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January 28, 2014 12:50 am

Davos and the Hatred of Evil

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Iran's Rouhani at the World Economic Forum. Photo: Screenshot.

At Davos, where I attended and spoke last week, there was endless talk of a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. According to Martin Indyk, the American special envoy whose panel I attended on Friday, the deal would look like this. Israel gives up the West Bank and returns to the ’67 lines, with land swaps. Israel gives up about half of Jerusalem for the capitol of a Palestinian state (Abu Mazen is demanding the entire old city). Israel offers some sort of unspecified redress on the refugee issue. In return, the Palestinians will guarantee not to make the West Bank into Gaza and will recognize Israel’s right to exist, albeit not necessarily as a Jewish state.

Gosh. Why hasn’t Israel said yes before time runs out?

But the most painful part of an otherwise illuminating and extraordinary Forum, without question, was Iranian President Rouhani’s speech where he demonstrated an astonishing capacity to lie to one of the world’s most educated and sophisticated audiences, with few in attendance calling him out on his fabrications. The New York Times ran a story on Sunday which showed that nearly everything Rouhani said at Davos was said 10 years earlier by Iranian president Khatami and that Rouhani’s speech was nothing but a regurgitation. Same promises of peace. Same commitment not to pursue nukes or violence. And just as, within a year of Khatami’s speech, Iran was spinning centrifuges, similarly, Rouhani told Fareed Zakaria just three days after his Davos speech that even amid the nuclear deal with the West, Iran will not shut down a single centrifuge.

None of this stopped Rouhani from being treated as el numero uno one rock star at Davos. I saw him walking through the halls with his entourage a few times. He was trailed by rushing media. Scores of participants went to say hello. He was easily the biggest draw of the entire Forum, even though, over the past three weeks, Iran has brutally hanged about 40 people in public.

Then there was the panel on Syria, which featured key players such as UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, UN Under Secretary General Baroness Valerie Amos and former UN Under Secretary General Mark Malloch-Brown. I sat in disbelief. Not one of the speakers was prepared to apportion blame for the slaughter. Not one condemned Bashar Assad for gassing children. Not one made mention of the New York Times front page story that same day which showed graphic pictures of some of the thousands of prisoners that Assad had tortured and starved to death in the most ghoulish fashion imaginable. The panelists spoke of the procedural difficulties of passing a UN Security Council Resolution against Syria without once saying that Vladimir Putin and Russia, arch protectors of the butcher in Damascus, were responsible for blocking every resolution introduced by the United States against Assad.

In her last comment of the panel, Baroness Amos actually praised Russia as having been the first to try and pass a resolution that called attention to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I was live tweeting the panel (WEF published social media statistics that ranked my Twitter feed first that day at the Conference) and I wrote, “Gd Almighty! Did I just hear baroness Amos of the UN defend Russia on Syria at the #WEF in Davos? U got to be kidding.”

All of which leads to a conclusion I came to years ago. There is no way to make the world a better place without first hating evil. You can’t love the victims of oppression without loathing, resisting and sometimes even fighting the bad guys who oppress them. If you’re indifferent on the brutality of Iran – a country that stones women to death and hangs homosexuals from public cranes – then you have a broken moral compass. And if you’re seriously thinking of leaving Assad in power as part of a “peace” deal then you have utter contempt for his victims.

In wanting to be open-minded enough to embrace everybody we have forgotten how to hate anybody. And make no mistake. Hatred has its place. There can be no moral neutrality when it comes to things like children being gassed. How can you not feel revulsion, detestation and disgust toward Assad when seeing rows of dead children?

I am writing this column on a plane, en route to Auschwitz from Davos, where I will G-d willing participate in the historic visit of the Israeli Knesset to the death camp for the very first time, on Monday. Beyond remembering the victims and paying homage to their sacred memory, are we not meant to be repulsed by the Nazi beast that created this hell on earth? And if we don’t despise them, what will stop this from happening again?

At Davos I spent time discussing the upcoming 20th anniversary, this April, of the Rwandan Genocide, with President Paul Kagame, the hero who stopped the genocide in 1994. I told him that at the panel that I moderated between him and Elie Wiesel this past September, he had moved me deeply with his response to my question of whether he trusted the UN and the world to protect his people. He shook his head, lowered his eyes, and said, “No, I learned after the genocide that I, and no one else, is responsible for protecting my people.”

Kagame has been criticized by the UN for continuing to fight the genocidaires who fled to Congo. He has resisted great pressure to give up the fight. But as someone who witnessed his people hacked to death in the fastest genocide in human history, he is not out to win popularity contests but to serve as guardian of his nation.

The same is true of Prime Minister Netanyahu who drew perhaps a quarter of Rouhani’s audience at Davos and could not compete with the his popularity. If Bibi would just let up about the genocidal threat of a nuclear Iran and say all the right things about peace, friendship and a new beginning he would increase his European popularity by orders of magnitude.

But he too, as the head of a nation that 70 years ago watched a third of its number gassed, learned that while it’s nice to be popular it’s even nicer to be alive.

