In one of the most famous events in the Bible, G-d commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son. So Abraham took his son Isaac, bound him on an altar and prepared to bring him up as a burnt offering. And then the voice of the angel called to him and told him not to harm his son.
G-d did not want human sacrifices. The peace process does.
After the handshake with Arafat in the Rose Garden led to a wave of terrorist attacks, Prime Minister Rabin invented a new sacrifice to describe the dead Israelis murdered by the Muslim terrorists who had been permitted to enter Israel, to form armies, to train openly and to kill openly. Korbanot Shalom. Sacrifices of peace.
In Ancient Israel, in the Tabernacle and the Temple, the Korban Shelamim, the Peace Offering, was brought as a celebratory offering to be eaten by all. In the modern State of Israel, the Korbanot Shalom were brought by the families of the dead who often had little more than a few scraps of skin tissue, a finger or a hand caught in a crack in the sidewalk to remember their children by.
In the old Israel, only the pagan worshipers of Moloch, the abominable cult that placed its own sons and daughters into the idol's flames, practiced human sacrifice. In the new Israel that was ushered in on that glorious day in the Rose Garden under the beaming gaze of Bill Clinton, everyone in the land was expected to be prepared to offer up their children to the Moloch of peace, the idol of the Palestinian Authority, its altar engraved with Nobel Peace Prizes, its service overseen by the international diplomats and domestic pacifists who had appointed themselves its Priests of Peace.
Peace made the service of death into a national duty. There was no telling where or when one might be called upon by Israel's peace partners in Ramallah to become a sacrifice for peace. It might be at a mall or at a pizzeria or while riding the bus. An Israeli could become a sacrifice for peace at any time. And the Labor Party leaders would bow their heads solemnly over his grave, like the biblical elders were obligated to do over every murder victim in their vicinity. But unlike the elders, they could not recite the ceremonial verse, "Our hands did not shed this blood."
Eventually Prime Minister Rabin, who had offered up so many Israelis as sacrifices of peace, was privileged to himself became a sacrifice of peace. His ascension is commemorated annually and has long since made its way into the Israeli curriculum as an example of the dedication to peacemaking that is expected of the true visionary of peace.
The sacrifices of peace have diminished as the left has fallen out of power. The wooden altars of the Moloch of Peace stand empty and the Priests of Peace pass mournfully through international airports, studying maps, drawing up plans and calling for new sacrifices. And eventually their call is heeded.
In the spring, America's prince of peace, the man who had thrown thousands of American soldiers with their hands tied behind their backs into the arms of the Taliban, who had sacrificed every other American ally in the region, came to Jerusalem to demand that the altars once again be raised up and the blood of peace flow over the negotiating tables.
"It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace," Obama told a carefully selected audience of Israeli students. Some of them future sacrifices on his bloody altar of peace. "Here on Earth we must bear our responsibilities in an imperfect world. That means accepting our measure of sacrifice and struggle."
And so the measure of sacrifice comes again. The ceremonial release of terrorists with blood on their hands commenced this festival of negotiations. Some of the freed terrorists had been notoriously talented sacrificers; claiming the lives of women and children. And in reward for their service, the Moloch of Peace smiled upon them and commanded that they be set free.
Netanyahu, who replaced Olmert who was put on trial, who replaced Sharon who fell into a coma, who replaced Barak, who fell out of favor, who replaced Netanyahu the first time around, bowed to the inevitable. And to his credit, he did it reluctantly.
Netanyahu, we are told, did his best. Like the most dedicated of the ghetto leaders during the Holocaust, he stalled for time, he gave out false lists, he tried to distract the important foreigners swaggering through his ghetto, hoping that they wouldn't see the children, wouldn't start thinking about how those children might look splayed across an altar of peace with their throats cut and a bloody worthless peace agreement in their mouths.
But then when he was cornered, he bowed to necessity. Was he a Rumkowski, hallucinating that he could save the Jews of Lodz through peaceful Nazi collaboration, or a Kastner, playing the game to save a majority and then maybe a minority and then leaving with a few trains of important people with the death screams of the half-a-million Jews of Hungary whom he lied to and betrayed for their own good ringing in his ears.
Perhaps when all the peace processes are done, then the Labor Party, Kastner's party, will rescue a few planeloads of important people from the burning ruins of Israel and mark that as the success of their peace efforts.
If you wish to understand, pause and listen for a moment to Chaim Rumkowski as he delivers the infamous speech to the Jews of the Lodz Ghetto that will one day be known as the "Give Me Your Children" speech.
