I stand with Israel

Why haven’t I posted in several days? Well, I’ve had a bunch of ideas, but they were all pretty lightweight, compared to what was happening in Israel. Pretty much everything we talk about in the political sphere seems pretty trivial… compared, again, to what’s happening in Israel.

So I’ve been reading, and listening. (As you know, I listen to a lot of podcasts and other items in audio form these days, mostly via NPR One and NYT Audio.) And I’ve been trying to decide what to say.

But with something this huge, there’s an awful lot to sort out. Only two things seem to be clear:

First, I know that from the moment the headline of this post is published, many friends on the left (not all, but many) will leap to correct me. They will shake their fingers and their heads at my simplistic failure to perceive the terrible injustices visited upon the Palestinian people. They don’t understand that I have heard, and I have perceived, and I have cared, and I have sympathized — over and over and over since the 1970s, and really since the Six-Day War, which happened when I was 13. Before that, you would have been on point to say that I really wasn’t aware. I remember thinking in 1967, “What is this ‘Mideast’ I keep hearing about?”

If you’ll allow me this small digression, probably the most eloquent evocation of the Palestinian cause I’ve ever encountered was in John le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl. If you haven’t read that, you should — or at least see the 1984 film, or the 2018 TV series, both of which are excellent. The novel came out in 1983. I was pretty deeply impressed at the way le Carre’s Israeli intelligence officers recruited a young woman who had hung around the edges of the Palestinian movement to be their agent, to infiltrate a terrorist bomber’s cell. They wanted her passion for the cause. They wanted her to be believable to supremely suspicious people. They fed her indignation toward Israel. Of course, in the end she laid her life on the line to accomplish the Mossad mission, because she wasn’t too far gone to understand that no cause could justify what this bomber was doing.

Which brings me back to the first clear point I wanted to make: No grievance, no bitterness, no cause in the world justifies what Hamas did on Saturday morning.

The second point that is clear: Israel, so long distracted by its own stupid internal squabbles, must act to make its country and its people safer. It won’t be easy. They’re up against an enemy that will do anything and everything possible (if you don’t believe it, see what they did on Saturday) to make Israel come out of this in an even worse situation that it is in now — starting with executing the innocent men, women, children and babies they took as hostages.

The Washington Post summarized the situation, and the difficulty of it, fairly well in an editorial I read this morning:

That is much easier said than done, of course. Israel has a right to defend itself, which, in this context, also means a right to take the fight to Hamas in Gaza, as the United States had a right to go after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Support, solidarity and sympathy for Israel and its people, and condemnation of Hamas, expressed by everyone from President Biden to the European Union to the United Arab Emirates to Bono, U2’s frontman and international humanitarian activist, could be the Jewish state’s greatest assets. The Israel Defense Forces, embarrassed at being taken by surprise, has an opportunity not only to regain the military advantage but also — in limiting collateral damage — to demonstrate the moral difference between a terrorist group such as Hamas and a professional army…

Yes, that’s what we have here — a fight between a state of great military might that must deal with an enemy that is geographically intertwined with its own population, and do it while limiting collateral damage. Those last three words are in no way a handicap to the enemy, of course. As in so many attacks over these decades, on Saturday the innocent were the targets, and in no way collateral.

And that fact is as clarifying as anything. Israel must make it stunningly clear that Hamas has not gained from what it has done, and will see doing it again as madness. And yet still be the good guys. Which is very tough in the best of circumstances, against such an enemy.

If there is an upside to all this, it is that Israel’s internal turmoil seems to be on hold. Many members of the IDF and security services had increasingly and rightly signaled a diminishing willingness to serve a country that followed a leader who was determined to undermine liberal democracy. But they’ve come unquestioningly to their duty at this moment. This should shame the leader, and others, who have tried to pull the country down from within.

But that’s for later, as are the inevitable questions about how Israeli security failed to prevent this attack. There’s a bigger, and more urgent, matter before everyone now.

