Friday, August 25, 2006


Rabino Berel Wein

Jerusalem Post 28 Av 5766 / 22 August 2006

The recent war in Lebanon against the Hizbollah ended, as have all Arab-Israeli wars, in victory for the Arabs and defeat for Israel. This is the message that is rife and almost exclusive in the Moslem world and is also the consensus of opinion of the “experts” of the European and North American media. And of course, this message is aided and abetted by our own peace-seekers on the Left who, at any cost, are eternally convinced that if we only made nice to the Arabs all of our security problems would be solved.
The terrible tendency in the Arab world to never admit defeat or to never acknowledge the negative shortcomings of its own society, hinders any efforts to have reality creep into the their view of the Middle East. If the Arabs never lose, why shouldn’t they continue pursuing the terribly disastrous struggle against Israel’s existence that they have mounted over the past sixty years at? Nasser never admitted defeat in the Six Day war.Sadat and Assad never admitted defeat after the Yom Kippur War. Egypt still celebrates the anniversary of the “October War” as a great victory of Egyptian arms. Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel, six years after that war ended, was at least a tacit admission on his part that Egypt had lost the war. But he dared not say that publicly. And, in any event, because of that tacit admission, he was assassinated by the Arab street.
Arafat never admitted that his intifadas were a bloody failure. He also preserved the myth that his policies were always correct and was admired and beloved by the Arab masses in spite of his venality, corruption and the misery that he brought to the lives of the Palestinians. In the Arab world apparently victory is achieved by proclamation and whatever the real results of the conflict are makes no difference.
So, as long as the Arab street is convinced that it is winning and never losing, we can only expect the conflict with Israel to continue and even intensify. The few brave voices in the Arab world that have spoken up realistically about Lebanon, the Hizbollah and Israel are either in exile in the West or hiding underground in fear of their lives from the thugs that dominate Arab society.
All of the saber rattling of Iran and Syria stems from this false view of reality. Never understanding what Israel represents to the Jews, denying the Jewish past and even the Holocaust, not appreciating the strength of the people of Israel are all contributory. Instead of concentrating on the bombast and hollowness of Israel’s erstwhile political leaders and self-hating media, the Arabs are convinced in their fantasies that one more war will do it for them and that they can wipe Israel off the face of the earth.
Doctored photos, biased reporting, idiotic analysists who have rarely been correct about anything before, all have conspired to create the impression of Arab victory. As long as these delusions exist and prosper in the Arab world there is no chance whatsoever for any just solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Sobering as this conclusion is, realizing its truth will at least strengthen our resolve and prevent us from repeating past mistakes and embarking upon new foolishness.
The other side of this coin is that we never win. We always concentrate on our failures and not on our accomplishments. The fact that the Israeli population stood up to the thousands of rockets rained on the Galilee is itself an enormous victory, albeit bought at great tragedy and cost.
Hitler’s road to defeat began with the determination of the British people not to be crushed by the aerial blitz launched against them. Whereas the other Western European countries were immediately cowed by German bombs, not so the British citizens.
And this proved to be one of the turning points of the war. I shudder to think what would be the situation in France or the United States if those countries had to absorb thousands of rockets on civilian targets for a month. In the long run, whether the world wishes to acknowledge it or not, Hizbollah, Iran and Syria have been exposed as the bases of terror that they are. And the reality is that no matter what the media spin may be, they have suffered a defeat. But we, in our time-honored fashion, prefer to dwell on our failings instead of our achievements. We never allow ourselves the luxury of feeling that we have won. Even after the stunning victories of the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, the naysayers and much of the media warned us that it was all for naught.
Perhaps it is the thousands of years of exile and persecution that have conditioned us never to say that we have won. The most that we allow ourselves is to say that we have survived. Well, perhaps survival is after all victory, at least in Jewish terms.One of the great threats raised against Israel is that of Arab demographics. The Arabs believe that they will be the majority in the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean in a few short years. However, in an article in the recent issue of Azure, it was conclusively shown that this claim is also a sham, a doctored photograph of the reality. Under-reporting of the death rate in the Palestinian territories, exaggerating the birthrate, double counting of the Arab population in Israel and also counting them as Palestinians and ignoring the sizable emigration from the Palestinian territories over the last decades, all contribute to a very false reading of the demographic reality.
Israel itself abets this falsehood by adopting Arab census figures cart blanche. There are undoubtedly political motivations behind such deception but again it is part of our mental makeup that we can’t really win and for them that they can’t ever lose. Only a change in these perceptions and attitudes will eventually lead to a more stable situation here in the Middle East. Until this happens, we should continue to sit tight and ignore all pie-in-the-sky proposals that our wacky leaders continually propose. Patience is the weapon for victory.

Weekly Parsha 28 Av 5766 / 22 August 2006

The first verses of the parsha address one of the great weaknesses of human life - personally, socially and governmentally - the weakness of corruption. Corruption comes in many forms and modes. The outright bribery of officials and judges is certainly understood to be a most heinous form of corruption for it undermines the very basis of a lawful society. There are enough examples of this type of corruption in our past and current national life to prove to us how damaging and destructive this immoral policy can be.
But the Torah speaks not only of the blatant corruption of open bribery and trading judicial and governmental favors for money, but also of a more subtle and perhaps even more insidious type of corruption that apparently falls short of the legal definition of bribery. This type of corruption leaps upon us almost unawares and is hard to define or even recognize.Chance remarks, a courtesy extended, a past favor given innocently, all remain as potential points of corruption.
The Talmud relates to us that the great amora, Mar Shmuel disqualified himself from judging a case that was brought before him because one of the litigants had earlier in the day allowed Mar Shmuel to pass before him on a narrow footbridge. Now Mar Shmuel as the chief judge and head of the yeshiva in Nehardea in third-century Babylonia is certainly entitled, as a matter of respect to Torah scholars, to pass first on the narrow footbridge. Yet, Mar Shmuel felt that even that small measure of respect, inconsequential as it may appear on the surface, could be enough to influence his decision and corrupt his judgment.
But an even more subtle shade of corruption exists and is exposed in Jewish thought. This is the corruption of self-interest. It clouds our minds, imposes upon us a narrowness of vision and leads inevitably to damage in the long run. The great men of Mussar and of Chasidut both speak of a person who is a meshuchad – who is corrupted by selfishness, self-interest and an inability to see the consequences of his behavior and actions.
This corruption stems from prejudice, ignorance and the inability to control one’s desires. "Since I want to do it, it must be justified and correct” is the mantra that creates such an insidious form of self-corruption. The Torah therefore sets standards as to behavior and actions.Following and adhering to those standards minimizes our penchant for self-corruption. It does not however remove it completely from our lives.
Only continual self-analysis of one’s behavior and motives can effectively combat self-corruption in its minutest form. One can therefore never rely upon one’s previous acts of piety or goodness to be a guarantee against self-corruption. Every day is a new battle and every choice in life is a new challenge to our innate integrity and holiness of purpose. Corruption blinds the wise and skews the righteous. Recognizing its omnipresent dangers and being aware of its challenges is the beginning of our battle against self-corruption and its delusions.

Shabat shalom.
Postagem: André Veríssimo, Pres. KoaH