Shmuley Boteach, ‘America’s Rabbi,’ whom The Washington Post calls ‘the most famous Rabbi in America,’ is founder of This World: The Values Network, which promotes universal Jewish values in media, religion, and culture. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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  • Yoel Nitzarim

    My response to those above who have faulted my comment is the same as I responded to Rabbi Boteach. I will not stoop to the level of a Hitler to bring him down as a cruel, evil, tyrant by hating him. The hatred will only boomerang back to tear me apart. As a teacher who has taught about the Holocaust for thirty-six years, I have learned that hatred toward the Nazis is not the answer for me: action to endeavor to prevent a similar Catastrophe is the answer. My detractors are apparently indignantly so full of hatred and themselves that they are unable to see the forest through the trees. Hatred is just as evil as the evil that takes away a life, except for one fact: hatred takes away both the life of the hater and the life of the hated. I have been teaching in higher education since 1996 and before that for twenty years in high schools both in Israel and the United States. From my own experience in the classroom, the vast majority of students are much more amenable to view hatred as an avoidable evil rather than a necessary act against evil. Evil should and must be contained, if not overcome, even by force; whereas hatred should be abolished as an unnecessary, demeaning, self-defeating emotion.

  • Edward

    Maybe it’s time to stop beating around the bush: Once we’ve identified evil, what do we do about it?

    Obama’s answer is to submit.

    What do we do about that?

  • Richard Easton

    Yoel, I do not hate the person, but the evil that is within him and within me. I know that I also fall short of what the Creator of the Universe asks of me. But I cannot cease from resisting and fighting against the evil itself, and the spiritual force that is the source of that evil. If I make micey-nicey to Hitler or Pol Pot, I become complicit in their evil actions. I wish Hitler had not chosen the path that he took; but since he did, he has received the consequences of his actions. Now, he is experiencing what G-d has decided is an appropriate reward. I will not cease to resist the Shoah.

  • David Hoffman

    As usual, the Sages of the Talmudic period said it best: “Rabbi Elazar said, One who is merciful to the cruel will end in being cruel to the merciful” (Midrash Tanhuma, Parashat Metzora, 1).

    What matters is not ones feelings toward the wicked, but rather the vigor of ones actions to put them out of action. But for almost all people, it is simply not possible to “hate the sin but love the sinner.” And if vigorously putting an end to the former requires acting with hatred toward the latter, then doing so is an act of goodness. Indeed, if hatred has no place in the good life, why would the Torah tell us of things that the Eternal “hates” and then urge us to imitate His ways?

  • Efram Paul

    As loathsome as is Assad, are you paying attention to the gleeful cries of genocide against Israel by the opposition when they win? It is hard to love either side in this benighted conflict, but when Qaddafi was replaced, what happened? When Mubarak was replaced, what happened? Each time the pure evil is replaced, it is replaced with far worse (except for Egypt’s current course).

  • art frank

    Well Yoel, while we’re hugging trees, let’s let assad, rouhani, and of course, abbas, know how much we love them. Cause it’s bad to hate those who hate you. And I’m off to la la land to spread peace and love.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    Rabbi Boteach, I totally disagree with your assessment of the requirement to hate evil. Hatred is a self-defeating, if not debilitating, emotion that leads to inner destruction and never achieves its goal of controlling the “other.” A declaration of hatred denigrates the speaker, not the one hated’ for it concomitantly leads to other demeaning behavior, such as bullying, vituperation, and slander. To proclaim one’s hatred toward someone, some regime, some belief system, or some concept does not show contempt: it shows self-abnegation. We–every human being without exception–are all created in His image. We–every human being without exception–have a proclivity to good as well as evil. Those who choose to do evil should be castigated, not hated. Their action should be studied, made an example of what not to do, and inculcated into the minds of the younger generation as something undesirable and contrary to acceptable human moral conduct. As someone who has taught about the Holocaust for thirty-six years both in the United States and in Israel to young people of a myriad of ethnic and religious backgrounds, I will never teach anon that hatred should be sanctioned or condoned in any venue whatsoever; on the contrary, I will always oppugn actions the evil perpetrator and ask my students to do the same. I will model moral behavior and ask my students to search their own repertory of virtues to combat evil behavior in the lives, in society, as well as the throughout the world. Without question, I will never teach, condone, or persuade anyone to hate. I will never justify hatred: it disfigures one spiritually!

    • Danny M

      I hate all evil. Isn’t one of God’s commands to fight evil?

      • Stephen Green

        God hates evil so as a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ( Israel ) I hate evil too. You cannot love anything evil as it destroys everything in its past you only have to read the Bible given by the God of the Hebrews ( for which I am eternally grateful ) to see that when evil was allowed to reign it brought down mankind into judgement with God. The consequences were not good for those who loved evil and supported its spread.
        The U.N is nothing but and evil organisation who are only interested in spreading and propagating their own agenda and that is not good for any nation or peoples.
        The U.N is a spreader of hatred towards Israel and is complacent in the bringing about of the destruction of the Jewish people and destroying that nation of Israel.
        The U.N turns a blind eye to nations who murder their own innocent people, propagate genocide and ethnic cleansing. It also supports any nation who hate Israel as Davos showed.
        The U.N offers a right hand of peace to Israel but it is the right hand of deceit .
        Israel only needs to turn back to their God and will find salvation if they study the scriptures prayerfully and find the Messiah.
        Do not trust in an Arm of flesh but in the Mighty Arm of Almighty God Israel.
        We as a family Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem and know it is a burdensome stone to the nations and any who try to divide it will without doubt be crushed and broken. It is Israel’s and is the place where Almighty God put His name and no one else’s to touch.
        As for evil we hate evil but pray that those who do it will heed the watchman and turn from their evil ways unto Righteousness.
        Shalom Israel we love you and your blessed nation.

    • j