Of courage and cowardice

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Theo van Gogh was a hero in the battle for freedom in this world war, and he was gunned down Tuesday for fighting this terrible fight. His assassin, who found him riding his bicycle through his hometown of Amsterdam, shot him eight times and then slit his throat. He killed him because van Gogh dared to speak the truth.


Vincent van Gogh's great-grand nephew stuck his neck out. He was a filmmaker who recently produced a documentary showing how Islam oppresses women. One might think that given the totalitarian subjugation of women throughout the Muslim world, such a film would not spark a controversy. But in Europe these days, anything that points out the primitive and barbaric treatment that hundreds of millions of women suffer in the Islamic world, as well as in Islamic enclaves in the West, is considered verboten.


Muslim extremists can gang rape women – Muslim and non-Muslim – and mutilate their daughters' genitalia as a matter of course. They can indoctrinate their daughters into believing that covering themselves from head to toe with potato sacks and draperies will somehow set them free. They can do all of this – and burn down synagogues – and reasonably assume that the European press won't mention their ethnic identity or ask what is wrong with them as a group for carrying out barbaric, evil, and primitive acts against others.


So, in stating the obvious, Theo van Gogh was picking a fight with a violent yet protected minority. Suddenly, in our topsy-turvy world, it was van Gogh, not the evil, racist, fascist misogynists about whom he produced a film, who was controversial. And now he is dead.


Two and a half years ago, another Dutchman was murdered for speaking the plain truth. That time it was the homosexual politician Pim Fortuyn, who was murdered just nine days before his parliamentary list was poised to become the largest political force in the Dutch parliament. Killed by a radical Left animal rights activist, Fortuyn was running on a platform of reducing Muslim immigration to Holland by 75 percent.


Were these men wrong to fight, given that they paid for their message against Islamic extremism with their lives? Were they fools to stick their necks out for the truth? Were their lives and their struggles meaningless? After all, had they been silent and just toed the line, no doubt both would be alive and healthy today. Fortuyn would have been a sociology professor, much loved by his pet dogs and his students alike. Van Gogh would have been a popular, irascible cinematographer and TV talk show host.


But now the Dutch government is doing something. For the first time, acting as the head of the rotating EU presidency, it is calling for the EU to recognize that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization. The Dutch people, too, are taking action. Twenty thousand Dutch citizens gathered on the spot where van Gogh was murdered to protest. After Fortuyn's murder, his anti-Islamofascist platform was adopted by mainstream politicians. This week, after van Gogh's murder, the Dutch press has come out with calls to protect Dutch society from Islamic fascism. In the words of the daily, De Telegraaf, "Afraid of being called racist, we have been so tolerant with regard to these religious fascists that they have been allowed to merrily undermine the roots of our freedom."


These men paid the ultimate price. But if at the end of the day Holland is able to protect itself from the gathering threat of Islamic terrorism, their sacrifice will have saved countless lives of their countrymen. And while this does not mitigate the tragedy, it means these men were heroes.


The same day that van Gogh was killed, across the ocean another controversial figure stood for election. US President George W. Bush, who ran on a platform pilloried by the Left in America and throughout the world, was overwhelmingly reelected by his countrymen. Not only has Bush been personally demonized by his political opposition and by the US and world media for his firm stand against terrorism and for traditional American values, but his supporters have also been violently attacked by those who oppose them. In the months before Tuesday's presidential election, anti-Bush hooligans violently attacked Republican campaign offices in five states and attacked Republican activists in two. On Monday, a mob of Arab students at San Francisco State University attacked a group of College Republicans at a campus "get out the vote" rally.

In an interview with Frontpage Magazine, Derek Wray, the president of SFSU's College Republicans, said the attack began when a woman from the school's General Union of Palestinian Students accosted Republican students handing out campaign literature by screaming, "You and the Jews want to kill all the Muslims! You and Ariel Sharon want to kill innocent Palestinian babies."


According to Wray, after one of the students asked her why she doesn't leave America if she hates it so much, the woman yelled, "I have some pride. I would strap a bomb on myself and blow myself up as a suicide bomber rather than call myself an American." Another woman reportedly threatened to blow up the College Republicans.


Are these Republicans at SFSU and throughout the US stupid to be placing themselves in harm's way by trying to advance their political beliefs? Should these American political activists just forget about politics and go on about their business?


At SFSU, after the Muslim students shifted from verbal to physical violence, rather than arrest them, the campus police suggested to the Republican students that they pack up their things and go home. And what were they thinking, really? After all, California was a Kerry state, so what is the purpose of their taking a stand, given the consternation their activism caused the poor, miserable Palestinians?


Of course, the point is that were these brave souls to abandon the fight, there would be no one left to stand up to these bullies and they would win. Their home, SFSU, would be a place where Republicans would not be able to exist freely. And if they ceased defending their own rights, no one would be defending them for them.


This is true everywhere, and in all things, not just in fighting jihadis in one's backyard. A case in point is British Prime Minister Tony Blair.


Immediately following Bush's victory speech on Wednesday, Blair gave an address congratulating him for his reelection and calling on him to dedicate his second term to solving the Middle East problem. "I have long argued that the need to revitalize the Middle East peace process is the single most pressing political challenge in our world today," he said.


Say what one will about the veracity of Blair's view, he was acting reasonably. He is the prime minister of Britain, and in his view, the interests of Britain, and of Blair the politician who will soon face reelection, are served by putting pressure on Israel to make concessions to Palestinian terrorists. So he takes every opportunity to shape the American political agenda to advance those interests. No one else will do it if he doesn't.


Sadly, the fact that having the courage to act on one's convictions and in one's interests is the only way to advance either seems to have escaped the notice of Israel's leaders. And so it was that in his message of congratulations to Bush, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom wrote, "The United States has been the driving international force in all of Israel's efforts to reach peace with her neighbors. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton facilitated the historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan respectively, and president George Bush, Sr. convened the Madrid peace conference in 1991. We hope that during President Bush's second term, we can complete the circle of peace and deliver a better future to all peoples of the region.&


Who is Shalom representing here? If he is representing Israel, why is he upholding the three most egregious cases of American interference with Israel's national security? Jimmy Carter was and remains the most hostile US president to the Jewish state in the history of Israeli-American relations. Bush's father, according to former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir in an interview with this writer in 1999, "was a hater of Israel." And Clinton's empathic pressure "facilitated" the current war.


Can it be that Shalom, like Tony Blair and Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, truly believes it is in Israel's interest to ask the Bush administration to pressure us to surrender to Palestinian terrorism?


After watching Bush stand up to all his detractors, demonizers, and haters from San Francisco to Brussels to the Arab world to the UN and emerge victorious, can it be that Israel's leaders have learned nothing about the virtues of having moral courage? From Holland to France to Canada to America, all of which are far more removed from the frontlines of this war than Israel, people are putting their lives, careers, safety, and happiness on the line to fight for their freedom. And in every country throughout the world, leaders strike poses they hope will advance their national interests, as America, under Bush's leadership, stands poised to fight four more years of World War IV.


But in Israel, we are not standing up for ourselves. Despite our 4,000-year history, every moment of which has taught us that "if we are not for ourselves no one will be for us," our leaders seem hell-bent on relinquishing the battleground to our enemies and to those who see their advancement resulting from our diminishment.


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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