"The ghetto has been struck a hard blow. They demand what is most dear to it - children and old people. I was not privileged to have a child of my own and therefore devoted my best years to children," Rumkowski, the former orphanage director turned head of the Lodz Ghetto Judenraat, says, wiping his forehead.
"I lived and breathed together with children. I never imagined that my own hands would be forced to make this sacrifice on the altar. In my old age I am forced to stretch out my hands and to beg: Brothers and sisters, give them to me! Fathers and mothers, give me your children!"
"Yesterday, in the course of the day," Rumkowski tells the assembled Jews, who only thought that they had lived through hell at that point, "I was given the order to send away more than 20,000 Jews from the ghetto, and if I did not – 'we will do it ourselves'."
And it is this phrase. This "we will do it ourselves" that is the true name of the moloch of peace. Hear the rationalizations now from Rumkowski's lips on September 4, 1942, addressing men and women who are doomed to death. Hear it from the lips of Netanyahu and his associates. Hear it from the conservative rationalizers who warn that if Israel does not give up its children on the altar of peace, Obama and the European Union and all the rest will do it themselves.
"The question arose: 'Should we have accepted this and carried it out ourselves, or left it to others?' But as we were guided not by the thought: "how many will be lost?" but "how many can be saved?" we arrived at the conclusion – those closest to me at work, that is, and myself – that however difficult it was going to be, we must take upon ourselves the carrying out of this decree," Rumkowski said, transforming his collaboration in the murder of thousands of children into an act of personal courage.
"I must carry out this difficult and bloody operation, I must cut off limbs in order to save the body!"
Israel has chopped off quite a few limbs already. But there are more to be chopped off. And the question is not how many will die, how many will be thrown out of their homes, but how many can be saved. That diplomatic triage is the bloody rationale of peace.
Rabin warned that if Israel did not accept an autonomous territory, then it would be forced to accept a state. Peres warned that if Israel did not accept a state in Gaza and the West Bank, it would lose Jerusalem. Sharon warned that if Israel didn't accept the expulsion of the Jews of Gaza, it would lose everything up to the '67 borders. Olmert warned that if Israel didn't accept the partition of Jerusalem, it would lose the entire city.
Israel accepted most of these things and each of the terrible losses it sought to avert came about anyway, not naturally, but because of these prior concessions. The autonomous territory paved the way for a state. The loss of Gaza and the West Bank made Jerusalem next on the schedule.
And now, the Priests of Peace warn that if Israel doesn't accept a deal that will be based on the '67 borders and partition Jerusalem, it will be forced to accept a one-state solution that will destroy the country.
Or as Obama put it, "Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine." Another way of putting it, a more honest way, is give me what I want or you will be destroyed.
A fool could see what the next step is, but the Priests of Peace do not allow the wise men of Chelm into their meetings. The Rumkowskis and the Kastners do not want any distractions in their diplomatic operating rooms while they are performing surgery on the Jewish State.
Like Rumkowski, a series of Israeli Prime Ministers arrived at the conclusion that they would have to take a stiff drink and then take upon themselves the task of carrying out the decree. The surgeries have yet to lead to a healthy Israel vigorously limping along while waving to the State of Palestine across the way, which has its missing limb. But the Priests of Peace promise that with enough rites, enough incense, enough smoke, enough children carved up and their entrails examined for promising signs of peace, the day will come.
Take a walk back to the Lodz Ghetto in September and listen.
"I tried everything I knew to get the bitter sentence cancelled," Rumkowski tells the crowd. "When it could not be cancelled, I tried to lessen the sentence. Only yesterday I ordered the registration of nine-year-old children. I wanted to save at least one year – children from nine to ten. But they would not yield. I succeeded in one thing – to save the children over ten. Let that be our consolation in our great sorrow."
There are our leaders who return from Nazi HQ or the Wye Plantation to inform their people that at least they saved the ten-year-olds. All it took was a willingness to give up the children under the age of ten. They saved the larger settlements, they tell us. They saved Jerusalem. They saved Israel. They saved something. And all they had to do to get it was to give up everything.
When Israeli leaders sit down to the territorial triage of diplomacy and begin contemplating which Israelis should be thrown out of their homes, which parts of Israel to surrender and how many dead are acceptable for the sake of peace, then they begin to think like the international diplomats and cease to think like Israelis.
They allow the enemy into themselves and wrapping themselves in Rumkowskian nobility, they become callous to the suffering that they cause. What Rumkowski, what Netanyahu and so many others have forgotten is that when you begin deciding how many Jews should die, you become a Nazi.
