Dear Rabbi Fink,
I read your blog post entitled 'War Baffles Me,' the many comments that it generated, and your subsequent clarification.
Your idealism is heart warming, and your horror at the depravities and
suffering that war can cause should be shared by every decent human
being on God's earth. I am absolutely sure it is shared by every
Israeli, whatever his political or religious affiliation (or lack
There is a serious flaw in your argument, however. It
lies in assuming that ultimately 'people have the capacity to love and
care for anyone.' I assume what you mean is that if we all sat down to
speak as equals and friends, that differences of opinion would be
resolved and war avoided. Your sentiments are certainly representative
of the way most people in the West think today. However, your sentiment
(and theirs) is seriously flawed. You (and they) have fallen into the
logical fallacy that my friend and colleague, Professor Richard Landes, calls 'cognitive egocentrism.'
In other words, you project your own mentality, values and “way of
seeing the world” onto others. The result is an attitude that is, albeit
innocently, both disrespectful and paternalist.
In the present instance, it is also deadly.
the great historian, Professor Bernard Lewis, noted in a prescient
article that was published almost forty years ago ('The Return of
Islam,' Commentary, January 1976), it has been over three hundred years
since the Christian (or Jewish) west confronted an Islamic resurgence.
In the interim, the West has undergone secularization, two World Wars
and a massive process of intellectual, religious and moral
relativization. Few if any western countries think of going to war
except for reasons of national or personal interest. Such conflicts can
be negotiated. Muslims, such as the Hamas and their supporters (who put
them in power democratically), do not fight for 'interests.' They fight,
they struggle ('jihad') because they believe that it is the will of
I do not have to tell you that The Will of God is Not Negotiable.
This is not the place to enter into a long discussion on Islam and its attitude to Jews and Israel. There are many, responsible
books on the subject (and many irresponsible ones, as well). The bottom
line is this. Muslim Law (and here I refer to the overwhelming Islamic
legal consensus, both Shiite and Sunni) vehemently denies the right of
Jews to possess a sovereign nation on land that, in its opinion, belongs
to the 'House of Islam' (Dar al-Islam). It is the God given right and obligation of Muslims to destroy the infidel (kafir) Jewish usurpers who live in that state, unless they surrender and return to a subordinate position as 'protected people' (dhimmi). Until we do so, we are the disciples and allies of Satan (shaitun ), an equation which lies behind the nefarious anti-semitism of the Muslim press, educational systems and propaganda. This position is maintained both by Hamas and Fatah (a word which refers to a stage of jihad). This
is the will of God. It is a principled, on its own terms fully logical
and understandable, religious position. It is a position that is
understandably shared by Muslims the world over, who dream of the
establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth, as God Almighty willed it
(whether they intend to work to actualize it, or not). Anyone who falls
in the struggle is rewarded by God. It is a sublime vision that is
For us, however, it is a deadly vision.
is a vision against which we are forced to wage war, until the end. In
this case, victory will only come when we defeat the enemy so decisively
that they decide to delay their dreams of a worldwide Caliphate until
the coming of the Imam, at the End of Days (according to their belief).
great novelist Herman Wouk prefaced his novel, 'War and Remembrance,'
with the words: The Beginning of the End of War Lies in Remembrance. We
need to remember exactly what type of war faces us. Not all wars are the
same. Not all wars are for interests. Some are against an enemy that
seeks nothing less than the destruction of Israel, both its people and
its state. Only its defeat will bring an end to this war. Then we can,
as you said, 'talk about it.'
Jeffrey R. Woolf
[This post first appeared in the Times of Israel on 11/19/12]