Op-Ed: Crying "Ceasefire" in a Crowded Military Theater
Rabbi Prof. Dov FischerThe writer is rabbi of the Young Israel of Orange County, member of the...
It has been encouraging, even inspiring, to read and hear the loud and angry response in Israel — condemnatory across the board, from right to left — to the ludicrous ceasefire proposals that were floated this past week by John Kerry, United States Secretary of State, partly on his own and partly in consultation with two of the world’s most notorious generators of Israel-hate: Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and the leadership of Qatar. Erdogan had just accused Israel of barbarism worse than Hitler, and Qatar underwrites terrorism and murder all over the world, perhaps more than does any other financial center including Iran.
Most Israelis do not know John Kerry as well as we Americans do. If one picture is worth a thousand words, then this video of John Kerry testifying in Congress against his own American countrymen is worth an encyclopedia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucY7JOfg6G4 .
In his 1971 testimony, he focused on his memories of being in Vietnam during the war effort, amid the most barbaric of people — American soldiers: “They told stories that, at times, they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam, in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. . . .
"We found most [Vietnamese] people didn’t even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Viet Cong, North Vietnamese or American. . . .
"We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs as well as by search and destroy missions, as well as by Vietcong terrorism, and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong. We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.”
This is John Kerry. Replace “Viet Cong” with “Hamas,” “Vietnamese” people with “Palestinians,” and “Americans” - except for the alleged torture of which no one in Israel would dare accuse IDF soldiers - with “Israelis.” Like the movie “Groundhog Day,” this is John Kerry’s chance, forty years later, to relive his days of self-righteousness, to conclude his unfinished business, to see the indigenous “Third World” victims of Western imperialism finally vindicated.
Kerry has presented himself to the American people, and he ultimately was rejected. He is Secretary of State today only because he was an early supporter of Barack Obama for President...
And, yet, as Israelis rightfully will throw up their hands in disbelief and frustration, there is reason to hope and to draw conclusions, good conclusions.
First, the American people had a chance to elect this man President a few years ago in 2004. He only had to defeat an unpopular George W. Bush, who was seeking a second term. He came into the Presidential debates with the reputation of being a world-class debater, a star from Harvard, facing off a man from Texas whom the liberal media depicted as an idiot. Indeed, Kerry won the first debate, as Bush entered completely unprepared. And then the American people got to know Kerry. The more they learned about him, the more they shrugged and decided that Bush was not such a bad guy after all.
By the time the election arrived, Bush did not even seem so stupid any more. Because, in two consecutive debates, he ran circles around the Ivy League Kerry. So Kerry has presented himself to the American people, and he ultimately was rejected. He is Secretary of State today only because he was an early supporter of Barack Obama for President, at a time when others backed Hillary Clinton or Kerry’s former running mate, John Edwards. Obama owed Kerry a favor. And, perhaps unwittingly, Obama did Israel a favor, too.
Despite their antipathies towards Israel, Obama and Kerry ironically are proving to be an utterly unexpected blessing for Israel. Pause from bemusement, and consider the miracles now taking place in a land that is the center of miracles:
Obama is the weakest President America has had since the lackluster trio of Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan allowed the United States to slide into Civil War. He is weak and vain, incompetent, utterly out of his league on the world stage or even in his own American backyard. A strong, competent President by now would have muscled Israel into a ceasefire against her own vital national interests. Consider how even Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and each of the two George Bushes pressed Israel behind closed doors.
Similarly, Kerry is both incompetent, overly vain, and managed to lose the respect — and fear — of both Israel and Mahmoud Abbas when he utterly mishandled the “peace talks” that he tried to press on both sides a few months ago. They all faced his deadline, all bit their lips as they waited to see what would happen for being blamed, and they all saw that nothing happened. Just as Syria learned that Obama does not enforce ultimata and “red lines,” and just as Vladimir Putin has taken Obama’s and Kerry’s measure, so have the Israelis and Mahmoud Abbas.
More than that, it is important for every Israeli to understand what really is on Obama’s and Kerry’s plate today, in between Kerry’s efforts to cry “ceasefire!” in a crowded military theater. The situation, as it now stands:
1. Crimea - Ukraine – Russia. Putin has seized Crimea from right under Obama’s nose, and he rightly guessed that Obama and Kerry would not know how to stop him or force a reversal. Obama came back and lectured, saying that Putin is “on the wrong side of history.” Putin somehow recovered from the insult and next supplied Ukrainian separatists with the kinds of weapons that recently took down Malaysian Flight MH17. Still on the wrong side of history. Now Putin not only is supplying separatists with weapons to fight a civil war, but he has launched a Cruise missile, violating a sacrosanct treaty that Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev had signed in 1987 at the height of the Cold War. That now is on Obama’s plate. Obama and Kerry need to deal with that — immediately.
