America has always been a safe haven for Jews and a friend of Israel. Jews have bravely fought for this country, served in its government, and contributed to its society in so many ways. The US was the first country to recognize Israel, and has supported it with aid ever since in an attempt to nurture what is still the region's only democracy.
Since being attacked on its own turf almost three years ago, America has joined the war against terrorists, the same enemy that Israel has been fighting for the last 40 years. The ironic thing is that since the US joined the war on terror, American Jews have felt threatened by accusations of a duality that doesn't exist. Many of us have struggled within ourselves to reconcile with this supposed duality that began to rear its ugly head in September of 2001. Certainly the recent allegations of Israel's spying on the US have not helped this struggle, even though the latest accounts seem to suggest that the charges may have been overblown.
Everyone remembers where they were when they found out about the attacks on 9/11. I was sitting in my office when I received an IM from my brother telling me of the first crash and urging me to turn on the TV. I remember surreal visions from my car as I drove home later in the day: the shocked people who were crowding the streets, struggling to get off that tiny island as soon as possible. The impenetrable curtain of black over the East River I saw out the car window as I went over the 59th Street Bridge was accompanied by a noxious smell of burning seeping in through the car vents.
Perhaps my most vivid of personal memories of that day came over the car radio. Tuned in to my usual fare WFAN a sports radio station, I listened in shock as two afternoon sports hosts, Mike Francesca and Chris Russo blamed the tragedy on the United States' support of Israel. They went even further suggesting that Jews in the U.S. needed to take a loyalty oath to decide between America and Israel. I do not know if they ever apologized or tried to explain their insensitivity. After two weeks of waiting, I stopped listening to the station.
As we go through the campaigning season, those small-minded words resonate in my consciousness louder and louder. In just a few short months, we will be casting our votes for president and as that date approaches, it becomes increasingly clear that it is wrong for Jews to separate their love of Israel from their selection of the next leader of the free world.
When that curtain closes behind me in November, I will be voting based on one issue which candidate will be best for Israel. And with all due respect to Messrs. Francesca and Russo (and based on their comments very little respect is due) there is no paradox created by a loyalty to both Israel and the United States The best candidate for Israel is also be the best one for the United States.
There are some very important issues being discussed by the Presidential candidates. The economy for instance, it has been in tough shape since early 2001. Also important are the social welfare issues, such as education and affordable medicine for our seniors. But each time I try to focus on those issues, I see the panic of people trying to get out of Manhattan and that impenetrable black cloud that changed the entire world as it was still hovering over the East River.
The number one issue facing the United States and Israel is the war against terrorism. Everything else pales by comparison. Before we get to work on the economy and social issues, we need to make sure that our children and grand children won't have their flesh splattered on the walls of an ice cream parlor by a homicide bomber motivated by a religious cleric intent on killing as many civilians as possible.
Recently France went on high alert because of the fear that they were going to be the target of a major terror attack, in Iraq they have had two of their journalists kidnapped and threatened with beheading. It is ironic that even though it is the nation that lead the diplomatic fight against the invasion of Iraq -even though its government has nursed Palestinian terror to adulthood with its support of Arafat, France needs to worry about terror. Still the French government does not understand the issue. But we Americans must! The Islamic terrorists believe that France and French culture is evil. America is the great Satan and Israel is the little Satan vilified by the Islamic world not because of the West Bank and Gaza, but because it is a beachhead of western culture in their "Neighborhood".
Very few countries understand this. That is one of the reasons why the US and Israel are just a few of a small group of nations locked into this battle to protect our children against the terrorist world. If (G-d forbid) there was no Israel, there would still be terrorists, they would just be concentrating more of their energy in North America, Western Europe and Russia.
Terrorists learn fast. When Arafat was rewarded for all his years of murder with Oslo, the PLO learned that terror worked and it brought about this present wave of terror in Israel. The withdrawal from Lebanon was another positive learning experience for terror.
September 11 was not the first terrorist attack on the United States. That attack was foreshadowed by incidents such as the first trade center bombing and the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Those earlier acts were treated by the United States as crimes, each perpetuated by small group of terrorist operators. It was only after 9/11 that this country realized that there was a worldwide network of people willing to kill them selves to bring down our way of life. Only after 9/11 did we stop searching for "criminals" and begin a war against terrorism.
There is a clear distinction between the two candidates on this issue. John Kerry tends to talk about terrorism as a crime. In an appearance on Fox news, Kerry quoted what he wrote in the book The New War: He said, "In that book, I wrote about how we needed to strengthen our ability to be able to fight international criminal crime, including terror." In another selection of the book, which he did not cite on Fox, the senator claimed, "The damage done by international crime is rarely as specific and dramatic as that of a terrorist attack, but in fact it is greater."
