They are here!
Where are the 950 million Muslims who are not terrorists — who tuck their children in at night with a lullaby, are tolerant toward Christians and Jews, and crave a peaceful world? I want to believe that they are out there and that they weep in pain over the desecration of their faith. I want to believe that we have partners who dream the dreams we do and wish upon the same star. But where are they?
Rabbi Shalom Lewis, Israel Hayom, October 19, 2014
In 2010, I delivered a Rosh Hashana sermon in which I cried out: “They are coming!“
Today we are in a place of unimagined chaos and cowardice, paralysis and brutality. This year, my cry is: “They are here!”
This is not a time to worry about offending with unfiltered vocabulary. Time is a luxury we no longer possess.
We are being threatened like at no time before by an enemy that worships savagery, celebrates depravity, and is obsessed with an apocalyptic endgame.
There has been a seismic shift in our world. Pick up any newspaper on any day — most of the articles are about radical Muslims immersed in a vicious culture of blood and slaughter. Skip to the sports page or the crossword puzzle, but that doesn’t make the uncomfortable news go away. In fact, it brings joy to the jihadis, who hope we will continue to deny the existence of their evil — just a few lunatics, thousands of miles away, blowing each other up and occasionally beheading an unlucky journalist. Not so bad.
For years, we have been spared the ugliness and intimacy of war. The Battle of the Bulge and Iwo Jima were black-and-white newsreels before “The Pride of the Yankees.” We planted victory gardens, bought Liberty Bonds, and said goodbye to fathers, sons and brothers. But the trenches were across the ocean. So too, with every subsequent conflict.
But today, war has been redefined and relocated. Geneva is finished. We are all combatants in the crosshairs, on the front lines. All are vulnerable and so we must recalculate our strategy, re-examine our tolerance, re-energize our resolve and unequivocally identify the evil-doers. Let us not be silenced by fear, feckless goodwill, or reckless hope.
There are 1 billion Muslims. Authorities agree that 5 percent are committed Islamists who embrace terror and wish to see, by any means possible, the Muslim flag fly over every capital, on every continent. I was relieved when I heard only 5 percent. But wait: That’s 50 million Quran-waving, Allahu akbar-howling murderers planning to slit our throats, blow us up or forcibly convert us. It only took 19 of Osama bin Laden’s disciples to bring down the Twin Towers, plow into the Pentagon and crash into Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Over 3,000 dead. Over $10 billion in damages. Nineteen al-Qaida. Fifty million Islamists. Do the math.
Where are the 950 million Muslims who are not terrorists — who tuck their children in at night with a lullaby, are tolerant toward Christians and Jews, and crave a peaceful world? I want to believe that they are out there and that they weep in pain over the desecration of their faith. I want to believe that we have partners who dream the dreams we do and wish upon the same star. But where are they? A silent partnership is no partnership. Sin is not just in the act of commission — it is also in the act of omission. Most Germans were not Nazis; most Russians were not Stalinists; and most Muslims are not terrorists — but it does not matter. Stand up righteously or get out of the way. Perhaps in every mosque and madrasa, the powerful warning attributed to Edmund Burke should be chiseled on a wall: ”All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.”
A couple of months ago, three young Israelis were kidnapped and killed by Hamas terrorists. So began Operation Protective Edge. But the Gaza war was much more than shooting down rockets and blowing up tunnels — it was the preview for a genuine world war. It was a test of resolve, watched carefully by the indecent forces of a rising Islamist world. Israel is only the beginning, the first prize sought in what promises to be a protracted, multigenerational Kulturkampf. The front lines are all over the map — we just don’t know it yet.
The whole world was watching and our performance was pathetic. We, the good guys, stumbled at the gate; tripped clumsily in an embarrassing display of moral confusion and ineptitude.
I say the following unapologetically and with a heavy heart. When the war began, the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, should have immediately invited to the Oval Office his cabinet, the leading Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and all significant Washington political players. Every news organization should have been notified and the following talk broadcast across the planet. “Fellow Americans — a crisis has erupted once again in the Middle East and I have been told that the war between Israel and Hamas is complex and nuanced. I have been told that our great nation must be evenhanded — but I am here to say with no equivocation, this war is neither complex nor nuanced, and we will not be evenhanded in this confrontation between good and evil, right and wrong, civilization and savagery. We Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, from sea to shining sea, stand together in unshakable support of Israel against foul murderers who sacrifice the lives of children in their pursuit of power. To Israel we say — do whatever you must. Take whatever time you need to crush this vile enemy and whatever you require, you can count on us. To the world we say, Israel is fighting for all of us — for our values, our principles, our civilization. Support her efforts in every way possible. I will not tolerate any words of disparagement against our greatest ally and friend in the Middle East. God bless Israel and God bless the United States of America.”
But these words did not ring out from the White House. What we did hear was “no victor, no vanquished.” This statement was our president’s strategic plan. No call for triumph over terrorism, but a weak-kneed stalemate with butchers — a tie between good and evil. Right and wrong. Civilization and savagery. This did not go unnoticed.
