19 January 2005


Louis Rene Beres

Professor of International Law

Department of Political Science

Purdue University

West Lafayette IN  47907



The story goes something like this. During World War I, a Jew loses his

way along the Austro-Hungarian frontier. Wandering through the woods late

at night, he is abruptly stopped in his tracks by the screaming challenge of

a nervous border-guard: “Halt, or I’ll shoot.” The Jew blinks uncomfortably

into the beam of the searchlight and retorts with obvious annoyance:

“What’s the matter with you? Are you meshugga (crazy)? Can’t you see that

this is a flesh-and-blood human being?”


In principle, the Jew’s behavior in this parable is utterly sensible.

Yet, in the disturbingly “real” world, it is plainly idiotic. While, in the best

of all possible worlds, no human being could ever imagine shooting another

of his own species, or even fabricating the weapons needed to allow such

harms, this is not yet (in case you haven’t noticed) the best of all possible

worlds. In this painfully imperfect world, we must all calculate according to

what is, not to what might have been or what might someday come to pass.

The same obligation extends to states in world politics, especially to the

most imperiled ones.


How shall we Jews survive in such a world, as individuals and as

citizens or supporters of the Jewish State?  Wishing always that the non-

Jewish world will finally and fully acknowledge his or her common humanity,

the individual Jew has hoped for millennia that a more humane pattern of

interpersonal interaction will ultimately emerge. Similarly, since 1948, the

State of Israel has tried, again and again and again, to impress its

relentlessly hostile Arab neighbors with the promisingly cosmopolitan

vision of a shared humanity. Sadly, anti-Semitism is now resurgent

throughout the world, particularly in the Arab/Islamic Middle East, and

hatred of Israel - of the individual Jew in macrocosm - is virulent,

widespread and (considering the spread of various existential weapons of

mass destruction) altogether ominous.


How shall we Jews survive in such a distorted world, both as

individuals and as the always-fragile Jewish State? In our collective form,

shall we truly “Seek peace, and pursue it,” when our enemies’ brand of

“sanity” lies relentlessly in genocide and war? Or shall we reluctantly

resign ourselves to ceaseless conflict as the unavoidable expression of

sanity in an undeniably insane world?


“Seek peace, and pursue it.” A clear Jewish imperative. At the same

time, to seek peace where it is evidently unattainable - as it is today, with

the Palestinians who “love death” and with their undiminished hatred of

Jews - could be fatal to Israel. Recalling the unforgivable Oslo Agreements,

shall it now be Israel’s position to accept a “peace” that places it in mortal

danger and then hope for a miraculous rescue? Here we should remember the

words of Rabbi Yanai: “A man should never put himself in a place of danger

and say that a miracle will save him, lest there be no miracle, and if there

be a miracle, his being thus saved will diminish his share in the world to

come....”(Talmud; Sota 32a and Codes; Yoreh De’ah 116) These words apply,

strictly speaking, only to “a man,” but it would be hard to argue

persuasively that they should not now apply even more importantly to the

Jewish State. We Jews must assuredly show forbearance in searching for

peace - if necessary, even long and arduous and unreciprocated

forbearance - but not INFINITE forbearance.


It is not just our enemies who show us no mercy and who “love death”

who bring us death. The triumph of the absurd (the world of Chelm or the

world of Kafka?) can be found also in sober actions of the United Nations.

Consider, for example, that on January 11, 2005, UN Secretary General Kofi

Annan established a formal registry to record claims of damage attributed

to Israel’s security fence. This registry was mandated by the UN General

Assembly last August, in a resolution issued by emergency special session.

Payments are to be made by “Israel’s existing compensation mechanisms.”


So, Israel builds a fence to protect its citizens from wanton murder,

and the UN condemns not the murderers, but the fence. Where is the UN call

for a registry of Jewish claims arising from Palestinian barbarism? This

important question has now been raised correctly and publicly by ZOA

National President Morton A. Klein and by Stephen Flatow, the father of

Alisa Flatow, a 20-year old American citizen and Brandeis University

student who was murdered in Israel by a suicide bomber on April 9, 1995.

