Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The End of War: An Open Letter to Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

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 thereof).

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.

As 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 God.
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 absolutely non-negotiable.

For us, however, it is a deadly vision.

It 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).
The 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]