The Tsarnaev Brothers Are Many Things. But Cowards? Not So Much.

It Usually Takes Courage To Be a Murderous Terrorist

fbi

By Philologos

Published April 28, 2013, issue of May 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

If only the terrorists would stand up and fight like men instead of sneaks, the implication is, they would be given a good thrashing. The fact that men have always fought as sneaks when they could gets forgotten. Planting concealed bombs, and before them concealed traps, is as old as the history of warfare, as are suicidal attacks on the enemy. We can regard Japanese kamikaze pilots as madmen if we wish, but cowards they weren’t.

And to take a page from our own Jewish annals, what’s the difference between a suicide bomber and Judah Maccabee’s brother Eleazar, who threw himself under a Syrian cavalry elephant — the tank of its day — and speared it in the belly as it crushed him with its falling weight?

It can be objected, of course, that the cowardice we are speaking of is not physical but moral: Morally brave men, we are saying, kill other men in battle, not innocent spectators at marathons. But this is silly, too. If you think it is right to do something, such as stand up for a principle or fight for a cause, and you don’t do it because you are afraid to, you can rightly be accused of moral cowardice.

But if you do stand up for a principle and risk or lay down your life for it, why should you be thought a coward just because that principle happens to be that human beings can legitimately be killed in order to get American troops out of Lebanon, that no part of the Land of Israel should be surrendered to an Arab government or that everyone should be forced to live by the laws of the Quran?

Let’s not try to make things so comfortable for ourselves. Evil is extremely difficult to defeat precisely because those enlisted in its cause are as capable of being brave as those enlisted against it. Yes, they also have fewer moral scruples. Having moral scruples, however, is no guarantee of bravery. There are cowards who have them and brave men who don’t. Life is more complicated than we’d sometimes like it to be.

Questions for Philologos can be sent to philologos@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.