Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lessons Today from not Bombing the Trains to Auschwitz Then

It’s one thing that the US knew full well what was happening in Auschwitz and didn't bomb crematoria, or even the trains leading there, sentencing hundreds of thousands to a certain death. This is historical fact, and a great shame from which the United States will always suffer. It'd be entirely another if the US were to have used air surveillance to find Jews hiding in a forest somewhere, and tipped off the Nazis, letting them know where Jews were hiding, or gathering to resist and fight for their lives. Yet, in reading reports of Obama administration leaks of alleged Israeli plans to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, that's exactly the feeling one comes away with. ( ( ) Don't get me wrong, I am entirely against an attack on Iranian nuclear targets IF an alternative solution to end their plans to create a nuclear weapon can be found. Let the Iranians live in peace and leave Israel and the rest of the world alone. But if the Iranians continue to rattle their sabers and plot along to develop nuclear weapons, all bets are off. The problem is that I don't believe that the Obama administration really views a nuclear Iran as a real problem, and certainly the Obama administration does not view Iranian nukes aimed at my home to be an existential threat for Israel. Similarly, it's clear that the Iranians have not found US threats credible, or sanctions of much harm. They must be laughing their Shahabs off at previous, and ongoing, US efforts to negotiate, all too happy to sit in fancy hotels and talk, all the while with their nuclear centrifuges churning away. How many times, and in how many different ways can Obama, Clinton and others suggest that time is running out for diplomacy with Iran, repeat the mantra claiming that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, or the gross rhetoric that Obama has Israel’s back, designed more to get votes than to prevent Iranian nukes? ( ( Really!? You’ve got my back? I feel more like I’m getting kicked in the back, backside that is. As a proud American, it gives me no pride to write this, but if it’s true, the Obama administration needs to be called to task, and someone else needs to take the steering wheel. Let's be completely clear, a nuclear Iran is an unacceptable prospect. A nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel. A nuclear Iran is a profound danger to the whole world and would ignite a nuclear arms race among extremist, and often unstable, mid eastern regimes. A nuclear Iran would hold the world hostage (something they’re very good at), threatening to unleash their weapons if they don’t like what the rest of the world is doing. A nuclear Iran would put every major American and western city with a port, subway, commuter train, or major sports arena in the reach of horrors that are unspeakable to us, but that are things about which the Iranian extremists dream. A war of words based on such leaks has been unleashed with "respected" journalists, “experts,” and talking heads making the case why there is no military justification for Israel or anyone else to attack Iran. Yet their arguments are poorly reasoned, ring hollow, and every point can be rebutted with an equal if not more compelling argument. ( Some “experts” base their argument on the absurd and disingenuous thesis that “I don’t know any security expert who is recommending a military strike on Iran at this point.” So, does finding one, without looking hard for others, rebut that notion? ( I’d surely think that retired Admiral James Lyons counts as a security expert. Are these “experts” now all wrong? Case closed. Some who claim to make up the “consensus” on Iran suggest that because Iran showed restraint and did not use chemical weapons in their war with Iraq, so surely they will be reasonable chaps and not use their nukes, which they’re not building anyway because they’re just seeking to build nuclear energy plants on top of their vast oil reserves. Or, that Israel wouldn’t attack Iran because it would be a long and drawn out attack and the “Muslim” world would grow angry and blame Israel. Oh, yeah, but the Muslim world blames everything on Israel anyway. So what’s different in this picture? Or, that Iran will use an attack by Israel to justify attacks on Americans and others around the world. Again folks, sorry if I am repeating myself, but what’s new with this threat? The Iranians are already doing it. Or, that oil supplies will be interrupted and prices will soar. True. But what’s the economic impact of Iran shooting nukes at Israel, or providing a dirty bomb for one of any of millions of soft targets all over the world. And, as above, do they need an excuse to do what they’ve already demonstrated the proclivity to do, and threatened to do again. Oh, yeah, they showed restraint. I forgot. My bad. I’m at ease now. Simply put, regardless of what the fall out and consequences may be of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, and there will be many, and they will be painful, no outcome of an attack to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon even comes close to the potential horrors of Iran getting that weapon, and upper hand. Regardless of who takes out Iran’s nuclear facilities, or how, Israel will suffer a harsh response. Israel’s Prime Minister is facing a life or death situation that few Israeli leaders have had to contemplate, and which no American president has ever had to think of. As it is, the Iranians blatantly disregard any basic sense of international standards and obligations. Their lies would make Pinocchio proud. They're playing the US and world like never before. Lying and stalling for time, while building and advancing to the nuclear goal day by day. In a few weeks, we will observe the annual Holocaust Memorial Day. The Jews have been incinerated one time too many. If the White House, Pentagon or State Department are complicit in these leaks and potential harm to Israel, it not only embarrasses and shames me as an American, but makes it clear that the US is in need of some of the regime change medicine that the Obama administration is careful to dole out, selectively, so as not to anger, ruffle feathers, or upset the peace loving neighbors nearer to me than to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., who have made their threats clear and intentions known. As Nicholas Kristof humbly wrote in his recent “Consensus on Iran,” granted, everything I say here may be wrong. However, I’d rather be wrong, and even shrill, than to be on the receiving end of an Iranian nuke, or allow the Iranians to threaten any other country with their blood thirsty and extremist brand of Islam.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Community Center by Any Other Name