Media coverage during the war was shameful with a few exceptions. To permit Hamas spokesmen and sympathizers to defend their monstrous deeds to millions of viewers is morally shocking. To promote equivalency between Israel and Hamas is morally appalling. The grotesque propaganda, repulsive distortions, and the tolerance of the wicked did not go unnoticed.
As I sat through these numbing broadsides, I wondered if our mainstream media during World War II would have invited the Germans and Japanese to share their perspectives on the hostilities in Europe and the Pacific. As they moaned about Dresden, would the anchors have nodded in sympathy? When the Germans and Japanese explained the need for the bombardment of London and the necessity for the Bataan Death March, would the anchors have expressed understanding?
Words distinguish us from the beast. In a powerful Holocaust tale, Eli Wiesel painfully writes that when words lose their meaning, disaster follows. In today’s Middle East lexicon, restraint means suicide. Terrorists have become militants. Self-defense is a war crime. Democracy is apartheid. Israelis and Jews have become Nazis. Warning civilians to get out of harm’s way has become genocide. There are 38 Muslim and 22 Arab states, but only the Jewish state must constantly defend its right to exist. Russia invades. Nigeria enslaves. China oppresses. Pakistan rapes. Iraq slaughters. North Korea starves. Iran nuclearizes. Syria massacres. Venezuela plunders. Afghanistan tortures. Sudan annihilates. ISIS beheads. And Israel is the pariah state, put under the microscope by the morally noxious. And this did not go unnoticed.
The philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote the following in 1968. His words have not grown stale with time: “The Jews are a peculiar people: Things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it. Poland and Czechoslovakia did it. Turkey drove out a million Greeks and Algeria a million Frenchman. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese and no one says a word about refugees. But, in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis. Other nations, when victorious on the battlefield, dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious on the battlefield, it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in the world. Other nations when they are defeated, survive and recover, but should Israel be defeated, it would be destroyed.”
Hoffer’s final prophetic words are chilling: “I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the Holocaust will be upon us.”
To the morally obtuse, misguided do-gooders — from university professors to the useful idiots of the media, from liberal churches to Hollywood, from the U.N. to the clueless Left — your deeds do not go unnoticed.
Europe, for those who have not been recently, has changed dramatically. The continent that gave birth to Western civilization and defined high culture is crumbling. Because of well-intentioned pluralism, Europe is returning to the dark ages. Europe will be unrecognizable by the middle of this century — crushed by a demographic tsunami.
Europe has not been a melting pot for Muslim immigrants. Many of these immigrants are uninterested in democracy. They want Shariah law and Islamic culture to be ascendant, and in time they will get it. Europe is being flooded not by tolerant, assimilating Muslims but by violent Islamists who reject every value that we treasure.
Want to stare down a guard at Buckingham Palace, see the Folies Bergere dance the cancan, or sip wine from the vineyards of Tuscany? Do it soon. A cold, nihilistic darkness is settling on Europe. A Kristallnacht of Western culture is coming that will destroy a millennium of creative genius.
It is not a leap into fantasy to perceive a dystopian future that is irretrievably ugly and vile: the Sistine Chapel demolished; Michelangelo’s Pieta smashed; Botticellis torched; the Gutenberg Bible tossed into a bonfire; Beethoven silenced; and the curtain lowered on Shakespeare, all in the name of fundamentalist Islam.
Skeptics would label me an alarmist, but I weighed each and every word. Speak with the ”canaries in the mine,” the Jews of Europe, fleeing in record numbers. Synagogues fire-bombed. Jewish businesses vandalized. Children threatened on their way to school, kippot and Magen Davids tucked away to hide Jewish identity. Israeli products pulled off store shelves. Sixty-nine years since the Nazis’ defeat but their descendants are picking up where he left off. “I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the Holocaust will be upon us.” Replace “Israel” with “Jew” and we see the future of Europe. And this tragedy doesn’t end neatly in Europe, the Middle East, Mumbai or the Philippines.
Most of us have never witnessed the horror of war or clawed our way out from beneath tons of rubble. But we dare not cry out confidently, “We have two oceans to protect us.” We have become perilously naive, recklessly evenhanded, unacceptably tolerant, and dangerously comfortable. The greatest generation has spawned the clueless generation.
We have been attacked repeatedly by radical Islamists and yet we continue to turn away, euphemizing the enemy. There will not be vast battalions chanting “Allahu akbar” landing on the beaches of Malibu or crossing the Rio Grande — but make no mistake: We are at war, right now, this very minute. The tactics have changed. The battlefield is different. The rules of engagement have been redefined. But we dare not make the mistake that all is well and that Islamic terrorists are simply violent criminals or a bunch of unemployed losers, not part of a vast network hell-bent on destroying our country.
