Israel is judged guilty for defending itself after years of rocket attacks on its citizens
By PAM LEEDS RAGBORG
Have you seen the new movie Defiance? It is based on the lives of the Bielski brothers, who together saved 1,200 Jews in the forests of Belarus during World War II, where they actively resisted and held back the German army for more than two years.
I’ve seen it, and it is fabulous. I returned home from a packed theater feeling pretty good about Jewish defiance, until I read CNN’s review of the movie by Tom Charity.
He writes: “The timing is unfortunate. For a story that has gone neglected for the best part of 60 years, this is hardly the ideal week to be extolling heroic Jewish resistance fighters.”
Read that again, folks: this is not a great week “to be extolling heroic Jewish resistance fighters.” Presumably, because Israel has done major damage to Hamas while sustaining few Israeli casualties, its actions don’t rate as heroic. It seems that we Jews can only maintain our moral stature while we are being slaughtered. Not enough Israelis are being killed by rockets from Gaza, apparently, for Israel to pass Charity’s heroism test.
This twisted and horrifying logic, so prevalent in the world court of opinion where Israel is concerned, reminds me of the trials of another time and place. In 17th century England, there were clearly defined procedures used to determine the guilt or innocence of a woman accused of witchcraft. She would be bound and submerged in water; if she sank, she was innocent, and if she floated, guilty. The courts reasoned that if a woman had been baptized, the water would accept her (though she would often drown); if she had turned to the devil, it would reject her (and she would be executed). This method was known as “swimming the witch.”
So it goes with Israel: if it defends itself with the use of force, it is guilty of humanitarian crimes. Israel is judged guilty even if its defense is undertaken with the greatest possible caution to minimize civilian casualties; even if it acts in response to the targeting and murder of unarmed civilians over many years by a hostile government — a provocation that would be considered an act of war in any other country. Israel is guilty even if its defense is accompanied by the delivery of humanitarian aid to the territories from which it is being attacked.
As long as Israel continues to defend itself, it is guilty. If it pursues its aggressors with lethal force, it is guilty. So goes the logic of a witch hunt: if it survives, if it is able to defeat the enemies that wish to destroy it, it must surely have the devil on its side. If the U.S. and Israel are Satans, large and small, as the Arab street has named them, then Israel’s very existence is bedeviled.
But if Israel were to be destroyed, how guiltless the world might deem it then. Its dead would be transformed; aggressors no more, its people would be judged worthy and upright, sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean. Perhaps even Tom Charity and the leaders of Hamas would pay tribute to this vanished nation, Israel’s innocence a sure thing at last.
I’m reminded of the words of Golda Meir: “The Egyptians could run to Egypt, the Syrians into Syria. The only place we could run was into the sea, and before we did that we might as well fight.”
Pam Leeds Ragborg lives in Lakeville. She is chair of the Israel advisory committee at Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul.
(American Jewish World, 1.23.09)
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