2014: The Year of the Bully
This past year, 2014, will be remembered as the year of the bully. From its start until its approaching end, the past 12 months have been characterized by the ferocious bullying of the international community by rogue governments, oppressive dictatorships, and evil regimes.
By now, the word “Putin” has come to be a synonym for “bully,” and indeed the year started with the Russian dictator invading Ukrainian Crimea and rattling the sabers of war. The episode devolved in Eastern Ukraine until a Malaysian civilian jetliner would be downed over Donetsk in mid-July, with all 298 of its passengers and crew murdered. Putin, as usual, blamed the Ukrainians even while every shred of evidence pointed toward his pro-Russian separatist thugs.
In the middle of the year, we witnessed the arch-bully Hamas attempting to terrorize Israel into submission by firing thousands of rockets at Israeli cities. Netanyahu rightly stood up to the bullying, launching an aggressive invasion designed to limit Hamas’ capacity to intimidate Israel and murder with rockets and infiltration-tunnels aimed at innocent civilians. But just as soon the war was over, Pro-Palestinian forces around the world unleashed their army of campus bullies in the form of Students for Justice in Palestine, who bully Jewish students with their laughable Israel-Apartheid walls and eviction notices and bully universities with their coercion campaigns for a boycott of Israel.
Sadly, all too many Universities capitulate, including Harvard, which last week joined the boycott of SodaStream, even as the Israeli company employs hundreds of Palestinians in their Maale Adumim factory.
Throughout the year, ISIS, evil incarnate, thought it could bully the West into extortion payments by chopping off the heads of innocent prisoners. Many Western governments, especially France, Germany, and Italy have capitulated, thereby putting a bounty on the head of any Westerner within ISIS reach. ISIS has so far raised well over 100 million dollars from Western governments from hostage ransoms, which are quite literally funding its operations. Very few governments, the United States among them, chose not to bend and instead launched rocket attacks against the monsters. In the coming year we all look forward to the good news that ISIS’ Executioner-in-chief, Jihadi John, will be blown to hell where he will roast for eternity.
In just these past few weeks we witnessed one of this year’s most ferocious samples of bullying as North Korea attempted to punish Sony for its movie, The Interview, with its plot of an attempted assassination against the brutal dictator Kim Jong Un. Rarely in my life have I seen such a more blatant act of outright thuggery. Apparently, North Korea’s cyber-terror worked. Not only did Sony announce a decision not to release the film, but after North Korean agents threatened terrorist action against anyone screening the film, the four biggest cinema chains dropped the movie, too.
What a victory for terror. For the world’s most thuggish, brutal, and psychotic government, this episode has been an easy win, even as Sony will release the film in select venues.
Last September, I was invited to an international peace conference in Seoul, South Korea, where I spoke, along with seven other religious leaders, to 100,000 people in Olympic Stadium. Each leader spoke of the need for reconciliation, harmony, and world peace. When it was my time I turned to the 100,000 faces in front of me and said, “Peace, as Martin Luther King said, means not just the absence of tension but the presence of justice. There can be no peace with a brutal dictatorship to the north that starves millions of its own people and threatens its neighbor to the South with nuclear annihilation. There can be no peace with evil.” One hundred thousand people rose to their feet and cheered. They were sick of being bullied.
Equally serious was the cyber-terror attack against Sheldon Adelson and Las Vegas Sands by the government of Iran.
In December of last year I hosted a panel discussion at Yeshiva University in New York on Iran’s repeated threats to annihilate the State of Israel and its Jews. On the panel was Mr. Adelson, the world’s foremost Jewish philanthropist, joined by Pulitzer-Prize winner Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal and Yeshiva University President Richard Joel. The full video is available here.
I asked the panelists what America should do to show Iran that under no circumstances whatsoever would we allow the world’s primary sponsor of international terrorism to acquire a nuclear device. Mr. Adelson commented that an atomic bomb be detonated in an empty Iranian desert, to serve as a warning to Iran that the U.S. will never allow them to obtain nuclear weapons. Mr. Adelson emphasized that the nuclear demonstration in a desert wasteland should “not hurt a soul, except for a few rattlesnakes.”
The next day Mr. Adelson’s spokesman, Ron Reese, said that he had used “hyperbole to make a point that… actions speak louder than words.”
No doubt Mr. Adelson was also trying to demonstrate the double standard to which Israel is constantly subjected. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened repeatedly that Israel would be destroyed. Doing so would require the murder of six million more Jews in a second Holocaust. Yet amid his clearly stated genocidal intent, Ahmadinejad was invited to speak at Columbia University and repeatedly at the UN where he was clear about his intentions with regards to Israel. His stated intention of a second Holocaust did not stop him from being invited to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Yet Mr. Adelson’s glib comments about nuking rattle snakes seemed to rattle Iran’s leaders pretty seriously. While they lie to the world and continue to pursue doomsday weapons that would make annihilation of Israel possible, Mr. Adelson’s comments provoked a nuclear cyberattack against his company Las Vegas Sands. A full-on devastating hacker assault nearly shut the company down until, against the odds, the attack was rebuffed. True to form, Adelson refused to be cowed.
But look at the silence from most quarters on Iran, even as they continue to shoot their own people who dare protest the government, and hang gay citizens from cranes in streets.
The fact is that bullies bully because they can. They target weak and compliant people whom they can exploit and ultimately subdue. The United States was built on the premise of standing up to tyrants and bullies even when they’re just taxing your tea. George III didn’t know what hit him when the colonists decided they would no longer be bullied.
The same was true of Hitler, the most evil man that ever lived, after Churchill became Prime Minister. The easy ride given to him by Neville Chamberlein, where the ogre was allowed to swallow whole countries without repercussions, was over. After Churchill defied Hitler’s attempt to bring Britain to its knees with the battle of Britain we witness an increasingly shrill and desperate tone in Hitler’s addresses to the Reichstag. He could not understand this Churchill guy who refused to be bullied.
The same thing is true of the incredible courage exhibited by Prime Minister Netanyahu this past year. The world doesn’t know what to do with Netanyahu. They thought he would be OK with rockets fired at his cities. They thought he would bend to American pressure on settlements rather than insist on Jews and Arabs being allowed to live where they please. Now we see him attacked from every angle. The man who will not capitulate. The man who will not be bullied.
But as everyone knows, when you stand up to a bully they fall apart. They bullying ends and the bully is left as he truly is — utterly pathetic.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom Newsweek and The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the Founder of This World: The Values Network, the world’s leading organization defending Israel in the media. He is the author of “Judaism for Everyone” and 29 other books. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.