4 SECULAR QUESTIONS

By William Safire

At the annual Jewish Seder (which was Jesus' Last Supper, and is why Easter and Passover are so close), the youngest child will ask the Four Questions. The examination about the ancient Israelites' flight to freedom begins with "Why is this night different from all other nights?"

In Israel this week, however, the first question on a child's mind is more personal: "Will I be able to board a school bus without being blown up by a suicide bomber?"

Here are four secular questions that could be asked and answered after the Passover ceremony concludes:

Why is this war different from all other Arab wars to destroy Israel?

Unlike the other Arab wars of aggression, this war of terror is waged primarily against Jewish civilians, especially children. When Israel strikes back in self-defense, supporters of Palestinian attackers bemoan the loss of Arab innocents caught in the crossfire. By denouncing Israel's defense as part of a "cycle of violence," Arab sympathizers treat this latest Arab aggression and Israeli defense as morally the same.

But this terror war is but a battle in the same war that has been waged against Israel for 50 years. Jews have shown they want peace but misled Arabs have shown, time and again, that they want to win.

Why is it said that Jews "occupy" Judea and Samaria?

The land on the west bank of the Jordan was used by Arab armies in 1967 as a base to surprise and destroy Israel. When Jewish fighters won that war, Israel remained in that battle zone. The U.N. declared that Israel — unlike any other victorious victim of aggression — should return some, but specifically not all, of the land so close to its vulnerable cities. These are disputed territories; to call them "occupied" reveals a prejudice against Israel's right to what were supposed to be "secure and defensible" borders.

If a final peace settlement seemed so close two years ago, why can't America actively negotiate a peace agreement now?

After offering too-generous concessions that would have endangered Israel and divided Jerusalem, a na´ve Israeli soldier and an overeager American president were certain an agreement was "so close." The reason it was not is that the present Arab leaders want all of Israel, not just the disputed territories. That's what they teach their children. Only when Palestinian leaders realize that their new weapon of human missiles cannot wear down the Jews will they be willing to discuss a long truce.

That is why it is a tragic mistake for the U.S. — which just answered a terrorist attack on itself with heavy bombing and an invasion — to restrain Israel from hotly pursuing the creators of suicide bombers who are now under the protection of the Palestinian army. So long as Arab leaders believe outsiders will impose a settlement on Israel that renders it impotent, they will keep terrorizing through the next 10 cease-fires.

As for this week's vaunted Saudi visions in Beirut, "full normalization" could be rescinded on a royal whim overnight; "full withdrawal" is forever.

Wouldn't it be better for Israel to give the Palestinians all they want so that Arab nations will then help the Americans defeat Saddam Hussein?

No appeasement of Palestinian terrorists will persuade Arab rulers to help defeat Saddam; they want his defeat but cravenly want no part of defeating him. The Iraqi tyrant openly subsidizes Palestinian suicide bombing while he secretly aids Al Qaeda, which is why Palestinians danced in the streets of Ramallah on Sept. 11.

In the short run, Israel is the nation with most to lose from the overdue American-Turkish-Kurdish assault on Saddam. As his regime comes under fire, the Iraqi will again lash out at Israelis, this time perhaps with more fearsome secret weapons. Yet Israel, alone among U.S. allies, raises no objections to the campaign needed to remove Saddam. That's because Jews never forget that the greatest disasters follow in the wake of appeasement.

On Wednesday night, many Seder services will conclude, as tradition dictates, with the hopeful salute expressed by generations of Jews: "Next year in Jerusalem!" Some celebrants with long memories of access denied to the holiest religious sites will insert the word "undivided."



 HOME  Maccabean  comments