Is An Ideological War Winnable? The Jewish Press 8.6.2014
Anyone who understands the conflict in Gaza knows the war Israel is waging is ideological, not political.
Of course, this is not the first ideological war our nation has faced. For centuries our people have suffered at the hands of others who sought spiritual salvation or other ideological benefits through terror and death. Somehow they would save their souls by snuffing out ours, through the use of rhetoric, abuse, torture, and death. In more recent times we confronted a new, more fiendish Nazi foe, who simply wanted us gone, with no spiritual intent.
For Hamas, it’s annihilation or bust, which is why Hitler is so popular in the Arab world. The problem for Hamas, though, is that it has no capacity to actualize its true agenda, so it long ago embraced a horrifying Plan B.
Consider Hamas’s tactics. Forget for the moment the endless barrage of missiles or even the terror tunnels. By using their own people and communal institutions as shields for their fiendish activities, Hamas leaders clearly don’t want their situation to improve, at least not in the way most people measure improvement.
The only victory or gain Hamas can potentially claim is in the court of public opinion, by persuading the international community into thinking Palestinians are being indiscriminately maimed and slaughtered by their Zionist enemy. This is something they have been able to do through a strong network of anti-Semitic collaborators and a complete misrepresentation of facts through mainstream and social media.
Such a struggle begs basic questions, like, “If offering land, economic improvements, and even autonomy will not help, what will?” Certainly Israel cannot bow its head to the jihadist agenda. Are Israelis forced, then, to resign themselves to a future in which they will have no rest so long as their neighbors place Islamic militants in positions of authority?
I would like to focus on a different question. What would happen if, God forbid, Hamas and its satanic allies were truly successful in their aim? How would they feel? After the initial street celebrations play themselves out and reality sets in, would they be happy with total control of “Palestine”? Would they achieve some euphoric bliss that made the entire struggle worthwhile? Or would their lives continue to reflect the inhuman squalor and societal injustice that have been the hallmarks of fundamentalist Muslim governments?
Jewish tradition teaches that if we are to understand the essence of a matter, we should study the details of the first related incident in the Torah. Before leaving for Rome, Rabbi Judah the Prince would review the story of Jacob and Esau for clues on how to deal with an implacable adversary.
Based on the above, I submit we do the same.
The struggle between history’s most famous (non-Roman) twins occurred on many levels. At its core was a fundamental difference in how they viewed happiness and satisfaction.
“There are two principles of life which we meet in Jacob and Esau , and the fight between them is what the history of the world consists of: Family life which is happy and dispenses happiness in Jacob, and the glitter of political power and greatness in Esau . For thousands of years the battle has raged; whether it suffices to just be human beings, and all social, political power and organization have only importance as means of ensuring this goal of all human endeavors to be reached, or whether all that is humane in mankind, all family and home life, has only importance as trophies of politics to serve as a background.” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Commentary to Genesis 32:8)
Jacob, the “simple man, dweller of tents” (Genesis 25:27) was content with his lot. To him, the inside was of most value, and who could be more internally fulfilled than a Torah scholar who had raised multiple children to God’s service? He “had all” (Ibid 33:11) in literal and emotional terms. Esau , by contrast, was motivated by external qualities such as fame, power, and influence. Despite possessing much more than his twin in material and political respects, he could only muster that he “had much” (Ibid 9).
A people secure in its mission does not need to achieve spirituality and fulfillment at the expense of others. When the Torah demands that we annihilate a nation such as Amalek, it does so because of the spiritual threat that nation poses, not because we need to save its soul as part of our own redemption.
In contrast, all the nations that have sought to enhance their standing at our spiritual or physical expense have operated out of a position of core deficit. They had little positive to offer and nothing of value was proposed to fill the void, which means they would never achieve genuine contentment.
An adversary that can never be happy is an extremely dangerous enemy indeed. I offer my prayer that one day Hamas and its many Arab allies will come to echo Esau’s words when he said, “Let what you have remain yours” – so that we can live with greater peace and security until the time of our final redemption.