Some decisions will have to be made. And soon. The Bush-advanced

“Road Map” has been accepted (however reluctantly) by Israel’s Prime

Minister Sharon. Mr. Sharon is now making final plans to “disengage” from

Gaza and also from portions of Samaria. At the same time, Israel’s enemies

still see in the Jewish State only an irremediable foe.  This is not to

suggest that Israel abandon the search for more durable peace with its

many enemies, but only that this search be conducted always with a sober

awareness of what these Arab/Islamic states identify as “sane” behavior.


Sooner or later, even after America’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom,”

certain Arab states and/or Iran could acquire nuclear weapons. Should this

be allowed to happen, these enemy states - emboldened by their atomic

might - could fall upon Israel in an apocalyptic frenzy of destructiveness.

It follows that Israel must now do everything in its power to prevent

Arab/Iranian nuclearization, including - if necessary - non-nuclear

preemptive strikes against pertinent enemy infrastructures.


Simultaneously it must stand ready to use certain of its nuclear weapons

in reprisal for large-scale enemy aggressions involving particular nuclear

and/or biological weapons of mass detruction. Moreover, this readiness

should not be kept as a secret; not at all. In one fashion or another, it

should be communicated to those for whom humane behavior against Jews is

invariably a contradiction in terms.


Much as these strategic conclusions should seem obvious enough to

any intelligent observer - Jew or gentile - they are not now embraced by

many in Israel’s academic security establishment. Recently, for example, the

Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel-Aviv University issued very

contrary kinds of recommendations. Rejecting the idea of an Israeli

preemption against Iranian nuclear infrastructures, the new Jaffee report

stands in stark contrast to PROJECT DANIEL: ISRAEL’S STRATEGIC FUTURE,

which has been described earlier in a number of my columns in this

newspaper.  And along similar lines, a prominent strategist at Tel-Aviv

University, Zeev Maoz, recently argued in the distinguished American

journal INTERNATIONAL SECURITY (Harvard) for Israel’s unilateral nuclear

disarmament. (My own rebuttal to Maoz appears in the Summer 2004 issue of

that same journal).


A Hasidic tale instructs us that we shall only be able to determine

the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins, when we can look

into the face of another human being and recognize in him a brother, a real

brother. Until that moment, night and darkness shall remain with us.

Understood in terms of the State of Israel, this tale reminds us that in the

best of all possible worlds, we humans, all of us, will finally be able to go

beyond the most primordial forms of tribalism and acknowledge triumphantly

our basic Oneness: “The dust from which the first man was made was

gathered from all the corners of the world.” (Sanhedrin 38b)


For the moment, such an acknowledgment would be both premature and

suicidal. Our enemies simply don’t share a generous vision of cosmopolitan

coexistence, and we cannot afford to be more “humane” about the “Road Map” at the predictable cost of collective disintegration. Instead, for now,

Israel must harden its resolve to preemptively remove certain Arab/Iranian

weapons of mass destruction. Following United States policy, it should also

act promptly to codify a formal strategy of anticipatory self-defense in

its national strategic doctrine. And if preemption should fail, for one

reason or another, Israeli deterrence of existential attack should include

explicit and credible threats of nuclear retaliation against multiple high-

value enemy targets - that is, major cities in the Arab/Islamic world.

We learn from Rabbi Kook that “the loftier the soul, the more it feels

the unity that there is in all. And when the thought of unity grows

stronger, the light of loving and forgiveness appears.” Yet, Rabbi Kook -

who had even explored such cosmopolitan notions in Buddhism and other

religions - was keenly aware of their “real world” limitations. Perhaps, in

the future, all of humanity will finally witness the “light of loving and

forgiveness” and begin to understand that war and terror are “crazy.” Here,

witnessing the hour of a true dawn, each individual will be able to look into

the eyes of another and affirm in him or her the real brother or sister.


Until such time, however, we Jews must continue to act realistically and

courageously, even if this should mean a seemingly endless dependence upon military power and vigorous self-defense. Such dependence would be

entirely consistent with the international law of self-defense, with our

own Torah-based obligations on self-defense at Exodus 22:1 and - when

faced with a choice between life and death, “the blessing and the curse,”

our imperative to “choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-20.)



LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is author of

many books and articles dealing with Israeli security matters and

international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for THE

JEWISH PRESS, and Chair of “Project Daniel.”

TEL   765/494-4189

FAX   765/494-0833


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