to the increasing rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the terror it has engendered.

Foremost among his missteps is his willingness to give up some of our cherished liberties if it meant more protection from terrorism, as if we would be able to control this downward slope on our freedoms. It is the same compact with the devil Jews, intellectuals and businessmen made with Hitler in the hope he would restore order to Germany and they would be able to control him. Once liberties are ceded to government officials they rarely, if ever, are reinstated. Scapegoats throughout history, Jews should never, ever, be on the side of restrictions.

Yes, we are appalled at the evil that Islam has fostered. But as a country we cannot hope to be the police force to 1.6 billion world-wide adherents to the Koran. We cannot go back in history and become a colonial power.

The world is suffering because of decisions made 100 years ago by the then colonial powers to create countries with borders that made little sense to the indigenous peoples they contained. This divide-and-conquer strategy has come back to bite western civilization. After World War II, America’s corporate and military industrial complex layered on another form of oppression on people who wanted nothing more than we had—a life of freedom to pursue happiness in peace and prosperity. But we supported dictators who strong-armed their subjects while they enriched themselves. 

Militant Islam is found throughout Europe. In France. In Great Britain. In Germany. In Holland. In Denmark. Is America to blame? I think not. 

Barry Konovitch laments the United States no longer is the beacon it once was to the rest of the world, that it “has relinquished its traditional leadership position as the most powerful democratic nation on earth. Free people everywhere have always looked to America for inspiration, guidance, and when needed, military intervention to support and protect basic human freedoms and right.”

Last I checked the United States was still the country most people aspired to enter, both legally and illegally. The U.S. still was the country people called out to for military relief.

Barry is wrong to say we encouraged democracies. Truth is, we repeatedly overthrew or undermined governments when we disapproved of the leaders voted in by their respective electorates. We supported feudal leaders throughout Arabia. Under four Republican presidents we negated the success of the Suez War of 1956 (Eisenhower), abandoned Lebanon after 241 Marines were killed in Beirut (Reagan), illegally sold arms to Iran and illegally supported the Contras in Nicaragua (Reagan), let Assad I gas thousands in Hama (Reagan again), let Saddam Hussein wreak revenge on Shiites after the first Gulf War (Bush I) and started a war in Iraq under false pretenses while ignoring the real enemy in Afghanistan (Bush II). 

Yes, Barack Obama did not deserve the Nobel Peace prize. But it is a canard to accuse him of bowing to Arab despots. Did Barry criticize Bush II for walking hand in hand with the Saudi king, the same king who has supported and funded the extreme Wahhabi form of Islam that is the root for much of the fundamentalism now spreading throughout the Muslim world?

I, too, would have liked Israel to wipe out Hamas. But it would have required a re-occupation of Gaza, with no end in sight for a withdrawal, not to mention the numerous casualties, civilian and military, both sides would have incurred. 

It is most unfortunate that technology has overtaken diplomacy. The means of inflicting destruction and death have outpaced any sincere effort in finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli question. Perhaps, if Israeli leaders had been more imaginative and accommodating (yes, accommodating) in decades past, they would have achieved a solution that would have lifted Palestinians out of the poverty so easily exploited by Islamic jihadists. When your family has few or no jobs, little to eat, no dignity, insufficient housing, sanitation, medical care and education, there is too little to keep youth from committing to the tantalizing dream of the jihadist. 

Palestinian and Arab leaders have repeatedly rejected Israel’s presence. They are more culpable because they rejected offers of peace. And the Arab Street was silent in asking for peace. The latest war in Gaza, however, has demonstrably shown that creativity must be employed to secure a lasting peace because, surely, destructive minds are hard at work creating new means of terror, above and below ground.