When did this start? Most would say 9/11. That was a catastrophic day but the war began for the U.S. in 1979 when our embassy in Teheran was taken over. It has continued without pause ever since. Lockerbie, TWA Flight 840, the USS Cole, embassies bombed and Americans killed in Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Spain, Kenya, Germany, Egypt, Kuwait, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Connect the dots. On American soil, the Twin Towers were first attacked in 1993. The Times Square bomber. The Boston Marathon bombing. The Fort Hood massacre of 13 American soldiers by a Muslim jihadi yelling “Allahu akbar.” The shooting up of an army recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas. The murder of two CIA agents outside Langley, Virginia by a Pakistani whose final words were “there is no God but Allah.” The recruitment for ISIS in Minnesota, New York, Colorado, and via social media. Connect the dots.
An Israeli ship was prevented from offloading its cargo for three days because of pro-Palestinian mobs in California. University campuses are hotbeds of anti-Jewish hostility and students are taught that Israel commits ethnic cleansing. Synagogues are defaced with swastikas. A Jewish community center in Seattle was attacked. A pro-Palestinian rally in Miami called for “the massacre of the Jews.” We are not Europe, but connect the dots.
This past year, many of us saw the Book of Mormon at the Fox. An irreverent, vulgar, hysterically entertaining musical skewering the Mormons. In front of the theater were a half dozen Mormons politely handing out literature. God bless these folks. This is how we disagree in America. What would have happened if it were a tasteless, bawdy musical titled ”The Quran, Allah’s Holy Book.” It doesn’t take much imagination to answer that question. Recall the reaction to 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Worldwide rage. Riots. Boycotts. Embassies burned. Ambassadors recalled. Attacks on Christians and on churches. Two hundred killed. Soon after, a book about this outrageous event, titled “The Cartoons that Shook the World,” was published by Yale University Press. What was missing in the book? The 12 cartoons. This self-censorship was shameful, cowardly, un-American and a sniveling submission to Islamic narcissism and intimidation. Where is a great university’s courage? Where is freedom of the press?
I recall the good old days when air travel was a pleasure. Today it is irritating and exhausting. What happened? What changed? Who’s to blame? Who has created the need for a multibillion dollar security industry? Who has created a tedious need for us to remove our shoes and belts, empty our pockets, go through metal detectors and x-ray machines, submit to frisks and wand searches? Arrive hours before departure?
Think of a Muslim play on Broadway, a scholarly text on Muhammad, and who has irretrievably ruined worldwide air travel. Connect the dots. For us, World War II lasted four years. It has been 13 years since 9/11 and 35 years since the invasion of our embassy in Iran. And we are still at war with radical Islam. Roosevelt and Churchill got it and understood that the stakes were not just the Sudetenland and a few islands in the Pacific, but Planet Earth. Today, the radical Islamists seek the same prize — not just Baghdad or Benghazi — but Planet Earth.
This is not dramatic fiction, but the real thing. Some of us experienced the real thing this summer in Israel. We were there as Qassam rockets rained down, targeting not military bases, not tanks, not IDF divisions, but children at play, families enjoying dinner, friends laughing over a beer, lovers strolling through a park. The world watched and preached and judged and only now has begun to stir from their slumber of hypocrisy and inaction. Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas. They are all the same: Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, al-Shabaab, Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, al-Qaida, the Taliban, Iran. The only difference is the length of the knife they use in their butchery. Israeli blood bleeds the same red as the blood of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haynes, and of Arab Christians and Yazidis.
Let’s reason, some suggest. One last Hail Mary negotiation. Maybe we can figure out what’s bothering these troubled Muslims and perhaps they’ll tell us what we can do to resolve the friction. I am all for dialogue, but we are dealing with a moral species that eats its own, kills it’s young and celebrates innocent death. Bin Laden eluded capture for 10 years. Ever wonder why? There was a $25 million bounty on his head. $25 million can buy a lot of plastic surgery. A new identity. A suburban home. New partners. New friends. In 10 years, there was not one betrayal of bin Laden. Why not? The answer is simple. These Islamist criminals are unlike us in the most basic of ways and we have yet to accept and understand their total immersion in moral debauchery.
First, they were coming. Now, they are here! The fury of ultimate evil is upon us and we must act — not to contain, degrade, manage or tolerate it, but to exterminate it utterly and absolutely. If we fail, we will live in a world bereft of color, empty of music, art, romance, laughter, freedom, and invention. A world barren of all beauty, depleted of all virtue.
We are divided today not by faith nor holy book, but by decency and indecency, right and wrong, morality and corruption, courage and cowardice, righteousness and evil. The good citizens of earth must rise up, gather on the mountain top, and proclaim in thundering unison the words of Isaiah: “Woe to them that call evil, good and good, evil; that change darkness into light, and light into darkness; that change bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter!” We must turn back the evil. We must turn back the darkness. We must turn back the bitter.
My friends — they are here.
Shalom Lewis is the senior rabbi of Congregation Etz Chaim, Marietta, Georgia.