Thus when he said in his book that Yassir Arafat was a role model for other terrorists, (because he has made a transformation from outlaw to statesman) it was in the context of jurisprudence, prisoners being able to be rehabilitated.
While history has shown this viewpoint as na´ve, Kerry's suggestion that Arafat has been rehabilitated is not an indication of support of the PLO leader. It is an indication of something scarier, belief in the ability for terrorists to rehabilitate.
I can't tell you if Mr. Kerry views have changed since his nomination. But I can tell you that recently he has missed key votes in congress designed to support Israel's war against terrorism. This may be an indication that does not want to show his true hand until after the election.
Even his views on nuclear proliferation into Iran show his naivetÚ on the ability of terrorist supporting regimes to change. At the beginning of July Kerry said; "We should call their (Iran's) bluff, and organize a group of states that will offer the nuclear fuel they need for peaceful purposes and take back the spent fuel so they can't divert it to build a weapon." That's right the good senator believes the terrorist supporting government of Iran will change their policy regarding building nuclear weapons, all you have do is give them nuclear fuel and threaten to call them liars if they siphon of some to build a bomb.
Less then a week after his nomination, Kerry argued that the Bush administration is encouraging the recruitment of terrorism. He continues to claim that Bush should do more to reach out to other countries; especially the European nations who through their quiet acquiescence, support Palestinian terrorism. The Democratic nominee seems to forget that just two weeks before his statement, in a vote spearheaded by France and the EU, the United Nations General Assembly completely ignored terrorism as the reason behind the security fence that Israel is building.
Kerry would prefer that we reach out to France, whose government has hindered the war against terror at every opportunity, hoping that they will win greater support of the Arab world; and ultimately supplant the US as the leader in the free world. The only problem is if we do not eradicate the Islamic terror threat; there may not be a free world to support.
On the other hand, President Bush for all of his failings in the way the Iraqi is being executed; war sees terror for what it is. In a speech he made on March 19th he said, "The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies - they are offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands. Their ultimate ambitions are to control the peoples of the Middle East, and to blackmail the rest of the world with weapons of mass terror. There can be no separate peace with the terrorist enemy. Any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence, and invites more violence for all nations. The only certain way to protect our people is by early, united, and decisive action."
That is the issue facing the United States and Israel, and the World. That is the issue facing much of the world even though nations such as France (and since being attacked earlier in the year, Spain) are still convinced that if they keep their heads in the sand long enough the problem will just go away. Terrorism should not be treated as a mere crime as Mr. Kerry suggests it is a fight for our lives. That is a fact obvious to anybody who commutes into the city this week. There have been NY State police on every Long Island Rail Road train. Penn Station is filled with soldiers in full combat gear with their fingers chillingly close to the triggers of the machine guns they are holding the ready position. It is obvious in Russia where over 100 people have been killed in terrorist bombings in just the past week. It is obvious in Beersheba where Palestinian murderers blew up two busses this week killing 16 people.
In the hearings before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, Condoleezza Rice said, "I think that that's actually where we've had the biggest change [since 9/11]. The President doesn't think of this as law enforcement. He thinks of this as war."
US Senator Hollings has claimed that the war against terror has been waged so that the Hebrews will vote Republican in the next election. At the same time much of Europe has continued its support of terrorism by vilifying Israel for trying to destroy the tunnels that have long represented the terrorist supply lines.
We are all bracing to find out what the terrorist learn from the World Court in The Hague, their recent decision has said that terrorism is not a crime or an act of war, but building a barrier to protect yourself against terror is.
A MONEY/ICR poll taken in July reported that 36% of the registered voters in the US felt that the war on terror is the most important issue in the upcoming election. While the fight against terrorism was the number one choice, the percentage (36%) was surprisingly low.
With the UN, World Court, EU and much of the international media all giving tacit or complete approval to some terrorism, as both Jews and Americans we must fight for what is right. We cannot as Mr. Kerry feels, take a cue from world's majority opinion. This coming November, we must vote to continue the fight against the Islamic terrorists, so that our children and grand children never have to see that black cloud in their own back yard. So our cousins in Tel Aviv and Haifa and Jerusalem will be able to send their kids to school on buses without having to worry if they will be coming home in one piece, and even for the people in Spain and France whose governments have nursed terrorism to maturity with their double standards and appeasement of Palestinian terror.
Once we defeat those who would blow up our families, we can work on the other issues, the economy, unemployment, and of course bigoted sports jocks.