John Teichert, Candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland
As we pass the two-month anniversary of the brutal and barbaric attack on Israel by Hamas that aligns with the beginning of the Jewish festival of lights, Hanukkah, it is appropriate to reflect on the past as a productive guide for the future. Through serendipity or divine providence, I recently read Charles Krauthammer’s book Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics. Therein contains some stunning thoughts that should cause deep reflection on the subject at hand from a unique and powerful Jewish perspective. It should compel us to redouble our unwavering support for Israel and our unrelenting commitment to eliminate the anti-Jewish hate we see in our tumultuous world situation.
This thought-provoking book is a compilation of Krauthammer’s newspaper columns from 1983-2014. As a result, it provides an interesting perspective on modern history: cultural, political, and geopolitical. His thoughts on Israel, antisemitism, Hamas, and Iran stand out as telling, concerning, shocking, and prescient. They are worth quoting extensively with a parenthetical on the year he wrote them. Some things never change!
Krauthammer artfully expresses Israel’s gracious attempts to promote peace in the region that have been relentlessly used against them by their adversaries: “Land for peace. Remember? Well, during the past decade, Israel gave the land – evacuating South Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005. What did it get? An intensification of belligerency, heavy militarization of the enemy side, multiple kidnappings, cross-border attacks and, from Gaza, years of unrelenting rocket attack.” (2010) He amplified these thoughts in a subsequent writing: “In 2005, Israel gave up land without peace in Gaza, and again was rewarded with war – and constant rocket attack from an openly genocidal Palestinian mini-state.” (2011)
Krauthammer rightfully expresses that the stakes are unbearably high and the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people are ruthlessly determined to succeed in their genocidal intents: “Land without peace is nothing but an invitation to national suicide.” (2011) He expresses these thoughts with more provocative amplification: “The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists – Iranian in particular – openly prepare a more final solution.” (2010)
Krauthammer’s provocative writings include the following thought-provoking gem: “In its vulnerability to extinction, Israel is not just any small country. It is the only small country – the only country, period – whose neighbors publicly declare its very existence an affront to law, morality and religion and make its extinction an explicit, paramount national goal … To destroy the Jewish people, Hitler needed to conquer the world. All that is needed today is to conquer a territory smaller than Vermont.” (1998)
Krauthammer brilliantly describes the twisted logic of the double standard by which Israel is held in spite of their nearly-unimaginably perilous position: “Why is it that of Israel a standard of behavior is demanded that is not just higher than its neighbors’, not just equal to that of the West, but in fact far higher than that of any Western country in similar circumstances?” (1990) He goes on to express the confounding logic of victimhood that is flipped upside down for the Jewish nation: “With Jews, that kind of reasoning is reversed: Jewish suffering does not entitle them to more leeway in trying to prevent a repetition of their tragedy, but to less. Their suffering requires them, uniquely among the world’s sufferers, to bend over backwards in dealing with their enemies. Sometimes it seems as if Jews are entitled to protection and equal moral consideration only insofar as they remain victims.” (1990) He continues with the following: “It is perverse to argue that because this particular nation-state is made up of people who have suffered the greatest crime in modern history, they, more than any other people on earth, have a special obligation to be delicate with those who would bring down on them yet another national catastrophe. That is a double standard. What does double standard mean? To call it a higher standard is simply a euphemism. That makes it sound like a compliment. In fact, it is a weapon.” (1990) Krauthammer punctuates this series of thoughts in this way: “The conscious deployment of a double standard directed at the Jewish state and at no other state in the world, the willingness to systematically condemn the Jewish state for things others are not condemned for – this is not a higher standard. It is a discriminatory standard. And discrimination against Jews has a name too. The word for it is antisemitism.” (1990)
Krauthammer also explains the rightful perspective that takes into consideration Israel’s unequaled environment: “Any moral judgment must take into account the alternative. Israel cannot stand alone, and if it is abandoned by its friends for not meeting Western standards of morality, it will die. What will replace it? The neighbors: Syria, Jordan, the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Ahmed Jabril, Abu Nidal (if he is still around) or some combination of these – an outcome that will induce acute nostalgia for Israel’s human-rights record. Any moral judgment that refuses to consider the alternative is merely irresponsible. That is why Israel’s moral neighborhood is important. It is not just the neighborhood, it is the alternative and, if Israel perishes, the future. It is morally absurd, therefore, to reject Israel for failing to meet Western standards of human rights when the consequences of that rejection is to consign the region to neighbors with considerably less regard for human rights.” (1990)
I fully acknowledge that this is a lot to unpack, but Krauthammer’s words from as far back as 1990 are a poignant expression of the consistency of verbal, moral, and physical attacks against Israel and the Jewish people over the course of modern history. Krauthammer does, though, provide an important piece of context for which Americans should be profoundly proud of our past and doggedly determined for our future: “No nation since Cyrus the Great’s Persia has done more for the Jews.” (2006) As our Jewish American neighbors struggle to celebrate Hannukah in the midst of rightful concern, persistent attack, and burning heartache, and our Israeli partners struggle in their righteous efforts against Hamas and its Persian benefactors, may we provide unwavering support that is befitting of a long-term friendship, an unbreakable bond, and a rightful moral commitment. Hanukkah Sameach!