2. ISIL/ISIS is shaping a modern-day Islamist Caliphate out of northeastern Syria and western Iraq. The Syria of past decades no longer exists. While Al Qaeda is nowcrucifying Christians , ISIL has driven Christians out of Mosul where they had lived for nearly two thousand years. Nouri al-Maliki is struggling to hold Iraq together, and Obama wants a replacement for Maliki to save what is left, to bring in Sunnis and to hold Baghdad. When Obama became President, George Bush had left a long-term apparatus in place to secure gains in Iraq, and Obama abandoned those achievements when he failed to reach a comparatively common status-of-forces agreement with Maliki. Now all ofIraq may fall — either to ISIS/ISIL, or it might become an extension of Shiite Iran, as Lebanon often has been an extension of Assad Syria. Obama and Kerry need to deal with that — immediately.
3. Libya is going into partial civil war, and Benghazi is in insurrection. Although he and his Administration dishonestly claimed originally that the American ambassador to Libya had been murdered on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi because of a cheaply made short homemade clip on Youtube, Obama in fact presided over a security disaster that saw Al Qaeda regroup in Libya and wreak murderous chaos against America by design on the eleventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center bombing. Obama proudly “led from behind,” and we therefore left no long-term apparatus in place to secure the gains in Libya from disappearing in a vacuum when Kaddafi fell. Obama and Kerry now need to deal with that — immediately.
4. Iran is building nuclear weapons that not only will threaten Israel but also will have capabilities of endangering all of Europe and eventually the United States. Obama and Kerry need to deal with that — immediately.
5. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children presently are being smuggled into America by drug dealers and cartels from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The problem erupted into a frenzy when Obama started advancing the argument that, although illegal immigration cannot be countenanced, the children of adult lawbreakers should not be punished. Word reached South America that Obama will not deport children, and the race to the border commenced, with drug cartels inducing desperately poor parents to pay a king’s ransom in return for promises to smuggle the little ones into America and away from drug-gang violence in their own countries. The flood tide has gotten so bad that Governor Rick Perry has called his state’s National Guard to guard the Texas border, while cities around the country are seeing everyday citizens riot against secret Obama efforts to move undocumented children into their towns. America even has refugee camps forming here. Obama and Kerry need to deal with that — immediately.
6. All of America, across the political spectrum, recently was shocked to learn that the nation’s heroes, past veterans of American military service, who are assured premium quality health care at special hospitals run by the United States Veterans Administration (VA), in fact have been the victims of scandalous VA incompetence, bordering on criminal misconduct. Dozens of veterans were allowed to die, many needlessly, because they were put on lengthy “waiting lists” to see doctors, so never received medical care in time. Two thousand or more others never even were put on the “waiting lists.” In Phoenix, Arizona alone, the wait to see a doctor was four months, with 1,700 never even wait-listed. The scandal began with Phoenix and now has been revealed to be systemic throughout the country. Obama needs to deal with that — immediately.
7. The Internal Revenue Service of America (IRS) oversees income-tax collection. Americans have a long-admired national system of voluntary and mostly honestly reporting income and paying taxes every year. The IRS properly audits suspicious situations, keeping the system honest and the “playing field level” for everyone. It has long been a central principle of American society that the IRS never mixes politics with tax-collecting, and the effort by the Nixon White House to politicize the IRS led to an Article ofImpeachment against him: “He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be intitiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.” Forty years later, it now emerges that Obama supporters in the IRS targeted lawful anti-Obama political groups for excruciating audits during the months preceding the 2012 Presidential elections that saw Obama reelected. At the center of the scandal that has shocked much of the country is a woman named Lois Lerner, who was Director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS. In Congressional hearings, she repeatedly has invoked her right, as an American, to refuse to testify about her role in the scandal — on grounds that her testimony may lead to her incrimination. WhenCongress demanded that the IRS produce copies of emails from Lerner’s computer, the IRS produced documents and did not produce many thousands more, ultimately saying that Lerner’s computer had “crashed,” and all her emails were lost. Americans know that, if the IRS demands emails of them during an IRS audit, that excuse will not work. Now, amid all the scandal, new experts within IRS have emerged to testify that her computer hard disk did not crash, just sustained scratches, and thousands of pages still probably could have been produced. The investigators are wondering whether Lerner contacted and coordinated with people in the Obama White House when targeting his opponents for audits. Yes, Obama needs to deal with that — immediately.
8. “Operation Fast and Furious.” The Obama Administration concocted a plan to trace weapons sales by and to Mexican drug cartels by introducing 1,400 firearms intoMexico in October 2009, then monitoring their transfers. Thing is, the Obama Administration lost track of the weapons that now were circulating among the drug cartels. Compounding the calamity, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered at the border in December 2011, and two of the “Fast and Furious” firearms were found at the scene of the murder. Obama needs to deal with that — eventually.
9. On March 31, 2014, United States Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi was driving along the southern border of the United States. He made a wrong turn, accidentallyentering Mexico. In his car’s trunk were three legally registered guns, a very common phenomenon in the American culture, particularly for a Marine. Four months later, the Mexicans will not release him, have abused him in prison, and Obama for some inexplicable reason cannot get him freed. The story is on the national news every other night, and his mother pleads passionately. Obama needs to deal with that — immediately.
