Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Taking Yes for an Answer

You must not call conspiracy all that that people call conspiracy. . . .(Isaiah 8:12)

We are now witnessing a phenomenon the like of which has not been seen since the Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe collapsed like a row of dominos in 1989 (one journalist called it "the domino theory in reverse"). It started with one person in Tunisia setting himself on fire to protest that country's corrupt and tyrannical government, and spread like wildfire throughout the Middle East. Millions took to the streets in Egypt and toppled Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for some 30 years. Mass unrest in Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain forced their despots to institute some sort of democratic reform. Right now the focal point is Libya, where the Egyptian model is playing itself out. Crowds of people fearlessy fill the streets in Libya's cities demanding the ouster of their brutal dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who ruled with an iron fist since 1969. This is the same Qaddafi who was behind the massacre of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and the mid-air bombing of a jet over Scotland, killing 270 people. I remember participating in demonstrations in the days following the Munich catastrophe (I was in college then) and chanting "Who do we want? Qaddafi! How do we want him? Dead!". Well, if the brave young people of Libya have their way, we just might have him dead before too long. Maybe he will be hanged on Purim. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

But in Israel and throughout the Jewish world, consternation bordering on hysteria reigns. The "Arab street" is a force to be reckoned with. Newly free Arabs will abrogate treaties with Israel that the deposed despots abided by - never mind that only two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan, have such treaties and they have hardly led to the kind of relations that exist between the United States and Canada. Some of the demonstrators in Cairo and Benghazi were seen holding up signs denouncing Israel - after decades of brainwashing by tyrants who totally controlled the flow of information, what can we expect?

Like a good scientist, I am skeptical. I do not believe in "democracy for me but not for thee." All men desire freedom. Democracy can be messy, cumbersome, fractious and slow; a task as simple as refurbishing a public monument can take years to accomplish, while a dictator will get it done immediately. Democracy is, as Winston Churchill said, the worst system on earth except for all the others. So I am pleased to see the Arabs seizing control of their own destiny. It was the slew of dictatorial, corrupt and rotten regimes that deflected the resentment and frustrations of their own peoples onto the eternal scapegoat, Israel. If all goes well, Arabs will prefer to make their own lives better instead of making those of Israelis worse. History shows us that dictatorships start wars with other dictatorships and with democracies, but democracies rarely if ever start wars with other democracies. We might be on the cusp of a new era of peace between Abraham's children. With the Arabs' oil and the Israelis' brains, miracles can be accomplished.

And what if all does not go well? What if the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and similar Islamist outfits in other Arab countries, the best organized of the underground political groups now coming out of hiding, take over? The result will be a tyranny as bad or worse than the one the masses are shucking off, which itself argues for those outfits not being allowed to rule, at least not without building coalitions with more responsible parties. A triumphant Islamist revolution will stir up hatred against Israel, but we can live with it, as we did for 62 years. They are unlikely to commit to a war that they must know they cannot win. They are mostly Sunni Muslims who, unlike the Shiites who rule Iran, do not have a martyr complex. Like the Communists, they want to live and it might be possible to do business with them. As always, while hoping and praying for the best, Israel must prepare for the worst. We have fought wars against all of our neighbors simultaneously before; another chant from the '70s went, "48, 56, 67, you lose." We will have to beef up our border defenses. With more resources going to defense, there will be less for corruption and political favoritism; we can live with that. With more manpower needed for the army, we will no longer be able to support the armies of able-bodied parasites sitting on their butts in yeshiva, not serving in the real army, not working (at least not honestly) and not paying taxes. We will return to the ethic that prevailed in the early years of the state: Every able-bodied male serves, no ands ifs or buts. Nothing but good can come of that.

Israel has been around for 62 years now, going on 63. The founders have gone to their eternal reward and their dream, praise God, is our reality. But too many of us, including those who run Israel's government, still think like miserable ghetto Jews. In keeping with Lev. 26:35, they hear the sound of a windblown leaf and flee as if from an enemy, but nobody is chasing. Then they close the book, before they get to v.42, assuring us that God has not forsaken us, that he remembers his everlasting covenant with Abraham, that he will restore us to our natural state, masters in our own house. Take a look around, people. Tanakh's prophecies of redemption are being fulfilled. The barren land is fertile. Jews from all over the world, from India to Ethiopia and beyond, are gathered home. The economy is thriving. The ge'ula is already in progress, unfolding before our eyes. We just have to learn to take yes for an answer from the only One whose pronouncements really matter.

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