By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
The kidnapping of three high-school youths last Thursday night has the entire country of Israel and their Jewish brethren across the world in a state of despair. The murders of babies, the kidnappings, the missiles launched at civilians—these acts of terrorism have had a devastating impact. The goal of peace has been elusive. Terrorism is still the most looming problem facing the region. And poll after poll shows that Palestinians as well as Israelis see the prospects of peace as very low.
Israelis see the dark and depraved philosophy of terrorism as a problem that just won’t go away. But there is an answer, and it was illustrated in the reaction of the United States to Germany after World War II. In the aftermath of the war, how did the United States deal with a nation that grew up under the villainous leadership of the Nazis? It was the policy of denazification as implemented by General Lucius Clay that recreated a nation.
Denazification involved implementing a combination of “the carrot and the stick.” The idea was to eliminate the scourge of Nazism and its vile philosophy through trials, prosecution, and replacement. The lists of Nazi party members were obtained. Every German citizen was categorized into one of five categories: Major offenders, offenders, lesser offenders, followers, and exonerated persons.
Major offenders were sentenced to death or to prison for many years. Textbooks were rewritten, censorship was applied. Nazi imagery was made illegal. In short, an end was put to the Nazi hero-worship.
And then there was the carrot. Millions of dollars were poured into education and industry. Germany’s national infrastructure was rebuilt and modernized. Mercy and moderation was given to lesser offenders and followers.
General Clay oversaw the entire program with remarkable impartiality. But more than that, he cared for the well-being of post-war Germans. When the USSR blockaded West Berlin, it was General Clay who orchestrated the Berlin Airlift.
What were the results? Germany once again rejoined the family of nations. It became one of the strongest democracies in Europe and a supporting member of NATO. Germany has also been a strong United States ally since the completion of denazification and has been very supportive of the State of Israel.
Germany recognized the debt of gratitude that it owed to General Clay. He was given an honorary doctorate from the Frei Universitat of Berlin, became an honorary citizen of Germany in 1953, and even had one of the longest streets in Berlin named after him. Germany appreciated what he had done for it.
The modern parallel to denazification would be something called “deterrorization.” This program too would implement both the carrot and the stick in the Palestinian territories. Support for terrorism and the hero-worship of terrorists would come to a complete end. The textbooks calling for the killing of Jews and the destruction of Israel would be eliminated. Payments by the government to families of a terrorist would stop. In short, anyone with a background of support for the killing of innocents or for other terrorist acts would be removed from any position of leadership. They would be replaced with a new crop of leaders comprising those untainted by terrorism.
And then comes the carrot. A new infrastructure would be built and a new system of education would be developed, with medical schools, schools for emerging technologies, and a Palestinian “Silicon Valley.”
Rebuilding Germany without the program of denazification would have been fruitless and indeed counterproductive. The same is true with deterrorization. One cannot build a new infrastructure for a people that, at a moment’s notice, will form an alliance with a terrorist organization. One cannot build a relationship of peace with those who support kidnappings of high-school boys.
It is time, in light of these contemptible kidnappings, that we launched such a program. Now is the time to completely knock out Hamas and all organizations like it. It will be a politically difficult decision to make, but it is the only manner in which a lasting peace can be forged. v
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.