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Israel, however, lacks the quaint luxury of French philosophy. Were the Jewish State to follow Camus’ genteel reasoning, the result could be another boundless enlargement of Jewish suffering. Before and during the Holocaust, at least for those who still had an opportunity to flee, Jews were ordered: “Get out of Europe; go to Palestine.” When they complied (those who could), the next order was: “Get out of Palestine.“
My own Austrian-Jewish grandparents received “special handling” on the SS-killing grounds at Riga, Latvia. Had they somehow made it to Mandatory Palestine, their sons and grandsons, now Israelis, would likely have died in subsequent genocidal wars begun by Arab forces to get the Jews “out of Palestine.”
Credo quia absurdum.
Cicero understood. Failure to use force against a murderous evil imprints an indelible stain upon all that is good. By declining the right to act as a lawful executioner in its struggle with annihilatory war and terror, Israel would thus be forced by Camus’ tortured reasoning to embrace disappearance.
Why was Camus, who was thinking only in the broadest generic terms, so badly mistaken? The answer lies in the philosopher’s unsupportable presumption of a natural reciprocity among both individual human beings and states in the matter of killing. We are asked to believe, by Camus, that as greater numbers of people agree not to become executioners, still greater numbers will follow upon the same brotherly course. In time, the fallacious argument proceeds, the number of those who refuse to accept killing will become so great that there will be fewer and fewer victims.
Camus’ presumed reciprocity does not exist. Indeed, it can never exist, especially in the Jihad-centered Middle East. Here, the unhidden Islamist desire to kill Jews remains unimpressed by good intentions, or by Israel’s hugely disproportionate contributions to science, industry, medicine and learning. Here, there are no identifiable Iranian or Palestinian plans for any rational coexistence. Their only decipherable “remedies” are for an all-too-familiar Final Solution.
Martin Buber identifies the essence of every living community as “meeting.“ True community, says Buber, is an authentic “binding,” not merely a “bundling together.” In true community, each one commits his whole being in “God’s dialogue with the world,” and each stands firm and resolute throughout this dialogue.
How should the dialogue be sustained with others who refuse to “bind” in the absence of murder? How can there ever be any conceivable solution to the genocidal enmity of Iran and “Palestine” to Israel so long as this enmity is presumably indispensable to their very lifeblood meanings in the world? These are not easy questions to answer, and they will never be answered by political leaders in Washington, Jerusalem, or anywhere else on this imperiled planet.
In national self-defense and counter-terrorism, Jewish executioners require an honored place in the government and army of Israel. Without them, evil would triumph again and again. For Iran and “Palestine,” murdered Jews are not so much a means to an end as they are a fervently prayed-for end in themselves. In this unheroic Islamist world, where sacrificial killing of Jews by war and terror is presumed to be a religious mandate, and also a coveted path to personal immortality, any Israeli unwillingness to use all necessary defensive force could invite individual and collective Jewish death.
Cicero understood. Legally and morally, killing is sometimes a sacred duty. Faced with undisguised sources of genuine evil, all civilized states sometimes have to rely upon the executioner. It follows that to deny the Israeli executioner his proper place at this eleventh-hour of danger would make a mockery of “Never Again.” Just as importantly, it could open the floodgates of several new man-made human catastrophes.
In the best of all possible worlds, Buber’s “binding” would supplant all “bundling.” But we don’t yet live in the best of all possible worlds, and in their present condition, Jews in Israel and elsewhere must remain prepared to fight strenuously and unceasingly for Jewish survival. For us, at least, even when it is absurd, life is always better than death.
Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on issues concerning international relations and international law, especially war and terrorism. Born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945, he is the author of some of the earliest major books on nuclear war and nuclear terror. In Israel, Professor Beres was Chair of Project Daniel.
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