Soldiers are supposed to die in wars. This is tragic, but understandable. Teenagers are not supposed to be kidnapped and murdered. This is how most of us understand war. Killing in battle, but not senseless murder.
There are other theories of war. In so-called “Liberation Movements” (e.g., the Palestine Liberation Organization), warfare is not only total, but terrorism against civilians is a prime and studied tactic. Not only is every man, woman and child the enemy, civilians are especially targeted. Liberation armies against “colonization” understand the mere presence of a colonist, of any age, to be an act of aggression. Violence is not only warranted, but required. Israel is not just a nation at war. Every Jewish Israeli is a “colonist,” personally subject to a warrant for execution. Those teenagers could easily have been our children. We have two children living in Israel. Like every other Jewish Israeli, our children are their intended prey.
When I was asked about my reaction to the kidnapped Israeli teenagers, my answer was simple: “We are at war with an enemy whose ideas are not like ours, in a word: inhuman.” We in the west believe that a cease-fire will morph into an armistice, which will morph into peace. We don’t understand the enemy. Wars of conquest or defense have a rational dimension. Ideological wars become psychotic. A few days after the Israeli teens were kidnapped, the Islamic Army of Iraq and Syria captured Mosul and other large Iraqi cities. Thousand of Iraqi soldiers surrendered, expecting to become POW’s. They thought they were fighting Americans. The world watched as 1,700 young Shi’a men were executed. One thousand and seven hundred bereaved families from that one incident. Some saw on video their sons, husbands, fathers, brothers being lined up and shot. And that was only the part thatmade the headlines.
We know the type: the German war in the East, against Russian and fellow Slavs - wholesale murder, propelled by a racist ideology. The Nazi war against the Jews and other ”subhumans” (a word replaced today with the word ”colonist” in Israel) propelled by something even more grotesque than racism. The Imperial Japanese Army murdered rampantly virtually anywhere they went, propelled by a racist ideology. Communist armies and regimes murdered millions notby occasional aberration but as a matter of policy based on an ideology. Ideologies strip human of their souls.
Israeli Jews, and Jews in general, are the ideological target of Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran and their allies and offshoots. Al Qaeda and its cohorts throw all Americans, and all Westerners, and not only all non-Muslims, but also Shias and hosts of others into their target zones for murder and execution.
The tragic and nauseating death of the three Israeli teenagers, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, gave a vivid image of the enemy. The boys were hunted, targeted, snatched and murdered. It could have been any of you reading this, had you not only been in Israel, but vacationing in the wrong place at the wrong time, on the wrong flight at the wrong time, and of course, even anywhere here at home, at the wrong place at the wrong time. I and everyone in my family, and you and everyone in your families, are all in the target zone. We tend to forget that, until teenagers are hunted down, snatched and then executed on some late night on some little forlorn hillside.
My thoughts are far away from Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) as I write this, the day before the 4th of July. The Fourth of July, however, looms like a monument for me. The ideas behind the founding of our Republic, rooted in the notion of God-given rights of life and liberty to the individual human being, have propelled our nation’s often stumbling path forward. The ideas upon which our nation is founded, admittedly observed often in breach and not in practice, serve as a rudder in a storm of ignorance and passions.
I was a young child when I heard but barely understood the following words from our television set on January 20th, 1961. They come to my mind often, and especially today, as the murder of those teens, and the slaughter of those 1,700 captured Iraqi POW’s, and countless other atrocities, sear in my memory. I understand them today anew. -