Chesler Chronicles

Clinging to Illusions for Dear Life

As you read this, I will be away from my desk. While I am gone, I will be posting a mini-retrospective of some of my previously published, copy-righted work. The articles seem to hold up. In some cases, I will introduce the piece. In most instances, I will let the piece speak for itself.

(This originally appeared as a blog on my own website. It was written before I started writing a blog for Pajamas Media. It also appeared in The Jewish Press.)

Clinging to Illusions for Dear Life

Let me state what is painfully obvious. Despite our most hopeful illusions, people are not really “good” nor do they really practice “peace”. While power corrupts, absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely and there is no safe place, neither high nor low, for the most vulnerable of our citizens.

The world is always at war. People fight, it’s what we do. We quarrel, often in deadly ways with other family members and we fight bitter, brutal battles with anyone who is “different” in terms of gender, class, race, ethnicity, tribe, religion, and ideology. The planet is perpetually plagued by civil and national wars. Not to be outdone, persecuted peoples internalize the prejudice and hatred leveled against them and unleash it against others like themselves.

Despite what has been learned about the European Holocaust, genocide has since become commonplace; it advances with arrogant impunity and is neither stopped nor punished by the “international community.” (Think Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan). Rape and repeated, public gang-rape have become calculated weapons of war. It is no longer (merely) a spoil of war to which drunken, woman-hating soldiers feel entitled. An era of gender-cleansing has begun.

Even so: World wars, especially those which may involve nuclear weapons, outclass (so to speak) this chronic buzz of destruction.

We are poised on the precipice of just such a moment. Yeats’s “rough beast” is Islamic fundamentalism and it, literally, “slouches toward Bethlehem,” intent on destroying Judeo-Christian civilization.

Whether we conceive of this moment as World War Three or Four matters little. I happen to think that the Cold War never really ended since a Palestinianized Marxist-Leninism utterly hijacked the western campuses and media where it now functions as a fifth column arguing the barbarian’s case. On the other hand, Norman Podhoretz is right: This is a new enemy, one who combines elements of fascism and totalitarianism but in fundamentalist religious form.

The Middle East and the Muslim world has, by and large, been judenrein for quite some time. It has also become increasingly Islamified. My friend, the Egyptian dissident, Tarek Heggy, recently wrote me about his recent visit to his hometown of Port Said. Now, he said, “women are everywhere sheeted and hate blares from every mosque around the clock.” Gone are the Jews and the Christians and the non-religious Muslims; gone is the cosmopolitan splendor of the colonial-era Islamic East.

The Taliban (and Taliban-like ways) continue to plague the girls and women of Afghanistan, where I once lived. (By the way: My colleague, Rosanne Klass, has just re-issued her wonderful and beautifully written Memoir of her time in Afghanistan in the 1950s. It is titled “Land of the High Flags. Afghanistan When the Going Was Good” and I strongly recommend it. While Klass does not focus on Afghan women, she nevertheless paints a charming portrait of a Muslim country in a softer, gentler, and more hopeful time.)

Al-Qaeda continues to morph and everywhere remains at large–although the battle is joined in Iraq. Bin Laden continues his career in global video-production from some cave or rat-hole in No Man’s Land along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Iran continues to call for the extermination of the Jewish state–and its President is about to be welcomed by the United Nations in New York City.

The Swedish cartoonist, Lars Vilks, against whom Al Qaeda has issued a death warrant, has just been informed by his government that he is no longer safe in his home or his country. Ayaan Hirsi Ali had to flee Holland; the late, great Oriana Fallaci fled her native Italy; I have dear friends who are either trying to leave England, France, and Germany or who are documenting the mounting tide of Jew- and America-hatred among European and immigrant Muslims. (At the same time, I know many Muslim dissidents who have found safer refuge in Europe and many Muslim feminists who are trying to rescue women from being battered, mutilated, and murdered on European soil).

Still, both America and Israel remain the world’s last best hope. American forces continue to engage the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq. On September 6, 2007 Israel apparently bombed nuclear weapons in Syria that were acquired from North Korea or Iran. For once, the Israelis are neither denying nor admitting anything–nor are the Syrians.

More: As former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger pointed out in a lecture at my synagogue, Orach Chayim, during this last, awful period of permanent Intifada against Israel, Israel’s economy surged forward, Warren Buffett did not cancel his enormous investments in Israel just before the Lebanon war last summer–when he could have done so. Also, the demographic statistics have been greatly misunderstood. Based on Ettinger’s research, “the Jewish-Arab fertility gap has been reduced to one child (down from a 6 children gap in the 1960s)!”

Like Nobel Laureate, Professor Aumann, (about whom I have written before), Ambassador Ettinger is also urging that we look at the larger picture, examine the infra-structure, be prepared for the long haul.

Still, I remain distressed, uneasy, not only because the lives of both soldiers and civilians are being lost but because so many educated Americans continue to deny that we are really at war and that fundamentalist Islam (not merely terrorism) remains our Number One clear and present danger. Too many Americans are clinging to their illusions for dear life.

Fall has come in early this year and it is a soft and beautiful one here in New York City. Construction is booming, huge, new skyscrapers appear almost overnight, the long-awaited Second Avenue subway line is being dug out of the concrete. New Yorkers seem to be enjoying the weather, lingering at outdoor cafes, walking down streets and through parks, enjoying all the rich cultural offerings that characterize this great city which is also the capital of the world.

We can lose this in a second. And, we can also lose it slowly, in many seconds, if we do not fight back and fight to win. Indeed, we must win or we are doomed. As Edmund Burke has pointed out, evil inevitably triumphs when good people do nothing. We must all do something–actually, everything–if we are to save our way of life and our very lives.

September 18, 2007