Two Sundays ago in the presence of survivors, I attended a stirring Holocaust memorial service at a prestigious New York synagogue including video footage of Nazi crimes, testimonies, prayers and the recital of harrowing poetic works. Following the service I approached one of the survivors whom I have known for quite some time and remarked on the moving nature of the ceremony.
“This is nothing,” he responded, with torment in his eyes. “One moment in the camps could not be captured by a thousand such events.”
Shortly afterward President Obama announced that American troops in Pakistan had killed Osama Bin Laden in a covert operation earlier in the day. While I listened to the TV pundits updating viewers on the emerging details, and watched images of jubilant and triumphant crowds gathering in Washington and New York, I couldn’t help but think of the event within the wider context of world peace and the eternal Jewish promise of ‘Never Again.’
Of course the obliteration of evil and its perpetrators is a profoundly Jewish concept, as it is also an American concept; here is yet another ideal that intimately binds the fabric of American society with the Judaic moral code and its keepers. The Holocaust prayers and literature particularly are riddled with calls to avenge the blood of the slain innocents and extend the arm of justice where it is due.
In particular final letters of relatives to their loved ones upon deportation to concentration camps contain this clarion call. Yet while justice and vengeance may have their place, it is the eradication of evil as the path to securing our safety and our future that serves as the greatest Jewish motivation for hunting down the Osamas of this world and systematically eradicating them.
What is therefore a matter of great concern is that it appears that Israel is by no means afforded the same enthusiastic moral support in its effort to hunt down its Bin-Ladenesque figures. Of course Osama Bin-Laden was as much an enemy of Israel as he was of all the free world, but the fury of Israel’s local enemies with similar maniacal dispositions is conscientious and consistent and Israel must act firmly and swiftly to protect its citizens and secure its future.
Yet it was only last week when the United Nations accepted a new amalgamation of Palestinian Arab leadership that placed Israel’s Al-Qaeda, Hamas, in a position of quasi diplomatic acceptance. The hands of Hamas’ leaders Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh are drenched in innocent blood and they are worthy of nothing less than Bin Laden’s fate, but they still walk the halls of power with impunity.
Imagine for a moment that Al-Qaeda would have become a political party in Pakistan and won a strong percentage of votes, a scenario that may have been likely considering that he appears to have been somewhat protected by Pakistani government elements. Would he then be granted clemency for his heinous crimes and manhunt called off? Highly unlikely.
Of course no distinction can be made when it comes to the volume of lives taken as one who is capable of taking one innocent life could also take the lives of three thousand or six million given the tools, no matter. Iran’s Ahmedinejad has taken many lives and as he develops the tools to cause unthinkable devastation the world looks on in placid apathy and indifference.
In our time, Bin Laden embodied the face of evil, but he was by no means alone, his ideology, his demented way of life lives on. Even as the jubilant crowds gathered, there was talk of heightened security alerts. Dozens of fanatical groups have made their wretched mark on countries, communities and families since September 2001 and show little promise of ceasing. Bin Laden is dead, but evil lives on.
The juxtaposition of Holocaust Memorial Day and the killing of Osama Bin Laden is by no means a coincidence. The lesson is clear; our aim must be the eradication of such evil in all its forms wherever it is found our efforts must be uniform, consistent and relentless. Justice and vengeance will not suffice, only continuous striving to fulfill our eternal promise to humanity, never again, never again.