Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of March 5, 1996


By Jonathan Blass

The terrorists must be made to pay a price they find unbearable. President Weizman has declared that Israel is at war. Prime Minister Peres went further, labeling the situation "total war."They are both wrong. For there to be a war, there must be two sides fighting in earnest. Here in Israel there is just one.

War would mean issuing the IDF orders to destroy terror organizations, even at the price of killing civilians who make up the society that supports them. It would mean the IDF bombing demonstrations like the one in Kalkilya, where Hamas backers, in a prelude to the real destruction of buses that would soon follow, burned the effigy of an Egged bus as senior PLO police officials trampled on Israeli flags or looked on.

It would mean wiping out the refugee camp near Hebron where the bombers originated and expelling its inhabitants to Lebanon or elsewhere. It would mean Israel not being satisfied with just foiling attempted suicide raids on Gush Katif as it did on March 1, but following them up with attacks on the terrorists' home bases within area A of the Palestinian autonomy.

It would mean instructing soldiers to open fire at rock-throwers before they evolve into suicide bombers. Most important, it would mean recreating the deterrence of the IDF, letting the terrorists know that if Israeli women and children are no longer safe, their own families will also no longer be immune.That is war, and it is ugly. On an individual level, it is unjust. It sacrifices the ideal of finding a punishment to fit the crime, of executing only those directly responsible for murder. It sacrifices that ideal to the necessity of winning the war and ending the bloodshed by a victory over the enemy society that bears communal responsibility for the conflict.

There can be no way of fighting and winning a "nice" war. If war could be nice, why does the prophetic vision of the end of days foretell its elimination? World War II was brought to an end by the world's leading democracy with the destruction of two of Japan's cities. German population centers were bombed in retaliation for the bombing of London. More than 100 years ago, the American Civil War was ended as Union General William Tecumseh Sherman drove through the states of the American south burning homes and farms, leading to mass desertion from the Confederate armies. It was Sherman who reportedly coined the phrase "War is hell," but he visited that hell on the enemies of his country in order to end the conflict with a victory that ensured the security and strength of the United States.

THE ARAB terror attacks on Israel's population just three months before Knesset elections, undermining Shimon Peres's chances of reelection, demonstrate the terrorists' conviction that any Israeli leadership, whether Labor or Likud, will choose to meet their murders with concessions rather than the painful retaliation of total war.

As if to reinforce the terrorists' confidence, the government, pursuing a policy of appeasement, consistently counters its critics with the challenge: "What is the alternative?" implying incorrectly that none exists. But the alternative to appeasement is, as it has always been, the prosecution of a just war. And in spite of the price, it is both practically and morally preferable to appeasement and the massacres that are its offshoots.

Driving toward Ashkelon two days before the terror that killed a soldier there, I noticed grafitti on one of the overpasses that had apparently been scribbled there months before: "Rabin, the people are with you." That message took on ironic meaning three days later, as new graves were dug on Mt. Herzl, not far from Rabin's own, for victims of the terror that the late prime minister had refused to confront.

It is time to recognize that ignoring the murder of our brothers, the insistence that, despite their deaths, life must proceed as usual, is the bogus bravado of the ghetto Jew impotent in the face of the latest pogrom, whose only option was to bury his dead and carry on.

It is totally inappropriate worse, it is immoral and callous for a nation capable of fighting back to respond in the same way. After years of unanswered intifada and terror, we should go to war, make the enemy pay a price it will find unbearable, and win.

JONATHAN BLASS is rabbi of Neveh Tzuf in Samaria and heads Ratzon Yehuda, a rabbinical training program for graduates of Yeshivot Hesder.

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