Thursday, December 4, 2008

Show No Mercy to Your Enemy

Self Restraint (with an Epilog)

Prof. Paul Eidelberg

U.S. Admiral Bull Halsey, a rational and responsible man, said, “Hit hard, hit fast, hit often.” Rationality and responsibility are qualities quite foreign to those who shape Israel’s policy toward its enemy, the Palestinian Authority. Their policy is “Hit softly, hit slowly, and hit seldom.”

In Hebrew this policy is called “havlaga”—self-restraint. This policy is motivated by fear of world opinion, perhaps also by the desire to display Israel’s moral superiority vis-à-vis the cruelty of her Arab enemies. It is an utterly inane and immoral policy.

Havlaga prolongs the war. It therefore increases the number of Jewish as well as Arab casualties. But let me focus on the character of the government that pursues this policy of havlaga—so sickeningly obvious in its failure to retaliate against the constant bombing of Sderot by the Arabs in Gaza,

This craven policy reveals the government’s lack of heartfelt concern for the lives of Jews. Paradoxical as it may seem, this government policy of havlaga undermines the sanctity of human life. It encourages the enemy and increases Arab—indeed, the world’s—contempt for Israel. Havlaga is a vile policy, and its proponents must be deemed bungled or base human beings.

Yet this has been the policy of Israeli prime ministers and their cohorts since the signing of the Israel-PLO Agreement of September 1993. How demoralizing, how revolting!

And yet, not a single party in the Knesset protests against this cowardly and self-destructive policy. Even the religious parties, which proclaim the principle of pikuach nefesh—saving life—say nothing about havlaga’s danger to Jewish life. The religious parties are the most culpable.

The Rabbis of old taught us that “Whoever is merciful to the cruel, will ultimately be cruel to the merciful.” Hence we should expect the religious parties to denounce the policy of havlaga—loudly and repeatedly. They should expose the irrationality of such concepts as “collateral damage” and “proportionality” when fighting against a genocidal enemy—a satanic enemy, as witness how Muslims tortured before murdering Jews in Mumbai.

The Rabbis should say, “Hit hard, hit fast, and hit often.” But this would appear “unJewish” and “immoral.” Yet Rabbi Judah Halevi said: “With whatever is at hand, you shall kill.”

King Solomon said, “To everything there is a season … a time for war and a time for peace.” Each time has its own laws. There are laws for war, and there are laws for peace. Havlaga is not one of the laws of war.

Consider the verse, “When you go forth to battle against your enemies” (Deut. 20:1). The Sages ask: “What is meant by ‘against your enemies’”? They answer: “God said, ‘Confront them as enemies. Just as they show you no mercy, so should you not show them any mercy’” (Tanchuma, Shoftim 15).

Israel’s greatest monarch King David said: “I have pursued mine enemies and overtaken them. Neither did I withdraw till they were consumed. I have smitten them through, so that they are not able to rise; they are fallen under my feet. For Thou has girded me with strength unto the battle. Thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. Thou hast also made mine enemies turn their backs unto me, and I did cut off them that hate me. … Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind; I did cast them out as the mire of the streets” (Psalms 18:38-43).

These words may seem cruel to effete, overly civilized Jews. They would rather Jews be the victims than the victors of war—the less to worry about anti-Semitism, or so they foolishly think. How many Jews have been murdered, how many Jewish children have been made orphans, how many Jewish men, women, and children have been crippled for life, how many Jewish families have suffered so horribly because of this senseless, cowardly, and futile policy of havlaga?

And how many Jews (as well as Arabs) would be alive today had the government of Israel pursued a cruel but quick and decisive war against the Palestinian Authority before the PA could accumulate so many weapons and indoctrinate a generation of Arab children to hate and kill Jews?

The Jewish people are known (even by their enemies) for their kindness and mercy—which is why Arabs store weapons in hospitals and schools and shield themselves behind women and children. In time of war, however, “do not show [your enemy] any pity” (Deut. 7:17), on which verse the Ramban comments: “Through the mercy of fools all justice is lost.”

Justice, justice, is what Israel stands for: justice has ever been the sacred cause of the Jewish people. Today, however, inasmuch as Israeli governments display no confidence in the justice of Israel’s cause, is it any wonder that the Jew-haters of this world now question whether Israel has a right to exist, indeed, call for Israel’s eradication?


Having written above about the government’s cowardly policy of havlaga toward Arab terrorists, contrast its cruel but still cowardly policy toward Jews, for example in Gush Katif, Amona, and now in Hebron where the police brutally attacked and injured the gallant mother of six, Nadia Matar. Consider, too, the government’s failure to protect the lives of Jews in Sderot from constant bombing by Gaza-based Arab terrorists. It should be obvious to any candid observer that this government has forfeited its legitimacy. Indeed, it is hardly an exaggeration to say it has become the enemy of the Jewish people. Therefore, since the opposition parties do nothing to topple this government, the people must act as the opposition, but one not paralyzed by the policy of havlaga.

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