Note: This article was written in 1982. See if anything has changed!
At this writing the trouble in Lebanon seems to be winding down, with the prospects of an end to the shooting almost visible. We pray that this does not turn out to be a false alarm and peace may return, or maybe come for the first time, to that troubled area.
It has been a traumatic period for Jews the world over. We know that the Israeli army sacrificed any number of its young men by ordering them to practice unprecedented restraints in confronting a possibly armed enemy. For example, in entering a house during battle they are to shoot only when shot at, rather than throwing hand grenades into the room first. This has cost many soldiers' lives. We know about the constant shelling of the northern Jewish settlements by the PLO and the absolute necessity of eliminating the PLO there. We know that Israel and Jews the world over may be proud of the moral standards of Israel's army, certainly in comparison with any army, in the world, today, or in the past.
But then those television shows at night with all the gory details of fighting and shelling a city with civilians, yet inhabited by a fighting enemy. Women and children were held as hostages and shields by the PLO who could be dislodged only by attacking their strongholds. The tragedy was that their strongholds were in residential neighborhoods, in schools and hospitals and mosques. But all the TV showed was the blood and gore and the screams of wounded people. This was a terrible strain on the faith of the American Jew.
That the television people kept showing these scenes, that I can understand. After all, their mission is to achieve the highest Nielson rating possible. The more spectacular and gory, the more people will listen and presumably the higher rates can be charged for commercials. When the noble ideal is coupled with what I am afraid is some latent anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment, the results are inevitable.
When other media that have long been hostile to Israel and to Jews can pounce on the bombing of Beirut and use that as a club over Israel, that I can understand. It is nothing new in Jewish history and nothing to surprise or dismay us.
I grieve over the explicit Jewish reaction though. When Jews take out ads in the major newspapers to declare their disassociation from Israel in this matter, denying that Begin is their leader (who ever thought Begin was the leader of American Jews? He is the democratically elected leader of Israel's people), when our own people wrapped themselves in a mantle of superior morality and denounced what Israel had done -- this troubles me.
Israel does not need preachings. The United Nations do that to us all the time. England and France and other magnificently civilized and peaceful countries do that all the time. Israel's outspoken enemies in front of or behind Iron Curtains do that all the time. The agonized Jewish criticisms add nothing to the demands of "morality" that everyone cries for.
Over a year ago a young man attempted to assassinate a President and grievously wounded a number of others as well. Whatever we may think of his parents and the way they brought up their son, at least that was one quality that they did have. They put everything they had, wealth and reputation, on the line to defend their son. One thing that young Hinckley knew was that his parents were with him in a time of peril, though there was no question that he had committed a horrendous act.
Whether Israel should not have attacked Beirut is one question. Whether American Jews should withdraw from Israel when the entire world is attacking Israel is a completely different question. Shall the Jewish people be less devoted than the Hinckley family? Can the American Jews, especially the critics, honestly say in the future that 'we are one'?
To be sure that no one misunderstands my own attitude, I feel that Israel was absolutely justified in attacking Lebanon and Beirut. Whatever blame and shame there is to be borne by the PLO for seeking refuge and hijacking a city and by supporters of the PLO who created a monster they would not permit in their own borders and who will fail to try to get them out of that stricken city. Israel has won a number of military wars and has lost an equal number of political wars. I hope that this time those who truly seek an enduring peace will not hand the PLO a totally undeserved political victory.