There was no angel to stop Rumkowski from sacrificing thousands of children for the greater good, for it was not an angel he was listening to, but the Nazi officers leading him along to the abyss with the promise that an ever diminishing minority could be saved if he got everyone to go along.
Of the more than 200,000 Jews to enter the Lodz ghetto, there were less than a thousand left in the end. Thousands more managed to survive in the concentration camps to which they had been sent. Rumkowski was beaten to death by other Jews in Auschwitz. Kastner, who had become an official in the Israeli Labor Party that would one day perpetrate the peace process, was shot to death.
Now the altars rise again and the ever-diminishing amount of territory that will be saved is matched by the ever-increasing amount of sacrifices for peace that will be tolerated. In the last exchange of fire, rockets struck major Israeli cities that had not been bombed in decades. The terrorists have made the rocket into their altar and the suicide bomber into their sacrifice and Israelis make the negotiating table into an altar and the victims of terrorism into their sacrifice.
We know what comes next, but we choose not to know it. Just as they chose not to know it. It is easier that way. Either the sacrifices for peace will stop or Israel will become another Lodz Ghetto whose frightened overlords go on believing that they can stay alive if they strike the right deal, if they delay enough, if they give up the nine-year-olds to save the ten-year-olds from the altar of peace.
Step back now to August 2005 and watch as another man speaks. This man is no Rumkowski. No cringing ghetto-dweller. He is a famous general and the Prime Minister of the State of Israel and he is speaking to the nation.
"This step is very difficult for me personally. It was with a heavy heart that the Government of Israel made the decision regarding Disengagement, and the Knesset did not lightly approve it," the old man who is barely six months away from the stroke that will put him into a coma says.
"The responsibility for the future of Israel rests on my shoulders. I initiated the Plan because I concluded that this action is vital for Israel. Believe me, the extent of pain that I feel at this act is equal only to the measure of resolved recognition that it was something that had to be done."
And there is the supreme joke. There is the shriveled voice of Rumkowski coming out of the mouth of Ariel Sharon. There is the echo of the cold Polish autumn of 1942 in the hot Israeli summer of 2005. Like Rumkowski, Sharon took responsibility for the problem. He felt the pain, but something had to be done.
And there it is again in his Knesset speech on the Disengagement that will ethnically cleanse the Jews of Gaza and turn over the territory to Hamas.
"It is clear to me that within the political vacuum which will be created if the "Roadmap" collapses, and Israel will not succeed in presenting its own alternative, dozens of political initiatives will be drawn up often, from all over the world."
Six decades later, Jewish existence was still being negotiated on the same terms. If we did not do something, they will.
We had to present an alternative to cutting off an arm and a leg, by limiting the damage to only a few fingers. We had to give up the nine-year-olds to save the ten-year-olds. There is Prime Minister Rumkowski presiding over the Lodz Ghetto of Israel. There is the peace process is all its sordid glory. There is the altar and there is the patriotism of cutting away a few limbs, turning over a few thousand children, in the hopes that the rest may live.
And the true horror of it is that the Rumkowskis are the decent ones. They believe that they are doing what they must. There is no way to compare them to the Abraham Gancwajchis or the Yossi Beilins, the Peace Now's or the Group 13's that do not do what they do for the vanishing prospect of a greater good, but believe that their crimes are the greater good. They are not the worst of us. They are the best of the worst of us. They sacrifice us, but they do it reluctantly. They wish there was a better way.
Meanwhile the altars are built and wait for their victims. The voice of Moloch is heard in the land and the booming cry from its mouth is "Peace". Fathers and mothers take their sons and daughters to the metal maw while singing songs of peace. It has been this way for decades now. Human sacrifice has come to be accepted as the noble thing to do.
G-d does not call them and no angel directs them. They listen to their leaders and their leaders sit at meetings with foreign diplomats who draw up plans and charts. And as they sit there at the mahogany altars where toasts are made and papers are pushed around, they scramble for a compromise, another in a long fatal line of compromises, how much must be given up, how many must die, so that the rest must live.
This long train of sacrifices has taken the PLO from a relic in Cyprus to a mortgage on the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem. And now another bout of sacrifices begins. Murderers are set free, victims are forgotten and the blood begins to flow. There is no peace, but there are sacrifices for peace. And one day, if this goes on, a nation will have been sacrificed for the peace of the altar in a new Shoah.
A million Isaacs lie on the altar and no voice calls out to stay the knife, the sacrifice of peace that G-d did not command, is made again and again. The blood flows over the altars of peace and it is never enough. Not so long as one Isaac still lives.