I’m going to stop now, and in the coming days I’ll probably post about more trivial things. So I’ll come back to my initial, simple point, which I expressed in a retweet of something Beth Bernstein tweeted:

18 thoughts on “I stand with Israel

  1. Ken

    Matters such as this deserve closer scrutiny than any blanket statement of support can provide. Therefore:
    Is your stand with Israel unconditional? Do you concur with Rep. Torres (NY), for example, who said that “U.S. aid to Israel is and should be unconditional….”? Do you agree with the State Department’s decision to remove a statement calling on Israel to exercise “restraint” in responding to the Hamas atrocities? Do you agree with Israeli human rights organizations that the cutting off of food, electricity, water and fuel to Gaza could be considered a war crime? And as for the aim of limiting “collateral damage” (a heinous term that we’ve grown far too accustomed to since it became part of common parlance in the 1980s), how many civilian deaths in Gaza do you consider acceptable under that standard?

    As for me, I support Israel. But definitely not unconditionally.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It would be absurd to say “unconditionally.”

      In fact, that is sort of core to what I was saying about the Palestinians and their cause. Once you are willing to do ANYTHING for a cause — such as the atrocities we saw over the weekend — you’ve lost yourself, and nothing you’re doing can be justified.

      A good standard for me is the standard applied by Orwell in 1984 — although he doesn’t present it overtly as a standard. The test is applied, step by step, by O’Brien in the process of, as Winston and Julia understand it, initiating them into the resistance:

      O’Brien had turned himself a little in his chair so that he was facing Winston. He almost ignored Julia, seeming to take it for granted that Winston could speak for her. For a moment the lids flitted down over his eyes. He began asking his questions in a low, expressionless voice, as though this were a routine, a sort of catechism, most of whose answers were known to him already.

      ‘You are prepared to give your lives?’


      ‘You are prepared to commit murder?’


      ‘To commit acts of sabotage which may cause the death of hundreds of innocent people?’


      ‘To betray your country to foreign powers?’


      ‘You are prepared to cheat, to forge, to blackmail, to corrupt the minds of children, to distribute habit-forming drugs, to encourage prostitution, to disseminate venereal diseases — to do anything which is likely to cause demoralization and weaken the power of the Party?’


      ‘If, for example, it would somehow serve our interests to throw sulphuric acid in a child’s face — are you prepared to do that?’


      I mean, when I first read this in my youth, I was all for overthrowing Big Brother and all, but I like to think I would have started saying “no” at murder. But even if I had been so desperately eager for some hope that there was some way to escape the oppression of Oceania, and had made myself say “yes” to that, and even to the far worse “cause the death of hundreds of innocent people, (you know, what Hamas is so eager to do)” the definite time to scream “NO!” would have been at “acid in a child’s face.”

      No cause would justify that, ever.

      Which brings us back to why Hamas must be stopped…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Actually, I said Orwell didn’t “present it overtly as a standard,” but surely he was doing that for the reader. Sort of a way of telling us that while we might naturally sympathize with Winston, he was no hero.

        And it seems that O’Brien was doing it as a trap for Winston. I’m trying to remember, though — did he bring it up later, after all had been revealed? I think he did, but it’s been a long while since I’ve read it…

      2. Ken

        A higher standard than that applied to terrorist organizations must be applied to countries that profess to be guided by moral, ethical and humanitarian principles. Setting the bar low only invites abuses, even atrocities. (Pledging to refrain from throwing acid on people sets the bar so low it’s pointless.) What’s more, standing with an ally also involves criticizing them when they act barbarously. If a country turns to barbarism because it was the victim of barbarism, that does not make the barbarism any less barbaric. Just as criticizing the US itself becomes imperative any time it violates international norms and commits crimes in pursuit of its goals — so, too, with Israel.

        Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers’s song The House of Orange contains the line:
        “For causes are ashes where children lie slain.”
        This admonishment applies to ALL children, no matter which side of the demarcation line they inhabit.

        At the moment, unfortunately, it appears that Israel may be looking to something like a Nagorno-Karabakh solution to Gaza.

  2. Barry

    I heard Admiral James Stavridis on The Michael Smerconish show on Sirius earlier this week. Stavridis always has some excellent insights.

