In Defense of Defending Jews

Thursday, 4 April, 2019 - 1:23 pm

In today’s society, it is conceivable that advancing the notion of Ahavat Yisrael – our mandate to love our fellow Jew, can be met with an objection. Don’t all people matter (All Lives Matter)? Why are you advocating for tribalism? Why can’t we just be citizens of the world? Why the (perceived) isolationism?

I would like to address this from a pragmatic rather than a theological perspective (though, in my opinion, it is impossible to truly separate them). I preface this by introducing another angle into the discussion, the defense of Israel’s right to strategic security and self-defense. Why is this a relevant angle? Over the seven decades of dialogue over the Israel issue, the Rebbe always approached it from a singular vantage point. In his view, the Jewish historical right to the land played a secondary role (at best) in arguing for a strong defense of Israel and her need to take hardline positions on certain matters. The primary argument was security. There are X million Jews living in Israel. We have an absolute mandate to advocate for their safety. Any policy that puts Jewish security at risk is against the Torah. Over and over, the Rebbe cited the passage in Jewish law about violating the Sabbath to defend against a hostile force amassing on the border of a Jewish area (even outside of Israel), even when it is not certain that there is actual threat to life. The mere possibility of a threat, is sufficient to allow for the positioning of self-defense on Shabbat.

Let’s transition back to the original discussion about the obligation of Jews to one another. Most people would not object to people regarding their immediate family members’ welfare as a primary responsibility. The Jewish people have historically regarded each other as family for whom primary responsibility is nothing to be ashamed of. There is good reason for this. Aside from the fact that we are mishpacha, there is also the historical reality that if we don’t take care of each other, nobody else (Hashem excepted) will do it for us.

On the contrary, if left to the mercy of history and human survival, we would long be gone. As it is, we have been targeted for decimation over and over again over the 4,000 years of our people’s existence. Why is it that a 4,000 year old people has a population of a paltry 15,000,000? Why are we a tiny percentage of the world’s population (equal to a statistical error in a Chinese census)? Because every few hundred years or so a genocide is perpetrated against us. We all know about the Holocaust. But prior to that it was the Cossacks in the 17th century, the inquisition in the 15th and 16th centuries, the crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries, the Almohads, the Visigoths, Romans, Greeks, Persians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Philistines, Egyptians and many others that are too numerous to mention.

Even today, when we are in one of the safest periods in Jewish history, we are still the world’s most targeted group when it comes to crimes of prejudice. Forget about Europe and the Middle East, even in the USA, 2/3 of all hate crimes target Jews. We get it from the extreme right and the extreme left, with some tacit winking from folks tending a little closer to the center. When Israel is singled out for criticism (legitimate or illegitimate) in an extremely disproportionate manner by the self-righteous “defenders of human rights,” while the crimes of nations that carry the banner of human rights violations are dismissed or ignored, this is a form of blatant persecution against Jews.

Sadly, human history has shown, that the citizens of the world are willing to stand by as Jews are targeted and killed. Even when they come to our rescue it is often 6,000,000 people too late. The world was prepared to stand by and watch as six Arab armies attacked Israel. Only when, with Divine help the IDF was gaining the upper hand, did the “compassionate advocates of peace” intervene to stop the “bloodshed.”

American politics aside (and I mean that in all seriousness), this why Israeli control over the strategic Golan Heights is so vital. For the last 52 years countless Jewish lives have been saved by denying Syria, and its evil associates, access to the Golan Heights. This is not about politics or statesmanship. This is about security and safety.

If I may, I will close by putting my Rabbi hat (yes it is black) back on. One of the best ways to defend Jews, is by promoting Judaism to Jews. Our survival and growth as a people, is intertwined with the survival and growth of Judaism along with the important message it has for us and for the whole universe.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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