Sunday, January 22, 2012

The danger of talking to ourselves

Tonight, carries headlines about the publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Andrew Adler, writing an editorial suggesting ways in which Israel might move ahead with its defense against a nuclear Iran. Apparently (the piece is no longer on-line, so verification is not possible), one of his theoretical scenarios was that the Mossad assassinate the President of the United States, since he is perceived as an obstacle to moving against Iran.

The idea of such an assassination is as morally abhorrent as it is fundamentally ludicrous... so how does someone publish this?

I think it's a symptom of one of the great problems that many groups face: We spend too much time talking to ourselves.

"Iran is dangerous!"
"Even the IAEA said Iran is creating nuclear weapons."
"Someone has to stop them!"
"Israel will stop them."
"But Obama is blocking them!"
"They can't let Obama stop them - it's about Israel's survival!"
"How long do you think they have before Iran has a weapon?"
"I read it's just a few months."
"I think they have a bomb already."
"Israel needs to do something now. Ahmedinajad has said he wants to wipe them off the map - he just needs the bomb, and then he can do it."
"They need to act now, but Obama is holding them back!"
"Well, Israel can take care of that..."

Talking to people who disagree with us is important, if only so that someone takes the rhetorical wind out of our sails with challenging questions. Spend enough time in dialogue with people who believe the same thing, and we end pushing each other to greater extremes, as we convince each other of our correctness and the importance of our mission.

Andrew Adler, Exhibit A.


  1. Very true, and not just in this particular area.

  2. Israel does not do a good job on public debate. The ambassadors and public speakers are usually not very talented and come across to most people as political appointees that have no talent. And this impression is usually correct.
    This fact has caused to me personally a good deal of frustration over the years. The best i ever saw was a IDF Lieutenant colonel (or some level of commissioned officer --i forget which-) that spoke at the Hillel in New York and he spoke very well he had his facts straight and arguments and also knew Tenach to be able to argue his points from Tenach itself.
    and this give me a chance to rand about the general fact that in Israel talent is too often not what counts but family connections.
    ambassadors would never finished English 101 and roshei yeshivot who are barely literate in Talmud.

  3. This is a general problem with the Internet, that rabbis and others have to be so circumspect b/c anything they say is going to be blasted across the Internet.

    (I've done that as well, taking snippets of an article or video, and blasting it).

    Even if they say it to what they think is a small audience of like minded individuals at shalushudes. Al achat kamah ve'chamah in a newspaper or blog.

    Sorry, but what this guy wrote was just stupid.

    As an aside, a flip side of this is that I find when rabbis have shiurim videotaped, they are TOO circumspect about what they say and how they say it.

  4. One big problem with today's communication media is that you can repent totally for some asinine or offensive statement, but it stays out there forever and keeps multiplying. That genie has left the bottle and had kids to boot.

    The onus is on us not to flame in a way that damages us and our people.

  5. Daniel-

    Very true; I know I find myself overly cautious when recorded. But it makes sense.