The Horrible Truth of War

by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

It is March 12, 2012. Watching the news on TV, I was treated to a striking picture. Israel’s Red Color, Iron Dome system was put into action destroying missiles launched from the Gaza strip. It was a stunning picture that at first made me awfully proud of our Jewish State. Yet, once that feeling of pride ebbed a bit the harsh reality set in, the horror the citizens of Israel have had to endure since 2001. Eleven years of fearing rockets slamming into their homes, hospitals and schools came to my mind. Ninety percent of the residents of Sderot have seen a bomb explode on their street or on the street next to theirs – 90%! Can you imagine living under such a threat to your family never knowing if the next day a loved one will be a casualty of this reign of terror?

Since 2001 thousands upon thousands of rockets have been launched from the Gaza strip into Israel. Over the years the range of the rockets has increased. For example, the early Qassam rockets had a range of 6.2 miles while the Katyusha-type rockets today have a range of 25 miles. With each passing year the sophistication of the rockets used increases.

A number of years ago a guest in our Synagogue’s community Succah, an elderly gentlemen who had volunteered in World War II, first flying for the British, then as a pilot in the American air force and after the war, helped smuggle Jewish survivors of the Nazi concentration camps into Israel and finally fighting in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, began to reminisce about his military exploits over a cup of tea. And this is what he said:

War is hell. It is about killing CIVILIANS. Ultimately the only way to win a war is to break the will of the people. You never win a war on the battlefield. You can only win by spilling the blood of the enemy’s population. That is the reality of war the average person today refuses to admit. The allies destroyed Dresden in World War II not because it was a military target but because it was a civilian target. As I flew a bomber over the City I could see the women and children running for shelter. I dropped my bombs on Dresden. The bombing raids sole purpose was to kill civilians so as to utterly destroy the desire of the average German to continue supporting the Nazi war effort. And it worked. That is what is meant by war is hell.

Everyone listening was taken aback. How could it be – wars are fought by the military against the enemy’s military? We, Americans, the lovers of freedom, the protectors of the innocent deliberately killed a civilian population as a calculated element of our military strategy? And when this articulate elderly Jew who had seen so much death and destruction in his life realized he had captured the interest of his audience he continued:

And when you are faced with a nation of fanatics as we were in World War II with the Japanese, the only way to stop their continued attacks, was the massive killing of their civilian population. Truman did the right and humane act by dropping the atomic bomb. Had he not, the Japanese would have continued fighting to the last man, woman and child. They never would have surrendered. How many innocent souls, how many more of our young Americans would have died at the hands of this fanatic enemy had not President Truman acted?

As much as everyone tried to mount an argument against this cold horrible reality, they couldn’t. They sat there dumbfounded, unable to rid themselves of this hard fact of life.

And here we are again. We left Gaza. We gave them what they wanted. We heard voices, although rather muted, from some terrorist quarters in Gaza, that if the Jews leave, there will be no more problems coming from the Arab population of the Gaza strip.

The words of this elderly Jewish heroic warrior ring in my ears. Israel must heed his message of the stark reality of life. Reason, logic, appealing to the better nature of man, has not worked in sixty-four years. I suspect it never will. Truly war is hell. Yet, I must confess, that I do not believe Israel has any alternative if provoked, as now, but to stand its ground and inflict the pain of war upon its enemies.

Of course Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, today, true to course, ever mindful of the “humanity” of the Muslim Terrorists and the “inhumanity” of Israel, felt it necessary to state: “I am gravely concerned at the latest escalation between Gaza and Israel, and once again civilians are paying a terrible price. Rocket attacks out of Gaza against Israeli civilian areas are unacceptable and must stop immediately. I reiterate my call on Israel to exercise maximum restraint.”

This is the fair and balanced world Israel must live in. No mention of the Popular Resistance Committee’s thwarted terrorist attack on Israel’s civilian population, which resulted in Israel’s killing their leader and the subsequent bombings of Israeli civilians as the PRC’s reprisal, the secretary General saw it as his duty to call on Israel, not the Terrorists of Gaza, “to exercise maximum restraint” as if Israel, from the time of its birth has not done exactly that!

I pray Israelis heed the astute observation of the Psalmist, King David: “From where does my help come? From the L‑rd, Creator of Heaven and Earth.” It surely will not come from the United Nations.