Calling Evil by its Name
While I'm horrified by the human carnage from the professionally coordinated ISIS attacks in Paris last Friday, unlike Angela Merkel, David Cameron, and the Pope, I'm not exactly "shocked." The same intellectual failure and moral failure that has led Western elites to utterly fail to comprehend the nature of the enemies which the Jews of Israel confront has caused them render their own countries vulnerable to internal threats for which they will have no ready answers.
The Western media has shown precious little sympathy for Jews in Israel during the latest outbreak of lethal attacks. That lack of sympathy reflects a widespread judgment that we more or less have it coming: What other recourse, after all, do the poor Palestinians have to shooting, stabbing and running their cars into innocent Jews? How else can they express their dismay that Israel has not yet handed them a state from which they can enjoy more freedom to launch attacks? (Well actually, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, did both offer them such a state, but they turned it down flat.)
Even in the midst of the terrorist attacks on Jews, the European Union is pressing forward with its plans to label products from the West Bank, as a prelude for full boycotts. The escalating calls for the boycott of goods produced in Judaea and Samaria ignore the circumstances by which Israel came into possession of that territory – i.e., in a defensive war and after requesting King Hussein of Jordan not to join in the fighting; Israel's inability to defend itself from its pre-1967 "Auschwitz borders;" and the unremitting Palestinian education of successive generations to settle for nothing less than the whole area from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
France has been at the forefront of Western cheerleaders for the Palestinian cause, and has repeatedly expressed its determination to place before the UN Security Council a resolution recognizing the state of Palestine and demanding Israel's retreat to the 1949 armistice lines, despite the Palestinian Authority's near decade-long refusal to negotiate with Israel and the even longer refusal to compromise any of its maximalist demands, preferring instead to rely on Western pressure to eventually force fatal concessions from Israel.
PRESIDENT OBAMA, who had the unfortunate timing to tell interviewer George Stephanopoulis that ISIS was "contained," if not defeated, proclaimed the multiple attacks in Paris an "attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share."
But there are no shared universal values. ISIS has been successfully recruiting young Muslims raised in Europe – Paris survivors reported attackers speaking fluent French -- via social media with videos of beheadings, mass drownings and burnings. Pray tell, what universal values does ISIS's cruelty represent?
Let us stop with the pretense that the religiously motivated savagery of the self-described new Muslim caliphate shares anything in common with Western values. And if doesn't, then the terrorist attacks in Paris cannot be described as an attack on all humanity. They are an attack by an identifiable part of the human race on all the rest of the human race that represents an affront to Islam either by virtue of its material success or "corrupt" Western values.
DENNIS PRAGER observed not long ago that the contempt of President Obama and other Western leaders for Binyamin Netanyahu reflects the hatred of those who deny, contextualize or apologize for evil for those who would fight it. European governments have enacted ever more restrictive hate speech laws to suppress all discussion of Islam and generally treated the oft-predicted but not yet seen rise of Islamophobia as a much greater threat than Islamic terrorism. Crime statistics of assaults by Muslims on so-called "native" women are regularly suppressed by European governments and media. Over a decade, British police turned a blind eye while Muslims in one English town impressed over two hundred young girls into virtual slavery.
The British government, in a triumph of Orwellian speech, decided to label acts of terrorism perpetuated by Muslims "anti-Islam terror" because it gives Islam a bad image. And the U.S. government report on the Fort Hood Massacre, in which a Muslim officer shouted "Al-lahu Akbar (G-d is great)" as he mowed down 13 soldiers and civilians, labelled it an act of "workplace violence" unconnected to any religious beliefs.
The frightening thing about the concept of evil to modern sophisticates is that evil must be confronted and fought. And to fight for anything is anathema. The triumphant argument in favor of granting Iran an atom bomb a little over a decade hence to which there could be no riposte (at least in the eyes of its proponents) was that to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon would require the use of military force. And that is perforce unthinkable – more unthinkable than the Iranian mullahs in possession of nuclear weapons mounted on ICBMs.
