An Open Letter To President George W. Bush
Rabbi Ben Tzion Krasnianski
Published in the Algemeiner Journal, October 30, 2001
I’m writing you this letter as a proud American and as a personal supporter of yours. My Congregation could testify that my wife and I were from the 9 people in Manhattan who voted for you! I assure you that the Jewish people are as patriotic and as loyal as any other American. We are eternally grateful for the freedoms and opportunities we have in this country to openly pursue our faith. Our Torah teaches us to pray for the welfare of our host country and for the wellbeing of its leaders. This is especially true in regards to the great USA, a good kind and compassionate nation founded on the eternal principles of our great religion: belief in G-d and in the inherent dignity and value of every human being.
Your reaction to the tragic events of September 11th was truly inspiring. Like a genuine leader you defined the issue unequivocally as a declaration of war by the terrorist against life itself. You spoke with moral clarity, decisiveness and vision, displaying true courage. You didn’t equivocate by calling it a criminal act rather as a war between good and evil, a struggle for our very survival and existence. You rallied the entire nation behind you. The Congress rising to your challenge rose to the occasion and voted unanimously to do whatever it takes to obliterate terrorism from around the world.
I sincerely hope that you will take the following criticism in the right spirit. Constructive criticism is the ultimate expression of love. I’m referring to your policy towards Israel, not allowing the israelis to deal with the PLO the same way America is dealing with the Taliban. Our country would never dream of telling Israel to stop keeping the Sabbath or to stop eating kosher because it may offend Arab or Christian members of the coalition.
There’s something even more important in our Religion than keeping the Sabbath and keeping kosher. The core value of our religion is the sanctity of life. One has to violate all of the 613 commandments in order to save a single life! (The only exceptions are that one has to sacrifice his life rather than commit idolatry, adultery and murder.) According to our religion even if one life is in danger we are to consider it a state of war. The community must immediately mobilize itself, declare an all out war against the enemy and excise the cancer from its midst. When it comes to matters of life and death no political considerations are allowed, ever.
In a historic speech given by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, the illustrious Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Schneerson spoke words that will forever remained etched in the Jewish soul. The Rebbe was arrested by Stalin in 1927 for the crime of spreading Judaism throughout the former Soviet Union. Although he was sentenced to death, miraculously his sentence was commuted to exile and shortly thereafter he was completely freed. Before he boarded the train that would take him into exile he addressed the huge crowd that came to bid him farewell. This giant of a man courageously and publicly defied Stalin by quoting the immortal words of his father, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber.
In 1905 when the Czarist regime mixed into the internal affairs of the Jewish community dictating how rabbis should be ordained, the Rebbe successfully prevailed on the rabbinical community to reject the governments demands. He was subsequently arrested.
He stated: We did not exile ourselves from the land of Israel... G-d send us into exile and he will once again return us from all four corners of the earth through his Messiah. But the nations of the world must know that only our bodies were sent into exile, not our souls. We must openly proclaim before the entire world that anything that affects our religion, our Torah its commandments and customs no one could coerce us or has the right to impose their will on us. We must summon our Jewish trait of being a stiff-necked people and the strength of our uncompromising dedication over thousands of years to forcefully declare: don’t touch our soul or our Torah.
Dear Mr. President: The words of our holy Rebbe speak for itself. When it comes to matters of our Torah no one, not even the United States has any right to tell us what to do. No one could coerce us to G-d forbid compromise on our most sacred principle: the absolute sanctity of life. Israel has no choice but to immediately declare war on Yassir Arafat and his PLO, mobilize itself, and perform “chemotherapy” to uproot and destroy the cancer of terrorism in its midst. It must obliterate and annihilate not only the various terrorist groups who are flourishing in Gaza and the West bank but also those who harbor them!
It will take courageous leadership on the part of the Jewish people to do the right thing despite the consequences. It’s not a political decision, it’s a moral decision. I ask you Mr. President is one life worth three billion dollars? Our Torah teaches us that a life is priceless and we must be ready to pay the price. Israel will ultimately be doing the United States the greatest favor by demonstrating the bedrock rule of a civilized society that we are never allowed to play politics with life. Isn’t this the one principle that diffrentiates us from the terrorists? To them life is expendable, only a means to an end while to us life is sacred as an end in itself and nothing could justify the risking of a single innocent life.
When Menachem Begin attacked the Nuclear Reactor in Iraq he brought the wrath of the entire world on him, including that of the United States. Today the world is eternally indebted to him for his courageous act. I hope for America’s sake that Israel resists the diplomatic pressure and does the morally right thing.
Israel like the United States is suffering from a cancer that has metastasized out of control threatening to destroy us all. It’s not a life and it’s hardly a country when you are afraid to send your wife and children out on buses or to go to the Pizza shop or to the mall. It shouldn’t be the good people who are afraid but the cowards and those who send them it is they who should be cowering in fear for their lives! Just this Monday when Israel buckled to pressure and withdrew thereby emboldening the terrorists, five innocent people including three young women lost their lives! Why?
If Israel had been allowed to deal with terrorism properly after it suffered from its first suicide attack I dare say we would have nipped the problem in the bud. The terrorists wouldn’t be so brazen and the cancer would never have been allowed to metastasize out of control.
It will take honesty, moral clarity, and a great deal of courage to dry up the moral swamp in the Middle East that has given rise to the terrorist cancer now threatening us all. Dear President, please don’t allow a few timid souls to deny you your destiny with true greatness and don’t compromise on your declared principle of a total, all out war on terrorism whether here or in Israel.
With love, admiration and heartfelt prayers for your complete success in this right and just cause.
Ben Tzion Krasnianski