    Michael also posted an article from Richard Clarke on his website. (National Security Council member for 3 Presidents)


    Finally, Michael posted a column by Peter Loge about the lack of trust in politics today- a subject we’ve talked about on here. Good stuff.

    Trust is Collateral Damage of Contemporary Politics

    Brad, you should write an article for his website. He requests submissions. He often mentions articles on his Sirius radio show. Here is his request as posted on his website”

    “We welcome for consideration all submissions that adhere to three rules: nothing defamatory, no snark, and no talking points. It’s perfectly acceptable if your view leans Left or Right, just not predictably so. Come write for us.”

  3. Robert Amundson

    Asymmetrical warfare in a VUCA World – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Evil is beheading children; and in the name of a Higher Power!

    Entebbe and Operation Thunderbolt, 1976 – Over 100 hostages rescued., A 29-man assault unit led by Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu – this force was composed entirely of commandos from Sayeret Matkal, and was given the primary task of rescuing the hostages. A Major Betser led one of the element’s assault teams, and took command after Lt. Col. Netanyahu was killed. Yes, the brother of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

    I did Child Protection for many years, trying to help children who enter this world without the love they need. I just cannot fathom the Evil perpetrated by Terrorists. That evil transcends religion, race, gender, etc. I pray this is the opportunity to win this war against Evil. Brad, I think of you and Captain Warthen often. I must believe he and a bunch of other Heroes are watching over us. Just stand the f**k by as all Hell breaks loose.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks, Bob.

      I’ve been thinking about Yonatan Netanyahu the last couple of days. Right now is the moment for men like him, rather than his brother…

      What Israel needs right now, with regard to those hostages, is an Entebbe-style miracle..

  4. Robert Amundson

    In my way, I am trying to make a difference. I am becoming a “Grandfluencer;” an older influencer, especially one who seems at least old enough to be a grandparent. I am a Social Entrepreneur – trying to make money being a good person. I am mobile in this “modern mobile economy” with business in New York, West Virginia, Utah, still some in South Carolina, and now the Philippines.

    On July 17, 2023, I launched a project called “Listening to the Children” (#listeningtothechildren and wwww.listeningtothechildren.net) with the mission of preventing child abuse and providing holistic healing services in cases where abuse has occurred. The core idea behind the initiative is to emphasize the importance of listening to children, despite their inability to vote, and to ensure their voices are heard and their needs are addressed.

    The project recognizes that children, as vulnerable members of society, deserve special attention and protection. By listening to them and understanding their experiences, it aims to create a platform where their voices can be amplified. This, in turn, can help parents and caregivers to better understand the boundaries that need to be set and ensure the well-being and safety of children.

    The initiative’s focus on holistic healing services indicates that it intends to address not only the immediate consequences of abuse but also the emotional and psychological impact that such experiences can have on children. By providing comprehensive support and assistance, the project aims to help children recover and lead healthier, happier lives.

    Overall, I hope “Listening to the Children” is a commendable effort to raise awareness about child abuse, promote a child-centered approach, and work towards creating a safer and more nurturing environment for children.

    We are in the Anthropocene era. We humans broke it, now I intend to help fix it. I was, am, trained to do hard. Amundsen discovered the South Pole. White with blue eye WASP privilege.

    Thanks for the Forum Brad!

  5. Doug Ross

    Any intentional act taken that kills innocent people is murder. When it’s done by a government, it’s war crime.

    Many people like to forget we dropped two nuclear bombs on hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

  6. Doug Ross

    I think instead of sending our money to Israel to let them buy weapons from our defense contractors and manufacturers, we should demonstrate our true commitment to Israel by sending our troops there to fight for our ally. Let’s prove our willingness to defend Israel with American lives instead of taking the cowards way out by writing a check.

    1. Doug Ross

      We should send our troops into Gaza and Ukraine like we did in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Go in with our “shock and awe”, destroy the enemy quickly, come home victorious with no loss of lives (innocent or otherwise), and resume our position as the benevolent leader of the free world. Mission accomplished!

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I’m not following you at all, but don’t bother trying to explain. I do know that you are, as usual, being sarcastic. Which is not something we need in this discussion…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *