Courage is what makes peace possible

December 9, 2023

Soldiers, family and members of the public attend the funeral for an Israeli soldier in Jerusalem. Courage is like the oxygen we need. Hatred, on the other hand, is always self-defeating, like drinking poison, then expecting it to kill your enemy, Thomas Froese writes.

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(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, December 9, 2023)

Courage is defined in Webster’s as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.” Not that we don’t know courage when we see it. But it’s a good time to consider it because courage, it seems to me, is the story of 2023.

Then again, in war, courage might be the story of any year. God knows there are always enough wars. I read of a man with one eye because of what happened in America’s civil war. When someone said in his presence that he’d lost an eye, he responded, “I prefer to remember that I’ve kept one.” That’s courage.

Canadians don’t follow every war. We don’t know much about war in, say, Sudan. Or Maghreb. Or Myanmar. Or Yemen. We know Ukraine, where war’s machinations still grind after almost two years, everyday Ukrainians still under Russian attack. There’s courage.

And we know of Israel’s brutal military attacks in Gaza, innocent Palestinian civilians caught in the bloodstained gears of war. It’s like Greek historian Thucydides put it centuries ago: “The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.” Grieving Palestinians know courage.

Then, Israeli families still waiting for loved ones to return after Hamas’ barbaric, Stone-Age-like massacre of Oct. 7. These families, too, know courage.

Hamas’ military wing — to be clear, a terror group — is better acquainted with cowardice than courage. For Hamas to include Israel’s destruction in its founding constitution is akin to evil that grew in Nazi Germany. We know how that ended. Learn about Hamas’ Hitler-like leader, Yahya Sinwar.

Planning the Oct. 7 massacre for years, Sinwar knew two things. One, Hamas could lure Israel’s military into Gaza and, in this, upend changing geopolitical relationships. Arab nations, Saudi Arabia chief among them, were developing closer political and economic ties with Israel. Hamas and its dominant supporter, Iran, couldn’t stand it any longer.

Hamas leadership also realized how Palestinian civilians could be human shields. The disturbing carnage, especially over time, would force Arab nations, along with the watching world, to condemn Israel. So while Hamas can’t defeat Israel militarily, it can try to trigger, slowly, its ultimate dream, the end of the Jewish state.

In either case, courage is what you’ll find in the fog and hell of it all, of war, among both the just and unjust.

You might also find courage next door. “I’m completely at your mercy,” is what a Jewish physician said when we finished a recent conversation. It was a plea, because the truth, he told me, is that Jews in our community can feel more threatened than in Israel.

He knows. After Oct. 7, he volunteered his medical services in Ashdod, Israel. When back, he learned of a Hamilton public school boy. “Are you Jewish?” his schoolmates asked. “Yes,” said the boy. “We’ll find you and kill you,” was the response. Despite such animated antisemitism, an old global sickness that Canada isn’t immune to, the physician hangs an Israeli flag outside his front door. Courage.

Courage is like the oxygen we need. Hatred, on the other hand, is always self-defeating, like drinking poison, then expecting it to kill your enemy. There’s a better way.

“Let us put an end to wars, let us reshape life on the solid basis of equity and truth,” is how Anwar Sadat, former president of Egypt, put it. Forty-five years ago, on Dec. 10, 1978, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Sadat, jointly with Israel’s prime minster, Menachem Begin.

A former military commander, Sadat, as Egypt’s president, attacked Israeli forces in 1973’s Yom Kippur War, the fourth Arab-Israeli war. He understood war, and Israel, well. But later the more statesman-like Sadat became the first Arab leader to officially visit Israel. Then, after decades of hostilities, Egypt and Israel made historic peace. It still stands.

Courage is what makes peace possible. Even so, Egypt’s Arab neighbours never forgave Sadat for it. And militants eventually assassinated him. There were cowards then, too. It’s something else to remember.

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December 9, 2023 • Posted in ,
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