Eisenbud's Odyssey: The audacity of chutzpah

It must be nice to dictate foreign policy – thousands of kilometers out of harm’s way – to one’s sole ally in the most hostile region in the world. However, if the equation was inverted, it would be unthinkable. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what we Jews call ‘chutzpah.’

Audacity of Hope 521 (photo credit: MCT)
Audacity of Hope 521
(photo credit: MCT)
When I moved to Israel from New York City in the summer of 2010, I was absorbed into a small kibbutz in the Negev desert, where I remained for six months to learn Hebrew and become acclimated to Israeli culture.
Desert life, for obvious reasons, could not have been more diametrically opposed to my former big-city lifestyle. In many ways, it was exactly what you’d expect: Profoundly lonely, ridiculously hot, culturally strange and generally counter-intuitive.
There was one general store; one (overworked) doctor; one dining hall; one bar (that served exactly three different sub-par, stale, bottled beers); one bus stop (that went out of service at 7:30 p.m.) to take people to the closest city, Beersheba, nearly 50 km. away; and a motley crew of other new immigrants from around the globe who felt just as displaced as me.
Comparatively speaking, my new home made the town in Little House on the Prairie look cosmopolitan and exciting. Indeed, the charm of desert life wore off faster than a dose of laughing gas from my former Park Avenue dentist.
However, there was one element of Israeli living that no immigrant could – or should – have to adapt to, or tolerate. Something which in America was utterly unimaginable: Regular rocket fire from rogue neighbors, which landed a few miles from my doorstep.
Even more jarring, the rockets were always aimed at the one-million-plus children, women and men who inhabited Southern Israel, with Beersheba and the closest coastal communities, Ashdod and Ashkelon, absorbing most of the onslaught.
I still vividly remember canceling much-needed beach getaways to Ashkelon because it was busy being bombed during the afternoons in question.
AS AN American, when these bombs were exploding, my first instinct was to wonder how the US would handle a similar scenario on its soil. For example, if a terrorist group from Canada had the audacity to fire rockets into towns and cities in upstate New York – or any other geographic variation of that situation – I knew unequivocally there’d be hell to pay.
Indeed, there was no doubt in my mind that the international community and media would focus on such an attack like a laser for weeks and months, and that the terrorist organization responsible – as well as the area from where to rockets were fired – would have been swiftly annihilated.
This, of course, doesn’t take into account the collateral damage caused by what would unquestionably be a disproportionate retaliation by the US military – not exactly known for the “surgical precision” it demands of Israel’s IDF, which is tasked with retaliating against an enemy that uses children as human shields.
After all, we’re talking about the same country that preemptively, and proudly, used “shock and awe” – with faulty intelligence – to decimate a nation nearly 10,000 km. away that hadn’t even attacked it, after terrorists from another, nearby country destroyed the Twin Towers, killing thousands of innocent Americans.
When 9/11 took place, US citizens – myself included – were consumed with a raw, incandescent rage of a type I imagine had not been felt since Pearl Harbor. As a nation we needed to retaliate in a way that would leave no question as to our collective outrage, might and message that an attack on American soil was verboten – world opinion be damned.
Someone was going to pay dearly for having the temerity to target and kill our civilians, and it couldn’t have happened soon enough. This was America, for God’s sake! We didn’t take fire, we gave it!
We all know how that ended.
HOWEVER, WHEN those rockets landed in Southern Israel – aimed at its million-plus children, women and men – it barely registered a blip on the international media’s radar. The silence of the international community was maddeningly deafening to me, and every other Israeli.
It was just business as usual in sunny old Israel.
But here’s the thing: As an American – raised to believe that an attack against one democracy is an attack against all democracies – I was just as outraged as if the rockets had landed near my childhood home.
Why should it feel any different?
And lest anyone think these attacks are confined to the South, think again. Last March, I had the dubious distinction of covering a terrorist attack for the Post – less than 2 km. from my office in central Jerusalem – that killed a British tourist and injured dozens. When I wasn’t interviewing traumatized children and women, I was sidestepping trails of blood that lined the sidewalks.
And this isn’t taking into account the second intifada, during which bombs were going off in virtually every location the terrorists knew attracted the most noncombatants.
You can imagine my disgust at the absurd, humiliating and inhumanely egregious double standard Israel is continually forced to endure.
OVER THE past two weeks, over 300 rockets fired by homicidal terrorists have been launched from the Gaza Strip into Southern Israel. The onslaught is ostensibly retaliation for the targeted killings of two Hamas leaders, who actively planned to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians.
This, compounded by a nation run by psychopaths that is unquestionably attempting to create a nuclear warhead to finally follow through with its repeatedly stated objective of eviscerating Israel, has exacerbated the outrageous hypocrisy that America’s only ally in the Middle East is subjected to.
It must be nice to dictate foreign policy – thousands of kilometers out of harm’s way – to one’s sole ally in the most hostile region in the world, surrounded by dictatorships and theocracies hell-bent on annihilating it.
However, if the equation was inverted, it would be unthinkable, even laughable. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what we Jews call “chutzpah.”
As US President Barack Obama (whom I voted for in the last election) and now British Prime Minister David Cameron beseech Israel to show restraint against Iran, I cannot help but wonder how the US or UK would handle a similar existential threat. But the truth is I know exactly how they would handle it. And it would in no way, shape or form mirror what is being asked of this nation.
I AM a proud American-Israeli, and was raised in the US to understand in no uncertain terms the importance of American freedom – and defending it at all costs – in a world marred by evil dictatorships determined to take that freedom away and recreate dystopias in their own demented images.
Indeed, it is America’s staunch refusal to ever let that happen that still makes it a truly great nation.
So, here’s my question to Obama – and any other Western power that implores Israel to show restraint in its existential crisis: Why should Israel be any less great in this respect?
Are our children and society any less valuable than yours?
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