If miracles are commonplace anywhere in the world, it’s no surprise to experience them in Jerusalem. Because one can see and experience miracles here at every turn, it’s important to have the presence of mind and appreciation to pause and recognize and give thanks for these occurrences which can take place daily. A miracle de jour. Such was my experience this week at the dedication of a community center for elderly Holocaust survivors in central Jerusalem. Many resources are already provided throughout Israel for people who suffered the most unspeakable anti-Semitism and crimes against humanity but, one can never do too much for these people living out what should be their golden years in the Jewish homeland. My miracle de jour involved the privilege I had to participate in the dedication of a new community center, complete with internet, heat and air conditioning, rest rooms, cable TV, bright modern lighting, a full kitchenette, freshly painted walls, and tastefully selected new tile floors. The furnishings are not anything special in the sense that one would expect no less in any new community center. What is remarkable is that the community center was created in a renovated neighborhood bomb shelter. A place I have passed dozens if not hundreds of times and never realized was there. Living in Israel since 2004, it still gives me pause that bomb shelters are not only so commonplace, but necessary. My house has two. I have spent more than my share of time in bomb shelters. Sadly, it’s part of life here. Nevertheless, the need for and existence of bomb shelters in homes, schools, public buildings, neighborhoods, etc. is a reality which I wish didn’t have to be. It’s traumatic to have to prepare and outfit a bomb shelter, just in case you need it. It’s more traumatic to hear a siren and have to race to such a shelter, whether as an exercise, or as part of a real threat. It’s a trauma that, for so many Israelis, we exist with this threat in our life without a second thought. How much more so this threat must be a trauma for elderly Holocaust survivors, regardless of whether they spent their early years in a concentration camp, labor camp, in hiding, or constantly on the run from Nazis or rabidly anti-Semitic neighbors who hunted them as sport. Hearing a siren, and having between 15 seconds to two minutes warning in advance of a pending attack, must create a stress that I will never be able to comprehend, complete with flashbacks to their suffering as children or young adults. It must be an added stress being a bit older, unable to move as quickly or easily as they used to, to have to walk a distance or navigate stairs and enter a nearby bomb shelter, wondering if they’ll make it in time. Or to get into the shower worrying that a siren will go off then. These are the realities of life in Israel that impact the young and old alike. It’s not a way to live, but we do just that – we live, and live life to the fullest. Just by living we overcome the enemies who strive to kill us. That in and of itself is a miracle. Then, along comes someone like Dr. Michael Evans and the Jerusalem Prayer Team. When he heard about the needs of one particular group of elderly Holocaust survivors and partnered with the Jerusalem Institute for Justice, more miracles happened. The community center configured out of a renovated Jerusalem neighborhood bomb shelter provides respite and comfort so that, if there were to be a threat in the area, the elderly Holocaust survivors won’t have to move from what they’re already doing. Their days will be filled by the fellowship of their friends, with activities to occupy their hands, their minds, and their time. And the center in the shelter will give them peace of mind. If a siren goes off, they can continue with their lives in a safe place without missing a beat, minimizing the stress that’s an inevitable outcome. Even more miraculous and historic, is that both Dr. Evans and the thousands of supporters of the Jerusalem Prayer Team and the Jerusalem Institute for Justice are Christians who seek to bless Israel, to repair thousands of years of animosity and persecution directed at Jews in the name of Christianity. These Christians seek to make life a bit easier, a bit more comfortable for people who have had to overcome some of the most severe challenges in the world. Jews call this Tikun Olam. I look at these people and see God’s love smiling at us as Jews from the faces of righteous gentiles in our day. Prior to this generation, there’s really no historical precedent for Christians to reach out to and embrace Jews as is happening today in growing numbers, across the world. The unconditional love displayed is about far more than the financial blessings involved to renovate a bomb shelter, feed the hungry, or donate an ambulance to Magen David Adom to save lives of Israelis. Unconditional love is just that, the love of a parent to a child, a sibling to another sibling. And that’s the relationship that’s being built and solidifying among Christian and Jews today. It’s a far greater outcome than building a community center in a bomb shelter, or providing an ambulance to save Israeli lives. The shelters, centers, and ambulances and all the other forms of material blessings that come from Christian Zionists are symbolic of a great love, an unbreakable bond, and an awareness that Jews and Christians offer one another an invaluable relationship as we create fellowship and build relationships that, are miracles we must take pause to recognize, celebrate, and enhance.