The Balance of Terror

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayera 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: If, G-d forbid, the army and police come to expel us from our homes, can we wage a violent struggle? Obviously I am against violence and I don’t love violence, but what if for lack of any choice they evacuate us by force? Must I remain passive? If we use force in return, it may well deter them the next time. A balance of terror!
Answer: My dear friend, you suggest a balance of terror and argue that this is an effective method. Indeed, such is the situation that reigned for a long time between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both were afraid of war, and both understood that for both of them it would be a catastrophe. Therefore, the balance of terror prevented a Cold War from turning into a real war.
Yet this idea presents us with several questions:
1. A balance of terror is liable to lead us down a slippery slope and bring on an escalation. An example of this would be the balance of terror between our country and the terrorists in Lebanon, with each side not being interested in a broader struggle. Hence the conflict remained on a low flame, as a low-intensity conflict. The terrorists continued their terror acts, but they were careful not to go too far. They walked a thin line. Yet the balance of terror was broken in 5766 and it quickly led to the Second Lebanon War, and to great damage.
The lesson: If there is no real peace, and moderate violence reigns in its place, the moment one side goes too far, all hell can break lose.
2. What “force” would you like to use against the army? Do you really think you can beat them? Don’t you know that the army can throw one tear gas canister and everyone will flee? Do you really think that the I.D.F., which defends us against 300 million Arabs cannot overcome 300 or 3,000 people?! And I don’t want to mention the terrible possibility that instead of removing the fish from the sea, which isn’t easy, because they escape every which way, it could be easier to just remove the sea from the fish. In other words, the army could cease to guard the settlements, and then the Arabs would attack. The Government could turn off the water and electricity, and not let people travel on the roads. How many senior politicians have hinted at this and then denied it? Truthfully, I do not believe that someone would dare to do this. The point is, however, that you don’t have more power than the army and the police.
This reminds me of the story of Herschel of Ostropol, a beggar of Yiddish lore. One time a restaurant refused to give him a free meal. He threatened, “If you don’t let me eat, I’ll do what my father did in this situation.” The restaurant grew alarmed and let him eat. Afterwards they asked him, “What did your father do?” and he answered, “He went to bed hungry…”
3. A third problem, and this is the most serious, is this: The concept of a “balance of terror” is applicable between enemies. Here, we are friends. We and the army and the police and the Jewish State and the government are all friends. Sometimes our opinions are divided, but not our hearts. We are one people. Perhaps, my friend, you don’t look at it this way. Perhaps you think that the government and the army that executes its decisions are the enemy of Eretz Yisrael, and if so, war is war. Perhaps you associate yourself with those who call policemen Nazis, or hint that they are Nazis, or compare them to Nazis. As one boy asked me, perhaps with feigned innocence, “I understand that we’re not allowed to say ‘Nazis’, but are we allowed to think ‘Nazis’?” And I innocently answered him, “You can’t think it either.” So then he said, “But they really are Nazis!” I don’t know where he got such ideas. Therefore, you’ve got to realize something: None of them are Nazis! One time at one of the big demonstrations to stop the expulsion from Gush Katif, Knesset Member Scharansky said, “Don’t say ‘Bolsheviks’! You don’t know what Bolsheviks are! I do know! It’s true that what is happening right now is very bad, but it’s not Bolsheviks!”
And I say: Don’t say Nazis! Don’t say it. Don’t hint it. Don’t imply it. Don’t think it.
Maybe you don’t know what Nazis are. I know a little bit, because some of my family perished in the Holocaust, and as an infant I was hidden so that I wouldn’t end up in an extermination camp. So once and for all, remove this expression from parlance about Jews.
But I say a lot more than that: All of these people are our friends. We are friends! We have our differences, but we are friends. We are brothers. Remember that, once and for all – we are brothers.
You might ask: What do I suggest? I’ve been answering this question for more than thirty years, and Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook has been answering it for a hundred years. I’ll repeat it now for the thousandth time: Be strong.