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From Mahmoody to Goldstone and back

September 28, 2009

While reading Betty Mahmoody’s For the Love of a Child (the sequel to Not Without My Daughter), I got an insight into the folly known as the Goldstone Report. What’s the connection, you may ask? Read on.

As a mother, I wholeheartedly understand Betty Mahmoody’s motivation for fleeing Iran to bring up her daughter in a democratic Western society. But if we put aside our cultural biases, is there really a difference between Betty’s abduction of her daughter to the US (following which, the girl was forever separated from her father) and the husband’s original insistence on moving the family to Iran, even at the expense of separating the child from the mother? Each one of the parents wanted to bring up the child in his or her native culture, and, unable to reach an agreement, acted unilaterally on this desire. (I am aware of Betty’s claims of abuse, but I am setting this issue aside for the sake of the argument).

Likewise, though I wholeheartedly support the efforts of Yad Leachim to bring Jewish women married to Arab men (as well as the children of these marriages) back to the fold, I understand that my outlook is colored by my Jewish faith. The mechanism by which a Jewish woman takes her children unilaterally from Ramallah to Jerusalem to bring them up as Jews is the same as the one employed by her husband to take them back and raise them as Muslims.

So long as humanity is not united by a single ethical belief, the moral high ground often depends entirely on the subjective position of the observer. The same goes for Israel’s attempts to defend itself from its neighbors’ attacks. As long as the observers (be it the UN or the self-appointed European freedom fighters) have undertaken the Palestinian cause, no amount of ethical safety measures will absolve Israel from accusations of human rights violations.

To the contrary, the higher the hyper-ethical standard Israel attempts to maintain, the louder the accusations. I will never forget the terrifying hours during which we frantically tried to contact my brother-in-law stationed in Jenin, after hearing rumours of heavy casualties in the city during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002. Though he emerged from combat unscathed, 13 of his comrades paid with their lives for Israel’s insistence on sending in ground troops in an effort to preserve civilian Palestinian lives. The “reward” for these efforts were movies the likes of Jenin Jenin and a worldwide outcry against Israel’s humanitarian violations.

In a similar vein, though IDF is the only army in the world to go through the pains of telephoning enemy civilians to warn them of planned air raids, as was done during the 2008 incursion into Gaza, Judge Goldstone and his ilk have no qualms lambasting Israel as a perpetrator of genocide.

Judaism’s dedication to the values of human life and compassion is unmatched by any religion. From ancient Jewish kings known throughout the world as “the kings of mercy” (1 Kings 20:31) to outstanding levels of voluntarism in modern Israel, Jews in general and Israelis in particular have no need for anyone’s ethical preaching. All efforts to live up to a superlative level of morality, not practiced anywhere else in the world, has so far backfired on Israel’s defensive efforts to defend itself.

The time has come for Israel to redefine its military ethic to conform to the Talmudic teaching of “if someone comes to kill you, arise and kill him first” (Sanhedrin 72a) and dispense with the attempts to save face while doing so. Though there’ll be little change in Israel’s public image, its defensive abilities will improve tremendously.

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