As a consequence, the hegemonic aspirations of the Iranian regime and its pathological hatred of all things Western had to be continually swept under the rug, and an academic cottage industry developed in spotting "moderates" among the mullahs.
I wonder how the decision to arm Iran with nuclear weapons looks to Western nations, France included, after Friday's massacres. ISIS and Iran may view one another as deadly enemies, but they share an aspiration to spread the rule of Muslim theologians across the globe by any means necessary.
Or for that matter, how wise does the EU decision to admit millions of Muslim refugees, many of them able-bodied young men of military age, in numbers far too large to vet in any serious fashion, to a continent already teeming with no-go zones where Sharia law reigns supreme now look.
But then again I had similar questions after 9/11, after the 2004 Madrid train bombings, and after the 2005 London underground attacks. And yet in each case, Western governments maintained the same refusal to confront the problem of Islamic radicalization, or to even call it by its name, and remained unremitting in their one-sided condemnations of Israel.
Brendan O'Neill notes that there today exists "an unholy marriage . . . between nihilistic youths drawn to anti-modern, anti-Western death cults like ISIS and the anti-modern, anti-Western death wish of the West itself." The latter is nurtured in the universities.
I feel pity for Western citizens whose leaders – increasingly unelected EU bureaucrats – have proven so incapable of dealing with reality and fighting to protect their cultural values and the lives of their citizens.
But I do wish that those same citizens would show a bit more sympathy and even admiration for the Western nation where that death wish is least found.
Hashem Watches Over the Fools
Packing prior to a morning flight from Toronto to Chicago last week, I noticed that my ArtScroll Gemara was missing from my briefcase. Fortunately, my host kindly offered to drive me to the kollel where I had been learning the previous day before Shachris, and the missing Gemara was found in a stack of seforim.
As we proceeded to shul, it occurred to me that I had not seen my overcoat (which I would be needing in the Windy City) that morning. Luckily, I knew that the host of the previous night's parlor meeting would be in shul to meet me that morning: He had already discovered a package of letters given me to deliver to a friend in Jerusalem from his Toronto grandchildren, which I had promptly put down and forgotten. When the host of the parlor meeting delivered the letters, I inquired whether I had also left behind my overcoat. He did not recall seeing it, but was nice enough to return home and look for it. It turned out that I was at least consistently forgetful, and he returned with the overcoat in hand.
At the airport, I made the mistake of trying to use my Israeli passport to secure a boarding pass at the automated check-in machine. After a helpful attendant explained that as an Israeli I would need a visa, I apparently returned the Israeli passport carelessly to my jacket pocket because when I reached the check-in counter I realized that I had only my American passport. Happily, there was still enough time before my flight to run back to airport security, where I was handed my Israeli passport and a checkbook I had not yet noticed was missing.
My morning misadventures were not yet over. Before boarding my Chicago flight, I checked my roll-on at the entrance to the plane. When we arrived, the man placing the late checked baggage on the passage-way from the plane, held up a Nokia cellphone, with the charger still dangling from it, and asked whether anyone lost it. I claimed it.
I realized that I had placed the phone in the outer, upper compartment of my roll-on bag and forgotten to rezip it, as not infrequently happens. Unfortunately, that compartment also happened to be where I had stupidly placed two pairs of cufflinks inherited from my father, a"h. The cufflinks would be far less likely to be noticed if they fell out of the unzipped, shallow compartment than the much larger phone. When the roll-on itself arrived, my preliminary search located three out of four cufflinks, which was, at that point, a relief. But a further search turned up all four.
After arriving at my hosts in Chicago without further ado, I expressed my concern that the series of morning mishaps might be the first sign of mental decline. But my hostess was able to reassure me on that score by reminding me of all the things I had left behind on my previous visit several years earlier. If there was mental decline, at least I could be assured that I had been muddling through with it for some time.
Only then did I recall that my earliest childhood nickname was "the absent-minded professor" based on my inability to hold on to anything from winter gloves to glasses for more than a few days. Whatever the problem, it is lifelong and not age-related. So I can go on writing columns.