10. Continued cracks in Obama’s much-vaunted “Affordable Care Act,” also known as ObamaCare. The majority of Americans hate the law, and it is killing aspects of the American economy and personal household income, as employers reduce hiring full-time 40-hour-weekly workers and instead hire workers for 29 hours a week, because the law does not require employers to pay ObamaCare premiums for workers who work fewer than 30 hours a week. A wide range of lawsuits against the law are moving forward in the courts, and one provision after another has been getting overturned. Obama needs to deal with that — pretty soon.
11. The mad rush of corporate inversions, as major American corporations link up with small irrelevant European companies in a ruse to avoid inflated American corporate taxes and stifling corporate regulations, now has erupted — seemingly overnight — as the new rage in American markets. Obama needs to deal with that — immediately.
12. The paralyzed American jobs market is seeing unemployment “drop” not because of more full-time, good-paying jobs but because a record number of Americans have given up looking for work altogether and utterly have abandoned the work force, turning instead to Government safety nets and hand-outs that have been redesignated as "entitlements." With “job growth” coming in part-time, low-paying jobs, as employers avoid having to pay benefits or to pay for employees to be on Obamacare if they work fewer than 30 hours a week, the American economy just has not burst forth in six years of Obama’s stewardship. With elections for the United States Senate and the House of Representatives only three months away, Obama needs to deal with that — immediately.
In a land of Israel that counts its epochs in miracles, this above list — and it is not complete — is a miracle of miracles. As Hamas was building a city of tunnels, and no one — including the best of Israeli intelligence — imagined anything of this proportion, war erupted in the aftermath of the excruciating national tragedy of the three boys en route home for Shabbat with their families, whom Hamas kidnaped and murdered. If war had not erupted now but later, then there would be another 30 tunnels in time, or 50 or 100.
The planned Rosh Hashanah attack through Gaza tunnels and into kibbutzim would have been a calamity. Instead, as the unexpected war (at least to Israeli civilians) brought Israel face–to-face with the tunnels, this war came at a time when the above 12 factors are in full play, with the weakest and most unsuited and incompetent American President since the 1850s, and a narcissistic Secretary of State who is hapless and clueless, at the American wheel. Mr. Kerry miraculously dissipated his status and stature by imposing a foolish negotiating deadline and purposeless tizzy during the “peace talks” he tried to generate through March and April, and he further has destroyed his standing by submitting presently a proposed “ceasefire” that was so inadequate in addressing Hamas rocket-fire and tunnels, and that so utterly disregarded the need for an infrastructure to assure that Gaza is demilitarized and stays that way, that Bibi Netanyahu’s cabinet could reject the proposal unanimously 19-0 and still enjoy the support of 91% of the Israeli Jewish voting population.
It is a miracle, and one only can hope that Israel’s elected leadership will continue to grasp the full dimensions of opportunity that exist right now as Obama’s and Kerry’s plates fill heavier by the day with so many burning and urgent crises that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, assessing the situation now submerging Obama and Kerry, says simply that “the world is a mess.”
And all of this comes only three months before an American national election when Obama potentially may lose his United States Senate majority to the Republicans, which will finish off his agenda for his remaining two years. Indeed, even if his party somehow saves his Senate majority, the very threat of losing it all compels him now to devote inordinate time to fundraising — specifically right now, just during the heart of the Israel-Hamas war — with no way to focus on everything at once, and circumscribed in his ability to over-do his pressure on Israel at a time when he is compelled to tell millionaire Hollywood Jewish liberals every night, as he vacuums their pockets clean and absorbs their money at fundraising soirees and dinners, that he bleeds for Israel, something they need to hear regardless of whether he is speaking truth or whether they even care.
Mr. Kerry has picked the wrong time to cry “Ceasefire” in a crowded military theater. With Iran manufacturing trouble, Iraq in flames, Syria splitting like an amoeba, Libya back in chaos, Putin on the march into Ukraine through proxies, Christians being driven from the caliphate, scandals at home regarding IRS harassing political opponents, lost emails, children surging at the border and living in refugee camps, veterans dying at home while waiting for the Government to let them see a doctor, American elections only three months away — and so much more — Hamas miraculously picked the worst possible time for them to start a bloody fight with Israel, and this moment offers Israel the first opportunity since 1967 to fight a just war to a conclusion that can extend until Israel believes it properly and satisfactorily has achieved the goals needed to make this the last war with Hamas.
Rabbi Dov Fischer is author of General Sharon’s War Against Time Magazine (Steimatzky: 1985). His political commentaries have appeared on the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review, Los Angeles Times, and in other major American publications. He formerly was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, is an adjunct professor of law at two prominent American law schools, and is Rav of Young Israel of Orange County, California. His writings can be found at www.rabbidov.com