Curtis Sliwa: Tough Times Demand Tough Jews, Tough Israel
In order to survive, the Jewish people need to get tough, said Curtis Sliwa, leader of the Guardian Angels group in the 1980s and 1990s, and more recently a radio talk show host. Jews who are not tough are “going to get turned into speed bumps,” he said. “You have to be a tough Jew nowadays in order to survive.”
Sliwa, who spoke to Arutz Sheva at Sunday's Celebrate Israel event in Manhattan, certainly knows as much as anyone about being “tough.” During the 1980s and 1990s, when violent crime rampaged through New York City, scaring off the middle class and nearly sentencing the city to urban destruction, Sliwa and members of his Guardian Angels set up a civil patrol that roaed the city's subways, parks, and streets looking for trouble – confronting muggers, petty thieves, and gang members, detaining them at times and turning them over to police, sometimes only after giving them a taste of their own medicine. Now a longtime radio talk show host, Sliwa is still outspoken about many issues, especially regarding safety, terrorism, the Jewish people (Sliwa himself is a Polish Catholic), and Israel.
Sliwa worries not just about the future of the Jewish people, but of his own countrymen, he said. “Americans only get focused when there is an emergency,” and many have forgotten the lessons of 9/11, although they did get an unfortunate reminder in the recent Boston Marathon terror attack. It's especially important to remember those lessons now, Sliwa said, on the eve of the upcoming mayoral elections in New York City. “It's important that whoever the next mayor is that we continue to do surveillance on all the mosques and cultural centers,” to ensure that authorities get wind of possible terrorist attacks before they happen.
While the relationship between U.S. President Barack H. Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems to have worked itself out, Sliwa is still suspicious of presidents “bearing gifts. We are going through a cycle,” Sliwa said, citing Israel's troubled relationship with the administration of former President George H.W. Bush (senior) and his Secretary of State James Baker, “who preferred the Saudis.” Then there was President George W. Bush, “who couldn't be friendlier to Israel.”
The current U.S.-Israel relationship is a little more complicated, said Sliwa. “President Barack Obama is trying to be friends with everyone, but as you know, you can't be friends with everyone in the Middle East. As soon as you are friends with the Sunnis, the Shi'ites hate you, and if you're friends with Israel, both the Sunnis and the Shi'ites hate you.” Israel, he stressed, was the only country in the Middle East that the U.S. could trust.
Besides that, Israel is the only country that guarantees freedom of religion, worship, and pilgrimage to all – important for not only Jews, but for Christians who see Israel as the Holy Land as well. “Israel guarantees everyone's safety and security. Even if you don't like Israel and support the Palestinians, they will still guarantee your safety and security. Can you really say that's true in Jordan, Egypt, or the Palestinian Authority?”
Now, Israel faces a major dilemma on what to do about Iran – whether to take military action against Tehran to eliminate its nuclear threat, or to follow the counsel of President Obama and other Western leaders to allow sanctions and other measures to encourage Iran to drop its nuclear weapons research. Sliwa has no doubts about what Israel must do. “The reality is that Isael must depend on himself,” Sliwa said, as it did when Prime Minister Menachem Begin destroyed Iraq's nuclear facility in 1981.
“Even President Reagan condemned Israel for that,” Sliwa said, but Begin didn't care; he did what he had to do to defend Israel. In the current Mideast nuclear crisis, Israel must do the same, Sliwa said. “The United States can be a very good ally on Iran and other issues, but you can't depend on the U.S. to lead. Israel must lead, and hopefully our country will follow.”